The sheet metal fabrication industry has changed significantly since CNC machines and CAD/CAM software have become more readily available. Whilst it’s starting to become more common for automation to feature in workshops – this also opens up certain threats that were not previously there. Since CNC machines require the internet to function and communicate with other devices – your CNC sheet metal machine could be vulnerable to a cyberattack. Don’t worry though – today we’re going to be focusing on clearing up this element of CNC machinery so you can take the necessary steps to lock down your IT infrastructure.


Understanding the IoT

You may have heard of IoT (internet of things) – it’s defined by any device that can connect to the internet such as a smartphone or watch. Well, in our industry, we have the IIoT (also known as Industry 4.0) – which is the industrial internet of things. It’s the same thing, just relates specifically to the industrial sector with CNC machines and other manufacturing components that contain sensors that connect to the internet.


Why is there such a strong IIoT presence in manufacturing workshops?

If you have even one CNC machine, then there’s a good chance you’re taking full advantage of it by using automations from your smart device from around the workstation or even whilst outside of the office – as well as receiving notifications and feedback from the machine itself. This ability to seamlessly schedule on the go, upload new CAD files and receive instant updates is a convenient element that has improved the efficiency of many workshops and processes. Not just from a productivity standpoint – but also a safety one as there’s less chance of injury occurring.

The IIoT has become not just a convenient tool for simplifying and streamlining manufacturing processes, however – but an advance system that manufacturers will leverage to streamline all processes such as inventory and stock management as well as smarter actions like taking real-world delays into account when producing items. Manufacturers would then be able to leverage the IIoT to account for demand increases and optimise for the best solution.


The security risk posed by this system

For all the conveniences and innovations that the IIoT presents – each and every device connected to it is a potential attack vector – a security vulnerability that can be exploited by malicious cyberagents. These can be used to access sensitive documents, upload malware/ransomware to your system or even to send DDoS attacks and cripple your production. It’s irrelevant if your workshop’s main computer is secured – if any of your other devices (including your CNC sheet metal machine) are left open then they can be used as a doorway into your system.


What can you do to secure your devices?

The best way to circumvent cyberattacks from occurring on your systems is to make them as secure as possible – limiting access to areas that CNC machines don’t need to access and improving data encryption are a couple of examples. The following steps are a few methods you can use to help you establish firm security hygiene for your IT infrastructure as well as create a routine for you to conduct regular checks.


Keep software up to date

One of the easiest ways your system can become compromised is through outdated firmware – this is especially the case for your CNC machine. Ensure that all patches are downloaded as soon as they become available and when the machine is not being operated.

Establish an effective firewall

An effective firewall placed between your CNC sheet metal machine and your network is a highly practical means of keeping your machine and network safe. The firewall will actively scan for viruses and only allow essential communication between the machine and network.

Virtual local area network

If a machine doesn’t receive updates anymore (or you just want to be extra careful) then you can place it on a VLAN so it doesn’t have access to your primary network. This way, you can restrict it from having access to data and files it doesn’t need to access should it become compromised.

WPA protection and strong passwords

For wireless networks – opt for WPA wireless encryption for increased protection. Additionally, you shouldn’t be using the same passwords for your systems – nor should they be simple ones that can be hacked via brute-force methods.


Are you looking for a CNC sheet metal machine?

Here at ACRA Machinery, we pride ourselves on the high-quality machines (both new and used) in our catalogue – including CNC machines – that can be used for a variety of applications. We also offer on-siterepair and maintenance services for several machines – so you don’t have to worry about transporting the machine to our workshop.

If you’d like to know more about our products or services, please don’t hesitate to contact us using the enquiry form on our website or by calling 03 9794 6675.