The 4 Most Dangerous Manufacturing Cybersecurity Threats

Person with a hard hat working in manufacturing.
Glenn Iltis
by Glenn Iltis
1/14/20 8:18 AM

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Arguably the backbone of the U.S. economy, the manufacturing industry is stronger than it has been in decades and is gaining a lot of attention among recruiters and the media.  With 5G and IOT bigger than ever we are going to be having new technologies in the market that allow us to use devices and gather data quicker and more accurately than ever.  This is a very exciting time and with any big change coming there are going to be risk.  

Who else is paying attention? Cyber criminals.

According to the 2019 Manufacturing and Distribution Report, half of all manufacturers have experienced at least one data breach in the last year. 

From computer systems and robotics to integrated enterprise resource planning systems, IIoT connected devices and supply chains, the vast amounts of data created by manufacturers has become a major target of hackers. Here’s a countdown of the four most dangerous cyber risks.

4. Identity Theft

Most are familiar with cyber criminals stealing an individual’s identity to open erroneous accounts, take out loans in someone’s name or capture other personal information. How they access that personal data is becoming more sophisticated, creating concerns on a corporate scale. As one of the most commonly reported types of cyber attacks in the manufacturing sector, hackers are increasingly targeting data for employees and customers. 

These types of breaches can go undetected for a long time, allowing hackers ample opportunities to reap the financial benefits of their nefarious actions. One example of how hackers can use sensitive data is filing false tax returns using compromised employee records. If such a cyber incident occurs, it’s critically important to be transparent with those affected so they can take action to protect themselves as soon as possible.

3. Compromised Websites

Because so many software platforms and business data are kept in the cloud, hackers are eager to breach a company’s website or online portal. Hackers can render a website inoperable or even redirect your customers to a dummy site that looks like yours. Once there, your customers could divulge information or send money that’s only intended for you. Cybercriminals may even be able to install malicious files on your customer’s computers after visiting your site. 

Manufacturers spend a lot of time and money building and securing their reputations, but some fail to pay adequate attention to building and securing their websites which can ultimately tarnish that reputation. For starters, your website should, at a minimum, have an SSL Certificate to ensure it’s secure and that your online data is encrypted. 

Not sure if your site has this feature? Look in the upper left corner of your URL; is there a little padlock and is the prefix “https” a part of your URL? If so, it’s an indication that your website has a secure connection. If not, it’s important to address this disparity as soon as possible. While it’s no guarantee, it will at least make it harder for hackers to breach your site. Another important step is implementing two-factor authentication.

2. Spam

Another threat to manufacturers doesn’t necessarily result in data loss; rather, it results in lost productivity. Many workers express frustrations associated with the number of emails they need to sort through each day. What’s not always understood is the real dollar value associated with the time it requires individuals to delete unsolicited offers and other emails. 

Data suggests that 85% of the emails that end up in inboxes are spam. If an average employee spends a half hour each day going through their emails, that equates to about 25 minutes spent on spam alone. Over a year, nearly three weeks of a person’s full-time salary could be spent on spam emails. Multiply that over your entire workforce and the numbers are staggering.

Some companies leverage a system that can scan messages for spam characteristics and remove them prior to ending up in someone’s inbox, but these tactics aren’t foolproof and there’s still a possibility that legitimate emails could be flagged as suspicious. Of course, some spam emails are more than just annoying; they’re downright dangerous. That leads us to the number one cybersecurity threat for manufacturers...

1. Your Employees

We’re not suggesting that your employees are lurking around on the Dark Web or scheming against your organization in an effort to steal your data or intellectual property. On the contrary, the largest threat to your network security is innocent and unsuspecting employees who are unaware and ill-informed about the deceptive tactics of cyber criminals.

Email phishing scams continue to be the number one threat to organizations of all sizes and in every industry. These schemes can trick recipients into revealing sensitive information. One click on a suspicious link or response to a seemingly trustworthy email can open the door to a hacker, making it incredibly easy to access networks to steal data or hold your systems hostage for ransom.

Some phishing scams cast a wide net in hopes of catching a few “takers.” Spear phishing, however, is targeted to an individual or department at a manufacturing company. These are highly deceptive emails that may appear to come from another individual in your company or from a customer inquiring about a specific invoice.

Even if you’re equipped with the best firewalls and security software, educating employees to recognize cybersecurity practices is potentially the most important step you can take to secure your data.

Protect Your Company

Cybersecurity for manufacturing is a growing concern, especially as artificial intelligence, Industry 4.0 and other manufacturing technologies are introduced and adopted. Many companies leverage the services offered through an outsourced IT company to help mitigate the risks of a cyber attack. A Managed IT provider stays abreast of the latest cyber risks (and how to stop them) and has the experience and expertise to proactively help your risk management efforts.

Contact the Technology Pointe cybersecurity team today at either our Austin or Dallas offices to discuss your concerns and to develop a strategy to protect your systems, employees, customers and, ultimately, your reputation.

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