Safety Requires a Greater Focus on Cybersecurity

June 26, 2024 - Author: Andrew Harris, I&C MI Team Lead | Director of Business Development - Controls, Eric Headington, Engineering Manager, Instrumentation and Controls

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Industrial cybersecurity threats pose safety risks in manufacturing

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Industrial Cybersecurity Threats Pose Safety Risks in Manufacturing

Industrial cybersecurity is frequently overlooked, despite the increasing risks in every computer system. Cyberattacks on Industrial Control System (ICS) computers are rising globally, posing severe threats to manufacturing facilities. To address these risks, facilities must develop documented cybersecurity plans. Due to the complexity of cybersecurity, companies should enlist experts to conduct a cybersecurity risk assessment and recommend controls to fortify their operations against potential threats.

Many companies mistakenly believe they are not attractive targets for cybercriminals, but every organization is at risk. Just as facilities have fire suppression systems despite a few experiencing fires, robust cybersecurity measures are essential. Cybercriminals operate with diverse strategies: some target high-value assets, while others seek out the weakest links in industries or companies with poor defenses. Any organization with valuable assets – whether cash, intellectual property, or data – is a potential target.

In the article published in Automation World, “Safety Requires a Greater Focus on Cybersecurity,” Andrew Harris, I&C MI Team Lead | Director of Business Development – Controls, and Eric Headington, Engineering Manager, Instrumentation and Controls, address the severity of a cybersecurity breach in a manufacturing setting. Sensitive information theft can result in severe financial and legal liabilities. Production lines might be shut down, and exceptionally malicious hackers could compromise safety Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs), endangering workers’ lives. Check out the full article to learn about the importance of cybersecurity safety, including:

  • Technological advances with cybersecurity in manufacturing have outpaced attention to risks. Key advances include the Internet of Things (IoT), Ethernet, and data-sharing interoperability.
  • The human element also contributes to growing vulnerabilities. A lack of IT personnel integrated into operational teams limits the adoption of cybersecurity best practices, resulting in greater exposure and inadequate monitoring.
  • A cybersecurity risk assessment is essential for a robust defense strategy. It begins with documenting every access point within an organization’s infrastructure, including physical and virtual points. The next step is understanding potential vulnerabilities and how cybercriminals could exploit them.
  • Creating an industrial cybersecurity culture requires collaboration. Senior management must provide strategic direction and resources for a strong cyber protection program.
  • Working with a systems integrator experienced in cybersecurity for manufacturing systems is beneficial.

As manufacturing relies more on software-controlled machinery, regular safety assessments are crucial. These assessments help ensure the security and integrity of interconnected systems, which are increasingly targeted by cybercriminals. Even minor network configuration changes can introduce significant security risks, such as unauthorized access or data breaches. Regular assessments allow for the early identification and mitigation of these vulnerabilities, strengthening a facility’s resilience against cyber threats. By proactively addressing potential security issues, manufacturing facilities can maintain continuous, safe operations and protect sensitive information from cyberattacks.

Read the full article here.