Industry should focus on cyber-security not job insecurity

New research suggests the European workforce are more concerned about the impact of hacking than job automation

Industry should focus on cyber-security not job insecurity

Industry is transforming, and at the heart of this change is connectivity. Globally the spending on the Industrial Internet of Things is expected to reach US$500 billion by 20201. In this increasingly connected world, cyber-security will have a huge role to play. Ensuring that security is implemented correctly will be a significant challenge for industry.

The latest research by Epson into the impact of technology on key business sectors2, revealed that 67 percent of the European manufacturing workforce believe that cyber-security poses the greatest threat to the industry. That figure rises to 76 percent in management roles. Addressing the threat of cyber-attacks will require businesses to adapt.

Changing perceptions

It is a widely-held perception that many people fear future industrial transformation will result in the proliferation of technology and a reduction in jobs. That opinion was not significantly supported by our research, which shows just 47 percent of European workers believe that technology will disrupt their role in the future. It’s also no doubt that part of that disruption will come from the negative impact of cybercrime, rather than automated processes.

A US-based study by Deloitte showed that cybercrime impacted more than 40 percent of manufacturing companies, with 38% of those affected suffering damages in excess of US$1 million3. Industry must find a way to ensure threats such as encryption or plain text messages carried through networks are not able to infiltrate vital systems and cause operational downtime. They must be vigilant to reduce opportunities for infiltration of firewalls or theft of sensitive data. In an increasingly automated future, securing robotic infrastructure against tampering will also be key. Education will play a vital part in this.

Educating workers

With the manufacturing sector comprising 15 percent of Europe’s GDP, and over 52 million direct or indirect jobs, the workforce themselves have a refreshingly positive employment outlook amidst an era of uncertainty. Sixty-two percent of respondents said that manufacturing jobs will evolve with technology, not be replaced by it. Furthermore, experts, along with 74% of senior management across Europe think that rapid global change in manufacturing will see local economies and job prospects boosted thanks to technology.

Yet in the face of cybercrime, it is education, not positivity that will have the greatest impact. Keeping workers informed as to best-practice, helping them understand vulnerabilities and championing their own role in reducing cybercrime is critical.

A notorious example of this comes from US retailer Target, where access via a third-party supplier in a simple email scam saw huge amounts of data stolen4.  These are the vulnerabilities that workers must be educated to guard against.

Feeling the positive impact

While it’s clear that future manufacturing will have a disruptive impact on jobs, it’s perhaps cybercrime where our greatest attention should be focussed.  There will be over 12 billion machine to machine connections alone by 20205. That figure includes everything from digitised energy distribution systems to robotic logistics technology. Ensuring those connections are secure will be an inherent part of building a successful connected future.

A study by the European Agency for Network and Information Security revealed that cybercrime could be costing some countries as much as 1.6 percent of GDP6. With that in mind, it’s perhaps wise that 67 percent of the workforce and 76 percent of management recognise the vital role cyber-security must play in the future of manufacturing.

Want to know more?

The full report has all the insights, you can download it here