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The Growing Threat of Cyberattacks in Manufacturing and How to Prevent It

Dec 3, 2019

As a manufacturer, the success of your business is dependent on your products. Things like secret ingredients, build lists, and patented designs and production processes are key to keeping your products unique and valuable to your consumers. Because a vast majority of this information is stored in digital technologies (like cloud storage and artificial intelligence), manufacturers are becoming increasingly vulnerable to cyber hackers who target weak systems to gain access to highly coveted information.

To keep your operation safe and your data secure, it’s crucial to understand cybersecurity and implement strong internal controls to protect your business.

What Makes Manufacturers Vulnerable to Cyberattacks?

A decade ago, most cyber threats were aimed at financial services or companies where criminals could siphon funds through cyber-enabled fraud. Today, things like malware and global ransomware attacks have the power to indiscriminately spread across industries and disrupt entire supply chains, dismantling everything from energy, utilities, vendors, and production.

Manufacturing businesses face particularly high stakes due to various sectors of their supply chain being spread across multiple locations, countries, or even continents. Because manufacturing plays a core role in nearly every industry, a successful cyberattack on any part of their supply chain could have a ripple effect on a global scale.

Additionally, manufacturing companies often use automated technologies to run their production process, machining, assembly, and packaging, creating multiple points of entry for a potential hacker. These technologies keep the business flowing, but if they are not adequately protected, they become susceptible to external attacks. Due to significant investments in machinery and automation, manufacturers are less likely to proactively spend money on upgrades and technology unless something goes wrong. Unfortunately, this trend has left many manufacturers with outdated systems and weak firewalls to protect themselves.

How to Protect Yourself

While no business is ever completely safe from cyberattacks, there are some best practices you can implement to defend and protect your business:

  • Allocate the appropriate budget and create a formal strategy that aligns with your business objectives and risks. Many manufacturers find investing in IT and cybersecurity cost-prohibitive, and therefore use outdated security and systems to protect their operations. The mix of obsolete technology and weak controls creates the ideal environment for cyber thieves to infiltrate the system undetected. The cost of shutting down production due to a cyberattack can be devastating; therefore, investing in the best possible products for monitoring and defending networks is the most cost-effective solution.
  • Evaluate your vendors and products and eliminate those that may be causing unnecessary complexities. Unnecessary complexities create convoluted systems that are more difficult to monitor, making a cyberattack more likely to go unnoticed. Consider cleaning up your systems and simplifying processes.
  • Have a written plan that focuses on preparedness, response, and recovery. Having a document that covers the basics of a cyberattack and your response plan will help the business get up and running more efficiently. Consider things like data loss, communication, and loss of manufacturing and operational systems and include a clear and distinct plan for how to address these issues.
  • Foster an environment that supports and encourages your IT and operations team to work together to identify threats and implement comprehensive strategies to strengthen areas of risk. The complex nature of manufacturing makes it difficult to understand the ins and outs of the business. Having the departments work together to think like a hacker and map out areas of potential cyber risk is critical for identifying and addressing security pitfalls.
  • Proactively employ cybersecurity professionals to help you mitigate risks and implement the right safeguards. Technology is continually advancing, and it’s important to have skilled professionals who understand your business and how to best protect it from evolving threats. You should also educate your employees and executive team on common phishing schemes so that they can serve as an additional layer of security in everyday duties.

The recent increase in cyberattacks will inherently lead to more regulations, mandates, and standards in the coming years. While collective attempts to defeat cyber criminals at the national and global levels will undoubtedly help, cybersecurity will remain a looming threat that should be addressed within every business.

If you have questions about cybersecurity or how you can better protect your business, please contact CRI for more information.

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