Thought leadership

Developing cyber resilience in an increasingly interconnected manufacturing industry

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Automation, smart robots, and big data have become ubiquitous in manufacturing today. From large, conventional factories to smaller, agile microfactories, many modern production processes depend on Industry 4.0 technologies driven by big data, the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), and more.

This increased interconnectivity through IIoT has provided manufacturers with several benefits, from increased efficiency and fewer errors to smarter forecasting and lower costs. But with these advantages come new challenges and risks.

The potential disruption that cyberattacks can cause manufacturers is significant — the operational risk of machinery downtime and process stoppage is enough to make any industry leader think twice about exposing themselves to such threats, especially when cyberattacks are getting more sophisticated, dangerous, and difficult to defend. This sentiment is reflected in a Deloitte survey where 48% of its respondents indicated that these risks are the biggest concern when building smart factories.

It’s no mystery why the cybersecurity market in manufacturing is set to grow substantially in response to more frequent cyber threats, with reports projecting a market value of US$29.85 billion by 2027, up from US$15.87 billion in 2019. Developing a proactive approach to cybersecurity and enhancing cyber resilience is no longer optional in the industry. Leaders must take the necessary steps to bolster their defences before it’s too late.

How do manufacturers boost their cyber resilience? In this progressively interconnected digital environment, how can we safeguard and maintain uncompromised data security?

Managing data security and privacy risks in an interconnected environment

Today’s manufacturing landscape is vastly different from the past. The advent of Industry 4.0, along with the COVID-19 pandemic, thrust the industry into a hyperconnected and digitalised future quicker than many anticipated. Much of the industry’s operational technology (OT) cybersecurity is still inadequate. The result is an industry that is still playing catch-up with its cyber resilience, cybersecurity preparedness and cyberattack strategies.

Manufacturing leaders must look at implementing proactive and effective data security strategies to strengthen their cybersecurity. This starts with recognising the different types of existing cyber threats and the measures needed to counter them.

Types of manufacturing cyberattacks

Some of the most common cyber threats targeting manufacturers include ransomware attacks, cyberattacks from nation-states and distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks. These are typically carried out by cybercriminals or “hacktivists” — threat actors who perform cyberattacks with specific social or political agendas in mind.

To combat these threats, manufacturers should devise plans around improving pre-emptive network security. This can be accomplished through regular security updates, stronger encryption and network authentication protocols and constant network monitoring.

People management in cybersecurity

Additionally, the human element must not be forgotten despite the focus on data and software. Unfortunately, people are still considered the weakest link in the entire cybersecurity chain for several reasons, including poor network security knowledge and inadequate cyber and password hygiene. Manufacturers must provide sufficient cybersecurity training to all employees to ensure that the workforce understands the best practices needed to maintain cyber resilience and is familiar with the dos and don’ts when handling sensitive information.

Updating software and hardware

It’s not enough to only update your software security. Some of the infrastructure and hardware in manufacturing companies may be essential but outdated, leaving security loopholes for threat actors to exploit. By ensuring that regular risk assessments are performed and legacy systems and hardware equipment are changed, manufacturers can plug these cybersecurity gaps and reduce their threat exposure.

The key elements of a successful cybersecurity response plan

Strong cybersecurity may not be simple to implement and upkeep, but having a cybersecurity roadmap can simplify your approach to attaining stronger data protection. In the event of a breach or a cyberattack, having the right incident response plan will also go a long way in service recovery and reducing downtime.

What are the key elements of a successful cybersecurity response plan? According to Amar Singh, Founder and CEO of Cyber Management Alliance, response plans should be:

Short, concise, and simple so that it’s easily understood and accessible in times of crisis.

Customised and relevant to have measures that work best for your organisation.

Comprehensive and practicable so that your workforce has working knowledge and experience on how to react to specific situations.

Updated with information on known threat actors so that the type of attack and response can be identified and actioned.

Designed with speed in mind, with the most important steps highlighted so that cyberattacks can be defended against and resolved as fast as possible.

Next steps for manufacturers looking to increase their cyber resilience

Manufacturers are increasingly exposed to cyber threats due to the level of interconnectivity that Industry 4.0 has introduced. This has created a sense of urgency for companies to ensure that their cybersecurity and cyber resilience are sufficient to protect them against malicious actors. To find out how you can improve and identify the gaps in your cybersecurity processes, a neutral benchmarking framework like the Smart Industry Readiness Index (SIRI) can deliver clear and actionable insights on your digital transformation journey, which covers areas related to cybersecurity.

Visit https://incit.org/en/services/siri/ to learn more about SIRI, or email us at [email protected] to start a conversation.

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