It’s easy to sound paranoid when talking about cyber security. Threats actually are everywhere. In your local coffee shop. Lurking on the first page of your favorite search engine. In your email inbox. One small mistake can bring business empires to their knees. It happened to Marriot. It happened to Yahoo. It happened to the Irish healthcare system.
It can happen to anyone.
Supply chains happen to be a particularly appealing target to cyber criminals because they have many points of access, and they serve an important role. A cyber criminal interested in creating fear or instability can do so easily by preventing supply chains from putting products on shelves.
In this article, we talk about how vulnerable supply chains are to hacking. We also look at a few ways they can reduce these vulnerabilities.
The Short Answer:
How vulnerable are supply chains to hacking? Very.
There are several reasons for this. The main one is that supply chains consist of many small parts. The links in the supply chain are, in actuality, just people and businesses, each one of which is just as vulnerable to cyber crime as the rest of us.
When one link in the supply chain is disrupted, the problem can spread quickly. Cyber criminals can access entire systems just by getting into the computer of one person. The more people there are, the more vulnerable a network will be if it hasn’t taken appropriate measures to protect itself.
That’s precisely why companies like Yahoo, and Marriott have experienced major breaches, despite their incredible resources.
Supply chains are also naturally enticing targets for cyber criminals — particularly cyber terrorists.
One of the first high-profile incidents of this occurring happened to Target in 2013. Cyber criminals managed to access Target’s network, access sensitive data, and then remove it from their system.
This “kill chain” procedure harmed Target’s operations and resulted in millions of people having their personal and financial information compromised while also disrupting the mega-chains ability to serve thousands of communities.
How, you might ask, could a store as large as Target be so sloppy as to have its system compromised in such a significant way?
They used the wrong HVAC company.
That’s right. The mega retail chain contracted an HVAC company to do work in some of their stores. That company required access to its network. Unfortunately, their cyber security was very lax. Cyber criminals accessed their network and were able to piggyback into Target’s.
Supply chains are vulnerable in exactly this same way. With dozens, sometimes hundreds of links making up a single chain, there are many points of entry for criminals. With all this risk, what can supply chains do to minimize the threat?
Reduce Third-Party Vulnerability
In addition to the people working directly with the chain, each supply network will have thousands of thirty-party vulnerabilities — individuals and corporations not directly working for the supply chain, but working with it in a way that allows them access to its computer network.
Unfortunately, supply chains are only as strong as their weakest link. Any one of these third parties could potentially lead to a breach.
There are, of course, limitations to what can be done about this problem. Supply chain managers can mitigate the problem by standardizing their cyber security expectations, even among third-party vendors.
By requiring anyone to access the supply chain network to understand and follow best cyber security practices, it is possible to at least reduce the chances of experiencing a compromise.
It’s also important for anyone involved in the supply chain to be regularly trained on best cybersecurity practices. These lessons can be tedious and boring, but they are important. A significant number of breaches happen because of human error. Someone opens the wrong email, or logs onto a dicey wifi hotspot, and that’s all it takes to give cyber-criminals an in.
Train everyone to understand the gravity of best cyber security practices, and make sure they understand everything that is expected of them.
Regularly Audit and Update Security
It’s also important to keep in mind that cyber threats are constantly evolving. A cyber security network that was top of the line three years ago probably won’t stand up to some of today’s more significant threats.
If you want to make sure that your network is doing what it’s supposed to, consider the services of a cyber security analyst.
These professionals will examine your system for weak points — places a cyber criminal could use to gain access. They might patch small vulnerabilities, update firewalls, and provide general recommendations for how you can further fortify your network.
These services can be expensive, but they will ultimately be significantly less costly than a breach.