3 Tips for Cybersecurity in Manufacturing

3 Tips for Cybersecurity in Manufacturing

By on Dec 4, 2023 in Manufacturing

Modern-day manufacturing processes are starting to rely more on computer technologies like robotics, the Internet of Things (IoT), 5G, and cloud. However, the sector’s rapid embrace of digitalization has also elevated its exposure to cyber threats, and cybersecurity in manufacturing remains a persistent challenge.

Cyber criminals are well aware of the manufacturing sector’s deeper embrace of various technologies, which is one of the reasons why we’re seeing more extortion attempts from manufacturers than in any other industry.

Let’s look at how manufacturing companies can improve business resiliency through an enhanced cybersecurity posture, including some areas of cyber weakness where established best practices can help to dramatically boost security.

Improving General Network Security

Designing and implementing secure networks for manufacturers brings to light many nuanced and domain-specific challenges that may easily go unnoticed by those without a deep understanding of the field.

That has a few important considerations:

WiFi Device Location

Since WiFi signals travel through the air, elements in the surrounding environment can contribute to interference. In the context of industrial networks, the impact becomes particularly pronounced since motors, machinery, equipment, wearables, PDAs, physical barriers like walls and structures, and merchandise inventory all affect the propagation, reliability, and performance of WiFi signals.

Thankfully, there are some establish guidelines you can consider when configuring WiFi networks inside a manufacturing plant, which include the following:

  • Standardization
    Invest in industry-specific WiFi equipment designed to withstand the rugged conditions of manufacturing environments.
  • Site Survey
    Conduct a thorough site survey to understand the layout, structure, and potential sources of interference within the facility.
  • Network Redundancy
    Design the network with redundancy and load balancing to deliver continuity of operations across multiple access points.
  • Future Proof
    Plan for future expansion and technological advancements, choosing scalable solutions that can accommodate evolving needs. This includes strategically choosing your WiFi frequencies and channels to avoid congestion.

Implement a Threat Detection System

Threat detection grants cybersecurity teams the foresight to preempt would-be attackers before they have a chance to wreak havoc. However, the complexity of high-availability manufacturing networks filled with non-stop chatter between all the various robots, sensors, valves, actuators, logic controls, servers, PCs, and other nodes tends to be more complicated to monitor than traditional networked systems.

With this being the case, threat detection in an industrial setting requires unique toolsets that provide insight and intelligence far beyond what “off-the-shelf” solutions might offer. Our team has the expertise to help uncomplicate the issue with custom-tailored managed threat detection solutions for manufacturers. We proactively monitor and validate potential threats 24/7 around the clock, while your existing IT staff concentrates on strategic work.

Configure WiFi Encryption

Proprietary information and intellectual property regarding design specs, formulas, materials data, and specialized procedures, constitute the backbone of modern manufacturing operations. Should such data be accessed, stolen, or manipulated, the fallout could devastate the victim company as well as its entire supply chain of vendors and clients.

Therefore, all mission-critical data must be encrypted whether at rest or in motion. Far too often, lax encryption policies are to blame for major cyber attacks.

Cloud ERP Systems

The shift to cloud ERP systems in manufacturing has been a transformative trend, offering unprecedented scalability, accessibility, and streamlined operations. However, the transition is also accompanied by new cybersecurity challenges that you shouldn’t overlook.

Identity and Access Management

Given the paramount importance of trade secrets, proprietary information, and production data in manufacturing, a robust IAM framework is imperative to mitigate both internal and external risks effectively. Primary considerations in IAM implementation for cloud ERP involve:

  • Tight management of all user identities, access privileges, and permissions within the ERP environment
  • MFA for better guarantees as to the true identity of each user to ensure only authorized personnel can access critical data.
  • Role-based controls that assign specific roles and “least privilege” or “need to know” permissions based on job responsibilities.
  • Integration with HR systems to neatly align access privileges with an individual’s employment status, from onboarding to promotions to offboarding.

