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Cybersecurity for manufacturers: 5 steps to prevent data breaches at plants

cybersecurity for manufacturers

cybersecurity for manufacturersIndustrial data breaches are disruptive and costly, which is why cybersecurity for manufacturers is a hot topic – especially in a world that runs largely on robotics and the Internet of Things (IoT).

Whether hackers have a plan to steal passwords, compromise intellectual property, access your partner networks or cause harm through a factory explosion, they’re constantly looking to expose plant vulnerabilities.

The average data breach costs $3-6 million, so it’s crucial for manufacturers to know what steps to take to fend off cyberattacks, as well as how to respond if one is successful.

Establish a stellar security policy

Accomplishing better cybersecurity starts with putting a draft plan on paper. Of course, each plant is unique, so start by drafting written policies and procedures that are vital to your operation.

Whether it’s outlining different levels of employee access, or establishing reporting methods, it’s important to merely start the process. You can then take a step further to make sure you have a post-breach incident response plan in place to restore critical systems.

In the event a cybersecurity breach occurs, have mechanisms in place that ensure all relative data are stored and solidify a communications response plan. For example, keeping information logs can later help investigators determine how a hack occurred in the first place.

Additionally, it doesn’t hurt to bring in a cybersecurity specialist who can educate your business on best practices and how to keep security top-of-mind for your workforce. This specialist can also make sure that, in addition to the antivirus software you already have in place, you have strong filtering tools.

The right professional will help manufacturers monitor traffic on their networks and block malicious attacks. A strong filter will recognize regular traffic versus malicious traffic, keeping viruses from causing harm to systems.

It’s also important to enforce restrictive data permissions. Breaches have been known to originate intentionally or unintentionally from employees, which means your workers should only have access to information vital to their direct responsibilities.

Address both physical and digital security

Safeguarding critical manufacturing assets requires an approach that uses both physical and digital layers of defense against multiple threats. Companies should have a comprehensive physical security system that is integrated with a secure network, helping them protect assets with things like locks, access cards and video surveillance.

Additionally, it’s necessary to have remote access to an IT system so key personnel can manage systems and documents from any location, providing entry points into a network in case of a cyberattack. This is where using dual-step authentication is important. This way, a hacker who obtains network access can’t merely use a password to complete a breach.

With that being said, companies should carefully control remote access for third parties, including vendors.

Build awareness among your team

The best thing you can do to protect your business from cyberattacks is train your employees regularly to be vigilant against malware. After all, they’re usually on the front lines of these threats.

Hackers are creative and resourceful, often using social engineering through your employees to gain access to your systems. As a first step toward fighting this, teach your workers how to watch for suspicious digital activity, strengthen their passwords and follow the dual-step identification protocols mentioned earlier.

It’s important to keep business and personal email accounts separate. When consulting a cybersecurity specialist, seek guidance on encrypting your information, teaching your employees how to properly file and store data. It’s also helpful to limit employee access to websites that don’t involve essential duties.

Additionally, don’t dismiss threats that seem small. Remember, a hacker can singlehandedly halt your production process, resulting in lost time and money.

Be aware of USB and IoT vulnerabilities

As highlighted in a recent data threat report by Honeywell, USB devices are a major threat to industrial facilities. In its study, Honeywell determined almost half of all analyzed USBs had at least one file that was blocked due to a cybersecurity issue. A quarter of those issues detected could have caused operators to lose visibility or control of their operations.

Using USBs to transfer information across devices raises the risk of a cyberattack that can be used to harm systems directly. A prime example of this threat was brought to light in the 2010 Stuxnet attack, during which a cyberattack resulted in centrifuge manipulation at a uranium enrichment plant in Iran.

Similarly, IoT devices that operate via cloud technology make it easier for outside attackers to compromise your equipment. It’s important to build added security into these devices, as well as use more complex passwords as mentioned earlier.

Don’t get too comfortable with default settings

It’s possible for default settings to open the door for cyberattacks. While these settings might promote operational efficiency, they can prove dangerous for your system. Turn off legacy settings when possible.

It also doesn’t hurt to perform regular vulnerability scans to identify potential weaknesses in your system configurations.

Summary: Key steps toward cybersecurity for manufacturers

To accomplish better cybersecurity for your operations, remember to establish a security policy, address physical and digital security, build awareness, address vulnerabilities and avoid default settings when possible.

Here are some additional actions you can take:

  • Maintain a complete inventory of assets you need to protect, including all systems and software.
  • Work with trusted industry partners to install intrusion prevention, firewall and spam tools.
  • Know where your sensitive data is stored.
  • Utilize reliable data backup mechanisms.

Achieving cybersecurity involves investing time and money to protect your assets. Attacks are inevitable, and if not addressed, can greatly hinder your bottom line.

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