The impact of technology in the manufacturing industry thanks to globalisation, complex systems and a drive for innovation, is vast.
The adoption of smart products and interconnectivity means that cyber risks are becoming more widespread and difficult to crack. This is nowhere more the case than in the manufacturing industry, where competition is fierce and the rapid drive for innovation provides an open door for equally sophisticated illicit strategies.
According to figures from a study by Deloitte & MAPI, only 52% of executives surveyed said they were confident that their assets were protected from the threat of cyber attacks – 4 out of 10 of which involved employees.
One of the executives interviewed by Deloitte and MAPI said, “In the last couple of years, our people have been one of our biggest exposures; whether the intent is malicious or not, it’s always the weakest link.”
The results from the survey show Intellectual Property Theft to be the biggest cyber threat currently facing manufacturing, and that many of the instances can be traced back to the shop floor. This is not only due to the disconnectivity of outdated systems and processes leading to a lack of or mis-information, but is also down to the fact that manufacturers are failing in large numbers to carry out the appropriate risk assessments in these areas, which would otherwise identify vulnerabilities.
Increasing sophistication of cyber crime is perceived to be one of the greatest challenges according to 42% of executives interviewed. One executive couldn’t believe that their method of communication to head office was exploited.
“We were building a facility in China five years ago, and they acquired local equipment, cameras to show leadership back at headquarters live progress of construction. They put a live feed on the internet, but did not realise this rendered us/it as a target. It was brutal.”
Competition breeds failure
In their haste to jump ahead of the competition, the marketing and product engineering departments have a keen focus on enabling connectivity anywhere they can in their products – even if it’s not really needed. Out of the companies surveyed, 7 in 10 transmit unique identifiers and other private information in their connected products.
“Our customers may not be asking for sensors in products; from our products; but we may feel the need to make our products capable of being connected even if not needed, but because our competitors are going there,” said one of the executives interviewed.
By having experienced cyber experts well-versed in the threats present throughout the development process, the product can be developed in light of considerations which will make any potential risks more manageable.