With ever-increasing cyber attacks, the concerns over supply chain security are rising, too. The supply chain is an integral part of many businesses. Most businesses, no matter how big or small, have several suppliers who provide them with products or services. This naturally implies that there would be a certain degree of risk involved within the whole process.
Back in the day, supply chains used to be fairly simple and linear, but the same can’t be said for modern times. With the dominance of technology in the corporate world, supply chains have become complex today. They have also become more vulnerable than ever before. From hardware risks to software issues, there are several supply chain security threats that can cause huge financial and reputational losses to your business.
Today’s article will walk you through concerns surrounding modern-day supply chain security and how you can protect yourself from their catastrophic effects. Let’s get started.
What Do We Mean by Supply Chain Security and Why Is It So Important?
A business cannot move its products or its services to the end consumer on its own. It needs the help of suppliers, distributors, and other third parties. These parties become an integral part of a business’s supply chain. In short, a supply chain involves all the people, distributors, or middlemen, and activities that allow a business to move its products and services from the point of origin to the consumer.
From logistics, marketing, and sales to management of third-party suppliers, the supply chain involves several crucial activities. Any threat or risk to the successful completion of these activities can be considered a supply chain security issue.
When it comes to supply chain security, there is no widely used functional definition of it. The scope of supply chain security can range from physical threats like theft and terrorism to cyber issues, like malware and network security breaches. It is a multidisciplinary problem that requires constant attention and close collaboration between all involved parties.
The basic function of a supply chain is to ensure that the product reaches the customer in the right condition, at the right place and time, and is presented in just the right way. In today’s highly competitive world, if you can’t get your products and services to your customers at the right time or if the quality of your brand is compromised in some way, your competitors will make the most of this opportunity. Thus, supply chain security should be a top priority of every organization.
Even a small breach in your supply chain’s security can be catastrophic for you. Recent reports show that the average cost of experiencing and overcoming a data breach is $3.86 million! That’s alarming. Apart from obvious financial losses, you can also lose your organization’s intellectual property, your customers’ trust, strategic business partnerships, and your reputation.
Types of Supply Chain Security Attacks
When it comes to modern-day supply chains, most businesses are battling two major types of attacks. These include physical threats and software-related or cyber threats.
Physical Supply Chain Attacks
A physical supply chain attack comprises all the people, materials, activities, third parties, logistics, and more, involved in producing and transferring a product or service to the point of purchase, or end-user.
Any threat or attack on these physical elements of a business’s supply chain can be a serious concern for a business owner. Major physical supply chain attacks include:
- Sabotaging the products or materials used to produce the products
- Counterfeit products
Digital or Software Supply Chain Attacks
Modern businesses are heavily dependent on the internet and various kinds of technology. From establishing business relationships to sharing crucial data with vendors, distributors, and consumers, almost everything is done online.
Additionally, most businesses now are also using cloud-based supply chain models. This provides easy, hassle-free storage and quick accessibility to databases.
While all of this tech saves a lot of time and resources, it also makes a business’s supply chain a lot more vulnerable to online threats.
Major software supply chain threats include:
- Malware attacks
- Suspicious emails or emails containing malicious files
- Data theft
- Network security breaches, and so on.
Why Should You Worry About Supply Chain Security?
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many businesses had to shift toward a remote work setup. Technology made it easier for companies to carry on with their work while maintaining social distancing. However, this also gave cybercriminals the opportunity to succeed in their malicious intentions.
From IT and healthcare, to online retail and hospitality, cybercriminals targeted almost every sector. As a result, the world witnessed severe attacks on COVID-19 vaccine supply chains globally, while the SolarWinds supply chain attack shook the entire industry.
Today, supply chain security breaches are on the rise. According to a study conducted by Symantec, supply chain attacks have increased by a whopping 78% in 2019. These numbers are only expected to rise in the future. Over 60% of these attacks are conducted with the help of malicious codes or malware.
