Are you ready for a supply chain attack? Why supply chain risk management is so important

Now everything in the world is more interconnected than ever, and cloud and digital technologies allow companies from different countries to thrive and achieve success. However, this interconnectedness carries an increased risk: partners, suppliers and third parties can disclose confidential company information, and hackers can attack organizations through their supply chain. Supply chain attack risk management is becoming a critical component of any company’s cybersecurity strategy.
In this article, we will look at the threats of attacks on the supply chain, how to protect and minimize the risk of consequences for organizations from an attack on the supply chain.

There are general risks to be aware of if a company depends on many partners in the supply chain, but we will focus only on active attacks, as happened with SolarWinds Corporation and its clients – some of the world’s largest companies.
The SolarWinds attack has been a wake-up call for many organizations. A group of hackers successfully infiltrated SolarWinds, which provided infrastructure services more than 80% of companies Fortune 500, federal government agencies and hundreds of government educational organizations.
Attackers hid in the networks of organizations, effectively preventing detection and engaging in information theft. This shows how organization-critical third parties can become a vulnerability even in successful global companies. Now more than ever, it is imperative that the supply chain be incorporated into a risk management strategy.

Supply chain risks

Supply chain risk management is about ensuring that your suppliers do not expose you to any risks, as well as countering possible threats that could arise if supplier systems are attacked, compromised, or exposed to another threat or incident.
There are many threats that a supply chain can face, and knowing what they are to ensure protection and proper mitigation in a worst-case scenario.

Cloud Provider Risks

The advent of cloud storage has provided companies with the ability to use third-party cloud services to manage many business processes, both critical and non-critical. These are, for example, content management systems and social networks, hosting databases and services.
Attackers can attack a company’s critical vendors, knowing that in this way they gain access to the data and / or systems of a large number of companies. However, a hacker can attack less important vendors in the expectation that their security tools will be more vulnerable, and subsequently he will be able to gain access to your data.

Open source risks

Software vendors use open source software to provide their services, which creates certain risks. The open source code of such programs is publicly available, so that anyone can use them with little cost, while having the ability to change the source code.
While this is usually an advantage that increases flexibility and improves quality of service at a low investment, open source also allows attackers to view it and find vulnerabilities that could be exploited for compromise.

Hardware (backdoor) risks

Not all risks are digital. Your security cameras, printers, or wireless devices (such as modems and routers) also pose a risk. Hardware almost always comes with a digital or wireless component, extending the attack surface to the organization.
Multiple vulnerabilities arise if these hardware devices have passwords built in, minimal security, or if default passwords are used. A hacker who wants to get hold of sensitive data or invade your network through these devices can easily break into your system.

How Organizations Can Reduce Supply Chain Risks

Understanding the risks of an attack on your supply chain is only the first step. Effectively managing the risk of an attack on the supply chain requires use a holistic and integrated approach taking into account internal and external factors.

Monitor your threats

Hackers target companies to steal their IP addresses; they attack organizations that cooperate with the government or breach security systems by shutting down the network or downloading information until they are found. Attackers can exploit the above vulnerabilities or risk factors to attack partners of companies.

Understanding the supply chain risk profile

If the systems of a vendor such as WhatsApp are compromised, it will affect the communication of employees in your organization, but you will still be able to use other forms of communication. Your business services will not be affected.
However, if your cloud provider’s platform is compromised, it could affect the performance of your website, the privacy of your data and that of your customers, seriously impairing the quality of service.

Successful supply chain attack risk management strategies

Managing the risk of attacking a supply chain can be challenging, especially when compared to securing your own internal systems and environments. It is an ongoing process that should be an integral part of your overall risk management and cybersecurity strategy. Below are some tactical guidelines for protecting against supply chain attacks.

Understanding the supply chain ecosystem

Lack of transparency in the supply chain makes risk management very difficult. The information security department needs to obtain a complete list of suppliers, third parties and partners from all departments of the company. Then, identify those suppliers and partners who put the company at greatest risk. Will a potential attack on them affect the organization’s ability to carry out its core business or serve customers? Will hacking their systems lead to data breaches and a threat to network security?
Understanding the importance of these providers will help you prepare the right incident response plan.

Limiting network access and integration in your supply chain

Many hackers and attackers are actively trying to penetrate the systems of organizations through third parties, hoping to evade detection and take advantage of their weak security. However, if you use network segmentation, restricting access to the network of third parties and ensuring that they work only with the necessary data, you can significantly reduce the damage from potential attacks by malefactors.

Monitoring the network for suspicious activity

There is no way to prevent network access throughout the supply chain, so use automated monitoring and tracking tools. If one of the suppliers in the supply chain is behaving outside the box and is possibly trying to gain access to sensitive data (which it should not be able to access) or network elements, this could indicate a hack.

Preparing an incident response plan for the most important suppliers of the supply chain

For service providers and supply chain partners that are critical to the business, the worst-case scenario needs to be planned and prepared with incident response plan… Imagine the worst-case scenario in which a critical supplier becomes unworkable. Is there an alternative vendor or your own solution? How quickly can you get back to normal work without further damage?
When planning these scenarios, the priority is to get back to business as soon as possible, minimize data leakage, and develop a communication strategy in the event of an incident being publicized. This ensures that you can conduct your business without risking your own systems or network while maintaining your reputation.

Summing up

Ideally, supply chain risk management should be considered holistically and as part of an overall risk management framework. This will allow you to manage risk within the company and outside it, and will enable the information security department to best deal with risks as the company grows and new suppliers are attracted.

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