CEO Tom Hilaris considered updating security protocols and buying new software to protect his company’s intellectual property more than a year ago. He estimates it would have cost around $15,000.
Hilaris heads Ergoseal, a Carol Stream manufacturer of seals used in the automotive, transportation and earthmoving industries. The price tag for the job and boggling array of options persuaded him to wait. Then, he says, he discovered that a departing employee accessed proprietary information from the company’s server. He sued, and the case is ongoing. The cost of investigation and legal fees for the last year is north of $100,000.
“I just don’t want this to happen to anybody else,” Hilaris says. “It takes time, it costs money.”
The hijacking of consumer devices last fall that disabled popular websites highlighted the security risk of wired webcams, baby monitors and thermostats—the so-called internet of things. The same risk extends to much, much bigger things as more manufacturers connect industrial equipment to company networks, experts say. Industrial control systems—a class of computers managing the factory floor—can boost productivity, but they also create openings for malware to infect a company’s IT infrastructure.
In December, German steelmaker ThyssenKrupp, which has its North American headquarters in Chicago and operations in Danville, disclosed that hackers had broken into the company to steal technical data. Uptake, a Chicago startup that builds data analytics software for Caterpillar, hired a chief information security officer last year. At stake are companies’ intellectual property, financial information and metrics tracking business operations.
“The (internet of things) will increase the attack surface for manufacturers,” writes Brian Raymond, director of innovation policy for the National Association of Manufacturers in Washington, D.C. “The more the shop floors become imbued with intelligent machines, the more those machines will contain data worth stealing.”
Manufacturing experienced the second-highest number of cyberattacks in 2015, according to an IBM report based on data from 8,000 devices worldwide monitored by the company’s security services division. The industry is targeted less frequently than health care but more than financial services. Almost 30 percent of the manufacturing attacks hit automotive businesses, followed in frequency by chemical makers.
The nature of advanced manufacturing dictates that more individuals and organizations will handle a company’s digital information, creating more risk, Atlanta- based Deloitte consultant Kelly Marchese said in a Jan. 12 webinar. Digital data that trails a product as it moves from modeling to production to quality control presents multiple opportunities for illicit interference, whether that’s stealing design files or taking a 3-D printer offline. Yet manufacturers don’t think about that connected chain because “they’re usually not connected themselves from an organizational perspective.”
“They typically have an owner of supply chain, an owner of printing, an owner of the directory, an owner of this, an owner of that,” she said. “So they are very siloed in how they approach security.”
THE WEAKEST LINKS
Part of the problem comes when old factory machines are retrofitted for connectivity. There’s no way to install a firewall or anti-virus software on a machine, says Matt Szeghy, sales director with Prescient Solutions, a Schaumburg company that provides IT services for small and midsize businesses. Like printers or copiers in an office, industrial equipment becomes the weakest link in a network to be exploited by probing malware.
“It’s a big computer, and what people are doing . . . is they’re just plugging the machine in there and letting it do its job,” he says. “There’s a level of configuration that needs to be done so that things are not at risk.”
The attack at ThyssenKrupp did not affect the Danville facility, where workers make automotive crankshafts and camshafts, says spokeswoman Kellie Harris. But after rallying 70 specialists to boot hackers from infected IT systems, the company is developing a joint worldwide data network to secure its underlying infrastructure.
Ergoseal has made changes, too. Hilaris says he installed software that controls who can access, view and print documents. He’s also changed all his passwords.