Cyberattack risk for manufacturers outpaces other sectors

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Connectivity has grown more widespread in plants, increasing risk for manufacturers.

Connectivity has grown more widespread in plants, increasing risk for manufacturers.

Manufacturing companies have started experiencing elevated rates of cyber reconnaissance from attackers taking advantage of the growing connectivity within the industry.

A 2018 spotlight report on manufacturing developed by Vectra shows that though some sectors like retail are more likely to experience reportable breaches involving personal data, manufacturing organizations outpace them in other areas of risk, according to cybersecurity news site Dark Reading.

The manufacturing industry is subject to a higher-than-usual volume of malicious internal behaviors, which points to attackers likely already having found footholds inside of these networks.

During the first half of 2018 manufacturing firms had the highest level of reconnaissance activity per 10,000 machines of any other industry.

This kind of behavior typically shows that attackers are mapping out the network looking for critical assets. Similarly, manufacturing was in the top three industries most impacted by malicious lateral movement across its networks.

All of these metrics indicate a heightened level of risk to manufacturing's bread-and-butter: uninterrupted operations and well-guarded intellectual property. According to the "2018 Verizon Data Breach Industry Report," 47 percent of breaches in manufacturing are motivated by cyber espionage.

Experts chalk up the increased risk to the industry's mass deployment of industrial Internet of Things devices.

Increased connectivity, automation, and data-driven adaptivity of operation systems across manufacturing plants has led to the increase in risk.

The industry's paradigms around protecting systems, however, hasn't caught up with the changing realities of its attack surface.

For example, the Vectra report explains how manufacturers traditionally used customized and proprietary protocols for connecting systems on the factory floor. That kept the bar of entry for cybercriminals pretty high. But that trend is changing as more IoT devices have utilized standardized protocols.

"The conversion from proprietary protocols to standard protocols makes it easier to infiltrate networks to spy, spread, and steal," the report says.

Additionally, manufacturers tend not to implement strong security access controls on certain systems for fear of interrupting the flow of lean production lines. All of this is adding up to heightened levels of risk.

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