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What You Need to Know About Supply Chain Attacks
Security Best Practices & Advice

What You Need to Know About Supply Chain Attacks

By Aviva Spotts Jan 14, 20213 min read

As the world was finally counting down to a new and brighter 2021, the attack on SolarWinds,  one of the most significant supply chain attacks in recent history, closed an already challenging year with a thunderous bang.  

This supply chain attack was quite extensive, affecting more than 250 federal agencies and businesses and setting off alarms about the vulnerability of federal and private institutions in the US and around the globe. 

Here’s what you should know about supply chain attacks, along with practical steps to ensure that your business could weather such a storm in this highly volatile climate.

Supply chain attacks are nothing new

While the SolarWinds attack has brought supply chain attacks front and center, such attacks are actually more common than you might think. In fact, two-thirds of breaches are a result of a supplier or third-party vulnerabilities.  Who can forget when Target was the victim of a supply chain attack back in 2013 when its security measures were breached as a result of a third party’s compromised security credentials? 

Since then, other noteworthy attacks include M.E.Doc in the Ukraine, which was infected with the NotPetya virus and subsequently downloaded by subscribers. In addition, British Airways was the victim of a 2018 attack in which hundreds of thousands of customers’ credit card data was compromised. These are just a couple of the well-known attacks.

Cybercriminals look for the weakest link

An organization’s cybersecurity controls are only as strong as that of the weakest body on the supply chain. Cybercriminals frequently target key suppliers or vendors of a company in lieu of the target company itself. The reason is simple; a small business providing a product or service to larger enterprises is often more vulnerable than the primary target. So it’s easier for the cybercriminal to infiltrate the target organization’s systems and data via third-party vendors, who have less security roadblocks than the larger organizations they service. 

As enterprises’ dependency on third parties continues to increase, so have the risks associated with a supply chain attack. When working with more third parties, the perimeter that was once just your data center expands to include all of your third parties who have access to your data. As a result, your attack surface expands as well. And with supplier numbers in the hundreds, if not thousands, organizations likely have a limited overview of their supply chains. 

Clearly, the supply chain’s vulnerability is the organization’s weakest link. Nothing drives home that point more than the harsh reminder of the SolarWinds attack, and no organization is immune.

Cybercriminals aim to hack at scale

Like in any other business, cybercriminals are looking to scale their business. Their goal is to attain as much ROI as possible, while putting forth the least amount of effort. So when a hacker creates an operation that successfully attacks a single supplier that supports tens, if not hundreds of larger organizations, the cybercriminal has gained a foothold into many other organizations simultaneously. What’s more, these illegal operations can be scaled up using automation, allowing many organizations to be compromised at the same time. 

When undetected, supply chain attacks can go on for months or even years. This was the case with the cyberattack on the chain of Marriott hotels that began in 2014 and was only detected in 2018. Once cybercriminals have a foothold within a supply chain, they can continue to quietly do damage.

You can protect yourself and respond to a breach

We can all agree that trying to predict a massive security breach is impossible. You need to have a game plan in place to protect your assets in the event that your organization is the victim of supply chain attack. 

The best way to do this is to be proactive by properly managing your vendor security. Here’s how:

  1. Perform risk assessments periodically to find out where your company is vulnerable so you can fix those problem areas quickly.
  2. Ensure that every vendor you do business with meets or exceeds your company’s security standards. 

How Panorays Can Help

Risk assessments can be cumbersome and time-consuming, especially with multiple vendors. The Panorays platform allows you to manage and mitigate supplier risk and implement security policies with the click of a button. Panorays also continuously monitors and evaluates your suppliers, sending you live alerts about any security changes or breaches to your third parties.

Want to learn more about how your organization can achieve cyber resilience? Contact Panorays today.

Aviva Spotts

Aviva Spotts is Content Writer at Panorays. She loves all things cyber–especially when she gets to write about it–and is famous for talking about herself in the third-person.

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