Supply Chain Cybersecurity: Protecting Your Business from Third-Party Risks

10 October 2023

Supply Chain Cybersecurity: Protecting Your Business from Third-Party Risks

We are all aware that supply chain cyber threats are on the rise.

As we’re moving into the end of 2023, the threat of a cyberattack has never been higher, and no organisation is immune. That includes your supply chain partners—even if they're not directly connected with your customers or employees. In fact, you may be more vulnerable to third-party risks than many companies realise because of the nature of supply chain vulnerabilities of today. The challenge is that these threats can be hard to detect until it's too late. But there are steps you can take now to protect yourself against these risks.

What is a supply chain vulnerability?

A supply chain cybersecurity vulnerability refers to a weakness or susceptibility within a supply chain's digital infrastructure, processes, or connections that can be exploited by malicious actors or cyber threats. These vulnerabilities can expose your organisation to various cyber risks and potential disruptions in the supply chain, with potentially severe consequences for data security, operational continuity, and your overall business reputation.

Below, the Askaris Cyber Security team have provided some examples of supply chain vulnerabilities that your business could face.

Third-party risks - Supply chains often involve multiple organisations and third-party vendors, each with its own cybersecurity practices and vulnerabilities. Weaknesses in any of these entities can provide a point of entry for cybercriminals into the supply chain.

Data breaches - cyber attackers may target supply chain partners to gain access to sensitive data, such as customer information, trade secrets, or proprietary designs. Data breaches can result in financial losses, legal liabilities, and reputational damage.

Malware and ransomware attacks - malicious software can infiltrate supply chain systems through various means, infecting networks, compromising devices, and disrupting operations. Ransomware attacks can encrypt critical data or systems and demanding a ransom from you for its release.

Supply chain risk management

Supply chain risk management is vital for keeping your organisation's information secure. It's about protecting your business from third-party risks and supply chain vulnerabilities that are actively targeting your supply chain partners.

Supply chain risk management is critical to any business that relies on third parties to deliver products or services at various points in its supply chain. Achieving this goal requires an understanding of what types of risks exist for your organisation and how they could impact the success or failure of your organisation if exploited by a supply chain attack.

The challenge of supply chain cybersecurity

The challenge of supply chain cybersecurity is that it affects everyone. It's not just a business issue, or a government issue, or even a consumer issue--it's all three combined into one big problem for both companies and consumers alike.

As businesses increasingly rely on third parties like subcontractors and suppliers to help them produce their goods and services at scale, they must also consider how those same third parties can be used against them by malicious actors looking to steal data or disrupt operations through cyberattacks. This can have devastating effects on both businesses' bottom lines as well as consumers who depend on the products produced by these companies for their livelihoods.

The impact of a breach

It’s not a matter of if, but a matter of when. If you haven’t experienced a breach yet, you must be prepared for the inevitable. It's not just the cost of the breach that should concern you; it's also the impact on your customers.

If a customer loses confidence in your company after an incident, they may choose to no longer do business with you or even switch over to one of your competitors. When this happens, it can be very difficult for companies who have been breached to regain lost customers' trust again--and even more difficult if those customers are large enterprises that demand high levels of reliability from their suppliers' supply chains.

Protecting yourself against supply chain risk

Supply chain risk is a major concern for many companies. The best way to protect yourself against supply chain risks is by understanding them, developing a plan to mitigate them and implementing that plan.

It's important to understand the risks associated with your business model as well as how they might impact your organisation. You should also consider what types of assets are being handled by third parties and where they're located (e.g., in-house or at an offsite location). Your company's risk appetite will help guide you in determining which areas need additional attention when it comes down to mitigating these threats.

Once you've identified potential areas where protection may be lacking, develop policies and procedures that put safeguards in place so you can mitigate these threats. You must do this before customers' sensitive information becomes compromised because of your poor security practices internally.

Take steps now to protect your business from third-party risks.

If you're not already taking steps to manage supply chain risks, now is the time to get started.

Here are some ways to protect your business from third-party risks:

  • Understand the risks in your supply chain. Conduct an audit of all third parties and suppliers with whom you work, paying particular attention to those who have access to sensitive information or critical systems. Then evaluate which ones pose a risk based on their vulnerability and likelihood of being targeted by hackers or other malicious actors.

  • Understand your company's risk tolerance. While no organisation wants to be hacked, some companies may be more concerned about cyberattacks than others based on how much damage could result from such an attack (e.g., financial losses) versus how much it would cost them if they were breached (e.g., loss of customers).

To address supply chain cybersecurity vulnerabilities, here is what your organisation can do with regards to implementing robust cybersecurity measures and best practices, these include:

Regular cybersecurity assessments and audits of supply chain partners.

Secure communication and data encryption protocols.

Strong access controls, authentication, and authorisation mechanisms.

Employee training and awareness programs to mitigate social engineering risks.

Vendor risk management and due diligence to assess the cybersecurity posture of third-party suppliers.

Incident response plans and business continuity strategies to mitigate the impact of cyberattacks.

Collaborative information sharing within the supply chain community to enhance collective cybersecurity defences.

Supply chain cybersecurity is an evolving and critical concern in today's interconnected business environment. Organisations must continuously assess and enhance their cybersecurity practices to protect against the ever-evolving threats that can compromise the integrity and security of their supply chains.

You can no longer afford to be complacent about supply chain cybersecurity. The stakes are too high, and the consequences of a breach are too devastating for your business. Take the next steps now and book an introductory session with Askaris Cyber Security

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