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Smart factories the main target as manufacturers fear cyberattack increase

Professional Engineering

More than half of industrial organisations believe the number of cyberattacks on smart factories is likely to increase in 2022 (Credit: Shutterstock)
More than half of industrial organisations believe the number of cyberattacks on smart factories is likely to increase in 2022 (Credit: Shutterstock)

‘Smart’ factories will be the prime target of most future cyberattacks, according to more than half of industrial organisations.

A new survey by French IT multinational Capgemini found that 53% of organisations, and 60% of those in heavy industry, fear the modern facilities will bear the brunt of hacks. More than half (51%) also believe that the number of cyberattacks on smart factories is likely to increase in 2022.

A high level of awareness does not necessarily translate to business preparedness, however. The Capgemini report, Smart & Secure: Why smart factories need to prioritise cybersecurity, found that a lack of C-suite focus, limited budget, and human factors are the top cybersecurity challenges for manufacturers to overcome.

“Few manufacturers have mature practices across the critical pillars of cybersecurity,” a report announcement said. “The connected nature of smart factories is exponentially increasing the risks of attacks in the ‘Intelligent Industry’ era.”

Geert van der Linden, cybersecurity business lead at Capgemini, said: “The benefits of digital transformation make manufacturers want to invest heavily in smart factories, but efforts could be undone in the blink of an eye if cybersecurity is not baked-in from the offset.

“The increased attack surface area and number of operational technology (OT) and Industrial Internet of Things (IIOT) devices make smart factories a prominent target for cyber criminals. Unless this is made a board-level priority, it will be difficult for organisations to overcome these challenges, educate their employees and vendors, and streamline communication between cybersecurity teams and the C-suite.”

For many organisations, cybersecurity is not a major design factor – the report found that only 51% build cybersecurity practices into their smart factories by default. 51% also said that smart factory cyberthreats normally come from ‘partner and vendor networks’. Of the firms affected by cyberattacks in the prior 12 months, 28% noted an increase in employees or vendors bringing in infected devices, such as laptops and handheld devices, to install or patch smart factory machinery.

The report found that ‘cybersecurity leaders’ who deploy mature practices across the critical pillars of cybersecurity – awareness, preparedness, and implementation of cybersecurity in smart factories – outperform their peers in multiple aspects. These aspects include recognising attack patterns at their early stage of deployment and reducing the impact of these attacks.

Based on analysis and insights from the cybersecurity leaders, Capgemini proposed a six-step approach to developing a robust cybersecurity strategy for smart factories: 

  • “Perform an initial cybersecurity assessment
  • “Build awareness of smart factory cyberthreats across the organisation
  • “Identify risk ownership for cyberattacks in smart factories
  • “Establish frameworks for smart factory cybersecurity
  • “Create cybersecurity practices tailored to smart factories
  • “Establish governance structure and communication framework with enterprise IT.”

The research was based on a global survey of 950 organisations, including companies from automotive, aerospace and defence, and heavy industry.


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Content published by Professional Engineering does not necessarily represent the views of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

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