Manufacturers Vulnerable to Cyberrisk

Manufacturing companies face a serious threat from cyber criminals. According to IBM’s latest intelligence index, theirs is now the second-most targeted sector, after attack numbers increased significantly year-on-year. This heightened risk is compounded by increased vulnerability: the connectivity that manufacturers have embraced to bring about greater operational efficiencies is accompanied by significant and largely uninsured exposures, such as physical damage arising from cyber incidents or loss of income due to stolen intellectual property.

Part of the vulnerability lies in process control and supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems. Previously deemed impenetrable, due to their proprietary and highly customised networks, the convergence of these industrial control systems with enterprise infrastructure, particularly web services and ethernets, has created a potentially catastrophic risk. Such connections and the increasing Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) can drive through great advantages, but also simultaneously produce weak links that manufacturers can not afford to overlook.

For example, expensive capital assets such as production machines will be retrofitted with technology that allows them to be connected to corporate networks. But they were typically built without the sophisticated measures to afford cyber-protection, or have operating systems that are incompatible with current cyber-security products. All these factors make manufacturers’ industrial control systems particularly vulnerable to cyber-attack.

Physical damage
Physical damage arising from cyberattacks has to date been relatively rare. Early high-profile events, such as claims that Russians hacked into U.S. water treatment facilities to damage pumps, or the Israeli-U.S. ‘Stuxnet’ attack on Iran’s nuclear centrifuges were believed to be state-sponsored.

One of the most underestimated threats to manufacturers is the rogue employee, disillusioned with their employer or falling victim to blackmail. One such attack involved a German steel mill. Hackers, thought to involve a rogue employee, took over its industrial control systems via its enterprise system, preventing employees from shutting down a blast furnace. This caused irreparable damage to expensive equipment and yet physical damage, as well as bodily injury caused by a cyber event, is typically excluded on most policies. The rise of the hackers-for-hire phenomenon further multiplies potential sources of attack, with competing companies looking to use third parties for corporate espionage, for example.

Stolen Innovation
Other rising areas of threat revolve around the significant non-physical assets residing in manufacturers’ information systems. Cyber theft of intellectual property (IP) has been difficult to insure properly, despite the extraordinary value of items such as the technical specifications of a new product, or the composition of a new pharmaceutical. PwC reports that the number of such thefts, notably of product designs, has doubled.

While competition is a big driver of IP cyber theft, risks such as the loss of income due to stolen IP or the legal pursuit of it are not currently insurable. When you consider the degree to which a manufacturer’s value will be directly linked to their IP, this represents a considerable risk but also one where evidencing and quantifying a loss is very difficult.

Cyber attacks are now identified as the leading cause of supply chain stoppages but supply chain risk is also largely uninsured. Some losses, like business interruption arising from a cyber incident on an IT provider’s network, can sometimes be covered but an interruption caused by a product supplier’s cyber-event typically cannot. Upstream supply risk, associated with liabilities arising from failure to supply goods following an attack, is also difficult to insure.

Market developments
According to research by consultancy BDO USA, 92% of manufacturers cited cyber-security among their top 10 risk concerns in 2016, up 44% from 2013. Another study, however, found only 8% of manufacturers “very confident” in their ability to prevent an IT breach.

This rising risk issue demands action from all parties. Manufacturers must invest further in heightened security and control for their operating technologies, while cyber insurance specialists must continue to develop further sophisticated solutions to more effectively transfer manufacturers’ unique exposures. Insurance carriers are starting to work together more effectively across lines to more sufficiently underwrite the complex cyber risks facing the sector. Failure to respond to this new era of cyber threats and vulnerabilities will leave manufacturers exposed to reputation and physical damage, bodily injury, severe business interruption, loss of intellectual property, and significant financial loss.

Businesses Ignore Significant Cybersecurity Risks to Proprietary Data

Knowledge assets are critical to any business remaining functional and competitive, yet this data is routinely exposed to the risk of theft and overlooked in cybersecurity risk management. According to a new report from the Ponemon Institute and law firm Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton, the organizations are increasingly ineffective at safeguarding data like trade secrets, product design, development or pricing, and other proprietary information.

As breach notification laws, regulatory requirements, and reputation considerations draw more focus to cybersecurity surrounding personal data of customers or personnel, businesses are leaving more risk on the table regarding their most valuable assets, and that risk has a notable price tag.

