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    June 19, 2024

    How to Secure Remote Access for Manufacturing Operations

    5 Ways to Secure Remote Access for Manufacturing Operations

    Remote access to industrial control systems (ICS) has brought tangible benefits to manufacturing companies, while at the same time presenting challenges for cybersecurity protection. Now you’re able to monitor machinery, troubleshoot issues, and implement fixes without having a specialist on site. As manufacturing machinery gets more sophisticated, vendors can be given access to implement updates. Remote access to ICS is decreasing factory downtime and improving maintenance outcomes. It’s also keeping cybersecurity teams busy.

    Interconnected machinery, remote controls, vendor access – the innovations that have revolutionized modern manufacturing – can create vulnerabilities if cybersecurity isn’t being addressed as they’re being implemented. To add to the challenge, manufacturing and cybersecurity objectives don’t always align, often for good reason. Priorities on the factory floor lean towards safety, quality, uptime, and productivity. This can push security objectives down the list. 

    Safeguarding manufacturing plants used to involve separating operational platforms from external networks, and restricting control access to authorized personnel who are physically within the facility. That’s no longer realistic. The connectivity that has so significantly enhanced efficiency has also introduced new cybersecurity challenges.

    Here are 5 tips for protecting ICS with remote access:

    #1: Implement zero trust architecture 

    Zero trust architecture (ZTA) protects against threats with a structure that requires all users and devices to authenticate before access is granted to networks and data. With ZTA, initial access controls are role-based (not universal), and users who have access still need to re-authenticate each time. This limits damage from potential attacks by restricting lateral movement that cyber attackers use to move deeper into your network.

    #2: Segment your network

    Network segmentation involves dividing a computer network into smaller parts, which can improve both network performance and security. Segmentation and micro-segmentation helps to isolate critical systems and protect them in the event of an attack. Manufacturing environments are being designed to restrict access to parts of the network by employees who don’t require that access for their work. For example, employees using ICS may not need access to the company’s financial reporting system or customer database. 

    #3: Use end-to-end encryption

    Encrypt sensitive information both in transit and at rest to limit exposure and ensure the highest level of security. Encrypting at the source and decrypting only at the intended destination makes data useless to cybercriminals who manage to intercept it.

    #4: Monitor for threats and unusual activity

    Automated detection and response is essential to isolating and mitigating cyber threats. Blumira SIEM + XDR makes it easy to monitor network activities so you can catch and contain issues early. Blumira will respond immediately, notifying your team of priority threats so they have time to safely investigate. Blumira also provides playbooks with each detection, and a 24/7 team of security specialists that help investigate and resolve critical issues. 

    #5: Emphasize cybersecurity awareness and education

    Remote employees and off-site vendors can unintentionally become a weak link in cybersecurity. Training and ongoing awareness provides every user with the tools to prevent damaging incidents. Employee training should start from day one and cover password management, phishing identification, social engineering risks, device security, and incident reporting procedures. Be sure employees and vendors understand your policies and receive ongoing cybersecurity communication to help them understand their role in protecting the organization. 

    Manufacturing firms are making significant strides in more efficiently maintaining remote industrial control systems and reducing costly downtime. Balancing security and convenient access is fundamental to being a security professional. Use these tips to implement the right level of access with security controls so remote users don’t find themselves inadvertently compromising security.

    Blumira for robust detection and response

    Blumira SIEM + XDR is easy to set up and use, and provides comprehensive coverage, including multiple integrations, and honeypots. Blumira automation blocks threats so you can handle them before they move through your environment. Focused alerts consolidate and prioritize notifications to help you focus on the most important detections. With Blumira you’ll also get expert support, including solution architects, security operations, incident detection, and technical support people who become an extension of your team.

    Try Blumira XDR free for 30 days or use our Free SIEM with three cloud integrations and 14 days of data retention forever. Sign up to start protecting your organization in minutes.

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