Contributed by April Miller, Senior Writer for

Cloud transformation is a critical step for businesses undertaking Industry 4.0 initiatives. However, this transition also comes with new risks that industrial organizations may be unfamiliar with, leaving them vulnerable to cyber attacks.

As manufacturers and companies in other heavy industries implement more digital technologies, they must also update their security. That starts with knowing what could create vulnerabilities and what steps mitigate those threats. Here’s a closer look at how to reduce industrial cyber attacks amid the ongoing shift to the cloud.

Train employees in new security protocols

One of the most important steps in industrial cloud security is employee training. About 82% of data breaches involved a human element in 2022, stemming from misuse or social engineering. These threats are particularly relevant for organizations whose staff is likely largely unfamiliar with new digital technologies and related best practices.

Businesses moving to the cloud must train all employees that have access to relevant security controls. Strong password management is one of the most important areas to discuss, including why these steps matter. Similarly, all workers should know about phishing attacks and how to spot them.

Even IT staff may need some re-education. Cloud security can differ from conventional, on-premise protocols, so these departments should review cloud-specific practices to stay safe.

Watch for misconfiguration

Misconfiguration is another common cloud vulnerability, especially for organizations that are new to the cloud. Misconfigured servers are tied with stolen credentials as the most common threat vector in malicious data breaches. Addressing these risks is a two-step process: prevention and mitigation.

First, industrial organizations should aim to prevent cloud misconfiguration before relying on these resources. That may entail reviewing common configuration errors to avoid and running tests on all servers before taking them live. Some companies may want to reach out to an expert third party to set up their systems to minimize risks.

Next, because these errors are so common, teams should regularly check for misconfiguration. Using automated vulnerability scanning tools is often the best approach here, as configuration errors can be easy to miss with human eyes.

Implement strong identity and access management controls

Identity and access management (IAM) is another critical cloud security component. Digital transformation for heavy industries often means increasing network endpoints and attack surfaces. Employing strong IAM controls helps ensure these rising endpoints don’t compromise an entire network.

Industrial cloud IAM revolves around two main factors: restricting access and verifying identities. It’s important to apply these to users and devices. Each endpoint and user should only be able to access what it needs and have reliable ways to prove their identity.

Low-value accounts may be able to use single-sign-on (SSO), as it means fewer passwords to remember, minimizing error-related breaches. However, accounts with high-level access should use more secure identity methods, like multi-factor authentication (MFA).

Conduct regular penetration testing

Cloud networks are often complex, especially in growing industrial workplaces, so teams likely won’t realize all vulnerabilities initially. In light of that risk, regular penetration testing and vulnerability scanning are crucial.

Organizations should test new systems for vulnerabilities before using them. Cloud transitions are often long and gradual, so companies’ attack surfaces will likely grow and shift over time. Consequently, one initial check isn’t enough. Teams must regularly pen test and scan their systems and networks to ensure they stay secure. This is where something like PTaaS comes in handy as it combines both manual and automated testing.

These tests should also adapt to changing cyber crime trends. As defenses evolve, so will the methods cyber criminals prefer to use. Adapting to these changes will ensure more reliable cyber security for these high-risk networks.

Back up all critical data

Industrial organizations moving more data and processes to the cloud must also keep regular backups. Mistakes and unforeseen circumstances can still happen, even with a careful, well-planned and secure cloud transition. The average cost of a data breach surpasses $9 million today, so minimizing the impacts is essential.

Many organizations turn to the cloud for backups, but it’s also important to store this on-premise in case cloud systems fail. Breaches and failures can also be unpredictable, so companies must use automatic recovery systems. Having a response plan to act on these backups is similarly critical.

Organizations must also ensure they secure their backups. That means encrypting all data and systems at rest and in transit, as well as restricting access to them. This minimizes the chances of a backup data breach.

Security must play a central role in cloud transformation

Moving to the cloud is crucial as digital transformation becomes the norm in business. However, this transition can cause more issues than it resolves if security doesn’t evolve alongside these changes.

Industrial organizations should focus on and stress the importance of security from the beginning. Reducing vulnerabilities and implementing tighter security controls as they move to the cloud can make the most of this technology. If they don’t, their cloud’s risks may outweigh its benefits.

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