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How to Build a Robust Cybersecurity Strategy | #hacking | #cybersecurity | #infosec | #comptia | #pentest | #ransomware

The manufacturing industry faces an uphill battle with cybersecurity, and the challenge is only growing. According to IBM, the number of cyberattacks targeting manufacturing now exceeds the number targeting any other industry, including financial services and insurance.

There are a variety of vulnerabilities in manufacturing that tempt cybercriminals to target the sector. Manufacturing is highly complex due to the multiple parties and segments involved, so there are seemingly innumerable points of attack. What’s more, manufacturing companies often use multiple systems to manage logistics with third-party suppliers and vendors, giving more access points and thereby creating more potential vulnerabilities. Industrial control systems (ICS) and operational technology are highly vulnerable to data breaches. Such systems often have long life spans and receive few updates and security patches, leaving systems more vulnerable to attack.

On top of this, mass layoffs and instability in manufacturing have further exacerbated the security issue. Companies often overlook the issue of legacy privileged-access accounts, which are confidential accounts still accessible by prior employees. The larger the company, the harder this is to track.

Establishing a strong cybersecurity strategy in manufacturing is paramount. This requires a multi-pronged approach that starts with mapping and cataloging company data, and proactively mitigating risks associated with privileged-access accounts and legacy systems. The secret weapon is information intelligence, which can help manufacturers unlock greater visibility, a more strategic approach and a more successful cybersecurity plan.

Getting to Know Your Data

Manufacturers generate large amounts of equipment performance and supply chain management data. However, that data tends to be underutilized. A 2021 study by the World Economic Forum found that just 39% of manufacturing companies make use of such data beyond the production of their products. Better leveraging  this data can streamline production, produce cybersecurity insights and drive mitigation strategies.

To optimize cybersecurity, you must first know exactly what data you’re working with. There are many AI-driven data discovery and classification tools that can help manufacturers understand the systems and the state of their data. Often, these tools condense their findings into clear reports to give companies an overview of their existing data sets.

Once the data has been identified, located and cataloged, manufacturers should then test the quality of this data. This will involve another layer of analysis to pinpoint where the biggest vulnerabilities lie. Many manufacturing companies have implemented Internet of Things (IoT) devices into their ICS systems, creating more potential attack surfaces to assess. These IoT technologies boost efficiency and communication across the supply chain, but they also transmit data between devices that are highly susceptible to interception by third parties.

With all this data knowledge in hand, manufacturing information security officers are well positioned to act. Again, it’s not uncommon for former employee access to linger long after the team member no longer works there. Assessments should pinpoint which users have access to critical system information.

Switching to a zero-trust (ZT) strategy will help companies manage remaining staff access. Here, team members are provided access through multi-factor authentication (MFA) and role-based access controls. This is a standard practice, yet it can prove challenging when not completed by business users. One way to overcome this challenge is by utilizing information intelligence—the process of understanding the information shared in an organization, how it is being shared and if it’s a risk. I’d argue that this level of knowledge and analysis is the most important step one can take in establishing a robust cybersecurity strategy.

With existing data systems secured, companies can then move on to prevention. This is where system information and event management (SIEM) tools will come into play. SIEM offers a real-time view of system security and timely security alerts that provide faster breach detection.

Getting Your Team on Board

In rolling out any security system, communication and training are crucial. Deloitte reports that four of the top 10 cybersecurity threats facing the manufacturing industry are related to internal staff. This doesn’t mean they’re launching the attacks, but that they may have unknowingly served as an access point for hackers through phishing scams. So, while it’s imperative to secure data, it’s also best to address the human element in cyber strategy.

To better implement internal security practices, administrators should start training at the top. Educating executives about the importance of security tools is often the first step to bringing practices into effect across the organization.

Given that many cybersecurity budgets were slashed in 2023, it’s important to emphasize that security cuts yield negative results, from financial loss and business disruption to reputation damage and compromised customer data.

On the manufacturing floor, education is once again key. The efficiency of ZT and MFA will depend on the training of those actually using these systems. Inform employees that a ZT approach doesn’t display personal distrust but is part of a wider business strategy. Ongoing company-wide training will help ensure teams are aware of platform updates and know how to spot system irregularities.

While we’ve strongly focused on internal teams, manufacturing companies may need to do some extra legwork for the third parties that they work with. Start with making physical visits to third-party locations to gauge their security protocols.

While seeing their security reports is certainly helpful, a visit to suppliers is the fastest way to identify whether they are following the security protocols and the likelihood of a data breach.

The Bottom Line

The cybersecurity situation facing manufacturers is challenging. It could get worse as attackers become more sophisticated. However, the manufacturing industry’s wide-reaching network of suppliers and producers presents a good opportunity to leverage data sharing to help combat threats collectively. It all hinges on the data you’ve gathered, and how you cultivate it into a game plan that can benefit yourself and others.


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National Cyber Security