Global supply chains have become increasingly complex and vulnerable to cyber risks in recent years, with many ever-evolving threats ranging from ransomware attacks to unauthorised system access. Recognising the importance of implementing management strategies that counter such intentions is easy.
This article will relay valuable information about the challenges within cyber supply chain management and the types of attacks executed to infiltrate systems. We will discuss how best practices can be implemented and the importance of adopting this management process.
What is Cyber Supply Chain Risk Management?
This management system comprises various methods and tactics to seek out current or potential threats that could compromise an organisation’s security and the stakeholders within its realms. Metaphorically speaking, the supply chain refers to the beginning of the journey all the way through to the end – and everything in between.
This covers not just the people but the processes, vendors and all the technologies used to make the product or service operation possible. It is important to note that a hiccup within any part of this system could disrupt business operations, causing potential damage such as the loss of data, shutdowns or the compromise of safety. Therefore, this type of risk management is a crucial component for any organisation or business.
Importance of Cyber Supply Chain Risk Management
In today’s world, organisations depend on many third parties to operate effectively, leaving them vulnerable to an array of cybersecurity risks. Now that so many digital systems are interconnected, businesses increasingly rely on their stakeholders to ensure the strength and resilience of their security posture, as threats and vulnerabilities from third parties can quickly impact the rest of the supply chain.
Since perimeter security is no longer adequate, it is imperative to adopt a foundation for building a more comprehensive approach to supply chain security; this should utilise proactive management techniques that identify and monitor but assess and mitigate supply chain threats throughout supplier networks.
By establishing a robust Cybersecurity Supply Chain Risk Management (C-SCRM) programme, organisations adopt the best protection against the potential risk of supply chain compromise and their operational technology: this, in turn, not only safeguards data and confidentiality but can help to ensure business continuity and regulatory compliance.
Challenges for the Cyber Supply Chain
Although businesses must adopt supply chain cyber security measures that implement best practices, this comes with challenges. Developing a C-SCRM can be a complex exercise due to the nature of the interconnected systems.
Here are some of the common challenges organisations face with this management programme.
Lack of Visibility
As mentioned earlier, many stakeholders operate within businesses, including suppliers, vendors and partners, and this leads to challenges in securing complete visibility into the risk management activities and practices of each third party. This lack of transparency often creates difficulties when attempting to effectively assess and manage cyber risks.
Modern supply chains are complex and dynamic, with numerous interconnected systems, applications and data exchanges; therefore, managing cybersecurity across this complex landscape requires comprehensive understanding and coordination among various stakeholders. This can be challenging to achieve at the best of times.
Rapidly Evolving Threat Landscape
Threat actors continuously evolve their tactics when targeting the newest security systems, creating difficulties for organisations when communicating the latest best practices to the rest of the stakeholders.
Organisations may have limited control over the cybersecurity practices and protocols of their suppliers and partners. They rely on these entities to implement and maintain adequate security measures, which can introduce vulnerabilities if not effectively managed.
Implementing robust C-SCRM practices requires significant resources, including skilled personnel, technology investments, and ongoing monitoring and assessment. Many organisations, particularly small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), need more resources to implement comprehensive C-SCRM programmes.
The adoption of emerging technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT), cloud computing and artificial intelligence (AI) in supply chains has introduced new cybersecurity challenges. These technologies may have unique vulnerabilities that require specialised expertise and proactive risk management approaches.
Cyber Supply Chain Attacks
Threat actors carry out various types of supply chain attacks. While they may be aimed at one organisation or target, they often have ripple effects on other entities linked to that particular business. It is essential to understand that while some of these threatening acts are premeditated, some are conducted simply because the victim’s security is weak and easily infiltrated.
Some attackers choose to hack network systems, while others may elect to attempt to control software and hardware.
Network supply chain attacks can focus on any industry. They target the weaker links in an organisation’s supply chain: they have a cascading effect and negatively impact the networks of associated businesses. Typically, conventional attack methods such as phishing, stolen login credentials, or malware compromise these networks. The attacker generally establishes a long-standing presence within the system, enabling them to gain access to client systems – if that is their intention.
A software supply chain attack involves an infiltrator hacking into a vendor’s network and corrupting their software with malicious code or backdoors. Once this polluted software is uploaded onto customers’ systems, or when updates are released, the attacker can exploit access to their environment, allowing them to steal data, carry out ransomware attacks, or establish a lasting foothold for future offences.
Another supply chain attack exploits vulnerable hardware, such as industrial control devices and routers. As with software supply chain attacks, a threat actor compromises the hardware a supplier produces. For instance, the attacker might implant their malignant code within a vital section of the device’s firmware, rendering it challenging to unearth or impede once discovered unless a new firmware edition is issued. As the compromised hardware permeates a customer base, the assailant capitalises on the device to possibly access the broader ecosystem, subsequently establishing a continual presence and fallback communication channels.
Cyber Attacks on Businesses
While most attacks are carried out through digital means, some threat actors still attempt to damage the physical supply chain. The intended targets are often traditional businesses that rely on logistics and manufacturers.
Organisations striving for ultimate protection against threats from suppliers, vendors or any other third party involved should incorporate best practices into their security framework. These should also be shared with relevant stakeholders so they can perform their own risk mitigation, ultimately keeping the whole supply chain as protected as possible from security vulnerabilities.
Here are some of the best practices for businesses and organisations:
Establish a comprehensive risk management strategy – Develop a formal C-SCRM strategy that aligns with your organisation’s overall risk management framework. This strategy should effectively define roles, responsibilities and processes for managing supply chain risks.
Identify critical suppliers, vendors and staff – Identifying stakeholders with access to systems and what service or function they provide can provide critical information about the data they access and the associated risks.
Perform regular supply chain risk assessments – Conducting risk and vulnerability assessments on third parties can help identify weaknesses in data handling practices, security protocols and incident response capabilities.
Establish contractual requirements – Developing agreements with suppliers and vendors regarding data protection measures and incident reporting protocols can help organisations achieve robust and trustworthy cybersecurity relationships.
Continuous monitoring – As with risk assessments, continuous monitoring practices establish a foundation for ensuring third parties provide a strong security posture. Regular audits should be conducted to review their security policies and procedures.
Incident response planning – Collaboration with associates to develop coordinated incident response plans can help mitigate potential security risks.
Training – Training and awareness for vendors and suppliers will encourage good communication, trust and information-sharing that can help address cyber risks effectively and collectively.
Stay informed on emerging threats – Monitoring industry reports and threat intelligence feeds, along with information-sharing initiatives, can help organisations stay on top of evolving risks and address potential vulnerabilities.
Regularly review the C-SCRM programme – It is imperative to regularly review your own management system by undertaking audits and assessments while responding to any information learned from previous incidents or mistakes. With new threats continually emerging, organisations must adopt new policies and procedures while ensuring compliance with cybersecurity standards.
The cyber supply chain is a dynamic and complex environment making identifying risks within third parties challenging at the best of times. However, the need to adopt a comprehensive approach towards protecting the risk of a compromise is becoming ever more important within all organisations.
With interconnected systems creating an opening for malicious activity and various attack methods that can infiltrate networks and software, we are at a point where businesses need to think and act wisely when it comes to sharing information about the challenges that affect them with the implementation of the best practice security strategies.
Cyber supply chain risk management requires continuous effort by internal teams and external vendors to protect all stakeholders against emerging risks in this ever-evolving landscape.