Why Should We Care About Information Security in Our Industry?

Information security is often seen particularly important for organizations and businesses that interact directly with customers through digital channels, such as an online store or customer portal. GDPR introduced more requirements for all services processing personal data, which was a wake-up call for many organizations. The importance of information security for business continuity, growth, and risk management has only recently begun to be comprehensively understood by organizations operating in traditional or manufacturing industries. This is a challenge for organizations moving from the physical world to the digital world. This might be happening through some of the following examples: through computerization of production components; digitalisation or virtualisation of a product, service or related support; or by the pursuit of greater coverage and efficiency in new markets and customer groups through digital channels.

In this blog, I share my thoughts on what business-oriented security considerations should be considered in manufacturing organizations, especially if security-oriented thinking has not yet been part of everyday business and risk analysis.

I consider the question from three different perspectives. Continuity, accuracy, and predictability of production are vital to any organization with a manufacturing process. Information in all its forms is increasingly a factor in production, as well as the valuable capital of an organization. Products are increasingly incorporating digital components, for example, the product itself may contain digital parts or functionalities, it may include service elements, or it is sold, marketed, maintained, or otherwise made available through digital channels.

Continuity, Accuracy, and Predictability of Production

In a modern company, production, logistics, or services are controlled by data or digital control mechanisms. Often these functions are connected directly or via a few connection points to the public Internet, or in any case, use network for communication. Malfunction or corruption in these capabilities can even result in production stoppages, or at least affects the quality of the product or causes delays and cancellations to customer deliveries. On an hourly basis, the direct cost of this can be very significant and, in the event of a disruption to customer deliveries, the impact on the brand and on customer relationships may even be worse.

At its simplest, such disruption occurs because of a denial of service attack or when a related business is facing such an attack. Interference with core processes may happen when a virus penetrates corporate networks, or a malicious hacker deletes or corrupts files.

Understanding the current state and level of information security helps you not only to identify the risks of your own business but also to improve production capacity. Business-oriented security planning can identify data flows and objects that support the most critical core processes, and design IT capabilities and resource investments so that, in the worst-case scenario, the threat is quickly identified and mitigated, or its impact is limited or minimized. In addition, good self-understanding helps to modernize production and other processes and technological capabilities in a sustainable way and to raise the production and sales capabilities of your business and organization so that the increased risk level and associated costs do not suddenly become a bottleneck.

Information — the Most Important Capital for Organization

Information in its various forms is one of the most, if not the most important, capital of a modern organization. Virtually all organizations are - some unknowingly - subject to phishing and data theft attempts. While some of these experiments are random and not directly related to the company's market position or information capital, there is a growing trend towards more purposeful activities that are specific to the company’s business, know-how or unique position at the market.

Corruption of data can complicate or hinder the core business processes. From the organization’s viewpoint theft of information may be targeted to "secondary" goals, such as theft of personal data for resale. But especially for leading international business organizations it’s possible that someone is specifically interested in their innovation and expertise. In any case, information security is an essential part of an organization's risk management, and for example, customer information is a significant part of the trust, brand image, and regulatory requirements.

By understanding the key information and how it flows within an organization, a company can focus its security resources and efforts at the right place and in the right way, investing in the very things that most significantly protect its unique market position and core operations, and reduce organizational risk. In this way, important information capital is protected from theft, corruption or destruction, and if someone tries to do so, it is noticed.

Products and Services, Quality, Customer Trust, and Brand Image

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The world is more and more moving from physical to digital. Physical products often contain digital or automation-related components, or their value proposition may also consist of services or other elements that are digital.

Cyber security testing may be used to ensure that a product or service is as reliable as possible when it encounters malicious activity. The certificate tells customers and other stakeholders that a product’s or service’s information security has been tested and they can rely on this product or service their critical resource, business process, or information. This has a significant effect on trust, customer experience, and the company's brand image, and it also helps in the sales process.

It is important to understand that the customer can use the product as it wasn’t originally intended, for example, they may configure or connect it to a network in a different way. When a product or service is subject to a security attack, the brand image may be compromised, even though a potential vulnerability could have been avoided by a different set of activities by the user. Similarly, the image of the product's features and quality is closely related to the functionality of service, support, or marketing site. For this reason, the product, service or brand must be considered as a whole, and care must be taken to ensure that no part of it poses an unnecessary risk to the customer or to the organization’s reputation.

Next Steps

For the organization that is starting a systematic and comprehensive work in the field of information security, we recommend the following three viewpoints:

  1. If your organization has not yet done a centralized and comprehensive analysis of information security, doing so will give you a good idea of your organization's level of security and its associated risks. It will also identify key business-oriented areas for improvement, increase your self-awareness, and the ability to properly develop your operations and focus the resources.
  2. If a product or service has digital components, its security testing ensures the desired level of security, and certification provides a concrete and powerful tool to strengthen the trust with customers and stakeholders.
  3. A phishing testing exposes the organization's vulnerabilities and its level of preparedness to face hostile approach attempts. It provides a good tool to improve the staff’s security awareness.

We have developed an approach that is particularly suited to Finnish organizations — to the size, resources, and needs of our clients. Our services include cyber security expert services for IT environments or individual software, hacker testing, information security certifications, and cyber security in software development.

If you would like to hear more about these or information security in general, feel free to contact us!

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About the Author: Antti M.

Antti M.

Antti is enthusiastic about understanding the business of his clients and creating value for his clients in their unique environments. Antti has extensive experience in selling and consulting high-tech products and services and understands how digitalisation changes the logic of business.