Any manufacturing process can be impacted by a security breach, especially due to the elevated levels of connectivity in modern manufacturing settings. Manufacturers must think outside the box to identify cybersecurity threats and vulnerabilities. In the manufacturing vertical, cybercriminals often target proprietary information, such as identification of product locations or unique formulations that are used to create a product faster. They use this information to steal products from shipments, disrupt the market, and wreak other types of havoc. There is a growing need for cybersecurity software in the manufacturing sector.
When customers order a product online, a part of their billing information is also stored with the manufacturer. If the manufacturer does not follow strong security standards, it leaves customer information vulnerable to cyberattacks. Since manufacturers rely heavily on profit margins to survive in the market, any successful cyberattack also implies a rise in the cost of the product for consumers.
In order to completely secure their plants, manufacturers need to set up fully integrated facilities even if their processes are not directly integrated into the Internet. Initially, many breaches begin within a manufacturer’s IT network and then jump into other parts of their setup through connected devices. Moreover, several connected devices actually hold information about non-connected processes.
Manufacturers need to practice cybersecurity in other aspects of their businesses as well, and the required assessments should be conducted regularly in order to track the implementation and effectiveness of cybersecurity initiatives across an organization. Manufacturers must follow a series of steps to assess, identify, create, and update cybersecurity standards.
Manufacturers need to focus on the implementation of cybersecurity policies and reliably assess the needs of their organizations. Many times, a robust security policy helps avoid improbable yet deadly cyberattacks, as in reality, “unlikely” and overlooked vulnerabilities are more likely to be targeted by cybercriminals. Therefore, manufacturers must implement cybersecurity policies that secure even vulnerabilities that are often ignored.
Renowned manufacturing companies have incurred losses due to cyberattacks. A single breach can destroy the trust and rapport that manufacturers have with their customers. Manufacturers also stand to lose vital information about key manufacturing processes, especially proprietary information. For manufacturers, assessing their own attack surface is sometimes difficult because their plants and facilities are geographically distributed across several countries and continents.
Cybercriminals target manufacturing companies with an intention to either cause some kind of physical disruption to its operations or to steal intellectual property. These disruptions can cause serious material damage, leading to significant downtime as well as high repair costs. Intellectual property is alluring to competitors, as it encompasses everything from product proposals and digital prints to trade secrets and proprietary manufacturing processes.
Manufacturers often consider the following suggestions when countering cybersecurity threats:
- Develop a comprehensive plan that prioritizes the value of data, ascertains the most sensitive and critical aspects of the business, and deploys security measures accordingly.
- Implement segmented networks that isolate and secure the most valuable data, leaving it accessible to only a few trusted individuals.
- Perform frequent audits for insider threat detection and prevention.
- Educate employees about the risks of using personal devices within the facility and teach them cyber hygiene.
- Communicate with suppliers and vendors to ensure all links in the organization’s supply chain are enforcing adequate security measures.
It is critical for small and mid-sized manufacturers to implement adequate cybersecurity while adopting Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and Industry 4.0 solutions. Cybercriminals often view midsized organizations as a prime entry point into a larger target. Today, many smaller manufacturing companies are struggling to keep up with larger enterprises and their advanced security technologies, security best practices, and large IT teams. However, failure to do so leaves them open to loss of trade secrets, intellectual property, and sensitive data, as well as financial fraud and business disruptions. In order to stay competitive, manufacturing companies need to undertake periodic vulnerability scans, fix vulnerabilities based on business risk, and continually reduce their attack surface.