With connected technologies continuing to revolutionize manufacturing ecosystems worldwide, business leaders have to increase their efforts to secure critical IT systems and sensitive information. While digital transformation has been a net positive for most manufacturers, it also comes with a growing number of cybersecurity concerns. From ransomware incidents to large-scale data breaches, there’s no shortage of attack vectors that threaten modern businesses’ stability and continuity. For an increasing number of manufacturers, business disruption’s reputational impact only adds to the staggering financial losses. Those with a preferred status impacting your customer’s core business will further accelerate the erosion of cash flow and profits.

To stay agile while adopting Industry 4.0 initiatives, companies are taking decisive action to improve their cybersecurity. The intent is to wisely allocate capital to resources that prevent or minimize the impact that cybercriminals and nation-states will have upon U.S. manufacturers. As decoupling and reshoring initiatives take place, North America will experience increased attacks and financial losses. To address these growing risks, manufacturing companies will conduct regular cybersecurity risk assessments to identify potential threats, locate vulnerabilities, and strengthen their cyber attack recovery plans. Even if a manufacturer has unified threat management systems in place, there’s no guarantee they’ll be able to stop malicious activity before it disrupts key workflows. In fact, research from IBM found that companies take an average of 197 days to identify a security breach and roughly 69 days to contain it.

The longer it takes to resolve a data breach or malware infection, the higher the financial impact. For example, organizations containing a breach in 30 days or fewer save more than $1 million compared to those that take longer, IBM reported. Considering the potential for significant economic hardships, manufacturers must carefully weigh the consequences of different types of cyber attacks to create a more effective cybersecurity framework and risk assessment process.

Assessing the Risks of Common Cyber Attack Methods

Cyber attacks come in many different forms, each with its own risks and mitigation strategies, yet they often have similar outcomes. A single security incident can have a significant and lasting impact on any business. There are direct financial losses, but the growing concern is the impact of indirect losses. Brand value, reputation, and customer trust are often severely damaged when customer data is compromised. According to IBM’s most recent Cost of a Data Breach Report, the average cost of a data breach stood around $3.92 million without factoring in lost business opportunities and decreased customer loyalty. This is particularly troubling for smaller manufacturing firms, as they often lack the established IT security practices needed to cope with severe cyber attacks. What’s more, roughly 43% of security breaches in 2019 targeted small businesses, according to Verizon’s research, and this trend shows no signs of slowing in the years ahead.

One of the best ways to protect critical information assets and internal systems is by identifying potential hacking methods that could lead to prolonged downtime, data loss or theft, workflow interruptions, and other financial losses. According to the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the five main cybersecurity threats impacting manufacturers include:

1. Identity theft: Although most identity theft targets consumer data, manufacturers often maintain large customer databases with all sorts of valuable information. Using targeted malware or stolen credentials, hackers can infiltrate companies’ outer defenses and access sensitive production data, intellectual property, and payment information.

2. Phishing: The integrity of network infrastructure and active endpoints is a top concern for most IT administrators, but the human error also plays a significant role in modern security breaches. Phishing attacks use social engineering tactics to trick employees into handing over their personal information and access credentials. Considering 88% of SMBs and 91% of enterprises experiencing a security breach report human error was a contributing factor. According to Kaspersky Labs, it’s crucial to include phishing scams in any cybersecurity risk assessment.

3. Spear phishing: While similar to phishing scams, this cyber attack method is much more specialized. In many cases, hackers target specific departments or employees with convincing emails that appear to come from inside the organization. Verizon noted that around 90% of data-loss incidents have some “phishing or social engineering component.”

4. Spam: Spam messages aren’t just annoying to deal with; they can also carry harmful malware, ransomware, or adware. In fact, close to 94% of all malware is delivered via email, CSO reported. Once a hacker has established a foothold inside internal IT systems, they can quickly spread malware to network infrastructure, connected endpoints, and management consoles.

5. Compromised web pages: Rather than targeting manufacturing companies themselves, some hackers will leverage business websites to deliver malware to end customers and website visitors. This is often achieved by embedding harmful links or programs that automatically download malware onto the users’ computers. These situations can severely damage manufacturers’ reputations, as it suggests they aren’t following cybersecurity best practices.

Although these five cybersecurity tactics are major risks for manufacturing companies, other attack vectors pose a more immediate threat to internal and external operations.

Supply chain expert assesses operational data.Data breaches strike at the heart of manufacturing IT, compromising both sensitive data and supply chain operations.

Other Key Threats to Include in a Cybersecurity Risk Assessment

Any effective risk analysis framework must consider manufacturing endpoints, especially considering the growing reliance on internet-of-things devices. This includes digital control systems, environmental sensors, smartphones, and other internet-connected equipment. According to SonicWall’s research, IoT-based malware attacks increased by 215.7% in 2018, while malware over HTTPS has continued to surge by 58% year-over-year.

IIoT is particularly vulnerable to malware and other types of attacks because most devices lack built-in security features or firmware. How common are IoT security incidents? One study by NETSCOUT found that it takes only five minutes on average for an IoT device to be targeted once connected to the Internet. After a hacker has gained control over these devices, they can easily deliver malware to other connected systems or incorporate it into a botnet for use in large-scale DDoS attacks.

When conducting a cybersecurity risk assessment, manufacturers should aggressively identify vulnerabilities within their network infrastructure, endpoints, control systems, and IT management platforms. This proactive approach enables greater visibility over vulnerable access points and can help IT administrators predict possible threats before they cause serious financial damage. Considering $2.9 million is lost to cybercrime every minute, according to projections for RiskIQ, it’s never been more important for manufacturers to bolster their IT posture. That’s why the team at Certitude Security™ is committed to protecting manufacturers from injustice. We help manufacturing companies develop an effective cybersecurity strategy, gain clarity on the business impact, perform collaborative risk assessment processes, and establish internal controls. All of these decisive actions are needed for securing your business and being compliant.

Certitude Security® is an Ohio-based cybersecurity services company that protects manufacturers, throughout the United States, from injustice. If you are interested in learning more about our assessment services or talking about how your leadership team desires assistance to understand cyber risk better, please visit our website to speak to one of our representatives.