Here are some reasons you should be concerned about the security of your company’s supply chain.
1. Loss of sensitive data
A typical supply chain has two to three links of suppliers or distributors that facilitate the transfer of goods or services. Cybercriminals often target the weakest link of the chain to cause harm to your organization. They usually do this through malware or malicious codes.
Consequently, if your data is being used by a third-party supplier, there is always a risk of it being hacked, tampered with, or destroyed.
2. Increased smuggling
Gray market commodities and counterfeit goods are two major supply chain issues that have become a serious cause for concern for businesses.
Threat actors often leverage the transport mediums used to carry legitimate products to smuggle illegal or fake goods. Fake drugs (pharmaceuticals) are one of the most smuggled items out there. This not only impacts the health of the consumer, but also your company’s good name. In severe cases, businesses can even end up getting sued.
3. Rising cases of fraud
Another reason you should pay close attention to your supply chain risk management is the skyrocketing number of frauds against organizations.
Present-day supply chains are getting increasingly complex, with numerous data touchpoints at several levels. Each of these touchpoints where data is exchanged between parties acts as a potential gateway for cybercriminals to harm your business.
Threat actors are getting more and more creative with their attacks. Fraudulent emails and voicemails are being used by cybercriminals to filter sensitive information from your supply chain, disrupting flow, or stealing assets.
Recently, KPMG reported two cases where supply chain fraudsters impersonated suppliers to de route a due payment to one of their bank accounts. This was an easy way for them to get away with a huge amount of money without raising suspicions.
How to Protect Yourself Against Supply Chain Risks?
Supply chain attacks are rising, both in frequency and severity. Thus, a foolproof supply chain risk management strategy is no longer a choice, but a necessity.
With that said, here are some of the best supply chain risk management practices that will help you identify and mitigate both physical and software supply chain security attacks.
- Deeply analyze every link in your supply chain. From third-party suppliers to partners and distributors. Be sure to gather all relevant information about them and the security practices they implement.
- Always use tamper-evident seals for your goods. Additionally, do not forget to log and track each of your shipments.
- Never allow a third-party vendor or reseller to access your network until you are confident in their security practices and governance policies.
- Try to always work with a reputed or certified supplier. You can also take the help of third-party auditors to gather information about potential partners or distributors.
- Provide up-to-date supply chain risk management training to your employees. Teach them how to identify suspicious emails or phishing attacks and what actions they must take in case of a security breach.
- Conduct timely audits of your network security. Also, analyze your and your partners’ supply chain activities from time to time.
- Prepare a fully functional and fool-proof crisis management plan ahead of time.
- Stay updated about supply chain laws and government guidelines applicable in your region.
Supply chain security issues have become an unfortunate reality in the business world. While you can’t get rid of them completely, you can take specific steps to lower your risk and initiate your plan when it does happen.
Staying updated with the latest industry practices and supply chain developments, and leveraging supply chain risk management practices can go a long way in helping you prevent major supply chain issues.
Tech Masters helps business owners protect their most important assets with superior network security, the latest technologies, and years of experience. Connect with us today to learn more and to your free business IT assessment.
For more information about supply chain security, check out our frequently asked questions and answers below.
What are the major supply chain issues?
Some of the major supply chain issues include:
- Counterfeit products
- Malware attacks
Why is supply chain security important?
Supply chain security plays a major role in the success of a business. Even the smallest security breaches can lead to significant financial losses, theft of your data, poor delivery operations, compromised relationships with strategic business partners, and the loss of your customer’s trust and loyalty.
Why is security important in logistics?
Implementing high-security measures in logistics can help you protect your shipment from theft, sabotage, and other criminal activities. It also ensures that your products reach the consumer in the right condition, at the right time, and in the right way.
How can I upgrade my current security measures?
The best way to go is to partner with an experienced IT services provider who understands security front to back. They’ll be able to implement a high degree of protection using the latest technologies, industry leading practices, and ongoing advice.
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