Podcast: Manufacturers are abandoning analog and embracing digitalization to stay competitive and secure

Podcast: Manufacturers are abandoning analog and embracing digitalization to stay competitive and secure

Feb. 24, 2024
In this episode of Great Question: A Manufacturing Podcast, Christina Hoefer from Forescout explores risk management in an industry of mixed digital and analog environments.

Christina Hoefer is vice president of global industry enterprise at Forescout, a cybersecurity company. Forescout works to identify, protect, and help ensure the compliance of all managed and unmanaged cyber assets. Over the past 15 years, Christina has worked with critical infrastructure and manufacturing organizations to secure their digital transformation and especially their OT environments. Christina recently spoke with IndustryWeek editor in chief Robert Schoenberger about the convergence of IT and OT and how manufacturers can embrace digital transformation. 

Below is an excerpt from the podcast:

RS: Digital transformation really gained momentum in 2023, and it looks like it will keep rolling in 2024, especially for small and midsize manufacturers. Can you give us your take on beginning to break away from these analog processes? Where should companies begin?

CH: Yeah, that's correct. So, it's no longer sufficient to just look at, you know, analog processes, siloed teams, and tools. The thing is digitalization brings a lot of competitive advantages and improves the process. The whole production gets more efficient because we can have analytics. But you know it also exposes vulnerable systems, and it connects those OT systems that were never designed to be connected, for that whole connectivity with corporate systems or internet facing to even work. So that leads to an increased attack surface that we need to monitor and secure, and the first steps that organizations can take is to, well, gather these insights, you know, into assets, how they connect, do they have connectivity?

Did vendors potentially bring in remote access solutions? We see this a lot of times, that there are actually a lot more connectivities. From OT systems out of the network, you know to remote sites, to contractors and this, of course, means that we have increased. And I don't mean let's do this with pen and paper. The best thing is to have some database or monitoring system where we can consolidate this information because we might have to go back to this information when there is a cyber risk to make sure we aren’t exposed to this threat. What do we need to do? I don't know if you know, but there was this incident somewhere in some hardware system where OT was to shut down preemptively because they just didn't know if it would be affected if there would be a way for the IT attack to spread through the network and affect OT.

RS: So, moving on, it's obviously important for data and cybersecurity if vulnerabilities in mixed digital and analog environments are addressed and automated. What are examples, the most egregious, of gaps in risk management? What are the ones that are what are the ones to NO LONGER do or to try to get away from?

About the Author

Robert Schoenberger

Robert Schoenberger has been writing about manufacturing technology in one form or another since the late 1990s. He began his career in newspapers in South Texas and has worked for The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Mississippi; The Courier-Journal in Louisville, Kentucky; and The Plain Dealer in Cleveland where he spent more than six years as the automotive reporter. In 2013, he launched Today's Motor Vehicles, a magazine focusing on design and manufacturing topics within the automotive and commercial truck worlds. He joined IndustryWeek in late 2021.

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