Is the Manufacturing Industry Prepared to Defend Against Cyber Threats?

By Emily Newton, Editor-in-Chief at Revolutionized Magazine

Digital solutions are expanding into nearly every industry on the planet, and for good reason. The benefits it offers productivity, efficiency, and automation mean businesses have a lot to gain from its use. Manufacturing is no stranger to modern tech and connected or smart factories are growing in abundance. But along with that growth comes a major concern: Smart factory cybersecurity.

The more platforms come online, the greater the risk to data and system security. According to the 2019 Deloitte and MAPI Smart Factory Study, 48% of polled manufacturers say cybersecurity and other operational risks are the greatest danger to the next generation of factory initiatives. This highlights that cyber threats are on the radar for many.

Is the manufacturing industry prepared to defend against cyber threats? And is smart factory cybersecurity being implemented on a foundational level, or is it an afterthought?

Industry 4.0 and Why Cybersecurity in Manufacturing Is More Important Than Ever

Industry 4.0 is the next phase of the Industrial Revolution in manufacturing and commercial industries. Before it, Industry 3.0 introduced many new technologies into the mix, some of them digital.

This next phase takes everything to the next level. From automation to smart IIoT technologies, the goal is to establish smarter, more contextually aware operations. Data is the lifeblood of Industry 4.0.

These connections facilitate real-time insights and the seamless delivery and processing of information. A machine learning (ML) tool can use that incoming data to react, in real-time, to various situations – like disabling failing equipment or improving product quality through process enhancements.

Every manufacturing operation is different, with different products and equipment that make up the focus. But for the most part, cybersecurity in the manufacturing industry looks relatively similar, and it’s all about protecting those systems and data.

More specifically, control of those systems is a huge concern, as nefarious actors could wreak havoc if they were to gain it. Moreover, the data itself is often sensitive and may even contain trade secrets exclusive to the business.

Expansive Security Is Key

Cybersecurity doesn’t just pertain to digital solutions.

Physical security is an aspect of that. For example, if cyber criminals gain access to the data center hosting virtual software for the operation, they can cause damage that way. Ensuring proper physical security for that site and any site where the data-oriented machines are being used is paramount.

Expansive security is something to consider and implement at the ground level, rather than after the fact. That’s because there are many ways to secure data, encryption being a huge part of that.

Another facet is making sure employees, personnel, and partners are trained in proper security techniques, and that they’re using appropriate tools, like two-factor authentication. Human error is behind many digital security incidents – in 2021, it was found to be responsible for 95% of breaches.

Smart factory cybersecurity will have to address a growing number of risks as more devices come online, more attack vectors are introduced, and more data is produced, parsed, and shared across networks.

The four key areas of industry 4.0 involve cyber-physical systems (CPS) and cobots, the industrial internet of things, cloud manufacturing (CMfg), big data, and digital automation. Each of these areas introduces new cybersecurity concerns and risks.

A Problem and a Solution

While digital automation and modern technologies will introduce many risks and concerns, they’ll also introduce a viable solution for dealing with these problems.

Machine learning and AI-based solutions can be used to monitor cybersecurity risks, taking action faster than any human or manual controller ever could. Cybersecurity in the manufacturing industry relies on these automated and more aware systems.

Human error is the enemy of security, as we’ve established, and digital solutions can react much faster than manual options. So, it makes sense that big data and Industry 4.0 technologies would be policed and protected by automated solutions. Neutral, cloud-based workflow automation technologies are the answer to many of these concerns. A neutral provider helps customers grow in a non-competitive way and won’t compromise their data. Cloud service providers have the resources, including labor and time, to invest in security.

Cybersecurity is an extremely involved process. Not only do you have to lock down and protect online systems and data, but also you need to keep all solutions up-to-date, including hardware, and you need to protect all open channels of communication, whether locally or externally.

An experienced cybersecurity team can do this and has the resources, but that’s often all they focus on. This is where outsourcing security comes into play. An internal IT team has more to worry about than just security, whereas an external specialized team does not.

Beyond that, they also have the resources to manage and maintain new technologies, like AI and ML platforms. AI adopted in cybersecurity is an emerging solution that many providers now offer.

Are You Ready for the Next Phase?

Smart factory cybersecurity may not be a huge priority now, but as new technologies come online, that will change dramatically. Cybersecurity in the manufacturing industry is quickly becoming a fundamental part of doing business today.

Not all manufacturers are ready for what’s to come, but that can certainly be addressed. It’s not something that has to be done alone – there are many providers and vendors that can add their expertise to your own. Moreover, the available resources and solutions continue to grow, like AI cybersecurity solutions. It’s time to take smart factory cybersecurity more seriously, but we have the tools to do it.

Emily Newton is the Editor-in-Chief at Revolutionized Magazine. A regular contributor to Brilliance Security Magazine, she has over four years of experience writing articles in the industrial sector.



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