In the past year, the average cost of remediating these attacks was about $5.4 million, and half of respondents estimated the maximum cost would range over $250 million, with seven out of ten placing it over $100 million. What’s more, on average, respondents believe only 35% of the losses resulting from knowledge asset theft would be covered by their current insurance policies.

The primary drivers of these costs, respondents said, were (out of 100 points):

knowledge asset theft costs

Why are so many businesses failing to take action against the risks to knowledge assets?

knowledge asset data theft risk

Among the findings, the report noted:

  • Theft is rampant. Seventy-four percent of respondents say it is likely that their company failed to detect a data breach involving the loss or theft of knowledge assets, and 60% state it is likely one or more pieces of their company’s knowledge assets are now in the hands of a competitor.
  • Companies don’t know what they need to protect, or how to protect it. Only 31% of respondents say their company has a classification system that segments information assets based on value or priority to the organization. Merely 28% rate the ability of their companies to mitigate the loss or theft of knowledge assets by insiders and external attackers as effective. The great majority who rate their programs as not effective cite as the primary reasons a lack of in-house expertise (67%), lack of clear leadership (59%), and lack of collaboration between different job functions (56%).
  • Executives and boards aren’t focused on the issue and its resolution. A data breach involving knowledge assets would impact a company’s ability to continue as a going concern according to 59% of respondents, but 53% replied that senior management is more concerned about a data breach involving credit card information or Social Security numbers than the leakage of knowledge assets. Only 32% of respondents say their companies’ senior management understands the risk caused by unprotected knowledge assets, and 69% believe that senior management does not make the protection of knowledge assets a priority. The board of directors is often even more in the dark. Merely 23% of respondents say the board is made aware of all breaches involving the loss or theft of knowledge assets, and only 37% state that the board requires assurances that knowledge assets are managed and safeguarded appropriately.
  • Careless employees and unchecked cloud providers are key risk areas. The most likely root cause of a data breach involving knowledge assets is the careless employee, but employee access to knowledge assets is not often adequately controlled. Fifty percent of respondents replied that both privileged and ordinary users have access to the company’s knowledge assets. Likewise, 63% of respondents state that their company stores knowledge assets in the cloud, but only 33% say their companies carefully vet the cloud providers storing those assets.

Thanks in part to the lack of action currently, there is plenty businesses can easily do to improve.

“Companies face a serious challenge in the protection of their knowledge assets. The good news is there are steps to take to reduce the risk,” said Dr. Larry Ponemon, chairman and founder of the Ponemon Institute. “First of all, understand the knowledge assets critical to your company and ensure they are secured. Make sure the protection of knowledge assets, especially when sharing with third parties, is an integral part of your security strategy, including incident response plans. To address the employee negligence problem, ensure training programs specifically address employee negligence when handling sensitive and high value data.”

Protect Your Company from Intellectual Property Risks

In intellectual property management, mistakes can be extremely costly, and are, unfortunately, easy for an IP manager to make. The stakes are high: these could cause your company to lose its intellectual property (IP) rights, or worse, may result in competitors obtaining those rights.

Here are the Top 10 IP management slip-ups that can increase these threats to your company:

