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Manufacturing and Cyberattacks: New Research Reveals Work Stoppages

Manufacturing is a driving force in most economies, but the waters are rarely smooth. Business leaders in this sector navigate constant supply chain challenges and shifting demand patterns, driven by factors outside of their control. And now there is another challenge that adds risk to operational technology (OT) — a cyberattack that can stop production.

This is no longer hypothetical. It is happening, and trends reveal why manufacturers of all sizes must actively mitigate this type of business risk.

Mounting Losses Following Cyberattacks Against Manufacturers

New research out of Britain, by Make UK The Manufacturers' Organization and BlackBerry, finds that 42% of the country’s manufacturers were cybercrime victims during the last 12 months. And even more unsettling is that one quarter (26%) report suffering “substantial financial loss” as the result of an attack, with losses ranging from $62,000 to $310,000 (£50,000 to £250,000).

Of those hit by a successful cyberattack, 65% report work stoppages. In that situation, the losses instantly begin to mount. The research also reveals that 43% of organizations report that the attack against their organization caused reputational damage, which can impact both current relationships and future sales.

These are just a few of the top-line findings from the new report, Cybersecurity in UK Manufacturing, available now for instant download. The results are informative for all manufacturers, regardless of location or size. And it’s worth a read even if you believe your digital infrastructure remains secure.

In my experience, it is possible — indeed, likely — that malware is present in your legacy infrastructure, just waiting for the right time to strike. Today’s sophisticated threats are not deterred by outdated antivirus and firewall protection. And unfortunately, this is where many manufacturers focus, to try and defend themselves: Most companies (89%) report investing heavily in antivirus software and firewalls.

What’s Driving Increased Cyberattack Vulnerabilities in Manufacturing?

The threat landscape in the sector is expanding — and fast — because of “smart” and connected manufacturing, which economies-of-scale demand. However, this growth of the industrial Internet of Things (IoT) increases potential cyber risk, as well.

CEO of Make UK, Stephen Phipson, explains the connection between the two: “Digitization is revolutionizing modern manufacturing and becoming increasingly important to drive efficiencies in this incredibly difficult inflationary environment. While cost remains the main barrier to companies installing proper cyber protection, the need to increase the use of the latest technology makes mounting a proper defense against cyber threats essential. No business can afford to ignore this issue, and failing to get this right could cost the manufacturing industry billions of pounds, and put thousands of jobs at risk. Every business is vulnerable, and every business needs to take the necessary steps to protect themselves properly.”

Top Cybersecurity Challenges for Manufacturers

The new research also uncovers key obstacles to improving cybersecurity in this sector. They are:

  1. Maintaining legacy IT (45%)
  2. Lack of cyber skills within the company (38%)
  3. Providing access to third parties for monitoring/maintenance (33%)

Surprisingly, more than half (54%) say they did not boost cybersecurity, despite investing in digital transformation and connectivity. However, survey results do indicate a growing awareness that security for operational technology and smart manufacturing needs to be more robust (see the chart below).

Source: Make UK & BlackBerry cybersecurity survey 2022

This awareness will continue to grow, as damaging attacks reveal that cyber risk is business risk — and because of contractual demands. Almost half (45%) of manufacturers report being asked to demonstrate or certify the robustness of their cybersecurity processes as part of a contract or other business agreement.

And security ownership is shifting up the leadership chain: More than half of manufacturers (58%) say they have now escalated this responsibility to the board level.

How Manufacturers Reduce the Risk of a Successful Cyberattack

The overall complexity of an IoT system in a smart factory presents a challenge. It dramatically increases the number of potential points of exposure to a growing — and increasingly sophisticated — threat of cyberattack. From the Log4j attacks on Microsoft® systems to scattergun phishing threats that rely on employees for access, there are no machines in the manufacturing environment that are off limits to skilled intruders.

It’s time for industry management to bring in the “big guns” of preventative cybersecurity, to protect against all vulnerabilities, from accidental or intentional insider breaches, to hacktivists and cybercriminals, to the threat of nation-state actors that target the industrial IoT.

Each endpoint must be properly secured to prevent opening the entire organization to cybersecurity threats. AI-powered predictive protection, such as CylancePROTECT® from BlackBerry, can detect and prevent malicious attacks before they have a chance to deploy in the network — and no human intervention or internet connection is required.

Blocking these attacks before they start will help you move beyond fear of a cyber-related work stoppage, and help you build a competitive advantage in your market. Having secure, reliable, and trustworthy products and services right now enables greater business opportunities in the future.

Keiron Holyome

About Keiron Holyome

Keiron Holyome is Vice President - UKI, Middle East & Africa at BlackBerry.