Perhaps the gravest danger our economy faces today is the risk of major cyberattacks. While most organizations and industries may have the necessary safeguards in-place, companies can never be too careful when it comes to securing the grid.

Over the last several years, we’ve seen ample breaches take place but those that slip under the radar are attacks targeting the more vulnerable, easier-to-crack utilities across the country. In addition, the rate of exposure to threat is only increasing, leaving many utilities ill-equipped to combat harmful breaches and data loss.

Back in May 2021, US-based Colonial Pipeline fell victim to a foreign-fronted cyberattack as a result of a single compromised password. This one vulnerability halted fuel supply processes in the Eastern U.S. and cost the company nearly $4.4 million in ransom to Russia-based cyber attackers, Darkside. Previously, a European power grid underwent a cyber-related attack when it experienced a drop in frequency—when the power load is mismatched by the power being generated -which resulted in widespread blackouts across the Balkan Peninsula.

While complex industries such as financial institutions, medical facilities, and trade entities have been the most frequent—and most-covered—victims of cyberattacks, many companies within the manufacturing sector were fortunate to be lower priority targets for cybercrimes and data breaches. Two factors have altered this dynamic. First, due to COVID, remote access to manufacturing networks has increased dramatically, significantly increasing the available “attack surface.” Secondly, ransomware as a means of extortion has made attacking lower priority targets—which often have minimal cybersecurity staff and budgets—easy and extremely profitable.

Addressing the Issue at Hand

To best address the issue, the first step is acknowledging the bright red target manufacturers and trades increasingly carry on their backs. In 2019, the manufacturing industry was the 8th most targeted industry for cyber attackers. Today, manufacturing ranks as the second most affected industry, and the threat is increasing.

Manufacturers have become a top target for cyberattacks, in large part, because they misunderstood the threat, failed to recognize the scope of their vulnerabilities, and waited too long to enact reliable, comprehensive preventive measures. Now, with rising labor and supply costs, already tight cybersecurity budgets are being squeezed dramatically. Creating a very real dilemma for manufacturers.

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