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By Gregory Hale
The old cliché says admitting there is a problem is the first step toward any type of recovery. While people often use that phrase as a punch line at the end of some type of derisive put down, it ends up being true when it comes to a cyber security event.

Saying anything to not reveal they have been a victim of a cyber attack, companies will resort to excuses such as not wanting to alarm customers, or they fear they will reveal too much confidential information regarding intellectual property or processes.

That is, of course, all nonsense.

Simply put, companies don’t want to admit they were the victims of an attack because of the potential PR implications that will ensue. Or, they don’t want to admit they have done nothing to protect themselves against an attack.

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From loss of confidential data to stolen business plans and recipes to leaked customer information, when you look at what companies could lose, it is astounding they don’t come clean and try to work together as an industry to thwart attackers to keep them out of the manufacturing space.

Cyber attacks continue to increase in sophistication. On the broad spectrum look at the break ins at Sony, Google, and defense contractors Lockheed Martin and L-3 Communications. On the manufacturing side alone, need we say more than Stuxnet? Well, we can, with all the vulnerabilities found in the SCADA software, the manufacturing industry is now in the unenviable distinction of falling into “low hanging fruit” category by would be hackers.

Manufacturers know they are under siege, but for the most part seem paralyzed by the vast area of not knowing where to start. Yes, costs also come into play. But imagine the cost if a plant just ceases to operate? The cost of a solid security risk assessment from a qualified integrator would pale in comparison.

Instead of thinking about the huge big picture, manufacturers have to start taking baby steps in terms of tackling a security program. Calling in a security expert would be the first step and then coming to the realization that security will be a moving target to which there is no final solution to clamp on to your system is another step.

Having said that, it does not mean creating a strong security posture will be a money pit. It doesn’t need to be. It does, however, need the right people in the right place working together as a team of multi-disciplined professionals from various aspects of the manufacturing process. If working properly, that team will stay on top of the system and know when there are anomalies that need checking and mitigating.

But it all starts with knowledge. Knowledge is king. Understanding the types of attacks, who is under attack and when and where attacks are occurring will allow for a very secure plant floor. Sometimes the best security is one that is right there in front of you. Transparency works.

Yes, industry needs to work closer with government in a joint effort to stave off attacks and garner more overall knowledge. But, let’s face it, the cyber security experts in government are incredibly talented, but they are not facing the daily task of keeping the plant up and running.

Not to sound the alarmist bell, but attacks will continue to occur. As a matter of fact, attacks will get more intense in sophistication, so the one way to fight back is to create a security consortium of some sort. Or, in an effort to not reinvent the wheel, use an existing concern such as the Security Incidents Organization, and you will see attacks, along with security costs, will diminish.

Having the industry work together in a non partisan manner to ensure a cyber safe manufacturing sector is the first step toward recovery.

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