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AI is growing up: how artificial intelligence (and machine learning) is maturing

June 16, 2023
An integrative approach to leveraging AI for manufacturing cybersecurity.

The manufacturing industry is facing unprecedented cybersecurity challenges as cyber-threats continue to evolve at an alarming rate. Industrial control systems (ICS) form the backbone of manufacturing operations and critical infrastructure, and their security and integrity are of utmost importance. However, traditional cybersecurity measures are often inadequate in mitigating the sophisticated threats that target these systems. To address this pressing issue, the integration of artificial intelligence (AI) offers a transformative solution, bolstering cybersecurity, operational efficiency, and safety within industrial manufacturing environments.

In their Global Cybersecurity Outlook 2023 insight report, the World Economic Forum found that 20% of the business leaders surveyed listed AI and machine learning (ML) as having the most significant influence on their cybersecurity-risk strategies during the next two years. With the prevalence of AI and ML across headlines and social media feeds, the topic has gone from sci-fi fodder to being woven into our daily lives, no matter what industry you're in.

In this article, we'll explore the strategic application of AI in enhancing cybersecurity for industrial control systems, specifically as it relates to the manufacturing industry.

Building robust models and improving baseline accuracy

Enhanced threat detection and zero-day exploit identification

Conventional cybersecurity measures often struggle to detect sophisticated threats, including zero-day exploits that exploit previously unknown vulnerabilities. AI brings unparalleled efficacy to threat detection within industrial control systems, providing a proactive defense against known and emerging threats. Through the utilization of machine-learning algorithms, AI systems can continuously analyze vast amounts of data, identify patterns, and detect anomalous activities indicative of cyber-threats. By harnessing AI-powered threat detection, manufacturers can effectively safeguard their operations.

Furthermore, AI's predictive capabilities play a crucial role in identifying zero-day exploits. These exploits leverage vulnerabilities that have yet to be patched or discovered. AI algorithms can analyze system behavior, identify anomalies, and flag potential zero-day exploits, preventing significant security breaches that traditional methods may have overlooked. However, in some critical infrastructure and manufacturing environments, a threat actor doesn't need to rely upon sophisticated zero-day exploits if they are able to access a system through other methods.

The manufacturing industry has, unfortunately, become a larger target for ransomware groups and extortion-focused activities. According to the X-Force Threat Intelligence Index 2023 from IBM Security, extortion was the most common attack type leveled against organizations, and of those impacted by ransomware and extortion, victims in manufacturing accounted for the most significant percentage (30%). Utilizing AI to enhance threat detection and identify anomalous behavior can improve an organization's resilience, so they can avoid becoming part of that statistic.

Operational efficiency and preventive maintenance

In addition to strengthening cybersecurity, AI can significantly enhance operational efficiency in the manufacturing industry. By leveraging AI's predictive capabilities, manufacturing organizations can optimize their processes and mitigate the risk of system outages.

AI algorithms have the ability to analyze vast volumes of data from industrial control systems, enabling manufacturers to identify potential bottlenecks, predict maintenance requirements, and optimize workflows. By proactively addressing issues before they escalate, AI empowers manufacturers to minimize downtime and optimize productivity.

Moreover, AI provides valuable insights for preventive maintenance. By continuously monitoring and analyzing system data, AI algorithms can identify patterns that may be indicative of impending equipment failure. Manufacturers can then intervene proactively, scheduling maintenance activities and avoiding costly unplanned shutdowns. This proactive approach reduces the risk of production disruptions and improves overall operational efficiency.

Performance optimization and secure environments

AI's integration within industrial control systems enhances cybersecurity and operational efficiency and ensures optimal functionality. AI algorithms continuously monitor system performance, identifying deviations and optimizing system parameters for peak efficiency.

Furthermore, AI helps maintain a secure environment by swiftly identifying potential security breaches. AI systems can autonomously react to threats, implementing countermeasures and neutralizing attacks in real time. This proactive approach minimizes the potential impact of cyber-threats, safeguarding both the manufacturing process and critical infrastructure.

Transforming cybersecurity in manufacturing

The integration of AI presents a transformative opportunity for the manufacturing industry to strengthen cybersecurity, enhance operational efficiency, and promote safety within industrial manufacturing environments.

By harnessing the power of AI, manufacturers can build robust models, improve baseline accuracy, and enhance anomaly detection capabilities. AI's efficacy in threat detection and identification of zero-day exploits surpasses traditional cybersecurity measures, ensuring a proactive defense against both known and emerging threats.

Moreover, AI's predictive capabilities empower manufacturers to optimize operational efficiency, enabling preventive maintenance and minimizing system outages. With AI algorithms continuously monitoring system performance and responding to potential security breaches, manufacturers can maintain secure environments while maximizing productivity.

To fully harness the potential of AI in enhancing cybersecurity for industrial control systems, collaboration between industry stakeholders, academia and policymakers is essential. The development of standardized frameworks, best practices, and regulations will ensure the responsible and ethical use of AI in the manufacturing industry.

As the manufacturing industry embraces AI's transformative potential, it can fortify its cyber-defenses, protect critical infrastructure, and thrive in the digital era. By adopting a proactive, resilient, and adaptive approach to cybersecurity, manufacturers can secure their industrial control systems, maintain operational integrity, and achieve sustainable growth in an increasingly interconnected world.

About the Author

Jori VanAntwerp

CEO & Co-founder of SynSaber