Cybersecurity / Business Strategist / IT/OT Convergence

How manufacturers can thwart modern cybersecurity threats

IT/OT convergence is often a fundamental misalignment that enables cyber-attacks.

 By Mark Sangster, VP & industry security strategist, eSentire

Joe Nocera, cybersecurity & privacy principal, PwC

David R. Brousell, executive director, Manufacturing Leadership Council

When people talk of protecting critical national infrastructure, there’s a sector that the public should not forget: manufacturing. According to research from eSentire, it is especially vulnerable to cyberattacks. In the company’s Cybersecurity FutureWatch 2018 report, which surveyed 1,250 IT decision-makers, manufacturers self-ranked above financial institutions when it came to cyberattacks.

The economic prowess of our country is measured by the strength of its manufacturers. This makes the manufacturing sector a top target.

Attackers and motivations

Attackers have different motives; some may wish to gain a market advantage for a competitor. Stealing IP is just one way to do it. It can involve a breach of systems, likely by a nation state that then chooses to disrupt production operations.

Other attackers seek financial gain using ransomware, such as the March 2019 attack on the global aluminum and renewable energy company Norsk Hydro, which cost it at least $40m. This risk ranked highest in the Manufacturing Leadership Council survey.

Another risk worrying survey respondents is malware, affecting laptops, email servers and mobile devices. Malware is often delivered via phishing attacks that persuade unwitting employees to click on malicious links.

In spite of these risks, the same survey found that 64% have no formal cybersecurity strategy in place. What is responsible for this gap between awareness and action?

A fundamental misalignment

Manufacturers’ heavy dependence on the supply chain opens them up to third-party risk. Another eSentire survey of 600 IT and security decision-makers, called Third-party risk to the nth degree, found that 44% of them had experienced a data breach due to third-party security problems, while only 15% were notified.

Another hinderance is an internal cultural mismatch. Manufacturers have historically grappled with not one technology team, but two. Many manufacturing companies struggle to bring together their IT and OT teams. These teams are out of step. IT teams deal with quickly-changing administrative networks, while OT networks take years to change. A lack of communication between the two creates confusion over who is responsible for cybersecurity, leaving manufacturers ill-prepared for attacks. If an attack necessitates shutting down a production line, who should make that call?

A way forward

Manufacturing companies must respond to these risks by making cybersecurity a strategic board-level issue, which helps them focus on best practices and policies. A strategic view lets manufacturers take a risk-management approach to cybersecurity. IT and OT teams can identify and rank risks based on their likelihood and their potential impact to mission-critical assets.

Manufacturers should also factor supply chain cybersecurity into that risk-management process by holding suppliers to account. They should identify the risk associated with the supply chain and contractually obligate those supply chain elements to specific security standards.

Today’s manufacturing industry understands the importance of cybersecurity as it prepares to embrace a rapidly evolving digital environment. They must make it as important as physical safety in their culture. Manufacturers must ask themselves: Are we prepared to take on the challenge?

 

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