Traditionally, the spookiest day of the year is October 31—Halloween. But this year, there have been many realities far scarier than a day that feigns spookiness. In 2020, the global pandemic, the plummeting economies, and the political and civil unrest in the U.S. have all contributed to this year of horrors, which none will soon forget. To add to the cacophony of bad, hackers have used each of these situations to threaten the cybersecurity of individuals, businesses, governments, and industries.

Since March, the FBI has issued more than a dozen warnings involving security and COVID-19, including a rise in fraud schemes, cybersecurity threats in virtual environments, business email compromise schemes, cryptocurrency scams, and extortion. Industries, companies, and organizations critical in the fight against COVID-19 have been particularly targeted. For instance, Microsoft reported attacks on aid organizations, medical billing companies, manufacturing, transport, government institutions, and educational software providers.

To help combat the cybersecurity attacks directed at the American manufacturing industry, MxD, the nation’s digital manufacturing institute, has established a Cybersecurity Steering Committee to help guide strategy and unite stakeholders. The Cybersecurity Steering Committee brings together experts in industry, government, and academia with the goal of connecting manufacturing organizations to cybersecurity tools, resources, and R&D (research and development) in order to better secure America’s supply chain.

Further, MxD says the committee will provide strategic guidance on its project and programming investments; align activities with the needs of stakeholders, including the U.S. government, manufacturers, and technology companies; deliver insights into resources and tools critical to the supply chain; and support the dissemination and scaling of programming, resources, and tools. Cybersecurity Steering Committee members include Brian Haugli of SideChannel, Kurt John of Siemens USA, Zach Mottl of Atlas Tool Works, Helen Patton of The Ohio State University, Daniel Ragsdale of the U.S. Dept. of Defense, Dan Rozinski of Dow Inc., and Paul Washington of Raytheon.

The threat to manufacturers isn’t hypothetical. Considered a critical infrastructure sector by the DHS (Dept. of Homeland Security), manufacturing—particularly primary metals manufacturing, machinery manufacturing, electrical equipment and component manufacturing, and transportation equipment manufacturing—is imperative to the economic success of the U.S. And yet, data from recent years suggests many manufacturers weren’t prepared for 2020. According to Deloitte data from 2016, up to 75% of manufacturing companies lacked skilled resources and half performed ICS vulnerability testing less than once a month.

A post-COVID-19 world will look different in many ways than the pre-COVID-19 world. One of the differences will be how critical infrastructure sectors, including manufacturing, handle cybersecurity threats. Because threats are heightened right now, manufacturers must be extra vigilant, in part by closely following best practices and guidelines set forth by entities like MxD’s Cybersecurity Steering Committee. These types of collaborations will help forge the path forward for industries experiencing new, renewed, or intensified cyber threat activity during the pandemic and beyond.

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