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Remote work requires industrial businesses to secure critical infrastructure

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Remote work requires industrial businesses to secure critical infrastructure

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Complex market forces and various sets of challenges have converged over the last decade, leading to the rapid adoption of new digital solutions in power plants. The growing use of renewables and the digitization of the grid have put competitive pressure on traditional gas-operated power plants to evolve to be more competitive.

The primary obstacles to this change are:

  • Multigenerational workforce – the shortage of experienced plant operators and managers is growing, driving a need for more flexible remote work options and training
  • Global shift to remote work – uncertainty and social-distancing protocols created by the COVID-19 epidemic hastened the urgency of a new remote operational model.

This second trend is, arguably, the most important.

Power generators have begun to adopt technologies that allow remote or mobile control procedures to maintain business continuity and maximize staff flexibility and efficiency. Industrial organizations need to improve their security infrastructure in order to manage their critical infrastructure remotely due to increasing uncertainties in plant operations. Technicians and plant managers need to be able to connect with their assets from any location at any time.

Traditionally, technicians and power plant operators could only access the HMIs of the plant from a controlled room or another nearby location. Although remote access was possible, or there was a need for flexible solutions, the only place that power plant operators and technicians could work in was the control room. The pressure on power plant operators to meet key performance indicators has been constant. Now, the urgent need for remote flexibility is evident. It is now a priority to develop and implement contingency plans, and to change strategies to minimize the presence of non-essential staff.

There are several reasons such limits have been in place, such as international cyber requirements that prevented mobile or offsite use of these controls. When such conditions exist, there are often procedural and manual limitations as well as a high degree. Remote access can sometimes be necessary, but it is often done using temporary methods that could put critical infrastructure at risk.

Blending physical security and cybersecurity measures

Those in the industry know what solutions are required based on their individual roles and responsibilities when looking at divisions of plant locations and responsibilities. These needs may not always be linked to a single strategy.

The strategies required to meet today’s business challenges range from occasional remote technical support for contingency operations to more comprehensive plans for centralized (remote operation) management of many assets from an command center.

Combining on-site and remote power plants operators will allow for a more efficient response, which will increase operational efficiency and public safety. Remote staff can also monitor and control HMI systems on site, while still allowing staff in the control room to have full access. Remote operations can be performed entirely depending on the plant’s characteristics. A purpose-built interface with safety features is available for mobile users in the plant and elsewhere.

An example of the need for remote operations and the high cost is the late-night call to a technician to resolve an issue that arises during preparation. Timing is crucial. The speed of the response can make all the difference in a successful start, delayed start, or missed load ramp or tolle – potentially resulting in a loss of tens or thousands of dollars. In addition to reducing the productivity of the team, the physical response needed to reach the technician at the site can also impact the team’s productivity as the technician will often miss the next work day. Many of these problems could be avoided if the technician could provide remote support.

Remote access: Re-orienting the cybersecurity strategy

Industrial enterprises and businesses must rethink how they secure their information. Organizations must not build defenses around their offices, but enable

  • Collaborate with remote staff and experts
  • Increase on-site mobile staff effectiveness and flexibility
  • Improve employee health and safety
  • Operate reliably with reduced staffing
  • Centrally monitor plant operations.
  • Diagnose and troubleshoot alarms and issues
  • Instruct, guide and dispatch on-site personnel
  • Remotely operate, startup and/or shutdown control system assets

Today’s most power plants are equipped with firewall products, which have become standard-issue appliances when needing to secure a network. The next-generation firewalls (NGFWs) provide more functions, including sandboxing and application-level inspection. Although NGFWs are great at their functions, remote access to devices is not possible. There are inherent risks for those who use them.

Firewalls are able to encrypt data streams via a virtual private network and tunnel critical information through untrusted networks, such as the internet. With today’s technology, and the abundance of information and tools available to threat actors it is possible for hackers to hack data communication protocols at an endpoint device. This allows them to terminate encrypted data streams and tunnel critical information through untrusted networks such as the internet. They can also conduct malicious activities that could allow them to gain access to power plant assets.

Additional areas businesses need to consider for remote security are

  • Organizations must identify all their critical infrastructure. This may seem intuitive but it is crucial to account for interdependencies between systems. If an IT billing system depends on other operational technology, it’s vital.
  • Encrypted browser-based display (VDI) for remote or mobile operator HMI display to desktops, laptops and tablets.
  • Multifactor authentication (MFA) is a given. There are many MFA types, but industrial organizations should implement closed-loop, hardware-based token access without cloud access to meet both onsite mobile operator and remote access requirements.
  • Moderated secure file transfer provides either bidirectional or uni-directional file transfer capabilities for each system connection.
  • Application and system segmentation ensures systems and applications are logically segmented to limit cyberattacks’ blast radius.
  • Time-Based access controls limit the time vendors, contractors and plant technicians interact with critical systems.
  • HMI access sessions by mobile operators and remote users need to be recorded for forensics and training purposes.

As the power industry adapts to the changes presented by a changing workforce and the convergence of IT and OT, remote user access will become even more essential.

Bill Moore, CEO of Xona Systems .

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FIFA 23 lets you turn off commentary pointing out how bad you are

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FIFA 23 lets you turn off commentary pointing out how bad you are
A player shouldering the ball



(Image credit: EA)

FIFA 23 might be the best game soccer game yet for terrible sports fans, as it lets you turn off commentary that criticizes your bad playing.