Security Training

Another key focus of security involves training programs to educate employees on specific protocols and best practices relevant to their use of cloud ERP systems. This encompasses guidance on password management, regulation awareness, data classification, and security settings.

Training initiatives should equip personnel with knowledge on the following topics:

  • Incident response protocols in the event of a security breach
  • Guidelines on the proper handling and classification of data
  • The tools to recognize and counter fraudulent attempts to gain unauthorized access
  • Emphasizing the importance of device security and access control measures
  • Secure ERP configurations to prevent unauthorized access and data leaks
  • Regulatory compliance awareness as it relates to the manufacturing sector

Real-time System Security Monitoring

Continuous monitoring is like having a watchdog scrutinize network traffic, user activity, and system behavior in real-time.

This vigilance allows for the immediate identification of anomalies or irregular patterns that might indicate potential data leaks, exploitation attempts, or fraudulent activities. It operates as an early warning system for organizations to respond swiftly to emerging threats before they escalate into significant incidents.

You’ll find that many cloud ERP platforms offer centralized security monitoring capabilities for the purposes of real-time monitoring and auditing. Teams can direct these feeds into their SIEM tool of choice to more easily analyze, prioritize, and respond to ERP-related threats.

Build a Redundant, Disaster-Resistant Network

Network failures and interruptions, whether from a misconfiguration or a malicious actor, are often expensive to resolve. This is particularly true in the manufacturing sector, where network downtime costs are estimated at approximately $260,000 per hour. Here we’ll share two viable solutions to increase your redundancy and disaster resistance.

Enterprise-grade Internet

Not all internet connections are equal in terms of quality, performance, and consistency. Residential internet, which operate on a shared network, is a non-starter modern manufacturing companies, as sharing bandwidth with other subscribers in your area over a standard DOCSIS cable connection means your network latency and service quality will vary drastically depending on the time of day.

Manufacturing firms an enterprise internet connection covered by a service level agreement (SLA). Direct internet access (DIA) through T-carrier lines was once the primary option for most businesses. However, with the rise of smart manufacturing, the low 1.544 Mbps bandwidth of T1s makes them an impractical option.

Solutions to this problem include fixed private wireless or DIA over fiber optics which, depending on your provider, can offer speeds up to 100 Gbps. These connections are delivered according to strict SLAs that guarantee the consistency, predictable, and quality of service, that manufacturers need.

Ransomware Protection: A Real Threat to Manufacturers

Founded in 1980, United Structures of America (USA) was a steel structure manufacturer serving based in Houston, Texas.

For nearly four decades, the family-owned business was known for its world-class service, hardworking employees, and unwavering commitment to high-quality steel construction. They were so good, in fact, that at the peak of operations, USA provided over 400 jobs and pulled in $100M in revenue.

Unfortunately, everything started to unravel after a sophisticated and wide-reaching ransomware incident in May 2019. The attack not only locked up critical business systems but also found its way into the company’s CNC machines. With no way to access company records, customer orders, or program machines, all operations came to a crippling halt.

Leadership quickly capitulated, scraping together the full amount to pay for the unlocker software the hackers promised to provide. The ransom was paid, and the decryption tool was received, however, it didn’t work. Left without backups or any way to revive its systems, the company was forced to declare bankruptcy, leaving its entire workforce unemployed.

The purpose of this story is to illustrate why we stress to our clients the reason for offline backups and vigilant ransomware protection. If United Structures had taken the time to prepare for the ransomware threat with routine backups and a disaster preparedness plan, the fallout of this attack would have been much more manageable.

Work With an IT Team Who Understands Manufacturing

We love helping manufacturing companies in Ohio achieve extraordinary IT outcomes. If your business is struggling with IT uncertainty around its network technology, we’re here to help. Contact our friendly team at our office in Cincinnati or Columbus. You can also call any time at 614 389 4102 or [email protected].