Guest Column

Cybersecurity and Industry 4.0: struggles and strategies for manufacturers

March 8, 2019
| By Gary Lutz |
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Many have considered the past two years to be the worst years for data breaches and cyberattacks, largely due to the rise in ransomware and other crippling security attacks.

According to Cisco’s annual cybersecurity report, ransomware is growing at an annual rate of 350 percent, and the FBI estimates the annual global market to be around $1 billion. Despite this constant news about the growing cyberthreats in the industry, many manufacturers are falling short with their cybersecurity initiatives and in updating their technology infrastructure, and this is what can leave their environment vulnerable to an attack.

This can happen because of lack of time or knowledge of in-house resources, aging technology infrastructure or tight budgets in this highly competitive environment. As a result, lines are down, customer service suffers, and sales are affected. This equates to lost revenue.

Continuing to gain adoption, Industry 4.0, the fourth industrial revolution, is upon us and brings many exciting trends and competitive advantages to manufacturers like end-to-end automation as well as incomparable levels of information exchange both on and off your plant or shop floor. To bring Industry 4.0 into realization, it requires adoption from the infrastructure up, integrating internet of things (IoT), cyber-physical systems, networking systems, wireless technologies, cloud computing and enhanced security directly into your manufacturing process, regardless of your business size.

The great news is that the same principles used in establishing your cybersecurity plan can be used when developing your Industry 4.0 initiatives. Both start with fundamental upgrades to your infrastructure systems that will support both the enhanced security required and increased automation and efficiency you desire.

When looking for solutions to combat today’s cybersecurity threats or to adopt Industry 4.0 initiatives, manufacturers should consider the following approach:

1. Upgrade your infrastructure devices such as firewalls, switches and wireless solutions to security-aware smart devices. Called Next Generation devices and cloud-managed solutions, these are crucial to your Industry 4.0 initiatives and cybersecurity plans. Detect, contain and knock out security threats at all levels in your environment while providing secure connectivity for your entire workforce, including all systems, devices and industrial IoT automation.

2. Implement Next Generation security solutions to protect all your endpoints, network devices and cloud services. Anti-virus no longer is adequate protection and these new solutions protect against both known and unknown security threats regardless of where they occur.

3. Educate your employees — it doesn’t matter how robust your cybersecurity plan is; if it doesn’t include proactive employee education, simply put, you don’t have a plan. Your employees are your first line of defense against threats and are key to adopting Industry 4.0 initiatives. Training should be continuous, not a one-time effort.

4. Re-tool your backup, disaster recovery and business continuity plan. The best defense is a good offense. As security threats increase and demands on your technology systems grow, having a solid BDR & BC plan is critical. With Industry 4.0 adding tremendous amounts of information collection and sharing, this data needs to be secured and protected.

In today’s highly competitive market, manufacturers need to drive efficiency in every part of their operation. Ensuring a solid cybersecurity plan and adopting Industry 4.0 technologies are ways you can stand out in your industry.

Gary Lutz is president and senior partner at IT Resource in Coopersville.

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