Five cybersecurity risks the manufacturing industry faces

As society enters a fourth industrial revolution, the manufacturing industry is facing vast, rapid changes. Those changes are marked by both innovation, productivity and efficiency improvements, and new, unforeseen risks. Understanding the cybersecurity threats this industry faces will help those organizations identify their own key vulnerabilities and implement cybersecurity strategies to best protect their critical systems. One only needs to look at the data to see that smart factories and other manufacturing organizations are at risk:

  • 63% of organizations don’t have visibility into the level of access and permissions their users have to critical systems.
  • 57% of manufacturers suffered a third-party related breach in the past year
  • Manufacturing is now the second-most targeted industry for cyberattacks, with the largest average ransomware payout.

Cybersecurity factors putting manufacturing firms at risk

Industrial control systems are targets for ransomware and malware

It’s simple: high risk equals a high reward. The risk associated with industrial control systems being hacked or going down is extremely high, and it could result in monetary loss, supply chain issues, or even threaten public safety (in the case of critical infrastructure). So, bad actors know that if they hold those systems for ransom, the payday could come fast and could be massive.

Third-party connections are increasing, which increases access point risk

It’s well known by now that third parties are a major source of risk for any organization – and manufacturing plants, supply chain operations, and smart factories contain plenty. Toyota recently had to temporarily suspend domestic operations and lost 13,000 cars worth of output because of an attack on one of their suppliers. Third-party hacks are common, they’re increasing, and the fact is many organizations don’t have full visibility or control over those third parties.

Many organizations lack cybersecurity solutions and instead rely on less secure older systems

Factories are getting smarter, but their cybersecurity remains the same. Just as their software and operations are adaptive, their security needs to be adaptive as well, covering all critical access points and adjusting as needed to protect what’s most important. Updating to better remote access platforms, educating employees, and utilizing innovation is key to protecting critical access points and assets.

Many manufacturing organizations are part of “critical infrastructure” which is highly targeted by hackers

Russian hackers targeted Colonial Pipeline, causing a shutdown of operations and a gas shortage across the Southeast coast of the United States. Bad attackers get into the operations technology of a water treatment plant in Oldsmar, Florida, almost succeeding in poisoning the water supply. These are just two examples of how a critical infrastructure hack can not only damage an organization, but threaten public health and public safety. Critical infrastructure is just that—critical–and it needs equally critical cybersecurity to keep it safe.

These cybersecurity risks could cause catastrophic damage

When it comes to a cyberattack on a smart factory, manufacturing organization, or a critical infrastructure entity, the risk goes far beyond operational downtime and reputational damage. These entities interact with multiple high-value third parties and often the general public, meaning one hack could have a devastating ripple effect. Just look at the Oldsmar plant, Colonial Pipeline, or others to see how fast a cyberattack could spiral into something more sinister. Those effects could:

  • Cause OT downtime and loss of productivity and revenue
  • Create supply chain disruptions across a region
  • Result in IP theft and customer information theft, threatening industry strength and reputation
  • Involve costly ransomware payments
  • Threaten employee and public safety or cause environmental damage

The solution is critical

As manufacturing moves towards smart factories, advanced technology, and globalization, organizations need a decentralized cybersecurity approach that fits their decentralized structure and operations. Critical Access Management, or the securing of critical access points, is the best solution to make sure every aspect of the manufacturing operation is safe. A manufacturing organization can be hacked from any access point, and with new technology coming into play, those access points grow exponentially while the assets behind them rise in value. Cybersecurity measures all organization should take include:

  • Employing access governance to create robust access policies
  • Securing your third-party connections with third-party specific software
  • Removing broad network access and implement granular, defined access
  • Monitoring and auditing access to high-volume or mission critical access points, such as SCADA, MES, or other operational technologies