Cybersecurity in manufacturing: How the hack did that happen?

Protecting manufacturers in the new frontier of cybercrime

by AT&T Business Editorial Team

As of 2017, IoT manufacturing was reported as the second-most attacked industry to cybercrime. The seemingly endless number of endpoints created through Internet of Things (IoT) connected devices has resulted in many avenues for entry into the network.

In addition, networks that are not properly optimized or that have been built on ineffective migration strategies create security gaps for cyberattacks. Internal access points that connect to the Internet, remote access points, and third-party vendors and collaborators may all jeopardize the cyber landscape of the business.

Manufacturers have a rich amount of data that makes them attractive to hackers, such as:

  • intellectual property
  • product and production designs
  • assembly lines procedures
  • trade secrets
  • customer information

All of these are enticing to those who hope to profit by selling this stolen data on the dark web or who wish to use it for ransom.

By protecting themselves with the right cybersecurity solutions, manufacturers can also defend themselves from an increasing number of vulnerable endpoints. This includes everything from a programmable logic controller (PLC) on the factory floor to third-party vendors, as well as mobile devices and laptops used to access the system remotely.

Rather than implementing a preventative strategy, some companies are opting for cyber defense insurance to recover financially from a cyber attack. In fact, one out of four manufacturers plan to use their entire cybersecurity budget on insurance alone. This strategy is problematic, as insurance may not account for costly interruptions to operations or possible damage to the brand reputation. An edge-to-edge cybersecurity strategy can better protect manufacturers by addressing vulnerabilities before an attack.

Proper implementation of cybersecurity requires a multi-layered approach that enables a business to prevent, detect, and respond to threats.

First, it’s crucial to think of cybersecurity as a company-wide effort. By initiating and enforcing awareness throughout the business, employees and leaders are empowered to make mindful decisions that can better protect valuable data. This includes providing onboarding and ongoing training to recognize suspicious emails and Internet activity, and seeing to it that internal security updates are accepted. In addition, a communication strategy that includes educational videos and sending out periodic cybersecurity awareness updates can help to protect an organization’s digital infrastructure.

Second, it’s important to note that physical protections, such as air-gapping and faraday cages have limited efficacy. They’re not comprehensive enough to account for monitoring that may be needed to detect attempts to breach the network.

Solutions such as those available with an AT&T IoT security strategy help manufacturers focus on comprehensive digital protection these older methods don’t provide. They can be inclusive of your industrial control system (ICS), helping your organization to proactively identify vulnerabilities to your operation’s security.

Third, it’s useful to fully understand where vulnerabilities lie. The regular undergoing of cyber risk assessments is critical to an effective cyber defense plan, as the results pinpoint the weakest spots in the data ecosystem and provide insight into where your company is most at risk.

Another way to protect intellectual property is to monitor vendor and third-party relationships that may access your system. Though these relationships are integral to the operations of many manufacturing companies, each one creates a possible vulnerability that must be resolved.

Now we arrive at endpoint management. This helps keep an eye on all the ways data travels in your business across the internet, inclusive of corporate operations, the shop floor, and on to the supply chain. Providing that every network connection, mobile device, and application is highly secure helps your organization to stay protected.

Today’s challenges to retain and attract skilled workers leaves some companies struggling with how to properly manage a cybersecurity solution. AT&T Threat Management can supplement your existing workforce to analyze threats and stay ahead of cybercriminals. This not only helps protect data within the business, but also the customers that depend on you for your products.

Through education, the right technology, and protocols that guard against hackers, manufacturing cyber risks can be managed. As hackers evolve with new methods of attack, an informed, insightful approach to manufacturing cybersecurity enables business leaders to prepare, anticipate, and protect the data that makes their business so valuable.

Learn more about how Manufacturing IT Solutions can help grow your business with efficiency.