Covid-19 makes UK manufacturers prime targets for cybercriminals

The ongoing pandemic has created a series of emergencies for UK manufacturers. A combination of rapidly implemented remote working, together with reduced staffing, closures and supply chain disruption led to lost revenue and productivity, with security neglected as business leaders sought to fight the most visibly pressing issues first.

More than half (58%) of manufacturing firms experienced a cyberattack in 2020, with 37% saying the conditions created through Covid-19 made the attacks possible, according to research conducted by the Ponemon Institute and commissioned by Keeper Security. 

Worryingly, more than half (55%) say such cybersecurity incidents resulted in the theft of sensitive information about customers or employees. While cybercriminals were judged to be responsible for the majority (57%) of attacks, a significant number of manufacturers (38%) described negligent employees or contractors as the root cause of security issues.

Currently in our third national lockdown and dealing with tiered systems across the country prior to this, factories have had to shut, or operate with skeleton staff to provide adequate social distancing. Considerably less able to operate effectively through remote working than other sectors, manufacturing productivity has been hit hard. An increase in the incidence of cyber attacks couldn’t have come at a worse time.

“The events of the last year have hit the manufacturing sector hard, with business owners scrambling to preserve jobs and establish a route through ever-changing restrictions and world-wide challenges to their ability to succeed. Inundated with a series of critical business challenges, it has been understandably hard for manufacturers to stay on top of risks that haven’t yet created tangible damage,” says Darren Guccione, CEO and Co-Founder of Keeper Security.

Even before Covid-19 hit the UK, supply chain, sales and distribution were becoming increasingly affected by border closures, factory stoppages and retail restrictions across the world as the virus spread rapidly. Many firms in the manufacturing sector were remiss in their approach to cybersecurity prior to the pandemic, with 44% admitting to being without a sufficiently rigorous security system in place prior to the pandemic. 

With remote working set to continue and the use of personal devices along with it, security is becoming correspondingly worse: now, two thirds of firms (67%) admit their IT security measures aren’t fit-for-purpose and password security is particularly weak, with 66% of firms not requiring remote workers to use a password manager or implement any authentication methods beyond a password. This is a particular cause for concern, given compromised and stolen passwords are the most common (49%) cause of attacks among UK manufacturers. 

“Every day that security is de-prioritised or overlooked increases the risk of a serious attack that could be fatal to the business. The disruption and stoppages cyberattacks can create is only one side of the coin: the other is the fines and penalties potentially applied if customer data is compromised. Taking some simple steps, like ensuring secure, unique passwords through a password manager, doesn’t take long or require sophisticated IT expertise, but will deliver large returns for a business’s security and peace of mind for stakeholders,” concludes Guccione. 

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