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Manufacturing
cyber security
breaches: how
to stay protected

Author: Mark Stone

Cyber espionage is one of the most significant threats to manufacturing companies. Yet many companies ignore this danger and do not take nearly enough steps to prevent manufacturing cyber security breaches.

The manufacturing sector is the chief target of cyber espionage. In 2019, cyber criminals launched more attacks on manufacturing cyber security than on any other industry.

Cyber espionage is a critical threat. It is not easy to detect and requires special capabilities to manage and mitigate. No business is immune to it, either. Even small manufacturers are targets if they have valuable proprietary information or are part of a complex supply chain.

To secure businesses—even small ones—against manufacturing cyber security breaches, one must understand why the threat of cyber espionage is so serious, why it is hard to defend against, and what manufacturing companies can do to protect themselves against cyber spies.

The risks of manufacturing cyber security breaches

Companies face myriad manufacturing cyber security threats, such as data breaches, phishing scams and credential theft.

When companies are breached, a lot of data information is at risk, such as:

  • Confidential R&D material, including information that could be valuable to competitors and costly market research
  • Sensitive information, such as your customers' personally identifiable information
  • Financial records and other confidential information about your business and employees
  • Intellectual property, which could be copied or plagiarized

Why companies must prioritize manufacturing cyber security

The results of manufacturing cyber security breaches can be catastrophic.

Potential consequences of manufacturing cybersecurity breaches include:

  • Compromised critical information about your market and plans, including your latest research and development, which could cost you money and your competitive edge.
  • Reputational damage, which could deter future partners, investors and customers if they think you cannot keep sensitive data safe.
  • Legal issues, such as violations of Europe's General Data Protection Regulation and other data protection and privacy laws, and often hefty fines.

In extreme circumstances, failing to protect your data from cyber spies can even cost you your business. According to a PricewaterCooper study, one company went bankrupt after cyber thieves stole technologies for military airplane production.

Manufacturing cyber security challenges for SMBs

Trying to prevent manufacturing cyber security breaches must go beyond simply detecting purely financially motivated espionage.

The challenges to small and medium-sized businesses are exacerbated by their size. Monitoring threats and mitigating risk is no small feat and requires a major commitment of money and resources—which smaller organizations often lack.

Small businesses cannot afford to be complacent. Many leaders fall into the trap of thinking their business is too small to be targeted by cyber spies. This is not true—small businesses are frequent targets and must take steps to stay secure.

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses face new cyber security challenges driven by the shift to a distributed remote workforce. These include:

  • Greater reliance on BYOD policies. Employees might use personal devices to access sensitive company information, and these devices may not be protected as effectively as company hardware.
  • Unsecured networks. Remote employees connect to home Wi-Fi networks and in public places such as coffee shops. These networks are sometimes unsecured and vulnerable to cyber spies.
  • Human error. Teams outside the office can be more exposed to untrustworthy employees and people who might have a vested interest in stealing your company information.

Protecting your data from manufacturing cyber security breaches

Given these challenges, how can small business manufacturers help keep their organizations and information safe from cyber espionage? Here are several best practices.

  • Maintain updated security software and make sure that your employees know how to use it.
  • Encourage strong passwords. Use secure password managers and make sure that your teams are up to date on best practices.
  • Avoid storing your important data in one place. Use of resources like cloud storage.
  • Inventory your intellectual property and build protection and detection capabilities. Consider how you manage who has access to data and resources and where sensitive data is stored.

How a managed services provider can help

For small businesses in the manufacturing sector, defending against cyber espionage and other threats could mean stretching already limited resources even thinner.

To help secure your assets and protect your company cost-effectively, you may want to work with a managed service provider. A trusted third party can work alongside your business and give you the benefit of their staff, resources and expertise.

Learn how Verizon uses state-of-the-art deception detection technology to help secure your business.