Tips To Keep Manufacturers Protected From Cyber Attacks

Cyber attacks have become a common occurrence in today’s connected world. As we continue to connect more processes and systems to the internet these kinds of threats will continue to be on the rise. Soon nearly everything will be connected through the Internet of Things so it’s more important than ever to pay attention to cyber security.

Manufacturers are at particular risk of a cyber threat devastating their company because of the nature of their work. Manufacturers have scores private intellectual property on their databases and if they are leaked it could open them up to a huge counterfeiting issue. Along with intellectual property protection, manufacturers are open to an entirely new kind of threat. Because of the manufacturing facility becoming more connected through the internet, hackers are able to actually break into their machines and create chaos. This can not only lead to lost production time but also has the potential to put employees lives in danger.

In Germany, a steel manufacturer fell victim to a cyber attack that caused physical damage to the facility. The hackers broke into virtual control systems and the blast furnace could not shut down and this caused massive damage to the facility. A digital attack manifesting into a physical threat is something that manufacturers need to be aware of.

Even with the cyber threats out there, we are not saying to go and hide under an unconnected facility. Connecting your machines and your facility will be the best way to stay competitive in the coming years as well as keep your business running as efficient as possible. But understanding that there are threats out there and learning some simple ways to ensure your safety
will help protect your business from encountering a damaging cyber attack.

Here are some easy ways to make sure manufacturers are protected against cyber threats.

1. Put The Most Important Data First
Manufacturers need to first make sure their IP and trade secrets are the most protected data. Many manufacturers are reluctant to use a thorough cyber security system because it holds back employees trying to handle day to day operations. Some of the cyber protection software makes only essential processes available to specific employees and limits mobility around their digital system. This can hinder the effectiveness of all their software but IP and trade secrets are not needed by every employee throughout the organization and this kind of data should be thoroughly secured. Any kind of data that serves an essential purpose needs to be focused on first. Client data should also be at the top of the list. Having to contact a client and tell them that their information could have been compromised because of a cyber attack will not go over well no matter how you put it.

2. Secure Passwords
Passwords are only able to keep unwanted intruders at bay if they are secure. Using the same password for every log in portal leaves you open to a devastating attack. If a cyber criminal finds one password and it is, for example “password” you can be sure they will try this for every other password protected portal they encounter.
You also want to have a password set up so that a brute force attack is not possible. Brute force attacks are very quick and almost anyone can get their hands on a piece of software to run these malicious scripts. They run through all combinations of letters and numbers first and if the password is less than 8 characters it can be a very quick turnaround.

If you have something that is ten characters or more with caps, no caps and special characters then it can take years for a password cracker to find the correct combination.

Changing passwords often is also a good practice.

3. Employee Awareness
Make sure your employees understand the importance of cyber security. If someone downloads software onto their personal work computer and it contains any kind of malware, it can infect your companies entire server. Make sure to have firewalls in place that will screen any software for malicious code. Every piece of software has a signature that identifies what the code consists of and firewalls are able to pick up on any code that could harm your servers. Teach your employees and stress the importance about how to properly handle confidential data. Your company can have all the firewalls in the world but if an employee goes around them to download infected software, the entire system falls apart.

4. E-mail Protection
Another unexpected way a hacker can cripple a business is by e-mail fraud. A hacker can set up an e-mail account to make it look like it is coming from a trusted source, even a person you e-mail back and forth with regularly. This process is called Mail Phishing and the criminal can send invoices and receive payments on behalf of the company you thought you were dealing with. To protect yourself from these kinds of threats, make sure to take advantage of Domain Keys. Domain Keys are an e-mail authentication system that allows incoming mail to be checked against the server it was sent from. This will verify that the mail  messages are actually coming from the listed sender. Another system to make sure is being used is SPF. SPF will specify which machines are authorized to send email from your domain(s). This means only the mail sent through your server will appear as valid mail from your domain(s) when the SPF records are checked.

Even when using these systems to protect your e-mail accounts from fraud it is always a good idea to encrypt or password protect any important documents sent by e-mail. Any file with sensitive data should always be protected in every way possible. This is an easy process but one that is overlooked so often. Make sure to always take the steps to ensure your data stays out of criminal hands.

It is critical for manufacturers to understand that cyber threats are out there, this will be the first step in protecting your business. Then once the threats are identified, a manufacturer can than take the necessary steps to ensure their companies safety. These are just some simple steps a manufacturer can take to build up their cyber defenses. Without paying attention to these fundamental security precautions, a manufacturer can end up losing valuable data and information to these cyber criminals.

 

Sources:
http://www.industryweek.com/information-technology/what-manufacturers-need-know-about-cybersecurity
http://www.socialnomics.net/2015/11/18/cyber-security-threats-illustration-through-10-examples/
http://www.infoworld.com/article/3003634/security/10-dumb-security-mistakes-sys-admins-make.html
http://www.wired.com/2015/01/german-steel-mill-hack-destruction/
http://www.networkworld.com/article/2909212/security0/schneier-on-really-bad-iot-security-it-s-going-to-come-crashing-down.html