How to Build a Strong Cybersecurity Strategy for Your Manufacturing Business

Technology is one of the greatest assets and risks to manufacturing businesses. In addition to automating production systems and improving business processes with new solutions, many manufacturers face cybersecurity threats. For instance, the theft of confidential blueprints can have significant legal and financial consequences for the manufacturing company. Other risks include ransomware extortion and industrial espionage.

Develop a Security Policy

The most effective defense against cyberattacks is a clear, comprehensive, and well-defined policy. Although policies themselves do not solve problems, they provide the foundation toward which all other organizational efforts should point. Developing cybersecurity for manufacturing requires a team effort. It is important to include staff from every company level so that each member can contribute to the overall project. Start by taking inventory of the hardware, software, and sensitive information assets that comprise the company infrastructure. This step will allow you to identify better and understand how much data is at risk of attack. In addition, it will help you create a better plan for protecting those assets. Once you have a clear picture of your manufacturing business’s risks and vulnerabilities, it’s time to develop a security policy. Getting top-level administration buy-in for the procedure to enforce it consistently is a good idea. Thoroughly document the procedures involved in the workflows that the policy will cover. Many aspects of a cybersecurity policy depend on the processes it describes, so you should test them to ensure they work as intended. Finally, ensure that all staff receives training on the policy content and the compliance practices to be followed. This will help ingrain the policy into everyday operations and prevent accidental breaches.

Conduct a Risk Assessment

Manufacturing companies rely heavily on technology to maintain operations, but that technology can create security risks in its own right. Modern technology solutions like industrial control systems (ICS), enterprise resource planning (ERP) software, and customer relationship management (CRM) platforms are highly integrated, creating a host of access points for malicious actors to exploit. In addition, modern manufacturers often outsource and work with various third-party vendors to provide services and support their production processes. These relationships create additional opportunities for cyber-attacks and data breaches, especially since most cyber-attacks involve phishing and malware. All manufacturing businesses should conduct a risk assessment to identify potential hazards and risks to mitigate these threats. This process will typically use risk assessment tools such as Hazard Identification and Control Point Analysis, Process FMEA, or Ishikawa diagrams to identify possible risks systematically. Once these hazards and threats have been identified, control measures should be established to reduce those risks to an acceptable level. A thorough risk assessment will help a company comply with industry standards and regulations and demonstrate due diligence in ensuring a safe working environment. Additionally, it can help a manufacturer obtain better insurance rates as insurers are more willing to offer lower premiums to those with a well-defined and documented risk assessment process.

Invest in a Security System

Cybersecurity must become a priority as the Internet continues to make businesses of all sizes more efficient. Cyberattacks can damage business systems, lead to production disruptions, and cost companies money and their reputation. Investing in solid security technology is the best way to protect a manufacturing company from cyberattacks. Manufacturers rely on complex production systems with many different devices and integrations. Each new integration creates a new attack surface that attackers can exploit. As a result, manufacturers are one of the most prominent target industries for cyberattacks and require specialized cybersecurity tools to combat them. Many types of attacks can affect a manufacturing company, including ransomware programs that encrypt data files and demand payments to decrypt them or distributed denial-of-service attacks that shut down websites and other online systems to extract money from the victims. However, the biggest threat for manufacturing companies is the loss of critical information such as product designs, financial records, and tax records. A robust security system will help reduce the impact of such attacks and should include intrusion detection, monitoring, access control, and video recording. The type of system you need will depend on the nature of your business, so it’s essential to do an extensive risk assessment before making a final decision.

Train Your Employees

employee training
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Educating employees about cybersecurity is essential to protect your business. Make it a point to discuss cybercrime in your company meetings and discussions, explaining the ramifications of a breach and how employees play a critical role in protecting the business. This helps ensure everyone is on the same page about keeping the company secure. Cyber awareness training should also include best practices and procedures for handling data, including using strong passwords, requiring multi-factor authentication, implementing most minor privilege policies, and routinely backing up vital data to offline storage. It’s also important to include information about how attacks happen in your industry so employees can recognize them and respond quickly. A successful cyberattack can cause downtime, supply chain disruptions, quality issues, product recalls, regulatory fines, and even safety incidents. To prevent these from happening, your team must think of cybersecurity as a strategic business objective rather than an IT issue that needs to be addressed. Manufacturing companies face unique cybersecurity risks. While integrating industry trends like Industry 4.0 and automation into production processes may increase efficiency, these technological advancements expose manufacturers to new vulnerabilities. To combat these, consider hardening physical systems and ensuring that all data is encrypted and transmitted securely. It would be best to establish vendor communication protocols to help your OT and IT teams send, share, and read vendor documents and transactions.

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