When a Russian ransomware group, DarkSide, shut down Colonial Pipeline operations in May 2021, it was the largest cyber security attack against the nation’s critical infrastructure in history. The menacing threat that compelled the company to pay a $5 million ransom is the same one nearly all manufacturers face—the interconnectedness of the internet if unsecured is the industry’s Achilles’ heel. A industrial systems cyber security threat can be disastrous to its operational technology.

The internet links machinery to wireless networks and data analytics. It’s the backbone of today’s efficient industrial systems but can also leave companies vulnerable. Armed with old login credentials, the pipeline hackers seized Colonial’s proprietary data. The company paid the ransom to keep the attack from locking up operational technology for 5,500 miles of fuel moving between Texas and New York.

Manufacturers realized a similar exploit could tamper with the industrial Internet of Things—sensors that monitor industrial systems, factory robots or even autonomous vehicles that move products around industrial settings and warehouses. In the next five years, according to the International Data Corp., IoT devices will generate nearly 80 zettabytes of data, or 80 trillion gigabytes. Each industrial IoT device is a potential point of attack to threaten production capacity.

If that wasn’t enough, cyber criminals can plant ransomware to disable industrial control systems or target other devices on the network, including machinery. An industrial systems cyber security threat can disable factory systems, steal trade secrets, release sensitive files, and even compromise human life.

Despite the potential havoc threat actors can pose within the manufacturing sector, a qualified cyber security company can help factory managers spot industrial system vulnerabilities before cyber criminals do. They can assist industrial security teams bolster defenses and also develop breach action plans. Outlined are critical areas industrial security professionals should consider bolstering to reduce the risks posed by compromised systems:

  • Monitor for a new industrial systems cyber security threat

    A Security Operations Center-as-a-Service provider continuously monitors points of entry to operational technology networks and devotes cyber security personnel to perform industrial risk analysis. SOCaaS services will gauge the level of threat posed to mission-critical factory systems and propose security solutions that limit the potential damage.

  • Treat all technology as vulnerable technology

    Computerized machine tools, industrial IoT applications, energy or lighting controls and company laptops all pose security risks as long as they are connected to the operational technology of the internet. Isolating factory systems from the corporate network and controlling connection time can limit the risk for a wide-scale shutdown. Cyber security consultants can perform penetration testing to offer better insight into how hackers might breach firewalls or bypass network roadblocks.

  • Digitally secure operational files

    Responding to ransomware attacks requires not only removing malware from infected industrial systems but also restoring hacked files to their previous state. Having a full backup will go a long way to mitigate hackers’ threats and strategies. Cyber security consultants can suggest a virtual patching strategy to restrict hackers from moving within a network, thus limiting the danger posed by an industrial systems cyber security threat.

  • Physically secure servers

    Servers are sophisticated electronic devices and should be kept safe from arson, burglary and civil disturbance. Server storage areas should be secured against flooding or electrical system weaknesses. Cyber security consultants can recommend physical barriers, video monitoring and access controls to guard against internal or external threats.

  • Embrace a complete cyber security solution

    Cyber security companies can help build an industrial risk analysis plan and put measures in place to prevent, monitor, respond and recover from the event of a valid cyber threat. In the event of a breach, rapid response times are especially important to secure data and get back online without service interruptions.

Hiring a cyber security consultant will validate and complement a company’s internal steps or recommend internal processes to put in place to maintain industrial systems. Make sure to select a cyber security firm with a solid track record that knows how to assess, model, plan, implement and audit cyber security measures. All technology is vulnerable, and so are the people who use it. It takes the right adviser versed in cyber security to protect and support both data and people.

The Cyber Security Division of AGB Investigative Services offers end-to-end cyber solutions including Security Operations Center-as-a-Service, IT security consulting, comprehensive risk assessments, penetration testing, social engineering and a special focus on securing employees working from home. Learn more about what we do at agbcybersecurity.com before your business faces an industrial systems cyber security threat of your own.