Since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution in the mid-18th Century, mankind has unceasingly striven toward transition of the human economy via mechanized manufacturing processes. In just the last 200+ years, we have progressed from hand production to machines, boosting output exponentially, and propelling an unprecedented advance in living standards for nearly all of mankind.
Over the last 2+ centuries, we relentlessly endeavored to create better, faster, and more efficient machines and automated processes as we conquered food, clothing, shelter, transportation, and myriad other limitations. During the second half of the 20th Century, we made a quantum leap to information-driven production. We learned how to generate and process information, harnessing it to boost manufacturing productivity and the creation of virtually all the products we can dream of. As a result, we now enjoy a higher standard of living than any time in human history.
But as we departed the last century (only 23 years ago), we were confronted by a new threat to our improvements in livelihood in the form of cyber threats, malicious acts that seek to disrupt the information flow that gives us our very comfortable digital lifestyle. At first, cyber threats were only minor disturbances to the production of readily available and vital manufactured goods. But over the first 2+ decades of the 21st Century, cyber threats have become so prolific and dangerous that they now threaten our lives and well-being.
What manufacturers must do to combat cyber threats
Securing the future of manufacturing depends on protecting vital and sensitive information, ensuring the integrity of products, and maintaining the rate of advancement. As technology continues to evolve and as it becomes increasingly dependent on information flow, so do the potential risks and challenges associated with secure manufacturing. How can manufacturers cope with the onslaught of cyber attacks on production plants and critical infrastructure?
Here are some strategies and practices that industrial operators must undertake to safeguard the future of secure manufacturing:
- Robust Cybersecurity Measures
Implementing strong cybersecurity measures is essential to protecting manufacturing processes and the information upon which they depend. This includes using advanced firewalls, intrusion detection systems, encryption techniques, and regular security audits to identify vulnerabilities and potential threats. These threats are dynamic, growing in stealth and capacity to do damage. So, too, must cybersecurity measures continue to advance in order to thwart current and future threats.
- Employee Training and Awareness
Despite our dependence on automation, human error is still a significant factor in security breaches. Training employees on cybersecurity best practices and creating a culture of security awareness significantly reduces the risk of accidental data leaks and cyberattacks.
- Secure Supply Chain Management
Today’s manufacturing process involves long links of multiple suppliers and vendors. Ensuring the security across the entire supply chain is essential to preventing malicious components or substandard materials from compromising the final product’s security.
- Secure Communication Protocols
IIoT devices and smart machines increasingly depend on rapid exchange of high volumes of information. Secure communication is the key. Using encrypted channels and protocols for data transfer and communication between machines, devices, and systems can help prevent unauthorized access while making sure that reliable information can power our manufacturing processes.
Physical security is as crucial as digital security. Limiting access to manufacturing facilities, securing sensitive areas, and monitoring human activities can prevent unauthorized individuals from tampering with equipment or stealing intellectual property.
Implementing end-to-end encryption in communication networks and data storage systems ensures that data remains secure at every stage of the manufacturing process, from design to delivery.
- Continuous Monitoring and Threat Detection
Deploying real-time monitoring and threat detection systems can help identify and respond promptly to inevitable cybersecurity incidents. These cybersecurity systems enable manufacturers to take immediate action to mitigate potential risks and damage.
- Secure Product Design and Development
Integrating security considerations from the earliest stages of product design and development can prevent vulnerabilities from being built into the product.
Complying with industry-specific and regional regulations related to cybersecurity and data protection is fundamental to avoiding legal repercussions. Compliance also demonstrates a commitment to security.
- Regular Software and Firmware Patches and Updates
Keeping manufacturing systems, machines, and devices up to date with the latest security patches and firmware/software updates helps protect against known and future vulnerabilities.
- Collaboration and Information Sharing
Engaging in information sharing and collaboration within the industry helps manufacturers stay informed about emerging threats and best practices for secure manufacturing. A robust threat intelligence program keeps cybersecurity tools fresh and up to date.
- Ethical Hacking and Penetration Testing
Conducting regular ethical hacking and penetration testing can identify weaknesses in the manufacturing infrastructure, allowing companies to proactively address potential security gaps.
- Data Backup and Disaster Recovery
Regular data backups and robust disaster recovery plans ensure that critical information remains accessible even in the event of a security breach or system failure. The show must go on!
- Ongoing Investment in Research and Development
Continuously investing in research and development for new security technologies and methods can help manufacturers stay ahead of evolving threats and maintain a secure manufacturing environment.
By prioritizing secure manufacturing practices, responsible organizations can protect their intellectual property, maintain customer trust, and enhance their reputation in the market, ultimately safeguarding the future of their businesses and the products they manufacture for all of us.
Contact us to find out more about Radiflow’s ICS security products and to assess your level of network segmentation.