To remain competitive in today's fast-paced, global environment, manufacturers are adopting newly designed, high-speed wireless networks to help take better control of plant operations. Engineers and operators are being armed with iPads, laptops and high-speed scanners running on these networks to bring their facilities up-to-date with instantaneous, real-time communication. For many, this is a critical investment to increase productivity, cut downtime and streamline operations for an unprecedented level of efficiency. Though these potential benefits sound tempting, they do come with a serious complication attached: cybersecurity.

Creating the kind of wireless networks needed to link up personnel across the manufacturing platform creates new vulnerabilities to cyber-attacks, says Jacob Kitchel, senior manager of security and compliance for Industrial Defender. Far more than the data-interception attacks expected in an administrative setting, unprotected wireless networks in the factory can lead to loss of control of plant operations, which can result in serious staff injury and equipment damage.

With these concerns, many manufacturers today are facing a tough choice: Do we focus on efficiency and communication or security and safety?