Some manufacturers think that their risk of a cyberattack is low because they don’t sell products on the Internet or collect credit card numbers and other sensitive customer data. While it is true that most significant data breaches involve financial institutions or retailers, manufacturers have cybersecurity risks, and hackers have found them to be an attractive target.
Manufacturing companies are being targeted by cybercriminals because, in many cases, they’re more vulnerable than other types of businesses. For one thing, the manufacturing supply chain is complex, with an intricate network of suppliers, logistics firms, distributors, retailers, and others, who are often interconnected via the Internet. In addition, members may have access to each other’s systems, so a vulnerability in one supply chain link can expose the entire chain to cyber risks.
Also, as the digital revolution continues, manufacturers increasingly rely on Internet-connected devices on the shop floor that can be monitored and operated remotely.
What are hackers after?
Manufacturers’ systems generally don’t store customers’ credit card numbers and other sensitive data that criminals can use to perpetrate identity theft or similar crimes. Instead, cyberattacks against manufacturers are designed to disrupt their operations to extort money.
For example, hackers that gain access to Internet-connected devices could shut down a manufacturer’s operations or cause it to produce defective products. Or they could introduce ransomware into a manufacturer’s systems, blocking access until a ransom is paid.
Another technique is to steal valuable intellectual property stored on a manufacturer’s system and sell it on the black market. Examples include patents, designs, manufacturing processes, R&D documents, customer lists, contracts, bidding information, business plans, marketing plans, and proprietary software.
What can you do?
To avoid a potentially devastating cyberattack and protect your manufacturing company, start by conducting a risk assessment to take inventory of your hardware, software, and data and identify any vulnerabilities. It also is critical to examine all of the ways employees, vendors, and other partners can gain entry into your network. Then implement policies, procedures, and controls designed to prevent unauthorized access.
Equally important is an incident response plan to mitigate the damages in the event of a breach. Finally, have a solid backup plan that enables you to resume operations if a hacker destroys or blocks access to data.
Education is key
Finally, don’t underestimate the importance of training. Many breaches involve social engineering with phishing emails designed to trick employees into providing passwords or downloading malware. Your employees should know that the risk is real and that their actions can affect your business’s cybersecurity. We can work with you to identify vulnerabilities. Contact us to discuss your specific situation—more information on Olsen Thielen’s manufacturing services and expertise.
More Resources for Manufacturers:
Remote Selling for Manufacturers blog article