3 of the Biggest Cybersecurity Threats Facing the Manufacturing Industry

Byos - The 3 Biggest Cybersecurity Threats Facing the Manufacturing Industry

The manufacturing industry is expected to grow by 14% in 2022 — more than twice its average rate over the past five years. Unfortunately, this surge has been coupled with an equally significant rise in the incidence of cybercrime, forcing companies in this industry to assess how their operations may be leaving them vulnerable to attack.

From remote access points to legacy devices, here are three of the biggest cybersecurity risks for the manufacturing sector.

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The Rise of Cybercrime in Manufacturing

The Motivations Driving Cybercrime in Manufacturing

Learning from High-Profile Manufacturing Cyberattacks

Top 3 Cybersecurity Risks for the Manufacturing Sector

Remote Access Points

Legacy Manufacturing Devices

Vendors and Third-Party Access

Understand Your Vulnerability Level

The Rise of Cybercrime in Manufacturing

Over the past few years — and especially during COVID — manufacturing climbed the ranks of industries most targeted by cyber attackers, with over 61% of security breaches impacting this sector. From 2020 to 2021, the incidence of cyberattacks in the space rose by 300%, pushing manufacturing to become one of the most targeted sectors in the global economy.

But the number of attacks isn’t the only challenge manufacturers have to deal with, as the financial impact of each incident is also increasing. The cost of the average data breach in the industry jumped 5.4% in 2022, bringing the financial impact per attack up to $4.5M.

The Motivations Driving Cybercrime in Manufacturing

What is driving cybercriminals to this space? The industry’s valuable intellectual property (IP), critical infrastructure status, and downtime intolerance make it a prime target for bad actors.

  • IP Theft: Manufacturers maintain their market viability by developing innovative technologies, processes, and other forms of IP. Consequently, these assets are valuable targets for theft, especially from competitors or government actors. In fact, research by Deloitte revealed that manufacturing executives considered IP theft to be the leading cybersecurity threat.
  • Critical Infrastructure Status: Manufacturers often provide vital services and support to the public. This status as critical infrastructure can put manufacturers in the crosshairs of nation-states and other politically motivated organizations looking to inflict severe damage on a given country. It also provides malicious actors significant leverage, as a successful ransomware attack could hold an entire region hostage.
  • Downtime Intolerance: Minimizing downtime is critical for manufacturing, as even an hour of unplanned disruption can cost hundreds of thousands in lost revenue. This downtime intolerance — particularly severe in this sector — provides yet another point of leverage for bad actors using ransomware.

Manufacturers can use these motivations to guide the development of their effective cybersecurity plans. For instance, understanding that their sensitivity to downtime constitutes an open invitation to ransomware attacks, manufacturers should emphasize ransomware defense in their security architecture.

Learning from High-Profile Manufacturing Cyberattacks

As discussed above, recent years have seen a dramatic increase in manufacturing cyberattacks, resulting in numerous high-profile incidents. The attacks involving Mondelez, Renault-Nissan, Norsk Hydro, and Visser Precision grabbed headlines and helped signal to the broader manufacturing industry that cybersecurity could no longer be neglected. Without proper security precautions, it became clear that companies stood to lose vast sums of money. For example, the attack on Norsk Hydro cost the manufacturer almost $75M.

The nature of these attacks also provided the industry with a learning opportunity. Often, the manufacturing companies least able to cope with an incident had weak segmentation capabilities, leaving them helpless to stop the propagation of a ransomware attack once the network had been compromised. This pattern indicates that organizations in the space should invest in this cybersecurity capability, especially microsegmentation. This innovative approach breaks a company's device landscape into small, individually defensible sub-networks to significantly curtail an attacker’s ability to spread through the network.

Top 3 Cybersecurity Risks for the Manufacturing Sector

Now that we have discussed the motivations driving cybercrime in this industry and some lessons that can be learned from high-profile incidents, let us look at three of the most important vulnerabilities manufacturers should be aware of.

Remote Access Points

A recent study by Juniper Research forecasted the total number of industrial internet of things (IoT) connections would reach 37B by 2025. The research also highlighted smart manufacturing as the key driver, estimating it would account for nearly 60% of this projection. Driven by the popularity of Industry 4.0 technology, the growth of connected devices in manufacturing has enabled companies to see tremendous operational and efficiency gains. But these benefits have a downside, as the adoption of smart tech has dramatically expanded the attack surface through the proliferation of remote access points. Manufacturers must address the risks this increased connectivity has introduced to protect their business.

Legacy Manufacturing Devices

According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the average piece of industrial equipment is 10 years old — an average age not seen in the industry since the 1940s. While aging machinery opens manufacturers up to a greater risk of unplanned downtime due to breakdowns and other issues, it also creates greater vulnerability to cyber attacks. Older devices are not built for today’s cyber threats. They do not have the baked-in security features of modern industrial equipment and are rarely modified adequately. In many cases, these machines have sat untouched, from a security perspective, for decades, leaving the door open for malicious actors.

Vendors and Third-Party Access

But even new manufacturing technology has its vulnerabilities. Forescout’s Vedere Labs recently reported on a phenomenon known as “insecure-by-design”: the practice of operational technology (OT) vendors unintentionally building security vulnerabilities directly into their products. Their research found nearly 60 known cybersecurity problems affecting 10 OT vendors. These findings underscore one of the many ways vendors and third-party connections create cybersecurity risks for manufacturers. As companies continue to rely on these integrations — and build them into their technical infrastructure — they simultaneously grow the set of available attack vectors.  

Understand Your Vulnerability Level

While this article has covered cybersecurity risks for the manufacturing sector as a whole, companies in this space need a clear sense of their individual risk profile to take effective action.

Developed by a team of network security industry veterans and consultants, Byos’s free Network Security Maturity Assessment tool uses a 15-minute survey to accurately score your company’s vulnerability level and provide tailored security recommendations. Click here to get your free, individualized report today. Or get in touch with us today to speak directly with one of our network security experts.

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