Last updated at Tue, 20 Jun 2023 20:35:04 GMT

Protecting production while supporting growing cloud initiatives

The manufacturing industry is in limbo as organizations shift to cloud services. Many organizations are transitioning services to the cloud, but the vast majority maintain hybrid network environments that lean heavily on on-prem elements. During the pandemic, some companies were forced to expand their cloud services quickly to keep up with an influx of end users accessing network services remotely. However, few manufacturers are really pursuing a cloud-first approach.

This leaves most manufacturing organizations struggling to address issues of visibility in their hybrid cloud environments. There's also a growing concern about compliance in the industry, with manufacturers setting internal standards to provide crucial oversight for themselves and their third-party partners. All of this is occurring during an industry-wide push to implement smart factory initiatives and a persistent IT/OT skills gap in manufacturing organizations.

An effective cloud security strategy is key for manufacturing companies. As they transition their services, implementing cloud security will ensure they're able to monitor their growing attack surfaces, establish the necessary auditing processes and assessments for compliance, and support smart factory initiatives.

Major challenges of cloud security in manufacturing

Ensuring consistent production is paramount for manufacturing organizations. Cloud security strategy for this industry enables hybrid networks to function without disruption, while still supporting developing compliance regulations and smart factory initiatives. Without an effective cloud security strategy, manufacturers jeopardize their entire hybrid network as well as the operational elements and software integral to their manufacturing processes. Let's look at a few of the obstacles keeping manufacturers from implementing an effective cloud security strategy.

Lack of visibility into the cloud

The manufacturing industry is unique in that organizations are not only monitoring an environment populated with their own cloud and on-prem elements, but they're also tasked with tracking the elements of the third-party vendors that they partner with. These additional endpoints increase the overall attack surface and can be tricky to secure.

Lack of visibility into the cloud applications and elements in a manufacturing company's network impacts root-cause analysis, anomaly detection, and the other processes that affect availability, performance, and security across the entire network.

Network disruptions often translate to supply chain issues that can affect production and availability. This ultimately translates to lost revenue and negatively impacts a manufacturer's brand reputation. In fact, in a Supply Chain Resilience Report, 16.7% of business owners reported a “severe loss of income” due to a supply chain disruption. The report also revealed that the average cost of a disruption was around $610,000 dollars. Cloud security strategy, then, should include visibility across the entire infrastructure as well as third-party dependencies and the necessary context to bring clarity to third-party risk.

Failure to achieve and maintain cloud compliance

Unlike other highly regulated industries like healthcare and financial services, manufacturing organizations don't have much external guidance when it comes to cloud compliance. In the absence of government regulation, manufacturing companies need a way to validate network configurations and changes in their cloud applications and infrastructure.

The lack of compliance standards for cloud applications prevents many manufacturers from properly deploying cloud-controlled elements, as well as detecting and remediating issues. This leads to system-wide vulnerabilities and greater exposure in the threat landscape. For example, without proper compliance standards in place, an organization may fail to update their service-level agreements (SLAs) or security patches in their cloud environments, which can be exploited by malicious threat actors.

Manufacturing organizations require a cloud security strategy that includes automated detection and remediation assistance, as well as support in adopting and implementing the few regulatory recommendations available, such as those set forth by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

Inability to bridge the IT/OT knowledge gap

According to a Gartner survey, 64% of IT executives view talent shortages as the most significant barrier to adoption of emerging technologies. In the manufacturing industry, this translates specifically to a lack of IT/OT specialist knowledge on network teams.

IT/OT refers to the integration of information technology (IT) systems with operational technology (OT) systems. This particular combination of systems is used by manufacturing organizations to balance cloud network infrastructure that controls information and data with industrial equipment, assets, and processes.

Without specialist knowledge of these systems and how they interact, manufacturers struggle with IT and OT silos that lead to system disruption, downtime, and increased vulnerability. Manufacturers often misunderstand that OT systems are critical to their production process, but not necessarily the source of risk in their infrastructure. IT systems, however, may represent a smaller point of entry to their system, but pose a much larger risk as they connect to the larger OT systems. To combat this, manufacturers need a toolkit that will fill this skill gap on their teams, automate processes for increased efficiency, and consolidate data to break down silos between teams.

