Manufacturers deploy increasingly sophisticated processing and data collection devices into their production environments. This real-time data collection boom, often called SMART manufacturing or Industry 4.0, is characterized by seamless connectivity, automation, and data exchange. While these advanced capabilities have allowed manufacturers to improve productivity, reduce downtime, and identify inefficiencies in their day-to-day operations, they’ve also created an urgent need for more comprehensive network security.

As a general rule of thumb, an organization’s data and critical assets are only as secure as the networks and systems processed and stored. Suppose cybercriminals can overcome a network’s perimeter. They gain access to sensitive information, launch ransomware attacks, and exfiltrate (copy) your data for leveraged extortion. These threats are challenging to manage because evolving hacking methods and exploitable software and hardware vulnerabilities crop up regularly. Considering cybercrime is a $1.5 trillion industry, according to Bromium and RSA research, it’s unlikely malicious actors will slow down their activities any time soon.

To stay adaptive in the long term, manufacturers have to reassess the effectiveness of their network security and cyber attack prevention systems. Over the past few years, IT security experts have started moving away from design models built on a network perimeter security model. This shift is, in part, the result of changing user behaviors and the widespread use of mobile and Internet of Things (IoT) devices. According to Gartner, worldwide IoT spending will surpass the $1 trillion mark in 2022. That is a significant number of new attacker vectors to secure; before we dive into current cybersecurity trends, it may be helpful to quickly recap what a network perimeter entails.

Breaking Down Network Security

Network Security refers to “any activity designed to protect the usability and integrity of networks and data,” according to the technology firm Cisco. In most cases, manufacturers deploy a host of overlapping hardware and software technologies that allow them to insulate their critical infrastructure from a range of cyber threats, including malware, ransomware, man-in-the-middle attacks, and more. Traditionally, these and other digital threats were often stopped at a network’s perimeter, the outermost boundary separating private and local networks from the Internet. The general principle is relatively straightforward: companies can reduce their risk exposure and prevent cybercriminals from establishing a foothold inside their computer systems by blocking potentially harmful internet traffic from accessing a private network.

The three significant elements of network security include:

  • Confidentiality – Only authorized individuals can access data.
  • Integrity – Data is not changed unless it is supposed to be.
  • Availability – Data is available when needed.

Many types of perimeter security tools and management processes are often active at a network’s perimeter, many of which are responsible for authenticating whether a user has the proper authorization. Before personal devices made their way into modern workplaces, many organizations barred all external traffic from connecting to their internal systems. In terms of perimeter devices and software technologies, there are several methods used to protect the usability and integrity of data used in multiple layers of network security:

  • Border routers: These networking hubs are responsible for directing the traffic in and out of a company’s private servers. Border routers often sit at the outermost boundary of an organization’s network and buffer internal systems and the open Internet.
  • Firewalls: Operating behind border routers, these security systems actively filter internal and external traffic based on a set of predefined rules. Firewalls either allow or deny connection requests from outside the network and help to block potentially harmful malware, malicious code, and more.
  • Intrusion detection systems: This security tool will alert the appropriate IT team when identified suspicious network activity. After deciding, network administrators can act upon the alerts to further insulate their systems from external exploitation.
  • Intrusion prevention systems: These network perimeter security applications automate the incident response process, removing the need for direct human intervention. The system will automatically defend the network when suspicious traffic or possible threats.
  • Security information and event management (SIEM): SIEM software gives security professionals insight into and track records of the activities within the IT environment. It combines:
    • security event management, which analyzes log and event data in real-time to provide threat monitoring
    • event correlation and incident response
    • security information management, which collects, analyzes, and reports on log data

Several other elements are vital to comprehensive network perimeter security, such as access controls, factor authentication, email filtering, and web protection. Though every organization has unique IT governance policies, these features are typically managed through a centralized network security platform.

The shift from network perimeter security toward endpoint protection is already well underway.The shift from network perimeter security toward endpoint protection is already well underway.

