Manufacturers Guide to Cybersecurity Initiatives

Manufacturing and cybersecurity have a complicated relationship.

A lack of adoption of key information security practices continues while cyberattacks within the manufacturing industry are on the rise. With a single data breach, a manufacturer can lose consumer trust and years of proprietary information to competitors. No longer can cybersecurity be viewed only as a simple checklist for compliance requirements.

Although it may be impossible to eliminate all risks, understanding and assessing vulnerabilities and implementing a cybersecurity initiative can provide the greatest level of risk reduction. Follow these three steps to implement a cybersecurity initiative in your manufacturing company:

Step 1: Focus on the Most Important Aspects of your Business

Every industry varies in the type of data that is most important to protect; in healthcare its patient information, in retail its payment card data. However, for manufacturers the most important information is their intellectual property and trade secrets.

These patents, designs and formulas are critical for a manufacturer’s success and should be considered top priority when implementing a cybersecurity policy. To start, conduct an IT risk assessment to better understand the current threats to the business. The assessment should identify any potential threats, the impact to the company if those threats were to happen and the current probability of those threats coming to fruition. From there, review the results of the risk assessment and make intelligent decisions about policy, such as where intellectual property is stored, who has access to it and how it is being backed up.

Step 2: Think Like a Hacker

Despite what you read in the headlines, most cyber attacks are not extravagant, rather hackers rely on easily exploitable areas to gain access to the information they are after. Performing annual penetration testing to simulate an attempted intrusion into your business can determine where potential threats lie before they can be found and exploited by actual hackers.

Manufacturers should look at their overall security posture from an outsider’s perspective. Develop motives and think about the unusual ways a hacker can penetrate your systems by exploiting vulnerabilities that you may not even know exist. Conduct regular vulnerability scanning between annual penetration tests to stay up to date on new vulnerabilities as they emerge.

Step 3: Share the Cybersecurity Policy Company-Wide

Employees are often perfect targets for hackers and can unintentionally cause a data breach. A best practice for manufacturers (and all businesses) to follow is ensuring that their employees understand the importance of cybersecurity and the role it plays within the company.

Include the cybersecurity policy in new hire manuals, employee contracts and establish a mandatory annual training program. In addition to periodically testing your systems, also conduct social engineering tests of company personnel. The best security systems can be easily bypassed if an employee will give out a password or open a malicious attachment.  Having a third-party conduct social engineering tests and using the testing as an educational tool for company staff can help mitigate these types of attacks.

Cybersecurity is not a one-size fits all solution. While risk assessments, penetration tests and vulnerability scanning provide crucial information, they do not protect the overall security of a computer or network on their own. It is the action taken after these tests are performed and the understanding of how to implement a cybersecurity initiative that will safeguard a manufacturer’s proprietary information. 

Learn How to Keep Your Business Safe - Schedule an IT Risk Assessment

Learn More About the State of the Manufacturing Industry


Jim Wagner, CPA

Partner-in-Charge, Manufacturing and Distribution

Email | Ph: 262-754-9400 | LinkedIn

Brad Lutgen

Partner, Security and Compliance

Email | Ph: 262-244-7331 | LinkedIn


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