Manufacturing's Cyber Challenge

Digitalisation is revolutionising how companies operate, and driving business leaders to think differently. The pace of technological change is increasing, and dramatically transforming the global business environment. At the same time, while traditional risks may be reduced, the potential cyber and technology exposures that businesses face continue to expand, presenting businesses with the possibility of substantial economic losses.

Manufacturing’s Industrial Revolution

Manufacturing companies have slowly but steadily been automating their production processes to achieve efficiencies and improve quality. For a few years, these production processes are digitalised as well, aligning production equipment with applications such as the enterprise resource management and logistics systems.

Now, we’re at the forefront of a new industrial revolution: Industry 4.0. Large-scale machine-to-machine communication (M2M) and the industrial internet of things (IIoT) are integrated for increased automation, improved communication and selfmonitoring, and production of smart machines that can analyse and diagnose issues without the need for human intervention.

Those manufacturers with smart factories will have a competitive advantage, with increased operational efficiency, reduced environmental impact and improved future planning.

Delving into Industry 4.0

  • Industry 4.0 fosters what has been called a “smart factory”. Within modular structured smart factories, cyber-physical systems monitor physical processes, create a virtual copy of the physical world and make decentralised decisions to improve effectiveness and efficiency.
  • Predictive maintenance – which can identify maintenance issues in live – allows machine owners to perform cost-effective maintenance and determine it ahead of time before the machinery fails or gets damaged to reduce downtime and improve efficiency.
  • Smart sensors generate the data and allow further functionality from self-monitoring and self-configuration to condition monitoring of complex processes.
  • Cyber manufacturing is a modern, cyberphysical manufacturing system that offers an information-transparent environment to facilitate asset management, provide reconfigurability, and maintain productivity.

Shifting cyber risks: ransomware, data theft and industrial espionage

Manufacturers are continuously innovating their production processes with digital technologies. While the business case is typically positive, new cyber risks do present themselves with the introduction of this technology. The risk of business interruption from a cyber-event at one or multiple factories, specifically from threats like ransomware, is ever at the forefront of this development, leading to defective products, production downtime, physical damage, and potentially even injuries and deaths.

Manufacturers are working hard to ensure that their supply chains are digitalised as well. This has improved the management and flow of materials and goods, to maximise efficiency within the organisation.

Unfortunately, it has also presented new opportunities for cyber-criminals to target production lines and damage not only the technology, but the physical infrastructure too. 

Finally, the theft of sensitive commercial data is a specific concern for manufacturers. Manufacturers are entrusted with the blueprints and intricate details of intellectual property of themselves or third parties. With high levels of competition within the manufacturing sector, industrial espionage for competitive advantage is therefore a common threat. Hackers too, are aware that they can demand high ransom payments in exchange for unencrypted data, as well as use personal information for fraud or blackmail.