Published on in ManufacturingInnovation

Technology has always been a fundamental part of the manufacturing industry, but it is essential that organisations are built in a way that allows them to continually embrace innovation, and the new possibilities technologies like artificial intelligence, wearables and the Internet of Things can offer.

But, whilst technology such as the Internet of Things presents an array of opportunities for both customer and manufactures, it also exposes more chances for hackers to attack.

In fact, a recent report found that more than 80 manufacturing plants in the UK have faced cyber incidents, yet a large number of firms in the manufacturing industry do not have the visibility, the required tools or the necessary manpower to carry out cyber risk assessments. While another found that manufacturing accounted for almost half (46 percent) of all UK cyber-attacks in 2017.

In light of recent attacks, every industry, including manufacturing, needs to make data protection a number one priority. And with our latest report revealing a fifth of the UK public believe cyber-crime and hacking are the biggest challenges facing the UK today, every single manufacturer has an obligation to make data protection as much of a priority as the public expects.

The evolving threat landscape

As we move into the Industry 4.0 era – for example, through the deployment of smart factories – manufacturers are exploiting more data from their production systems, extending out the enterprise to be able to connect to the end customer.

But in the advent of ‘smarter’ products, there is an increasing opportunity for hackers to either steal or plant false data on the effectiveness of a company’s productivity. For instance, competitors could inject false data into a system to make it look like it had a fault – this in turn incurring costs for the wider business.

The infamous virus Stuxnet worm attack on an Iranian nuclear plant almost a decade ago is a prime example of this. Capable of attacking critical infrastructure like power stations and electricity grids, rather than just simply hijacking targeted computers or stealing information from them, Stuxnet was the first worm of its type.

Most likely transferred by a rogue USB stick, the virus managed to escape the digital realm to wreak physical destruction on equipment the computers controlled. Once inside the computer system, Stuxnet searched for software that controlled machines called centrifuges.

One thing is clear; operational hacks are having a fundamental impact on the way an organisation’s product, service or factory works. And with the move towards smart factories, we’re now seeing the growing impact that cyber criminals could have through to the cyber security weak points in an organisation’s sensors.

Safeguarding against attacks

As the threat landscape continues to evolve, manufacturers need to be more proactive in their approach to addressing the likelihood of operational attack to their business. And there are some relatively simple actions to take in order to do exactly this.

By complementing employee training and awareness, with continued investment in technical and security controls, manufacturers will ensure they are on the front foot for proactively identifying and managing threats instead of waiting for breaches to happen.

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