The manufacturing sector was the top OT-related industry to be attacked, according to IBM’s 2023 X-Force Threat Intelligence Index report, accounting for more than 50% of all attacks against OT organisations globally. Meanwhile, the Security Navigator 2024 report found ransomware attacks carried out against manufacturers were up 42% in 2023, compared to the previous year. Manufacturing was the top sector, attracting a fifth of all extortion attacks - which show no sign of slowing down in 2024.
One company doing something about this, is Logpoint, a software development company which supports businesses in a world of evolving threats.
Cybersecurity challenges in modern manufacturing
Logpoint is headquartered in Copenhagen, Denmark, and has positioned itself as a European powerhouse in cyber defence, an issue which is becoming top-of-mind for manufacturers in today’s geopolitically-charged economic climate, coupled with the need to comply with NIS2. Logpoint’s Tim Wallen has been in the cybersecurity sector for decades and manages Logpoint across the UK, US and emerging markets.
“We work closely with our partners and customers, helping them monitor their networks against cyber attacks and carry out threat detection and incident response,” Wallen explains.
Interconnectivity is key to modern manufacturing, driving massive transformations and creating incredible opportunities. But Wallen says that with those advances come new challenges.
“Interconnectivity can give malicious actors a wider area to attack and broader access to mine manufacturing infrastructure for valuable information. With the Internet of Things (IoT) connecting devices not only to each other but also to the internet, keeping those threats at bay becomes an even greater challenge. In addition, networked operational technologies (OT) such as SCADA and Industrial Control Systems (ICS) also continue to be problematic to secure.”
Wallen sees supply chain attacks using ransomware as a major threat to manufacturers.
“Toyota succumbed to a ransomware attack on component supplier, Kojima, halting production, and Locker ransomware is routinely being used to target manufacturers with reports claiming the sector was singled out by China-nexus adversaries during 2022 in Northern Europe,” he says.
Ransomware group 8base, which emerged in March 2022, is in the top five and 13.5% of its attacks have been targeted at the manufacturing vertical. Similarly, Akira which appeared in March 2023 predominantly targets the UK and US and also focuses on the manufacturing vertical.
“Such ransomware is sophisticated and designed to encrypt files on a victim’s system, delete shadow copies, and provide instructions for ransom payment and data recovery,” says Wallen.
He believes that the main obstacles in securing the manufacturing estate are maintaining legacy IT systems, particularly with the convergence of OT and IT, which then exposes previously air gapped systems to attack.
“But another major issue is a lack of cyber personnel. There are significant skills shortages making it challenging to recruit and retain the right staff and this can create a skills gap within the organisation which can then be exploited. Then of course there’s the supply chain and the need to manage and monitor third party software.”
Strengthening cybersecurity in manufacturing with threat detection
According to Wallen, manufacturers need robust detection and response capabilities through proper logging, visibility of assets and automatic network monitoring, to defend themselves from cyberattacks.
“Technologies such as next generation Security Incident and Event Management (SIEM) can help here when coupled with threat hunting solutions such as Security Orchestration Automation and Response (SOAR). SOAR searches for security threats and uses playbooks which align with threat types to investigate,” says Wallen. “Once a threat is detected, the SOAR prioritises the severity and alerts the Security Operations Centre (SOC) before triggering an automated response. Combining this with the SIEM therefore transforms the cyber stance from a reactive to a proactive one.”
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