Security is such a huge consideration for any business undergoing a digital transformation, and this is true for manufacturers that are automating their factories. The threat of hacks and breaches is real, but it’s not a good enough reason to not invest in the IoT (Internet of Things).

In order to achieve the productivity gains associated with “Industry 4.0,” manufacturers must connect their machines and get data flowing. Of course, that doesn’t mean they can rely on a wish, a hope, and a prayer to keep their data safe, manufacturers need to anticipate cyberattacks and be ready for them.

To really understand this quandary, it’s necessary to look at the attack landscape for the IoT, hone in on manufacturing, and then look at some of broad trends we are seeing in cybercrime. If we can identify trends, we have a better chance at preventing cyberattacks from happening in the first place.

Cisco’s 2018 Annual Cybersecurity Report calls out a few trends that just might be right on the money. First off, we’re seeing new levels of sophistication when it comes to malware. Unfortunately, this can lead to new levels of impact. The bad guys are also getting better at evading detection. This means we need to get better at detecting.

A third trend is cybercriminals’ exploitation of undefended security gaps stemming from the adoption of IoT and cloud services. So, regarding the first two points—new levels of sophistication and new tactics for avoiding detection—it’s all part of the cat-and-mouse game. Our defenses get stronger, their attacks get cleverer—repeat, repeat, repeat. This isn’t going to stop.

It’s exhausting to think about constantly having to be on our guard, but that’s life when we want to have all of these connected things. Now I like to think about all the positive aspects of our connected lives and businesses, but that doesn’t mean I choose to ignore the realities of cybercrime. And neither should you.

Regarding the third point, undefended security gaps, now there’s something tangible we can work to fix. Unpatched and unmonitored IoT devices are like sitting ducks for cybercriminals looking to gain access to industrial control systems.

Today’s manufacturers rely on countless wirelessly connected devices. Without air-gapped industrial control systems, these connections are essentially giving cybercriminals an unprecedented attack surface.

Looking at the research, Vectra’s 2018 Spotlight Report focuses on cyberattacks against manufacturing organizations and it reveals the most common types of cyberattacks against manufacturers are malicious C&C (command and control), reconnaissance, and lateral movement behaviors. A common C&C behavior in manufacturing is using external remote access tools. This can cause an internal host device to connect to an external server.

From January to June 2018, Vectra also observed a spike in internal reconnaissance behaviors in manufacturing. In these cases, a cyberattacker may take advantage of the self-discovery process that peer-to-peer devices use in order to look for critical assets to compromise in some way or another.

Unfortunately, industrial IoT systems can also open doors for cybercriminals to move laterally across a manufacturing network as they search for ways to wreak havoc and accomplish their nefarious goals. And these lateral movement behaviors are the third most common cyberattack in manufacturing, according to Vectra’s research.

It’s also important to consider the best practices that can help manufacturers ensure they’re operating as securely as possible. First, it may sound simple, but it’s important to really focus on safety. This may mean there needs to be an internal mindset shift within everyone at the company—from the top of the organization down.

Security checkups need to be put on the agenda at every meeting. And if you’ve never experienced a cyberattack, consider yourself lucky, not immune. Assume your job as a manufacturer is never done when it comes to cybersecurity. Keep looking for ways to make your devices and communications systems more secure and your networks more leak proof.

Continuously train employees by educating them about risks, solutions, and how they can help keep systems secure.

Another important best practice is knowledge sharing. I tend to hound a lot of industries about the importance of information sharing, but when it comes to security, it really is helpful when organizations tell each other what issues they’ve faced.

You must be better than your competitors. You don’t want to see them fall because of a criminal who may use the same tactics to get you tomorrow.

The truth of the matter is that Industry 4.0 brings with it new operational risks for manufacturers. These risks aren’t reason enough to avoid adopting IIoT (Industrial IoT) technologies, but they can’t and shouldn’t be ignored, either. Manufacturers must look for ways to increase visibility and ensure their response capabilities are up to par.

If they can get these two points right, they’ll be able to detect and respond to adverse events quickly and effectively. Manufacturers must make security a priority at their organizations, and they must educate themselves, train their employees, and maybe even obsess a little bit over cybersecurity.

You just never know what’s going to happen. When devices and networks are secure, organizations can really start to enjoy the fruits of their digital-transformation labor. Then they’ve reached the promised land.

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