In 2019, the manufacturing industry hit the top 10 status as the eighth-most-targeted industry by cyberattackers. This rise does not come as a surprise, seeing as the manufacturing sector has fully evolved and developed with the digital age.
It was not always so.
In the past years, manufacturing industries have been quite oblivious to the menace of cyberattacks since they didn’t have to deal directly with customers like other industries (financial, medical, educational, etc.). Manufacturing companies were also mostly left off lists of targets because they didn’t rely on internet connectivity as heavily as companies in other industries.
Today, these threats cannot be ignored. When we consider the pace of technological evolution and the levels of IoT integration in the manufacturing sector, cyberattacks jump quickly up the list of true dangers to manufacturing businesses.
Manufacturers are now relying heavily on internet connectivity to improve their businesses. For instance, the Internet of Things (IoT) helps to improve and optimize inventory management, enhance the customer experience, reduce production time, and much more.
Companies in the manufacturing sector have a wealth of information that hackers can leverage to defraud owners for huge amounts of money. Cybercrime in the manufacturing sector is not slowing down and may likely continue to peak. A 2021 survey found that 61% of manufacturing firms experienced a cyberattack that affected their factories. Of this 61%, three-quarters of them had to take their production offline.
If you’re a leader in the manufacturing industry, it’s critical that you stay up to speed on the various types of cyber threats in your industry, how to avoid them, and what measures to put in place to deter cyberattackers from sabotaging your company.
Types of Cybersecurity Threats
One of the main challenges of cybersecurity in the manufacturing world is the lack of knowledge about this threat by both management and employees. There’s so much vital information passed around the different arms of the organization that it becomes easy for hackers to access them and hold manufacturing firms to ransom.
A good example of this is intellectual property in the form of documents, CADs and paperwork that is passed between internal departments digitally. Companies can only protect their intellectual property and proprietary information when they know about the cybersecurity threats to be wary of.
Let’s take a look at the major cybersecurity threats below:
Phishing scams are some of the oldest in the book, and they’ve evolved over time to fit whatever is in vogue. They can be used to intercept supply chains or impersonate top guns in the industry to carry out their scams.
A phishing cyberattack in the manufacturing industry often comes as emails that appear to be from a legitimate individual within the company or from another organization that would like to work with the company. It’s difficult to tell these phishing emails apart because they come complete with officially written content, logos, and other deceptive props that make them look as real as possible.
Usually, these emails prompt the recipient — usually an employee in the company — to perform an action that grants the scammers access into the company network. Once they get in, the cyberattackers work discreetly until they access the information they need to disrupt workflows or hold the company for ransom.
Supply Chain Attack
Most manufacturing companies have a long supply chain that leaves them vulnerable with many endpoints that attackers can creep in through. These supply links have poorly secured systems that make it easy for attackers to slip through undetected.
Supply chain attacks in the manufacturing industry are very popular and effective, making them one of the most loved by hackers. Once they get in, they disrupt company operations, which may eventually lead to a shutdown. Since they attack a supply chain, the problem spirals and affects many of the companies connected to the supply chain as well.
The end goal for many hackers who initiate supply chain attacks is to extort money from big manufacturing companies, but the effects of their attacks often lead to more disastrous problems — from long-term shutdowns to a global supply shortage.
Disgruntled or dissatisfied employees on a quest to swindle the company for financial gains may also launch attacks against the company. It’s often easier for this group of people because they have access to the company from within, unlike external threat actors.
They use their existing credentials or understanding of the company to gain easy access to company data undetected. Internal breaches have become even more profound since remote work surged and employees access company information through their personal devices.
Internal breaches may come from employees who still work with the company and former employees who still have their entry credentials, especially if the company does not change them often.
Ransomware is a type of cybersecurity threat known as malware. This malware encrypts files on the manufacturing company’s internal network such that it becomes unusable until the company fulfills the hackers’ ransom demands.
Sometimes, they may have access to sensitive company info and threaten to expose it to the public if they aren’t paid a huge sum of money, often ranging into the millions.
Ransomware attacks are commonly initiated during the holidays or weekends when the company is at rest and then set off as soon as the company hits a busy period where they need access to their systems and equipment.
Intellectual property (IP) is a common target for cyber criminals. If the criminals get their hands on the right IP, they can extort companies for massive sums of money.
Your company has valuable and sensitive IP that needs to be protected; if hackers release it to the public, it could damage the company. Your IP is what makes your company and the products you manufacture innovative. If hackers access this information, they can extract what they need until they have enough to sell to your competition or use against you.
It’s likely that at least some of the equipment your manufacturing firm uses to operate has been designed to work using connections to external networks. Any device connected to the internet is at risk, and without proper protections, could be hacked by bad actors. The hackers could potentially set devices to cause harm to operators or even self-destruct.
How To Defend Against Cybersecurity Attacks in the Manufacturing Sector
As you come to understand the different ways your manufacturing company may be vulnerable to cyber attackers, you should also learn about the many ways to defend yourself against cyber attacks. Note that it’s best to consult with a cybersecurity company that will give you the most valuable advice for your particular manufacturing firm.
The following are the most popular defense techniques:
Like we have said, lack of knowledge of cybersecurity threats is one of the biggest challenges the manufacturing world is facing. That’s why it’s necessary to bring your team up to speed on the top cybersecurity practices to implement.
Phishing and ransomware scams are very tough to detect, but also quite popular. Unsuspecting employees can easily fall for them and jeopardize the company’s security. So, ensure your employees have adequate training to spot and avoid pitfalls that give hackers access.
To keep unauthorized employees from accessing valuable data, it’s also important to frequently change passwords and replace them with strong ones, preferably through a reliable password manager application.
Implement Proper Protection
Hackers are now smarter than ever with advanced technology at their disposal. They keep track of all developments in the digital world to find ways to infiltrate and extort companies.
Because of this, your company cannot afford to slack off on cybersecurity. For the best protection, hiring or putting a team of cybersecurity experts in place to monitor your internal network closely for suspicious activity is necessary and can save your company from unprecedented cyberattacks.
Also, set up email domain security for your company so that phishers cannot manipulate or spoof business partners or customers with your official email domain. You can set up email domain security tools that provide email authentication protocol, protecting your email domain from authorized use.
What To Look for in an Electronics Manufacturing Partner
Enforcing cybersecurity in your manufacturing company is not something you can achieve in a day. And even if you do all you can to combat these attacks, working with partners who don’t implement the same precautions can still leave you vulnerable.
As you do business with electronics manufacturing partners, ensure that they also prioritize cybersecurity, knowing the risks for all companies involved. If you’re working with a manufacturing partner or will partner with one soon, read these tips so you know what to look out for.