Rustin Brown|June 27, 2024

Zero Trust Network Access in the Factory: Shielding Industrial Systems from Rising Cyberthreats

As the manufacturing sector increasingly digitizes, the factory floor has become an attractive target for cybercriminals. To counter relentless cyberthreats, Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) is a powerful secure access solution for manufacturers fortifying industrial systems like IoT and OT with enhanced security controls, continuous monitoring and least privilege access.

The manufacturing sector has undergone rapid digital transformation, driven by the adoption of smart factories and Industry 4.0 technologies. While these advancements deliver unprecedented gains in efficiency and production uptime, they also expose factories to an increasingly sophisticated and relentless wave of cyberthreats. These threats, often targeting outdated and insecure operational technology (OT) and industrial control systems (ICS) like industrial switches and cellular gateways, can cripple critical processes, manipulate production data, or even inflict physical damage. Traditional perimeter-based security is no longer adequate to protect these interconnected, complex systems in OT environments. A radical cybersecurity transformation is necessary and Universal Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) is a potent solution.

What’s behind rising manufacturing cyberattacks?

For the third consecutive year, the IBM X-Force Threat Intelligence Report identified manufacturing as the industry most frequently targeted by cybercriminals. Historically, the sector's minimal tolerance for downtime has made it a lucrative target for those seeking financial gain through pressure tactics. Last year, over 25% of security incidents involved manufacturers, with most of these incidents being malware attacks, predominantly ransomware. Given the ever-evolving threat landscape, maintaining robust security fundamentals is crucial for manufacturers' security strategies.

According to a June 2024 report by the World Economic Forum, “the cost of cybercrime has increased 125% per year on average, with the impact of a successful cyberattack reaching $4.73 million per attack in industrial settings. If this growth continues, the projected global impact could reach $10.5 trillion by 2025.” 

The criticality of accelerating cyberthreats that target the manufacturing sector is amplified by unique industrial security management challenges. Legacy equipment often lacks robust security procedures, yet it remains prevalent in many factories. The convergence of IT and OT networks has blurred the lines between traditional cybersecurity and operational security, introducing new pathways for threat actors. Furthermore, industrial environments often have limited visibility into their complex systems, hindering the ability to detect and respond to threats promptly during incident investigation. Real-time operational requirements further complicate matters, as security policies must not impede vital processes.

Zero Trust Network Access: Bolstering factory defenses

Zero Trust Network Access is built on the Zero Trust security principle of least privilege access, which assumes no user identity or device can be implicitly trusted, even those residing within the network perimeter. Instead, access policies are granted on a strictly need-to-know basis, only after rigorous verification of the user's identity and device security posture, making it a robust solution to the challenges outlined above.

ZTNA solutions, like Appgate SDP, extend this principle to network access by providing secure access to applications and resources, irrespective of the user's location or network. ZTNA solutions typically employ a combination of identity and access management (IAM), device posture assessment, and micro-segmentation to enforce granular access control policies.

Undoubtedly, the manufacturing industry faces a wide range of cyberthreats, including phishing, ransomware, intellectual property theft, supply chain attacks and IoT security risks that target manufacturing systems. These threats can disrupt production, compromise sensitive data stored on routers and other devices, and even lead to catastrophic physical consequences, ultimately leading to significant financial losses or irreparable damage to brand reputation.

The adoption of ZTNA in the factory environment offers a multitude of benefits, including:

  • Enhanced security: ZTNA drastically reduces the attack surface by eliminating implicit trust and enforcing access based on the least-privilege access model. This significantly impedes the ability of attackers to move laterally within the network and compromise critical infrastructures.
  • Improved visibility and control: ZTNA solutions provide comprehensive visibility into user identity and device activity, enabling security operations teams to swiftly detect and respond to threats. They also empower administrators with granular access policies, ensuring precise control over resource access.
  • Simplified, secure remote access: ZTNA facilitates remote access security for factory employees, contractors, and partners, which is especially crucial in today's hybrid work landscape. It eliminates the need for risky VPNs and CVE management and provides remote access capabilities without exposing the entire network.
  • Mitigation of ransomware risks: By curtailing lateral movement and enforcing least privilege access ZTNA can thwart the spread of ransomware attacks, minimizing exposure and potential damage.
  • Regulatory compliance: Numerous industries, including manufacturing, are subject to stringent cybersecurity regulations like ISA/IEC 62443-3-3. ZTNA can help organizations achieve compliance purposes by providing robust access controls and comprehensive audit and compliance trails.

Appgate SDP: Fortifying industrial systems with Universal ZTNA

The high costs and business disruption associated with halting production make it challenging for manufacturers to implement system changes or cybersecurity upgrades, rendering them an attractive target for cyberattacks. Appgate SDP Universal ZTNA is built on a security architecture designed to eliminate the outdated concept of trusted networks in a factory setting and this includes high-value interoperability with existing security solutions. In fact, with Appgate SDP, modernizing your security stack doesn’t always require rip and replace downtime. Appgate SDP Universal ZTNA is built to work with a long list of cybersecurity alphabet tools like SD-WAN, MPLS, SIEM, VPN, SWG, MDR/XDR, CASB, DNS and more. 

By establishing secure, encrypted tunnels between all users and authorized resources irrespective of location, Universal ZTNA drastically reduces the attack surface, making it significantly harder for threat actors to penetrate industrial systems. And Appgate SDP delivers device posture assessment, ensuring only compliant devices gain access, and dynamic permissions that continuously evaluate risk, adjusting privileges in real-time. Integration with threat intelligence feeds allows for proactive identification and blocking of malicious activities.

Our deep understanding of the manufacturing industry's unique challenges, including securing industrial control systems (ICS) and operational technology (OT), makes Appgate SDP a natural fit. Our scalable and flexible solution adapts to growing networks and evolving security procedures, catering to diverse infrastructures based on the Purdue model framework used for the design and operation of industrial control systems (ICS) and automation systems, as well as zones and conduits architecture.

With a proven track record of protecting critical infrastructures across various industries, Appgate SDP empowers manufacturers to enhance their cybersecurity posture, safeguard assets, and proactively mitigate risks. By embracing Appgate SDP Zero Trust Network Access, manufacturers can fortify their industrial systems against evolving threats, confidently leveraging Industry 4.0 to drive innovation, efficiency and growth.

Securing the future of manufacturing

The manufacturing industry faces a deluge of new cyberattacks, making robust security controls a necessity. Universal ZTNA is a compelling solution to safeguard critical industrial systems and sensitive data by abolishing implicit trust and enforcing least privilege access. This strategic approach substantially reduces the risk of cyberattacks, empowering factories to confidently pursue digital transformation objectives in a secure environment.

Successful ZTNA implementation in a factory environment requires meticulous planning and thoughtful consideration. Organizations must identify their most critical assets and data to design a ZTNA architecture that provides appropriate protection. Selecting a ZTNA solution that seamlessly integrates with existing infrastructure and workflows is imperative for a successful transition. By embracing advanced security controls like multi-factor authentication (MFA), identity provider (IDP) integrations and continuous authentication, manufacturers can further strengthen their security posture and ensure operational agility.

Additional ZTNA Resources

Case study: Bang Energy Secures IP, Supply Chain with ZTNA
White paper: An ROI Analysis on Universal ZTNA
eBook: What’s the Difference Between Cloud-routed vs. Direct-routed ZTNA
Solution brief: Appgate SDP Overview

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