With growing connectivity comes growing security concerns, and the manufacturing industry is extremely vulnerable to cyber threats – there are hundreds of thousands of attacks specifically on industrial plants each year. Establishing a strong foundation of cyber security for industrial control systems has become critical obligation for any manufacturing company that wants to keep their employees, customers and finances safe.

Despite the urgency, a lot of manufacturing plants overlook industrial network security because of a false sense of security. Because of the nature of manufacturing is product and process based versus an industry that focuses on customer information acquisition and identity information (like the healthcare industry), it may seem like there is less of a threat. Manufacturing is the second most targeted industry for cyber threats as of 2016, especially with its growing reliance on interconnected technologies. From corporate espionage to dangerous controls hijacking, there are a lot of potentially harmful scenarios.

Are you doing enough right now to stave off these viscous industrial network attacks? Run through the following list of four major measures every plant should be taking with cyber security for your industrial control systems:

Firewalls for Industrial Network Security

There is no question that firewalls are a first line of cyber defense and should never be overlooked in when it comes to Industrial network security. A firewall is a program that monitors everything coming in and out of your network, and protects it from vulnerable sources. While firewalls can’t currently (and will probably never be able to) keep everything out, they are a basic necessity and foundation of any cyber security plan.

Often plant network severs have firewalls, but they are outdated or never upgraded. Forgetting to update your firewalls on a regular basis is the same as not having them; new viruses come out every day and 2015’s version of the firewall isn’t going to cut it in 2018. Additionally, we often servers in plants on varying operating systems with different versions of firewall protection software. This creates the same problem, leaving vulnerabilities riddled throughout your network.

Besides simply creating and sticking to a firewall update schedule, one thing to consider is enlisting monitoring and updating services. These IT services monitor all network devices for out-of-date software’s, operating systems, and firewalls, and updates can be performed remotely by an IT specialist as required. This takes the work off your plate while making your network stronger in the face of attacks.

Employee Education

Educating employees and involving them in the process of cyber security is possibly your best bet if you want to avoid hacks and security breaches. Employees are most often the reason behind cyber security issues, despite the fact that most of the time, the incident is unintentional. Intentional or not, employee security holes cause serious damage. A misinformed employee can compromise the security of your entire network, and it can lead to the shutdown of the entire plant while you get your lines of defense back up.

Get all your employees and devices on two-factor authentication immediately, and explain the importance. Have a lunch and learn about phishing attacks, spam emails, and other modern social hacking techniques. And create a program to change all passwords on a six-month rotation.

Quarterly Network Reviews and Updates to Cyber Security for Industrial Control Systems

Network security in your plant is not a one-time fix or an easy “it’s fixed now” project. Cyber attackers are always getting smarter/faster/more clever. Unfortunately, this means you must keep up with thorough review of your networks on a regular basis and be constantly improving network security.

Part of your quarterly budget needs to be dedicated to network security and upgrades. Industrial network security requires regular review of your network; periodic rollouts of new protocols and security systems for employees; and constant implementation of new network security measures as old ones become outdated.

Overlapping Security Systems

Lastly, it is never a good idea to rely on one system or software to keep your information safe. You need to have overlapping lines of defense that work in tandem with each other to provide you with constant and consistent protection. Consider talking to a specialist to see which programs work the best together, and cater a plan specifically to your plant and its individual strengths and weaknesses.

If you don’t want to spend weeks researching redundant network setups, consider hiring an industrial IT professional who has specific experience with cyber security for industrial control systems. Going beyond securing your network, an industrial control systems expert will be able to create secure measures that stack on top of each other to provide overlapping protection. Most industrial manufacturers have complex networks running through their plants that have many potential weak spots and require multiple forms of defense.

Cyber security is not a fun topic, but it’s something that every manufacturing plant needs to budget for and take seriously. Gone are the days where you can attempt to blend in and rely on pyramid architecture to keep your networks divided. Luckily, there are new cyber security technologies and industrial IT specialists that can help your data stay safe inside your plant.