The rise of digital technologies in smart factories brings new cyber threats to combat.

Cybersecurity Smart Factories , Industry Today

By Greg Scasny, chief technology officer, Blueshift Cybersecurity

Manufacturing has been known for years as a field slow to adopt new ways of working and thinking. Traditionally, manufacturing was recognized as an industrial production process where raw materials were turned into finished products and sold in the marketplace. But those days of manufacturing are long gone. Today’s manufacturing methods have become an integrated concept involving all types of machines, production systems, and processes to create an entire business-level operation.

One area of growth the manufacturing industry has adopted over the past few years is cloud technologies. Many manufacturers have been hesitant to adopt cloud technologies due to concerns about the comparative security of on-prem vs. cloud. However, the pandemic accelerated the adoption of cloud-based tools to help with supply chain management and remote collaboration.

With this rapid adoption of modern tech tools, cybersecurity breaches now occur. This adversely impacts smart factories’ performance, particularly those associated with the control systems used to manage industrial operations. Cyberattacks are becoming prevalent as smart factory environments expose technology, people, physical processes and intellectual property to these risks.

Let’s discuss how cyberattacks are impacting manufacturers today, what types of risks manufacturers are facing and how they can address today’s cybersecurity risks.

The proliferation of cyberattacks

Financial, retail and healthcare industries have been the main targets for cybercriminals for several years. However, manufacturers are increasingly becoming a more attractive target for intellectual property theft and business disruption.

In the past stages of the industrial revolution – mechanization, internal combustion and electronics  — manufacturing facilities didn’t offer much for thieves to target. And while modern operations in the fourth stage of revolution –digital– often aren’t in charge of large amounts of money, they do harbor vast amounts of information that cyber attackers can use for financial gain.

Malicious internal behaviors allow attackers – which could be third-party vendors, current or former employees – -access to the organization’s physical or digital assets. These attacks map out networks in search for critical information and assets which, if accessed, can expand rapidly within the organization. For this reason, detecting insider threats becomes more difficult than outside attacks and takes longer for manufacturing facilities to identify.

This digital stage of the industrial revolution, or Industry 4.0, opens manufacturing facilities to more elaborate risks.

According to Deloitte, Industry 4.0 promises a new age of connected, smart manufacturing and tailored products and services. Through its adoption of autonomous technologies, Industry 4.0 operations marry the digital world with physical action to drive smart factories and enable advanced manufacturing. While this interconnectedness of computers, devices and machines combined with supply chain operations offer significant benefits, it also adds to the complexity of cyberattacks these facilities face and must defend against. Amidst Industry 4.0, an potential lack of security measures opens enormous opportunities for internal or external cybercriminals to attack.

The biggest threat to smart factories

While industrial cyberattacks are nothing new, manufacturing companies are seeing an increase in cyber-related incidents. With the adoption of smart factory initiatives, the asynchronous management of information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT)  can expose companies to unknown vulnerabilities and misconfigurations.

Malware installed on a smart factory’s industrial network can compromise industrial control systems (ICS). ICS strengthens the cybersecurity of its computer-controlled systems. Today, only a few known malware examples target ICS, such as Triton, Industroyer, Havex and others. Additionally, other malware can include ransomware attacks, rootkits, and cyber-warfare operations that can permanently disable ICS and OT systems.

Surveillance and information theft are other significant threats to intelligent factories. By gaining unauthorized access to a network, cyberattackers can steal information on equipment behavior such as measurements and other regularly collected data, ultimately sabotaging production systems and endangering overall operations. Criminals can hold operations hostage, too, promising not to compromise or share the manufacturing intelligence only in exchange for ransom payments.

Evolving Threats Require Modern Security Solutions

As smart factory initiatives continue to proliferate across the manufacturing industry, cyber risks are only expected to increase. Therefore, manufacturers need to have cyber security in place that continuously protects against current threats, new threats, and vulnerabilities in development.

Manufacturers need to implement a holistic cyber management approach that can rapidly prevent, repel and remediate cyber threats. This proactive programming should protect all endpoints across the enterprise, including IoT devices and cloud networks.

Cybersecurity will not be a one-and-done occurrence. As technology advances, manufacturers must invest in modern security tools such as a comprehensive XDR solution that allows smart factories to monitor all of their machines and endpoints so threats can be quickly detected and responded to 24/7/365.

By partnering with a knowledgeable cybersecurity solution smart factories can leverage the expertise of industry experts who are detecting and defending against a wide range of attacks. This can help the smart factory be up-to-date on the latest threats to their infrastructure without having to rely on a small team of internal full-time staff members who may leave the organization, take a vacation, get sick, and have limited bandwidth to detect and respond to threats.

Greg Scasny Blueshift Cybersecurity, Industry Today
Greg Scasny

About the Author
Greg Scasny is chief technology officer at Blueshift Cybersecurity and has over 20 years of experience in information technology and security. He is a graduate of Purdue University with a bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering and Technology, focusing on networking, security, and communications. Scasny takes complex business and security problems and creates innovative scalable solutions to be deployed quickly and efficiently.

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