Is Your Business at Risk? – Cyber Threats and the Manufacturing Industry

category-badge-MANAGEMENTThe digitization of manufacturing through the Internet of Things (IoT) has the potential to advance operational efficiency and innovation to a whole new level in the industry. Increased interconnectivity of physical processes means more is happening at faster speeds – and more is exposed.

IoT relies on the constant movement of data; data that becomes vulnerable through insecure networks. According to a recent AT&T cybersecurity study, 85% of 5,000 enterprises polled planned to implement IoT devices, but only 10% were confident in their plan to secure those devices. With so much focus placed on the benefits of IoT, many businesses inadvertently overlook the concurrent data security threats.

Is Your Business a Target?

High profile security breaches center around personal data theft in consumer-driven businesses like Target and Chase, giving the impression only businesses with high volumes of consumer data are at risk. However, the 2012 Chinese hackings of the United States government points to a different target: intellectual property.

FBI supervisory special agent Ganpat Wagh said of the Chinese hacks, “It doesn’t matter what the industry is. They want to get a foothold.” A 2010 data breach at Honda and Boeing’s repeated hacks from 2009 to 2013 are just a few high profile examples of the industry’s vulnerability that made headlines – many more were not reported. Due to the strong foothold of U.S. manufacturing, businesses in the industry need to be vigilant with data security.

Dangers of Cyber Theft

Large and small firms alike are at risk. Cyber criminals may target one business to gain access to another company in its supply chain. At times, hackers may lay in wait for days, months, or years, surreptitiously accessing data until they see the information they’ve been waiting to obtain.

Employees, too, pose a threat. Whether malicious or careless, even trusted employees can increase your risk. While it’s important to monitor your technology assets, it is also critical to monitor the people who use them. Be sure to communicate clear, comprehensive data security policies and procedures, as well as conduct ongoing cybersafety training. After all, a single employee can subject your company to monetary loss, lawsuits, or worse with the deliberate or accidental disclosure of intellectual property and sensitive data.

Besides the loss of intellectual property, business owners run the risk of damaging both their products and reputation. IoT connectivity runs from machine-to-machine, resulting in many entry points. Should one point in the process be disturbed, a ripple effect can impact the entire manufacturing floor. This can result in damaged machinery, injured employees, and ultimately a tarnished reputation.

Protecting Your Business

According to a Global State of Information Security Survey, manufacturers are lacking in data security: 46% don’t assess their data vulnerability and 36% don’t vet security standards for third-party providers. With so much data moving from one point to another, and between businesses, manufacturers need to protect their information by implementing the following:

  • Be aware of threats, staying up to date on recent outbreaks and cyber attacks
  • Add cyber security to all aspects of operations, layering it over IoT enhancements and traditional methods alike
  • Educate employees on risks – according to a Data Breach Investigations Report email attachments housed 40% of data breaches in 2014
  • Identify high risk areas, including where sensitive information is stored and the major connection points between machines and within the supply chain
  • Use authentication in chips and sensors, ensuring data cannot be transferred without permission
  • Vet and test third-party vendors for high security standards
  • Develop and test an incident response plan, training employees to stay vigilant

Connect to Local Resources

Local law enforcement, regional business clusters, and nearby manufacturing businesses are all excellent resources for data security and protection. Central Ohio manufacturers can connect with PolymerOhio Manufacturing Solutions for cost-effective resources that can help address business challenges such as cyber security. PolymerOhio provides manufacturers with timely information on new technology, manufacturing methods, operational practices and more. Contact us today at 614-776-5720.

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