Cybersecurity in manufacturing: How much is needed?

The cybersecurity situation for manufacturing is changing as the scale of attacks on the manufacturing sector and proportional loss to businesses has demonstrated the necessity of secure integrated control systems.

By Chris Hamilton June 18, 2016

In your day-to-day routine, how focused are you on topics of cybersecurity? Do you follow exploits published by SANS, ICS-CERT, etc and relish in unique zero-day findings? Or, do you passively hear of hacks on the news and think, "I’m glad that wasn’t my company."

For most of us, the answer would be the latter. However, the scale of attacks on the manufacturing sector and proportional loss to businesses in recent years has demonstrated the necessity of secure integrated control systems (ICSs).

The constantly shifting threat landscape can be daunting to follow—and it shows—in fact, the 2016 Vormetric Data Threat Report states that, "64% of IT execs think achieving basic compliance will stop most breaches." With the increasing nation-state threat, breaches are becoming more sophisticated and creating advanced persistent threats (APTs) with new levels of potency.

The "script-kiddies" of yesterday, taking advantage of single exploits, have grown up to become a highly trained, educated, and government-sponsored team of professionals. This team is dedicated to stealing a target’s intellectual property (IP) and/or using that company’s weaknesses to damage an entire industry. The scale is massive, and the threat is real.

Amidst the growing and changing attacks on the cyber front, many of the fundamentals have not changed. It is still true that most exploited vulnerabilities—99% in fact, according to Verizon’s 2015 Data Breach Investigations Report (DIBR) —came over a year after that exploit had been discovered and patched. The importance of patching will continue to be critical to a secure infrastructure.

The cybersecurity threat landscape

A coming of age of the cybersecurity threat landscape can be shown not only through the scale of attacks, but also through attackers’ focus, complexity, and funding. The situation is changing and the sophistication of these attacks, such as the one that hit Saudi Aramco, is evolving in ways that hadn’t been anticipated.

One of the key points of the Saudi Aramco breach was the company’s ability to quickly disconnect its systems (physically) from each other and the Internet. Financial and business systems went down and nobody got paid. However, manufacturing operations such as legacy oil manufacturing, continued to function.

What happens when these manufacturing systems inevitably become a connected integrated computer system (ICS) through business drivers for key performance indicator (KPI) monitoring, scheduling, resourcing, Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), or other drivers? What happens to the oil company whose manufacturing infrastructure is wiped by an attack of this scale? What happens to a global manufacturing company that can no longer produce any product?

That is the question many companies and organizations devoted to cybersecurity are looking to answer. And some of the best solutions can come from those who work in the trenches and see what is happening on a day-to-day basis.

Chris Hamilton is a senior technical consultant, manufactuing IT/OT, Grantek Systems Integration. He is also a MESA cybersecurity working group member. This article originally appeared on MESA International’s blog. MESA International is a CFE Media content partner. Edited by Chris Vavra, production editor, CFE Media,

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See additional stories about cybersecurity linked below.


Barth, Bradley. "Survey 64 Percent of IT Execs Think Achieving Basic Compliance Will Stop Most Breaches." SC Magazine. SC Magazine, 22 Jan. 2016. Web. 28 Jan. 2016.


"2015 Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)." Verizon Enterprise Solutions. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Jan. 2016.

Rashid, Fahmida Y. "Inside The Aftermath Of The Saudi Aramco Breach." Dark Reading. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Jan. 2016.

Hulett, Marguerite. "Cybersecurity: Changing Threat Landscape."

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