Spitzer and Boyes to acquire the INSIDER

The press release below will be of interest to readers of the INSIDER pdf subscription newsletter, which I have edited since 2010, following on from the founder and editor for 14 years, Andrew Bond. I will still continue writing articles for the INSIDER from a European viewpoint, but the publication will benefit significantly from the US input available from Walt Boyes.

“We are pleased to announce that effective with the February 2014 issue, we have acquired the Industrial Automation and Process Control INSIDER,” said David W. Spitzer, PE, principal of Spitzer and Boyes LLC. “Walt Boyes, formerly award-winning editor in chief of Control and controlglobal.com will assume the editorship with the February issue.”

Nick Denbow, respected as one of the best automation industry editors and journalists in the world, will relinquish the publisher role, but will remain as UK/Europe editor indefinitely. “Joining editorial forces with Walt gives a real opportunity to share opinion and inputs from both sides of the Atlantic – which is exactly what the vendors already do. It will be really exciting to see the INSIDER expand in this way,” Denbow said.

“We chose the INSIDER for a number of reasons,” Boyes revealed. “First, as a subscription-based publication, it is not competitive to any of the other automation magazines, which are all advertising-supported. The INSIDER will continue to be subscription-based and will not sell advertising.”

“Second, we felt that the INSIDER has the reputation of exceptional, hard-edged journalism that we wanted to be associated with,” Boyes continued. “For over seventeen years, first under the direction of Andrew Bond, and then under Nick Denbow, the INSIDER became and has remained one of the most read and authoritative publications in the automation industry.”

“Third, we have plans to enhance and improve the excellent reporting and journalistic insight of the INSIDER beginning with the February issue,” Boyes said.

“We intend to provide local reporting on a global scale, beginning with North and South America. We intend to have Pacific Rim, India, MEA and Eastern European reporting to complement the terrific job Nick’s done primarily in Western Europe and the UK,” Boyes said.

“Beginning in the February issue, there will be an editorial by me,” Boyes said, “and beginning in March, a feature column by Joy Ward that will normally be an interview with an automation luminary, either vendor or end user.”

“There will be increased coverage of end user activities, as well as more in-depth coverage of vendor news from around the world,” Boyes added.

“We’ll have more news about the plans for the INSIDER in the coming months,” Boyes said.

The Industrial Automation and Process Control INSIDER  (www.iainsider.com) is the authoritative publication in the automation market space. Because it is subscription-based, not advertiser-supported, it publishes news, opinion and analysis about the automation industries without fear or favor.

Spitzer and Boyes LLC (www.spitzerandboyes.com) is a technology consulting firm devoted to assisting companies to better create and market their products in manufacturing and automation. David W. Spitzer, PE and Walt Boyes are the principals of the firm. Spitzer and Boyes LLC provides technology transfer and due diligence services for mergers and acquisitions in the technology environment, new product development consulting and forensic engineering for technology cases, content creation and custom research services in the manufacturing and automation space.

More information can be obtained from  editorial@iainsider.com or dspitzer@spitzerandboyes.com.

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Good news story on cyber-security vulnerability

In a new post on his blog themanufacturingconnection.com, Gary Mintchell highlights a success story in sorting out a cybersecurity vulnerability. This was perhaps refreshing and unusual in that for once the experts at the security services company who found the problem, IOActive (see http://blog.ioactive.com), and the hardware supplier co-operated positively and sorted out the problem, with patches made available in 3 months.

Gary comments:

“Cybersecurity experts, and especially the media that reports on cybersecurity vulnerabilities, often love to just point fingers at companies. Seldom do they acknowledge a good response.

The IOActive security services company announced on 9th January that it had uncovered multiple vulnerabilities in the Siemens Scalance X-200 Switch Family. These Ethernet switches are used to connect to Industrial Control Systems (ICS) components like Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs) and Human Machine Interfaces (HMIs). The switches enable remote diagnostics and simplified configuration through a common web browser.

Senior security consultant for IOActive, Eireann Leverett, discovered two vulnerabilities in the switches. Both vulnerabilities were discovered in the web server authentication of the product. The first vulnerability could allow an attacker to perform administrative operations over the network without authentication, gaining access to critical services. The second vulnerability could allow an attacker to hijack web sessions over the network without authentication.

“Siemens ProductCERT were professional, courteous, and did not adopt an adversarial attitude when I contacted them about the vulnerabilities. Consequently, we were able to clarify the vulnerabilities quickly, and they produced a patch within three months,” said Eireann Leverett, senior security consultant for IOActive. “I challenge other ICS vendors to match this timeline for security patching in the future.”

Speedy Response

As soon as IOActive notified the Industrial Control Systems Cyber Emergency Response Team (ICS-CERT) of the vulnerabilities, Siemens ProductCERT wasted little time resolving the issue.

