Manufacturing in the Crosshairs: Cybersecurity Imperatives for an Industry Under Siege

by Anna

In the ever-evolving landscape of cybersecurity, the manufacturing industry stands as an enticing target for threat actors seeking high-value prey. The manufacturing sector’s intrinsic vulnerability to downtime, combined with its expanding digital footprint, places it firmly at the forefront of cybercrime, particularly extortion.

Why Manufacturing is an Attractive Target

Manufacturing’s allure as a target is multifaceted. Firstly, its sheer size makes it an appealing prospect. Additionally, the extensive supply chain network, characterized by dispersed components, renders it susceptible to cyberattacks. Downtime is a luxury the manufacturing industry can ill afford, further accentuating its desirability to cybercriminals. The rising prevalence of smart components only amplifies these vulnerabilities. The advent of the Internet of Things (IoT) has transformed tractors and appliances into interconnected devices, enhancing our lives but also introducing fresh risks, including privacy breaches and data security vulnerabilities.


Turning Adversity into Advantage

While ensuring cybersecurity throughout the supply chain is a business necessity, it also presents an opportunity to gain a competitive edge. The key lies in applying familiar manufacturing approaches to fortify cybersecurity.


Incorporate Cybersecurity from the Start

One of the most effective strategies is to weave cybersecurity considerations into the very fabric of your manufacturing processes from the outset. This proactive approach ensures that potential vulnerabilities are identified early, saving both time and money. Addressing security concerns during the planning phase costs significantly less than rectifying issues during coding or component testing, and is a fraction of the cost incurred post-release.


Harness Automation

As cyberattacks proliferate, the adoption of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning becomes imperative. These technologies assist in identifying, assessing, and analyzing the myriad attack types and sources. Given the sheer volume of threats, humans alone cannot keep pace, making AI-augmented security operations centers highly effective. However, it’s crucial to maintain human oversight and discernment.


Collaborate for Skills Augmentation

Automation also offers a solution to the industry’s cybersecurity talent shortage. Consider incorporating cybersecurity-managed services into your supply chain to access the latest expertise and skillsets. Such partnerships elevate cybersecurity from an IT issue to a board-level concern.

Know Your Supply Chain Inside-Out

Manufacturers must have a thorough understanding of their supply chain, particularly the third and fourth-party vendors. Given the risk of tainted code infiltrating smart components, due diligence is paramount. Managed services partners can aid in auditing and assessment or ensure uniform cybersecurity practices across the supply chain.

Market Cybersecurity Efforts

Don’t overlook the potential to market your cybersecurity efforts. Just as consumers seek energy efficiency ratings or eco-friendly product labels, highlighting cybersecurity measures can instill confidence in your products. Collaborate between CISOs, CTOs, and CMOs to craft a compelling message that underscores product safety and high performance, both internally and externally.

The Bottom Line

While applying a cybersecurity lens to manufacturing practices may seem straightforward in theory, the practical implementation is no small feat. Nevertheless, the investment is worthwhile, considering that the average cost of a cybersecurity breach hovers around $4.5 million. Transforming into “cyber transformers” is not just a business imperative; it’s a strategic move to safeguard the industry’s future in an increasingly interconnected world.

Bob Bruns serves as the Chief Information Security Officer at Avanade, a provider of innovative digital, cloud, advisory services, industry solutions, and design-led experiences within the Microsoft ecosystem.

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