automotiveITIndustry 4.0 holds out the promise of smarter manufacturing, but with increased connectivity between plants and machinery, the risk of cyber attacks rises. That’s a major problem for companies trying to transform their manufacturing operations to take advantage of the new technologies. Germany’s Deutsche Telekom polled IT and business decision makers about Industry 4.0 and found that almost 90 percent of them see IT security as the biggest hurdle in achieving full implementation of the new processes. Moreover, 84 percent believe that connecting people, machines and production facilities will open new doors to attackers.

The worries don’t materialize out of thin air. More than a third of the companies analyzed by Telekom are the object of cyber attacks several times a week. A mere 10 percent report that, so far, they haven’t had to deal with these relatively new threats. But that low total may not fully represent the true vulnerability of companies. “We have to assume that there are quite a few unrecognized attacks as well,” said Anette Bronder, director of the Digital Division of Telekom’s business services unit, T-Systems. “On average, it takes more than 220 days for an attack to be recognized.”

Target: UK

In a recent report, PwC also said cybercrime is clearly on the increase. “There has been a huge rise in the number of organizations reporting cybercrime and digital technology is now driving almost every other area of economic crime as well,” the consultants said in their Global Economic Crime Survey 2016. PwC singled out UK industry as particularly vulnerable, with more than half of the respondents in the survey there ex- pecting to suffer from cybercrime in the next two years.

Technology companies have been warning for years that cybercrime - and the dangers it poses for increasingly connected manufacturing industries - need to be taken more seriously. “Connecting vital infrastructure to the Industrial Internet of Things comes with tremendous benefit, but also associated cyber risks,” said Jeff Zindel, vice president and general manager, cyber security, at Honeywell Process Solutions.

False sense of security?

Despite the high number of cyber attacks taking place, most industry executives are surprisingly confident that their factories are secure. According to the Telekom poll, only 12 percent believe that a hacker attack can do serious damage and three out of every five companies feel that they are as well prepared as can be. That confidence is at least in part related to the sharply higher spending that has been authorized in recent years in the area of corporate security. A substantial budget hike was reported by 29 pc of executives polled, while 49 pc said they have increased funding somewhat.

As cyber threats grow, the higher spending on defensive measures is providing a major boost to technology companies. According to a survey by consultants BDO USA, one in four tech CFOs sees cybersecurity worries as the primary driver of growth in the industry this year. That has resulted in a steady stream of announcements touting new tools companies can use to protect their operations. In February, for example, Honeywell and Palo Alto Networks said they are offering a new product specifically aimed at protecting control systems used in industrial facilities and critical infrastructure. The software monitors network traffic and deploys advanced threat prevention across the entire automation environment.

“The tech industry is responding to rising concerns about cybersecurity across all industries,” Shahryar Shaghaghi, national practice leader for technology advisory at BDO, said in a press statement. He added that the tech industry is adopting cyber principles and machine learning techniques and is “making tremendous progress in advanced analytics and artificial intelligence.” This should help companies anticipate and respond to cyber threats earlier, he said. In the BDO poll, 93 pc of executives questioned said they have deployed new software security tools, 81 percent had performed a cybersecurity risk assessment and 75 percent had created a response plan for security breaches.

By Arjen Bongard

(This article was first published in the automotiveIT International e-magazine. For a complimentary subscription, please go to: http://www.automotiveit.com/subscribe)