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Cyber Security Hyper-Vigilance with Manufacturers – Mitigating Risks

It is an unfortunate reality that manufacturing businesses are prime targets for cyber attacks. Numerous published reports agree that manufacturers have no choice but to up their game in terms of protecting vital information.

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It is an unfortunate reality that manufacturing businesses are prime targets for cyber attacks. Numerous published reports agree that manufacturers have no choice but to up their game in terms of protecting vital information.

Many businesses throughout the region continue to operate with either at-home work models or some form of hybrid alternative between the office and home—the same is true of manufacturing companies. Many leading manufacturers today are operating with large numbers of their workforce performing their daily tasks offsite due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and are finding ways to maintain productivity and meet customer needs despite these challenges.

The ability of manufacturers to continue to succeed during the pandemic is admirable, but—like so many other businesses—manufacturers need to be particularly aware of potential cyber attacks that can target their operations through their employees at any time. The need to be more vigilant as it relates to cyber security becomes even more pressing with the hybrid or at-home work models, given the amount of proprietary data and/or intellectual property information that is at risk of being harmed or stolen.

It is an unfortunate reality, but a reality nonetheless, that manufacturing businesses are prime targets for cyber attacks. Numerous published reports agree that manufacturers have no choice but to up their game in terms of protecting vital information.

Why are manufacturers particularly at risk? It starts with the large amount of sensitive information, patents and/or proprietary technology many manufacturers have in their possession—the lifeblood of their business. This data is incredibly valuable to cyber criminals and makes manufacturing one of the leading sectors to be targeted by hackers—whether it is targeted through outright cyber theft or ransomware, if this information falls into the wrong hands it can deal a crippling blow to the business.

What’s more, as manufacturers increasingly rely on the Internet of Things (IoT) to assist in their business operations, this reliance on technology leaves them further exposed to those who intend to do harm. Unless there are other sophisticated security systems in place, IoT devices could become the open door for cyber criminals to gain access through and can greatly disrupt the entire operation.

Now that it is clear manufacturers are at heightened risk for cyber attacks, the question becomes, “What can be done about it?” Fortunately there are answers.

Most important, hypervigilance is needed to ensure the best possible cyber security protocols are in place; people have been appropriately trained; software patches applied; and cyber security tools implemented. With the amount of intellectual property so many manufacturing companies hold onsite, it is not enough to simply assume things are protected because “security systems” are in place. Cyber criminals never stop working to find ways to breach these systems, so neither should a business ever stop working to ensure everything is tested, updated and constantly being assessed for further improvement(s).

Tactically, there are a number of smart protective measures that should be put in place immediately if they are not already there. One is data encryption, which protects data by making it indecipherable and useless in case it ever falls into the wrong hands. If possible, all intellectual property and confidential information should be encrypted in transit and at rest. Multifactor Authentication (MFA) is another significant step in securing remote access to critical information. This technology promotes the concept of something you know and something you have. Typically, the something you know is your personal user ID and password. The something you have is a cell phone or other device that provides an ever-changing code. This information is then entered into the login screen to validate who you say you are. MFA can significantly enhance security and help mitigate cyber security risks. Implement this type of tool whenever possible.

Patching operating systems, software applications, antivirus programs and even firewalls helps to protect the company’s network from outside harm. Even though many companies say they do this, has it ever been tested to verify this practice is in place? Having an outside independent company perform such an assessment can be critical in testing and validating that your security program is in fact in place and operating effectively. Unfortunately, we have seen too many surprises and incidents resulting from a lack of security protocols in place and tested.

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The manufacturing sector throughout our region has shown an amazing amount of resilience during this time of unprecedented disruption. That same resilience needs to be applied by members of the industry to protecting their information assets from cyber criminals. If the same level of dedication that went into keeping businesses going during COVID-19 can be applied to cyber security, manufacturers give themselves a much better chance for a bright and secure future.

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