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The Importance Of Cyber Security In The Electronics Industry

The ongoing pandemic has given a huge impetus to online transactions. Cyber attackers have been quick to latch on to this opportunity, and an 86 per cent increase in cyber crime has been reported during the lockdown in India. Electronics companies relying on software in the IIoT, Industry 4.0 and IoT era, must now ensure a good system is put in place to prevent cyber attacks from disrupting their businesses.

By Nijhum Rudra

With online transactions becoming the order of the day, cyber attacks have become pretty common and are making headlines quite frequently. While the effects of cyber attacks on various industrial IT systems, financial services, healthcare, and government administration are well-known, there are loads of less well-known implications too. Recently, the WannaCry ransomware attack crippled much of the UK’s National Health Service and also led to a Honda manufacturing plant in Japan stopping production. Back in 2017, the Petya cyber attack immobilised a large number of industrial companies, of which many were in the electronics and IT domain. For the past few years, cyber threats to electronics manufacturers have escalated tremendously. The state-of-art Stuxnet-style attacks as well as ransomware attacks have become common. Cyber attacks on electronics industrial plants can stop their production and operation by corrupting data, stealing intellectual property, disabling networks and vandalising equipment. The reasons and effects of each attack differ, but they cost both time and money to companies as well as their customers.

As manufacturing becomes increasingly digitised and data-driven, manufacturers will find themselves at serious risk of cyber attacks. Although there has yet to be a major successful cyber attack on a US manufacturing operation, threats continue to rise. The complexities of multi-organisational dependencies and data management in modern supply chains mean that vulnerabilities are multiplying. In spite of the severe implications, manufacturers all over the world are not taking cyber attacks seriously, or feel that they are not in the risk zone and can come out of an attack rapidly, feel experts.

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According to an analysis by IBM, security for connected consumer devices gets all the attention. However, electronics companies should also focus on the security for industrial systems used to manufacture components and increasingly high-tech products. The production of ‘intelligent industrial things’ must also factor in effective cyber security, or it can place a company’s entire ecosystem at risk. IBM’s research found that more than 80 per cent of electronics companies are implementing Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) technologies in plants and assembly lines, without fully evaluating the risks or preparing effective responses. Electronics companies need cyber security capabilities that are contextual, cognitive and adaptive to continuously identify, mitigate and prevent risk.

Top-notch cyber security is extremely crucial for the manufacturing supply chain as this is integrated, connected and also interdependent. The entire supply chain’s security is actually dependent on the security at the factory level. The growth of smart factories, digital manufacturing and Industry 4.0, along with IoT, escalates this connectedness. The diversity of manufacturers, ranging from large sophisticated firms to MSMEs, increases the risk of vulnerabilities, which can be better managed by private public partnerships. Cyber attacks have increased in various sectors over the past few years.

Figure 1: The impact of COVID-19 on the cyber security market (Source: Secondary Research, expert interviews, and Markets and Markets analysis)

In spite of the severe implications, there are not many laws in place to control cyber attacks. Dr Karnika Seth, cyberlaw expert, Supreme Court of India, says, “Globally, most countries have cyber legislation by now. What they need to gear up with is the enforcement mechanisms to implement these laws. In countries where punishments for cyber attacks are non-deterrent, they must be made a deterrent. For example, in India, hacking is a cognisable offence but a bailable one under Section 66 of the IT Act, 2000. It needs to be made strong enough to deter data thefts in cyber space. In Europe, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has already been brought into force to protect data of European citizens. In India, a Personal Data Protection bill is expected to be passed soon to strengthen India’s data protection law. India’s national cyber security policy is also under review, and the earlier policy of 2013 will soon be revised.”

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