The Future of Network Security: From Borders to Borderless

Network perimeter security still plays a crucial role in protecting manufacturers from cybercrime. For one, most access and traffic management systems are still vital for authenticating external users as they connect to the network and block potentially malicious activities. Recent trends in mobile phone use, cloud computing, remote work, and IoT integration have forced companies to pay closer attention to threats that originate from inside their private networks, CSO reported. Now that employees increasingly connect to enterprise networks from their devices, endpoint security has become a key concern.

“In the U.S., digital transformation efforts are having a significant impact on security. As organizations evolve their businesses with new technologies such as AI and IoT, they must evolve their security strategy as well,” said Jessica Goepfert, program vice president of IDC Customer Insights & Analysis.

Every device connected to a private network represents a possible entry point for cybercriminals, whether they are located on or off-site. For manufacturers, this means that every IoT sensor, work laptop, and smartphone could end up delivering harmful malware or acting as a gateway to sensitive proprietary data. This new frontier of network security has necessitated strong authentication protocols, clearly defined trust boundaries, and reliable real-time monitoring tools. The high demand for network and endpoint security solutions has led to a surge of “next-generation firewalls” that possess added features, such as cloud-delivered threat intelligence, application control, and two-factor authentication. Gartner states, “By 2022, application integrations delivered with robotic process automation (RPA) will grow by 40% year over year.

Rather than relying on security tools located at the boundaries, manufacturers are now moving toward multifaceted network architectures that utilize a layered security model. Fundamental security follows logic and precautions:

  • Isolation: Bring your own device (BYOD) concerns, such as preventing private, personal use devices from connecting to the corporate network. Should you allow the direct injection of spyware, malware, and ransomware into your business systems?
  • Patch management: Keeping firmware, operating systems, locally installed software, and web applications up to date is one of the best ways to prevent cybercriminals from capitalizing on known exploits. Unpatched devices and computer programs pose a significant threat to private networks, including IoT equipment, cloud-storage applications, and more.
  • Lengthy user credentials: Upholding best practices in authenticating is essential to protecting sensitive data stores, web services, and network configurations. Weak, short, and reused passwords facilitate breaches. Today’s cybercriminals have developed sophisticated techniques for cracking usernames and passwords, which is why users should change their login details every six months and incorporate different word passphrases with extended 15 or more charter lengths. Lengthy passphrases with moderate complexity will be more secure than short complex passwords.
    • NIST now recommends: “Require everyone to use longer passwords or passphrases of 15 or more characters without requiring uppercase, lowercase, or special characters.”
    • The FBI now recommends requiring a password change only when the use case requires a change. They discovered, after extensive research, passwords with 90 days or shorter lifecycles present more risk as users find ways to keep track of new passwords.
  • Virtual private networks: These security tools allow users to connect securely with private networks over the public Internet. VPNs can ensure remote workers have appropriate access without opening the network to unauthorized traffic. Be careful! Allowing a personal home system not managed by the corporate policy can allow malware and ransomware to spread from a home PC into your business network.
  • DNS filtering: When emails are delivered to users’ mailboxes, block the redirect attempts by filtering DNS requests and reducing this malicious activity’s successful execution.
  • User access monitoring: Keeping a close eye on user access privileges and network activity can help protect critical data and applications from cybercriminals. Know what access team members require to perform their job functions and restrict access to only those systems and applications. When suspicious traffic or user behavior is identified, IT admins can more quickly suspend access privileges while investigating the incident.
  • User awareness training: Security awareness training is an ongoing education process that teaches employees how to identify and report possible security threats. This education typically includes phishing and other social engineering attacks, identifying malware behaviors, and a better understanding of IT policies and procedures.

According to the World Economic Forum, cyber attacks are the #2 global risk of concern to business leaders in advanced economies, second only to fiscal crises. Manufacturers should determine whether their current network architecture will support their mission strategies to truly secure their data and critical infrastructure from existing and emergent cyber threats. According to a Cisco Cybersecurity Report 2020, 89% of respondents said their executive leadership still considers security a high priority.

The shift toward borderless network security is already well underway, which is why manufacturers must develop more substantial, more reliable cybersecurity practices. To be uninformed is to be at the mercy of others.

As a proud supporter of American companies, Certitude Security® is working diligently to inform leaders and facilitate essential asset protection priorities for manufacturers and supply chains throughout the United States.

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