Should Manufacturers Use Big Data to Prevent Cyber Attacks?

July 23, 2013

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Manufacturers have become highly attractive targets for cyber attackers, which can steal and sell the huge amounts of data they produce. But manufacturers can fight back by using Big Data, tying together supply chain systems, functionality, and network information to gain meaningful insight into security flaws and events.

A report released Monday estimates cybercrime's impact on the economy to be between $100 billion and $500 billion annually. For manufacturers, stolen corporate intellectual property, technology, and designs can be monetized by competitors and result in tremendous financial losses. Additionally, the downstream impact can be significant if there is a product tampering or a regulatory violation due to information that has been compromised.

“To put it into perspective, there was a manufacturer who lost the design of a new part they were about to launch in the market, and they see it as a billion-dollar loss,” Kelly Bissell of Deloitte & Touche LLP told IMT.

Bissell leads Deloitte’s Information and Technology Risk Management and Global Incident Response practices and went on to explain that stolen intellectual property tends to be recreated in the market and reduces market share for the victim.

“There’s not a board that I know of that doesn’t have security as a major risk initiative that they are worried about, and I have probably sat down with over 20 different boards this past year,” said Bissell.

“Our cyber security is our national security, which is our economic security,” Brian Raymond, director of technology policy for the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), told IMT.

Manufacturers of all types can be at risk, including consumer goods companies, high-technology producers, pharmaceutical firms, automotive manufacturers and suppliers, and aerospace companies. From companies with only a few employees to world-class organizations, all businesses can be vulnerable.

“The level of sophistication that manufacturers have with their software is at the same or higher level of other industries,” said Raymond. “What every company is faced with, no matter the size, is the advanced persistent threat that’s out there,” he added.

Can Big Data help security? The answer depends on how much companies have used Big Data sets. Bissell said businesses that already use Big Data can integrate security software into their analytics programs to watch for anomalies in security-related activity.

But it remains a double-edged sword. If a company does not install adequate security measures on the data itself, then any cyber attacker that is able to gain access to the data will instantly have access to a larger array of internal information that could further compromise the business and its operations.

What many companies are trying to do is combine their internal data warehouses along with other data sets from partners and suppliers to bring more contextual information to that data. “They can use a lot of data to determine behavioral issues and to detect security issues or anomalies in their data flow where something has gone wrong or data is leaving the environment where it shouldn’t be,” Bissell explained.

An RSA Security Brief advises organizations to “move to intelligence-driven security, which relies on security-related information from internal and external sources to deliver a comprehensive picture of risk security vulnerabilities.”

The security brief goes on to say, “By incorporating big data security programs, organizations gain richer context for assessing risk in learning what’s ‘normal’ for a particular user, group, business process or computing environment.”

Irfan Saif of Deloitte’s Security and Privacy practice told IMT there are a number of steps manufacturers can take to assess the threat landscape of their businesses.

Saif suggests companies should first ascertain what needs protecting and where it sits. It might be as straightforward as employee information or as challenging as source chemicals of hazardous materials.

Then look at the threat landscape. What are the threat vectors, such as the supply chain, business partners, contractors, or outsource systems.

Third, what are the company’s responsibilities? Consider contractual and regulatory compliance to help determine the threat-tolerance level.

Each of these things must be examined in order to define a Big Data security program. “Then you’ve got to start thinking about how you aggregate the right information within the organization -- to the extent you have it -- in order to be able to do the right level of analytics, so that you can manage your risk,” Saif said.

From a cost-entry perspective, cyber security is not limited to large manufacturers. “There are a number of solutions available that make it practical for smaller entities to ‘get in on the game,’ since they have similar analytics for their product supply chains and business solutions,” Saif noted.

Manufacturers would also benefit from government help. Raymond stated that NAM member companies want the ability to know what the threats are beforehand and “the government to share more information about the threats they have insight into.”

Raymond stated that the government does not share classified information or disclose what may be perceived as national security information. NAM is working in Washington to push legislation that would result in more information collaboration between the government and the private sector.

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