Apr 21, 2018

Connectivity is driving the manufacturing boom, but beware of unwanted attention

Tom Holloway
5 min
The manufacturing industry is among the most advanced in the world for its adoption of digital platforms. Robotic and connected sens...

The manufacturing industry is among the most advanced in the world for its adoption of digital platforms. Robotic and connected sensor technology are now mainstream throughout most factories, allowing manufacturers to gather insights in real time. The use of digital technology in manufacturing is nothing new, it has been embedded within processes for decades, and routine disruption has become the norm given the industry’s reliance on technology. However, increasing automation, data-rich production cycles and complex global supply chains make this industry particularly vulnerable to cyber attacks.

It's predicted that there will be 1.3 million robots in factories worldwide by the end of this year, which could open up as many security risks as it helps with operational efficiencies. Imagine if a hacker managed to access the software the business relies on - it could cause a total shut down of operations. Forcing industrial robotic arms to misperform even slightly could not only result in tons of ruined products but the robots could unwittingly grant access to the business’ security networks, bringing all operations to a halt. The cost of this could be astronomical to a manufacturing business; to put into perspective the cost of the recent NotPetya ransomware attack to businesses is estimated at $1.2Bn, not an improbable figure when you consider that a stoppage in a complex car manufacturing plant can cost £10,000s per minute. This trend is also playing out across other critical infrastructure sectors - with even the US government issuing a rare public warning that energy and industrial firms are vulnerable to sophisticated attacks.

Complicated systems require a hands-on approach. The huge amount of data needed to manage manufacturing processes with tiny degrees of tolerance, are sitting only a few degrees of separation away from public networks. The use of sensor-embedded automation controls, RFID tags and Radio Data Terminals reliant on WLAN infrastructure increase the potential points of system vulnerability.

Historically, investment in manufacturing has been focused on safety and cost reduction, which hasn’t been matched by investment in security. But with these growing risks against our critical infrastructure systems, it is vital that businesses take all the proper precautions.

You are the weakest link, goodbye

Despite these very real risks, our recent research shows that the industry is in danger of becoming complacent. The majority (67%) of IT Decision Makers in the manufacturing sector feel confident that they are prepared for a cyber-attack. While it is encouraging to see this confidence, the headlines have made it clear that manufacturers can’t afford to take the foot of the pedal when it comes to security.

A business works best if all the components work in harmony: people, processes and technology. If one of these falters, the remaining components won’t be able to perform. Each have their own weaknesses, but human error often becomes the most visible of these, but it can be avoidable. An employee clicking a link on a simple spam email might be all it takes to bring the system to a standstill. So, when looking at ways to prevent business downtime the best place to start is with your own people. Make sure everyone is kept appraised of the latest security threats. This could be through inductions or annual training that the organisation needs to take.

Avoiding the domino effect

Increased connectivity through Internet of Things (IoT) devices is transforming the manufacturing industry, allowing leaders to monitor and act upon data flowing between machines, devices and people. A multitude of sensors pour data into systems and build up a real-time picture of operations, however the added sensor touchpoints and more automated processes have left the industry with a more exposed attack surface. The level of disruption a hacker could cause has the potential to be far-reaching; not only would they have the power to stall productions lines, but privacy and even physical safety also pose significant risks to operations. As automation increasingly dominates all aspects of manufacturing processes, leaders need to analyse the robustness of the business’ core technology. IT teams need to make sure they have all their data backed up, whether in a physical data-centre or in the cloud and have regularly tested action plans in place for recovering data and keeping the production line moving.

Watch your WiFi

It’s well known that WiFi can be hacked and cause issues across the supply chain, from networks inside storage depos, to public WiFi used by people working remotely – even supermarket ‘zappers’ could be hacked. Hacking supermarket zappers may not sound alarming, but if the system that provides all this information is corrupted then it could potentially bring down the entire network. What can be done? Keep your inventory record up to date with software management.

