Manufacturing Safety: Why Cybersecurity Can’t Be Ignored


cybersecurity in manufacturing

From the advent of the fourth industrial revolution to the seamless integration of robotics, automation, and the Internet of Things (IoT), manufacturing has undergone a remarkable evolution. However, amidst this wave of progress, there’s a pressing concern that demands our attention – cybersecurity in manufacturing

In today’s interconnected landscape, where devices communicate, and AI-powered systems operate seamlessly, the need for strong cyber security measures is more crucial than ever.

The cyber risks are substantial, as a single cyber-attack can disrupt production lines and lead to staggering financial losses for manufacturing organizations.

Such disruptions are the antithesis of the industry’s primary goal—to maximize profitability.

In this blog, we’ll explore the pivotal role of cyber security in manufacturing facilities.

We will delve into the ever-changing landscape of cyber threats and best practices for improving cybersecurity in the manufacturing industry.  

What The Manufacturing Sector Should Know About Cybersecurity

Regarding cybersecurity, production facilities should remain on high alert – knowing the ins and outs of essential cybersecurity.

The days of relying on physically isolated equipment for protection against cyber-attacks are long gone.

As the industry embraces innovative manufacturing practices fueled by automation, data, and artificial intelligence (AI), the need for cyber resilience has reached new heights.

With the advent of modern manufacturing, greater network connectivity and the integration of Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) sensing capabilities have become the norm.

While this increased connectivity brings tremendous opportunities for innovation and efficiency, it also introduces significant challenges in terms of cybersecurity.

Consequently, the manufacturing sector must prioritize cybersecurity to safeguard its operations, intellectual property, and the overall resilience of the industry.

Why Cybercriminals Target Manufacturing Facilities

As manufacturers strive to stay competitive in the global market, they find themselves vulnerable to the attention of cybercriminals.

The convergence of IT (Information technology) and OT (Operational Technology) systems has introduced complex challenges, with a significant 69% of manufacturing executives acknowledging cybersecurity as a major obstacle in their digital transformation strategies.

To confront these challenges head-on, it is vital for manufacturing IT teams and security professionals to stay informed about the available options for mitigating these existential cybersecurity threats.

As cybersecurity and SD-WAN (Software-Defined Wide Area Network) merge, manufacturers must optimize their usage within the industry’s unique environments.

manufacturing facility

The Growing Imperative: Safeguarding Manufacturing Companies From Cybercriminals

In the manufacturing industry, the significance of cybersecurity has reached unprecedented levels. As manufacturing companies strive to remain globally competitive, they rapidly embrace digitization and integrated Internet of Things (IoT) processes throughout their operations and supply chains.

However, with the rise of autonomous machinery, new opportunities for cybercriminals to disrupt, steal data, and cause havoc within networks have emerged.

Consequently, the increasing interconnectedness in producing and distributing goods has resulted in a surge of cyber-attacks targeting the manufacturing industry.

From ransomware to business email compromise and more, these attacks highlight the pressing need for manufacturers to fortify their cyber defenses.

Repercussions Of Neglecting Cybersecurity In The Manufacturing Industry

Maintaining robust cybersecurity measures in manufacturing is crucial for sustaining optimal productivity and protecting sensitive information. Neglecting cybersecurity practices can potentially disrupt in-house IT systems essential for efficient production processes.

Additionally, there is a need to safeguard valuable intellectual property, preventing unauthorized access and preserving competitive advantage. Manufacturers can proactively mitigate risks, enhance operational resilience, and foster a secure environment for their employees and stakeholders by prioritizing cybersecurity.

Unfortunately, cybersecurity concerns often hinder manufacturers from adopting new technologies that enhance their competitiveness. However, manufacturers must prioritize securing their high-tech equipment, networks, processes, and digital connections with supply chain partners to thrive in an increasingly globalized world.

What Are The Biggest Cybersecurity Challenges For The Manufacturing Sector?

As the manufacturing industry undergoes technological advancements and embraces data-driven processes, cybersecurity has emerged as a critical concern at the heart of manufacturing facilities. Gone are the days when cyber attacks were limited to financial institutions and retail giants.

Today, manufacturers face a whole new breed of threats in the digital realm. Ransomware – the infamous hostage-taker of critical data – is always ready to strike.

Spyware stealthily infiltrates manufacturing systems, aiming to steal valuable trade secrets and intellectual property. Even seemingly innocuous adware can wreak havoc by disrupting operations and draining finances.

Let’s see the 10 biggest cybersecurity challenges the manufacturing sector faces:

1. Legacy Systems And Outdated Protocols

Many manufacturing facilities are burdened with legacy systems, which come with their own set of cybersecurity concerns. These outdated beasts pose a significant challenge with their decades-long life cycles. They lack basic cybersecurity features like user authentication and encryption, leaving them vulnerable to attacks.

