Cyber attacks present a grave threat to manufacturing companies, with the potential to severely disrupt production processes and trigger dire financial consequences. Moreover, the landscape of cyber threats is rapidly evolving, marked by increasing sophistication and intelligence. Alongside ransomware and phishing attacks, the infiltration of IT systems and theft of critical data and credentials play a pivotal role in this escalating danger. The manufacturing industry stands out as one of the most susceptible sectors.
A comprehensive study conducted in 2023 by Quest looked at some of the specific cyber issues impacting the manufacturing sector. Results from this, presented below, shed light on the gravity of the situation – the manufacturing sector faces many challenges that need to be addressed to effectively address security and resilience:
- More than 38% of manufacturing companies would experience revenue losses between $20 and $50 million if their Active Directory was compromised for 24 hours. One-third would face losses between $50 and $100 million. Industrial espionage and ransomware are the greatest security threats, as believed by two-thirds of the surveyed companies.
- Over half of manufacturing companies consider cyber security to be important. However, when adopting new technologies, one-third of companies rely on existing security measures without conducting additional assessments for potential optimization.
- 80% of respondents acknowledge that the lack of skilled personnel compromises cyber security within their company. Without external support or AI/ML technologies, the existing workforce is barely able to keep up with the growing number of cyber attacks. For half of the respondents, cyber security is important enough to adopt new technologies, although concerns about potential performance losses arise. Two-thirds of the respondents fear that cyber security risks will negatively affect the speed at which new technologies can be implemented.
Unintentional data leaks and credential theft
Data leaks can occur not only due to intentional actions, such as industrial espionage or ransomware but also as a result of inadvertent disclosure of sensitive information. Among the critical concerns is credential theft, which empowers attackers to extract data continuously, sometimes undetected for extended periods.
According to the Verizon Data Breach Incident Report, credentials are the most coveted category of information in security and privacy breaches, accounting for more than 60% of such incidents. To protect against both external and internal attacks, manufacturing companies need to implement a layered security approach that can counter viruses, spyware, malware, and ransomware. They need to do so as soon as possible, as the manufacturing industry is one of the top five sectors most targeted by cyber attackers.
Fines, reputational damage, and production downtime
Successful cyber attacks can lead to a range of adverse effects, including direct damages such as data leaks, production system downtime, and supply chain disruptions, as well as consequential damages like reputational damage and financial penalties. However, despite these potential consequences, only half of companies surveyed by Quest in the above study said that they assess their networks for security vulnerabilities twice a year, and less than 10% do so weekly. This plays into the hands of cybercriminals, who may have months to steal or compromise data within the network. Inadequate staffing or a lack of suitable tools are cited as reasons for the infrequent network checks.
Moving towards cyber resilience in the manufacturing sector
As manufacturing companies look for effective ways to reduce the attack surface, they should focus on building and expanding sustainable business relationships with cyber security partners. With a long-term approach and a trusted partner, companies have a good starting point for improving their cyber resilience.
It is worth noting that the topic of cyber resilience has gained increasing importance in recent times and is very likely to continue growing in relevance. In the event of an attack, all departments must be prepared to respond appropriately while keeping business operations running optimally. The NIS2 directive, which must be implemented by October 2024 in the EU, also focuses on implementing such measures. To prepare for these challenges, decision-makers will not be able to avoid developing dedicated plans for enhanced security and, above all, resilience.
Surveys, such as the recent one conducted by Quest, once again highlight the urgent need for action, especially in the manufacturing sector.
Chris Thorpe, UK&I Technical Channel Manager, Quest Software