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Cyber incidents have been making headlines across several industries. However, there’s a widespread misconception that the manufacturing industry isn’t a potential target. Or rather, it doesn’t face the same high-risk levels as insurance and financial institutions that handle millions of dollars. Nothing could be farther from the truth—nobody is safe, and the manufacturing industry faces the same risk level as other sectors. Here’s a review of common cybersecurity threats in the manufacturing industry and how to safeguard critical information and systems.
While Verizon estimates that 86% of breaches are financially motivated, most of these incidents aren’t singularly focused on hard cash. Instead, the bad guys are more concerned with the value of the data the target organization processes, stores, or transmits. Valuable information can be any data that you may not want to land in the wrong hands, such as personal information, bank credentials, the company’s operational information, and intellectual property. While we may not know manufacturing companies for handling lots of hard cash, you sure have valuable information that cyber actors can use to coax you into paying hefty ransoms.
What’s more—cyber attackers are continually shifting to supply chain attacks. According to the European Union Cybersecurity Agency (ENISA), supply chain attacks increased by over 400% last year. These breaches typically involve cyber actors simultaneously compromising several organizations’ networks through a third-party software developer or supplier. A recent example is the SolarWinds breach, where hackers compromised the software company’s networks and introduced a backdoor malware into an Orion software update, enabling them to access files of over 30,000 organizations. Did the hackers discriminate against any company because of their industry or size? No. Supply chain attacks make all companies susceptible to hacks and breaches, including manufacturers.
The manufacturing industry isn’t as prepared to handle data breaches as government and financial companies, making them an easier target. That explains why IBM placed manufacturing as the second most targeted sector in 2020, up from position eight in 2019. Currently, it’s slightly below the finance and insurance industries.
As in many sectors, several employees in the manufacturing industry aren’t aware of common cybersecurity threats and how to avoid them. That makes the industry vulnerable to breaches that prey on staff negligence. Here are some of them:
Phishing is the most prevalent cyber-attack vector. According to CSO, over 80% of cyber incidents begin as phishing attempts. Phishing attacks involve cyber actors duping unsuspecting users into divulging their personally identifiable information, such as logins and bank account details. The most common type is spear phishing, where cyber attackers impersonate trusted individuals or companies to dupe you into clicking spoofed emails, images, or text messages. When you click the link or attachment, it directs you to a page that automatically mines your data or asks you to key in your sensitive information as the attacker follows silently in the background.
Cyber actors often customize spear-phishing attacks on individuals or groups within the organization, making them challenging to spot. They may use names of trusted people and almost similar domains. For instance, you may receive an email from Mr. Robert Zane, the CEO of Zane Tech, through firstname.lastname@example.org asking you to update your password. Unless you’re extra careful, you may not realize that the hackers used email@example.com instead of firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ransomware attacks involve cyberattackers compromising corporate networks, encrypting files, and blocking access to them. They then ask for a fee (ransom) to restore access. If you don’t comply, they can damage your data or publish it and taint your reputation. Ransomware is a significant threat to the manufacturing industry, with the bad guys targeting crucial data, such as operational information, intellectual property like secret ingredients, and customers’ bank details. IBM approximates the average cost of a data breach at $3.86 million, enough to cripple even multinational manufacturing companies.
When the bad guys gain unauthorized access to your network, they can either encrypt your files or steal your sensitive data. We’re in the information age where data is at the core of business operations; you rely on it to decide, design products and plan policies. If your competitors access your company’s data, they can use it to put you out of business. And if cyber actors publish your customers’ sensitive information, you risk reputational damage that may take years to overcome. That’s why the theft of sensitive information is another cyberattack vector every manufacturer should take seriously.
If you’ve been following our blogs for some time, you must have gathered that proper cybersecurity begins with the basics. Even as you invest in those sophisticated intrusion detection and prevention technologies, you should not overlook standard cybersecurity procedures. By the basics, we mean occasionally training your staff on cybersecurity, maintaining reliable backups, using strong and complex passwords, regular software updates and patches, putting up firewalls, and monitoring your systems 24/7.
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