Big Data Security for Manufacturing Sector

Over the past decade, Big Data has proven to be an invaluable resource for streamlining and optimizing global manufacturing operations in a variety of industries. Big Data analytics such as distribution histograms, standard deviations and other metrics make it possible for CXOs and operations managers to aggregate a pipeline of data — even real-time data — from the shop floor to the warehouse and throughout the supply chain. By taking a comprehensive look at previously isolated datasets, industry leaders can dive deep into current and historical production processes, pinpoint complex patterns and guideposts, reduce waste and variability and optimize yield, quality control and lean manufacturing on the whole.

Big Data, therefore, isn’t just the domain of manufacturing CIOs. More and more CFOs are taking notice of the power of Big Data to cut costs, increase productivity and turn a bigger profit for shareholders, while simultaneously increasing brand-name recognition and building customer loyalty. Given their responsibility for maintaining control over financial reporting and planning for the future, manufacturing CFOs must also be able to track information across all sectors of the supply chain, from inventory to distribution centers, even when the supply chain is scattered across multiple floors in multiple factories on multiple continents.

Big Data in Manufacturing1And yet anywhere there is data, there are thieves trying to steal or otherwise compromise that data. Although security threats vary depending on what products a company makes, intellectual property and trade secrets will always be a source of temptation for hackers and other cyber criminals. Given the ever-increasing shrewdness and temerity of cyber-criminals, manufacturers should not just prepare for but expect to be targets.

Indeed, the Global State of Information Security Survey of 2015 found that three quarters of industrial manufacturing companies had detected security incidents over the past 12 months, and about 20% said they detected 50 or more such incidents. Stolen, damaged or otherwise compromised were employee records, personally identifiable information about customers or partners, internal records and soft intellectual property such as processes and institutional knowledge. Nearly 40 percent of those manufacturers attributed current or former employees as the likely source of the breach.

Complicating matters is the sheer number and complexity of global manufacturing operations, which often creates a fragmented data landscape that is difficult to secure. The same Industry trends that make manufacturing more streamlined — such as the Internet of Things (IoT) and Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) — also increase exponentially the potential for cyber attacks to occur.

Such attacks, whether through cyber espionage or distributed denial of service (DDOS) and Web application attacks, can wreak havoc on a manufacturing company’s reputation, operations and bottom line, not to mention the consequences that arise if equipment is compromised and employees’ lives are put at risk. If the breach is severe enough, a company might never regain losses — a fate made all the more painful if the fault lies with the manufacturer itself for not taking appropriate data security measures.

big data in manufacturingAt the application level, any company with a notable online presence is vulnerable to a security breach. Hackers often go after a company’s website or applications with denial-of-service attacks, which can greatly impact operations throughout the supply chain. According to the IBM X-Force Threat Intelligence report, these attacks were second in frequency only to SQL injection, and in some cases they are even politically motivated. Manufacturing, unlike banking or other sectors, wouldn’t seem to be a natural target for politically motivated cyber attacks, but the recent experience of several agricultural equipment manufacturers proves otherwise. The manufacturers — one of which made logging equipment and another weaponized bulldozers used by resettlement operations in the Middle East — demonstrate that nearly any company can find itself under attack by not only those looking to make fast money, but also those looking to prove a point.

Information is the glue that holds a supply chain together, but at the service level of manufacturing, the supply chain is often the the weak point for attacks. Protecting information exchanged with suppliers is a huge challenge for most manufacturers, which often don’t know exactly who is in their supply chain or even how many suppliers they have. Assessing and managing this information is crucial to securing data, especially given that some suppliers are also competitors. It’s also important for another reason: hackers are increasingly taking advantage of gaps in supply chain security to target manufacturers’ products themselves. Cyber criminals have been known to install Trojans into a product’s control software or even target intelligent devices spread throughout the shop floor — devices that capture valuable company data or, in the event they malfunction, can pose a risk to employee or customer safety.

cyber security in manufacturingCyber attacks can also affect manufacturing operations on a transactional level. The real-time or near real-time transaction processes in typical Industrial Control Systems — fetching information about current inventory, for example — affords little tolerance for long periods where services are unavailable. However, security controls and solutions for preventing such transactional latency must often be tested off-line in a non-production environment, which is not ideal for either data defense or manufacturing operations.

Furthermore, security components designed to protect data transactions are routinely neglected for years or even decades, causing them to be outdated and vulnerable to attack. These breaches are sometimes not detected for months, which can compromise a company’s financial bottom line. One rule of thumb that many industries have learned the hard way is that the longer it takes a company to discover a security breach, the greater the loss in data and the greater the costs associated with fixing the problem and making things right.

At the level of infrastructure, legacy equipment is often a primary target for hackers. An ever-growing number of corporate assets and products are now linked via IoT, which provides a rich source of data for manufacturers in terms of remote asset tracking, fleet management and performance monitoring, among other data, but also presents an irresistible temptation for those with bad intentions. Security must therefore be addressed not only in security networks, but also in industrial automation systems, sensors and other technologies used to track and monitor products and machines, and devices in the field.

RoundWorld Solutions Big Data 360-degree Tool can provide manufacturers with a more granular approach to diagnosing and correcting Big Data security flaws. Our comprehensive look at your data security needs at all levels of the supply chain will help your company ensure data privacy and security, and also ensure that these requirements are extended to your suppliers’ suppliers. Our customizable, top-down tool will also make it possible for you to safeguard customer information and meet regulatory compliance requirements while maintaining “business as usual” operations, allowing you to keep your cost footprint low and your company’s reputation intact.

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This article was provided by:
Tiffany Fox
Public Information Officer
RoundWorld Solutions