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The manufacturing industry is one of the largest, most diverse, and rapidly evolving sectors in the global economy. Despite its success being built on establishing consistent and repeatable processes to produce high-quality products, it is subject to the rapid development of technology in digitalisation and automation.  

However, the very technology that drives the industry’s growth also makes it vulnerable to cyber-attacks. These attacks can have significant and far-reaching consequences for the entire sector if not addressed. 

It’s the hurdle to overcome 

As highlighted in the Make UK report from Dec 2022, nearly half of the UK’s manufacturers (42%) experienced cyber-attacks in 2022. The financial toll was substantial, with 26% reporting losses ranging from £50,000 to £250,000. The operational disruptions were equally severe, with 65% of the attacks leading to production stoppages and 43% causing reputational damage. The report also revealed a shift in customer behaviour, with new customers now seeking reassurance about a company’s cyber security measures before signing contracts. 

It’s clear that the sector has faced the consequences of not addressing this issue effectively. However, due to various reasons such as the high investment required for cyber protection products and a lack of skills to manage these systems, 54% of the sector decided not to take any further cybersecurity measures despite being aware of cyber-attack risks. 

Even more concerning, 37% of businesses reported that cyber-attacks have caused them to halt their investments in technological advances and hindered their development for the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), utilising modern-day connected smart technology to enhance manufacturing capability, which is crucial for UK manufacturers to remain globally competitive. This highlights the urgent need to address this issue before it further impedes the industry’s progress and prevents us from embracing new technologies. 

Cyber risk as a corporate threat  

Some may see cybersecurity as a complex and costly issue that only large companies can address. However, this does not have to be the case. In reality, businesses can take relatively simple and cost-effective steps to manage cyber risks and protect themselves effectively.  

Cyber risk poses a corporate threat, much like any other daily risk a company deals with. It is important to take this issue seriously and for top-level management to take ownership and coordinate activities across the company rather than simply delegating responsibility to the IT department or outsourcing their IT provision. While IT is a crucial part of cybersecurity, it’s not the only aspect. Having a holistic view to address this as a broader, company-wide issue is essential. 

An effective way to deal with a cybersecurity problem is first to evaluate the current situation, identify any weaknesses, and then plan the next steps. It’s best to get advice from an impartial expert who can offer an objective assessment. Having an outside perspective is always beneficial, especially from a cybersecurity risk management specialist who can provide specialised insights. When conducting a situation analysis for cybersecurity, make sure to assess supply chain risks by examining the entire supply chain and partner connections, not just one’s own environment. 

While cybersecurity may appear to be a technology-related issue, the human factor plays a significant role. Studies indicate that 60-90% of cyber-attacks exploit staff vulnerabilities. Staff training is the most effective measure in reducing this vulnerability. 

Having emergency plans in place is essential. It’s important to know what to do if attacked and how to deal with it quickly, as time is of the essence. One should also consider transferring risk to insurance to protect the bottom line. 

Remember, don’t ignore problems and hope they will disappear. Address issues as they arise instead of avoiding them. 

The manufacturing experts at GM Business Growth Hub are here to provide support for manufacturers in Greater Manchester. We offer guidance and advice to help them overcome cyber threats and transition into the new era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Get in touch with us to see how we can help you. 

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