Critical sectors such as transport, energy, health and finance have become increasingly dependent on digital technologies to run their core business. While digitalisation brings enormous opportunities and provides solutions for many of the challenges Europe is facing, not least during the COVID-19 crisis, it also exposes the economy and society to cyber threats.
We are in the midst of a technology revolution, with the world becoming more connected than ever. But with great connectivity comes great threats. The digitisation of every aspect of our lives means that there is a growing reliance on technology not just in our homes but across businesses and industries too. A dependence that will leave us all vulnerable if our connected systems are breached.
The past decades have seen the manufacturing industry embrace the digital revolution. Emergence of new technologies such as cloud computing and the Internet of Things (IoT) has brought down barriers, enabling industries to grow and advance like never before. But, much like in the consumer world, these open platforms and interconnected systems have created more opportunities for cyber criminals, leading to a rise in the frequency of cybersecurity attacks.
Certain industries, notably in critical infrastructure environments such as power, oil and gas, water and wastewater and nuclear facilities, show a high level of awareness and appreciation of the need for a comprehensive security strategy. They tend to have detailed cyber security plans and procedures in place and their investment of time and capital in protecting their assets is considerable.
However, many organisations in other industries, notably manufacturing, are either unaware of the risk of cyber attacks or reluctant to implement security strategies in their enterprises, as investments in cyber security do not appear to have a tangible return-on-investment (ROI). This leads to a complacent ‘wait and watch’ approach that only mandatory regulation or the unfortunate instance of a cyber-attack may change.
These days, manufacturing organizations have some of the most complex network environments around. The industrial IoT/OT revolution has enabled huge efficiency gains and new business models galore — but it has also created hundreds (even thousands) of new entry points for cybercriminals.
We must understand that security is everyone’s problem. It must be integrated into every business, at all times, becoming part of each employee’s daily actions.
In most companies, a lack of cybersecurity training represents a big gap in terms of overall readiness and digital security. A comprehensive programme must account for the human element in a digital ecosystem. More than just hardware and software resilience, security rigor includes a process and plan that define the roles and responsibilities of employees and workers. It defines the types of actions and activities that are allowed to be performed, and includes clearly communicated consequences for noncompliance.
Cybersecurity is a constantly evolving space, with attackers persistently developing new and advanced technology and skills to compromise data and systems. The disruption of operational systems can have a far-reaching and potentially catastrophic impact to your business both in the short and long term. Whereas previously companies have sought to meet these escalating challenges individuals, the future is far more collaborative. Today, businesses are working together to develop cross-industry skills, combined with open technology and transparent communication to fortify businesses and keep plants running smoothly.
Cyberattacks and cybercrime are increasing in number and sophistication across Europe. A stronger cybersecurity response to build an open and secure cyberspace can create greater trust among citizens in digital tools and services.
Cybercrime takes various forms and many common crimes are cyber-facilitated. For example, criminals can:
- gain control over personal devices using malware
- steal or compromise personal data and intellectual property to commit online fraud
- use internet and social media platforms to distribute illegal content
- use the ‘darknet’ to sell illicit goods and hacking services
Some forms of cybercrime, such as child sexual exploitation online, cause serious harm to their victims.
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