As the manufacturing industry moves forward with its digital transformation initiatives, the risk of cybersecurity threats and attacks increases substantially.
Industrial and commercial organizations are essential to the functioning of societies. However, as they become more digitally interconnected and globalized, their systems are also at risk for cyber-attacks.
Even before the Covid-19 pandemic, the manufacturing industry had embarked on a digital transformation journey to modernize and replace legacy systems. The shift to remote working and stay-at-home orders accelerated these plans for manufacturers, meaning new systems and solutions needed to be implemented rapidly, potentially without the robust security usually required.
This has resulted in manufacturing firms becoming targets of cyber-attacks as malicious actors seek to exploit these security vulnerabilities. In 2020, the manufacturing sector was the second most targeted industry, after the finance and insurance industries.
The impact of cyber-attacks on manufacturing
The dangers of cyber-attacks in the manufacturing industry are not just limited to ransomware attacks or data threats, they also include supply chain threats and digital technologies.
Cyber-attacks on manufacturers can create several risks for both the company and its employees. For example, cyber-attacks can inflict severe damage to systems, plants, and workers, cause loss of production or customer data (including information that could be used to steal intellectual property or proprietary designs), and even lead to physical destruction. Cybersecurity breaches that allow access to confidential data or systems can lead to financial losses, product recalls, and even plant shutdowns.
In addition, supply chain threats involving unauthorized use of digital technologies in connection with production could result in the loss of key materials or products. Cyberthreats can have a direct impact on the company’s competitive advantage by disrupting business processes and causing delays in product delivery or sales.
In 2021, Colonial Pipeline, which controls nearly half the fuel distribution in the eastern part of the United States, was targeted by cybercriminals based in Russia. The ransomware attack led to panic buying of fuel, and the company paid a $5m ransom one day after the attack occurred. This is one example of how severe the threats to manufacturing can be if malicious actors gain access to systems or sensitive data.
How can manufacturers protect themselves going forward?
There is a heightened need for organizations to have an understanding of their cybersecurity posture. Cybersecurity is the first line of defense when it comes to protecting digital information and systems from unauthorized access, use, or disclosure.
Manufacturers need to conduct a thorough and broad risk assessment, including the risks posed by employees (onsite and remote), legacy systems, third parties, etc. Risk assessment is an important first step to identify what the cyber risks are and then inform a cybersecurity strategy that can be tailored specifically to the type of manufacturing business, its size, and its location.
To gain the deepest insights, manufacturers should consider partnering with a specialist cybersecurity service provider who has the expertise and experience to ensure all factors are considered.
Manufacturing companies should ensure their network is monitored in real-time to better detect potential cybersecurity threats and have a plan in place for responding to incidents and potential data breaches. This includes understanding the risks involved in any given event as well as mitigating them before they happen. A data loss prevention plan ensures essential data is not lost during an attack, including customer information, financial records, or intellectual property.
It is important to ensure the cybersecurity risk management plan includes the operational technology (OT) that controls industrial equipment as well as information technology (IT) and identifies where there may be vulnerabilities in connections to other systems.
Lastly, it’s vital to implement cybersecurity awareness training for all employees. Many data breaches are caused by human error, as a result of falling victim to ransomware, phishing and social engineering attacks.
A secure future for manufacturing
As the digitization of manufacturing continues, the fourth industrial revolution or Industry 4.0 grows closer. As technology evolves, cyber-attacks will only continue to increase in frequency as cybercriminals leverage the same technology as their targets.
Cybersecurity for manufacturing requires ongoing risk management and strategy. Investing in the most modern and up-to-date security solutions and partnering with cybersecurity experts will ensure your business mitigates the risk of cyberthreats now and in the future. The certified security experts at BCS365 offer advanced cyberthreat intelligence, threat prevention services, and comprehensive security solutions to cover all your unique business needs.