Imagine relying on equipment tied to old operating systems like Windows XP or running on Intel Pentium 4 systems. It’s like trying to defend a fortress with a rusty sword.

These outdated systems put companies at a massive disadvantage compared to competitors embracing modern technology. Unfortunately, some businesses stick with legacy equipment for various reasons, whether critical functions are served by old software or resistance to change.

2. Convergence Of Information Technology And Operational Technology (OT)

IT and OT are two different worlds colliding together. While the convergence of these technologies holds immense potential for improving business processes, it’s not without its hurdles.

One major obstacle is the need to bridge the gap between IT and OT departments. Operations technicians need to understand IT processes, and IT technicians need to grasp the intricacies of OT processes.

Think of it as a seamless collaboration between IoT security, connectivity, and the IT department, each playing a vital role in ensuring a secure and connected environment. Operations decisions can have serious implications for IT and vice versa.

This convergence requires a shift in mindset, fostering trust between departments, and leveraging each other’s expertise to strike the right balance between operations and security.

3. Supply Chain Vulnerabilities

The interconnected web of suppliers and business partners creates a delicate ecosystem prone to cyber-attacks. Supply chain attacks occur when attackers target a company’s partners or suppliers, gaining access to their networks.

Once inside, they can launch attacks on the manufacturing company, stealing data, planting malware, or disrupting operations.

It’s like a chain reaction, where one breach can create havoc throughout the entire system. Manufacturers must prioritize cybersecurity risk management and activity monitoring across their supplier network.

Vigilance is key to identifying and mitigating potential vulnerabilities and ensuring the security of the entire supply chain.

4. Insider Threats: The Stealthy Enemy Within

One of the biggest challenges in the manufacturing industry lies in the form of insider threats. These individuals have authorized access to sensitive systems and data but misuse that access for personal gain or harm.

With the increasing digitization and interconnection of manufacturing processes, insiders can exploit their position of trust to steal trade secrets, sabotage operations, and manipulate equipment remotely.

Their ability to fly under the radar makes insider threats particularly troublesome. Over the past two years alone, insider threat incidents have seen a staggering 44% increase.

Among these incidents, negligent insiders, who unintentionally compromise security measures, account for a significant 56%. Malicious insiders are more difficult to detect, as they blend in with regular employees while carrying out malicious activities.

To combat insider threats effectively, manufacturing companies must take proactive measures. This includes implementing stringent access controls, deploying advanced monitoring systems, and conducting regular security audits.

A hacker using a computer

5. Lack Of Employee Awareness And Training

Another significant cybersecurity challenge stems from the lack of employee awareness and training In the manufacturing industry.

With millions of vacant job roles and a widening skills gap, finding skilled workers has become increasingly difficult. The industry demands educated and creative employees who can adapt to the digitized landscape.

However, traditional training resources often fall short, leaving employees ill-prepared to face cybersecurity challenges.

Manufacturers are currently experiencing challenges in recruiting skilled staff. To address this issue, manufacturers must prioritize employee upskilling and training programs. It’s crucial to adapt training methods to align with the changing requirements of the industry.

This includes encouraging employees to develop diverse skills beyond their primary job functions. By doing so, manufacturers can prepare their workforce for emerging technologies while harnessing the unique “soft skills” that automation cannot replicate.

6. Industrial Espionage And Intellectual Property Theft

Industrial espionage and intellectual property (IP) theft represent critical threats to the manufacturing sector.

For decades, the theft of trade secrets, manufacturing processes, and proprietary information has been a concern for industries such as manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, and chemicals.

However, in today’s digital age, cyberespionage has made it easier and more cost-effective for perpetrators to target valuable information.

A manufacturer’s IP is a precious and distinguishing asset that differentiates them from competitors. IP theft can have far-reaching consequences, including giving competitors a partisan advantage by allowing them to replicate technologies without the investment in research and development.

Hackers often gain unauthorized access to manufacturing networks using methods like phishing, then deploy malware to extract sensitive information discreetly.

Preventing IP theft requires a comprehensive approach. Manufacturers must identify their vulnerable assets, establish robust access controls, and invest in cutting-edge cybersecurity measures.

Employee training is crucial in recognizing potential threats and safeguarding confidential information.

7. The Manufacturing Industry Held Hostage

Ransomware attacks have emerged as a major risk to manufacturing companies. These attacks have become increasingly prevalent in recent years, encrypting files and demanding a ransom for the decryption key.

The manufacturing sector is particularly susceptible to such attacks because it relies on computer-aided design (CAD) files and other digital data.

Imagine the impact if crucial files required for manufacturing operations suddenly become unusable. The disruption caused by ransomware attacks can lead to significant delays in production and immense financial losses.

Faced with time constraints and the potential for even more significant financial losses, manufacturers often feel compelled to pay the ransom to resume operations swiftly.

