Digital transformation within the manufacturing industry, often referred to as Industry 4.0, is bringing a new world of connectivity and efficiency to modern-day factories. Smart factories incorporate new technology — such as factory automation, artificial intelligence, and the Internet of Things — at all levels of production and the supply chain. Whether robots on the factory floor, wearable devices that improve safety, or monitoring of equipment data through the IoT, adopting Industry 4.0 is the way forward to ongoing success and innovation in the industry.
Manufacturers are on board with the change: The market for smart factory equipment is expected to expand from $295.65 billion in 2021 to more than $500 billion in 2026. However, cyber threats are increasing in tandem with the rise of Industry 4.0.
According to the Kroll "Q4 2021 Threat Landscape" report, manufacturing is the fourth most targeted sector, behind only professional services, technology/telecommunications, and healthcare. As with most other sectors, phishing is the most common attack vector detected against manufacturing targets.
The threat landscape will only continue to expand. Manufacturers that take steps now to understand their exposure will be able to build the security maturity needed to embrace connected technology.
Manufacturing's Security Maturity
Cyberattackers are pivoting toward manufacturing due to the industry's comparatively low level of security maturity, newfound connectivity in core processes, and the difficulty of securing complex manufacturing environments. Differentiated manufacturing processes have always been considered trade secrets, and the industry is highly sensitive to interruptions in service.
However, in the past, mission-critical systems were air gapped, or not Internet connected. This drove attackers to look for easier targets in financial services or healthcare, both of which have lucrative assets, connected devices, and operate with a high degree of urgency, which can lead to security shortcuts, and connected devices.
Now that manufacturing is adopting connected devices, analyzing more data, and feeding that data into custom software, the need for security maturity in the manufacturing sector is urgent. This is a problem that transcends the IT department. Effective security maturity is a multidisciplinary undertaking that must consider the ways that technologies, processes, and people contribute to keeping critical data and devices secure. Protecting industry 4.0 requires dedicated cybersecurity knowledge and expertise.
Current Cyber Threats in Manufacturing
Threats against the manufacturing sector fall into three main categories.
Traditional cyber threats include ransomware against IT systems, data theft, supply chain attacks, and intellectual property theft. These are serious threats that can cost manufacturing businesses time, money, and credibility. They are also threats that smaller manufacturers, in particular, have not yet built strong defenses against due to limited time, resources, or hiring capabilities.
Manufacturing firms are also uniquely at risk for targeted attacks against industrial control systems (ICS). As operational technology (OT) works more closely with traditional IT assets, including connected industrial IoT (IIoT) devices, it is becoming easier to bridge the gap between those groups of devices, and to compromise OT that was originally designed or configured as an isolated network. This can lead not only to the compromise of sensitive information but also interruptions in service and delays in fulfillment.
Another layer of threat against the manufacturing sector involves bespoke software. To make sense of the data that connected systems create, and to enjoy efficiency advantages this data can offer, that data has to be fed into other software. The software is often custom-made for an individual company's technology and data assets. This software and the infrastructure on which it runs can be an attractive target. If it wasn't designed from the start with security in mind, and if it is not implemented and maintained with security in mind, that bespoke software can become the weak link that lets an attacker in.
What's Next: Adopting Industry 4.0 Securely
As a manufacturer, you cannot afford not to adopt Industry 4.0. For efficiency reasons, including just-in-time manufacturing, as well as workplace monitoring, Industry 4.0 is the path toward factories that are both more cost-effective and safer. These changes are not only exciting, but they are becoming necessary: Customers are demanding the flexibility, agility, and information that only Industry 4.0 provides.
However, this is not just a revolution in what you can do on the factory floor, and in what you can do to delight customers. It is also a revolution in how your company needs to think about security. Consider your products: Putting a safe, high-quality product on the market in the first place is more efficient and cheaper in the long run than having to handle a recall if something goes wrong.
A similar attitude makes sense in security. Considering security from the beginning, both in terms of connected infrastructure and the custom code that holds systems together, leads to smoother operations and avoids the major business disruption, cost, and reputational damage that comes with incident response, and the subsequent remaking of code or infrastructure after an issue is exploited.
Effectively preparing and defending against the security challenges of Industry 4.0 is an endeavor that requires action and initiative from people beyond IT. In short, it requires dedicated cybersecurity expertise, with people who can consistently analyze risks and the threat landscape. The effort needs professionals who know how to design and implement effective security controls that prevent active threats, and can make sense of log data and identify anomalies, as well as respond to attacks. They can also oversee that best practices are followed for secure design and coding in applications that ingest and process factory data.