Security Now Extends to the Machines on the Shop Floor

At one time, if a business owner was discussing security, they were primarily speaking about their physical assets. Whether it was their employees, facilities, or products, protecting their industrial machinery was a task that could be accomplished by implementing proper maintenance practices. However, as these critical pieces of machinery become increasingly connected to the open internet, a new form of security is taking precedent, cybersecurity.

Cybersecurity is becoming a vital piece to the manufacturing puzzle. Operational technology (OT) attacks are becoming much more common, seeking to control critical aspects of a factory. These threats could be used for sabotage which would force a manufacturing operation to come to a grinding halt. No manufacturer wants to work in the vicinity of a robotic system that is under malicious control. Especially as the industry begins to focus on collaborative robots, understanding the value of cybersecurity is no longer an option, it’s a necessity.

“The attacker’s goals for IT systems is information exfiltration, but for industrial OT systems, the attacker’s goal is typically sabotage,” Ashok Banerjee, CTO of enterprise security products at Symantec said when speaking with Design News. He continued to explain, “Attackers typically want to have remote control of the industrial network and be able to disable a power grid or cause a collision or explosion. Typically, attackers hold this control for extended intervals, triggering it when needed.”

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The risks associated with cybersecurity are becoming much less virtual. When equipment is connected and controlled via virtual means, it opens up a door for cybercriminals to impact the physical world. Threats that were once isolated to loss of data or corporate espionage are now leaking over and causing physical damage, putting lives at risk.

Concerns about the security of industrial machinery have been growing ever since the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) became a topic of conversation. However, now with the IIoT here, steps to ensure the security of these systems is still lagging behind.

With these modern threats, manufacturers must expand what it means to keep their business secure. Beyond safety on the shop floor and processes in place to ensure the security of a facility, manufacturing leaders must take security their industrial equipment from the threats of cybersecurity seriously. This should take a leading spot on the list of priorities for any manufacturer that utilizes any form of connected machinery. Ignoring this issue may put lives at risk.

With the threats evolving and as more manufacturers begin connecting their industrial machinery to the open internet, business leaders must take a proactive approach to securing their facilities. Cyber threats are beginning to weigh heavy on modern manufacturers and these threats show no signs of slowing.

For manufacturers who still think cybersecurity is only a way to protect private email and data, it’s time to start taking an inventory of all the aspects of their business which has an open door to outside threats. The concept of connectivity isn’t going away anytime soon, now is the time to start consulting with cybersecurity professionals to ensure a manufacturer is ready for the risks modern businesses face today.

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