8. The Rapid Adoption Of Industry 4.0 Technologies

The adoption of Industry 4.0 technologies, encompassing automation, the Internet of Things (IoT), and robotics, presents both opportunities and challenges for the manufacturing organization.

However, due to various implementation barriers, many manufacturers struggle to progress significantly in their smart factory initiatives.

Challenges include:

  • The lack of unified leadership for cross-unit coordination.
  • Concerns about data ownership when working with third-party vendors.
  • Hesitation in launching comprehensive digitalization plans.
  • A shortage of in-house talent to support the development and deployment of Industry 4.0 initiatives.
  • Difficulties integrating data from multiple sources.
  • And a lack of knowledge about relevant technologies and IT outsourcing partners.

To overcome these challenges, manufacturers should assess the return on investment of different digital solutions, foster collaboration between departments, and invest in upskilling their workforce. By addressing these barriers, manufacturers can harness the transformative potential of Industry technologies and drive innovation within their organizations.

9. Compliance With Regulations And Standards

Manufacturing companies must navigate a complex landscape of regulations and standards to ensure compliance with cybersecurity requirements.

Governments and international cybersecurity organizations establish these regulations to protect organizations and customers from cyber threats.

Standard compliance requirements in the manufacturing facility include PIPEDA. 

While meeting these compliance requirements is crucial, it is important to note that mere compliance does not guarantee robust cybersecurity.

Manufacturers must manage all security risks and implement appropriate cybersecurity solutions to protect sensitive data effectively.

A proactive and comprehensive approach to cybersecurity, including regular risk assessments and the implementation of robust security measures, is necessary to safeguard manufacturing facilities and maintain compliance.

financial industry regulations

10. Limited Resources And Expertise

Manufacturers face a challenge in finding experienced workers to support their operations and manage the automation and AI technologies increasingly used in the industry.

With organizations minimizing their workforce through automation, there is a growing need for experienced staff who can effectively utilize these technologies.

Unfortunately, technical expertise is scarce in the manufacturing facility. The retirement of the experienced baby boomer generation has left a significant gap in experience and expertise.

Additionally, the specialized nature of many manufacturing jobs, such as technical civil engineering positions, further limits the pool of qualified candidates.

To address this challenge, manufacturers should invest in training and upskilling programs to develop a workforce capable of leveraging automation technologies.

Best Practices For Improving Manufacturing Cybersecurity

As the industry continues to embrace technology and remote work, it’s crucial to address the cybersecurity risks associated with these advancements.

Cyber-attacks in the manufacturing sector accounted for over 30% of all incidents in 2020, highlighting the urgent need for effective security measures.

implementing mature cybersecurity protocols is essential, which involves being vigilant, cautious, and collaborative within your organization and the wider industry.

To avoid losing business due to cybersecurity vulnerabilities, manufacturers should adopt these best practices prioritizing security.

By following these practices, manufacturers can significantly reduce the risk of cyber-attacks and safeguard their operations:

1. Employee Training And Awareness

Human error is a leading cause of most of the cybersecurity breaches. Therefore, training employees on basic cybersecurity practices is crucial. Here are three key areas to focus on:

  • Educate employees on phishing scams: Phishing emails have become increasingly sophisticated. Train employees to identify malicious emails, links, and attachments. Establish clear procedures for reporting suspected phishing attempts.
  • Provide best practices for passwords: Emphasize the importance of strong, unique passwords. Encourage employees not to write down or share passwords. Implement password managers to prevent contamination attacks.
  • Enforce network login from approved company devices and locations: Discourage employees from using personal devices or external connections to access the network. Provide company-approved devices configured for remote work to ensure proper security measures.

2. Conduct In-Depth Cyber Risk Assessments

To effectively manage cybersecurity risks, conduct thorough assessments tailored to manufacturing systems. Consider adopting the NIST Cybersecurity Framework for critical infrastructure, which involves identifying and analyzing potential risks and vulnerabilities. Key benefits of risk assessments include:

  • Reduction of long-term costs: Identifying and mitigating threats can prevent security incidents, save money, and protect reputation.
  • Template for future assessments: A well-executed initial assessment establishes a repeatable process, ensuring consistent security measures despite staff turnover.
  • Better organizational knowledge: Understanding vulnerabilities helps prioritize improvements and enhances overall security.
  • Avoidance of data breaches and regulatory issues: Preventing data breaches safeguards financial resources and maintains compliance with PIPEDA. 
  • Prevent application downtime and data loss: Ensuring system availability and protecting critical information assets safeguards business continuity.

