Set a Thief to Catch a Thief: What is So Important About Cybersecurity for a Manufacturer?

You don’t think about a manufacturer’s computer operation as being an attractive target for hackers and thieves, but many manufacturers are vulnerable to cyberattacks for any number of reasons because their cybersecurity is practically nonexistent.

For one thing, hackers may just see disrupting your operation as something to do. They break into your system for the same reason a mountain climber climbs a mountain: Because it’s there.

For others, they’re looking for your financial data or even personal information about your associates, which they can use for identity theft and credit card fraud.

And still others, your intellectual property is highly valuable. Your schematics, your manufacturing specs, and even your customer lists are all valuable to competitors and industrial spies.

Unfortunately, the cybersecurity of any company is only as good as the people you hire to manage it. I always remembered the adage, “Set a thief to catch a thief,” so as part of my internal audit process, I used to measure my company’s cybersecurity by hiring hackers to hack the system.

What I learned is that it was very easy to hack our systems.

Photo of a man wearing a stocking cap with a green computer code background. I often employed white hat hackers to test our cybersecurity.Our “white hat” hackers were getting in by impersonating people within the organization. For example, they would send an email that was supposedly from the chairman of the board to a divisional controller saying they had forgotten to wire $100,000 to a certain account.

Since the chairman’s name was on the email, the person in the accounting area was terrified that they had forgotten something and immediately wired the $100,000 to the account we had set up, no questions asked. Of course, the chairman never actually sent the email, but the hackers could make it look as though he did.

They were also able to figure out people’s passwords and access codes. They did this through a variety of “phishing” attacks, setting up fake pages for people to log into, and socially engineering a person’s password.

(Hint: Don’t pick your child’s name or pet’s name as your password, especially when you’ve been sharing this kind of information on social media these days.)

All of the ways you can protect yourself are well-documented online these days, but you never know how secure your particular system is until you have professional hackers show you how porous it is.

Cloud Computing May be the Answer

I don’t claim to be an expert on technology, but I do know I want my enterprise environment to be safe. And the best way to do this is through cloud computing. This is where you keep your financial and IP data stored on a secure web server, and let all your internal computers access the information.

I know many managers like to keep their servers in-house because it feels more secure keeping them behind your own locked doors. But this is actually less safe than cloud servers. Remember, every server is in the cloud to a hacker, so keeping yours on your premises doesn’t make it safer.

Here are a few reasons why a cloud server can make your data safer:

  • It’s more secure. Cloud servers on sites like Google, Microsoft, and AWS have very expensive, state-of-the-art AI-powered cybersecurity software that learns from previous attacks. Very few companies can afford this level of security, but the big server companies all have it. Unless you have a Fortune 500 IT budget, you don’t have it either.
  • It reduces your energy costs. A server room uses a lot of power to operate the servers and the air conditioning. (Servers generate a lot of heat and you have to cool off the server room no matter what time of year it is.) You can save a lot of money on cooling and power costs just by moving your data to the cloud.
  • It lets you expand without increasing your physical space. If you ever need to add more servers and you run out of space in your building, you’re ultimately limited by whether you can knock down a wall or move to a new space.
  • Expanding only costs a few dollars. There may be times where you need more processing power for a few days, or you may want to add some additional storage space. You can expand in a matter of seconds for a few dollars per month.
  • You don’t have to upgrade your servers. Manufacturing equipment can last for decades, but a server usually lasts no more than 5 years. But if you have a cloud service, the provider handles all the upgrades, not you, so there are no upgrade costs.

Cybersecurity is critical for manufacturers, not only in terms of the human factor, but in terms of your corporate servers and the data they hold. Create policies that require your associates to use hard-to-crack passwords and put your company data on a cloud-based server. It’s more secure and it saves you a lot of money.

I’ve been a manufacturing executive, as well as a sales and marketing professional, for a few decades. Now I help companies turn around their own business, including pivoting within their industry. If you would like more information, please visit my website and connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn.

Photo credit: Madartzgraphics (Pixabay, Creative Commons 0)

Author: David Marshall
I’ve been a manufacturing executive, as well as a sales and marketing professional, for a few decades. Now I help companies turn around their own business. If you would like more information, please visit my website and connect with me on Twitter or LinkedIn.