By Roderick Kelly
The ear-popping screeches came in two parts with a low shrill separating them, much like the sounds of a child when a door slams on their fingers and they suddenly realize the magnitude of what happened.
What the “H...E...double hockey sticks” is that? I remember shouting when a newly-installed facsimile machine announced its inaugural transmission. People scurried from all departments to hear that piercing, yet catatonic sound. Twenty sets of eyes stood over the machine that was tethered to a telephone jack, and we all waited many minutes for the 1,200-baud computer to spit out the final word of the single-page letter sent from one phone to another.
We were witnessing history.
Fast forward 30+ years. I was left similarly slack-jawed at the Valley Industrial Association Annual Collaboration Conference when I learned that some manufacturers and other companies are still using Windows 2003, XP and Vista operating systems in their offices, plants and on production lines. The manufacturing industry has the most Windows XP operating systems in motion, according to the 2016-17 Annual Threat Report by the Dell SonicWALL Global Response Inteligence Data.
But there’s an explanation for why some manufacturers are playing catch up. In 2007 and 2008, many manufacturers were in survival mode. As a result, information technology projects often were postponed. Ten years later, manufacturers still are experiencing side effects from the Great Recessions, says Philippe Schmitt, chief operating officer of motherG, a Chicago IT managed services provider that consults with manufacturers, service providers, associations and other businesses about cyber security.
Additionally, manufacturers may have aging lines of business applications and personal computer control equipment, such as data acquisition, production control, quality control and CNC Machining. Many manufacturers are working at updating aging on-premise servers, installing new software and upgrading aging applications, Schmitt says.
In the meantime, as mission critical technology replacements are undertaken, companies remain susceptible to cyber attacks and industrial espionage. Schmitt encourages (actually, he insists that) companies include the IT department on the senior executive team. That move can ensure an across-the-board understanding of protections required to insulate sensitive information and mission critical data from malicious cyber risks.
According to the SonicWall 2016-2017 annual report:
- Ransomware (a threat to publish sensitive information if a ransom is not paid) has become the predominant threat. In 1Q 2016, 30.9 million ransomware attempts were made and that jumped to 265.5 million attempts were made.
- There were 7.3 trillion web connection s made in 2016, up 38% from the 5.3 trillion connections in 2015.
- 70% of the Distributed Denial of Service attacks occurred in the United States in 2016, which cost businesses an average of $22,000 per minute.
But manufacturers can reduce the cyber risk to their facilities by having a seat at the executive table and establishing a cyber security strategy, which Schmitt says includes:
- An internal compliance and risk assessment
- A well-designed cyber security protection plan
- The deployment of that plan
- Training of all employees on the plan
- Measuring the efficiency of the plan and improve upon it
So even though automation and technology has help increase production, improve delivery of content and make employees more accountable, it also opens a crack to potential criminal activity.
Moving forward keeps us from staying behind. Just like that day I witnessed history.
I’ve got to be honest. I’d welcome that two-toned screech emanating from the machine that translated 0''s and 1's that were delivered from one phone and received by another. Just once for old time sake.