Industry 4.0 brings with it increased cyber risk

With the digitization of industry, cybersecurity risks are also increasing. The Institute for Innovative Security at the Augsburg University of Applied Sciences is researching countermeasures.


The intelligent networking of machines and processes in industry with the help of information and communication technology is progressing. At the same time, the risk of cyber attacks is also increasing. If just one component in a fully automated production line is manipulated, the entire line can fail, produce faulty products or even endanger employees. A USB stick can be enough to manipulate production in a very short time – possibly even undetected.

The motivation for such cyber attacks can be very different. In addition to extortionate projects, agricultural operations can also become targets of climate activists, for example, or car manufacturers can get caught in the crosshairs of the tuning scene.

Specifically, the Federal Office for Information Security (BSI) reports 15 million new malicious programs within a year. According to the IT industry association Bitkom, German companies suffered around 220 billion euros in damage from hackers in 2020.

The Institute for Innovative Security at the Augsburg University of Applied Sciences, founded in 2017, aims to help companies protect themselves from hackers. Head Professor Dominik Merli and his team use models to research security gaps that might otherwise remain undetected.

Although the risk of a cyber attack is increasing and the effects are becoming increasingly devastating, many companies are still not taking adequate protective measures. The reason: Such precautions are sometimes expensive, do not directly generate profit and protect against dangers that might never occur. The risk is alarmingly high: According to a Bitkom survey, 9 out of 10 companies were already affected.

As many companies have been affected, only a few want to speak publicly about it. Who attacked, how the attacks were discovered and remedied, or whether extortion money was paid, mostly remains unknown – Industry 4.0 brings with it increased cyber risk.


The police also refer to the high number of unreported cases: the Bavarian State Criminal Police Office (LKA) writes in a status report that affected companies sometimes do not report because they fear for their reputation. Last year, the authority recorded around 15,344 cases. The clearance rate was 27.2 percent.

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