  • Failure to capture an invention  With the “America Invents Act,” the United States converted to “first to file” from “first to invent.” Unlike the olden days, the first one toCopyright file a new invention—not the first to invent it—gets the rights to the patent. If one of your inventors has a patentable idea and you don’t find out about it, you risk having a competitor file ahead of you. Your company can also be excluded from using the invention, which may be a major setback.
  • Failure to meet statutory deadlines  Once you begin the patent filing process, you must meet strict statutory deadlines to file abroad and respond to communications from the patent offices. These include conversion to non-provisional status, application filing deadlines and national filing deadlines. Miss these dates and your patent rights disappear.
  • Failure to Stay in the Loop  Are there IP related conversations and actions happening in your company that you are not aware of? While you may be diligently tracking your activities, your inventors, attorneys or outside counsel could be taking actions (or not taking actions) that you need to know about. Things can easily fall through the cracks if you are not tracking them or in the loop. This may result in expensive mistakes and potential loss of patent rights.
  • Failure to Accurately Project Costs  There are costs associated with building an IP portfolio, including outside counsel fees, filing fees and maintenance fees. Your IP program can be adversely affected if you cannot accurately project what these fees will be and budget accordingly.
  • Failure to respond to patent trademark office actions on time  During prosecution, your patent applications will receive communications from patent offices. Either you or your outside counsel must respond to these on time. Failure to take timely actions, can lead to expensive penalties and/or loss of rights.
  • Failure to properly disclose material information  In many countries, including the U.S., you are required to file information disclosure statements that include all relevant prior art. These statements need to be consistent across all of your related patent applications. Failure to make proper disclosures can result in the loss of your patent rights.
  • Failure to maintain your patent  In most countries, you must pay regular maintenance fees for issued patents or annuities for pending applications. If you miss making a payment, are delinquent, or if a payment is not properly processed, you can lose your patent rights or may have to pay significant penalties to restore your rights.
  • Failure to enforce license obligations  If you have licensed patents to others, you need to monitor the agreement and track the royalty payments. Failure to do so can result in significant loss of royalty revenue, and unlicensed use of your IP.
  • Failure to align patent portfolio to business needs  Over time, your patent portfolio will grow. At the same time, your company’s business strategy may change. You need to monitor your portfolio to make sure it is aligned with your business needs. Maintaining a portfolio of low-value patents that doesn’t support your business strategy is a bad investment.
  • Failure to account for your IP portfolio  For companies with SEC reporting obligations, it is mandatory to accurately disclose your patent assets. If you don’t have an accurate picture of your actual portfolio, you will encounter costly and embarrassing legal problems.

As the IP manager, you are responsible for seeing that these failures don’t happen. While this is a challenge, it is one that you can meet by working closely with your inventors and outside counsel. You must also be very careful to track events in an IP calendar.

Morpho Hacker Group Targets Intellectual Property

With the highly-publicized rise in cyberbreaches, we have seen hackers break into systems for a variety of reasons: criminal enterprises simply stealing money, thieves gathering Social Security or credit card numbers to sell on the black market, state-sponsored groups taking confidential information, and malicious actors taking passwords or personal data to use to hit more valuable targets. Now, another group of financially-motivated hackers has emerged with a different agenda that may have even riskier implications for businesses.

According to a new report from computer security company Symantec, a group it calls Morpho has attacked multiple multibillion-dollar companies across an array of industries in pursuit of one thing: intellectual property. While it is not entirely clear what they do with this information, they may aim to sell it to competitors or nation states, the firm reports. “The group may be operating as ‘hackers for hire,’ targeting corporations on request,” Symantec reported. “Alternatively, it may select its own targets and either sell stolen information to the highest bidder or use it for insider trading purposes.”

Victimized businesses have spanned the Internet, software, pharmaceutical, legal and commodities fields, and the researchers believe the Morpho group is the same one that breached Facebook, Twitter, Apple and Microsoft in 2013.

Symantec does not believe the group is affiliated with or acting on behalf of any particular country as they have attacked businesses without regard for the nationality of its targets. But, as the New York Times reported, ” the researchers said there were clues that the hackers might be English speakers — their malicious code is written in fluent English — and they named their encryption keys after memes in American pop culture and gaming. Researchers also said the attackers worked during United States working hours, though they conceded that might just be because that is when their targets are most active.”

The researchers have tied Morpho to attacks against 49 different organizations in more than 20 countries, deploying custom hacking tools that are able to break into both Windows and Apple computers, suggesting it has plenty of resources and expertise. The group has been active since at least March 2012, the report said, and their attacks have not only continued to the present day, but have increased in number. “Over time, a picture has emerged of a cybercrime gang systematically targeting large corporations in order to steal confidential data,” Symantec said.

Morpho hacking victims by industry

Morpho hackers have also been exceptionally careful, from preliminary reconnaissance to cleaning up evidence. In some cases, to help best determine the valuable trade secrets they would steal, the group intercepted company emails as well as business databases containing legal and policy documents, financial records, product descriptions and training documents. In one case, they were able to compromise a physical security system that monitors employee and visitor movements in corporate buildings. After getting the data they wanted, they scrubbed their tracks, even making sure the servers they used to orchestrate the attacks were rented using the anonymous digital currency Bitcoin.

In short, the hackers are really good, according to Vikram Thakur, a senior manager of the attack investigations team at Symantec. “Who they are? We don’t know. They are virtually impossible to track,” he said.