SACA - Auto Industry Identifies Cybersecurity as Primary Barrier to Growth

If you were an automotive executive today, what do you think your primary concern might be? Improving safety is always an important concern. Given rising inflation, making vehicles more affordable might also be high on the list. Of course, many of you might also identify navigating the rise of electric vehicles (EVs) as a likely contender.

While those are all good guesses, there’s one issue that Rockwell Automation’s latest State of Smart Manufacturing: Automotive Edition report identified as the primary barrier for growth according to auto manufacturers: cybersecurity. If you think about it, it just makes sense.

Manufacturers everywhere—including auto manufacturers—have embraced new automation technologies because they improve productivity, efficiency, and ultimately profitability. However, as manufacturers add more and more smart devices to their networks, the risk of cyberattacks on those devices increases accordingly.

The bad actors behind the cyberattacks that have made the news in the last few years know that manufacturers often implement new technologies before adding the highly skilled workers they need to keep those advanced systems safe. Auto executives must ask themselves: how safe are our plants from cyberattacks?

Moreover, automobiles themselves have become marvels of the latest modern technologies. From Wi-Fi-enabled vehicles to dashboards that sport screens the size of small televisions, the cars and trucks we drive are “smarter” than ever. And let’s not forget about the next frontier: self-driving vehicles. The earliest models are already on our roads. What happens when they become the norm?

We have a high-tech system of air traffic control that keeps track of all the airplanes in the sky to make sure none of them cross paths. Will we see the same type of system for self-driving automobiles? Can you imagine the technology that will take to keep track of millions of vehicles to ensure they all stay in their lanes? More importantly, can you imagine what would happen if a hacker gained control of such a system, let alone individual vehicles?

These are just a few of the factors that led auto manufacturers to put the spotlight on cybersecurity as the main barrier to continued growth. In a recent Industry Week article, author Dennis Scimeca points out that “[t]he manufacturing sector…presents one of cybercriminals’ most attractive and lucrative targets.”

This is certainly true for auto manufacturers who tend to have a “lack of tolerance for pauses in production and therefore increased willingness compared to other economic sectors to pay ransom demands.” Cyberattacks on Nissan, Ferrari, and Hyundai in the last year have boosted cybersecurity to the top of the pile when it comes to future worries.

Scimeca believes “[t]he increasing connectivity between vehicles provides the largest concern for auto manufacturers.” For example, Brian Denken, Rockwell Automation’s commercial manager for networks and cybersecurity services, North America, notes that “[w]e’re looking at multiple types of connectivity—vehicle-to-cloud for services like navigation, vehicle-to-infrastructure for traffic management and vehicle-to-vehicle for safety communications. Each connection point expands the attack surface and presents unique security challenges that we must address to ensure safe and reliable vehicle operations.”

Cybercriminals also like the automotive industry as a target for the huge amount of data available. Denken points out “[t]his includes personal data from drivers, operational data from vehicle systems, communication data exchanged with external entities and charging data for electric vehicles.”

Denken argues that “[e]nsuring the security of this information is vital to prevent fraud, maintain vehicle performance and safeguard user privacy. This requires advanced encryption, secure communication protocols, and continuous monitoring.”

Scimeca reminds readers that “[f]ocusing too much on the specifics of vehicle connectivity risks losing track of the degree to which automotive plants, some of the most networked plants in heavy industry, also face increasing cybersecurity risks.”

So what’s a vulnerable auto manufacturer to do? Experts agree that it’s critical for manufacturers to hire highly skilled workers that can manage cybersecurity risks, in addition to operating, maintaining, troubleshooting, and repairing the advanced automation systems that are being implemented. Unfortunately, due to the ongoing “skills gap” issue in the manufacturing sector, finding highly skilled workers remains a significant challenge.

How can manufacturers find the workers they need? And how can they be sure that workers have the hands-on skills they need to succeed in the modern workplace? Today, more and more manufacturers are looking for workers with industry-standard certifications that prove they have the skills employers need.

For example, if workers possess a certification from the Smart Automation Certification Alliance (SACA), employers can feel confident they’ve already proven they have the knowledge and hands-on skills needed for working with advanced smart automation technologies. SACA has been hard at work collaborating with industry leaders to develop a wide variety of industry-standard certifications that will help employers find workers who possess the advanced connected-systems skills they need to take their businesses to the next level. Be sure to check out SACA and all it has to offer!