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Protecting intellectual property (IP) from theft and safeguarding data takes more than cybersecurity on your systems. Companies procuring equipment via supply chains must mitigate the risks of offshoring servers, software, or any other infrastructure used to house data and handle private customer information. The process of cyber supply chain risk management oversees every step in the procurement process to ensure that manufacturers and vendors follow cybersecurity best practices and do not violate compliance.
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By implementing a robust C-SCRM strategy, businesses can better protect their information technology assets from potential cyber threats originating within their supply chain while maintaining compliance with industry standards and regulations. This proactive approach to risk management helps ensure business continuity in the face of evolving cybersecurity challenges.
By understanding these risks and implementing appropriate security controls, organisations can significantly reduce the likelihood of falling victim to a costly cyber-attack stemming from their supply chain partners.
Understanding Cyber Supply Chain Attacks
Cyber supply chain attacks are malicious activities that target an organisation’s IT infrastructure through its vendors or suppliers. These attacks include malware, phishing, ransomware, data breaches, and other malicious activities.
These supply chain attacks aim to exploit vulnerabilities in organisations’ supply chains to gain unauthorised access to sensitive information or disrupt business operations.
Understanding cyber supply chain attacks is a complex and ever-evolving topic that requires knowledge of current trends, attack vectors, and mitigation strategies. Organisations can proactively protect their assets from malicious actors by implementing best practices for C-SCRM outlined in the next heading.
How to Be Proactive
Companies restricted by rigorous compliance regulations and working with sensitive data must be proactive when ordering goods and services. The best way to avoid falling victim to a cybersecurity incident is to implement C-SCRM strategies, such as creating a whitelist of vendors proven to provide products and services that follow best practices in cybersecurity and compliance regulations. Regularly review the vendor list to ensure that vendors update their procedures to comply with new compliance standards.
Most organisations struggle to be compliant and review vendors. Without the right resources and knowledge, being proactive and performing the necessary supplier chain risk assessment isn’t possible. Third-party professionals can assist organisations in building a whitelist of vendors while keeping their best interests in mind.
Cybersecurity and risk best practices require proactivity, not reactivity.
Proactively assessing risk in your supply chain prevents cyber-attackers from compromising critical components in manufacturing and other areas of your business that rely upon and trust a third-party vendor’s integrity.
By implementing these C-SCRM best practices, organisations can effectively manage their cyber supply chain risks while maintaining a secure IT infrastructure and ensuring business continuity in the face of ever-evolving cyber threats.
The C-SCRM best practices outlined in this article provide a comprehensive overview of the steps to mitigate cyber supply chain risk. Moving forward, conducting a thorough cyber supply chain risk assessment is key for identifying potential vulnerabilities and developing strategies to reduce risks.
Performing a Risk Assessment
A supplier risk assessment performed in-house or using a third-party vendor should follow a sound strategic approach. A supply chain risk assessment determines if any process in the supply chain poses a threat to data privacy or your intellectual property. Any risk must be mitigated, or the organisation could risk hefty fines for compliance violations.
Standard risk assessments often overlook the supply chain, even though the wrong vendor can cause serious cybersecurity issues. It may be tempting for organisations to lower costs by working with a cheaper offshore vendor. However, the increased risk of potential cyber threats often destroys any savings. For example, if vendors don’t implement proper security controls, installing poorly secured technology upgrades could lead to data breaches of your own systems, allowing attackers to steal data by exploiting third-party vendor systems.
Why You Need Cyber Supply Chain Risk Management
Vendors play a key role in supplying critical software and infrastructure within an organisation, which is why cyber supply chain risk management is required. Manufacturers that build technology solutions use third-party vendors to make components. These components are sent to the manufacturer and are used to create the final product. Vendors must use manufacturer-specific designs and not add hardware that would leave the manufacturer’s products vulnerable to cyber-attacks.
Vendors who supply such solutions require a reputation of trust, but even trusted vendors make mistakes. Risk assessments continually validate products or services to ensure cybersecurity controls are in place and components are tested for vulnerabilities.
Effective S-SCRM of your supply chain can help your organisation protect its reputation. Risks associated with the supply chain can damage its reputation, impacting revenue from loss of customers and trust in the organisation. Offshore attackers exploiting an organisation’s vulnerabilities can damage its reputation, creating a domino effect where lawsuits pile up and threaten the company’s stability.
Consider a server that transfers financial data from the merchant to a banking institution. Attackers at the supply chain could inject tiny microchips used to eavesdrop on data. If the equipment is not reviewed, this component remains undetected. So, the server is installed within the data centre infrastructure, saddling it with vulnerabilities. The component could also provide a backdoor to offshore attackers. Should this happen, it could take years before the organisation notices suspicious activity.
5 Strategies to Effectively Manage Supply Chain Risk
To effectively detect and mitigate risk, you need the right S-SCRM framework and strategies that define every step in the process. Without a plan, critical mistakes could leave the organisation vulnerable to cyber-attacks, leading to hefty fines for compliance violations. The following strategies can help you perform a supplier risk assessment and manage risk efficiently.
