A distrustful digital supply chain is one that stays safe

Businesses across the world have been swept up in the rush and challenges of digital transformation and the benefits that it brings. Amidst all this progress, companies still need to remain vigilant towards the cyberthreats that it might be vulnerable to.

With increased complexity in global supply chains, connectivity has become crucial because it maintains and monitors key supply networks anytime, anywhere. Even tech giants like Apple have faced severe supply constraints!

Supply chains have become a major target for hackers as a way to compromise enterprise networks. They do this by attacking connected applications used by a company’s external partners. Gartner predicts that by 2025, 45% of organisations worldwide will have experienced cyberattacks on their software supply chains, a threefold increase from 2021.

But what is a software or digital supply chain in the first place?

Let’s break that down: A supply chain is a network of stakeholders involved in creating a product or service, and delivering it to the customer. When a supply chain builds its foundation on web-enabled capabilities, such as completing tasks through efficient automated processes, it becomes digital. Digital supply chains offer increased visibility into supplier performance and customer needs, enabling new ways of sharing information and assets within the network. This helps companies to collect, analyse, integrate, and interpret high-quality, up-to-date data.

Risks in using digital supply chains

While this interconnectivity brings about better insights and connects businesses and its stakeholders, it also draws the attention of bad actors. Organisations often employ various providers for different aspects of workflow, such as instant messaging platforms, shared calendars, online whiteboards, and with numerous components involved in a digital supply chain, the risk of cyberattacks increases. This could compromise the digital supply chain, and may create a knock-on effect on the organisation’s finances and reputation.

Some common vulnerabilities that digital supply chains face are unauthorised software, excessive user privileges, fourth-party risk, and insider threats. These have one thing in common: pathways for unauthorised access to sensitive information, which can result in supply chain disruptions, data breaches, IP theft, and other forms of privilege abuse.

Being connected to a plethora of networks creates many entry points and exposes the supply chain to increased vulnerabilities. As threat actors become increasingly sophisticated, digital supply chains become prime targets for them to access networks of organisations. Gartner has found that over a third of successful cyberattacks are carried out through employees who unintentionally provide sensitive information via unsanctioned productivity tools.

Reinforcing digital links against cyberthreats

Zero trust is a security model that businesses can adopt to ensure each link in their supply chain is well protected. It assumes every action in the network is potentially malicious and grants access on a case-by-case basis. In the zero-trust model, the network never assumes a user is trustworthy because they have gotten past a security checkpoint, such as the login page.

With zero trust, any user attempting to access data within the network will be required to re-identify themselves. In this case, even if entry points or identity credentials were compromised, hackers will not have free access across the digital supply chain network, limiting the repercussions of a data breach.

Beyond zero trust, businesses can also employ automated tools and ensure that they conduct periodic software updates. IT departments are also encouraged to regularly check for unauthorised software, identify threats through frequent vulnerability scanning, and draw up a cybersecurity plan to shorten their response time.

Organisations must also be clear about their security policies in place, and ensure that their partners in the network strictly adhere to it. At the most basic level, organisations need to foster a culture of cybersecurity awareness from the get-go to minimise the risk of human error in cyber breaches. By creating an open conversation about security priorities within the organisation and investing in cybersecurity training for all employees, companies can help promote a robust culture of cyber safety.

Digital transformation can create better efficiencies and convenience for businesses. However, companies should remain cautious when embarking on this journey and ensure sufficient safeguards are in place to protect themselves from malicious activity in the new virtual world.