Fighting the hidden enemy: how can your organisation combat cybercrime?
Cybercrime has become a major buzzword in recent months. Anyone keeping half an eye on the news will be familiar with phrases such as ‘Hillary’s emails’ and ‘Beckham’s knighthood’. The issue, however, is not restricted to those at the very top. Businesses of all shapes and sizes are finding themselves faced with the growing threat posed by cyberattacks, and the manufacturing industry is no exception.
Why is manufacturing a prime target?
No organisation is immune to cybercrime, but those in the manufacturing industry are particularly vulnerable. Two factors play a part in this. On the one hand, cybercriminals are attracted to the wealth of intellectual property and sensitive data possessed by manufacturing firms. The 2016 Manufacturing Report suggests that attacks on the sector costs the United States alone billions of dollars each year in lost intellectual property.
These attacks can come from both within and outside of an organisation. Internally, breaches occur most frequently when an employee shares confidential information out of spite or for financial gain, while competitors looking to undercut a rival by uncovering its secret designs, patents and industrial processes most commonly launch external attacks. This double-edged sword makes it twice as hard for manufacturers to insulate themselves from the threats of cybercrime.
But while it can be seen as an unfortunate victim, the industry appears to be doing little to improve its situation. Findings from EEF, Britain’s leading manufacturing employers’ organisation, support this. Although two-thirds of manufacturing executives cited cyberattacks as a major concern, only half of Britain’s manufacturers increased their cybersecurity investments in 2016 - this number decreases to 44 percent when we include only SMEs.
More alarmingly, a mere eight percent of manufacturers reported full confidence that their cyber protections would prevent an attack. Whether it takes the form of sophisticated espionage or smash-and-grab hacking, this sluggish approach is making the manufacturing industry a sitting duck for opportunistic cybercriminals.
How can cyberattacks be prevented?
A fine balancing act is clearly required from manufacturers. While remaining constantly vigilant, the sector must take a far more proactive approach towards cybersecurity.
Organisational planning is key here. Senior management teams within manufacturing firms must work with their IT departments to develop a holistic cyber risk strategy based on around-the-clock surveillance along with a comprehensive risk register with appropriate controls being identified. Complemented with increased investment in protective software and talent acquisition, this approach should be seen as the first port of call for an organisation looking to develop its cybersecurity strategy.
How can staff help to keep cybercriminals at bay?
Administrative frameworks, however, can achieve only so much. When it comes to improving cybersecurity, employees also have a vital role to play.
Again, there are two sides to this coin. One concerns the human vulnerabilities associated with cybercrime. As efficient as a firm’s cyber strategy might be, one simple mistake from an employee can render these defences futile.
For example, by responding to a seemingly legitimate phishing email, or by falling for a convincing scam phone call, workers can provide hackers with all the information needed to access an organisation’s internal systems. Once inside, it takes little for hackers to steal whatever information they need, safe in the knowledge that the server believes their actions to have been carried out by a trusted staff member. By making employees aware of these threats, educating them on how they can be avoided, and developing a procedure which allows employees to report mistakes before they inflict lasting damage, manufacturers can go a long way in strengthening their cyber defences.
At the same time, any internal threats must be treated with this same level of vigilance. As a significant number of cyberattacks reported by organisations are actually carried out from within the company, it is not unreasonable to claim that many of these breaches could have been avoided, had employees been able to recognise that their colleague was stealing valuable information. Again using education as a resource, firms can promote a culture of self-regulation which allows rogue workers to be identified and reported before their efforts are successful. Of course, technology such as Data Leak Prevention solutions can provide extra eyes – but the human factor is critical. Effectively managed, this would go a long way in bolstering a company’s cybersecurity, reducing the strain on its defences and ensuring that its cyber strategy can focus on unavoidable threats.
By Robert Rutherford, CEO of IT consultancy QuoStar
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IMF: Variants Can Still Hurt Manufacturing Recovery
After a year of on-and-off manufacturing in the US, UK, and the eurozone, demand for goods surged early last week. Factories set growth records in April and May, suppliers started to recover, and US crude hit its highest price point since pre-COVID. As vaccination efforts immunise much of the US and UK populations, manufacturers are now able to fully ramp up their supply chains. In fact, GDP growth could approach double-digits by 2022.
Now, the ISM productivity measure has surpassed the 50-point mark that separates industry expansion from contraction. Since U.S. president Biden passed his US$1.9tn stimulus package and the UK purchasing managers index (PMI) increased to 65.6, both sides of the Atlantic are facing a much-welcomed manufacturing recovery.
Lingering Concerns Over COVID
Even as Spain, France, Italy, and Germany race to catch up, and mining companies pushed the FTSE 100 index of list shares to a monthly high of 7,129, some say that UK and US markets still suffer from a lack of confidence in raw material supplies. Yes, the Dow Jones has made up its 19,173-point crash of March 2020, and MSCI’s global stock index is at an all-time high.
Yet manufacturers around the world realise that these wins will be short-lived until pandemic supply chain bottlenecks are solved. If we keep the status quo, consumers will pay the price. In April, inflation in Germany reached 2.4%, and across the EU’s 19 member countries, overall prices have increased at an unusual pace. Some ask: Is this true recovery?
IMF: Current Boom Could Falter
Even as Elon Musk tweeted about chip shortages forcing Tesla to raise its prices, UK mining demand skyrocketed; housing markets lifted; and the pound sterling gained value. The International Monetary Fund (IMF), however, cautioned that manufacturing recovery won’t last long if COVID mutates into forms our vaccinations can’t touch. Kristalina Georgieva, Washington’s IMF director, noted that fewer than 1% of African citizens have been vaccinated: “Worldwide access to vaccines offers the best hope for stopping the coronavirus pandemic, saving lives, and securing a broad-based economic recovery”.
Across the globe, manufacturing companies are keeping a watchful eye on new developments in the spread of COVID. Though US FDA officials don’t think we’ll have to “start at square one” with new vaccines, the March 2021 World Economic Outlook states that “high uncertainty” surrounds the projected 6% global growth. Continued manufacturing success will in large part depend on “the path of the pandemic, the effectiveness of policy support, and the evolution of financial conditions”.
Mathias Cormann, secretary-general of the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) concurred—without global immunisation, the estimated economic boom expected by 2025 could go kaput. “We need to...pursue an all-out effort to reach the entire world population”, Australia’s finance minister added. US$50bn to end COVID across the world, they imply, is a small investment to restart our economies.