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Retail and manufacturing sectors ‘most likely’ to be targeted by a cyber-attack

Health, education, retail, and manufacturing sectors continue to be particularly vulnerable to cyber attacks and data breaches, according to analysis of recently released 2021 ICO data.

CybSafe analysed data from the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) – the UK’s independent body upholding information rights – following its previous analysis of ICO data for the first half of 2021 to discover the details behind the UK’s cyber security breaches throughout the entire calendar year.

While health and education remain particularly vulnerable to data breaches, the retail and manufacturing sector suffered twice as many cyber attacks as either sector, accounting for 20 percent of attacks overall in H2 of 2021.

Statistics within the retail and manufacturing industry also highlight a more general trend. The sector saw an increase in ransomware attacks, accounting for 27 percent of all attacks in 2021, up from 23 percent in 2020. In contrast, phishing attacks declined, falling from 31 percent in 2020 to 26 percent in 2021. This marks the first-time ransomware attacks have superseded phishing within the sector. Throughout 2021, ransomware saw a notable rise, accounting for 30 percent of attacks between July and December, up from 24 percent between January and June.

While the ICO data highlights phishing as the most common form of attack at just under 30 percent, ransomware continues to be an increasing threat to every sector.

As sectors adapt to life post-pandemic, the education sector is a prime example of how the cyber security landscape has changed for good. ICO 2021 data shows ransomware attacks increased to 22 percent (up from 19 percent), suggesting the trend is not subsiding despite children returning to the classroom. The sector saw a steep rise in ransomware attacks mid-way through 2020. They accounted for 26 percent of attacks in the first half of 2021 compared to just 11 percent in the previous year.

Oz Alashe, CEO of CybSafe, said: “The ICO data tells a clear story. The pandemic saw a steep rise in ransomware attacks. With important sectors such as education and healthcare seeing a sustained level of cyber threats throughout the last year, we need to go beyond standard security training practices.

“To embody a security-first culture, the human aspect of cyber security shouldn’t be underestimated. If we want to invoke genuine behaviour change, the first step is to appreciate individuals responding differently to threats, and personalisation is crucial to building an authentic security-first culture.

“Appreciating differences in teams means you can deliver tailored security initiatives. The result is greater employee confidence, changes in security behaviour, and ultimately a defence against such malicious threats that will only grow in importance over the coming years,” Alashe concluded.

How Smart Technology is Helping the Manufacturing Industry

In the world of manufacturing, the way things are produced has changed dramatically over the years. From the first moving assembly line created, through to the modern-day invention of Artificial Intelligence (AI), it’s safe to say that manufacturing methods have evolved quickly.

The secret to this progression is advances in technology. Not only has it allowed businesses to speed up production and increase efficiency it has brought greater profit margins too. In today’s market, it’s all about ‘smart technology’ or more accurately ‘enablers’.

Businesses now use technology to optimise their operations — from automated sales and distribution processes to energy management software. Here’s a list of the benefits smart technology can bring.

Artificial Intelligence 

Artificial intelligence (AI) is a computer science that can help the capabilities of humans. Voice recognition for example, allows processes to be carried out without being manually entered into a computer. AI also uses algorithms that can record and react to changes in data to help businesses achieve more and increase efficiency. 

Blockchain

Block chain is essentially a programme that helps keep track of goods, logs transactions and manages supply chains, following a ‘chain-like’ process. For businesses, this information is essential – allowing them to record data and deliver real-time analytics on their stock and supply chain without manual input. 

The Industrial Internet of Things 

The collection of data has now become a significant priority for businesses looking to gain a deeper insight into their production processes. With the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), companies can ensure that every device, machine and process is connected through data communication systems. This gives them a greater understanding of their business and can look at ways of enhancing efficiencies and increasing profits. 

Industrial Robotics

An extension of AI, industrial robotics have now become a focal element of the manufacturing process. Modern robotics can now carry out a range of tasks, whilst reducing the risk of injury to workers. Although robotics is a modern invention, they’re intelligent enough to learn human tasks.

More recently ‘collaborative robots’ or ‘cobots’ have been designed to work together with humans. Cobots have become prominent in the automotive industries to help build vehicles. 

Digital Twin

Manufacturers can create a ‘digital twin’ when creating a new product — this allows them to virtually forecast its cost and production. Using this technology, they can evaluate production, visualise products in different environments, track and monitor systems and troubleshoot equipment. This results in a more streamlined development process. 

Condition monitoring

Broken or machinery that needs repair can have significant impact on production. With condition monitoring, businesses can monitor a range of performance conditions, including vibration, temperature, pressure and oil condition. This can help manufacturers prevent breakdowns in equipment by noticing changes and faults at an early stage.

Cyber security

The rise in technology means businesses are open to digital malfunction, including the risk of cyber-attacks — which have been common in several industries. Cyber security is important as it protects computer systems from theft or damage to their software and electronic data. As the manufacturing sector is the third most hit sector in the UK for cyber-attacks, companies to ensure they are adequately protected.

