How Can Manufacturers Overcome Cybersecurity Threats?December 17, 2020
By Emily Newton
As cybercrime rises, manufacturers need to start taking cybersecurity seriously. Here’s how.
When people think of cybersecurity, manufacturing probably isn’t the first industry that comes to mind. Even if the general population or the sector itself doesn’t recognize it, manufacturers are some of the most at-risk businesses regarding cybercrime. Manufacturing cybersecurity is essential, especially considering how often neglected it is.
Manufacturing is a critical industry, accounting for 10.5% of the GDP in the U.S. It puts trillions of dollars into the economy and employs more than 11 million people, the fifth-most of any sector. Given the magnitude of this reach, protecting the manufacturing industry is crucial.
Why Manufacturing Cybersecurity Matters
The need for manufacturing cybersecurity often goes overlooked because, until recently, it wasn’t an issue. In the past few years, though, manufacturing facilities have become increasingly digitized as they embrace IoT technologies and big data. This massive industry now collects and stores considerable amounts of valuable data, making it an ideal target.
Cybercrime has also skyrocketed during the COVID-19 pandemic as businesses grew more reliant on technology and became distracted. Manufacturers, in particular, saw an 11% increase in cyberattacks over 2019 levels. Considering how manufacturing was the third most-targeted industry for malware in 2019, that’s a worrisome trend.
Since rapid digitization is a recent development for the sector, many manufacturers aren’t familiar with how to secure their digital assets. The industry is vulnerable, so it needs to take action against cybercrime quickly. With that in mind, here’s how manufacturers can defend against these threats.
Securing IoT Devices
One of the industry’s most prominent vulnerabilities is its rapid adoption of IoT devices. Advantages from these technologies can add $1.8 trillion to the economy, so manufacturers shouldn’t avoid them entirely. Simultaneously, they should be careful in implementing them, as IoT cyberattacks rose 217% in 2019.
The largest threat IoT devices pose is acting as an endpoint to a network hosting more valuable data. Manufacturers can mitigate this threat by ensuring all devices are encrypted and have strong passwords. As an additional measure, facilities can segment their network, so even if a hacker infiltrates an IoT sensor, they can’t access more sensitive information.
Manufacturers should also update all IoT firmware regularly to patch any vulnerabilities with older versions. Budgeting for IoT-specific cybersecurity services is another recommended step for any facility with extensive IoT infrastructure.
Tightening Access Controls
Most employees in the manufacturing industry don’t have access to sensitive data like customer information. Still, the office workers and managers who do could be a liability if their accounts don’t feature strong access controls. Manufacturing companies should require all employees with network access to use strong passwords and multifactor authentication.
Security experts at Microsoft say that accounts are 99.9% less likely to be compromised if they use multifactor authentication. That’s an advantage too substantial for manufacturers to ignore. It’s not the only step they should take in restricting access, though. Multifactor authentication won’t do much good if an employee gives away information freely.
Phishing is one of the most common cybersecurity threats manufacturers face. Any employee with access to a company network should receive training on how to spot and avoid phishing attacks. To ensure even successful attempts are minimally destructive, manufacturers could adopt a zero-trust framework, giving employees only the minimum access they need.
Reviewing and Adjusting Cybersecurity Practices
One of the foundational principles behind cybersecurity is that it’s always changing. As manufacturers install new defenses, cybercriminals will find new ways to get around them. To stay safe in this constantly shifting landscape, manufacturers need to re-evaluate their cybersecurity protocols continually.
Department of Defense contracts require third-party security audits under the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC). Even if manufacturers don’t pursue these contracts, they should embrace the practice of periodic cybersecurity audits. Getting an outside expert’s perspective will reveal any weaknesses they can then address.
As mass digitization continues, manufacturers will likely keep growing their digital infrastructure each year, requiring additional security measures. Regular security audits can help them keep track of their changing endpoints and vulnerabilities. More tech-forward manufacturers may even consider hiring permanent cybersecurity employees or at least establishing a chief information security officer.
Modern Manufacturers Must Embrace Cybersecurity
Manufacturing today is a highly tech-centric industry, and signs indicate this trend will only continue. As these facilities embrace more digital technologies, they also become a more enticing target for cybercriminals. In light of these changes, manufacturing cybersecurity is becoming more critical by the day.
If manufacturers don’t pay attention to cybersecurity, they won’t experience the full potential of their digital infrastructure. Conversely, if manufacturers enact strict cybersecurity practices and maintain them, they can profit from cutting-edge technology without worrying about creating vulnerabilities. Manufacturing cybersecurity is no longer optional, but a necessity.
About the Author
Emily Newton is the Editor-in-Chief of Revolutionized Magazine. She has over three years experience writing articles for the tech and industrial sectors.