The manufacturing industry houses endless types of companies, which inevitably means many types of data. In fact, the manufacturing industry is one of the most frequently hacked industries, second only to healthcare. In a world in which competitive advantage is everything, imagine losing out on sensitive customer information, or a design that you’ve spent millions of dollars developing over several years, due to poor manufacturing data protection. 

Intellectual property is at risk within the manufacturing industry and beyond. If proper data protection strategies aren’t employed from design to delivery, your valuable intellectual property could end up in the hands of a competitor. It’s vital to know where breaches can come from within your company and the best tactics for combating a cybersecurity threat.

What Files in Manufacturing Need Data Protection? 

Within manufacturing, there is classified data and CUIs (Controlled Unclassified Information), on top of everyday important data files like Office documents and video files, that need enhanced data security. Think about it – between CAD, engineering, 3D modeling, and project management, your data is tossed around with limited security solutions that either slow down your team or leave your data at risk. 

Computer-aided Design (CAD) information should be a top data security priority for your organization. Whether you’re using AutoCAD, Solidworks, Revit, Bluebeam Revu, PTC Creo, etc. for your designs or Adobe Acrobat Microsoft office for your everyday document processing and sharing, having proper data protection policies in place is crucial. CAD is tricky to protect, though, since it is so sought after. Stealing and then selling a proprietary CAD file can mean big success for a cybersecurity theft, so doubling up on your protection is a good idea. Especially within Architecture-Engineering-Construction (AEC) and manufacturing organizations, intellectual property is your bread and butter, and you don’t want to lose out to a competitor due to poor data protection plans.

Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI) is a particularly vulnerable class of information for DoD contractors. CUI is government-owned information that requires data protection or dissemination controls consistent with federal policies. The responsibility of being a Department of Defense (DoD) contractor is not to be taken lightly. While all data within your company should be highly protected, CUI data falls to a different level than your everyday office files – meeting notes, video files, etc. 

With a greater reliance on remote work, every level of technology from personal devices to the cloud should be locked down. Your manufacturing data protection strategies should entail:

  • HMI Kiosk: Your HMI is a superpowered data storage and communication device, which makes it a great target for data theft. When it comes to this kiosk, the unfortunate reality is that a large number of people are accessing its data. It’s important to bake in an employee resignation policy into your manufacturing data protection policies to avoid any disgruntled employees from accidentally or purposefully stealing your precious CUI or sensitive data. 
  • Workstations: An individual workstation can entail several devices, folders of sensitive data, confidential emails, connections to an intranet or private network, and more highly hackable information and access points. True manufacturing data protection works from the top down. Every individual workspace should have layers of data protection to avoid accidental data sharing.
  • On-premise file sharing: An on-premise file sharing system can be immensely helpful to getting your employees the information they need, fast. However, it can be an open door to data hacking if not properly protected.
  • The cloud: If you’re not using zero knowledge data protection for your cloud data, you’re not protecting that information properly. A zero knowledge protection means that you don’t have to rely on your cloud storage provider to keep your data secure because your data is encrypted end-to-end. Simply put, they don’t know anything about what you’re storing within their cloud – keeping your data safe in the wrong hands.

Another huge piece of your manufacturing data protection policy has to include the implementation of a team-wide cybersecurity plan. A common misconception in the workplace is that cybersecurity should be left up to the IT department. While they are an integral piece, all team members must be on board to build up a secure wall. Manufacturing is made up of layers of processes,from design to delivery. Having dedicated data protection policies for both individual departments, as well as company-wide is invaluable. We recommend not only having this written cybersecurity plan in place but holding regular training on how to keep data like CUI and intellectual property in the right hands. 

Data Protection Risks Within Manufacturing

As with all industries, a loss of valuable data will have an impact. However, in manufacturing,  every lost piece of data means a loss in production time, which we all know means a loss in profit. Manufacturing’s many layers are interconnected and dependent on one another, and a breach in data can bring the whole operation to a screeching halt.

  • Intellectual property theft: Intellectual property is the lifeblood of the manufacturing industry. Without original concepts and designs, competitive advantage takes a real hit. Data protection must be taken seriously when it comes to invaluable intellectual property. Whether it’s at the hands of a hacker stealing your data or a competitor stealing your design, intellectual property theft can cost your company profit. 
  • Operational downtime: A major data breach will inevitably lead to a massive scramble from the bottom to the top of a company. Did my personal information get stolen? Are our proprietary designs protected? Will our DoD certification be upheld? All of these and more are reasonable questions that your employees will have. Not to mention the possibility of a ransomware or doxware attack, where your operational data isn’t even accessible until a ransom is paid and the data is encrypted. Whether it be a lack of work from panic or from an inability to access data, downtime means a loss in profit. 
  • Data manipulation: While less common, some hackers tap into your information with the intent to manipulate your data. While this seems fixable, and sometimes it is, without a proper data protection plan the hacker can get in and out of your files before you even know they were there. This can leave your proprietary designs altered in a way that can affect the long-term success and reputation of your company. 

Importance Of A Zero Trust System

A zero trust architecture is the only way to be fully secure. With an increasing need to collaborate digitally, your networks, personal devices, and the cloud pose a very real risk to your CUI and intellectual property. The key to protecting this information is shifting protection from the networks to the data itself. 

Anchor changes the game by shifting the paradigm from complex network security to simple file security that actually eases the administrative burden while providing stronger protection of your sensitive data. Learn more about Anchor’s simple, employee-friendly manufacturing data security today.