Collaboration for a More Secure Future

When Cathy Pitt, chief security officer at smart manufacturing platform Plex Systems, saw the Shields Up warning released by the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, she was aware that it was not just a heads up about the threats mounting due to Russian tensions, but also about the consequences that could occur if the company was targeted. As described in a piece for Protocol, her response was to immediately reach out to Plex employees to make sure that they were all aware of the need to step up security measures. What this chain of communication exemplifies is a collaborative effort to protect manufacturers in the wake of growing cybersecurity breaches.

Manufacturing Cybersecurity Challenges

Cyberattacks on the manufacturing sector can have severe impacts. For instance, a 2014 phishing campaign carried out by hackers was able to successfully infiltrate both the IT and OT networks of a German steel plant. In very unfortunate circumstances, the hackers gained access to the plant’s temperature controls causing a furnace to overheat and explode leading to the death of two employees. While this example, noted in an article for SME, is extreme, it is reflective of the type of deeply engrained activity cybercriminals have been able to achieve since.

This year, the Department of Energy, Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, National Security Agency and Federal Bureau of Investigation issued a joint alert covering the increased risk that advanced persistent threat (APT) actors pose to industrial control systems (ICS) and supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) devices. In large part, this is a side effect of the convergence of IT and OT that stems from the age of IoT that many industries find themselves in. In fact, there are reportedly 50 billion smart connected devices that have been embedded throughout operations.

Collaborating to Tackle Cybersecurity Challenges

As these threats persist with influences like expanding digitization and ongoing geopolitical issues, they aren’t likely to slow down. According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Risk Report 2022, 60% of executives predict that cybercrime will continue to rise in prominence through the rest of 2022. While there are many solutions to explore, there is one encompassing theme that they all require – collaboration.

Internal Collaboration

One layer of collaboration is internal. It is crucial to make cybersecurity a full-team effort, much like Cathy Pitt of Plex Systems did. Security Magazine laid out some of the steps to accomplish this, beginning with initiating a strategy at the top. Implementing leadership with expertise allows for more informed decision making and opens opportunities to educate and train other employees within an organization. Another recommendation is to remain adaptable. This ensures that communication and learning flows so that all can stay on top of the latest developments in threats and tools. A helpful resource to guide this process is a technology roadmap that details instructions around decision-making, policy choices, equipment selection, etc.

External Collaboration

The other layer of collaboration is external. Having cross-sector partnerships enhances elements such as information sharing, research, skills development and more. For instance, the Cybersecurity Manufacturing Innovation Institute (CyManII) was launched in 2020 by the DoE at the University of Texas at San Antonio. The initiative, consisting of 15 other manufacturing institutes, established a way to convene manufacturers, academia, national research labs and government agencies so that they can exchange data on threat actors, vulnerabilities and security advice. It has also expanded to include 35 companies such as General Electric, Lockheed Martin and Cisco, which all rely on manufacturers.

This community approach to cybersecurity is gaining traction. The World Economic Forum points out that 84% of global organizations surveyed reported participating in public-private information-sharing. By building a strong team foundation that can effectively collaborate with other organizations and fields that are increasingly intertwined, we may be able to construct a stronger road ahead for manufacturing cybersecurity and cybersecurity at large.





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