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How to Manage Risk in a Smart Factory

By Special Guest
Megan Ray Nichols, STEM Writer & Blogger
May 06, 2019

Smart factories are popping up all over the landscape. These IoT-enabled facilities increase worker safety and improve efficiency while reducing waste, but they aren't without their risks. As with any networked system, there is always the problem of data security, an issue that many factory managers aren't taking seriously. Why is cybersecurity so critical, and how can you manage this risk in a smart factory?

IoT And DDoS Attacks
Smart factories rely on interconnected IoT-enabled devices. These devices exist on a network that, if left unsecured, could potentially be breached by hackers. On October 21, 2016, hackers took advantage of that lack of cybersecurity and, hacking into millions of IoT devices in homes and businesses around the globe, used them to orchestrate the most massive Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack in history. Most of the world had trouble accessing the internet during the attack.

Hackers could access these IoT devices because the owners or managers hadn't changed the product's default password. Yes, you read that right — default passwords enabled hackers to cripple the internet for several hours. Even if you keep your smart factory on a closed network, you're still at risk.

Possible Risks
What possible risks could a smart factory face? A few include:

  • Data Theft: If a savvy hacker makes their way into your smart factory network, they likely have all the tools they need to steal your data or encrypt it and hold it for ransom, only providing the encryption key once they've gotten paid.
  • Service Disruption/Downtime: IoT-enabled smart factories rely on constant communication between the equipment and the computer hub to function. If your network is breached, it won't take much effort to cause service disruptions or even shut down the machine entirely.
  • Theft of Intellectual Property: Hackers aren't above a bit of corporate espionage, and may steal your intellectual property to sell to the highest bidder.

With all these risks, it may be tempting to go back to an analog factory model, but there are plenty of steps you can take to reduce these risks and ensure that your smart factory can operate securely.

Protecting Yourself From Theft
What can you do to protect your facility from cybercrime?

Start by changing the default passwords for each of your smart devices, and updating those passwords regularly. Default passwords allowed hackers to take down the internet in 2016, and could potentially be like leaving your door open for thieves.

Make cybersecurity your priority. You wouldn't leave your factory unlocked after hours, right? Ignoring cybersecurity is no different. It may be new, but that doesn't make it any less critical. If you're not sure where to start, consider bringing in a cybersecurity firm to analyze your current security protocols and figure out where you can make changes.

Smart factories are here, whether you've made the transition to this new manufacturing techniques or not. Whether you're already managing a smart factory or working toward incorporating smart tech in your current facility, make sure that you're not neglecting cybersecurity. Data is as valuable in today's market as good, and in some cases even more so. Protect your investment by making sure that your network is secure. 

Edited by Ken Briodagh
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