Imagine countless organizations working together like a well-oiled machine to create and deliver the products and services we rely on. That’s what supply chain networks are.

Like a machine, each connection is vital to make the whole thing work. It’s a delicate dance of supply and demand, where each organization plays its part in keeping the network alive and thriving.

And with technology advancements, supply chains are moving faster and more efficiently than ever. With organizations growing intertwined and dependent on technology comes an ever-present threat of cyber attacks.

Let’s discuss the importance of risk management programs that address attack vectors across the supply chain.

Supply Chain Attacks by the Numbers

According to research on supply chain defense by BlueVoyant, 98% of organizations felt the negative impact of a cyber security breach in their supply chain.

Statista indicated that 1743 organizations in the United States were impacted by a supply chain breach in 2022. That number has grown dramatically since 2017 by an estimated 235% year-over-year.

Typically, these are incidents in which cyber attackers exploit a vulnerability in one organization to compromise data and assets at other points in the supply chain. These breaches take longer to detect and contain than other types of attacks, with a global average of 277 days.

Unsurprisingly, an alarming 98% of entities are connected to third parties that faced cyber security breaches within the past 24 months. These trends are in line with Verizon’s Data Breach Investigations Report, which noted a sharp rise in supply chain attacks in 2022.

Verizon’s report reiterates third-party relationships as the weakest cyber security link in the supply chain. Key weaknesses include third-party access to organizational data and systems, vendor data storage, and software vulnerabilities.

Cyber attackers often gain supply chain access through third-party open-source repositories, public source code, and login credentials. As incidents pile up and regulators look for ways to increase national supply chain security, organizations may soon face new compliance requirements.

The challenge for modern organizations is that every entity in the supply chain is an extension of your operation.

Any supplier function—from cleaning services and cloud data storage to payment processing—provides an opening for cyber attackers as they often have physical or digital access to your data and infrastructure.

What are the Cyber Threats to Supply Chains?

Supply chains, as the name suggests, are not individual entities but organizational ecosystems that coordinate to achieve mutual objectives.

While the supply chain might focus on natural resources, utilities, manufacturing parts, services, or retail products, modern supply chain relationships are enabled and enacted through digital channels.

Without cyber security protections, any point along the supply chain can be vulnerable to attack. If that breach is successful, it gives cyber attackers a backdoor to larger or more primary targets elsewhere along the chain.

In addition to indirect attacks, here are the main cyber threats that risk interrupting or disabling supply chains:

Managed Service Exploits

Many organizations supply several entities at once through managed services. That scalability is a strength for the provider but attracts cyber criminals who aim to wreak havoc on several entities.

Zero-day vulnerabilities—software gaps discovered by cyber attackers before IT teams—are particularly risky for managed services providers and the companies that use them.

Software Vulnerabilities

The most common means for cyber attackers to breach supply chain networks is through software. They can inject malware through malicious updates or by compromising open-source code.

The success of these attacks often hinges on the trust between entities along the supply chain. Third-party risk management and cyber security awareness training can mitigate this threat.

State-Sponsored Threats

For foreign governments, supply chains belonging to political adversaries can be tactically important.

Foreign cyber criminals attack supply chains to interrupt or stop the flow of utilities, goods, and services, to steal intelligence information, to destabilize financial activities, or to take military action. Organizations with connections to foreign vendors should be especially wary of this threat.

Data Breaches

For many cyber attackers, personal and financial data is the treasure trove they’re looking for. Supply chains comprise a range of entities, large and small.

For a skilled hacker, attacking a smaller entity with less evolved security practices and fewer resources for software maintenance is just a first step. Stolen credentials can open doors to bigger targets with heftier data stores up the supply chain.

Best Practices for Addressing Supply Chain Cyber Security

The best way to manage cyber attacks in your supply chain networks is by preventing them before they occur.

Despite the increasing technological sophistication of cyber attacks on supply chain networks, human error is still a leading cause of cyber security breaches. Increasing information security awareness is an essential layer of defense. Here’s how to amplify it with your employees.

Build cyber security awareness

Build or adopt an information security awareness program that alerts employees to potential attack vectors and common attack techniques in your supply chain.

Educate your teams on how to engage secure vendors and where to look for supplier vulnerabilities. To build accountability, designate a cyber security awareness leader on every team.

Provide up-to-date, relevant, and engaging information

No one retains or acts on information that feels irrelevant. Develop scenarios that illustrate the impact of cyber attacks on various employee roles, the organization overall, and partners along the supply chain.

Update your teams on evolving threat techniques and give them tools and lessons to improve their cyber security behaviors.

Attack-proof employee credentials and communications

A single oversight has caused many debilitating cyber attacks. All it takes is one malicious email link or one malware download.

Impress upon your users the importance of login and password security for cyber attack prevention and supply chain resilience. Train and test your employees to detect phishing emails, secure their software and devices, and identify malware.

Enhance Supply Chain Cyber Security with Cyber Awareness

Your organization is more than the sum of its parts. Every piece of your supply chain impacts your processes and performance. Train your employees to recognize and stop third-party data leaks before they become severe breaches.



Is your organization doing everything it can to mitigate cyber attacks through your supply chain network?

Read our case study to learn how one global manufacturer supercharged its supply chain resilience with cyber security awareness training.