While investment in safety and cost reduction are both key elements for success in the manufacturing industry, it should not come at the cost of security. Ultimately, if a customer comes to doubt the ability of your businesses to run efficient operations you risk losing the trust, and business of important suppliers. Careful preparation will help leadership teams manage a crisis when it happens.

Resilience training for operations teams is essential to improve awareness of the entire business and ensure any vulnerabilities can be swiftly resolved. Don’t assume that all staff are appraised of the latest technology in the work place. Spend time upskilling them on the latest technologies otherwise outside threats will get the better of them, and your business.

Tom Holloway is the Principal Business Resilience Consultant at Sungard Availability Services.

Share article

Jun 17, 2021

Siemens: Providing the First Industrial 5G Router

3 min
Siemens’ first industrial 5G router, the Scalancer MUM856-1, is now available and will revolutionise the concept of remote control in industry

Across a number of industry sectors, there’s a growing need for both local wireless connectivity and remote access to machines and plants. In both of these cases, communication is, more often than not, over a long distance. Public wireless data networks can be used to enable this connectivity, both nationally and internationally, which makes the new 5G network mainframe an absolutely vital element of remote access and remote servicing solutions as we move into the interconnected age. 


Siemens Enables 5G IIoT

The eagerly awaited Scalance MUM856-1, Siemens’ very first industrial 5G router, is officially available to organisations. The device has the ability to connect all local industrial applications to the public 5G, 4G (LTE), and 3G (UMTS) mobile wireless networks ─ allowing companies to embrace the long-awaited Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). 

Siemens presents its first industrial 5G router.
Siemens presents the Scalance MUM856-1.

The router can be used to remotely monitor and service plants, machines, as well as control elements and other industrial devices via a public 5G network ─ flexibly and with high data rates. Something that has been in incredibly high demand after being teased by the leading network providers for years.


Scalance MUM856-1 at a Glance


  • Scalance MUM856-1 connects local industrial applications to public 5G, 4G, and 3G mobile wireless networks
  • The router supports future-oriented applications such as remote access via public 5G networks or the connection of mobile devices such as automated guided vehicles in industry
  • A robust version in IP65 housing for use outside the control cabinet
  • Prototypes of Siemens 5G infrastructure for private networks already in use at several sites


5G Now

“To ensure the powerful connection of Ethernet-based subnetworks and automation devices, the Scalance MUM856-1 supports Release 15 of the 5G standard. The device offers high bandwidths of up to 1000 Mbps for the downlink and up to 500 Mbps for the uplink – providing high data rates for data-intensive applications such as the remote implementation of firmware updates. Thanks to IPv6 support, the devices can also be implemented in modern communication networks.


Various security functions are included to monitor data traffic and protect against unauthorised access: for example, an integrated firewall and authentication of communication devices and encryption of data transmission via VPN. If there is no available 5G network, the device switches automatically to 4G or 3G networks. The first release version of the router has an EU radio license; other versions with different licenses are in preparation. With the Sinema Remote Connect management platform for VPN connections, users can access remote plants or machines easily and securely – even if they are integrated in other networks. The software also offers easy management and autoconfiguration of the devices,” Siemens said. 


Preparing for a 5G-oriented Future

Siemens has announced that the new router can also be integrated into private 5G networks. This means that the Scalance MUM856-1 is, essentially, future-proofed when it comes to 5G adaptability; it supports future-oriented applications, including ‘mobile robots in manufacturing, autonomous vehicles in logistics or augmented reality applications for service technicians.’ 


And, for use on sites where conditions are a little harsher, Siemens has given the router robust IP65 housing ─ it’s “dust tight”, waterproof, and immersion-proofed.


The first release version of the router has an EU radio license; other versions with different licenses are in preparation. “With the Sinema Remote Connect management platform for VPN connections, users can access remote plants or machines easily and securely – even if they are integrated in other networks. The software also offers easy management and auto-configuration of the devices,” Siemens added.


Share article