Cybersecurity in design

The risk of cyber attack has the potential to go hand-in-hand with the adoption of Industry 4.0. What is manufacturing doing to combat this threat?

The advent of Industry 4.0 has meant that connectivity is increasingly a given in new component design. The ability to relay and feed back information about performance and conditions now has to be factored into many design processes, posing greater challenges than ever for design engineers.

Unfortunately, however, that is not where the challenges end. With increased connectivity comes increased vulnerability to cyber attack. This so-called ‘Cyber vulnerability’ is a major barrier to business and growth, bringing with it the potential for loss of data, theft of capital and intellectual property, disruption to business and impact on trading reputation.

Of course, to many this may not seem much of a threat. However, manufacturing is a significant target for cyber criminals. In fact, it is the third most targeted sector for attack after government systems and finance. And, as adoption of Industry 4.0 grows, so will its vulnerability.

A report published by EEF and AIG and carried out by The Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), pinpoints the susceptibility of manufacturers to cyber risk, revealing that 41% of companies do not believe they have access to enough information to even assess their true cyber risk. And 45% feel that they do not have access to the right tools for the job.

Worryingly, this cyber threat is said to be holding back companies from investing in digital technologies, with a third of those surveyed nervous of digital improvement. Indeed, while 91% of manufacturers say they are investing, or intend to invest in digital technologies, the survey showed that 35% consider that cybervulnerability inhibits them from doing so fully. This suggests that opportunities to enhance productivity and growth are being missed and some businesses risk falling behind in the race to digitise. Moreover, a worryingly large 12% of manufacturers admit they have no technical or managerial processes in place to even start assessing the real risk.

While these numbers are troubling in themselves, they may represent only the tip of the iceberg. Many cyber-attacks go unreported as individuals and businesses either fail to notice them or do not report them in order to avoid reputational damage. In EEF’s cyber-security survey some 48% of manufacturers reported having been subject to cyber-attack, around half of whom said they had suffered loss as a result. Of course, this does not include those businesses who do not even realise that they have been subject to an attack.

If it is clear that there are vulnerabilities in the manufacturing sector as it currently operates, then advances in artificial intelligence, the human-machine interface and the increasing connectivity of information and operational technologies will only increase the complexity of the challenge. The move towards Industry 4.0 a call that is being heeded by UK businesses, but at what potential price?

The fear, is that manufacturers are perhaps unaware of the nature of the threat. This makes it imperative that design engineers work with this threat at the front of their minds and increasingly design the means to combat it into their products and components.