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Cybersecurity in Supply Chain Management, Risks to Consider


Supply chain networks have been driven by technology over the years and have evolved accordingly. However, the same technologies that make supply chains faster and more effective also threaten their cybersecurity. Supply chains have vulnerabilities at touchpoints with manufacturers, suppliers, and other service providers. 

With threats around every corner, it is vital that companies involved in the supply chain understand risks and how to respond to them. 

What Are the Most Common Risks to Supply Chain Businesses?

The three most common risks that affect supply chain companies include data leaks, supply chain breaches, and malware attacks. Data leaks can happen through external and internal attackers. Employees, hackers, malicious competitors, and managers can all leak sensitive data and personal information outside the business. 

Security breaches usually occur when a hacker or malicious user infiltrates an operating system or network without permission. The target is often to cause chaos within the system through data deletion, replication, and corruption. 

Malware attacks can happen through ransomware that locks a computer until the business pays a sum of money. Viruses can infect the system, or trojans can gain access through a back door.

One single email phishing for information or that has a link that an employee clicks on can lead to data corruption and loss. If the phishing email is successful, the business could find a username and password used externally to gather information within the system. This could lead to unforeseen competition and serious leaks that can harm the entire corporation.

Case Studies of Previous Breaches

Previous supply chain breaches generally involved ransomware and other malware attacks. A ransomware attack risks exposing the personal data of millions of customers, including social security numbers and mailing addresses. One such ransomware, Ryuk, arose in 2018 and targeted users through malicious emails. As with most ransomware, it locked out users from computers and then stole their credentials. Files became encrypted and the malware required a hefty ransom to return access to these computers. Demands were near $300,000 for each incident. If paid, the cybercriminal could still attack the same system again in the future. All types of businesses and organizations were attacked, including supply chain businesses.

TrickBot was another tool used. Originally a banking trojan, TrickBot eventually became a tool that led to cybercrimes involving the harvesting of credentials, crypto-mining, and ransomware. The tool also caused point-of-sale procurement of business data. By mining for cryptocurrency, the cybercriminal could increase personal wealth. However, ransomware incursions are similar to other breaches which also usually require payment to return the system back to its user.

Another cyber attack involved BazarLoader and BazarBackdoor. In 2020, these would infect certain targeted systems. They would use social engineering and target collaborative platforms like Slack and BaseCamp by sending employees at large organizations emails that said they offered important information about contracts, customer service, invoices, or payroll. These tools also introduced ransomware that demanded payment from the business. 

How to Implement Cyber Security Strategies for Supply Chain

A cybersecurity strategy depends heavily on the steps the supply chain company team takes. The following four steps can help the company implement cybersecurity strategies to improve its supply chain risk management approach. 

  1. Fully understand the threat to the supply chain business. This step requires the team to completely review, learn, and keep track of all supply chain breaches, data leaks, and malware attacks that affect the company. What affects the supply chain management the most, what types of malware lead to the most devastation, and where to focus are all important factors to keep in mind.
  2. Assess your cybersecurity measures. To adequately apply a risk-based strategy to prevent and adjust to invasions of the system, the cybersecurity team needs to know what measures are already in place and which are missing. This framework includes hardware used to prevent or mitigate incursions, software used on network computers, education, AI, and purchased tools. This assessment also includes knowing where the company is going in the future regarding these measures.
  3. Improve current measures. After understanding what you already have and assessing how these tools can assist with cybercriminal attacks, you can then improve these measures already in place. This may include purchasing a more advanced firewall. The strategy team may need to install or update software on all computers or push the AI to a centralized location to learn how data affects the enterprise system.
  4. Treat cybersecurity as an ongoing process. Once you learn how to best increase security within the business against security incidents, you will need to document, review, and sift through feedback. The process to maximize cybersecurity is forever changing. Once one attack is over, a new development may require upgrades to prevent future infiltrations.

Some ways to prevent a cyberattack include:

  • Watch for malicious users who are intent on infecting the system.
  • Double-check emails for possible phishing attempts.
  • Inform cybersecurity agents immediately if a threat is identified.
  • Use tools all employees can access to prevent unauthorized access, breaches or data leaks.
  • Educate your entire staff on best practices to avoid cyberattacks. They are your first line of defense. 
  • Invest in protective tools that will guard against attacks. 
  • Work with cybersecurity experts to identify additional points of protection.
  • Always use strong passwords and multi-factor authentication.

Measures to Be Taken During a Cyber Attack

The best way to respond to a cyber attack is to prevent it from happening in the first place. Businesses should take a multi-pronged risk based approach to PROACTIVELY securing their supply chains against cyber attacks. By investing in cybersecurity technology that covers the endpoints, network, and users, and combines the latest security technologies together, you will create multi-layered protection that detects, prevents, and actively removes threats from their system.

It is recommended to limit the access suppliers have to your system. Companies should ensure that the supplier only has access to as much of the network as necessary to do their role.

Cybersecurity experts recommend the following five tips to prevent cyber attacks in the supply chain:

  • Limit the number of suppliers you use – It is a lot easier to manage a few outside parties instead of many. 
  • Develop a minimum cyber standard for suppliers – Put the cyber standard you want your suppliers to adhere to in your contract. Use a recognized third-party standard so everyone is working to a standard set of rules.
  • Check your suppliers are following the standard – Regularly monitor your suppliers’ adherence to the standard. 
  • Share information on how to improve – Let your suppliers know what you and others in your industry are doing to improve your data security so that they can adopt similar measures.
  • Encourage open reporting – If a problem does arise, you want to know about it as quickly as possible. 

If you do experience a breach, the most important factor to mitigate the damage is speed. When you have the right tools in place, you can quickly identify risks and respond to them appropriately. 

Protecting the Company from a Cyber Attack

You should remain open to additional suggestions and gather feedback from experts. An IT team that has extensive knowledge of which options to choose usually will implement a plan with multiple approaches. Learn from mistakes, and do not skimp on the costs. Educate management about the latest threats and keep learning which attacks are prevalent in your security. Just as cybersecurity measures advance, so too do these threats. 

Cybersecurity and the IT department are the lifeblood of any company that wants to prevent, mitigate and eliminate malware attacks, breaches, leaks, and infections. Additionally, if you do not learn from previous incursions, you are doomed to fail again. Widespread chaos, demands for money to remove the infection, and corruption of data are awaiting those that do not invest in a solid strategy.

David Lukić is an information privacy, security, and compliance consultant at IDstrong.com. The passion to make cybersecurity accessible and interesting has led David to share all the knowledge he has. 


This guest post was written and kindly submitted by David Lukić written for CyberSaint. To be featured as a guest author on the CyberSaint blog, please send submissions to submissions@cybersaint.io

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