Stopping Cyberattacks with a Self-Defending Factory Floor

Search Hacked warning on laptop Concept of privacy data being hacked and breached from internet technology threat. 3d renderring.

IT systems are under constant threat of ransomware and other cyberattacks. But what about OT — operational technology — found in manufacturing and other industrial environments? OT often suffers from weak security, which makes OT an increasingly appealing target for cyber criminals. An attack on OT can force a factory to shut down, delaying production and increasing costs.

A 2023 BlackBerry survey of IT decision makers and cybersecurity leaders in manufacturing found that nearly three-quarters of manufacturers have been hit with a cyberattack. And a brief by IDC noted that 64% of surveyed organizations had been victims of a ransomware attack that blocked access to systems and data.

Manufacturers present unique security vulnerabilities that make it an appealing target for cyber criminals. The BlackBerry survey noted two key issues faced by manufacturers:

  • Aging systems. Many IT departments are shackled to aging hardware and legacy operating systems. In the BlackBerry survey, 36% of respondents said they were still using Windows NT, while 46% were using Windows XP, and 57% used Windows 7. All of those operating systems are long past their end-of-support dates. Nearly half (49%) also said that their OT was capable of only limited cybersecurity. With many such weak security links, cybercriminals can easily find vulnerable entry points into a company’s network.
  • Modernization efforts. While many manufacturers are still using legacy operating systems equipment, the industry overall is moving to implement new digital technologies and to integrate OT and IT. Unfortunately, the downside of these efforts is that merging old equipment with modern networked and cloud-based technologies can leave vulnerabilities such as misconfigured settings on IT equipment or software, passwords that have never been changed from their factory pre-sets, and OT devices with outdated security. Any of those vulnerabilities put at risk supply chain networks, factory floor automation, Internet of Things (IoT) grids and other connected systems.

Because the industry faces a shortage of skilled cybersecurity professionals experienced with OT security issues, manufacturers will benefit from seeking third-party help in securing their OT and IT assets on the production floor. MSSPs are a natural choice for helping manufacturing improve cybersecurity.

The Role of MSSPs

MSSPs are well positioned to help manufacturers (and companies in other OT-reliant industries) modernize their technology and security. MSSPs have the services to ensure IT and OT systems are kept patched and up-to-date, implement access controls on equipment, develop security and disaster recovery strategies, and evaluate and deploy new cybersecurity solutions.

Manufacturing is slowly modernizing its production lines with predictive maintenance, digital workflows, robotics, cobots (robots that work alongside humans), machine learning, and other automation technologies. The BlackBerry survey found that 56% were migrating to cloud-based solutions, while 46% said they were adopting the Internet of Things (IoT) and 37% were integrating their OT with modern software and hardware.

However, manufacturers report facing obstacles to modernization, notably cost, data integration, and cybersecurity concerns. MSSPs can play an important role in helping manufacturers evaluate and implement intelligent, cross-platform cybersecurity solutions and services that address OT security vulnerabilities, especially in endpoint devices that could be used as entry points for an attack.

AI-based security can quickly identify suspicious behaviors in applications, workloads, and network usage and stop zero-day attacks before they infect the network.

The Self Defending Factory Floor

Manufacturers can better protect their systems by implementing a “self-defending factory floor” — a model of an automated, AI-driven approach to identify threats and suspicious behaviors, using agents on OT and IT equipment to protect vulnerable endpoint devices.

For example, BlackBerry’s CylanceGUARD, CylanceINTELLIGENCE,deploy lightweight software agents to detect ransomware, phishing, and zero-day threats as well as fileless, script-based, and other threats to modern and legacy endpoints.

With cyberattacks on industrial infrastructure on the rise, manufacturing is clearly in the crosshairs. MSSPs can play a critical role in helping manufacturers and other industrial clients to replace their outdated cybersecurity with AI-based comprehensive endpoint security that can identify, manage, and protect every OT endpoint and connection, including legacy systems.

MSSPs have an opportunity to provide OT cybersecurity services that prevent attacks and bolster operational resilience without increasing administrative burden. To help manufacturers address their unique cybersecurity requirements, MSSPs can benefit from forging new technology partnerships with companies like BlackBerry to provide self-defending solutions for manufacturers and other OT companies.

Guest blog courtesy of BlackBerry Cybersecurity. Read more BlackBerry Cybersecurity blogs Regularly contributed guest blogs are part of MSSP Alert’s sponsorship program.

To learn how to become a BlackBerry MSSP partner, visit the BlackBerry MSSP Partners portal.