Manufacturers made securing their private networks and data a higher priority in recent years. According to a report released by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, around 34% of all documented cyber attacks target manufacturing firms. In such a hostile climate, companies question whether or not they can handle emergent cyber attacks. Even the most cutting-edge network security tools cannot protect an organization against data breaches, malware infections, phishing scams, and more. Effective cybersecurity is not a static benchmark but a continual process of assessment and adaptation.

Manufacturers can develop what is known as a threat and vulnerability management program to help ward off costly cyber attacks. These programs emphasize proactive network security tasks such as patch management, conducting security assessments, and regularly checking network traffic. While many security products can detect threats on your systems, they are often incapable of identifying the security gaps in your network.

Various IT issues can lead to a large-scale incident, from outdated software to lackluster authentication. When developing a threat and vulnerability management program, many businesses first conduct a detailed vulnerability assessment. Vulnerability assessments help identify what can affect the systems on the network and result in a breach.

Vulnerability vs. Threat vs. Risk

When describing gaps in a business security program, three of the most common terms used are vulnerability, threat, and risk. While used intermittently, these three terms each describe a different security aspect.

Vulnerabilities represent any weakness or issue that can affect the security of a system or process. Typically, vulnerabilities can affect software, devices, or protocols because of an existing error or misconfigurations. Hackers develop exploits that focus on these vulnerabilities to gain internal access to systems.

Threats describe anything or anyone that can cause harm. Hackers, malware, or disgruntled employees are threats because they have the intent or ability to cause harm. Natural disasters, such as hurricanes, earthquakes, and floods, are also considered threats, as they can cause damage.

Finally, risk describes the probable frequency and probable magnitude of future loss. For example, an employer may ask themselves, “what is the likelihood that a disgruntled employee will try to cause damage to a production line.” In this case, the employer is trying to determine the frequency in which staff members become emotional and irrational, their ability to cause harm, and the significance of the disruption. It is essential to consider the means, motives, and opportunities for damage when determining risk.

4 Common Cybersecurity Vulnerabilities

As the manufacturing industry incorporates more digitalization and automation into its processes, the necessity for active threat and vulnerability management increases. A single security breach can result in more than unwanted downtime. Security breaches can also cost the business thousands of dollars due to lost reputation and signed agreements. According to a recent study from Radware, a cybersecurity software developer, the average cost of a cyber attack now exceeds 1 million dollars, which is a 52% percent increase from 2017.

New cyber threats make mitigating losses difficult. Learning about the common types of vulnerabilities can help manufacturers reduce their vulnerability exposure and prioritize their security activities. Here are four common types of vulnerabilities every manufacturer should look out for:

  • Zero-day exploits:

    Software vulnerabilities pose a significant threat to manufacturers’ networks, as cybercriminals often exploit them before the weaknesses are made public. When end users discover a security flaw in commercial software, they typically report the vulnerability to the developer or post about it online. While software companies do their best to patch these issues quickly, hackers can exploit the software bug before a fix is made available.

  • Weak authentication:

    One-way manufacturing companies insulate their critical applications, and sensitive data sets up an authentication process that verifies users. This practice helps ensure unauthorized users, whether internal or external, cannot access critical data stores or interact with a network’s configuration. However, a well-designed phishing scam or brute-force attack can allow hackers to access computer systems and data repositories unprotected with two-factor or biometric authentication.

  • Untrained users:

    Unfortunately, end-users often represent the most vulnerable access points for computer systems, private networks, and business-critical applications. An unfamiliar employee with cybersecurity best practices might accidentally download harmful malware by clicking on an infected link or downloading a malicious email attachment. Phishing scams are another severe threat, as cybercriminals have become quite prolific at tricking users into handing over their personal information, including usernames and passwords.

  • Network vulnerabilities:

    While many business owners think their network is safe and secure, many do not understand how fragile their system is in reality. Many services and protocols are vulnerable to spoofing attacks, which cause allow users to send the attacker information unintentionally. IT teams should regularly reevaluate their networks to identify new flaws in their network security.

These are only four common cybersecurity weaknesses that pose a severe risk to manufacturing businesses, demonstrating the importance of proactive threat intelligence and vulnerability assessment activities. Staying one step ahead of cybercrime of all types – malware, ransomware, data theft, phishing, etc. – requires the right set of security configurations and risk management processes. But what specific cybersecurity practices can help manufacturers shore up their digital fortifications?

Businessman clicks on cybersecurity lockEffective cybersecurity starts with assessing critical threats and vulnerabilities before an incident occurs.

Leveraging Threat and Vulnerability Management

While both threat and vulnerability management typically overlap, they are two distinct subjects within cybersecurity. In contrast, many businesses do not have control over their external threats. Still, they can mitigate and minimize the impact of internal security threats. Reducing the business risk from cyber-related hazards is a continuous effort. According to a recent survey from Deloitte, manufacturing executives cited the following near-term cyber initiatives as critical to their long-term security posture:

Enterprise cyber risk assessments

Conducting vulnerability assessments supplies IT administrators with greater understanding and visibility into the business’s security flaws. These investigations use vulnerability scanning tools, network mapping, and penetration testing to provide a detailed look at existing security flaws. The previously mentioned assessments help develop enterprise vulnerability management programs, further assisting the manufacturer leadership in improving their security.

Data loss prevention programs

Outside of employee data, manufacturers rarely collect the type of personal information cyber criminals plan to steal. They often possess large data stores with intellectual property, such as component schematics and production strategies. Protecting this data from theft and loss is crucial, as many manufacturers rely on these repositories to keep their operations running smoothly.

Increased employee training and awareness

End-users are often the most vulnerable link in its IT security chain. Ensuring that employees understand security best practices can help reduce the risk of phishing attempts and malware attacks, among many other targeted threats. These training activities regularly adjust to keep pace with new methods of digital exploitation. Employee training should occur periodically to condition your employees to be cautious and aware of the latest threats.

Building Your Sustainable Threat and Vulnerability Management Program

Every manufacturer will likely have its own unique IT management processes and security configurations. Some general best practices for implementing and maintaining a practical vulnerability assessment and remediation framework. According to the Center for Internet Security, the following five core process steps are crucial to building a sustainable threat and vulnerability management program:

  1. Understand the current IT environment.
  2. Create clear standards for all hardware and software components.
  3. Remain vigilant for new vulnerabilities in third-party software, applications, and networking equipment.
  4. Mitigate the effects of known vulnerabilities concerning their risk and exposure potential.
  5. Monitor the IT environment continuously to locate vulnerable IT assets and take decisive action.

Developing a sufficient threat and vulnerability management program takes time, effort, and professional insight.

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.

Problem discussions can be a defining moment in your career. If you are interested in value creation, learn about SPOT-Beam™ by Certitude Security®. We look forward to helping you and your business succeed!