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Industry urged to boost cyber defence investment as almost 50 per cent of manufacturers report attack

Nearly half of manufacturers have been the victim of cyber-crime, and a quarter have suffered some financial loss or disruption to business as a result, according to a new report published today.

The manufacturing sector is the third most targeted for attack, with only government systems and finance more vulnerable. Yet manufacturing - which has 2.6 million employees, provides 10 per cent of UK output and 70 per cent of business research and development - is amongst the least protected sector against cyber-crime in Britain.

The new report, Cyber-Security for Manufacturing, published by EEF, The manufacturers’ organisation and AIG and carried out by The Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), pinpointed the susceptibility of manufacturers to cyber risk, revealing that 41 per cent of companies do not believe they have access to enough information to even assess their true cyber risk. And 45 per cent do not feel that they do not have access to the right tools for the job.

Cyber threat is holding back companies from investing in digital technologies, with a third of those surveyed nervous of digital improvement. Moreover, a worryingly large 12 per cent of manufacturers admit they have no technical or managerial processes in place to even to start assessing the real risk.

One of the easiest forms of cyber-attack comes through poorly protected office systems, often the first implemented historically within manufacturing businesses. The report looks at a number of real-life examples, including two where companies production systems were infiltrated and severely disrupted after hackers gained access to their IT systems by initially hacking into unprotected office software, used to keep HR and admin records.

Romaney O’Malley, Head of UK Regions & Head of Industrials at AIG Europe said:

“For many manufacturers, cyber risk is still not considered a principal risk on the risk register. Nevertheless, the cyber threat landscape has evolved over the last year, with attacks becoming more sophisticated and more broadly disruptive. There is an increasing level of state-sponsored attacks between nation states, where companies infected by malware may just be collateral damage. The potential threat from cyber-crime is widespread.

“There is evidentially significant need for greater awareness and understanding of the importance of cyber risk management, not only to protect existing businesses, but to create more secure environments to grow and capitalise on the potential that digital technology advances bring to manufacturers.”

Dr Karin Von Hippel, Director General of RUSI said:

“The importance of the manufacturing sector to the security of the UK economy cannot be overstated. Increasing digitisation creates further opportunities, but also exposes us to potential vulnerabilities to cyber-attacks, whether from criminals or nation-state adversaries. The sector needs to recognise these risks and respond accordingly.”

Stephen Phipson, CEO of EEF, The manufacturers’ organisation added:

“Failing to get this right could cost the UK economy billions of pounds, put thousands of jobs at risk and delay the supply of essential equipment to key public services and major national infrastructure projects. I hope this report underlines the critical risk to government and industry”.

The report urges companies to begin a programme of continuous assessment of which people, information and technologies are critical to their organisation and undertake real-time scenario planning to map out the consequences of a cyber-security infrastructure or data breach. More and more customers are demanding cyber security guarantees from their suppliers and over a third of manufacturers admitted they could not to this.

Five essentials to protect your business:

  1. Use a firewall to secure your Internet connection
  2. Choose the most secure settings for your devices and software
  3. Control who has access to your data and services
  4. Protect yourself from viruses and other malware by using antivirus software, only downloading apps manufacturer-approved stores, or running apps and programs in an isolated environment
  5. Keep your devices and software up to date by patching regularly.

To read the full report, visit the EEF website.

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