Cybersecurity and Manufacturing: What’s at Risk and How to Protect Your Facility

The promise of technological advancements is the positive face of a double-sided coin. Every advancement that adds convenience, improves productivity times, and better connects different pieces of manufacturing processes comes with a risk.  Each of those added components is a point of cybersecurity vulnerability, and manufacturing industry insiders must make sure they advance their security standards right along with their technology to protect valuable assets and information.

Why is manufacturing at risk?

Manufacturing is an industry particularly susceptible to cybersecurity attacks due to its very nature. Collaboration with suppliers and an increasing reliance on IoT technology to track finished products and raw material shipments throughout the manufacturing process leaves many individual points vulnerable to potential attacks. In addition, manufacturing is heavily reliant on data, including internal, customer, payroll, bank account, and supplier information.

Finally, recent global power struggles have involved the manufacturing industry in many ways. Manufacturing firms made up half of the companies targeted in the high-profile Petya malware and ransomware attacks.

Where is the risk highest?

It’s difficult to say what the most important asset to protect is because, of course, any one item will seem urgently critical the moment it is compromised. With that in mind, it’s best manufacturers think broadly when it comes to protection. Here are some common areas that are susceptible to attack:

  • Intellectual property (IP) — Any proprietary knowledge has the potential to be valuable to hackers. Either because attackers plan to use the information to create a similar product or because they know company leaders will pay ransom to keep their information private, IP is a key area of concern. In fact, Korean electronics manufacturers have found hackers going after blueprints and other sensitive IP.
  • Confidential data — Many high-profile financial and academic institution attackers have targeted confidential data like social security, credit card, and bank account numbers. Of course, these are also all necessary components of running a manufacturing business, so facility leaders need to carefully protect this data.
  • Physical equipment — Some attackers, particularly those with political motivations, aim not at direct profits but creating chaos. In these instances, attackers can hack into systems to override safety features and cause manufacturing equipment to malfunction. In one case, hackers targeted a German steel mill, leaving company leaders unable to shut down a furnace because of the attack, which resulted in a meltdown.

What can manufacturers do?

Most manufacturers have systems in place to help protect their valuable assets, but they can take steps to ensure their systems are up-to-date and running as smoothly as possible.

  • Limit access. Every person with access to information becomes a potential entry point for a cyberattack — intentionally or not. One of the best lines of defense is the simplest: Only grant access to those who truly need it. Employees who are not in the sales department likely don’t need access to private customer records, for example. Make data access an opt-in process and carefully choose to whom you give privileges.
  • Perform security assessments. Imagine trying to secure a house when you don’t know how many doors and windows it has. The task would be practically impossible. Likewise, cybersecurity requires knowing what devices — authorized and unauthorized — are connected and accessing information. Carefully track and document system performance to make abnormalities easy to spot. This knowledge will usually require a full security assessment and ongoing accountability procedure setups.
  • Update devices. One of the biggest vulnerabilities is devices users haven’t updated. Software updates can seem like an annoyance, especially when you’re in the middle of a task. Skipping them, however, makes the whole system more vulnerable. Creating policies and procedures for automatic updates can help ensure the proper security measures are in place and running optimally.

The promise of technology is vast, but it comes with risks manufacturers need to recognize, understand, and address. With the right security measures in place, manufacturers can protect themselves as well as their colleagues, facilities, customers, and bottom lines from becoming cyberattack statistics.

As the manufacturing industry moves to keep up with emerging technology trends, you can always count on the professionals at Global Electronic Services. Contact us for all your industrial electronic, servo motor, AC and DC motor, hydraulic, and pneumatic needs — and don’t forget to like and follow us on Facebook!
Call Now ButtonCall for Help