I’m prepping for my podcast interview with Joe Weiss on security awareness in control systems and came across one point that didn’t make the cut, but is still interesting.

Some people in the community get very upset when SCADA is used as a term to cover all control systems. They have a point that SCADA are different than DCS and other smaller, local control systems. We can take this further that a SCADA system for an oil pipeline is different than a SCADA system for electric distribution.

Different sectors use the same underlying technology for different purposes with different critical factors. It is one of the most interesting facets of my job that I get to learn a little about so many different fascinating industries. Whether it be leak detection in oil pipelines, to exchange of information between bulk electric systems, to how the comparatively slow flow of water in a canal makes scheduling difficult, …

There are parallels to SCADA where less than accurate terms achieve common usage. Most of the examples are brand names. For example, Kleenex is a brand not a tissue. Remember when you made Xeroxs on your Canon copier? And the current example is Googling replacing searching, much to the dismay of Google who is fighting this to retain trademarks. Growing up in Minnesota I remember being asked what kind of Coke I wanted, and a normal answer might be 7-Up or root beer.

So for better or worse, I claim that SCADA has achieved that common usage status. The community can fight this and  try to educate everyone, including people that have no idea what a SCADA or any other type of control system is today, on the differences between the various types of control sytems, or we can accept the SCADA is used as the generic term for control systems and spend our efforts to get newcomers to understand why securing “SCADA” systems is important.