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 their part in keeping the network alive and thriving.
And with technology advancements, supply chains are moving faster and more efficiently than ever before. And with organizations growing intertwined and dependent on technology comes an ever-present threat of cyber attacks.
To prevent breaches and maintain manufacturing, distribution, and fulfillment processes, organizations must stay ahead of malicious actors and evolving cyber threats. You need risk management programs that address attack vectors across the supply chain.
Why Supply Chain Attacks by Cyber Criminals are on the Rise
According to research from IBM, 19% of breaches last year were caused by supply chain attacks. 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.
Verizon’s Data Breach Investigations Report noted a dramatic increase in supply chain attacks in 2022. Key weaknesses include third-party vendors with access to organizational data and systems, weak information security (IT) practices, and vendor data storage or software vulnerabilities.
The threat of these well-planned attacks is rising, and observers expect the trend to continue. 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 own operation. Third-party vendors are crucial to your processes and often have physical or digital access to your data and infrastructure.
Any supplier function, from cleaning services to cloud data storage to payment processing, provides an opening for cyber attackers.
Supply chain networks are only as strong as their weakest link. Your organization can have incredibly robust cyber protections but face security harms due to vendor vulnerabilities.
The problem is as interconnections increase across supply chains, attackers have more access points to choose from. As a result, organizations face mounting security risks from multiple directions.
The Top 5 Supply Chain Vulnerabilities
Smaller suppliers with less evolved security practices and fewer resources for software maintenance can provide a backdoor for cyber attackers. Here’s where supply chains are often weakest.
While some companies may still use on-premises server storage, the rush to digitally transform during the pandemic drew many companies into the cloud. Companies now leverage more online, third-party tools for enterprise management, communications, payroll, and e-commerce.
Cloud storage vulnerabilities in any of these partner interfaces are potential access points for cyber attackers.
For many cyber attackers, personal data is the treasure trove they’re looking for. They aim straight for databases with weak security. Common oversights, such as failing to install security patches and sharing passwords, leave database doors wide open.
Cyber criminals can overload the database with Denial-of-Service attacks and malware or use malicious code and SQL injections to steal data and cause damage.
Many cyber attackers gain direct system access through the front door—using employee credentials. Employees sometimes share usernames and passwords through email, social media, or text messages, creating vulnerable leaks.
Similarly, when employees create weak passwords and use them repeatedly, log in details can fall into the wrong hands through brute force attacks.
Phishing and social engineering
Cyber attackers gain access to supply chains using the same phishing techniques and social engineering tactics they use to target any organization. Phishing emails include links to suspicious websites or malware downloads.
Attackers gain credentials by impersonating colleagues in SMS messages. Phishing was the most expensive breach in 2022, costing US organizations an average of $4.91 million.
Ransomware attacks are especially problematic for organizations with far-reaching supply chains. When one vulnerability is exposed, cyber criminals can hold data or systems for ransom, often immobilizing the entire network.
Cyber criminals only restore access when the organization makes the ransom payment.
Addressing Supply Chain Risk Management with Cyber Security Awareness
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 if it 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 employees the importance of login and password security for cyber attack prevention and supply chain resilience.
Train and test your employees on detecting phishing emails, securing their software and devices, and identifying malware.
Mitigate Supply Chain Risk by Being Cyber Aware
Your organization is more than the sum of its parts. Every piece of your supply chain impacts your organization’s function and performance.
Train your employees to recognize and stop third-party data leaks before they become severe breaches that affect the entire supply chain.
How risk averse is your organization to cyber attacks through your supply chain network? Get a snapshot of your organization’s security awareness score.