Language Selection

Your selected language is currently:

8 Min Read

Cloud and AI are transforming manufacturing, but employees' lack of cyber awareness creates new risk

October 21, 2022 / Unisys Corporation

Short on time? Read the key takeaways:

  •  Cybersecurity concerns increased during the COVID-19 pandemic due to a surge in internet use and digital transformation.
  • Manufacturing companies are vulnerable to internet attacks due to the expanded digital attack surface and lack of awareness of cyber threats.
  • Manufacturers can enhance their digital security with tested employee education, automated response tools, preventive enterprise segmentation, and biometric security.
  • Cloud and AI can help manufacturers protect against cyber attacks and provide a competitive advantage.

During the pandemic, a surge in internet use and cloud consumption became a catalyst for fast-increasing cybersecurity concerns, as witnessed by the 2021 Unisys Security Index™, the longest-running survey of consumer security concerns.

Fueled by streams of reports on cyber attacks across various sectors and organizations, internet security concerns rose nine points and jumped back to the top of the list.

Operating in “the new normal” of the COVID-19 pandemic drove rapid digitalization of the workplace, scaling remote work and collaboration. Demand increases and supply chain interruptions for the manufacturing industry fueled an acceleration in digital transformation. Lockdowns fueled exponential growth in fast-track product and supply chain digitalization, enabled by cloud and AI.

At the same time, manufacturers went from controllable on-premises locations to thousands of virtual home offices, relying on the security of home networks to protect company information. As manufacturing organizations scrambled to adjust, the expanding digital attack surface provided a new hunting ground for malware activists. Cyber criminals leveraged the same digital transformation tools to automate their attacks and lower the cost of such threats.

This perfect storm resulted in an increased targeting of manufacturing companies. Successful ransomware attacks took down factory operations and customer service availability. These attacks and the associated media coverage likely contributed to the steep rise in internet security concerns measured in the Unisys Security Index. This is a clear sign to manufacturers that digital security will be a key differentiator and enabler in the market.

How are manufacturers vulnerable to internet attacks?

This year’s survey found that two in five consumers are unaware of clicking on links, and 79% are unaware of SIM jacking and more complicated scams. Furthermore, hackers have invested in improving their games and are now much more sophisticated. They use AI, translation engines and automatic tools and capabilities to get nimble, low cost and versatile as they look for ways in, waiting for the right moment to attack.

Large-scale operating systems, including manufacturing ones, are highly visible and increasingly vulnerable to sophisticated internet attacks. These systems take longer to adjust and adapt to attacks and, as a result, need to spend more time, money and energy on malware prevention and cybersecurity.

How to enhance seamless, secure digital manufacturing operations

We suggest four primary preventative tactics to harden manufacturing systems against the evolving cyber landscape.

Tested education: Identity theft is one of the top sources of malware attacks. For manufacturers, employees with manufacturing control access, such as plant operators or IT administrators, are among those targeted by hackers. If an employee’s credentials are compromised, a hacker can shut down your plant, ransom your data and extort significant amounts of money. Manufacturers need to invest in educating and testing plant operators, workers and managers on how to respond to these sophisticated cyber attacks.

Automated response: If production control personnel do not know how to respond to cyber attacks, they can inadvertently delay the response or make things worse. Automatic response tools should be implemented as an additional measure to protect against malware attacks. Automated response systems can be used on a single device or an entire operating system.

Preventive enterprise segmentation: Many manufacturing companies operate their security systems in a centralized manner, but using a segmented approach gives IT security teams the ability to react, respond and rebuild more quickly and effectively. Segmentation divides the network into smaller chunks, each secured and can talk to each other through encrypted, cloaked tunnels. If a segment is hacked, the damage is limited to only the impacted segment, protecting the rest of the network.

Biometric security: While consumers use biometric security daily, with facial recognition and fingerprints providing access to phones, bank accounts and other personal information, people are still wary of biometrics protecting their workplace. When organizations strengthen identity security, cybersecurity improves. High-volume biometric screening, voice recognition and cameras are the easiest ways to protect employee identity.

Globally, 69% of respondents to the survey were not comfortable sharing biometric data, including facial recognition, with their employer – even if it was to ensure safe and healthy access to facilities. In addition, 60% of employees were uncomfortable with employers tracking their log-in or log-out times. Facial recognition and biometrics still have a long way to gain employee trust beyond mobile phones and into the professional atmosphere. However, there is an opportunity here for manufacturers to make that gain and educate their employees on how biometrics protects their identity better and breaks the traditional trade-off between user convenience and security, driving a better employee digital experience and productivity.

Cloud, AI and automation protect against cyber attacks

Unfortunately, cybercriminals will only become more sophisticated and prevalent in the manufacturing industry. Manufacturers are responsible for staying one step ahead of malware activists and cyber threats. Cloud and AI will help to achieve that. Once implemented securely, cloud and AI will be major competitive advantage enablers for manufacturing companies. These capabilities allow for greater innovation and open the door for manufacturers to be on the leading edge of security and operational scalability.

Bolster your manufacturing organization’s cybersecurity with Unisys.

Learn more

Discover how Unisys can help your organization unlock the limitless potential of AI.

Learn more