Manufacturing has become exponentially digital over the past couple of decades – for better AND for worse.
More businesses than ever are using digital technology like an IIoT network or cloud computing to deliver quality products.
But along with adopting these technologies comes an increased risk for cybersecurity attacks and privacy breaches. These attacks can compromise a manufacturer’s reputation, legal status, and ability to fulfill job orders.
In the recently released 2024 Advanced Manufacturing Report, manufacturers overwhelmingly stated a high level of concern for cybersecurity. More worryingly, 65% said they had done only “somewhat” enough to protect their businesses.
Implementing cybersecurity measures should be a top priority for modern businesses. Unfortunately, many companies are not aware of what measures they can take to decrease the possibility of critical cyber attacks.
Let’s go over some of the most effective ways to enhance your digital security as we progress in the era of digital integration.
Establishing a Culture of Cybersecurity Awareness Within the Workforce
The very first thing you should do as a leader of your organization is increase awareness about the types of cyber threats that occur.
Think of your workforce like a chain holding your operations together – it only takes one weak link for the chain of security to be broken. This is why the most important rule of protecting digital assets is that cybersecurity is everybody’s responsibility.
74% of manufacturers experienced at least some kind of attack in the past year according to the 2024 Advanced Manufacturing Report.
Take a look at some of the most common types of attacks targeting manufacturers:
Most people are unaware of the extent of breaches, so educate yourself and your entire team of the variety of attack types – it’s not just up to your IT department to know these things.
However, tasking your IT department to research the latest cybersecurity trends is a good starting point.
After familiarizing themselves with this knowledge, they should regularly educate the rest of your workforce so that everyone is armed with the appropriate tools and know-how to stop attacks.
Setting Up A Plan For Inevitable Attacks
Once you’ve done your research, you should plan for what to do when a cyberattack occurs. Remember, 74% of manufacturers have experienced an attack in the past year, so it’s very likely that you will too, eventually.
Therefore, it’s time to be proactive by preparing for the inevitable, so that you aren’t caught off guard in responding to a potential breach.
This includes outlining and standardizing the following procedures:
- Who should team members approach if they suspect a potential cyber attack?
- How can team members report failed attempts at a security breach (including alerting others)?
- How often should team members change passwords?
- How often should IT members host mandatory training or awareness sessions?
- If an attack is successful, what are the next steps to isolate and eliminate the vulnerability?
Increasing Phishing Awareness
The most common type of cybersecurity attack is phishing, which is when bad actors send emails or text messages that look like they are from an internal team member. These messages prompt users to click malicious links or expose passwords and financial information.
If your general workforce lacks a basic understanding of digital ecosystems (like if they are mostly elderly or non-technical), simplify cybersecurity training to phishing at first. This can be done in 2 steps:
- Establish a culture of technical awareness through mandatory training sessions by IT
- Require 2-factor authentication for all employees as added protection
These 2 measures will make a world of difference in establishing preliminary safety measures online.
Enforcing Physical Security Measures
One additional layer of security against cyber attacks is underestimated – locks. Because cybersecurity mostly refers to digital measures, it’s easy to forget just how important and effective physical security measures are for manufacturers.
If you have physical equipment – like machinery, servers, file cabinets, etc. – it’s just as important to make sure that doors have strong locks and that sensitive information is kept out of the open.
Implementing Proactive Security Measures With Software Features
There’s only so many IT server rooms you can secure using a good old-fashioned padlock. With more and more teams transitioning to cloud computing, modern business leaders need to secure data and proprietary information in the greater digital sphere.
Luckily, you won’t have to implement each of these cybersecurity tactics individually – they should be built into your software infrastructure so you can sleep peacefully.
Here’s what you should keep an eye out for when choosing a software platform:
Built-In GDPR & ISO Compliance
As the world becomes increasingly digital, it becomes increasingly global.
In other words, if you’re storing data in the cloud, you may need to double-check that that data is actually being hosted on the appropriate server.
For example, some manufacturers’ IT departments may prefer data to be on their own on-premises servers due to international privacy standards. If you don’t have your own on-premises server, you may still want to double-check that your cloud data is hosted in a server that exists in the same country.
Updates to international regulations on data privacy – specifically GDPR and ISO compliance – govern the legality of where your data should live, and they can be very strict.
Having GDPR and ISO compliance built-in to your software platform is therefore critical. You don’t want your secure data about your U.S. clients being hosted on a server somewhere in Europe, for example, where there are different regulations about privacy.
Integrated Single-Sign-On (SSO)
Secure software platforms have integrated single-sign-on procedures, also known as SSO. This means that employees can use their account credentials to log on just once to access all company portals and platforms.
This sounds like a potential security weakness, but it’s actually much safer than having users log in to each and every portal or interface they use throughout the day.
It’s safer for the following reasons:
- Users don’t have to remember dozens of passwords
- Because users don’t have to remember many passwords, their passwords don’t have to be easy to remember (and thus easier to hack)
- Difficult passwords can be stored in one secure place (like an Authenticator app) so it’s easy to trace breaches when they do occur.
SSO measures are a simple way to greatly increase your level of security for your digital platforms across the entirety of your organization.
Limited Access Control
There are a number of ways to limit access control, and ideally your software will have many layers of tactically deploying these limitations.
The most obvious measure is to limit admin privileges to trusted supervisors so that fewer people would even be able to potentially leak passwords via a phishing attack.
Additionally, you can have folder-based access control, where certain records are locked behind privileged login information. This decreases the likelihood that a low-level worker would accidentally click through private data.
Role-based access control is also helpful, limiting the editing capabilities of certain employees. An example of this is assigning privileges based on title or role – workers can view documents but not edit them, while managers and supervisors can both view and edit as needed.
Finally, some manufacturers may choose to use IP filtering, which is a way of limiting access control based on device and location. An example of using this successfully would mean that Bob the Supervisor can only view and edit reports by logging in using his own credentials only on a desktop computer that has been assigned and inspected by IT staff. Bob cannot access these reports on his personal cellphone, even though his account credentials have admin access.
Pro Tip : VKS work instruction software has all of the aforementioned features already integrated (and more!), so you don’t have to worry about gaps in your cybersecurity armor.
Cybersecurity Is Everyone’s Responsibility
Remember that the best way to have confidence in the security of your manufacturing operations is to inform, educate, and follow-up with relevant technical knowledge on a regular basis.
When addressing employees who have a range of technical knowledge, make sure to highlight key concerns using accessible language that can be easily understood.
The best plan is a proactive plan, so ensure your operations are secure by implementing these measures today.