The top 10 manufacturing cybersecurity threats

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The manufacturing industry is no stranger to cybersecurity threats. In 2022, a startling 24.8% of industrial cyberattacks across the globe were directed at manufacturing companies, more than any other industry. While advancements in technology and software have elevated the manufacturing industry to new heights, those same advancements have also created new vulnerabilities for hackers to exploit. 

Because these manufacturing cybersecurity threats are tied to the same innovations that the industry now relies on, the solutions against these cyberthreats revolve around knowledge and preparation. This article will cover the top 10 cybersecurity threats to the manufacturing industry so you can better recognize and ready your business against them.

Why do cybersecurity threats target the manufacturing industry?

Manufacturing is an unfortunate combination of high value and high vulnerability. The sheer amount of information a manufacturer handles, especially pertaining to employees, customers and finances, makes the industry a prime target for cybercriminals. At the same time, the volume of information traffic involved with the modern manufacturing industry creates many vulnerabilities that cybercriminals can exploit. 

Top 10 manufacturing cybersecurity threats

The following make up the most recurring and serious threats that manufacturers need to recognize and safeguard against:

1. IP theft

Perhaps the most valuable asset to any manufacturer is their intellectual property (IP), which makes guarding it a top priority. Whether it involves trade secrets or confidential information, IP theft can cost a business their competitive edge over rivals, loss of reputation, and various forms of financial loss. Because both external hackers and malicious insiders will try to profit from stolen information, manufacturers need layered cybersecurity measures that create as many barriers to IP-related data as possible.

2. Ransomware

Ransomware poses a significant threat to the manufacturing industry due to its crippling effects on production timelines. This type of malware operates by encrypting files, and hackers demand a ransom for the decryption keys. By exploiting the time-sensitive nature of manufacturing processes, hackers expect a higher likelihood of their ransoms being paid. 

Though paying the ransom may seem like a quick solution for your business, it can come with sizable recovery costs, industry-related fines that compound financial losses, and reputational damage. These consequences mean prevention through cybersecurity measures is crucial.

3. Supply chain attacks

Manufacturing’s complex supply chain structure makes it susceptible to attacks on business partners and suppliers. By compromising third-party networks to gain access, cybercriminals can disrupt the entire supply chain or infiltrate your network through the third party’s network. To prevent supply chain attacks, manufacturers need to implement strict policies that control access to sensitive data, measures to monitor network activity, and risk assessments of third-party systems.  

4. Unsecured telecom networks

The rise of telecommuting introduces further new challenges for cybersecurity. As employees increasingly use personal devices to work remotely, vulnerabilities in network security are created. Even outside of remote work setups, any use of an unsecured personal device such as a phone or tablet creates risks. Manufacturers need to implement network protocols and strict personal device management policies to prevent breaches.

5. ICS attacks

While industrial control systems (ICS) offer efficiency-enhancing automation to manufacturing, they have also introduced cybersecurity risks. Cybercriminals can exploit unauthorized access to these systems to sabotage manufacturing processes, risking equipment damage, product quality, and possibly personal injury. In order to prevent these attacks, you need to regularly update the software and security measures of your automated machinery.

6. Phishing

The extended supply chain inherent to manufacturing generates sizable communication traffic that provides multiple entry points for phishing attacks. In a phishing attack, hackers use deceptive emails or texts to pose as legitimate entities and access secure networks. In some cases, a phisher will disguise their attack as a business partner’s email or even an in-house communication. Thwarting these attacks requires strict email handling protocols and awareness training throughout an organization.

7. Social engineering

Social engineering is the leveraging of emotional and psychological techniques to manipulate employees and gain critical information. Usually, these attacks use urgent or anxious tones in emails or pop-ups, which is not typical in regular business communications. Similar to phishing, you can educate and train your employees to better recognize and report social engineering attempts . 

8. Nation-state attacks

Cyberthreats don’t just come from competitors or cybercriminals, but also from nation-states. Nation-state attacks are likely backed by extensive resources and sophisticated training, making them an order of magnitude more difficult to prevent and mitigate than regular cyberthreats. If you suspect, no matter how tangentially, that your business could be the target of nation-state attacks, you need to make extensive cybersecurity preparations. Ensure your security measures comply with any industry-related and government mandated regulations. 

9. Data spillage

Data spillage occurs when data of high confidentiality is mistakenly (or intentionally) transferred to less secure storage or transmitted via unsecured means, risking its wider unauthorized disclosure. You can mitigate these risks by training your staff on data security best practices and employing data loss prevention software..

10. Smart device attacks

As manufacturers adopt smart devices — such as appliances, monitoring devices, and digital control systems — they become more susceptible to cyberthreats targeting these devices to infiltrate a business’s network. The weak security features of smart devices make them vulnerable to cybercriminals, allowing attackers to bypass advanced security measures. Consequently, manufacturers need to incorporate endpoint security to secure these devices.

While things may seem overwhelming with so many cyberthreats representing risks to your manufacturing business, there are also ways to protect yourself. In addition, you don’t have to do it alone. Call us now at Refresh Technologies to access our cybersecurity expertise.