Increasing investments in autonomous and digital technology is causing cyber attacks to become more common, according to professional services firm PwC.
In a report called Emerging Cyber Threats in the Manufacturing and Mining Sectors, the firm said that with all the positives that come with digital transformation, such as better productivity, reduced costs, and improved working conditions, come risks that have created new opportunities for criminals to exploit.
As mining and manufacturing operations become more connected due to the uptake of machine learning and the Internet of Things (IoT), these companies face an increased risk of suffering a cyber attack.
A successful cyberattack can impact the entire operation in many ways and on many levels, from production and revenue losses to regulatory fines to a shutdown of critical infrastructures. Worse still, reputational damage as a consequence of the incident might be felt many weeks, if not months, later.
Attacks tend to be focused on Industrial Control Systems (ICS). These are embedded computing devices found in measuring instruments and packaging machinery, among others, that make automated control along the production line possible.
According to the firm, the major motivations for cyber attacks can be categorised into espionage, hacktivism, terrorism/sabotage and organised crime. They singled out espionage as the biggest growing cybercrime motivator in the manufacturing sector. The goal of cybercriminals here is to steal trade secrets and intellectual property. The top three threats the mining sector is seeing are electronic payment fraud, industrial espionage, and sabotage.
Junaid Amra, PwC Forensics Technology Solutions Leader said: ““Due to the increasing level of technology adoption, the consequences of attacks on organisations in these sectors can be far-reaching and potentially devastating. It is therefore important for businesses to understand key risk areas, attack vectors and vulnerabilities to ensure that they employ the correct controls to improve security and protect their assets.”
The speed at which the mining and manufacturing sectors are making the transition to a digital environment gives cybercriminals an abundance of opportunities to exploit areas of weakness in smart technologies. Awareness, caution, and training are some of the most important steps companies can take to keep cyber attacks at bay. This includes making sure that cybersecurity practices are part of the internet connectivity and cloud solutions when they consider working with any service provider.