Cyberattacks on Scotland's Factories

Cyberattacks on Scotland's Factories

19 May 2017

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Recent statistics have revealed that the manufacturing within the UK accounts for 45% of our exports and 10% of our GVA. We are the ninth biggest manufacturing nation in the world. Therefore, it shouldn’t be surprising that our factories are a lucrative target for hackers.

As I’m sure you will have seen last week, our NHS computer systems were exposed as vulnerable when a cyberattack meant that our health service had to down tools and turn away patients. So, could our factories be forced to stop production and turn down customers?

From an international perspective, if certain orders are not met or shipped, it can cause high demand for particular products, shortages, or vital works not being completed. It could potentially cause real problems. We become reliant on our supply chains to keep delivering the goods.

The Manufacturer reports: “Manufacturing is now one of the top three industries targeted in cyber-espionage, the second in percentage of spam in email and the third in spear-phishing (emails that appear genuine, but are targeted at a particular organisation).

“Worryingly, the number of attacks on industrial supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems doubled from 2013 to 2014, as these antiquated systems were increasingly connected to corporate networks and the internet.”

We take a look at some of the more pressing questions about these potential cyberattacks.

Who is targeting the factories?

Whilst there will never be a direct link to one person / organisation, previous cyberattacks suggest that factories are being targeted by global crime groups who are associated with state-sponsored corporate espioniage or political activists. There is also always the chance of disgruntled employees attempting to gain illegal access to protected data.

What effect does this have?

Naturally, any down time is time where a business is not making any money. If you have to halt production, for any means, there is always a competitor who can step in and take the business – which could result in further losses. And, with certain reports stating that down time can cost factories up to £17,000 per minute, this puts cyberattackers in the perfect position to demand a ransom.

Is it about data?

It’s not just customer data that cyberattacks are seeking, it’s patents, business plans or recipes. This could result in disastrous losses for businesses. It could also result in the market being flood with counterfeit goods.

Are reputations being ruined?

There is no straightforward answer to this. Huge global companies such as eBay and Yahoo have bounced back and their share prices have steadied. But this does not mean that the same thing will happen across the board. Who knows if trust will remain in the NHS after this most recent cyberattack? It’s fair to say that any well-publicised attack could potentially dissuade customers.

The sad truth is that many manufacturers are behind the curve in security because they have not been held to compliance standards such as those in place within the financial services sector.

In short, cyberattackers are costing UK manufacturers, and the economy as a whole, dearly.

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Written By Michelle McLaughlin


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