Understanding cyber-risk assessment: A guide for manufacturers

Discover where your business’s vulnerabilities are

Cybersecurity is everyone’s business

In today’s constantly evolving, interconnected world, cybersecurity is a concern that extends to every member of an organization, from top-level executives to part-time office staff. Adversaries are constantly evolving, finding new ways to exploit vulnerabilities and circumvent traditional security measures. A single employee clicking on a phishing email can lead to a significant breach, highlighting the importance of a comprehensive cybersecurity strategy. It’s critical for organizations to assess their cybersecurity maturity, identify potential gaps and take proactive steps to address vulnerabilities. By doing so, businesses can significantly reduce the risk of a data breach and ensure continuity of operations. Cybersecurity isn’t just an information technology issue — it’s a collective responsibility that requires diligence and awareness across all levels of an organization.

In the realm of cybersecurity, risk assessments play a critical role in helping manufacturers comprehend the cyberthreats that pose risks to their operations, assets, data and individuals. This guide aims to equip manufacturers with more information on conducting a comprehensive cyber-risk assessment to determine where their vulnerabilities lie.

Components of a cyber-risk assessment

Safeguarding network assets from cyberthreats is imperative, especially for manufacturers who are increasingly being targeted by bad actors. The following is a guide to performing a cyber-risk assessment.

1. Identify and document network asset vulnerabilities

Begin by cataloging all network components, including hardware, software and interfaces. Evaluate internal and external cyberprocesses, check for default passwords and review access controls. This step provides insights into potential breach points within the system.

2. Identify and use sources of cyberthreat intelligence

Gather intelligence on common threats like unauthorized access and weaknesses in security controls. Understanding prevalent cyberthreats is essential for formulating effective defense strategies.

3. Identify and document internal and external threats

Recognize that threats can originate from both external sources and within the organization. Document internal processes, administrative privileges and user activity logs to anticipate and mitigate potential breaches. Establishing a cyberincident response plan is advisable.

4. Identify potential mission impacts

Assess the impact of cyberincidents on critical infrastructure and shared resources. Understanding mission-critical dependencies aids in containing and responding to breaches effectively.

5. Use threats, vulnerabilities, likelihoods and impacts to determine risk

Quantify cyber-risks based on threats, vulnerabilities, likelihood of occurrence and potential impacts. Continuously refine risk assessments to adapt to evolving cyberthreats and technologies.

6. Identify and prioritize risk responses

Develop risk responses tailored to specific cyberthreats, and prioritize them based on potential impacts. Maintain an updated list of personnel for swift response actions after a cyberincident.

Benefits of cyber-risk assessments

By conducting regular cyber-risk assessments, manufacturers can achieve several benefits, including:

  • Meeting operational and regulatory requirements;
  • Enhancing overall resiliency and cyber posture;
  • Meeting cyberinsurance coverage requirements.

Establishing a baseline for cybersecurity

Manufacturers have the flexibility to conduct assessments internally, utilizing training resources or seeking guidance from industry experts. Internal assessments will require training a team and developing the skills to manage cyber-risk assessments, which can be time-consuming and less comprehensive compared to enlisting external expertise. Luckily, manufacturers can lean on their local MEPs for training or for their expertise in cybersecurity. It’s also critical to understand that assessing a manufacturing operation’s cybersecurity posture is an ongoing endeavor — regular assessments establish baseline metrics, enabling continuous improvement and readiness against evolving threats, ultimately enhancing cyber-resilience and demonstrating progress over time.

NJMEP is the manufacturing resource

In today’s evolving digital landscape, cyber-risk assessments are essential for manufacturers to identify vulnerabilities and safeguard operations against evolving threats. Regular assessments not only strengthen cyber-resilience but also underscore a commitment to proactive cybersecurity. By leveraging the insights from this guide and partnering with experienced consultants like the New Jersey Manufacturing Extension Program, manufacturers can fortify their cyberposture, ensuring operational continuity and readiness in the face of cybersecurity challenges. Our cybersecurity experts can provide the necessary guidance and support to address and mitigate your business’s cyber vulnerabilities effectively. Learn more about how NJMEP can guide your business to cyber-resilience at njmep.org.