Safe and sound – Is your smart factory secure?

Alarms, cameras, locks and fences are all commonly recommended to keep burglars out of homes. Obtaining clear guidance for securing your smart factory isn’t quite as easy to come by. Here Jonathan Wilkins, marketing director at obsolete industrial equipment supplier, EU Automation, discusses smart factory security and what manufacturers should consider when protecting their facility.

In a connected factory, manufacturers have access to a constant data stream from the shop floor, commercial operations and supply. The Internet of Things (IoT) generates a huge amount of data, gathered from machines and components, which can be accessed and analysed remotely.

Though it brings a facility a number of advantages, connectivity also introduces a vulnerability in terms of cyber-security. With information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT) more closely connected than ever, systems are more vulnerable to attackers. The risk is increased by remote access or third-party access.

According to Dark Reading magazine, the second most cyber-attacked industry after healthcare is manufacturing. With high profile ransomware attacks such as WannaCry disrupting large companies such as Honda, manufacturers know they must be vigilant.

In the manufacturing industry, cyber-crime is usually a type of data theft, ransomware or data manipulation. Hackers can modify procedures to disrupt production processes, gain access to private patent data or cause system downtime, all of which can cause serious losses to a company.

Engineering businesses must ensure that their operations, data and valuable intellectual property (IP) are protected. Businesses need to understand the limitations of their own capabilities and systems to form a well-rounded cyber-security strategy.

For example, legacy equipment can be a target for cyber-criminals. Old equipment was not designed to be connected to the internet, which means that cyber security was not a priority during its design. Industrial control systems as well as programmable logic controllers (PLCs) have become targets as a result.

Securing operations

The first step to cyber security is to assess your digital footprint, understanding what data you collect and store. When updating or upgrading your system, the entire footprint must be considered. This includes accounting for any personal devices such as smartphones, tablets and laptops that are authorised to be in your network.

Manufacturing businesses must take a proactive approach to cyber security. This includes having a firewall, but also involves network monitoring. By closely looking at activity in the network, any unusual activity can be marked as suspicious, helping you to identify risks more quickly.

Companies should also consider segmenting their networks, limiting access to the network unless necessary. The more connection points, the greater the risk, so a segmented network can limit the damage done in the case of a data breach.

It’s not as simple as securing your home from burglary but securing your smart factory from cyber-criminals is just as important in keeping operations safe.

Automation Update