Productivity, innovation in modern manufacturing calls for better risk management

Johannesburg, 11 Jul 2019
Read time 4min 40sec

With manufacturing focused intensively on innovation, combined with a reliance on connected networks and products, it is an industry that is highly vulnerable to cyber attacks. Yet, the manufacturing industry remains fragmented in its approach to managing cyber-related risks.

This is according to Charl Ueckermann, CEO at AVeS Cyber Security, who was on the Manufacturing Indaba’s panel of discussion at the Sandton Convention Centre, in June: “For manufacturing companies, the focus has always been on production innovation, operational efficiencies, minimising downtime and keeping the lights on. Therefore, when it comes to technology infrastructures in the manufacturing industry, the availability of systems has always taken priority over integrity and confidentiality, which inherently made cyber risk the least of concerns. However, in modern manufacturing, where systems are connected to the Internet, integrity and confidentiality will start to play a bigger role. In most other industries, such as financial services, confidentiality and integrity of their technology systems are prioritised over availability already, making the management of cyber risks a key focus.

“Historically, IT and operational technologies (OT) in manufacturing have also been managed separately, within different departments with their own sets of vocabulary and structures. OT departments don’t generally have as much insight into cyber risks as IT and this, by default, means that OT tends to lag behind IT in this regard.

“Yet, nowadays, cyber risks are no less for a manufacturing company to protect its data, intellectual property and trade secrets than for a bank to ensure the confidentiality of customer information and other sensitive data. In fact, a cyber breach on an OT system could present a life or death situation for a manufacturing business because the health and safety of workers are at risk, and machinery and processes may become unsafe.

“The good news is that there is no need to compromise and sacrifice confidentiality and integrity over availability. In modern manufacturing, cyber risks can be effectively managed with the correct set-up of OT networks that continue streamlining their production efficiency and capacity.”

He advises manufacturing companies to get a firmer grip on the devices used on their OT networks.

“Have a good picture of the status quo. You need clear visibility of your OT architecture and know what devices are being connected to it so that effective security mechanisms can be incorporated into that fabric. No unauthorised devices should be permitted onto the network. Do not make use of off-the-shelf Raspberry PIs for testing in a live, non-air-gapped network that is not physically isolated from the Internet. It is do-able to prevent an attack as experienced by NASA in June 2019; according to Forbes magazine, an unauthorised Raspberry PI that was connected to its JPL servers was targeted by hackers, who then moved laterally further into the NASA network, comments Ueckermann.1

He continues: “You also want to find the best practices around cyber security hardening on your Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems and engage with a specialist OT security provider to implement the correct software required to ensure that your manufacturing environment is well protected, without compromising machine uptime. Ideally, due to the potential health and safety risks in the event of a breach, you should obtain the services of an OT governance organisation to assist with creating or adjusting processes that are globally aligned.”

His advice to manufacturing companies is to perform an industrial cyber security (ICS) assessment before making any rash investments in people or technologies. Such an assessment comprises a vulnerability assessment and a penetration test of the current infrastructure to get an accurate view of the assets and architecture and understand the cyber risks.

“Once this has been done, a pragmatic ICS cyber risk roadmap needs to be developed to determine the risks and how these can be minimised, accepted or outsourced. Importantly, operational and production efficiencies, as well as capacity, should not be compromised. Cyber security can be built intelligently into the fabric of the production systems,” explains Ueckermann, adding that ongoing monitoring with appropriate tools and processes is imperative to ensuring a proactive and predictive approach to managing risks in industrial control environments over the long term.

He concludes: “Manufacturing companies can benefit from a two-pronged approach that encompasses both risk management and risk outsourcing in the form of cyber insurance. The company’s risk profile will determine the level of cover required. Companies could lower their cyber insurance costs by taking steps to improve their risk profile, for instance, by ensuring that security solutions are up to date and properly managed, and by practising good governance.

“Cyber risk management in modern manufacturing is still new to the industry, and manufacturing companies need to plan and implement effective strategies and appropriate tools to manage and offset cyber risks in their environments. A team with a deep skill-set and appropriate experience is needed to find solutions for specific environments and risk profiles.”


1. Winder, D. (2019, June 20). NASA has been hacked. Retrieved from Forbes:

AVeS Cyber Security

AVeS Cyber Security is a specialist IT Governance & Architectural services consultancy that combines expert knowledge and services with leading technology products to provide comprehensive Information Security and Advanced IT Infrastructure solutions. Over the past 21-years, AVeS Cyber Security has strategically honed its solutions and services to help Southern African businesses future-proof their IT environments against the constantly evolving threat landscape while achieving their digital transformation aspirations. The company offers a leading portfolio of professional services, products, and training in security, infrastructure, and governance solutions. This year (2019), the company won three awards from some of the world’s top technology vendors, indicating competency, strength, innovation and robustness in an industry that is fast growing in complexity due to evolving challenges, such as ransomware, advanced targeted attacks and the Internet of Things. The awards include Kaspersky Lab's Africa Partner of the Year 2019, ESET Regional SMB Sales Champion 2019 and ESET Product Champion 2019. AVeS Cyber Security also received three new partner statuses namely, Microsoft Gold Datacenter Partner, DellEMC Gold Partner, and Barracuda Preferred Partner.

Editorial contacts
Echo Square PR Vickie Slabbert (082) 411 7602
AVeS Cyber Security Chani Slabbert (+27) 11 475 2407