A ‘smart’ way of working

As ‘smart technology’ continues to improve the way manufacturers can do business, evidence suggests that introducing new methods can have a positive impact on a company’s output and profit margins. With energy at the heart of manufacturing processes, it’s important that energy supply is efficient and automated. If you’re switching from oil to gas, such as Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG) or Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG), speak to an expert for help with the process of becoming greener. 

GUEST BLOG: Technology’s impact on efficiency in manufacturing

Technology is providing many improvements to processes across sectors, including within the manufacturing industry. From CRM computer systems that help to plan and schedule workloads to analytics to support decision-making processes, the impact is undeniable. 

Quality control: embedded metrology

Faulty parts that slip through quality checks can spell a PR disaster for companies. That’s why the ever-improving embedded metrology will continue to help manufacturers produce a better product. This quick and convenient solution is a lot more accurate and requires little human interference. 

Traditional quality control processes are laborious and time-consuming. There would be randomly selected machine-made parts that would be individually tested, and if they passed the test, the batch it came from would be validated. 

Protection: bodysuits

Technology isn’t just in gadgets; we can also wear our newest innovations. Ford’s Michigan plant is also using innovative technological developments to help its workforce. It was announced in 2017 that line workers in the plant would pilot exoskeleton suits — wearable technology that can help support a worker’s arms while they undergo tasks above their heads.

These suits can also be adjusted to support different weights, depending on the wearer’s needs. While such suits were more likely to appear on the big screen in movies such as Iron Manjust a few years ago, the creation is having positive feedback from its users, with many claiming they aren’t as sore after a shift if they’ve been wearing the technology. 

Risk-reduction: drones

Drones have proven useful in the industry already. Ford has started to use drones to help perform risky inspections on the factory’s equipment in its Dagenham engine plant. The company is benefitting massively, saving almost 12 hours on each inspection and reducing the time it takes to check the equipment from 12 hours to 12 minutes. Not only can drones provide a quick and thorough inspection, but they eliminate the health and safety risk of someone needing to scale up to 150 feet to look at gantries. 

That’s not all. As well as making sure the equipment is still in a good enough condition, the drones are providing the company with video and still footage that can be stored to allow the plant to compare its findings over a period of time to monitor any changes or patterns that are noticeable. This has become an indispensable tool for the factory, with the drones greatly improving productivity and efficiency.

Assembly line update: 3D printing

3D printing has made leaps and bounds since its first introduction. Automated printers, like those used by Voodoo Manufacturing, don’t need to be manned anymore and can continue working 24 hours a day. The use of robotics isn’t aimed at replacing humans, but more so making employees’ jobs easier. 

Human error can have a massive impact on profits. That’s where 3D printing can come into play. While it’s still early days for the technology, it has the potential to have a massive impact on practicality. It’s expected that this invention will transform nearly every industry as it changes how manufacturers will do business and will impact material costs, the traditional assembly line and product pricing strategies. 

The human aspect of this process could, potentially, be removed in the future. While some of the public are concerned that jobs will be lost as it keeps progressing, it can only be a good thing for manufacturing companies as it continues to help improve productivity and efficiency. It will be interesting to see what we welcome to factories next! Technology is continuing to amaze us in all walks of life. The automotive industry is no different, either, taking advantage of new inventions. It’s not only our cars that are benefitting from technological advances, though — the manufacturing industry is, too.

Lookers, who offer Ford Servicing, is an example of this.

Sources

https://www.cnbc.com/2018/08/31/ford-is-using-drones-to-keep-an-eye-on-its-factories.html

www.thedrive.com/sheetmetal/15921/exoskeletons-unveiled-at-ford-manufacturing-plant

https://matrixrecruitment.ie/5-innovative-technologies-solve-manufacturing-problems-2018/

https://www.insight.com/en_US/learn/content/2017/04112017-3-manufacturing-technology-trends-shaping-factories-of-the-future.html

83% of British manufacturers ‘preparing for a hard Brexit’

A new report from Sheffield Hallam University and SSG Insight has found that 83% of British manufacturers are preparing for a hard Brexit and actively forging new relationships with ‘Rest of the World’ territories.

Nearly half of manufacturing companies have identified Asia (44%), as well as the Americas, Africa and the Middle East as focus areas for the future.

The proactive, global outlook is helping to cement what could be viewed as a bullish mood among British manufacturers about their prospects post Brexit, despite an expected dramatic drop in orders from EU-based countries.

This latest industry snapshot draws on extensive research amongst the UK’s leading manufacturing executives. The report, Harnessing Brexit, Technology and Insight: British Manufacturers, a Competitive Edge in an Age of Uncertainty and Opportunity, is co-authored by Dr Hongwei Zhang and Professor Sameh Saad from Sheffield Hallam University and Jon Moody of SSG Insight, an asset management company.

It discusses the optimism and concern around two of the most critical challenges facing modern Britain: Brexit and the relentless rise of technology, particularly in the form of Industry 4.0.

The report reveals that manufacturers are more than twice as likely to point to global competition than Brexit when asked what they consider to be the biggest challenge disrupting the industry, closely followed by the Internet of Things and capability to handle data from connected technologies.

