5 Major Security Threats to the Digital Supply Chain in 2021

In this era of hyper-connectivity, businesses that adopt solutions to streamline governance, risk and compliance will certainly be in a better position to deliver effective cybersecurity across the entire supply chain.

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Cyberattacks and security breaches are on the rise, and the supply chain is at the forefront of these attacks. Cyber criminals are increasingly taking advantage of poor security practices found in small organizations as a means of gaining access to larger organizations. As many as 80% of businesses suffered a data breach as a result of security vulnerabilities in their supply chains. Let’s understand the Top 5 cybersecurity risks to the digital supply chain.

1.                 The human element

Whether it’s intentional or unintentional, negligent or ignorant, people who do not follow procedures or don’t perform checks and balances can pose a significant risk not just to their own organization but to the entire supply chain. Disgruntled employees often resort to malicious behavior with the intent to cause harm or damage the reputation of a business.  Social engineering attacks exploit psychological weaknesses like trust, anxiety and curiosity. Crafty cyber criminals socially engineer their way in, gain access to email systems, understand the policies and procedures, pretend to be a supply chain vendor and con businesses into wiring them large sums of money. The SEC has issued a warning highlighting heightened Business Email Compromise attacks in the supply chain.

2.                  Critical data

Supply chain attacks are known to steal sensitive data from supply chain partners of businesses and governments. Whether it’s the AIRBUS attack that attempted to steal technical aircraft documents or the recent attacks on COVID-19 vaccine supply chain to steal vaccine information, nationwide attackers and organized cybercrime syndicates are increasingly seeking to exploit trade secrets and intellectual property. IT teams need to work with the business to identify and classify assets across the supply chain and design security around protecting these crown jewels.

3.                  Third-party and weak links

Just as manufacturing facilities use third-party providers to manufacture some of their products, digital businesses have adopted the use of third-party tools to build their products and services. Payments, analytics, chatbots, advertising or social media integrations, referred as “Shadow Code,'' introduce new risks to the business and make it challenging to protect critical data and ensure data privacy. A majority of the world’s most visited websites have unsupervised third-party JavaScript integrations and lack adequate cybersecurity controls against Magecart, formjacking, cross-site scripting and credit card skimming attacks. What’s more, the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has forced global suppliers to adopt remote working and cloud computing for business continuity and this has introduced new security risks.

4.                  Lack of vendor risk management

For businesses to truly secure their supply chains, one must have a detailed understanding of the risks that vendors and third parties introduce to their environment. Not only should businesses have an organized due diligence process at the time of vendor selection, but they must also have strict vendor oversight and monitoring process. Vendors should also be ranked based on risk attributes such as reputation, criticality, financial, operational, regulatory, privacy and legal; their risk profile must be regularly assessed for any changes. Vendor risk management is a moving target. As risks evolve, your processes should evolve too. Absence of a flexible risk management process can pose numerous challenges in managing an effective program.

5.                  Absence of a GRC platform

Risk management is making sure that the cameras are on, the security system is active when you’re not at home and you’ve got a barking dog doorbell to go along with your ‘Beware of Dog’ sign. Making sure you achieve a streamlined process to mitigate those risks is where a governance, risk and compliance (GRC) platform comes in. GRC platforms serve as a single source of truth when it comes to managing and monitoring risks in the supply chain. From a program management perspective, you might be using Outlook to store the emails of people sending in questionnaires and then you have an Excel spreadsheet -- all of this can become pretty tedious. Ticketing systems are kind of that next step, but note that a ticket gets closed once an activity is completed and risk management is an ongoing process. Having an active risk management framework is one thing, executing an effective program is another. The absence of a GRC platform can basically derail your entire security program.

There’s no silver bullet to security. What you need is a shower of multiple bullets to take care of multiple things. Understand and monitor all supply chain assets and associated risks. Know who’s in your system and when they’re in your system and have that documented. Ensure your employees understand the sensitivity of your data and follow security best practices to adhere to regulations. Have an incident response plan with regards to third-parties. You’ll need a risk register of technologies, processes and resources across the supply chain. Make sure key stakeholders are involved. Above all, you want a program and platform flexible enough to monitor and evolve around the evolving nature of risks.

In this era of hyper-connectivity, businesses that adopt solutions to streamline GRC will certainly be in a better position to deliver effective cybersecurity across the entire supply chain.