3. Network Segmentation And Access Control

Implementing network segmentation divides networks into smaller sections, providing increased control systems and security. Benefits of network segmentation include:

  • Enhanced security: Segmentation prevents attacks from spreading across the network and reaching critical assets. It enables the enforcement of the least privilege and facilitates threat detection.
  • Improved performance: Segmenting network traffic reduces congestion, ensuring optimal performance for resource-intensive services like online gaming and videoconferencing.
  • Streamlined monitoring and response: Segmentation simplifies network traffic monitoring, enabling quick detection of suspicious activity and minimizing the risk of missing threats.
  • Access control and authentication: Strong passwords, multi-factor authentication, and the least privilege principle restrict unauthorized access to manufacturing systems, operational technology, and data.

4. Cybersecurity Incident Response Planning

Developing a Cybersecurity Incident Response Plan (CSIRP) is essential for effectively managing security incidents. A robust CSIRP includes the following phases:

  1. Preparation: Proactively establish procedures and guidelines for responding to security incidents.
  2. Detection and analysis: Swiftly identify and analyze the nature and scope of the incident.
  3. Containment, eradication, and recovery: Take immediate action to contain the incident, eradicate threats, and restore normal operations.
  4. Post-incident activity: Conduct a thorough incident review, implement necessary improvements, and communicate with stakeholders.

Having a CSIRP in place offers several advantages:

  • Proactive response: With a plan, your security and management teams can respond effectively, minimizing costly mistakes.
  • Compliance with regulations: Certain data privacy regulations require a cyber incident response plan.
  • Industry standards: Frameworks like ISO 27001 demand a CSIRP for certification.

5. Create A More Security-Conscious Culture

Establishing a security-conscious manufacturing environment is crucial for maintaining strong cybersecurity practices.

Promoting awareness and implementing deterrents can significantly reduce the risk of security incidents. Consider the following measures to maintain a secure manufacturing environment:

  • Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA): 

Implement MFA as an additional layer of security for accessing systems and applications. MFA needs users to provide multiple forms of identification, such as a password and a unique code sent to their mobile device. This significantly increases the difficulty of compromising an account, even if the password is stolen.

  • Virtual Private Network (VPN): 

Utilize VPN technology to create a secure and encrypted connection for remote workers. A VPN protects internet traffic and prevents unauthorized access, mainly when using public Wi-Fi networks. Ensure all employees know the importance of using a VPN when accessing company resources remotely.

  • Secure Remote Working Environment: 

With the rise of remote work, it’s essential to reassess and enhance the security measures for remote working environments. Review your company’s policies, processes, and technologies to ensure they align with the requirements of sustained remote work. This includes secure access to company resources, industrial control systems, regular software updates, and employee training on secure remote practices.

The Future Of Cybersecurity In Manufacturing: Industry 4.0 And Beyond

Manufacturing facilities are undergoing a remarkable transformation driven by Industry 4.0 technologies.

Companies are embracing the integration of the Internet of Things (IoT), cloud computing, analytics, artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning to revolutionize their manufacturing processes. It’s an exciting time, but it also raises manufacturing cybersecurity concerns.

Embracing The Potential Of Industry 4.0

Picture this: smart factories equipped with advanced sensors, embedded software, and robots generating massive amounts of valuable data.

This data is a goldmine for manufacturers as they can use it for real-time decision-making, predictive maintenance, and error reduction.

Manufacturers can enhance productivity, improve quality, and save time and money by adopting high-tech IoT devices and AI-powered visual insights. It’s a win-win situation!

Characteristics Of A Smart Manufacturing Facility

To truly understand the impact of Industry 4.0 on cybersecurity, let’s dive into the key characteristics of Smart Manufacturing Facilities:

  1. Data analysis: Smart factories rely on embedded sensors and interconnected machinery, generating a treasure trove of big data. Manufacturers can uncover historical trends, identify patterns, and make informed decisions using data analytics.
  2. Supply chain integration: A strong Industry 4.0 strategy involves integrating supply chains with production processes. By sharing production data with suppliers, manufacturers can optimize delivery schedules and quickly adapt to disruptions on the assembly line.
  3. IT-OT integration: The success of a smart factory hinges on the seamless integration of operational technology (OT) and information technology (IT). Real-time data collected from devices, sensors, and machines on the factory floor can be instantly used by other assets and shared across enterprise software like enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems.

Secure The Future Of Manufacturing With Wingman Solutions!

The future of cybersecurity in manufacturing lies in a proactive, adaptive, and collaborative approach. Industry 4.0 brings unprecedented opportunities for growth and innovation, but it also demands heightened vigilance to safeguard critical assets, protect data integrity, and preserve customer trust.

Cybersecurity must be integral to the digital transformation journey as smart factories become the norm.

At Wingman Solutions, we offer IT support for manufacturers to help them succeed by enhancing their ability to integrate technological advancements while upholding the highest cybersecurity standards seamlessly.

By prioritizing cybersecurity from the outset and adopting a comprehensive defense strategy, manufacturers can confidently navigate the digital era and thrive in the world of smart factories. So, embrace the future, but do it securely!

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