With a requirement to scale up volume easily to meet demand from Rest of World territories, Brexit and the shift of focus beyond the EU is expected to accelerate the use of AI and automation on UK factory floors, driving down the cost of production and speeding up product development on the route to new markets.

As such, more than half (59%) of UK manufacturers are intending to invest in smart, connected technology to drive forward international growth. This compares to 20% planning to invest in machinery and hardware, 18% investing in research and development and 17% investing in sales and marketing.

Dr Zhang, principal lecturer at Sheffield Hallam University, said: “With numerous Brexit scenarios on the horizon and hard Brexit a very real threat, our research has found that Britain’s manufacturing sector is showing determination to remain resilient through this tumultuous period.”

Key recommendations of the report include:

  • Manufacturers should plan for the most disruptive Brexit outcome to mitigate the immediate structural changes triggered by the UK leaving the EU
  • Technology should be harnessed to ensure that British manufacturers compete and thrive with their new trading partners
  • Strategies for the continuous upskilling of employees should be developed to ensure British manufacturers keep pace with technological innovation

Jon Moody, chief product officer at SSG Insight, said: “It’s clear from our research that British manufacturers are resolute as the UK enters a new era. Although there are concerns over tariff rates and regulatory barriers, many are actively forging relationships with new territories throughout the world. A confidence is very much emerging from the uncertainty.”

New research highlights extent of manufacturing productivity problem

Britain’s manufacturers are calling for the Industrial Strategy Council to be immediately created and given the urgent task of setting clear goals that will focus on solutions to boost manufacturing productivity growth.

The call from EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation, comes on the back of new research showing the evolution of manufacturing sub-sector productivity growth against key international competitors before and after the financial crisis, including where the problems and opportunities for growth now sit.

Key manufacturing sector findings:

  • UK manufacturing productivity grew by 4.7% a year between 2000 and 2007, since 2008 this has flat lined at less than 1% a year
  • Prior to the 2008 financial crisis all sectors of manufacturing contributed to productivity growth, however since then there has been significant divergence across sectors
  • Since 1995 transport equipment and chemicals growth outperformed internationally and this trend continued after the financial crisis
  • Pharmaceuticals growth ran in line with international growth but went sharply into reverse after 2008
  • Food and drink, generally regarded as a weak performer in the UK, has outperformed internationally and held its lead over the past decade

The research shows that manufacturing is the engine to drive productivity growth across the whole economy having beaten whole economy and services productivity growth in the past. In addition, in the run up to the financial crisis the sector beat the manufacturing productivity growth of Italy, Spain and Germany.

However, looking under the bonnet shows that the performance of manufacturing sub-sectors has diverged since the financial crisis with productivity growth across the sector flat-lining. A focused policy response is now urgently needed from Government.
Commenting, Lee Hopley, Chief Economist at EEF, said: “We’ve known about the productivity problem for some time with various attempts made to try and fix it across the whole economy. Productivity growth matters for wages and international competitiveness yet ten years on from the start of the financial crisis these attempts have not delivered a major shift and we need to tackle the challenge in a different way.

“Manufacturing offers a good area to get gains on productivity growth. The Industrial Strategy Council should now be created urgently and put to task to identify how the overall strategy can improve productivity in those industrial sectors where it has lagged.”

According to the report, Unpacking the Puzzle, there is not one factor that can completely explain the productivity performance of all manufacturing sub-sectors so a targeted solution is needed. EEF’s initial assessment of what is needed has identified the following:

  • Size matters, with larger companies being able to exploit economies of scale, vertical integration opportunities and with it, higher levels of productivity. Our analysis shows sectors with a higher share of larger firms tend to outperform internationally.
  • Boosting capital investment is not a silver bullet solution, for some sectors significantly investing more may not bear fruit. As an example, despite Italy having higher levels of investment in capital equipment compared to Germany, productivity levels in Italy are weaker.
  • More UK manufacturing sectors undertake ancillary services as part of business operations compared to international counterparts. This suggests UK manufacturers are more likely to be at the end of value chains where the opportunities for productivity growth may be lower, but profits higher.
  • Lastly, management practices across UK manufacturing do not reflect international best practice with a long-tail of companies with poor management practices. Evidence suggests companies with better management capabilities are more likely to have higher rates of productivity growth.

Alongside the Industrial Strategy Council finally being set up, EEF is calling for four specific additional measures as part of the industrial strategy to be delivered before the Parliamentary summer recess:

  1. In response to growing frustration, provide clarity on the purpose of sector deals and better project management of those in train. This should include kick starting the promised Made Smarter Commission.
  2. Effective Local Industrial Strategies require the foundation of formal governance arrangements. We need a devolution framework setting out what is on offer, and what governance is needed to unlock it.
  3. The White Paper committed to a new strategy for export promotion and business responded to the call for evidence. Details of this new strategy should be published ahead of recess.

The Spring statement announced an upcoming call for evidence on the UK’s long tail of less productive firms. Industry wants to see a post-purdah push on where government action is needed.