The supply chain needs better cybersecurity and risk management
The supply chain is under historic pressure, but the pressure on its cybersecurity and risk management could be even worse. As 2021 draws to a close, the global supply chain is in a state comparable to peak hour traffic in bad weather. Everything seems to be backed up, whether due to supply and demand issues, wait times at shipping ports, or any other delays.
If the supply chain is to have any chance of recovering in the near future, organizations must tackle cybersecurity and risk management. Indeed, cybersecurity and supply chain efficiency are closely linked.
Cybercrime and supply chain crisis
Cybersecurity and risk management have always been vital to the flow of any business. However, the current state of the global supply chain makes it exceptionally vulnerable to severe damage from an attack more than usual. When the supply chain is barely functioning, criminals are more likely to assume they have influence over companies. A ransomware attacker may be more brazen and exert higher demands than a few years ago.
Most people remember 2020 for the global COVID-19 pandemic. A less noticeable global problem was happening at the same time, affecting all industries and millions of people: the cyber pandemic. When COVID-19 gripped the world, cybercriminals saw an opportunity to wreak havoc in tandem.
Risk assessments carried out by INTERPOL have reported a meteoric rise in cyberattacks parallel to the COVID-19 pandemic. The two biggest increases in cybercrime were phishing attacks and ransomware. It is not a coincidence. Both of these types of cyberattacks take advantage of the most common circumstances that plague the world’s population. People are grappling with fear, uncertainty and an unprecedented addiction to the internet, which is creating more opportunities for successful phishing attacks. In fact, the popularity of working from home has been directly related to an increase in cybercrime.
Likewise, some industries and businesses are more at risk if their systems were to be compromised, such as healthcare facilities, which explains the increase in ransomware attacks. Even after the COVID-19 pandemic subsided somewhat in 2021, cybercrime remained high. This included attacks against Critical National Infrastructure (CNI) such as the Colonial Pipeline ransomware attack.
Supply chains in the face of growing demand
At the same time as this cyber pandemic took hold in 2020, the global supply chain began to experience the pressure that continues to weigh on it through 2022. Millions of people have begun to use online shopping as their primary , even unique, way to purchase goods, creating higher demand for shipping. Additionally, some industries have experienced unprecedented spikes in demand directly in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
A crucial example of this is the computer parts supply chain. The supply and demand of certain components has never been more important for businesses and consumers. Computer enthusiasts are putting themselves on year-long waiting lists for graphics processors, while automakers are reporting millions of dollars in losses due to chip shortages. Some buyers even take the risk of use counterfeit products, like power supplies, to make ends meet. Between online work, home entertainment and manufacturing demand, the shortage of computer chips is one of the worst cases of the current supply chain crisis.
Cyber vulnerabilities in the supply chain
These factors create an urgent need for enhanced security measures in the supply chain. Organizations should start by increasing their risk awareness. It is important to remember that cybersecurity must go far beyond the simple installation of anti-virus software on company computers. It also needs to happen at every step of the supply chain with every employee. In the digital age, the line between crime in the real and virtual worlds is very blurred, so these risks must be taken as seriously as any physical security measure would.
The main risks facing the supply chain are at several levels. Industry experts point out that they can occur in the physical world, such as access to server rooms or hardware embedded with malware. Organizations need to be aware of every third party they interact with throughout the supply chain, from contract maintenance companies to suppliers. Anyone with access to the organization’s network or systems can pose a risk.
The security of all vendors and partners also directly affects the organization. A narcotic 66% of supply chain cyberattacks leveraged trust in vendor security. If payment data is compromised, customer information of these organizations is also at risk. Vendors and organizations are also responsible for deleting consumer data, which is a common target for cyberattacks.
Software remains an unavoidable security risk, especially for organizations operating remotely. Any employee interacting with company data or network should have comprehensive security software installed on their devices. Workers’ knowledge of safety also poses a risk, which is evident in the previously mentioned increase in phishing attacks.
How Organizations Can Manage Risk
The risks and vulnerable state of the global supply chain can make approaching risk management daunting. However, security is actually quite simple. Many organizations are simply unaware of the magnitude of the danger and the steps they can take in response.
The first step is to complete a thorough risk assessment. This analysis must cover all levels of the organization, from physical security to the individual cybersecurity of each employee. Additionally, it is important to consider the security measures in place at other levels of the relevant supply chain. Consider contacting suppliers or scheduling a meeting with representatives to discuss safety and risk management methods, from which everyone will benefit. The supply chain is only as strong as the link with the weakest cybersecurity and risk management policies.
After carefully identifying the risks, the next step is to implement strong security measures. Technology can help cover this ground. For example, artificial intelligence (AI) is a valuable tool for improve resilience within the supply chain, particularly in relation to cybersecurity. AI solutions operate as virtual security guards 24/7. They often use pattern recognition and data collection to quickly identify anything out of the ordinary, such as cyber intruders.
Also consider implementing a company-wide cybersecurity training program and ensure that all personal devices are equipped with reliable and up-to-date security software. Many organizations even have a dedicated cybersecurity manager to professionally oversee the implementation of all security strategies.
Staying Safe in the Internet Age
Organizations within the supply chain must take an active and focused approach to cybersecurity to avoid crime-related delays, data breaches, and financial loss. The situation may seem dire, but companies can prevent digital attackers from shaking up the global supply chain by beefing up their defenses. If cybercrime is the pandemic, advanced security and risk management is the vaccine.
About the Author: Emily Newton is the editor of Revolutionized, an online magazine celebrating innovations in industry, science and technology.
Editor’s note: The opinions expressed in this guest author article are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect those of Tripwire, Inc.