Cybersecurity is a sector that never sleeps. 

Every day, you can encounter new risks from cyber threats, like security breaches or even proprietary data theft.

And in discrete manufacturing, where technology is constantly advancing and processes are getting more and more efficient, robust cybersecurity has never been more instrumental to your success.

Cybersecurity is no longer just an option for discrete manufacturing – it’s a necessity.

But as discrete manufacturing has become more complicated – with added nuances like interconnected systems, automation, and the huge amounts of data generated in modern manufacturing — it’s also become exposed to a wider range of cyber threats than ever before through multiple different entry points.

This makes cyberattacks even harder to defend against.

So, to help you proactively wrangle your cybersecurity into shape and protect your discrete manufacturing company against cyber threats, we’ve put together this checklist tailored to the unique challenges of the sector. 

Here, we share the 10 most critical cybersecurity features you need to look out for in discrete manufacturing. This should serve as a comprehensive guide for organizations looking to bolster their cybersecurity defenses and mitigate risks from cyberattacks.

  • Segment and Isolate Your Systems
  • Secure Your Endpoints
  • Encrypt Your Data
  • Create an Incident Response Plan
  • Continuously Monitor and Learn About New Threats
  • Build User Controls Like Authentication and Authorization
  • Implement Firewalls and Intrusion Prevention Systems
  • Ensure Your Supply Chain Is Secure
  • Regularly Update and Patch Your Software
  • Train Your Employees in Security Awareness

Segment and Isolate Your Systems for Manufacturing Processes

Discrete manufacturing environments often comprise various interconnected systems, such as enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems, and industrial control systems (ICSs). 

While this sounds perfect for your operations at first glance, there is a downside to this connectivity. Because these systems are so intricately interconnected, if and when a cyberattack occurs, the attacker will be able to pass more easily between the systems, causing chaos in their wake.

That’s why these systems should be strategically segmented and isolated, to prevent the lateral movement of cyber threats within your network. 

Why Does Segmentation Matter?

By dividing the network into segments and isolating critical systems, you’re ensuring that a breach in one area doesn’t cascade through the entire network, stopping the lateral movement of the cyber threat in its tracks.

And it’s not just a one-time thing. Regularly reviewing and updating your segmentation strategies will help you to adapt to new emerging cyber threats, and stay more secure. 

So network segmentation isn’t just about dividing up your systems – it’s a strategic approach to enhancing your cybersecurity.

How?

  • Regularly review and update your segmentation strategy.
  • Implement robust access controls to limit unauthorized access.
  • Isolate critical manufacturing processes to contain potential breaches.

Secure Your Endpoints Tailored to Industrial Devices

“Endpoints” are the entry points to a manufacturing network, covering everything from traditional computers to programmable logic controllers (PLCs), industrial machines, and IoT devices. 

Because there are so many endpoints – both in quantity and different types – this creates a complex attack surface, which requires more all-encompassing security measures. 

That’s why endpoint security solutions like advanced antivirus software, intrusion detection systems, and device management tools are so important. 

Why Does Endpoint Security Matter?

Endpoint security tailored to industrial devices is vital to prevent unauthorized access and potential infiltration from malware.

These endpoint security tools not only detect and mitigate malware, but also ensure that all devices connecting to the network adhere to security policies. You should conduct regular audits of endpoints to find any vulnerabilities and address them properly.

How?

  • Use advanced antivirus software, intrusion detection systems, and device management tools.
  • Regularly audit your industrial endpoints to identify any vulnerabilities and make sure that your cybersecurity measures are compliant.

Encrypt Your Data to Protect Your Intellectual Property

The discrete manufacturing sector deals with a wealth of sensitive data, including proprietary designs, production schedules, and confidential customer information. 

Encryption is a fundamental feature to protect this invaluable data, and should be applied to data both in transit and at rest. This includes securing communication channels between devices, databases, and storage systems.

Why Does Data Encryption Matter?

As you’ll already likely know, it’s vital to protect your intellectual property in discrete manufacturing. Data encryption is a handy way to ensure that even if there is unauthorized access – either from within or outside your company – the information is still indecipherable without the appropriate encryption keys.

So, by implementing strong encryption algorithms and securely managing encryption keys, you’re safeguarding your intellectual property and preventing any unauthorized access.

How?

  • Implement robust encryption protocols for data in transit and at rest.
  • Manage encryption keys securely to safeguard proprietary designs and sensitive information.

Create an Incident Response Plan to Minimize Downtime

An incident response plan is a strategy that covers how an organization responds to and recovers from a cybersecurity incident. 

Ideally, the incident response plan should have clear steps for identifying, containing, and eradicating the threat, as well as how to recover normal operations and conduct a post-incident analysis to learn and adapt to future threats.

Again, this isn’t meant to be a be-all-and-end-all strategy – so carry out regular tests to make sure the incident response plan remains effective and prepares you for evolving cyber threats.

Why Does an Incident Response Plan Matter?

Even the best preventative measures can’t stop all cybersecurity incidents. 

And in discrete manufacturing, downtime can have severe financial implications for the company. So a well-defined incident response plan, tailored to manufacturing constraints, minimizes downtime and accelerates recovery, preventing too much damage to your bottom line.

How?

  • Develop efficient recovery protocols to get operations back up and running quickly.
  • Conduct regular checks to ensure the incident response plan aligns with the goal of minimizing manufacturing downtime.