Now that the early access FIFA 23 release time has passed, EA Play and Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscribers can hop into the game ahead of its full release. But as Eurogamer (opens in new tab) spotted, they’ll find a peculiar option waiting for them.

FIFA 23 includes a toggle to turn off ‘Critical Commentary’. The setting lets you silence all negative in-match comments made about your technique, so you can protect your precious ego even when you miss an open goal or commit an obvious foul. The more positive commentary won’t be affected. 

Spare your feelings

A player dribbling the ball in FIFA 23

(Image credit: EA)

The feature looks tailored toward children and new players, who don’t want to have their confidence wrecked within mere minutes of picking up the controller. But even experienced players who just so happen to be terrible at the game might benefit.

It’s not perfect, though. According to Eurogamer, the feature didn’t seem to work during a FIFA Ultimate Team Division Rivals match, with critical comments slipping through the filter. Still, who hasn’t benefited from a light grilling every now and then?

Polite commentary isn’t the only new addition in FIFA 23. It’s the first game in the series to include women’s club football teams, and fancy overhauled animations that take advantage of the PS5 and Xbox Series X|S’s new-gen hardware. EA will be hoping to end on a high, as FIFA 23 will be the last of its soccer games to release with the official FIFA licence.

If disabling critical commentary doesn’t improve your soccer skills, maybe building a squad of Marvel superheroes will. Although you might not do much better with Ted Lasso wandering the pitch.

FIFA 23 is set to fully release this Friday, September 30.

Callum is TechRadar Gaming’s News Writer. You’ll find him whipping up stories about all the latest happenings in the gaming world, as well as penning the odd feature and review. Before coming to TechRadar, he wrote freelance for various sites, including Clash, The Telegraph, and Gamesindustry.biz, and worked as a Staff Writer at Wargamer. Strategy games and RPGs are his bread and butter, but he’ll eat anything that spins a captivating narrative. He also loves tabletop games, and will happily chew your ear off about TTRPGs and board games. 

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Google Pixel 7 price leak suggests Google is totally out of touch

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Google Pixel 7 price leak suggests Google is totally out of touch
The backs of the Pixel 7 and the Pixel 7 Pro



(Image credit: Google)

We’re starting to hear more and more Google Pixel 7 leaks, with the launch of the phone just a week away, but tech fans might be getting a lot of déjà vu, with the leaks all listing near-identical specs to what we heard about the Pixel 6 a year ago.

It sounds like the new phones – a successor to the Pixel 6 Pro is also expected – could be very similar to their 2021 predecessors. And a new price leak has suggested that the phones’ costs could be the same too, as a Twitter user spotted the Pixel 7 briefly listed on Amazon (before being promptly taken down, of course).

Google pixel 7 on Amazon US. $599.99.It is still showing up in search cache but the listing gives an error if you click on it. We have the B0 number to keep track of though!#teampixel pic.twitter.com/w5Z09D28YESeptember 27, 2022

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According to these listings, the Pixel 7 will cost $599 while the Pixel 7 Pro will cost $899, both of which are identical to the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro starting prices. The leak doesn’t include any other region prices, but in the UK the current models cost £599 and £849, while in Australia they went for AU$999 and AU$1,299.

So it sounds like Google is planning on retaining the same prices for its new phones as it sold the old ones for, a move which doesn’t make much sense.


Analysis: same price, new world

Google’s choice to keep the same price points is a little curious when you consider that the specs leaks suggest these phones are virtually unchanged from their predecessors. You’re buying year-old tech for the same price as before.

Do bear in mind that the price of tech generally lowers over time, so you can readily pick up a cheaper Pixel 6 or 6 Pro right now, and after the launch of the new ones, the older models will very likely get even cheaper.

But there’s another key factor to consider in the price: $599 might be the same number in 2022 as it was in 2021, but with the changing global climate, like wars and flailing currencies and cost of living crises, it’s a very different amount of money.

Some people just won’t be willing to shell out the amount this year, that they may have been able to last year. But this speaks to a wider issue in consumer tech.

Google isn’t the only tech company to completely neglect the challenging global climate when pricing its gadgets: Samsung is still releasing super-pricey folding phones, and the iPhone 14 is, for some incomprehensible reason, even pricier than the iPhone 13 in some regions. 

Too few brands are actually catering to the tough economic times many are facing right now, with companies increasing the price of their premium offerings to counter rising costs, instead of just designing more affordable alternatives to flagships.

These high and rising prices suggest that companies are totally out of touch with their buyers, and don’t understand the economic hardship troubling many.

We’ll have to reach a breaking point sooner or later, either with brands finally clueing into the fact that they need to release cheaper phones, or with customers voting with their wallets by sticking to second-hand or refurbished devices. But until then, you can buy the best cheap phones to show that cost is important to you.

Tom’s role in the TechRadar team is to specialize in phones and tablets, but he also takes on other tech like electric scooters, smartwatches, fitness, mobile gaming and more. He is based in London, UK.

He graduated in American Literature and Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia. Prior to working in TechRadar freelanced in tech, gaming and entertainment, and also spent many years working as a mixologist. Outside of TechRadar he works in film as a screenwriter, director and producer.

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DisplayMate awards the “Best Smartphone Display” title to the iPhone 14 Pro Max

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DisplayMate awards the “Best Smartphone Display” title to the iPhone 14 Pro Max

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