Why cyber criminals target the manufacturing industry

Posted by Angela Messenger on October 17, 2018

Globally, the manufacturing industry is the third most targeted sector by cyber criminals. A recent report from manufacturing membership organisation EEF, highlighted both the increase in cyber attacks against the sector, and the industry’s inability to manage or understand the risks that cyber presents. [1]

Manufacturers are an attractive target. All too often, business-critical functions rely on legacy machinery which is no longer supported – systems which were not designed to withstand today’s sophisticated attacks.

What’s more, the levels of intellectual property (IP) and sensitive information offer a great reward for cyber criminals; predominantly for financial gain, but also competitive advantage. The nature of what manufacturers do makes them an attractive target, and the ways they operate make them vulnerable.

In the EEF report, 48% of manufacturers reported a compromise, with around half suffering financial or operational loss. The same report highlighted that more than four in ten manufacturers are unprepared for cyber attacks, and acknowledged they need cyber education to better understand the risks they face.

On the risk calculator, manufacturers are seen by adversaries as low effort with high return. Therefore it is imperative that manufacturers harden their infrastructure and operations to protect themselves from cyber attacks – implementing cyber security best practice is essential. However, cyber security can be costly and with so many options available, you must first determine whether or not you have a risk, before identifying how accountable and receptive you are.

Identify and manage cyber risk in 3 steps

Step 1 – What information do you hold?

The first thing for any business is to identify all its information assets. Understand why you hold that data and with whom it may need to be shared. You also need to understand the business impact should there be a data breach; if it is stolen, altered or made unavailable. Remember, business impact is not just about financial loss – consider the potential consequences to your operational effectiveness as well as your reputation.

Step 2 – Who or what does the information need protecting from?

The second stage of identifying risk is to understand who would seek to do you harm; your threat sources. You need to quantify and comprehend the motivations and capabilities of all identified threat sources. Remember that these sources can be insiders or a link in your supply chain, as well as the traditional hacker.

Step 3 – Identify and manage your vulnerabilities

For a threat source to compromise your systems, they have to first exploit a vulnerability. A business needs to be able to manage its vulnerabilities and assess the effectiveness of its patch management programmes. The goal here is to keep your attack surface as low as possible, making yourself a difficult target so that you are a less attractive proposition to potential attackers.

Measure your risk

If you have followed these three steps, you should be in a good position to start to identify and quantify your cyber risk. In its most simplistic form:

Risk = Business Impact x Threat x Vulnerability

Based on this equation, you can now look at the measures you need to put in place to mitigate the risk. The advantage of good risk management is that it ensures your precautions and IT spend are appropriate and proportionate to the risk.

Understand your worst case scenario and have a clear plan of how you would overcome a cyber attack. You need to know how important cyber security is to you, how much protection you need and how you are going to deliver it. Keep reminding yourself how much impact it could have on the business and your reputation should any of those risks be realised.

3 reasons manufacturers need to invest in cyber security

There are many reasons why you should invest in quality cyber security. Here are three core benefits of why you need it, not only to be protected, but to stay ahead of the competition and allow business growth:

  1. Reduce the likelihood of an attack taking place
  2. Demonstrate to clients and regulatory authorities that your security is sound, and that any attempted attack was not successful
  3. Reduce the overall cost of an attack by having the ability to detect malicious activity, articulate precisely what data was compromised and react – reducing damage and returning to a ‘business as normal’ state as quickly as possible

Without a proactive stance on cyber security, attacks are inevitable. You don’t want to find yourself learning how to deal with an attack while you are compromised. Being cyber aware will help you prevent, detect and respond professionally and effectively when a cyber attack occurs. Remember, a proactive approach and mentality is key when dealing with cyber threats.

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 Footnotes

[1] ‘Cyber Security for Manufacturing’: Industry report; EEF, The Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) and AIG (2018)