Supply Chain Attacks: What They Are and How to Stop Them
Cyber criminals have become more sophisticated in their attacks against organizations and businesses. Instead of attacking businesses and their websites directly, cyber criminals have pivoted their focus to attacking vulnerable or compromised sections of the supply chains that distribute goods and services to consumers.
The standard Denial of Service (DDoS) used to be the most powerful blow hackers unleashed on companies and websites. However, today’s real cybersecurity risks are different than they used to be. Modern hackers have less interest in the simple exploit and spend more time chasing data.
Data has become one of the most powerful illicit commodities in the world. Data is worth cryptocurrency and money, especially in the corporate space. When supply chains transmit data between third-party partners, it can become vulnerable to attack. With more suppliers and service providers requiring access to company data than ever before in recent years, attack vectors have changed dramatically.
This switch in hacker strategy has allowed supply chain attacks to become a powerful enemy of any company hosting customer and supplier data in the world. Statistics estimate that next-gen supply chain attacks increased by 430% in 2020. The data also shows most companies have inadequate protection against cyber threats.
In this article we explore supply chain attacks, the impact they have on businesses, and how to mitigate the risk they pose to businesses.
What is a Supply Chain Attack?
A supply chain is a network of companies that relay data and information to one another to provide goods and services to customers and clients. It begins with obtaining the raw material to make the product, assembling the product, obtaining orders, distribution, accounting, and customer support. Each of these stages along the supply chain is handled by an entity which uses some software solution, making them a possible vulnerability for a hacker to exploit.
A supply chain attack is a cyber-attack that attempts to find vulnerabilities in IT security along the supply chain to cause disruptions and steal data. As proficient as a hacker may be, one may have difficulty attacking or stealing data from their target company. However, if a third-party company in the supply chain is found to have weak or compromised security, the target company is now at risk because they share information with the at-risk third-party company. Once these vulnerabilities are found, malware is installed which can steal vendor information, customer information or even encrypt computer files so that they can no longer be accessed without paying a ransom.
How Supply Chain Attacks Hurt Businesses
Statistics estimate that the new generation of supply chain attacks increased by 430% in 2020. All businesses are at risk, both small and large businesses alike. One of the biggest breaches in 2020 was the SolarWinds attack which was one of the biggest headlines of 2020. In this attack, state-sanctioned Russian hackers installed malware into an update of SolarWinds’ network management software, Orion. SolarWinds sent the update to their customers, which included the US Treasury Department among other government agencies and telecommunication companies, allowing hackers to potentially access an unknown amount of data. This act of espionage could have dramatic effects on the world as we know it if the Russian government accessed sensitive political, financial, or military information.
In an example within business and commerce, retail company Target suffered a supply chain attack in 2013 when a third-party company had its security compromised. This allowed hackers access to information on approximately 40 million customers. A group of US banks were forced to reimburse customers who lost money due to the massive data breach. To recoup their funds, the banks filed a class action lawsuit against Target who settled with the banks for $39 million.
Data is perhaps the world’s most powerful commodity. It informs companies and organizations on what decisions to make to ensure that their goals are met. When data is intercepted, not only do organizations suffer but so do their clients and customers.
How to Mitigate Risk Against Supply Chain Attacks
Research has shown that a cyber-attack occurs every 39 seconds. While most businesses have solid cybersecurity for themselves, they are only as safe as the weakest, most vulnerable link in their supply chain. A supply chain attack always has the potential of decimating a business. Third-party providers or software solutions can place any business or organization at considerably higher risks for potential supply chain attacks. Businesses can mitigate this threat by:
- Verifying Third-party Supplier IT Security – Third-party suppliers with weak security measures put business organizations at risk of supply chain attacks. This can cost companies their clients, revenue, and reputation. The security of third parties should be examined with the same scrutiny as one’s own enterprise.
- Penetration Testing – Penetration testing is a cybersecurity technique that simulates a cyber-attack against the business network. This allows the company to find potential vulnerabilities and weaknesses in their security. With constant testing, business organizations can find critical weaknesses and fix them.
Better IT Security
Supply chain attacks pose a considerable risk for small and large businesses alike. While it is difficult for businesses to control the security quality of third parties, it is possible to control the third parties selected as partners.
Another great way to manage cyber vulnerabilities in both the business network and the supply chain is hiring an IT security services provider like Outsource IT. As your trusted partner in cybersecurity, Outsource IT can help to keep critical business data and assets safe from hackers and cyber criminals who seek to exploit vulnerabilities through supply chain attacks. Contact your Outsource IT account manager to learn more.