In December 2020, a nation-state attack on the SolarWinds network management system compromised the supply chains of over 18,000 organizations, including the Pentagon and the Department of Homeland Security. With costs likely to run into the billions, this breach was one of the biggest incidents in recent years — but it won’t be the last. As the world shifts toward digital messaging and services, the value of digital assets soars. Tech and hacking skills continue to advance, enabling stronger attacks in a time when data security, personal privacy and supply chain security are paramount.

Businesses must do everything in their power to keep supply chains running smoothly, or they risk losing sensitive consumer data, positive customer feedback or their brand’s good name.

This article will explore five of the biggest supply chain security threats. Then, we’ll look at the best practices to adopt to safeguard against these problems.

5 Global Supply Chain Security Concerns in 2021

Faced with the new world of remote systems and greater reliance on cloud computing, companies must think carefully about their business processes. Remote systems impact many core aspects of their existing supply chain security management, including:

  • Data protection

  • Data locality

  • Fraud prevention

  • Data governance

  • Third-party risk.

Data Protection for Supply Chain Security

It can be hard to do two things at once. You need to keep your data connected because you need data workflows to run a successful business. At the same time, protecting your data from breaches and attacks is an ongoing challenge.

Data protection is vital in finance and health care, and it’s under increasing threat in the growing e-commerce industry due to the rapid growth in the past year. Global e-commerce sales will reach $4.5 trillion this year and top $969 billion in the U.S. alone by 2023. With so much on the line, attackers and bad actors have plenty of incentive to launch attacks.

Local Rules for Data

Supply chain workers must collect and store data at all tiers of the supply chain to protect the data and use it to make informed decisions.

Of course, data laws and industry standards vary by country and region. Some companies will risk trade secrets and the personal privacy of their consumers and suppliers by exchanging data as required by government laws.

Data Governance

More companies today adopt remote work and encourage their employees to talk via project management software and mobile apps. So, the surface area the business must oversee becomes larger. Companies must use best practices for handling threats and enforce new standards on how their employees and suppliers access and share data.

At the same time, the Internet of things (IoT) is growing. How that data is secured and managed could have a major effect on people.

Fraud Prevention

As the number of data touchpoints increases in a supply chain, the need for better defense increases too. Each node is a potential gateway for attacks or losing data by mistake.

Fraudulent emails and social engineering cases soared during 2020, with KPMG reporting two cases of supplier remittance fraud that used voicemail and email.

In one case, a spoof voicemail, enabled by DeepFake AI, resulted in a loss of millions of dollars. In another event, fraudsters grabbed an email carrying an invoice and altered the bank account details, robbing hundreds of thousands of dollars from the company.

Third-Party Risk

Everyday products like computers, mobile phones and cars are growing more complex. They may require four or more supplier tiers to reach the finished product.

Although better products are good for the market, working with external partners also increases the risk to the supply chain. With 60% of supply chain workers surveyed not watching third parties for ongoing risks, engaging with unknown people increases their risk exposure.

6 Best Practices to Tackle Supply Chain Security Threats

How do you combat these concerns? Let’s consider six measures you can use.

Supply Chain Security Strategy Assessments

The first step to addressing supply chain security issues is to take a look at the strategy you’re already using.

When judging your supply chain security, consider these factors:

  • Industry standards and government rules

  • Your business’s security risk qualification

  • Current and future programs

  • The quality of your education and training.

In the end, regular assessments are crucial to help you improve how your group manages problems.

Vulnerability Mitigation and Penetration Testing

You can catch low-level security vulnerabilities early through penetration testing and scans. Also, you can use the outcome of your tests to fix issues, such as:

  • Repairing vulnerable database configurations

  • Updating poor password policies

  • Securing networks and endpoints.

These quick wins will reduce your risk exposure without making your work less productive or adding downtime. After taking care of the basics, hire pen testing experts to help you spot advanced threats in your supply chain security systems.

Digital Change for Supply Chain Security

Switching from legacy processes and tech like fax, phone and email is a gradual transition — but a vital one. By moving to modern systems, your company sets up secure data movement within your group and with external trading partners, suppliers and customers.

Bringing software and processes up to date gives you access to data security mechanisms, like:

  • Encryption

  • Tokenization

  • File access monitors and alerts

  • Data loss prevention.

With the whole company focused on digital growth, you can train teams on fraud prevention and increase cybersecurity risk assessment and awareness across your network.

Data Identification and Encryption

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) advises companies to develop defenses based on the belief that a breach is bound to happen. Therefore, it’s essential to cover all types of data you store or transmit. You can use discovery tools to find and classify files containing proprietary records, financial data or sensitive customer information. With this holistic overview of all your data, you should apply modern encryption policies to protect valuable assets.

As businesses continue to rely more on online transactions, you can bolster supply chain security with advanced controls like digital signatures, session breaks and multifactor authentication.

Third-Party Risk Management

More and more companies in the supply chain work together to store, transmit and use data. This calls for expanded risk management, including end-to-end protection.

Effective third-party risk management starts with risk assessment shared between stakeholders. You must break down silos between your technical and business teams and bring in your vendors and partners. By coming together, you can secure the most critical assets in the supply chain. Next, you can pinpoint potential operational damage. This might result from poor data monitoring, compliance violations or a publicized data breach.

Incident Response Planning

Set up incident response plans to fully prepare for the worst. With a strategy in place, you can orchestrate a response when attacks, shutdowns or disruptions happen. It will also help avoid or minimize customer churn, data loss and reputation damage.

By gathering intelligence and planning for disruptions, you equip your team and partners with the information they need to prevent those events in the first place.

Teamwork Is Vital for Stronger Supply Chain Security

As compliance regulations and political upheavals like Brexit and the U.S.-China trade war rumble on, cyber criminals have advanced tools at their disposal. Both factors combining mean digital assets are worth more than ever before.

Supply chain security requires a multifaceted team effort that starts with you and extends to include your entire network of partners and vendors. Only by checking every touchpoint, process and party involved can your company protect your infrastructure and data well.

Focus on an inclusive, engaging approach to nurture a culture of cybersecurity awareness in your employees. In doing so, you can get buy-in from all levels in the company and build the foundation that keeps your supply chain safe.

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