The risk that a hacker will breach your manufacturing company's data is already high — and rising. Forbes recently reported that 4.1 billion records were breached in the first six months of 2019, which is more than 50% over the same period in 2018.
Businesses in every industry and of any size are vulnerable to data hacking. But the manufacturing sector is victimized more often than many other industries. Over 50% of manufacturers suffered at least one data breach over the previous 12-month period, according to a recent survey.
A single attack can hobble operations, lead to lawsuits and cost thousands, even millions, of dollars. IBM has calculated that the average cyberattack on a U.S. company costs $8.19 million. Then there are harder-to-quantify costs such as damaged relationships with customers, supply-chain partners and others. So, even if your company has some cybersecurity protocols in place, you owe it to stakeholders to ensure you're doing your utmost to fend off cybercriminals.
Data hackers are creative and constantly adapting their schemes to security technology changes and as new opportunities arise. Hackers also come in many different guises. You shouldn't assume, for example, that data breaches can only be launched from the outside by criminals in remote locations. Working from the inside, a disgruntled employee can just as easily (if not more easily) breach your network's defenses and exact costly damage.
Also, whether you're starting fresh or updating an existing cybersecurity plan, know that there's no such thing as one-size-fits-all. Your company's existing IT protections, products, customers and other factors will help determine the best plan for protecting vital digital assets.
To design a cybersecurity plan that works for your company, consider taking the following four steps:
1. Identify major risks. What do you want to protect? This may sound like an unnecessary question, but specifics matter and your resources are limited. For example, could someone hack the system behind your automated machinery and interrupt critical operations or cause malicious damage? Can customers safely make purchases on your website without fear of credit card theft? Is payroll data, including employee Social Security numbers, as secure as it could be? Work with department managers, internal IT staffers and outside experts to address each issue separately and then include them in your larger cybersecurity plan.
2. Get industry specific. Depending on what you manufacture, your company might face additional security obstacles. For example, the data storage practices followed by makers of health and beauty products generally are different from those of electronics manufacturers. Familiarize yourself with any relevant regulations and best practices that apply to your industry niche.
3. Be ready with a backup. How important are system and data backups? Their existence can mean the difference between getting things back to normal within 24 hours and going out of business. Back up your data in multiple locations. This may seem like overkill, but you'll be glad you have an extra backup if one set is lost or destroyed.
4. Integrate parts into the whole. Assign individuals to be responsible for each piece of your cybersecurity plan. Also designate one person to execute the overall plan. This leader should keep other team members on track and monitor their progress toward meeting goals.
Make It a Priority
Cybersecurity shouldn't be relegated to the back burner — no matter how busy your business is right now. The stakes are too high. If you don't have the internal IT personnel to develop and put in place a cybersecurity plan, find an experienced and reputable vendor to do it for you. Your professional advisors and fellow business owners should be able to provide recommendations.