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What Are the Top Supply Chain Cyber Risks You Need to Know

Supply Chain Risks

Supply chains face significant risks today. Geopolitical tensions and COVID-related stock disruptions may get the most publicity among these challenges, but cybersecurity demands attention, too. Supply chain cyber-risks are just as likely and disruptive an obstacle as any other hazard.

Cyberattacks on supply chains saw a 51% increase in the last half of 2021. You must address this trend to stay safe and operational. To do that, you first need an understanding of what hazards you may face. Here are five of the top supply chain cyber-risks today.


The biggest cyberthreat to supply chains is the same as the overall largest threat: ransomware. Ransomware attacks rose by 62% globally in 2020, and their collective cost jumped by more than 200%.

One of the reasons ransomware is such a prevalent issue is that it can enter the supply chain at virtually any point. It can infect any endpoint and spread across the network to encrypt mission-critical or sensitive information and hold it for ransom. It usually comes through phishing, but attackers can also install it in many ways, from compromising updates to hacking into devices.

Training all employees to spot phishing attempts is one of the most important steps in preventing ransomware. You can also use security software with anti-ransomware features and keep encrypted backups of all mission-critical data. Limiting access privileges will also help by restricting what ransomware can affect from one endpoint.

Software Vendor Risks

Vulnerabilities from third-party software vendors are another major concern. Supply chains can involve many different software-as-a-service (SaaS) tools, and each of these can be a risk if companies aren’t careful.

The infamous SolarWinds breach is the perfect example of why these vulnerabilities are so significant. The group behind the attack affected up to 100 customers by infiltrating just one party: SolarWinds’ Orion software suite. On top of this destructive potential, these risks can be easy to overlook because they’re outside of the company.

The first step to addressing this supply chain cyber-risk is reviewing software vendors before going into business with them. Only using SaaS tools from companies that meet high security standards will reduce risks. It’s also a good idea to minimize what each app can access.

IoT Vulnerabilities

Many supply chains today also face cyber-risks from their Internet of Things (IoT) devices. The IoT has become common in logistics networks because it offers real-time insights into things like shipment locations. However, these devices are notoriously difficult to secure and can present significant risks if left that way.

The key risk with most IoT devices is lateral movement. A location tracker itself may not hold much sensitive data, but it may operate on the same network as a device with customer personally identifiable information (PII). An attacker could breach the easily hackable sensor and use it as a gateway to the device with that PII.

Keeping IoT systems on a separate network from other, more sensitive devices will minimize these risks. Businesses should also encrypt all IoT communications and update these machines regularly.

Supplier Fraud

Supplier or vendor fraud is another top supply chain cyber-risk today. Cybercriminals pose as legitimate supply chain partners to steal data or money from companies. That can take the form of phishing, account compromise or social engineering, and it can be difficult to spot.

Tools like deepfakes have made these fraud cases more convincing than ever. They can be challenging to prevent because they arise from vulnerabilities in your supply chain partners, not your own systems.

Using blockchain tracking to manage vendor relationships and transactions can help. Information on a blockchain can’t be deleted or changed, offering more accountability. Artificial intelligence (AI) tools can also analyze records to pinpoint potential fraud cases.

Human Error

As with any IT environment, supply chains are also vulnerable to human error. Reports suggest that 82% of data breaches involve a human element. These mistakes are such a prevalent threat because they can give attackers easy access to your network no matter how advanced your perimeter security is.

Human error is particularly concerning in the supply chain because these networks involve so many people. The industry is also not used to dealing with cyberthreats, so employees may be less likely to know best security practices.

Better training is the answer to most human error-related risks. Every employee should receive cybersecurity training, including good password management practices and how to spot phishing attempts. Once again, limiting access privileges can help, as it reduces the potential impact of a breached account.

Understanding Supply Chain Cyber Risks Is the First Step

Supply chain cyber risks are abundant and dangerous. Still, you can create a secure operation if you know what to look for. Learning the most prevalent risks is the first step to better security.

The path forward is easier to see when you know what security challenges your supply chain may face. You can then take appropriate action to minimize and mitigate these risks.

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