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SMART FACTORIES Cybersecurity: The biggest threat to smart factories

Author / Editor: Luke James / Johanna Erbacher

The seemingly constant advances in digital technologies bring a new set of challenges and complexities to firms operating in the industry. Cybersecurity is one of these challenges, identified as one of the most significant by “Big Four” multiservice firm Deloitte.

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According to Deloitte in its 2019 Deloitte and MAPI Smart Factory Study, a number of new risks relative to smart factory initiatives have come to light, from operational to financial and strategic to compliance.
According to Deloitte in its 2019 Deloitte and MAPI Smart Factory Study, a number of new risks relative to smart factory initiatives have come to light, from operational to financial and strategic to compliance.
(Source: gemeinfrei / Pixabay )

All across the world, industry is in the midst of a huge transformation in order to meet today’s complex challenges and demands. With huge advances in technology being made virtually daily, however, an increasing number of cybersecurity breaches are taking place, and these are adversely impacting business performance by leveraging the vulnerabilities of networked manufacturing machines, sensors, apps, and other components that make up the Industrial IoT (IIoT), or “Industry 4.0”.

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In some cases, attacks on critical industrial equipment are able to dramatically undermine the corporate business model, something which can have catastrophic consequences. Therefore, knowing and evaluating the main critical assets that need to be protected in advance provides a major competitive advantage. Given the ever-changing threat landscape and the sheer sophistication of some cyberattacks, however, this isn’t always possible.

The manufacturing cyber landscape today

Industry 4.0—the “Fourth Industrial Revolution” brings with it an era of huge potential for innovation and growth in manufacturing. At the same time, however, it brings a great many new risks and challenges, and this is best evidenced by today’s manufacturing landscape.

According to Deloitte in its 2019 Deloitte and MAPI Smart Factory Study, a number of new risks relative to smart factory initiatives have come to light, from operational to financial and strategic to compliance. In this report, 48 percent of manufacturers surveyed identified great operational risks, which include cybersecurity, as the biggest danger to their smart factory initiatives. Due to how interconnected smart factory technologies and facilities are, cyber threats are among the most—if not the most—prevalent of dangers due to the way smart factories and indeed the IIoT exposes people, technology, and intellectual property to these risks.

The biggest threat to smart factories

As the smart factory - and indeed the wider IIoT and Industry 4.0 - is a blend of technologies that is leading to the realization of an intelligent, agile, and highly versatile cyber-physical hybrid world, cybersecurity is the single biggest threat to them. The integration of information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT) is bringing new challenges, one of which is cyber (or information) security itself.

This is because, according to the Deloitte report, many manufacturing companies are looking to converge IT and OT across their operations to boost operational efficiency. In these IT-OT ecosystems, there are several overlaps between people, process, and technology. Furthermore, OT system-related tend to be made on the factory floor by operational leaders, with less involvement from corporate IT and security departments, leading to the utilization of lots of different tech solutions with lots of different security controls and capabilities managed by existing, potentially unsuitable IT network infrastructures.

Now is the time for action

For the manufacturing industry, the time for action is now. To fight cybercrime, firms must ensure they’re hiring more suitable, skilled labor and invest heavily into appropriate systems that can keep up with constantly changing cyberattacks.

If you want to find out more about cybersecurity, the current threat landscape, and how it ties in with your own enterprise, sign up for this year’s Smart Production Solutions exhibit, SPS Connect, taking place between November 24 to 26, the digital industry meeting point for the automation industry.

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