By Jean-Guy Rens
(CATA Alliance – ScienceTech Comms)

More than 70% of Canadian manufacturing companies are entirely or partially automated: this is the evidence brought out by the 2017 CATA study[1]. And a growing number of these companies have interconnected their automated devices to their IT systems to extract “big data” and control production in real time often in wireless mode. As a result, IT moves to the heart of the production chain. This phenomenon is called Industry 4.0 or Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).

But then an unexpected discovery was made. Automated companies realized that often the critical automation equipment purchased was unsafe. One example among others. A company that had purchased sensors in large numbers discovered that the devices came with a prerecorded password that was available on the Internet. When this company wanted to remedy the problem by programming a safe password, the memory was too limited to accept the change. Many wireless devices, even robot systems, are designed without any cybersecurity protection. 

The result of the general trend toward automation and Industry 4.0 is increased exposure to cybercrime. Each deficient sensor, automation equipment or robotic system opens a door to hackers of all kinds. Even CCTV cameras are used by the criminals of the web to accomplish their misdeeds. Ultimately, the entire Internet network can be affected. We remember that in 2016, a simple denial of service attack had brought down a large part of the network in the United States and Europe. It was only an alert. The next step could be more serious.

That’s not all, cybersecurity damages are not confined to the computer world. With Industry 4.0, it can spread to our physical environment. When the attacked company operates a critical infrastructure – a power grid, a railway, a bank, a hospital, a laboratory and so on – the damage can quickly turn into a disaster by what is called the cascade effect. If the power supply is interrupted in a given territory, it is all aspects of the economic and social life that can be paralyzed: water service, gas stations, etc. 

The 2019 Cybersecurity Initiative

It is to assess the state of readiness of the automated manufacturing industry as well as critical infrastructures in Canada that the CATA Alliance has undertaken a focused study on the cybersecurity measures deployed. It is not so much to count the technical solutions set up as to study the governance of cybersecurity: adoption of a formal cybersecurity program, appointment of a chief of information security officer (CISO), compliance with regulations, scope of the financial means allocated, etc.

CATA’s third cybersecurity initiative – Cybersecurity in a Digitized Environment– Intends to show how industry and infrastructure leaders are adopting a common cybersecurity culture. It intends to document strengths and weaknesses and promote existing government and international organizations dedicated to cybersecurity.

The profile of cybersecurity in the Canadian manufacturing sector and critical infrastructures organizations will be detailed by various means:

  • A survey of Canadian automated corporations and public utilities. The firms contacted in 2017 regarding the Advanced Manufacturing Sectorstudy will be contacted again to discuss cybersecurity. Critical infrastructure organizations will be added. All in all, about 2,500 organizations will be contacted.
  • A series of about 20 one-on-one interviews of cybersecurity specialists (infrastructure and manufacturing executives, academics, consultants, governments).
  • Halfway roundtable. Study partners and corporate managers will be invited to comment raw results before the report is finalized. The proceedings of the roundtable will be integrated in the final report.
  • At the end of the study, two workshops will be organized in Montreal and Toronto in April 2019 aimed at manufacturing and infrastructure leaders.

Cybersecurity is a team effort. CATA Alliance invites emergency management professionals to take 10 minutes to complete the questionnaire. Results of the survey will be available April 2019. If you have any questions, please contact Huguette Guilhaumon 514-656-3254 or

Link to survey:

[1]Advanced Manufacturing Sector: Initiative on the automation of the manufacturing sector in Canada, Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance (CATA), Montreal, April 2017. 

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