Keeping Up with Modern Manufacturing Security Challenges

When the dust settled after the COVID shakeup, manufacturing organizations were in a far different place than they were a few years prior. The labor supply had gone through several short-term waves and most workforces had experimented to some extent with entirely new models of production. A lot of those temporary changes fundamentally altered the long-term approach that manufacturers take to labor, technology and business relationships.

Today, nearly two-thirds of manufacturers are reevaluating what work can be done remotely, with an eye toward the efficiencies of the digital landscape. At the personal level, there’s a new generation of employees who demand more flexibility from their jobs and need new tools to accommodate them. In-person relationships with suppliers, partners, customers and professional service providers were digitized and proved to be so efficient that digital documentation became permanent. Even relationships with machines became more digitized, with internet-connected devices increasingly playing a role in manufacturing processes.

One result of this fundamental shift in the industry is an increase in online documents. As cloud storage, texts and emails replace stacks of paper and handshakes, there’s new attention that needs to be paid to the sensitive data in these agreements. Now that everything is stored online instead of in file cabinets, the security risks have also evolved and manufacturers need to change their strategies.

Manufacturers face unprecedented security threats

The best response to this new environment is to lean into digitization. Technological innovation is happening around the world and it can’t be ignored. There’s a smarter, more efficient way to manufacture goods and if your company doesn’t adapt, you’ll be left behind. The new digital landscape is certainly an improvement in terms of scaling certain everyday activities. Digitization adds visibility and efficiency that can easily translate into more revenue. It also increases the risk of a security incident that could be costly.

Those documents contain extremely sensitive information, particularly related to employees. With a high volume of contract workers (seasonal, temporary, consultants, etc), there’s an incredible amount of personal information held in a manufacturer's data system. There’s also critical business data related to partners, suppliers, customers, proprietary knowledge, etc. All that valuable information flowing through new workflows and new systems can create serious risks for manufacturers.

A critical part of the modern risk equation is the use of internet-connected devices. Smart devices and the internet of things have revolutionized manufacturing because they increase control over connections in the end-to-end process. But each of those connections is vulnerable to a security attack and needs to be monitored continuously.

In the U.S., more manufacturers than ever are reporting phishing and ransomware attacks. IBM Security X-Force Threat Intelligence Index 2023 notes that the manufacturing industry’s overall low tolerance for downtime makes it particularly vulnerable to extortion attempts. Cybercriminals are more likely to target manufacturers than any other industry for that kind of attack. The 2022 edition of that report announced that the manufacturing industry had experienced more ransomware attacks than any other industry. Because manufacturers are connected to a robust downstream supply chain that pressures them to pay ransoms, they’re especially vulnerable to this kind of attack.

These security risks are not just more common in the connected workplace, they’re also more expensive. IBM’s Cost of a Data Breach 2022 reports that the average security breach involving remote work costs around one million dollars more than the average security breach that didn’t involve remote work.

IT leaders are responding with investments in robust security tools

Technology leaders at manufacturing organizations are responding to modern security threats by increasing IT budgets. Deloitte's 2022 Manufacturing Industry Outlook report found that manufacturers expect their organizations to invest in each phase of threat management: 85% will increase budgets for threat prevention, 56% will do the same for threat detection and 29% for threat response.

Executives are so committed to increasing digital security that they’re also expecting to increase their own personal time spent on these projects. Four out of five manufacturing respondents in the 2022 State of the CIO report are expecting to increase cybersecurity involvement and 74% will do the same with data privacy. While investment in cybersecurity is a common response to current economic factors, the manufacturing sector trails only the government in commitment to increase spending.

Among the most common investments to fight modern security threats are smart devices, dedicated artificial intelligence machines and digital tools to improve agreement visibility. Modern document tools can keep a comprehensive trail of agreement actions, giving IT leaders more visibility than ever before. Intelligent features can add new capabilities to agreement tracking, such as conditional project requirements and timelines. Smart CIOs are increasing organizational security by maximizing visibility into the contents of signed agreements and where they are stored.

How Docusign can help manufacturers

To help security-conscious manufacturing leaders, we built Docusign Monitor. It provides near real-time visibility into credential management and operational integrity regarding your library of agreements in Docusign. Using advanced analytics to track document activity across the organization, Monitor strengthens agreement security to detect potential threats, alert the team when a threat escalates, investigate breaches and respond quickly.

To go a step further, Docusign eSignature offers a clear digital audit trail for your entire base of completed agreements. Our advanced suite of Admin Tools offers a single centralized dashboard to control company credentials and manage user permissions quickly with bulk actions.

No matter where your team is in your digitization efforts or security practices, Docusign can help. We’ve built a series of tools specifically to help manufacturers increase efficiency without taking on any extra security risk. Learn more about our advanced cybersecurity features with our security overview or set up time to talk to one of our experts.