Cyber Security & Industry 4.0 - What Are the Risks?

Sarah is a sales & marketing content writer, with eight years of experience within the engineering & manufacturing industry.  Working both at Qimtek and on a freelance basis, she can usually be found hammering away at a keyboard or with her head in a pile of engineering drawings. 

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Manufacturing has always been an industry at the front of technological innovation, but with the arrival of Industry 4.0, we are now more reliant on technology than ever before. As factories become smarter and automation increases, the manufacturing industry faces a new type of challenge in the form of cyber security, which is fast becoming an essential consideration for engineering and manufacturing businesses.

Although cyber security has long been a consideration in the interests of protecting data, a surge in the amount of connected devices used within a factory setting means not only increased vulnerability to cyber attacks, but also potential for greater damage in the event that one should occur. This means that manufacturing businesses need to put cyber security at the forefront of their agenda, in order to minimise the risk of catastrophic consequences to their business due to the online activities of unscrupulous individuals and organisations.

Industry 4.0 - A Greater Risk:

It's easier for hackers to infiltrate an entire network of devices and reap considerable damage across a business as a whole.

Industry 4.0 puts manufacturing organisations at a greater risk of cyber attack not only due to an increase in technology, but also due to the manner of technology being used. With connectivity being one of the key components of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, it's easier for hackers to infiltrate an entire network of devices and reap considerable damage across a business as a whole. While the Industrial Internet of Things (IIOT) - that is, a network which connects all manner of plant & equipment for seamless operation - has many benefits in terms of reducing manpower and increasing productivity, it does also present many additional risks to a company's infrastructure.

With so many devices presenting a potential threat, it can also be hard for manufacturing companies to recognise attacks at any given point in their network. In order to operate a smart factory safely, it is essential that all areas of the network are properly shielded; however, this can be easier said than done when the expanse of a network is taken into consideration. With the focus on smart technology increasing at an exponential rate, it is also possible that some companies may not have taken the necessary measures to increase cyber security in line with an increased portfolio of smart devices.

READ: A Closer Look At Smart Factories

Hackers and Attackers:

Manufacturing is one of the most targeted industries for cyber attackers.

There are a variety of motivations behind cyber attacks. These range from the theft of data and intellectual property, through to the disruption of production and industrial espionage. Whilst the reasons vary, the risk to security remains the same and it is vital that smart businesses are aware of the chinks that Industry 4.0 places in their armour.

Of course, this comes too late for some manufacturing businesses. Manufacturing is one of the most targeted industries for cyber attackers due to the amount of potential access points throughout a company's network and it is inevitable that some of these attacks have proven successful. High-profile cyber attacks within the manufacturing sector have caused millions of pounds worth of damage to some companies and in some cases, have brought entire production lines to their knees.

Household names such as Renault-Nissan and DuPont have fallen victim to cyber attackers in recent times, along with a roster of other manufacturing companies. Attacks have ranged from ransomware and malware through to data breaches and - as in DuPont's case - have also stemmed from employees within their own organisations. This goes to illustrate the importance of cyber security within the backdrop of Industry 4.0 and how anyone can be targeted.

READ: Rise of the Robots! Tackling the Fears Surrounding Automation

Types of Attack:

Cyber attackers employ a number of different methods to target manufacturing organisations. Some of the most common types of cyber attack include:

  • Malware: Malware is an umbrella term for malicious software that is installed within a company's network. Malware is sometimes difficult to detect and can be used to achieve any number of means.
  • Ransomware: Ransomware is a type of malware that is used to exploit both individuals and organisations for financial gain. Ransomware can shut down systems and demand that the user pays a ransom in order to re-access their devices.
  • DDoS attacks: DDoS attacks aim to overwhelm a company's website by sending multiple requests, thus preventing the website from normal function. DDoS attacks pose a greater risk to manufacturing companies who generate at least some of their business through online orders. DDoS attacks can also be used to weaken a system and leave the company vulnerable to other types of attacks.
  • Spearphishing attacks: Whilst phishing attacks aim to steal sensitive information through malicious emails that appear to originate from a trusted source, spearphishing attacks go one step further by researching the target and spoofing emails that appear to come from a trusted source to that individual. Spoofed emails could appear to be sent by, for instance, a colleague, manager, friend, or acquaintance, meaning that an individual is more likely to respond to the email's demands, such as opening attachments or clicking malicious links.

READ: Big Data, Better Manufacturing!

Avoiding Cyber Attacks In the Age of Industry 4.0:

Manufacturing companies of all types should take the necessary measures to ensure that they have effective cyber security in place. 

In order to minimise the risk to their business, manufacturing companies of all types (but especially those who use smart technology) should take the necessary measures to ensure that they have effective cyber security in place. 

As cyber attackers are becoming more and more advanced in their approach, cyber security needs to be a continual process within manufacturing organisations. This involves ongoing review of potential vulnerabilities within a network and increased vigilance towards any new threats as they emerge. Manufacturers should take into account the entire scope of their network to ensure that all potential areas of vulnerability are highlighted and patched accordingly.

Manufacturing organisations should also seek to reduce their reliance on devices such as USB sticks, as these can be used to introduce malware into their network. Moreover, aged systems are easier to attack, meaning that it's essential that manufacturers install updates immediately after release and replace technology that no longer receives active updates. Whilst this can sometimes be costly, cyber security really does need to be treated with a 'better safe than sorry' approach, due to the devastating consequences that cyber attacks can hold.

With that being said, an increased need for cyber security shouldn't dissuade organisations from introducing smart technology into their businesses. As with any type of innovation, there are always going to be risks, but due diligence and a proactive approach towards addressing potential threats can go a long way towards achieving a secure, efficient network. Industry 4.0 offers a wide range of benefits for its adopters; cyber security is simply the bitter that needs to be swallowed with the sweet.

READ: Industry 4.0 For SMEs - Where To Start?