With the technological revolution in the manufacturing industry comes the risk of cyber-attacks which can result in significant production disruptions, data loss, and even physical harm to employees. In this post, we’ll discuss the importance of manufacturing cyber security, some of the threats in the industry, and the best practices for implementing cyber security. Read on!

What Is the Importance of Manufacturing Cyber Security?

Manufacturing cyber security protects manufacturing infrastructure, systems, devices, and sensitive data against digital attacks such as hacking, ransomware, phishing, and malware. As mentioned earlier, these cyber attacks on manufacturing systems are rising due to their advancement in connectivity through the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), cloud computing, and mobile devices.

A successful cyber attack on a manufacturing system can cause downtime, supply chain disruptions, quality issues, product defects, regulatory fines, and even safety incidents. Hence, manufacturers must see cyber security as a strategic business objective rather than an IT issue.

Common Cyber Security Threats for Manufacturing Companies

1. Ransomware

Ransomware is a malware that encrypts data on a network, rendering it useless until the hackers’ demands are met. If the ransom is not paid, these threat actors may threaten to sell or disclose sensitive data. Besides, until the ransom is paid, the network remains inaccessible to manufacturing companies.

There are a lot of reasons why manufacturing companies are easy to target, including;

  • A large network of OT devices over a long supply chain offers many endpoint vulnerabilities.
  • Fragmented systems leave gaps in security.

The manufacturing industry’s primary concern is not downtime in this case. With long supply chains depending on products, other companies and sectors might be impacted within days if they rely on the same components or products. Besides, this might devastate the original victim company if customers and partners discover the breach.

2. Phishing Attacks

Phishing is one of the common tactics of hackers. Though most people understand how phishing works, many don’t know how sophisticated the latest techniques have become.

With manufacturing organizations, phishing emails often seem to come from within or from a company likely to do business with them. Besides, these emails look official, come with all the right logos, and may trick employees into giving hackers discreet access to the network with only one click.

There are several ways in which manufacturing companies are more vulnerable to phishing attacks:

  • Use of internal systems not designed for external communication
  • Inadequate planning across sectors
  • Information about management employees is accessible to hackers, giving them a chance to impersonate
  • A long supply chain with multiple interconnected companies
  • Adopting consistent cybersecurity resources is challenging due to fragmented systems across different departments.

3. Supply Chain Attacks

Attacks on the supply chain usually interrupt one link in an organization’s supply process, resulting in disruption that may impact thousands of people. Critical manufacturers are especially vulnerable to supply chain cyber attacks due to the nature of their long supply chains and the dispersed nature of their security systems.

A supply chain attack is usually a double-edged sword since when the main organization is forced to shut down operations, all the companies they supply are similarly impacted within days.

4. Nation-State Attacks

Nation-state attacks are cyber security threats conducted by the government of another country or by threat actors hired by the government of another country. Reasons behind these attacks might be anything from vengeance, intellectual property theft of defense weapons, or monetary value.

Hackers look for sensitive data to help their countries economically and strengthen major business and military strategies. Besides, these hackers are known to attack government agencies, critical infrastructure, and almost any sector likely to hold sensitive information.

On the other hand, manufacturing companies that complete contracts for the Department of Defense or other government agencies are vulnerable to attacks by nation-state actors. These attacks may be motivated by a desire to gain military secrets or by friendly states looking for economic advantage.

5. Equipment Sabotage

Though operational technologies (OT) provide many benefits for manufacturing industries, they can also provide new vulnerabilities for hackers to exploit. OT devices are not new, but they are new to the external linking technology of modern communication systems.

Before, these OT devices didn’t require security measures to protect them from external threats. This means that manufacturing companies still use them with the same sloppy security they always had.

It’s concerning that attackers may use these devices to get into networks, and the risks posed by equipment sabotage are far worse. Attackers may cause damage by manipulating connected devices if they get access to their management and industrial control systems.

6. Internal Breaches

Though most cyber security attacks come from external actors, about 30 percent of attacks are carried out by employees or other personnel with access to the organization. These attacks are often carried out for financial gain, just like with external hackers. Besides, some employees or ex-employees attack a company out of rage or dissatisfaction.

Internal threat actors usually don’t require access to a network; rather, they use what they already know or credentials to get sensitive information. A threat actor is more likely to carry out a threat undetected if they already have credentials, especially if passwords or other entry methods aren’t changed.

7. Intellectual Property Theft

Intellectual property (IP) theft is an information theft that’s more likely to go unnoticed than customer data theft. Your organization owns the intellectual property that makes your products or services innovative, and such information can be handy in several ways.

When cyberattackers learn new techniques to infiltrate a network undetected and move laterally within the system, the risks of possible IP theft increase. Hackers can silently get the required information over time and even leave the system undetected. This might result in data being stolen or changed undetectably until your company’s trade secrets are used elsewhere.

Attackers target certain manufacturing companies for a variety of reasons. For example, a competitor can use your information to replicate a similar product. The crime can be hard to prove when trade secrets are stolen rather than copyrighted information.

Best Practices for Manufacturing Cyber-Security

To reduce the risks of cyber attacks on critical manufacturing, organizations need to implement best practices for cyber security, such as:

1. Risk Assessment and Management

It involves identifying and analyzing potential cyber risks and vulnerabilities of manufacturing systems, processes, and assets and prioritizing them depending on their impact and likelihood.

2. Access Control and Authentication

It involves using strong passwords, multi-factor authentication, and least privilege principles to ensure that only authorized users, apps, and devices can access manufacturing systems, operational technology, and data.

3. Data Encryption and Backup

Using encryption methods such as AES or RSA to protect sensitive industrial facilities data and routinely backing up vital data to secure offline storage.

4. Employees Security Awareness Training

Security awareness training involves educating workers, contractors, and partners on cyber-security best practices, procedures, and policies and establishing a culture of vigilance and responsibility.

5. Incident Response and Recovery

It involves creating procedures and protocols for identifying, evaluating, and responding to cyber incidents promptly and effectively and testing them through frequent simulations and exercises.

Frequently Asked Questions on Manufacturing Cyber Security

1. Who Requires Cyber Security?

Strong cybersecurity is crucial to preventing cybercrime, which is becoming an increasingly serious issue. Individuals, the manufacturing sector, government institutes, educational institutions, for-profit companies, and non-profit organizations are all at risk from cyber-attacks and data breaches.

2. How are Manufacturing Cyber Attacks Detected?

Cyber-security experts use firewalls, antivirus software, and intrusion detection systems (IDS) to detect unauthorized network activity within a manufacturing company’s system. IDSs can be divided into three groups based on how they operate: anomaly detection, exploitation detection, and hybrid systems.

3. What is the Most Common Type of Cyber Attack in Manufacturing?

Malware is the most common cyberattack because the term encompasses many subsets like ransomware, spyware, viruses, keyloggers, worms, bots, trojans, and other malware attacks that exploit software negatively.

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