Supply Chain Cybersecurity – How to Protect Your Businesses From Hackers

Supply Chain Cybersecurity

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There’s been a concerning trend among supply chains in the past year. Cyberattacks against logistics companies and infrastructure have become increasingly common, and they’re rising in severity, too. In light of these growing threats, robust supply chain cybersecurity is a must.

According to the Identity Theft Resource Center, supply chain attacks rose by 42% in Q1 2021 compared to Q4 2020. These attacks targeted 27 third-party vendors, affecting 137 U.S. organizations and 7 million individuals. That places supply chain incidents as the fourth most common cause of data compromises, not far behind malware.

Here’s why hackers are targeting supply chains more often and what you can do to protect yours.

Attacks Are Profitable

Cyberattacks in any context are almost always a matter of money. As such, the primary driver behind rising supply chain attacks is that successful hacks are highly profitable. There are two main reasons for this: supply chains have multiple, intricate connections and handle valuable data.

Supply chains are ideal for hackers because they provide a single access point to multiple targets. A single defense contractor, for example, could work with thousands of suppliers, so one breach could have the same impact as thousands of smaller ones. That allows hackers to make a considerable amount of money from the sheer volume of stolen or ransomed data.

This data itself is also valuable. Your supply chain holds data like financial information, client names and addresses, and other highly sensitive info. Given this data’s sensitivity, hackers could sell it at a high profit on the Dark Web or hold it for a considerable ransom.

Supply Chains Are Vulnerable

Another reason why supply chain attacks have become more common is that supply chains are often vulnerable. Over the past few years, more supply chains have embraced new digital technologies, particularly the internet of things (IoT). While this digitization has many operational benefits, it also introduces new information security and other risks if you don’t take steps to secure it.

IoT devices connect to multiple other endpoints on a network to share helpful data or automate various processes. These connections, while convenient, expand your attack surface. A hacker could use a seemingly unimportant IoT device as a gateway to another system with more sensitive data.

Many supply chains don’t realize these risks when implementing IoT networks, and these devices are notorious for their insufficient built-in security measures. As a result, supply chains have become easier targets without realizing it. A highly profitable target with a high chance of success makes for an ideal situation for hackers.

Supply Chain Cybersecurity – How to Defend Against Hackers

While this trend is concerning, supply chains aren’t helpless against it. There are several steps you can take to defend your supply chain against potential hacking attacks, many of which are relatively straightforward. Here are the most important supply chain cybersecurity steps to follow.

1. Change Default IoT Device Settings

One of the things that makes IoT devices vulnerable is their poor built-in security measures. Many of the default features and settings on these gadgets can make them more significant threats than they must be. For example, many try to connect to other devices automatically, expanding your attack surface without realizing it.

Supply chains should check their device settings when implementing new IoT infrastructure, turning off potentially risky features. It’s best to disable any features that aren’t necessary for their role in your supply chain. The more limited their connectivity is, the less threatening they are.

Changing IoT default passwords is also crucial. Some devices may not be encrypted or password-protected by default, and hackers can often find default passwords fairly easily. Enabling passwords and encryption and changing passwords to stronger, unique alternatives is a critical security step.

2. Segment Networks

Another way supply chains can mitigate IoT-related attacks is by segmenting their networks. Network segmentation hosts different groups of devices or data on separate subnetworks instead of running everything in a single group. This won’t stop supply chain attacks, but it will lessen their impact.

If IoT devices can’t connect to more sensitive devices or data, they’re of little use to hackers. A breach in one area won’t affect the whole network, limiting how much one attack can do. You can take these defenses even further by hosting devices on entirely separate networks, not just segmented ones.

3. Verify and Restrict Third Parties

Another one of the most significant risks in supply chain cybersecurity is third-party connections. In 2020, 92% of U.S. organizations experienced a security breach that came from a vendor. When a third party, like a vendor, has access to your network, systems, or data, breaches on their end could affect you.

Given these risks, supply chains must verify the security of all third parties before granting them access to anything. Businesses should require proof of robust security steps, such as cybersecurity certifications. Holding partners and vendors to higher standards will encourage more widespread supply chain cybersecurity.

After verifying third parties’ security, supply chains should still limit their access, giving them only what they need. This is the same concept behind network segmentation. The less access each party has, the less of a risk they pose if a breach occurs on their end.

4. Foster a Security-First Company Culture

No matter how advanced your other cybersecurity measures are, human errors can still jeopardize your security. The massive Colonial Pipeline attack, for example, resulted from a single breached password, an easily avoidable risk. If employees had used better password management practices, the hack might not have happened.

Supply chains, and any company, for that matter, should create a security-first culture. All employees should receive training on cybersecurity best practices, like using strong, unique passwords and how to spot phishing emails.

Frequent refresher training can ensure workers don’t forget these critical security steps. Company leaders should remember to lead by example and recognize employees who show exemplary cybersecurity-minded behavior. These steps will reduce insider threats and fortify businesses’ first line of defense: their staff.

Supply Chain Cybersecurity Is Essential Today

Considering these trends, supply chain cybersecurity is critical for businesses today. By understanding the risks and following these steps, you can ensure your supply chain remains as safe as possible, enabling smoother operations. Without proper protection, your supply chain could be one of your most significant vulnerabilities.

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Emily Newton

Emily Newton

Emily Newton is the Editor-in-Chief of Revolutionized, an online magazine that explores innovations in science and technology.