- Know Your Suppliers: The first step in supply chain risk management is knowing your suppliers. Large organisations can lose track of their vendors, leaving the supply chain open to any attacker. Every business unit that works with a supplier for infrastructure should coordinate with IT to ensure that equipment is tested and validated for compliance.
- Know Cyber-Risks of Products/Services: With suppliers inventoried, the next step in your supply chain risk management strategy is identifying risks associated with each vendor and its products. Performing a supply chain risk assessment includes assigning a specific priority to each risk and categorising them into their particular business processes. For example, vendors for financial systems are assigned high priority due to the sensitive data stored on these systems and fall into the financial planning process category.
- Calculate Risks: Determining supply chain risk requires a professional risk analysis. The formula to analyse risk is:
Risk = Data Breach likelihood * Impact of a Data Breach / Cost
The likelihood and impact are determined by cybersecurity experts who can determine if a specific component could be breached. Once all factors in the calculation are defined, only then can you assess total risk.
- Monitor Vendors for Risk: Once you’ve determined supply chain risk, continue to monitor vendors and their equipment for future vulnerabilities. Compliance rules change throughout the years, and those changes must be considered as you reassess vendor equipment and your supply chain. Changes to compliance regulations could put any vendor in violation, so continual monitoring immediately indicates when this happens.
Conducting a Cyber Supply Chain Risk Assessment
A crucial aspect of cyber supply chain risk management is conducting regular risk assessments to identify potential vulnerabilities in your organisation’s supply chain. These assessments should focus on evaluating the security posture of vendors and suppliers, as well as the effectiveness of existing security controls.
1. Identify Critical Suppliers and Vendors
The first step in conducting a cyber supply chain risk assessment is identifying which suppliers and vendors are critical to your organisation’s operations. This includes those that provide essential services or products, have access to sensitive data, or whose failure could significantly impact business continuity.
2. Assess Supplier Security Posture
Once you’ve identified critical suppliers and vendors, it’s important to assess their security posture by reviewing their information technology infrastructure, policies, procedures, and any relevant certifications (e.g., ISO 27001).
3. Evaluate Existing Security Controls
Evaluating the effectiveness of current security measures within your own organisation is also vital when assessing cyber supply chain risks. Review all implemented controls such as firewalls, intrusion detection systems (IDS), and encryption protocols for data transmission/storage, among others, while ensuring they align with industry best practices like NIST SP 800-53 Rev 5 guidelines.
4. Identify Potential Vulnerabilities and Threats
Analyse the information gathered from supplier assessments and internal security control evaluations to identify potential vulnerabilities or threats within your supply chain. This could include outdated software, weak access controls, or insufficient vendor activity monitoring.
5. Prioritise Risks Based on Impact
Prioritising risks based on their potential impact is essential for effective cyber supply chain risk management. Consider factors such as financial loss, reputational damage, and legal/regulatory penalties when ranking identified risks in order of importance.
6. Develop Mitigation Strategies
Construct a program to resolve prioritised dangers by incorporating additional safeguards (e.g., multi-factor authentication), upgrading current controls (e.g., revising firewall settings), or collaborating with providers/merchants to upgrade their cybersecurity techniques.
7. Monitor and Review Risk Assessment Results Regularly
Risk assessment should be an ongoing process that includes regular monitoring and review of results to ensure continuous improvement in managing cyber supply chain risks effectively.
Incorporating these steps into your organisation’s C-SCRM strategy will help you proactively identify, assess, and mitigate potential vulnerabilities in your supply chains while maintaining business continuity amidst evolving cyber threats.
Protecting Data From Supply Chain Threats
After you identify your supply chain risks, you’ll find that many threats start with a malicious email targeting internal employees. The most effective defence against supply chain threats is to use email security and protection solutions to stop messages from reaching the intended recipient. You can protect data from supply chain threats triggered by an email using several strategies:
- Use Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance (DMARC) on your email server. DMARC will detect spoofed senders and stop them from reaching someone’s email inbox.
- Train users to detect malicious email messages. Security awareness training has been shown to reduce risk by empowering users to detect and report malicious email senders.
- Be responsive to user reports. When users know they correctly identified malicious emails, social engineering, and phishing attacks, their knowledge and training are fortified.
You may not be able to control the supply chain vendor, but you can perform other actions to protect data if one of your vendors falls victim to phishing and other threats. These tips will protect you from current threats, but remember that attackers continue to craft new methods to overcome cybersecurity protections. However, the following strategies will help protect your organisation from supply chain risks:
- Know your suppliers. Your suppliers have suppliers, and those suppliers have suppliers. You can better determine your risk and the cybersecurity needed to protect your environment if you know every vendor in the supply chain.
- Perform a pen-test and audit of equipment. Attackers hide much better when they include malicious circuits and components in your equipment. So, you should review any equipment connected to your environment.
- Use automation to configure equipment. Misconfigurations happen, even from vendors. Configurations should be automated to minimise mistakes.
In addition to these powerful solutions, Proofpoint also provides expert guidance on best practices for managing cyber supply chain risks. By partnering with Proofpoint, organisations can gain valuable insights into industry standards and regulations relevant to their specific sector while benefiting from tailored recommendations based on unique business needs.