Manufacturing Sector Identified as Leading Target of Infrastructure Cyber-Attacks
Ian Wright posted on May 09, 2016 |

The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recently identified the manufacturing sector as the leading target of infrastructure cyber-attacks, accounting for one third of total attacks.

Moreover, the number of attacks against the manufacturing sector is more than double that of the energy sector, which is the second most targeted, according to the DHS.

US Reported Cyber Incidents by Critical Infrastructure Sector. (Source: Department of Homeland Security 2015.)
US Reported Cyber Incidents by Critical Infrastructure Sector. (Source: Department of Homeland Security 2015.)
“Awareness in the manufacturing environment is lower than in other sectors because they think that if they’re not a nuclear reactor in a country like Israel or Iran then they won’t be a target,” said Yoni Shohet, CEO and co-founder of SCADAfence. “But recent events, like the attack on the German iron plant, have proven otherwise.”


U.S. Steel Accuses China of Cyber Theft

The vulnerability of the manufacturing sector was highlighted by a recent ITC complaint filed by U.S. Steel against the largest Chinese steel producers and distributors.

In addition to allegations of price fixing and the circumvention of trade duties through false labelling, the complaint accuses Chinese steel manufacturers of stealing trade secrets, referring to an indictment of five Chinese military hackers from 2014.

According to U.S. Steel, Chinese military hackers stole the company's research on high-strength steel in 2010.
According to U.S. Steel, Chinese military hackers stole the company's research on high-strength steel in 2010.
U.S. Steel is now claiming research on creating the next generation of high-strength steel was taken and reproduced in China.

“They couldn’t figure out how to move to the next level,” said Debbie Shon, an attorney representing U.S. Steel in the petition. “After the hack they were able to.”


Cybersecurity and the Industrial Internet of Things

The majority of industrial environments were not designed with cybersecurity in mind because cyber-attacks were not considered a legitimate threat to manufacturing until fairly recently. However, as a result of the ever-increasing interconnectedness of industrial technologies that’s no longer the case.

Operational downtime, end product manipulation and industrial espionage are the biggest risks for manufacturers with insufficient cyber-security.
Operational downtime, end product manipulation and industrial espionage are the biggest risks for manufacturers with insufficient cyber-security.
“I think we’re facing three main threats,” said Shohet. “The first one is operational downtime, the second is manipulating the end-product and the third is industrial espionage.”

As an example of the second type of threat, Shohet referenced the Mars and Takata recalls, which both resulted from manufacturing error. “If manufacturers miss these types of errors, when a hacker tries to cover their tracks, a malicious manipulation of the manufacturing process will be even harder to detect.”


Is Industry 4.0 Worth the Risk?

Given the additional vulnerabilities that result from increasing interconnectivity in a manufacturing environment, a cagey engineer might wonder whether the efficiencies that come from increased interconnectivity are worth the increased risk of cyber-attacks.

For a manufacturer, the first step in dealing with these concerns is gaining a better understanding of the vulnerabilities of existing industrial control systems (ICS).

“It’s very hard to protect what you don’t know is running,” said Shohet.

How much confidence do you have in your ICS? Comment below.

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