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Securing Digital Identities During A Digital Revolution

Last year, many industries put their foot on the digital accelerator, going thorugh a once-in-a-generation transformation, and the manufacturing sector was no exception. As one of the largest markets for IoT devices – only second to the IoT devices used in buildings and for security systems – the manufacturing sector is a prime target for cybersecurity criminals and nation-state threat actors.

Conventional methods of data security aren’t enough to keep up with the demands of modern manufacturing. As manufacturers progressively expand past local roots, subsequently creating a global market of suppliers and customers, how can organisations keep up with this increasing need for data-sharing while minimising vulnerabilities? A central component to managing complex value chains is with identity security. Visibility across the organisation is crucial in knowing who has access to what information and when.

Manufacturers can have the strongest cybersecurity framework in place, but a partner could unintentionally create gaps, exposing internal data to potential threat actors. Contractors or remote employees may join full or part-time staff across a wide range of roles on the factory floor, along with vendors, customers, auditors and regulators among others. This creates multiple access points so it’s crucial that employee’s identities and their access to applications, data, and systems are managed and maintained.

To maintain the integrity of a factory, a secure lifecycle of systems and machines need to be established and maintained along with the data generated. By implementing identity security, it will securely connect automatically integrate and reconcile all users that are inside and outside the organisation with the correct access and permissions to connect between different ecosystems of services and employees.

The rising complexity of the modern manufacturing industry has led to an evolving business model, thus, the need to abide by multiple data protection standards and regulations. Historically, manufacturers are often removed from the customer as products go through distribution entities before getting to the final end-user or consumer.

Now, many manufacturers are shortening their time to market, with some choosing to sell directly to the end-user, however, access to personal identifiable information (PII) and customer information will increase. It is crucial that the manufacturing sector be prepared to protect new types of data while remaining compliant.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) can evolve alongside an organisation as changes occur. Its application for identity security across an organisation means that a manufacturer can confidently develop new go-to-market strategies, knowing that the influx of new data and high volume of information is automatically protected and only accessible by authorised user to ensure compliancy while keeping the business secure. This is essential, particularly when expanding into new markets and regions, or creating new partnerships.

Traditionally, the implementation of technology within the manufacturing sector has had a strong focus on improving performance and safety. As cybercriminals become increasingly sophisticated, it is paramount that manufacturers evolve alongside by utilizing advancements such as ML and IoT to identity and close any gaps as new technology is integrated.

A cyberattack can infect and majorly disrupt a factory’s processes, causing stoppages, bottlenecks, and potentially permanent damage to equipment, thus, leading to financial damage that could cost a company thousands, sometimes millions, of dollars. It’s possible for these cyber intrusions to migrate and compromise associated systems such as customer data, value chain partners, employee information or other aspects of operations.

Research shows that manufacturing executives indicate that four of the top ten cyberthreats facing their organisations are directly attributable to internal employees. This includes, but is not limited to, phishing, direct abuse of IT systems, and use of mobile devices. Having automated identity security processes in place can help mitigate these risks and reduce human error.

Performing regular cyber risk assessments and transparency about results across the business is crucial. Engaging in dialogue will not only drive increased cyber-awareness but it may lead to positive changes in attitudes towards strengthening cybersecurity posture. Increasing organisational vigilance is key to improving an organisations ecosystem.

Elevating security processes with the use of AI and ML to complement the digital transformation of the manufacturing industry is pertinent to staying competitive while mitigating cyber risks. The challenges of overcoming cyber risks are constantly evolving but having a consistent and robust cybersecurity strategy in place will help protect data and assets. This will help streamline identity security processes, while expanding the companies security capabilities to reduce IT costs and drive overall value.

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