How to Improve Your Supply Chain’s Cybersecurity

By Zachary Amos •  Updated: 03/12/22 •  5 min read

The need for supply chain cybersecurity has become increasingly clear over the past few years. Disruptions and delays have revealed how fragile these networks are, and events like the SolarWinds attack showed how impactful cyberattacks could be. The world depends on supply chains, so it needs better security.

Supply chain attacks rose by 42% in the first quarter of 2021 alone. These attacks were also larger, as the number of people they affected rose by a stunning 564%. Thankfully, businesses can protect themselves from this troubling rise in cybercrime. Here are five ways to improve your supply chain’s cybersecurity.

1. Verify and Restrict Third Parties

One of the most important steps is to address third-party risks. Attacks on 27 third-party vendors impacted 137 organizations in the first quarter of 2021. Cybercriminals target suppliers and vendors because if they can infiltrate them, they can access all their partners and clients.

You can prevent and minimize these attacks through two main steps: verification and restriction. First, verify any supply chain partners’ security before going into business with them. Ensure they meet industry standards for cybersecurity and have a strong security record.

Next, restrict third parties’ access privileges. Each party should have access to the data and systems they need to do their job and nothing more. This ensures that if they do suffer a breach, it can’t affect you as heavily.

2. Teach Employees Best Practices

It’s also crucial to ensure all employees understand how to use your systems responsibly. No matter how strong your other defenses are, it only takes one breached password or click on a malicious link to break past them. Making cybersecurity best practices part of all workers’ training will help minimize these risks.

Some of the most important points to cover are password management and how to spot phishing attempts. Employees should use strong, varied passwords and know the signs of social engineering, like unusual urgency and suspicious links.

On top of including these points during onboarding, you should hold regular refresher sessions to keep these steps top of mind. It’s also a good idea to restrict employees’ privileges like you should with third parties. This minimizes how much damage an internal breach can do.

3. Secure IoT Devices

Internet of Things (IoT) security also deserves attention. Tools like electronic data interchange (EDI) devices help avoid errors by automating data entry and improving transparency, but they carry unique cybersecurity needs. Without proper protection, they could provide more entry points for hackers to access sensitive information.

The first step in securing IoT devices is to segment their networks. Run connected items on different networks according to their use and the data they need. Keeping them separate will ensure cybercriminals can’t access all your systems and information from one device.

Next, put strong passwords on all IoT devices, changing them from defaults. Turn on encryption for data transmission, which typically isn’t on by default. It’s also important to update IoT items regularly to fix known vulnerabilities hackers might use.

4. Have Backups and a Response Plan

You should have an emergency response plan, regardless of what other steps you take. As many as 94% of organizations in 2021 suffered a data breach. These incidents are far too common and likely to assume you’ll never experience one, so you need a backup plan.

One of the most important parts of preparedness is creating backups. You should have copies of all mission-critical data and programs, ideally in online and offline forms. Remember to encrypt and restrict access to these backups to protect them from a breach.

You should also have a detailed plan about recovering after a breach. That includes communication channels, protocols for locking down network segments and every key player’s responsibilities. Put this plan in writing and rehearse it regularly so everyone knows what to do.

5. Penetration Test Regularly

Remember that cybersecurity is a complex and continually evolving field. New attack methods and steps to prevent them emerge all the time, and it’s hard to get a complete picture of your vulnerabilities. Regular penetration testing will help you address these concerns.

Pen testing involves a security expert attempting to break into your network through multiple means to reveal your weaknesses. This helps because it highlights vulnerabilities you may not have known about, including new cybercrime trends. You can then take steps to protect those areas before a cybercriminal takes advantage of them.

About 85% of cybersecurity professionals pen test at least annually, so performing yearly tests is a safe bet. You may want to do it twice a year if you think your supply chain is particularly vulnerable.

Supply Chain Security Is Challenging but Possible

Supply chains are the backbone of many industries. It’s crucial to ensure they’re safe, given their importance and fragility.

These five steps can help you ensure your supply chain remains safe from cyberattacks. Use these measures as a starting point, tailor them to your specific situation and keep an eye on emerging trends to stay on top of security.

Zachary Amos

Zachary is a tech writer and the features editor of ReHack Magazine where he covers cybersecurity and all things technology.