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Cyber Security in Manufacturing

There is probably little to no thought of internet vulnerability in a CNC manufacturing organization. Unless you are providing components for the military there have most likely been no efforts made to protect data in your operation beyond simple backups and virus protection on your computers. The changes introduced into manufacturing with the steady movement into Industry 4.0 have created a data-driven virtual workplace. The benefit of employees being able to work from home in the recent global pandemic was an unforeseen advantage of these automated systems. Also unforeseen were the threats of cyber security in manufacturing.


A New Target

When we think of cyber-crime we think of retail stores, government, medical, or financial institutions protecting their client information. There is no major private client data held at manufacturing facilities. But increases as much as 300% have been reported in cyber security breaches in manufacturing in 2021 alone. While CNC machine shops don’t hold financial or medical data, they do offer vast amounts of information that hackers can access to extort millions of dollars. This data became even more vulnerable throughout 2020 and 2021 with employees working from personal devices at home with less robust security.

Hackers are a well-seasoned group of computer-savvy criminals who understand cloud computing and data storage as experts, as a CNC machinist understands a tool path. They are poised to find weaknesses as automated systems offer more access points as inter-connectivity grows.


What Can They Gain?

Investing in technology has shown manufacturers the proven benefits of lights out manufacturing, enhanced machine performance, improved quality, safety, and more. But these same processes have opened up a once closed data set to internet storage of files, supply chain contacts, and even general payroll. Operations like phishing and ransomware can infiltrate a computer network and lock it down until a ransom fee is paid. This also leaves client and supply chain data vulnerable and, even once repaired, damages future business relationships. One business shut down in a supply chain can affect production for thousands of connected businesses.


Hackers can also gain access to Intellectual Property that compromises your business’s competitive edge. Product design, systems, and processes can all be easily copied through data breaches. These data breaches can also be more intentionally damaging, such as tampering with automated safety and production data. At a minimum, raw materials and production time are lost. But equipment damage or personnel injuries may also result from intentional or irresponsible tampering.


Preventative Steps

Preparing your business to combat these new threats needs to address security at a few levels.

1)      Staff training regarding potential risk, password security, and reduced personal tasks on business computers.

2)      Assign security steps to remote employees accessing company data.

3)      Moving any Operational Controls onto the Internet must have security features tied to them.

4)      Consider segmenting network access to keep data separate for use by various teams.

5)      Consultant with third-party experts to assist with security setup and maintenance.


Your Next Move

The world of technology continues to surprise us in direct proportion to the increased benefits we realize. Automated production will only continue to expand. The benefit of increased production, reduced injury, and improved product quality continues to move more and more CNC machine shops towards the data-driven world of IIoT (the Industrial Internet of Things). Where many manufacturers are just catching up to these benefits, they are ill-equipped to deal with the threats that accompany modernization. The cost-benefit analysis now must include increased cyber security in manufacturing.

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