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Blog / 6 min read

Next-Gen Defense: Cybersecurity in Smart Manufacturing

The Claroty Team
/ March 1st, 2024
Successful cybersecurity in smart manufacturing environments demands a multifaceted approach. As the attack surface continues to expand, and more challenges for smart manufacturing arise, organizations should consider the following steps to building an effective manufacturing cybersecurity program.

Smart manufacturing, also referred to as Industry 4.0, or the Fourth Industrial Revolution, has given rise to advanced technologies and digital systems that have allowed manufacturing processes to become more efficient, flexible, and cost-effective. Key components of smart manufacturing include the internet of things (IoT), the industrial internet of things (IIoT), cyber-physical systems (CPS), artificial intelligence (AI), digital twins, and more. The goal of these technologies is to improve productivity, reduce costs, enhance quality, and increase overall agility of the manufacturing industry. Although the benefits of smart manufacturing have been diverse and impactful, the integration of advanced technologies and connectivity has brought about several cybersecurity challenges. These challenges have made it increasingly difficult for critical infrastructure organizations to protect their unique environments from attacks. 

What is Cybersecurity in Smart Manufacturing?

With the surge in connectivity and a growing reliance on digital systems, manufacturing industries from automotive to pharmaceuticals have become lucrative targets for cyber attackers. As such, cybersecurity in smart manufacturing has become more important than ever for organizations looking to safeguard their critical assets. With the goal of ensuring confidentiality, integrity, and availability of information and processes, here are some of the core controls organizations should implement to ensure they have a strong cybersecurity strategy in place: 

  1. Asset Management: Maintaining a comprehensive, up-to-date, centralized inventory of all the CPS and other critical assets in your environment is integral to effective cybersecurity in smart manufacturing. 

  2. Vulnerability and Risk Management: An effective vulnerability & risk management program provides visibility into risks within connected devices, drives prioritization based on indicators of current and predicted exploitation likelihood, and informs remediation.

  3. Network Segmentation: Implementing proper OT network segmentation can prevent the spread of cyberattacks by restricting movement throughout the network. By separating critical processes and systems, organizations can also enforce risk mitigation, reducing the impact of failures or disruptions.

  4. Threat Detection: No manufacturing environment is immune to threats, making it essential that organizations detect and respond to them effectively. This starts with implementing multiple detection engines to profile all assets, communications, and processes. 

  5. Remote Access: Due to the critical nature of manufacturing environments, the operational impacts of poorly managed third-party access can be as severe as the cybersecurity threats. Balancing necessary access for maintenance or troubleshooting with stringent security protocols is crucial.

Top Cyber Threats Impacting Smart Manufacturing 

According to this Security Today article, the world’s critical infrastructure suffered 13 cyber attacks every second in 2023. This near constant attack on manufacturing, power, communications, waste, and transportation highlights the need to implement strong cybersecurity principles to protect against the following threats:

  • Ransomware: According to this GuidePoint Security report, manufacturing is the top industry affected by ransomware today. This alarming statistic highlights the disruptive ransomware attacks that have plagued manufacturing industries in recent years. These attacks not only have the potential to cause reputational damage and compliance issues, but may have more damaging impacts including safety implications. 

  • Supply Chain Attacks: Since many manufacturing organizations are part of complex supply chains, a cyberattack on one company within the supply chain can have a ripple effect  — impacting other manufacturers, distributors, retailers, and even consumers downstream. In a worst case scenario, a cyber attack on the supply chain can lead to safety issues including tampering with product design or functionality, contaminated or substandard components, disruption to essential services, or public safety threats.

  • Insider Threats: Historically, insiders have remained a top challenge for manufacturing organizations. Malicious or unintentional actions by employees, contractors, or trusted partners can pose significant risk — leading to data breaches or disruptions in manufacturing processes.  

  • Inadequate Authentication and Access Controls: Internal and third-party users must remotely access industrial assets for maintenance and other purposes; however, this requires administrators to maintain costly, complex infrastructure. OT remote users can also make unauthorized chances that pose risks to operations, and without role-and policy-based access controls or visibility into users’ activities, organizations cannot identify or respond to incidents.

A Comprehensive Approach to Cybersecurity in Smart Manufacturing

Successful cybersecurity in smart manufacturing environments demands a multifaceted approach. As the attack surface continues to expand, and more challenges for smart manufacturing arise, organizations should consider the following steps to building an effective manufacturing cybersecurity program: 

1. Gain visibility into all CPS in your OT environment:

A comprehensive inventory of all OT, IoT, IIoT, building management systems (BMS),  and all other CPS, that underpin your smart manufacturing environment is the foundation of effective industrial cybersecurity. However, gaining this visibility is one of the most important yet challenging tasks facing security and risk leaders today. Smart manufacturing organizations can solve this challenge by implementing a CPS protection platform that offers highly flexible discovery methods that can be mixed and matched to deliver full visibility in the manner best suited to their organizations distinct needs.

2. Integrate your existing IT tools & workflows with your CPS

Once enterprise-wide visibility is achieved, as a best practice, organizations should integrate their existing IT tools & workflows with OT. Many CPS use proprietary protocols and are composed of legacy devices and systems which are incompatible with traditional IT security solutions. In many environments, traditional vulnerability scanners are unsafe, and patching is rarely permitted due to their low tolerance for downtime. With collaboration between IT and OT teams, and the right CPS security tool, organizations can safely uncover risk blindspots without endangering operations by integrating their already extensive tech stacks with a purpose-built OT security solution. This strategy will help organizations to take control of their risk environment and create further visibility across traditionally siloed teams by simply extending existing tools and workflows from IT to OT. 

3. Extend your security governance from IT to OT: 

Unlike their IT counterparts, most OT environments in the manufacturing sector lack essential cybersecurity controls and consistent governance. That’s because the legacy systems in many OT environments were built with a focus on functionality and operational reliability, rather than security, as these systems were not initially intended to be connected to the internet. By extending IT controls to OT, manufacturing organizations can unify their security governance and drive all use cases on their journey to cyber and operational resilience.

Smart manufacturing plays an integral role in the global economy — creating advancements in technology, optimizing the supply chain, enhancing quality and efficiency, and more. As industry 4.0 continues to pave the way for smarter, more efficient processes, we have seen the vast benefits digital transformation can provide. Unfortunately, these benefits have become outpaced by cybersecurity threats as the attack surface for cyber criminals expands. As a result, critical infrastructure organizations should understand the major challenges they contend with, and the essential best practices to follow in order to build a robust smart manufacturing cybersecurity strategy. 

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