Why Are Cyber Attackers Increasingly Targeting Manufacturing?

By Zachary Amos, Features Editor at ReHack

In this day and age, the greatest threat to businesses and organizations are cyber attackers. Companies have become more reliant on computer technology to make processes more efficient and safeguard vital information. While technology has many obvious benefits, it also makes them more vulnerable to hackers.

This is especially true of the manufacturing industry. Cyber attacks on the industrial sector rose by 87% in 2022. As manufacturers rely on automated processes more and more, suffering from a cyber attack can be crippling to the business. But the question is — why are cyber attackers increasingly targeting manufacturing?

The Reasons Hackers Attack Manufacturers

The most common and apparent reason cyber attackers attack manufacturers is they believe they can extort money from them. They do this by getting into the organization’s computer system using malicious software — also known as malware.

Hackers can use malware to steal valuable, confidential information or even take control of the computer system entirely. Sophisticated malware can lock administrators out, forcing production to grind to a halt. Once they have stolen the data or have control of the system, the cyber attackers will contact the manufacturers and ask them for an excessive amount of money in exchange for returning control of the system.

But money might not be the only motivation — cyber attackers can also be politically motivated to attack manufacturing industries. A foreign nation usually sponsors these types of hackers to attack specific targets. These groups focus their attacks on the manufacturing and industrial sectors in particular.

Cyber Threats to the Manufacturing Industry

The manufacturing sector is one of the most important industries in the world. Anything that needs to be built — from simple tools to complex machinery — is produced by manufacturers. 

Because of this, cyber attackers have even formed groups to target manufacturers specifically.

Although cyber attacks have become more prolific, many companies underestimate their effectiveness. Once inside a computer system, malicious actors with sophisticated enough technology can directly affect automated systems such as transformers and power grids. That’s why manufacturers must understand the different kinds of cyber attacks and how to prevent them.

Recognize Phishing Scams

Although a cyber attack can be devastating, threat actors must enter a system to succeed. The most common method is phishing and vishing scams. In a phishing scam, cyber attackers pose as a trustworthy organization — such as a bank or even a governmental body — to trick unsuspecting victims into clicking a false link. Once opened, this link unleashes malware into the computer system.

To prevent this, manufacturers must train their workers and administrators to recognize phishing emails and messages. Being able to do so will significantly reduce the opportunities cyber attackers can use to get into a system. In addition, practicing good cybersecurity habits like regularly changing passwords are an easy but effective way to prevent breaches.

Invest in Multi-Factor Authentication

Having good cybersecurity is paramount to preventing breaches. While many basic security programs are available, manufacturers may want to invest in more comprehensive cybersecurity.

Multi-factor authentication systems are security protocols that use a second device — usually a smartphone — as an authenticator. When users log into the computer system, the security program will prompt them to confirm their identity through their mobile devices.

This will limit the access of cyber attackers since simply having the user’s password isn’t enough to get into the computer system. Multi-factor authentication also prevents automated hacking programs known as “bots” from trying to brute force their way in.

Invest in Zero-Trust Authentication

Zero-trust authentication is a step up from multi-factor authentication. Rather than having a system where users log in using a password and an authenticator only once, zero-trust programs continuously authenticate a user’s access. It also restricts what systems a user can access based on their role in the company.

This makes it easier to find and contain any potential threat actors — even if cyber attackers were to enter the computer system, they wouldn’t be able to access information past a specific role. Zero-trust authentication is considered the new standard in cybersecurity, but it can be challenging to implement.

Manufacturers Need to Take Cyberattacks Seriously

As manufacturers rely more and more on computer systems and technology, the threat of cyberattacks becomes larger. Learning to prevent them by recognizing scams and investing in cybersecurity is essential to protect themselves from malicious actors.

As the Features Editor at ReHack, Zac Amos writes about cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, and other tech topics. He is a frequent contributor to Brilliance Security Magazine.



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