Digital connectivity is making our lives easier and boosting business competitiveness. However, the risk of cyber-attacks is increasing as well, causing governments and companies to join forces in defense.
Phenomena that 25 years ago were considered pure science fiction are today our ever-present companions in daily life. The list ranges from digital factories to the networking of information with a vast range of systems. All in all, digital systems are not only simplifying many facets of life, but have become a key factor affecting the competitiveness of companies and countries.
However, as these developments have taken shape, the associated concentration of information has become an irresistible target for criminals. As a result, the total number of cyber-attacks is rapidly increasing. In 2016 alone, attacks from the Internet caused more than €500 billion in damages worldwide and accounted for up to 1.6 percent of gross domestic product in some European countries.
Attacks from the Internet
Hackers aren’t just attacking conventional PCs. Ever since the Stuxnet malware made headlines worldwide in 2010; manufacturing companies have realized that advancing levels of digitization are blurring the lines between offices and the infrastructures that control industrial facilities. As a result, plant operators have had to prepare for all the challenges that the IT sector is now familiar with – the global WannaCry cyber-attack confirmed this in May 2017. Moreover, with ever more products, solutions, and services employing software that is often used in critical infrastructures, the range of cybersecurity risks will continue to grow. As a result, more than eight billion devices, including machines, facilities, sensors, and products, now communicate with one another, representing an increase of about 30 percent since 2016. Moreover, this number will continue to climb dramatically – to more than 20 billion by 2020.
Protecting Critical Infrastructures and Sensitive Data
This challenge affects public infrastructures just as much as the manufacturing industry and the energy and healthcare sectors. Companies everywhere anticipate that the networking of machines and facilities will not only generate significant financial advantages, but major security challenges as well. “However, the risks are manageable if industry uses a thorough and consistent security concept,” says Natalia Oropeza, Head of the Cybersecurity Department at Siemens. At company’s central research and development unit, Corporate Technology (CT), experts develop sophisticated solutions designed to protect Siemens’ divisions against cybercrime. These solutions range from software packages that ensure that security is always up-to-date with regard to authentication methods (“ID checks”) for machines, as well as monitoring solutions that identify and report cyberattacks in near real time so that countermeasures can be taken as early as possible.