Leverett added, “The speed at which Siemens ProductCERT responded to the notification of these two vulnerabilities is something to be applauded. IOActive has always pushed vendors to respond when they receive notifications on vulnerabilities in their products. Siemens is the perfect example of how companies should respond when addressing these issues.”

Siemens ProductCERT is a team dedicated to accepting and handling security issues and vulnerabilities within their products. They co-ordinate with external and internal security researchers and work closely with the company’s product teams to develop fixes. ProductCERT publish the fixes as soon as they have been tested and credits the researchers who discovered the issues. The very existence of this team illustrates Siemens serious commitment to handling security issues smoothly and quickly.

Siemens has addressed both issues by providing a firmware update for the affected products.”

This sort of story might not make the headlines that the normal cyber-security failures achieve, but such a positive result is well worth repeating, to show that Siemens in particular takes such notifications seriously.

AMEC to buy Foster-Wheeler

Bloomberg has reported that Amec, the second-biggest UK oil and gas engineer, has agreed to buy US-traded Foster Wheeler for $3.2Bn to expand foreign and fuel-product business.

The provisional deal will give Foster Wheeler investors $16 in cash and 0.9 of a new Amec share, equivalent to a total of $32 for each share they hold, the London-based company said in a statement. It will seek a US listing after the purchase.
The transaction will boost capacity in the oil products and petrochemicals business at Amec, now mainly focused on helping companies get oil and gas out of the ground. Foster Wheeler has worldwide operations and has been working in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates since the 1970s, according to its website. Amec is valued at GBP3.2Bn ($5.3Bn).
“The most important thing this deal is about, if you look at gas prices and monetization, is growing markets in the US and the Middle East,” CEO Samir Brikho said on a call. “This deal enhances our positions in both”
The takeover will see Amec’s revenue in “growth regions” doubling. Profit will rise at least 10% in the first year and returns exceed the cost of capital in the second, it said.
Bid was expected after rumours
The cash part of the deal will cost about GBP1Bn, and the company currently has about GBP100m in cash, chief financial officer Ian McHoul said on the call. Amec will use current funds and new debt for that portion of the purchase.
Foster Wheeler, based in Zug, Switzerland, had a market value of $3.1Bn at the end of last week after gaining 25% in the fourth quarter, when talks with Amec and Petrofac, the largest UK oil services provider, were reported.
Amec’s offer represents a 0.6% premium over the 20-day average price, compared with a 32% premium for global oil and gas services deals in the past year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
“The fact that there is no real premium offered to shareholders is not really surprising as takeover rumors made the round already,” said Geoffroy Stern, a Kepler Cheuvreux analyst in Paris. “We do not believe in a counter bid from any competitor as Foster Wheeler has been for sale for a while.”
AMEC bidding spree
Amec expects to close the deal, subject to conditions, in the second half. Foster Wheeler, which would take two seats on the UK board, agreed not to seek out other offers before Feb 22, when agreement on the final terms is expected, Amec said.
The engineer’s offer of as much as GBP680 million in August for Kentz Corp, to expand its energy construction and services business, was rejected by the Irish company.
Amec also said the pound’s rise against the dollar will curb its earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization this year by about GBP10 million. Gains from Foster Wheeler won’t be fully realized this year so Amec won’t meet targeted earnings per share of 100 pence in 2014, it said.

F&G systems for Kittiwake platform

Systems integration specialist Hima-Sella has been awarded a contract from international oilfield services provider Petrofac for the provision of an upgraded fire and gas detection system for the Kittiwake oil and gas platform in the North Sea, which it operates as Duty Holder on behalf of Centrica Energy. The system will feature a HIMA HIMax and incorporate an addressable controller (rated to SIL2), and the overall project will also include the supply of new flame, smoke and gas detectors.

Kittiwake

Kittiwake

Eddy Turnock, Hima-Sella’s Sales & Marketing Director, comments: “We’re delighted to have been awarded this prestigious contract and to be providing a fire and gas detection system that helps safeguard such an important platform.”

The HIMA HIMax is a Programmable Electronic System (PES) and, for the Kittiwake platform, it will be catering for an estimated 1,300 I/O, with scope for expansion. In addition, the HIMax ‘NON STOP’ feature will allow changes to be made whilst the system is online and without interrupting processes on the platform.

For the majority of the fire and gas detection system, signal conditioning will be performed directly on HIMax I/O modules. Also, existing platform wiring will be used in combination with HIMA Field Terminal Assembly units (to be located in the platform equipment room).

Hima-Sella engineers have already commenced developing the fire and gas detection system functionality using SILworX – the well-proven HIMA integrated configuration, programming and diagnostic environment – and system delivery, installation and commissioning are scheduled for later this year.