Cybersecurity and Preserving Data in the Manufacturing Sector

David Filmer
David Filmer

Published: February 29th, 2024

7 min read

We might not think of the manufacturing sector as a repository of sensitive information but increasingly it is. Manufacturers are handling vast amounts of confidential material from proprietary designs and intellectual property to trade secrets and sensitive data. As a result, cyber and data security has become a top concern within the industry.

With the ever-advancing technological revolution in the manufacturing sector comes the increased risk of security breaches and cyberattacks which can result in significant production disruptions, data loss and even physical harm to employees.

In response to these growing concerns manufacturers are implementing practices and controls to protect sensitive information while also ensuring the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of data in their networks, systems, and processes.

The implementation of comprehensive security and data protection measures assist in protecting manufacturing infrastructure, systems, devices, and sensitive data against digital attacks.

Common Cybersecurity Threats for Manufacturing Companies

Hacking and Ransomware

Hacking is the act of compromising digital devices and networks by gaining unauthorised access to an account or computer system with the intention of causing damage and corruption to the data it stores.

When hacking is used to solicit money, it is referred to as ransomware. Ransomware is a malware that encrypts data on a network, rendering it useless until the hackers' demands are met. Ransomware is particularly effective in the manufacturing industry because of the slowdowns and shutdowns it can cause. With its long, interconnected chains of suppliers, logistics companies and customers relaying on products, delays are extremely costly in the manufacturing sector. When ransomware shuts down critical data, businesses often just opt to pay the ransom so they can meet their contractual obligations.

Phishing Attacks

Phishing attacks are fraudulent emails, text messages, phone calls or websites designed to trick users into downloading malicious malware, sharing sensitive information, and accessing personal data which exposes them to cybercrime. Within the manufacturing sector phishing emails are tailored to appear as legitimate trusted contacts such as businesses, suppliers, and customers to deceive the recipient into giving hackers access to the network. Manufacturing is particularly vulnerable to phishing attacks for several reasons, including legacy equipment and long supply chains with multiple interconnected companies.

Intellectual Property Theft

Since manufacturers rely heavily on their intellectual property to gain a competitive edge and develop innovative products, IP theft can have a significant impact on the industry resulting in loss of competitive advantage, financial loss and potential legal action. Cybercriminals can enter a manufacturing system without being detected, steal data, and leave before anyone even realises they were there. The rapidly digitised operations run by manufacturers makes the sector a vulnerable and easy target.

Supply Chain Attacks

Supply chain attacks in manufacturing are evolving and on the increase. Attacks on the supply chain usually interrupt one link in a manufacturers supply process, resulting in disruption that may impact thousands of people. Manufacturers are susceptible to supply chain attacks due to the nature of their complex network of suppliers and dispersed nature of their security systems. A supply chain attack can be a double-edge sword if a manufacturer is forced to shut down operations, all the companies they supply are similarly impacted within days.

Conclusion

Manufacturing remains one of the most vulnerable industries and continues to be a target for cybercrime and digital attacks. To mitigate these risks and to protect sensitive data the industry should seek to implement robust protection in their security systems. Manufacturers are advised to perform regular cybersecurity measures including data backups, secure storage, encryption, employee training and disaster recovery plans.

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