Supply chain management has become an increasingly tech-centric process. Rapid digitization and widespread adoption of technologies like internet of things (IoT) devices have made logistics more efficient than ever but simultaneously introduced new risks. Consequently, supply chain cybersecurity should be at the forefront of your mind.
The Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) reported a 42 percent increase in supply chain attacks between Q1 2021 and Q2 2020. These attacks impacted 137 U.S. organizations and 7 million individuals, highlighting the need for better threat response in the industry. Supply chain managers today must prepare for attacks, both in preventing them and mitigating their impact.
Here are five such strategies you can employ to defend against rising cyber threats.
Train all employees on best practices
The best cyberattack mitigation strategy is to prevent them from happening in the first place. To prevent data breaches, you must first understand where your weaknesses lie, and in virtually every work environment, that’s users. No matter how many technical defenses you have in place, user error can jeopardize your systems, so employee training is essential.
Employees should know how to spot phishing attempts, use strong passwords and, most importantly, why these steps are necessary. If workers don’t understand that weak password management could leak sensitive data, complacency may overrule knowledge of best practices. Businesses should also hold regular refresher training to ensure workers don’t forget critical security steps.
Another crucial step in supply chain cybersecurity is limiting access permissions. Any system, user, or program should only have access to what they absolutely need to operate correctly. Restricting permissions this way will both reduce the risk of insider threats and mitigate the impact of a hacker gaining access to someone’s account.
This practice should apply to third parties, too. Cybersecurity expert Chris Nissen said it’s a mistake to call something trusted if you’re not continuously monitoring it. Since you can’t continuously monitor third parties, you should limit your trust. Enacting stricter access controls ensures a breach on their end, whether malicious or accidental, won’t impact you as heavily.
To experience the full security benefits of restricting permissions, you should also segment your device networks. One of the most significant threats to supply chain cybersecurity is logistics’ reliance on IoT devices, creating wider attack surfaces. Supply chain management can mitigate the impact of IoT attacks by hosting critical systems and data on separate networks.
Without segmentation, a hacker could potentially use a telematics device to access a server with sensitive customer data. Segmentation lowers the number of endpoints on a network, limiting what hackers can access if they do get in. That way, even if you experience a security breach, its damage will be minimal, since one device can’t give cybercriminals access to all your data.
No matter how advanced your security is, you can never assume cybercriminals will never get past it. As of 2019, 76 percent of U.S. businesses had experienced a data breach within a year, and since then, cybercrime has only grown. Given how likely these attacks are, you must ensure you can survive and recover from one quickly. Redundancy is a crucial step towards that goal.
Supply chains should have backups of all mission-critical systems and data. This redundancy will help you continue operations during a breach, minimizing its impact, especially if you have also segmented your network and restricted permissions. As you create backups, remember to apply the same level of security to them as you do to your primary systems.
Penetration test regularly
Cybercrime is in a state of continual evolution. New threats regularly emerge, like the sophisticated SolarWinds attack that affected roughly 100 companies. Since security infrastructure can quickly become outdated, supply chains must regularly test their resiliency.
Penetration testing involves hiring a hacking expert to try and breach your system, then reveal how you can improve. Regularly performing these tests will help you keep up with emerging threats and find weak points in your cybersecurity. Without regular pen tests, you could be vulnerable without knowing it, causing data breaches to be far more damaging than you expected.
Supply chain cybersecurity is essential
Cybersecurity must become a regular part of supply chain management. These five strategies are by no means an exhaustive list but are crucial steps towards minimizing the impact of a breach. Every supply chain’s cybersecurity strategy will look different, but all should include these considerations to be effective.