Manufacturing businesses fall prey to cyberattacks

Many businesses now rely on information technology for aspects of their operations. This is no longer confined to back-office functions; instead, it can now touch on all areas.

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While this may well streamline the operation of the business, it heightens the risk of cyberattacks. It is also now widely accepted that the likelihood of a cyberattack occurring is high – for most organisations, it is simply a matter of when rather than if.

Manufacturing hit

This is underlined by a recent survey published in Germany that reveals around two-thirds of the nation’s manufacturing businesses have been hit by attacks, costing the economy in the region of $50bn (£37.85bn).

Why is manufacturing being targeted? There are a number of possible reasons. It could be that hackers are trying to steal valuable commercial secrets or customer data that they can seek to sell on to unscrupulous rivals. It could also be with the aim of disruption. This might involve tinkering with automated processes, such as applying the wrong quantities of metal bonding adhesive or generating spurious orders to suppliers such as with the aim of costing the business money or disrupting the supply chain.

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Nation state actors could also be involved, again attempting to steal industrial secrets or trying to disrupt the economy. Germany’s success as a manufacturing base is the envy of many other countries and it is reasonable to assume that their intelligence agencies take an interest.

Hacking techniques

The study reveals that businesses have been targeted in a number of ways. Around one-third have had employees’ mobile phones stolen and have lost data as a result. Others have seen their production systems subject to digital sabotage. Communications have been tapped at some businesses.

This means that manufacturers cannot afford to ignore the possibility that they will be subject to a cyberattack. Add in new legislation such as GDPR that imposes hefty fines for the loss of personal data and it is clear that businesses need to take the threat of cyberattacks seriously. They need to take steps to protect their systems, not just the customer-facing ones but also production systems. These are at risk of disruption in themselves but could also be used as a back door to gain access to the network and steal more sensitive information.