Since 2015, U.S. manufacturers have become targets of an increasing wave of cyberattacks. The attackers—more sophisticated and better funded than ever before—seem to concentrate their efforts on mission-critical industrial environments that are often vital for economic stability, such as plants that create automobile and aviation parts. In these applications, time sensitivity, or “just-in-time manufacturing,” means the target is at a serious disadvantage when subjected to a cyber event, such as a malware infection or ransomware. One mishap can cause the whole production line to fall through.
The quick turnaround times inherent to this sector give most manufacturers no more than a day and a half to supply stock at any given time. This means any attack, from a small threat, such as an unauthorized login, to the entire takeover of a network or critical infrastructure, will leave a manufacturer unable to deliver parts needed by customers to create their end-products. Considering these companies already operate on paper-thin margins, such a scenario can be devastating. If a network is down or held captive, companies lose valuable production time, significant profit, and suffer hefty downtime costs.
Take the example of a transmission plant in North Carolina. Last summer, the company’s entire computer network was attacked when malware entered the control system via an email, distributing a virus. The attacker threatened to shut down the production line until a ransom was paid. In this case, the company was set to lose over a quarter of a million dollars for every hour that production was stopped. Luckily, the company identified the culprit before the event took place, but this example highlights the risks faced by every mission-critical environment.