Continuously Monitor and Learn About New Threats to Your Manufacturing Operations

Continuous network monitoring allows you to detect any anomalous activities and signal potential security threats early on.

Leveraging threat intelligence tools also provides real-time information on emerging cybersecurity threats specific to the manufacturing industry, helping organizations to stay ahead of cyberattackers with rapid countermeasures and patches.

Why Does Monitoring Matter?

Discrete manufacturing environments should adopt a proactive stance in cybersecurity. But while continuous monitoring is considered proactive, it isn’t always possible with an always-on industry like discrete manufacturing. 

Instead, it needs to integrate seamlessly with your production operations. Real-time monitoring should detect threats early but without compromising efficiency.

How?

  • Align continuous monitoring with production processes to boost efficiency.
  • Implement tools for real-time anomaly detection to catch potential threats before they escalate.

Build User Controls Like Authentication and Authorization

Manufacturing networks need robust user authentication and authorization mechanisms to control access to critical systems. Features like multi-factor authentication add an extra layer of security by requiring users to provide multiple forms of identification. 

So regularly review and update user permissions to ensure your employees only have access to the resources they need.

Why Do Access Controls Matter?

Manufacturing environments involve enormously diverse teams with distinct roles. Robust user authentication and role-based access control prevents unauthorized access by ensuring that users have the appropriate permission.

How?

  • Introduce multi-factor authentication for an additional layer of security.
  • Carry out regular permission reviews to ensure users have the minimum necessary access for their roles.

Implement Firewalls and Intrusion Prevention Systems for Industrial Control Systems

Firewalls act as a barrier against unauthorized access and cyber threats by monitoring and controlling incoming and outgoing network traffic. Intrusion Prevention Systems (IPSs) bolster this defense by actively identifying and blocking malicious activities. 

Why Do Firewalls and Intrusion Prevention Systems Matter?

In discrete manufacturing, industrial control systems (ICSs) are the nerve center of production processes. Firewalls, and IPSs tailored to ICSs, are critical for keeping your operations reliable. By deploying both network- and host-based firewalls, along with IPSs, you can create a robust cybersecurity perimeter.

How?

  • Deploy firewalls and IPSs specifically designed for ICSs.
  • Check security measures don’t compromise the reliability of ICSs.

Ensure Your Supply Chain Is Secure for Component Integrity

Conduct thorough assessments of your suppliers’ cybersecurity practices, implement secure communication channels, and establish protocols for verifying the integrity of received components or software. 

After all, one breach in the supply chain can trickle down into the entire manufacturing process.

Why Does Securing Your Supply Chain Matter?

Discrete manufacturing involves complex supply chains with numerous vendors and partners. Securing the supply chain helps to prevent cyber threats from infiltrating the network through third-party components or services. 

How?

  • Conduct thorough cybersecurity assessments of your suppliers.
  • Establish protocols to verify the integrity of components you receive from your supply chain.

Regularly Update and Patch Your Software for Industrial Systems

Set up a patch management system to ensure your software and firmware are regularly updated – from operating systems and applications to the firmware of ICSs. 

Regularly applying any security patches and updates reduces vulnerabilities and strengthens your cybersecurity overall.

Why Do Updates and Patches Matter?

Cyberattackers love nothing more than outdated software and unpatched systems to make their lives easier. And with discrete manufacturing environments often containing a mix of legacy and modern systems, this makes them prime targets for hackers. 

So update your systems regularly to cut down vulnerabilities while building up stability.

How?

  • Regularly update your software and firmware, including industrial systems.
  • Ensure updates and patches won’t compromise the stability of any manufacturing processes.

Train Your Employees in Security Awareness Tailored to Discrete Manufacturing

While we might do everything to protect our systems, it’s not entirely safe from one thing – us.

In fact, a study from 2021 revealed that 95% of all cybersecurity breaches from the previous year were a result of human error

So it’s vital to train your teams to prevent social engineering attacks and inadvertent security breaches. This training should cover topics including recognizing phishing attempts, password security, and understanding the broader role each employee plays in maintaining the overall security of the organization. 

Ongoing training sessions and awareness campaigns can help to maintain a more cybersecurity-conscious culture.

Why Does Security Awareness Training Matter?

Security awareness training is especially important in the discrete manufacturing sector, where IT and OT (operational technology) converge. This is because your employees need security awareness training across both disciplines. So tailored security awareness training will prepare your manufacturing personnel to recognize and mitigate any potential threats.

How?

  • Provide industry-specific training tailored to manufacturing environments.
  • Organize regular refresher courses or training sessions to reinforce cybersecurity best practices.

Boosting your cybersecurity success in discrete manufacturing

In discrete manufacturing, where digital transformation presents unprecedented opportunities and challenges, cybersecurity is an enormous strategic need. It safeguards your critical assets, maintains operational continuity, and upholds the reputation of your manufacturing organization. 

With this comprehensive checklist, you now have a detailed guide on how to best fortify your cybersecurity defenses. By incorporating these essential features into your strategy, you can effectively prepare for cyber threats and become more resilient to evolving cyber threats. 

As well as staying vigilant, adapting to new threats, and committing yourself to cybersecurity best practices, you can safeguard your discrete manufacturing company’s intellectual property and ensure secure, uninterrupted production processes.

 

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