Given its focus on innovation and a corresponding reliance on connected products, the manufacturing industry is particularly vulnerable to cyberattacks. As manufacturers increasingly connect more equipment and devices to the internet to compile and analyze data to make better business decisions, this growing connectivity also brings a higher risk of cyberattack. One of the risks is that a cyberattack on physical plant equipment could threaten worker safety as well as the integrity of the products being manufactured, which is of particular concern when the attack results in defects to products such as components for the automotive, aerospace and defense industries.


To help mitigate this risk, the Digital Manufacturing Design and Innovation Institute (DMDII) recently announced it is launching a “Cyber Hub for Manufacturing” using $750,000 in seed funding from the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD). The hub will serve as a “testbed” for the creation and adoption of new cybersecurity technologies to secure manufacturing shop floors across the U.S. It also complements DMDII’s public-private partnership as one of the Manufacturing USA institutes sponsored by DOD to advance the state-of-the-art in digital manufacturing in America.


“The Manufacturing USA Institutes were established with this type of initiative in mind,” says Tracy Frost, director of DOD Manufacturing Institutes and acting director of DOD Manufacturing Technology. “Applying the best ideas from the research and startup sectors to the real-world problems of industry—from component manufacturers to prime system integrators—helps secure the supply chain, and, ultimately, the warfighters who rely on these capabilities to achieve their missions.”


Small and medium-sized manufacturers (SMMs) are particularly vulnerable since their resources to address increasingly sophisticated cyberattacks aren’t as plentiful as their larger counterparts. At the same time, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) are only as strong as the weakest link in their supply chains, which are often comprised of dozens of small suppliers, DMDII notes. Furthermore, U.S. companies are leading targets for cyberattacks: in 2015, nearly half of attacked manufacturers were in the U.S., with Italy in a distant second at one quarter, DMDII reports.


Research from Kaspersky Lab, working with Business Advantage, also determined that industrial cyber-risks and cybersecurity issues in an industrial control happen on a constant basis. More than half of the companies interviewed by the firm admitted they have experienced at least one incident in the last 12 months. These attacks also have a significant financial impact. For example, the average annual cumulative loss resulting from a cyberattack was $347,603, according to the research. That said, larger companies with 500+ employees reported annual cumulative losses of $497,097. What’s more, the majority of these larger companies (71 percent) report that they have experienced between two and five cybersecurity incidents in the last 12 months, creating even more financial impact.


DMDII will leverage its more than 300 partners across industry, academia and government—and its own in-house 24,000 square-foot manufacturing floor with wide-ranging capabilities—to test cybersecurity use cases in a real-world manufacturing environment. To address the acute challenge faced by SMMs, DMDII plans to develop cybersecurity workshops and online lessons for manufacturers, and will also build the cybersecurity infrastructure for the in-house assembly line the institute uses to test manufacturing processes. By adding software and hardware to its own line, the institute can teach manufacturers how they may mitigate the risk of cyberattack in their own plants.


What are your thoughts on cybersecurity in the manufacturing facility? Do you think your company and its suppliers can benefit from workshops and online lessons about mitigating the risk of cyberattacks in manufacturing plants?