Will Cybersecurity Hinder IoT Implementation for Advanced Manufacturers?

the shell of a buildingThis month, more than 400 advanced manufacturing executives attended the MFG 2016 Meeting organized by the AMT (The Association for Manufacturing Technology) in Palm Desert, California. Panels dealt with some of the most pressing developments in U.S. manufacturing forecasts.

From economic intelligence to business strategy to new tax laws, the conference was an important space for advanced manufacturers to discuss a variety of issues. AMT Chairman Jerry Rex tells Modern Machine Shop that the conference’s principal themes were varied: “At the end of 2015, Congress made a change in the tax law that is a boost to manufacturers, yet we continue to face difficult challenges from the skilled worker shortage to slower growth rates expected until the fourth quarter. During the meeting we explored solutions, shared experiences of effective practices and made plans to advance the manufacturing technology industry.”

One of these challenges was the new issues of cybersecurity that face manufacturers who are hindered by their own advances. Cybersecurity, also known as IT security, seems like a no-brainer for manufacturers, but the reality is that very few are actually prepared to deal with threats to their companies via online attacks.

Andrew Ginter, vice president of industrial security at Waterfall Security Solutions, tells Manufacturing Business Technology Magazine that cybersecurity needs to be a top-of-mind issue for everybody in 2016: “Indiscriminate internetworking is the biggest problem facing manufacturing today. To reap the benefits of IT/OT integration and the industrial Internet of things, we continue to connect networks together . . . the problem is that the consequences of attacks on manufacturing networks are unacceptable.” Unlike IT computers, there is no “backup,” and tampering with a product can have legitimate, and deadly, consequences.

The worst part of this problem, Ginter says, is that if IoT networks are hacked, the process of restoring them takes far too long. According to a recent survey, the average intrusion takes more than two months to detect and even longer to remediate. During this entire period, an attacker has remote control of equipment in manufacturing facilities. Sure, it’s a manufacturer’s nightmare, but these things do happen.

The moral of the story is that IoT is the future of manufacturing but is also a cybersecurity nightmare. Last year, a security hole was found in drug pumps which could have allowed a fatal dose to be administered, and in 2013, the wireless capabilities of Dick Cheney’s pacemakers were disabled to thwart hacking attempts. The medical device industry, in particular, struggles with these challenges and their potentially horrific consequences.

There are panels and summits throughout the country these days as manufacturers attempt to deal with this problem like they did at AMT. (Read more about their cybersecurity panel here.) The first step, IndustryWeek notes, is to put intellectual property at the very top of your security list: “Despite all of the chatter in the C-Suite about cybersecurity, very few companies have meaningful data protection programs in place today. They often cite the need to preserve the free flow of information . . . but the truth is, IP and trade secret protection has to be an executive priority or it won’t get done.”

While the IoT train doesn’t look as if it will be stopping anytime soon, there are careful considerations that manufacturers must take before implementing networks. Being aware of the consequences, as well as having a backup plan in case of cyber attack, is crucial to keeping your digital assets safe.

photo credit: Lines via photopin (license)

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