Machine builders can help manufacturers protect against cyber hacks

Stephen Hayes, managing director at automation and control technology specialist Beckhoff UK, explores the risks that surround using complex software for automation and how machine builders can mitigate these risks.

Cyber security is becoming increasingly important in the manufacturing industry as the use of technology and connectivity grows. With the rise of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), manufacturers are vulnerable to cyber attacks that can result in data breaches, production disruptions and even physical harm to employees.

According to a report by IBM, the industrial manufacturing sector had the second highest number of cyber security incidents in 2020, accounting for 10 per cent of all incidents. Additionally, the manufacturing industry experienced a 156 per cent increase in attacks against cloud-based servers compared with the previous year. In the same year, the average cost of a data breach in the manufacturing sector was $4.99 million.

Machine builders are already taking a proactive approach toward cyber security to help mitigate the growing risks. This includes implementing security measures such as firewalls, access controls and encryption protocols. Additionally, builders are designing equipment with security in mind from the outset, rather than retroactively adding security features.

The importance of cyber security in industrial equipment cannot be overstated. As we continue to rely more heavily on technology, it is crucial that security is prioritised and everyone from original equipment manufacturers to end users take proactive measures to prevent cyber-attacks. By working together, machine builders and cybersecurity experts can help ensure the safety and reliability of industrial equipment in the face of increased cyber security threats.

Secure communication protocols

Machine builders are now designing industrial equipment with secure communication protocols in mind. This involves using encryption techniques to protect data transmission between equipment and other systems, as well as implementing secure authentication processes to prevent unauthorised access.

TwinCAT provides secure communication protocol in manufacturing by implementing the latest encryption technologies and authentication mechanisms to ensure data confidentiality, integrity and availability. It also supports various industrial communication standards such as OPC UA and MQTT, which are known for their high level of security.

One of the most significant risks to industrial equipment is unauthorised access. Machine builders are now designing equipment with access controls to prevent unauthorised personnel from accessing critical systems. This can include using biometric authentication methods or smart card access systems.

For example, fingerprint or facial recognition technology can be used to ensure that only authorised personnel are able to access certain areas or equipment, helping improve overall safety in the manufacturing environment.

Network segmentation

Now, machine builders are considering network segmentation when designing industrial equipment. This involves separating equipment into different networks, each with its own security protocols and access controls. This approach helps prevent cyber-attacks from spreading across the entire plant network in the event of a breach.

Networks are often split into zones, such as production, management and guest, and firewalls and access controls are being implemented to limit communication between these zones. Additionally, manufacturers are implementing security protocols such as encryption, multi-factor authentication and regular security audits to ensure their systems remain secure.

It's clear to see how a cyber attack that starts off small can soon spread across an entire organisation and cause severe damage. Luckily, Beckhoff's control technology, which can be used by both machine builders and end-users, incorporates various measures to enhance cyber security, such as secure communication protocols, access control mechanisms and encryption techniques. These measures aim to prevent unauthorised access, manipulation, or theft of data and ensure the safe and reliable operation of industrial control systems.


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