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Why Manufacturers Are Especially Prone to Ransomware Attacks

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Sponsored Post: Nasuni

The greater the leverage, the greater the chance a ransomware attack will prove successful. An attacker gains leverage in two ways. The first is reach. The more operational services that can be disrupted, the more power. The second is financial risk. Every minute that a company is down represents a minute of endured opportunity cost. The greater the cost, the higher the ransom can be. The key for a ransomware gang is to find an organization that checks both of those boxes and has an innate reliance on IT systems at the same time.

Based on that formula, manufacturers are perfect targets. They utilize a large assortment of technology platforms. Due to their large capitalization and labor costs, manufacturers are susceptible to huge losses when they cannot operate. Because many manufacturers produce goods that are critical to a country’s economy, they are often targeted by rival nation states.

According to the National Association of Manufacturers, criminal groups are specifically identifying manufacturers as vulnerable and profitable targets. Manufacturers are Technology Dependent

Manufacturing has come a long way since the early days of the assembly line. Manufacturers have digitally transformed themselves along with the rest of the world and are heavily reliant on technology today for their production processes, supply management, and logistics.

  1. Many manufacturing firms utilize automated systems and robotics to automate repetitive tasks in assembly and packaging.
  2. Digital manufacturing is heavily reliant on advanced software, computer-aided manufacturing, digital simulation, augmented reality, and 3D printing.
  3. Manufacturing processes are driven by data analytics thanks to the proliferation of IoT sensory devices that are used to monitor production processes and collect real-time data to identify areas of improvement.

The more technology you use, the larger your attack surface. A large attack surface makes it easier for an attacker to disable a manufacturer’s operations by taking their technology infrastructure out of commission.

What Makes Manufacturers So Vulnerable to Attack

It takes more than an expanded attack surface to make you vulnerable to ransomware. The manufacturing industry has multiple characteristics that make it more vulnerable than other businesses.

  1. Manufacturers typically have a large presence of legacy systems that either no longer receive regular updates and patches or run deprecated protocols that are easily exploited by weaponized tools today. Unpatched vulnerabilities remain a primary attack vector for ransomware.
  2. Manufacturing companies work with a great many suppliers, vendors and contractors that form a highly complex supply chain network. Each supply chain entity represents a potential attack avenue for ransomware attacks. These complex supply chains open them up to supply shortages and manufacturing delays should a key supplier is attacked themselves.
  3. Manufacturers sometimes have limited resources allocated to cybersecurity and therefore lack the internal expertise to protect their digital systems with the necessary strategies, policies, and security controls.
  4. Manufacturers often possess a great amount of intellectual property and trade secrets, making them a target for espionage. Ransomware attacks are sometimes used to cover an attacker’s tracks after breaching a network and exfiltrating a company’s proprietary or sensitive data.
  5. A manufacturing site just can’t fire up its systems and start operating in quick fashion. In addition to the normal remediation efforts that any ransomware victim must perform, it can take days for a manufacturer to return to full production capacity.
  6. Manufacturing companies usually have large workforces, which makes security awareness training challenging at the least. This makes these workers vulnerable to phishing and other types of social media attacks.

There is no doubt that manufacturers must bolster their ransomware mitigation efforts. However, because of the proliferation of attacks against these industry players, manufacturers must also assume that they will fall victim to a ransomware attack at some scale. This is where containment, immutability, and rapid recovery each play an important role.

Tools and Strategies

Because manufacturers utilize so many IoT devices, network segmentation is an important strategy to contain an attack. Because IoT devices often represent the weak links of a security chain, it is important to isolate them as much as possible from critical systems and data repositories. This is done with a combination of security policies and controls. The idea is to quarantine a compromised device or network segment so that the attack is contained within its area of origin. Because manufacturers have so much equipment dispersed across their sites, early monitoring and observability systems are necessary to give security teams real-time notifications concerning a possible attack.

The data that drives the automated intelligence systems which govern manufacturing processes should be air gapped in the cloud and reside in immutable storage. Immutable storage provides a higher level of data protection as it prevents accidental or intentional alteration of the data. Immutable storage and continuous data protection increase the resiliency of data in the event of a ransomware attack.

The digital transformation of the manufacturing sector has opened manufacturers to cyberattacks just like any technology-oriented company.  Due to the immense threat landscape that surrounds manufacturing firms today, it is time to view cybersecurity as a high-priority component of the manufacturing process. Nasuni is a leading provider of file data services,  including file storage, backup, ransomware protection,  and file access for the manufacturing sector. For more information about the Nasuni solution for Manufacturing organizations, read their solution brief.

This Article is Sponsored by Nasuni

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