Supply chain cyber security is a growing concern for many businesses – unsurprising, given the increasing number of digital breaches that make the news. Recent examples include the DarkSide cyber attack of Colonial Pipeline in May 2021, which was only resolved once the hackers were paid $5 million in ransom. Even more recently in August, hackers accessed the personal information of over 53 million T-Mobile customers (both current and former).
News like this is becoming frustratingly commonplace. And while it’s easy to criticise these companies for failing to prevent these breaches, it’s important to note how many opportunities there are for hackers to get past cyber security.
However, it’s not only large enterprises that are subject to hacks, small and mid-sized businesses are at risk too.
Digital transformation is happening at a rapid rate; ecommerce, spurred on by the COVID-19 pandemic, is booming, and businesses are introducing new internal businesses systems all the time to improve organisational efficiency.
Supply chains in particular are more connected than ever as they stretch around the globe. But with this connectivity and growth potential comes cyber attack threats, which are present at every stage of software development, distribution and maintenance.
However, there are a number of best practices that you can follow to safeguard your data and minimise the risk of digital breaches! It starts with a proactive approach to cyber security.
Cyber security starts with your organisation. As a part of a supply chain, your organisation is handling sensitive information including customer and supplier data, proprietary information, intellectual property and personnel data. There are three main areas you need to consider when establishing and maintaining cyber security within your organisation:
What processes do you have in place to handle IT security at every level of your business? On a very basic level your network should be segregated and include firewalls, proxy servers and filtering. Data should be encrypted and continually monitored for integrity. Your physical hardware, including servers, should be housed at accredited data centres or on-site with restricted access. Two-factor authentication and strong passwords should be required for any application access by your employees.
Make sure there is a clear footprint of where your data is hosted. Are you following data privacy regulations for your network – for example GDPR? Do you know what happens to your data in certain applications when your contract ends? It is your responsibility to know who has access to your data and the rules that your data is subject with regards to the software and applications you use.
Understand the certifications and industry standards your business has around security, data availability and confidentiality. You should also consider any other organisations/applications you depend upon. For example, one of the highest standards of compliance (and the only internationally recognised certifiable information security standard) is ISO-27001 certification. ISO-27001 is a framework for an organisation’s information security management system (ISMS). When you’re vetting companies or applications to work with, it’s a good sign of the quality of their security practices.
Use these three pointers as a starting point, so you have areas to focus upon when establishing your own cyber security procedures. They can also help when vetting software for your business to use and when working with third-party organisations like suppliers.
Nowadays, digitalisation inherently includes risk so it’s important to be proactive and safeguard your supply chain as much as possible. Here are some steps you can take to help mitigate those risks.
1. Evaluate the security of your business and any other third-party suppliers and vendors in your network.
Cyber security requires constant maintenance. Implementing best practices for security is only the first step; continued monitoring and evaluation of your organisation’s digital presence is an ongoing process. You also need to know the security of any third-party suppliers or vendors who have any sort of virtual access to your company’s information systems or data. What data can they access? Who can access it? How are they using it?
2. Secure your most valuable assets.
If your business’ cyber security was breached in a cyber attack, what is the most valuable information the hackers could find? That’s where you need to focus your greatest security efforts. Likewise, you need to know when other organisations in your network are breached. What data of yours is accessible through their systems? What can you do to minimise risk here?
3. Implement a Zero Trust policy.
This is exactly what it sounds like – assume that every data, user, application or connected device isn’t secure until proven otherwise. And like the first section states, security is ongoing. Continually authenticating, verifying and monitoring is key, especially as workers are increasingly going remote and using different devices and networks.
4. Make security the responsibility of every employee.
Especially as workers are increasingly going remote and using different devices and networks.
Security isn’t as simple as hiring a security manager and calling it a day; it is the responsibility of every employee at your company. Make sure to clearly and effectively communicate security practices and requirements. Include any requisite training and implement processes for continued reminders and updates. Your organisation’s security is only as strong as your weakest link.
5. Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.
No one wants a data breach, but no cyber security is 100%. In the event of a breach, what are your steps for damage control? This includes breaches within your business and its network. If they are hacked, what is their plan for alerting you? Containment and minimising damage is paramount, and any response needs to be rehearsed, swift and effective.
Supply chain cyber security is a large task to undertake, but it is key to success. Start by increasing communication and transparency within your company, building trust with any third party organisations in your supply chain and outlining an effective containment plan in case of a breach.
Cyber security isn’t the only challenge facing supply chains. Shortages of materials around the world are causing delays and affecting inventory availability. Are you facing stock shortages within your own supply chain? Download our eBook below to review our ten recommendations to improving stock availability.