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Cyber-attacks on manufacturers rise ‘dramatically’

25 September, 2020

Cyber-attacks on manufacturers increased dramatically during the first half of this year, making manufacturing the second most frequently targeted sector, according to a new report from the cyber-security analyst, CrowdStrike.

In 2019, manufacturing was not one of the top ten most frequently targeted sectors. But in the first half of 2020, it accounted for 11.1% of all attacks, compared to 3.3% for the whole of 2019.

The escalation is affecting both the quantity and the sophistication of the intrusions. The sector is being targeted both by state-sponsored attackers and by cyber-criminals. The often-critical nature of manufacturing operations and the valuable data that many manufacturing businesses hold, makes them attractive targets, the report suggests.

South and Central America were the only global regions that did not suffer any intrusions during the January-to-June 2020 period, according to the report compiled by CrowdStrike’s OverWatch threat-hunting team.

The researchers identified ten adversary groups, including both state-sponsored attackers (mainly Chinese) and e-criminals, that are intentionally targeting the manufacturing sector. They report that the e-criminals are adapting and evolving their tactics, techniques, and practices to maximise the impact of their activities.

CrowdStrike's report says that the manufacturing sector is experiencing cyber-attacks by both state-sponsored and criminal elements

In addition to manufacturing, the healthcare, and food and beverage, sectors also saw spikes in intrusion activity during the first half of 2020. CowdStrike suggests that these industries have experienced complex operating conditions during the Covid pandemic due to supply chain disruptions and dramatic changes in demand. This may have contributed to a perception that they are more likely to pay ransoms to cyber-criminals to prevent further disruption.

Possible reasons for the state-sponsored attacks on the manufacturing sector include trade tensions, increased competition for essential goods, and efforts by some companies to decrease their reliance on offshore suppliers.

“Just like everything this year, the threat landscape has proven unpredictable and precarious as e-crime and state-sponsored actors have opportunistically taken aim at industries unable to escape the chaos of Covid-19, demonstrating clearly how cyber-threat activity is intrinsically linked to global economic and geo-political forces,” says OverWatch vice-president, Jennifer Ayers.

“Adversaries are keenly attuned to their victim’s environment and ready to pivot to meet changing objectives or emerging opportunities,” she adds. “For this reason, organisations must implement a layered defence system that incorporates basic security hygiene, endpoint detection and response (EDR), expert threat-hunting, strong passwords, and employee education, to properly defend their environments.”

CrowdStrike is encouraging manufacturers to familiarise themselves with the tactics, techniques and procedures of the adversaries targeting their industries, and to focus on behaviours that are prevalent in manufacturing.

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