Hackers increasingly target manufacturers

Sept. 21, 2023
'The lack of cybersecurity in manufacturing is the digital pandemic no one talks about,' says DELMIAWorks expert.

By Bruce Geiselman

Manufacturing is the most attacked industry worldwide, accounting for 23 percent of all ransomware attacks last year, said Louis Columbus, DELMIAWorks senior industry marketing manager.  

Columbus was citing a finding from the most recent IBM Security X-Force Threat Intelligence Index. 

The lack of cybersecurity in manufacturing is the digital pandemic no one talks about because many manufacturers have paid ransoms to stay in business after a cyberattack, Columbus told PMM. 

“I'll be interviewing a plastics manufacturer for an article, and they'll disclose that they paid ransomware to get back up and running,” Columbus said. “They won't tell how much, but you can tell just from the intonation to the call that it was painful — that it was a lot of money.” 

Manufacturers typically pay hundreds of thousands of dollars per ransomware incident, he said. 

Columbus believes manufacturers need greater awareness about how to stop an attack. 

“Among breach attempts on manufacturers, 61 percent first targeted operational technology (OT) systems essential to manufacturing operations,” Columbus said.  

Manufacturers’ industrial control systems (ICS), which are designed for process monitoring and reporting, are often the most vulnerable to an attack. 

“ICS systems are not built for security at all,” Columbus said. “A lot of them were built at a different time when security wasn't even a thought.” 

Attackers often infiltrate smaller suppliers to bring down many of the world’s largest manufacturing companies, he said. 

“Manufacturers are adding endpoints [physical devices that connect to computer networks] and partners with unprotected third-party devices, exposing threat surfaces at a rapid pace,” Columbus said. “Configuring an ICS with physical gaps between systems, an air-gapping technique, no longer works.” 

Ransomware attackers managed to infect air-gapped networks by introducing USB drives infected with malware, Columbus said. 

“Ransomware attackers prey on these air gaps with USB drives, turning the exposed physical gaps between systems into attack vectors,” he said. Over one in three malware attacks (37 percent) on an ICS are designed to be delivered using a USB device.” 

To beef up security, increasing numbers of manufacturers are adopting zero-trust security frameworks, which assume no entities on a network are trusted, even those within a network. 

“It’s a fundamental shift from traditional network security models that rely on perimeter defense and trust all internal traffic,” Columbus said. “Zero-trust security protects a manufacturer’s data and systems by authenticating users, devices and applications before granting access to the network.” 

DelmiaWorks (formerly IQMS) provides manufacturing ERP software to manufacturing customers. In addition to his marketing position at DelmiaWorks, Columbus has written numerous articles for a variety of websites and publications on topics including artificial intelligence and cybersecurity. 


DelmiaWorks, Dassault Systèmes, Waltham, Mass., 1-800-693-9000, https://www.3ds.com/products-services/delmiaworks  

Bruce Geiselman, senior staff reporter 

[email protected] 

About the Author

Bruce Geiselman | Senior Staff Reporter

Senior Staff Reporter Bruce Geiselman covers extrusion, blow molding, additive manufacturing, automation and end markets including automotive and packaging. He also writes features, including In Other Words and Problem Solved, for Plastics Machinery & Manufacturing, Plastics Recycling and The Journal of Blow Molding. He has extensive experience in daily and magazine journalism.