Cybersecurity for Smart Factories in Manufacturing

February 24, 2022//Isa Jones

Last Updated: July 25, 2022

The fourth industrial revolution has arrived. Also called industry 4.0, this term refers to the rise of smart factories and how manufacturing as an industry is quickly transitioning from place-based warehouses to networks of global software, automated systems, OT, and integration of the internet of things to manufacture anything and everything in entirely new ways.

It’s new, it’s exciting, and it carries with it a myriad of cybersecurity risks that many smart factories are not ready to address.


What is a Smart Factory?

A smart factory is, in short, any manufacturing organization that utilizes modern technologies to create capabilities that are automated, self-adapting, and hyper-flexible.

Smart factories aren’t new. Think of the robot arms putting together parts on an assembly line or the technology that monitors efficiency on those assembly lines, or even the vast array of software monitoring and recording the impacts of a crash test on a new vehicle. What is new, however, is the iteration of smart manufacturing technology and how those smart factories are utilizing it to be more interconnected and innovative. Like any organization that heavily relies on OT and IT, risk of a breach is prevalent.


Why are Smart Factories at Risk for a Cyberattack?

The reason is multi-faceted, but the main cause is the fourth industrial revolution mentioned before. Just like healthcare organizations in the past decade, factories, or any manufacturing entity, are no longer unto themselves and isolated. Globalization means being connected, being adaptable, and using software and other technologies to innovate and move quickly.

For an example of smart manufacturing, let’s look at the cloud software Mindsphere. Siemen’s developed and uses Mindsphere for a number of reasons, but the main point is that this cloud software stores operational data and makes it accessible so it can be analyzed and utilized so say, change pace on an assembly line or reprogram factory machinery instantly.

So what if that software was held for ransom? Operations would grind to a halt, causing a whole number of real world impacts. Who else is using Mindsphere? Could other organizations be hacked through that software? What private data is being exposed? What regulations are suddenly being violated? The list of concerning questions goes on.

Just like a data breach at a healthcare organization can lead to HIPAA fines, operational downtime, and real-world issues with patient care, a breach in manufacturing carries significant consequences. And just like healthcare, manufacturing as an industry presents similar vulnerabilities:

1. Massive amounts of third-party connections
2. Heavy regulations
3. Technology is being implemented faster than the cybersecurity needed to protect it
4. Large number of accesses into various systems, access points, and assets

All of these aspects need to be taken into consideration when it comes to keeping a manufacturing organization safe and secure.


How to Improve Smart Factory Cybersecurity

As a manufacturing organization or smart factory, you can’t afford to not invest in strong cybersecurity. Your cybersecurity should evolve with your technology to keep it, your access points, and your operations secure. There are a few smart factory cybersecurity steps any organization can take right now to start upgrading to a safer structure.

Those three are just the start of a decentralized, critical access focused approach that takes into account every part of a manufacturing organization’s system. A manufacturing organization can be hacked from any access point, and with new technology coming into play, those access points grow exponentially, and the assets behind them just rise in value.

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