How to keep your CNC programming IP safe from competitors in a connected world

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Without a doubt, one of the biggest developments of Industry 4.0 is the advent of cloud computing, and inter-machine connectivity. CNC programmers now have access to live insights that can improve accuracy and productivity as well as predict machine problems before they occur. For Operations Managers and owners this live data can help identify manufacturing trends, give greater visibility over production and enable your staff to collaborate from multiple locations.
But how much risk is your IP, particularly your CNC programming, facing, in this ultra-connected world? And, how do you keep it safe from threats such as hacking?
One of the most cited concerns, when moving to the cloud is IP protection. Manufacturers are concerned that information such as:

  • Production data
  • Manufacturing and grinding files
  • Machine activities

as well as:

  • Factory information
  • Customer details, and
  • Supplier information

…are in danger of being uncovered by external sources. When data is held in the cloud, there is a feeling that if you can’t see it, you can’t protect it.
The reality is, however, quite different. Most manufacturing production businesses find the cloud is actually less risky than their existing setup. Whilst it’s still possible for a cloud system to be compromised it should be unlikely if you have a good cloud partner. In the same way that you install security systems to protect fixed assets like doors, alarms and CCTV, your virtually-held assets can also be locked up tight with the right processes in place.
It’s interesting to note that the World Intellectual Property Association says that most IP data breaches occur internally when staff breach their access rights. Cloud security allows for tighter access controls and encryption level protection to keep data safe, even from accidental, internal breaches.


What happens if your CNC programming IP is uncovered?

Let’s go to the worst-case scenario; your data has been hacked by an external source. Keep in mind this can happen whether your data is in the cloud or kept in servers onsite.

There are two main dangers that come with having your IP uncovered; one is from your competitors, the other from your clients.
If your competitors get their hands on your IP, you risk losing your competitive edge. Your competitors can use your production and factory data to enhance their designs and products and start taking your market share.
On the other side you have your clients. If their data is leaked there is the risk that you may be sued. And here, there’s nowhere to hide. In the UK, most US states, and Australia you are required to publicly disclose if your customers’ data is breached.

Here are some steps you can take to protect your customer data and CNC programming safe:


1. Make sure your cloud provider has the goods


Whilst many machines do not have the default capability to encrypt data, such as your CNC programming, it is something your cloud provider should be able to supply.
Like any big business decision, you need to do your due diligence. Ask your cloud provider about their data protection systems, their barriers to entry, activity monitoring and data encryption.

2. Update your incident response plan

Did you know that 37% of manufacturers don’t include connected products in their incident response plans? Ensure that your plan is regularly updated to take into account any advancements or changes in technology.

3. Test your vulnerabilities 

Half of manufacturers test for control system vulnerabilities less than once a month. By testing regularly you’re keeping on top of changes in the environment.

4. Revisit these controls regularly

Data security is not a matter of ‘set and forget’. Internal and external environments change and it’s important to be ahead of the game. Regularly check in with your cloud provider and keep testing your vulnerabilities.

One of the benefits of getting truckloads of live CNC programming data from your connected machines is that it makes it easier to monitor systems, applications, people and the outside environment to more quickly identify harmful behavior.
 A good cloud supplier can provide data center grade security at a fraction of the price it would cost to set up and run on premise; leaving your business with a CNC programming platform that is high on reward and low on risk.


17 February 2020