Manufacturing has become most popular target of hackers, says TXOne Networks

TXOne Networks CEO Terence Liu speaks at the 2021 Hacks in Taiwan Conference. Credit: TXOne Networks

Bolstering operational technology (OT) security is a budding awareness among semiconductor suppliers, as the manufacturing industry has become the most popular target of hackers, according to Terence Liu, CEO of TXOne Networks.

‘Threat landscape has changed’

Ten years ago, few people cared about the manufacturing industry’s information security because hackers usually attacked financial and government sectors and no law pushed manufacturers to improve security, Liu said during a video interview with DIGITIMES Asia.

However, the “threat landscape” has changed, Liu said, citing a report released by IBM, which provides threat analysis and response services.

“Manufacturing replaced financial services as the top attacked industry in 2021, representing 23.2% of the attacks [IBM’s] X-Force remediated last year,” IBM said in the report in March. “Sixty-one percent of incidents at OT-connected organizations last year were in the manufacturing industry.”

The capital flow of hackers is harder to track now when their payments are made in virtual coins, Liu said.

OT akin to IT

As manufacturers are automating more production facilities, their OT networks have become similar to IT settings, meaning the two environments are no longer fully separated as in the pre-digital era, Liu said.

In the industry 4.0 era, the seclusion of OT systems is almost untenable as more production facilities – ranging from machines, and manufacturing execution systems, to cloud servers – become interconnected. The COVID-19 pandemic has also compelled manufacturers to open internal networks for remote workers, creating more opportunities for hackers, he observed.

Hackers usually ransom manufacturers in two ways. They may steal companies’ data related to clients and threaten to publish the data. Or, they may attack manufacturers’ OT systems to disrupt production activities. Manufacturers would suffer more losses if they halt operations longer, Liu said.

SEMI E187 specification

On August 3, 2018, TSMC encountered attacks by computer virus, “which affected a number of computer systems and fab tools in…