Cybersecurity has been a crucial issue for businesses of all sizes and across every industry. Whether you’re a multi-national enterprise or a small start-up, you can be at risk of a cyberattack committed by increasingly sophisticated cybercriminals. But sometimes it is not only your business that you need to think about.

The fact is that organizations have become increasingly interconnected in recent years. If the Covid-19 pandemic taught us anything, it is that data sharing and collaboration are vital in solving major problems. But of course, any time that you have data sharing, you have a problem with data protection. 

This is fundamentally the issue with supply chain security. When multiple businesses are served by a supply chain, any security weakness in that supply chain can cause problems for all of the other companies involved. In this article, we take a look at the need for robust supply chain cybersecurity 

What is supply chain security?

A major challenge when talking about supply chain security is just how broad the subject is. There are many different forms of attack that can be perpetrated against the supply chain, and as such the concept needs to be looked at from a range of different perspectives. 

Ultimately, it refers to the measures taken to protect sensitive data and assets throughout the entire supply chain process. This includes the protection of data and assets at every stage of the supply chain, from procurement and production to delivery and short dated stock management.

“Supply chain security is a multi-disciplinary problem, and requires close collaboration and execution between the business, customer support and IT organizations, which has its own challenges,” explains Marshall Lamb, CTO of IBM Sterling. “The companies that get this right start with IT and a secure multi-enterprise business network, then build upward with carefully governed and secured access to analytics and visibility capabilities and, from there, continuously monitor every layer for anomalous behavior.”

Defending the supply chain requires coordinated and cohesive effort from all of the companies involved. 

Why supply chain security is important

Defending the supply chain is vital, because it is only ever as secure as its weakest link. Therefore all of the companies involved or benefiting from the supply chain need to ensure that all partners have the resources and capabilities to keep themselves secure. It is no longer the case that companies can think about cybersecurity in isolation — a threat to any part of the supply chain is a threat to all of it. 

93% of supply chain executives say that they are taking steps to make the supply chain “more resilient”, according to a report from McKinsey

Key threats to the supply chain

There are actually many different threats that cybercriminals can direct against different parts of the supply chain. Businesses need to be prepared to manage these types of threats. Some of the key cyberattacks perpetrated against the supply chain include:

  • Phishing — this type of attack involves tricking individuals into revealing sensitive information through deceptive emails, messages or websites. Phishing attacks can result in data breaches and theft of confidential information.
  • Insider attacks — insider attacks occur when an individual with access to sensitive information intentionally misuses that access for malicious purposes. This can result in data breaches, theft of confidential information, and other serious consequences.
  • Malware — this refers to malicious software that can infect a computer system and cause damage, steal sensitive information, or enable unauthorized access. Malware can be delivered through various methods, including phishing attacks and infected software downloads.

Supply chain security best practice

Implementing supply chain security measures is essential for protecting sensitive data and assets. Organizations can implement a number of measures to strengthen their supply chain security, including:

  • Conducting risk assessments — organizations should conduct regular risk assessments to identify potential supply chain threats and vulnerabilities. This will help organizations prioritize their security efforts and implement measures that are appropriate for their specific needs.
  • Implementing security protocols — you should look to implement security protocols that are appropriate for their specific needs. These could include encryption, access controls, and monitoring systems. These protocols should be regularly reviewed and updated to ensure that they remain effective.
  • Utilizing penetration testing — it is vital that you should carry out regular assessments of your current cybersecurity capabilities. Penetration testing “is a form of ethical cyber security assessment that seeks to identify, safely exploit and help to remediate vulnerabilities across computer systems, applications and websites.” Fundamentally, it is used to see how well-prepared a company is against cyber attacks. 
  • Building relationships with suppliers — organizations should build strong relationships with their suppliers, and ensure that they have a common understanding of security expectations. This will help organizations work together to address potential security threats and mitigate risk.

The impact of data breaches

The fact is that data breaches and other forms of cybercrime can have a significant impact on the supply chain. Not only can it completely disrupt the supply, it can also damage relationships between suppliers and their clients, and even have the knock-on effect of impacting customer relations. 

Perhaps the thing that goes most unnoticed is the reputational damage that businesses suffer when they endure a cyberattack. When customers lose faith in your business to be able to protect itself against cybercrime, it makes it far more difficult to trust you. Remaining vigilant is key to both successful operational practice and customer confidence.