Where to start with a cloud security strategy in manufacturing

When looking to build a strong cloud security strategy, manufacturers should focus their efforts in the following areas:

Prioritize cloud visibility

Though the transition to cloud services is slower in the manufacturing industry, it is still an inevitability. Consequently, the best way for manufacturing organizations to adequately protect their cloud infrastructure, and by extension their overall environment, is to focus on visibility.

Visibility reduces risk and allows companies to effectively monitor their attack surfaces. This begins with manufacturers collecting monitoring data from across their cloud infrastructure. Drawing connections between the data, end-user experiences, and supply chain interaction can help manufacturers find weak or vulnerable points in their cloud infrastructure.

The right cloud security tools will help teams continuously monitor both public cloud and container environments. Manufacturers also need real-time visibility and context to find and fix issues quickly. InsightCloudSec offers all of these features and more to manufacturing companies—effectively eliminating network blind spots and giving teams the confidence they need to move forward with their cloud initiatives.

Consider cloud compliance solutions

Many manufacturers struggle with finding and adopting regulatory best practices in their cloud environments. While NIST offers guidance on network security, and the Center for Internet Security (CIS) offers frameworks and CIS Benchmarks, many manufacturers are unsure of which guidelines make the most sense for their organization's needs. Moreover, manufacturers need guidance on how to implement compliance monitoring, which ensures that their cloud elements are operating securely.

Without compliance, manufacturers are essentially managing their cloud environments in the dark, with little governance on how to deploy applications, configure their cloud environments, and update their elements. This can lead to lapsed security updates and serious vulnerabilities that increase risk across the entire infrastructure.

Enter cloud compliance solutions. These tools can enable manufacturing organizations to automate compliance monitoring and management. For example, InsightCloudSec checks an organization's multi-cloud environments against dozens of industry and regulatory best practices. Moreover, cloud compliance solutions enable manufacturers to customize external compliance checks to sync with internal compliance regulations. This eliminates frustration and false alarms.

Teams can also take advantage of InsightCloudSec's embedded automation, which automatically detects compliance drift and returns cloud environments to a secure state within 60 seconds.

Outsource with managed services

Manufacturing teams struggling to hire and retain skilled IT workers often find themselves with a gap in IT/OT oversight. This gap can result in greater silos between IT and OT teams, which can disrupt smart factory initiatives and the adoption of cloud services, and lead to increased unchecked system vulnerabilities.

After all, it's hard to contextualize risk without a complete understanding of IT/OT cloud elements and how risk in one arena affects the other. Instead of an organization redoubling their hiring efforts or overwhelming their existing team members, managed services allow manufacturers to effectively outsource this role and add a virtual IT/OT specialist to their team.

Rapid7's managed services team offers regular assessments, handles the operational requirements of incident detection and response, and performs vulnerability scanning. This frees up crucial time for IT/OT teams and streamlines the scanning and reporting process, which encourages greater collaboration. Contextualization, or the process of analyzing threats and gathering relevant supplemental information, is simple with Rapid7's InsightVM. InsightVM works in partnership with SCADAfence to assess vulnerabilities and leverage insight into OT networks to accurately prioritize risk.

The bottom line

Establishing cloud security strategies in manufacturing organizations often seems like an insurmountable task. Common struggles of visibility, compliance, and IT/OT knowledge gaps plague manufacturing companies who are transitioning to cloud services. This can lead to network blind spots, slowdowns, and increased risk.

Building a toolkit of cloud security solutions can help manufacturers reduce their overall risk in the cloud and optimize their performance by improving internal compliance. Making the most of this toolkit requires specialized knowledge, but leveraging managed services enables manufacturing organizations to streamline reporting and assessments without hiring additional in-house staff.

Manufacturing organizations are evolving to keep up with production demands, changing technology, and an ever-broadening threat landscape. By strengthening cloud security, manufacturing companies can focus on providing a superb product, assured that their cloud environment is secure. Get in touch with us to learn more about how Rapid7 is helping manufacturing companies navigate security during every phase of the cloud transition process.