Managing Cybersecurity Risks in Smart Manufacturing

The manufacturing industry has increasingly embraced data interconnectivity as a way of achieving greater efficiencies and meeting customers’ needs. Manufacturers of all sizes are integrating the Internet of Things (IoT) – the connection of devices to the internet and each other – and other “smart” manufacturing technology into their daily operations. Yet as they do, they are also exposing their operations to greater security vulnerabilities.

A Heightened Risk

A Kaspersky Labs report published in October 2017 revealed that in the first half of 2017, manufacturing companies were the most susceptible to cyber threats—their computers accounted for about one-third of all attacks. Hackers are stealing trade secrets, intellectual property and even business plans. According to the BDO “2017 Manufacturing RiskFactor Report”, 96% of respondents worry about cybersecurity breaches, up 50% from four years ago.

The IoT enables manufacturers to make things faster while data analytics helps them to spot potential problems and efficiently make corrections. The challenge is that the IoT also makes it easier for hackers to compromise systems through the use of malicious botnets, a collection of infected internet-connected devices by which hackers attack a website and all IoT devices connected to the manufacturing process.

A combination of the words “robot” and “network”, botnets are a network of robots used to commit cybercrime. They have become one of the biggest threats to security systems today, allowing cybercriminals to infiltrate almost any internet-connected device

What’s At Stake?

Along with an overall disruption of the manufacturing process, products can be defective, the manufacturer may lose valuable intellectual property and the company may face potential reputational damage. With the increasing number and cost of data breaches, IT security is no longer seen by business leaders as just a technology issue—it has become a business risk.

The Best Defense

Many manufacturers recognize there is a problem, but they often view cybersecurity protection measures as too expensive or cumbersome to take on. However, even with budget limitations, there are strategic steps every manufacturer can take to mitigate security breach risks for their business and their business’ customers. These steps include:

  1. Make sure all connected devices vulnerable to attack are located, identified and monitored in real time.
  2. Hire a professional to conduct a risk assessment and penetration testing, which includes the analysis of network assets to identify potential vulnerabilities and threats.
  3. Download software updates and patches as soon as they are released; by doing so, you make it more difficult for hackers to exploit vulnerabilities. Better yet, have software updates configured to automatically download.
  4. Stay abreast of potential cyber threats and vulnerabilities of any new technology assets.
  5. Provide cybersecurity training to all employees so they can recognize potential signs that there has been a breach.
  6. Access third-party vendor cyber risks and determine measures that can help prevent any vulnerabilities.
  7. Develop a response plan for the business to implement immediately upon a cybersecurity breach. It is not a matter of if your business will experience this in some form – it is a matter of when.

As cyberattacks grow in sophistication, all manufacturers must find ways to prevent attempts to corrupt their data, steal intellectual property and sabotage their operation. While cybersecurity is a serious challenge, it is not insurmountable. Going forward, you will need to tighten security measures as you embrace the very technology that will help you expand your operations. By implementing cybersecurity practices now, they may help prevent costly threats to your business. Smith & Howard works with businesses to develop an Incident Response Plan – a proactive approach to preparing for and addressing a cybersecurity breach.

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