The healthcare industry has had a hard time in recent months; however, it is far from the only industry being targeted by hackers. Manufacturing company cyberattacks are on the increase and the industry is now second only to healthcare according to a new report from IBM X-Force Research. The manufacturing industry has replaced the financial sector as hackers attempt to gain access to intellectual property. Intellectual property can be sold for big bucks on the black market.

$400 Billion Worth of Intellectual Property Is Stolen from U.S. Companies Every Year

According to figures from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, each year over $400 billion worth of intellectual property is stolen from the United States and sold overseas. Many of the attacks are conducted by nation-state backed hacking groups, although a number of players have now got in on the act due to the value of data and the relative ease of breaking through manufacturing company cybersecurity defenses.

According to the IBM’s 2016 Cyber Security Intelligence Index, manufacturers in the automotive sector were most frequently targeted. Chemical companies were the second most likely to be attacked. 30% of manufacturing company cyberattacks took place on automotive manufacturers.

Not only are the potential rewards for successful manufacturing company cyberattacks high, attacks are relatively easy to pull off. A successful attack on a company in the financial sector may be rewarding, but the defenses put in place to keep hackers at bay are usually far more robust than in less well regulated industries such as manufacturing. The manufacturing industry has been relatively slow to improve cybersecurity defenses.

Organizations in the healthcare industry are required to comply with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act or HIPAA for short. HIPAA sets a number of minimum standards which must be met by all healthcare organizations. Administrative, technical, and physical safeguards must be implemented to keep patient data protected. The legislation has forced healthcare companies to improve their cybersecurity defenses.

Similarly, legislation has been introduced that requires organizations in the financial services industry to improve protections to keep data secure.  Organizations must comply with the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act and implement Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards. With no equivalent legislation covering the manufacturing industry, companies have not been forced to improve their cybersecurity defenses. While many organizations have implemented robust multi-layered security defenses, data security standards are higher in the healthcare and financial services verticals.

Many Manufacturing Company Cyberattacks Target Employees

With the number of manufacturing company cyberattacks increasing, cybersecurity defenses need to be improved. Many of the attacks target end users. Phishing and spear phishing emails can be a highly effective way of getting past security defenses. Employees are seen to be the weakest link in the security chain.

IBM X-Force senior threat researcher John Kuhn pointed out that servers are being targeted by hackers using phishing and spear phishing schemes. If employees can be lured onto malicious websites, vulnerabilities can be exploited and malware downloaded onto computers. From there it is a small hop to network servers.

Providing security training to staff is essential to reduce the risk of phishing attacks being successful. However, training alone is not sufficient to prevent all attacks. Software solutions should also be used to make it harder for end users to inadvertently install malware. A web filter should be implemented to prevent end users from downloading malicious software and visiting compromised websites. Web filtering can be a highly effective way of preventing attacks that target employees.

It is also essential to conduct comprehensive risk assessments to identify security vulnerabilities. All systems need to be assessed regularly. Any vulnerabilities identified need to be promptly addressed.