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As a manufacturer, you’ve likely looked at a critical operational system or a key piece of equipment and thought, “This needs an upgrade but is too expensive and will cause downtime. Let’s just keep the status quo.” We’ve all been there. Balancing the risk of a business decision comes down to cost versus need.  As technology grows at an exponential rate, a need for security to be considered in these types of risk decisions and budget planning is vital for manufacturers. Especially, as they collect, process and store unprecedented amounts of data on computers, in the cloud, and on operational systems. While cybersecurity hasn’t been perceived as a critical risk factor until recently, it has quickly emerged as one of today’s biggest risks in the manufacturing industry.

The cost of doing nothing can be greater than the cost of protecting your company. The majority of small business owners believe they are not at risk for a cyber attack. However, a recent cybersecurity statistic shows that, despite their size, small businesses account for more than half of data breaches (58%).  And this doesn’t include the incidents that go undetected and unreported. Just because a business is small doesn’t mean their information is less valuable.

Often these small, “it won’t happen to me” businesses lack the sufficient security measures and trained personnel. Thus, leaving their most sensitive financial, customer and business data, and ultimately their companies, at significant risk.

Business Risks Related to Cybersecurity

There are many risks associated with cybersecurity, some more serious than others. One incident can do more than financially impair your company, but it can cause reputational damage and even permanent closure. In general, there are four types of risk to consider were a cyber attack to occur.

  1. Business risk– The interruption to normal business operations as a result of a security breach will lead to a significant loss of revenue and lead to permanent closure. 60% of small businesses close within six months of a being hacked.
  2. IT risk– The loss of a system, network or other critical IT resource will cause downtime and adversely affect business processes.
  3. Reputational risk– How the public, employees, and customers view the company after a security breach in terms of integrity, credibility, trust, customer satisfaction, image, media relations, and more.
  4. Regulatory risk– A lack of good IT hygiene and cybersecurity practices could result in the loss of compliance to regulatory requirements such as DFARS, NIST, or CMMC.

As the volume and sophistication of cyber attacks grow, organizations, especially those that are tasked with safeguarding restricted and confidential information, such as U.S. Government Categorized data (CUI, CTI, ITAR, etc.) or health and financial records, need to take steps to protect that information. Therefore, IT security solutions are essential, if not crucial, to organizations, particularly when you add how important the internet and digital systems have become for day-to-day operations. Even though there is no guarantee that with the best precautions nothing will happen, there are steps organizations can take to minimize the success rate of cyber-attacks.

Essential Steps Manufacturers Can Take To Protect Against Cyber Attacks

Understanding the business risk and the key threats manufacturers face is important, but knowing the preventative actions you should take today to safeguard your information is imperative for most small businesses to survive an attack. To minimize the risks of cyber attacks, you can implement the following basic cybersecurity best practices:

  • Keep software up-to-date– Install software patches so that attackers cannot take advantage of known problems or vulnerabilities. Many operating systems offer automatic updates. If this option is available, make sure it is enabled.
  • Run up-to-date antivirus software– This is an important protective measure against known malicious threats. Antivirus software can automatically detect, quarantine, and remove various types of malware. However, because detection relies on signatures (known patterns that can identify code as malware), even the best and most reputable antivirus software application will not provide adequate protection against new and advanced threats, such as zero-day exploits and polymorphic viruses.
  • Use strong passwords– Implement password guidelines. 63% of confirmed data breaches leverage a weak, default, or stolen password. Train users on how to create strong passwords that will be difficult for attackers to guess, and use different passwords for different programs and devices. Security experts highly recommended the use of passphrases or passwords that consist of at least 16 characters.
  • Implement a Multifactor Authentication (MFA) Tool– MFA uses at least two identity components to validate a user’s identity. This prevents attackers from exploiting weak authentication processes, thus minimizing the risk of unauthorized access to an account even if the attacker knows the username and password.
  • Install a firewall– Firewalls can prevent various types of attack vectors by blocking malicious traffic before it can enter a computer system or a network. It can also restrict or block unnecessary inbound or outbound communications.
  • Provide security awareness training– Security awareness training helps get everyone in an organization on the same page, reduces risks and incidents, and helps the entire workforce protect their organization and themselves. Be sure to train employees on a variety of topics such as Phishing, Secure Data Handling, internal company IT & Cybersecurity Policies, cyber threats, how to recognize and respond to threat situations, and more.

By no means is the above a prescriptive or exhaustive list but these are the foundational elements at the base of any security framework. Every manufacturing company, depending on its size, industry, and compliance regulations requires a unique, layered approach to cybersecurity. If you’re interested in updating your cybersecurity, a customized solution delivered by an MSP, MSSP, or someone who knows cybersecurity and manufacturing like TechSolve is your first step.

Get a Third Party Perspective That Knows Manufacturing

Third-party audits and testing are the most effective way to ensure a security program works. TechSolve brings over 35 years of experience delivering solutions to manufacturers. As an Ohio Manufacturing Extension Partnership, we are accountable to both our customers and NIST, and we only offer solutions we believe are worth your company’s time and resources.

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