How Can the Manufacturing Sector Protect Against Cyberattacks?


The proliferation of smart factories in Industry 4.0 has paved the way for greater innovation, efficiency, growth, and scale in the manufacturing industry. However, the growing use of digital technologies has also exposed the industry to more complex security challenges, sophisticated threats, and heightened risk of operational and financial damage, with 90% of organizations facing at least 1 security incident in the past year. This makes cybersecurity in the manufacturing industry more critical than ever.

In this article, we dive deeply into the manufacturing industry’s cybersecurity landscape and ways the industry can protect against cyberattacks.


Cybersecurity in the Manufacturing Industry

48% of manufacturers identified cybersecurity in the manufacturing industry as an operational risk that posed a great threat to smart factory initiatives. Why so?

Today, modern manufacturing enterprises are leveraging the best technology has to offer, such as state-of-the-art automation, intelligent systems, industrial internet of things (IIoT), and so on, to continuously innovate and compete in the global market. With the use of smart factory technologies, there is much greater interconnectedness than ever before.

The isolation offered by standalone/ island operations of yesteryear provided a unique safety net – attackers could target only individual machines, systems, or areas in the factory. However, given the interconnectedness of today’s operations, cyber threats in the manufacturing industry have a more debilitating impact, exposing people, technology, physical processes, and intellectual property (IP) to the growing number of threats.

Given the industry is still in the nascent stages of digital transformation, many companies are still in the learning phase of cybersecurity. While they improve their operational technology by incorporating advanced technology, they do not simultaneously improve their security standards, exposing their business-critical systems. This gives a false sense of security while creating several vulnerabilities. As a result, there has been a 2000% increase in cybersecurity incidents impacting the operational technology of manufacturing firms in the past year.

Further, manufacturers are lucrative targets for cybercriminals who exploit vulnerabilities to access IP and trade secrets, access information about clients, suppliers, and vendors, block production for ransom, etc. And the importance of cybersecurity in the manufacturing industry cannot be stressed enough.


The Major Cyberthreats in the Manufacturing Industry 

  • Social engineering, especially phishing attacks
  • Ransomware
  • Malicious insiders and insider threats
  • Equipment sabotage and system intrusion by exploiting vulnerabilities in operational technology (OT)
  • IP theft
  • Supply chain attacks
  • Basic web application attacks 


Ways to Strengthen Cybersecurity in the Manufacturing Sector

Establish Security Goals, Policies, and Procedures  

This gives firms the necessary direction in strengthening cybersecurity in their manufacturing enterprises. To this end, organizations must conduct cybersecurity maturity assessments and establish formal cybersecurity governance programs incorporating the growing OT security challenges.


Perform Thorough, Ongoing Risk Assessments

This is another important strategy to strengthen cybersecurity in the manufacturing sector. This will help organizations to understand where they stand vis-à-vis threats facing them and the vulnerabilities in their systems, prioritize them, understand their risk profiles and then build their security programs.


Implement Zero Trust Policies and Strong Access Controls

Organizations must have complete control and visibility over who has physical and digital access to their OT and smart factories. Unauthorized personnel, including cleaning and maintenance crews, should not have physical access to any systems or machines. Even system maintenance and repair personnel must not have unsupervised access to networks or systems.

Overall, implement zero trust policies with strong authorization and access control mechanisms. People should only have access to resources and systems limited to what is required to perform their tasks. Also, enforce robust authentication measures, including multiple factor authentication, strong passwords, etc.


Proactively Identify and Secure Vulnerabilities 

Manufacturing companies must perform regular intelligent scanning, pen-tests, and security audits to identify known and unknown vulnerabilities and security weaknesses in their systems. In addition, they need to maintain an asset inventory of all their physical and digital assets and ensure all areas are crawled during the automated scans.


Intelligent, Real-Time Threat Monitoring and Detection is Must 

Cybersecurity threats in the manufacturing industry are rapidly increasing and growing in lethality and sophistication. In the rapidly changing threat landscape, organizations need to monitor and intelligently detect threats facing them in real-time. They must leverage state-of-the-art automation, self-learning AI, analytics, global threat feeds, and cloud-based threat monitoring solutions. This is key to proactive threat prevention.


Develop Incident Response and Recovery Plans 

The key goal for cybersecurity must be to build cyber resilience in the smart factory. Sound incident response and recovery plans help organizations minimize damage and recover faster if an attack happens.


Other Key Measures 

  • Patch all hardware and software regularly
  • Set up web and email filters to prevent phishing threats
  • Encrypt everything
  • Safely dispose of old computers, drives, etc.
  • Educate employees continuously


The Way Forward 

Given the criticality of cybersecurity in the manufacturing industry, leverage the help of trusted security experts like Indusface to harden the security posture of your smart factory.

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