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  April 9th, 2024 | Written by

Supply Chain Professionals Are at Risk of Spear Phishing: Here’s How to Address It

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Supply chain professionals hold plenty of sensitive information about businesses and their beneficiaries. Guarding this data has become more challenging as hackers refine their methods of attacking individuals and organizations. 

While cyberattacks like spear phishing have become more well-developed, security solutions have also scaled up and improved. Employ the right programs and methods to keep the supply chain safe and businesses moving in the right direction.

Read also: The Rising Risk of Cyber Crime in the Supply Chain

How Spear Phishing Happens

Spear phishing occurs in various communication settings, including emails, phone calls and chat-based platforms. Many people know phishing is a cyberattack targeting multiple individuals and companies. Spear phishing involves posing as a reliable authority to extort data through links and manipulation. It’s more effective because these cyberattacks are targeted.

Phishing attacks feature a general script copied and pasted to various individuals. People who use spear phishing seek information about their victims. For example, a spear phishing message will open with a line about what the recipient and the perpetrator have in common. 

Some people may use AI to remove grammatical mistakes and create hyper-realistic messages. They can adapt and impersonate the voice of a colleague or leader in phone calls to lure victims into sharing important information.

The extra time that goes toward identifying viable targets and conducting preliminary research can make spear phishing much more likely to succeed. Social engineering makes it harder to differentiate a real message from a spear phishing one.

The Impact of Spear Phishing

Big companies fall for phishing scams all the time. General Electric released news about a data breach in February 2020 involving Canon. While processing documents involving benefit entitlements, the company discovered that a hacker accessed a Canon email account to tap into employee information.

Spear phishing can trigger a lack of trust between partners in the supply chain. For instance, when people notice that the fleets shipping their goods compromise their data, it can raise uncertainty and doubt about continuing to order or do business with them. 

The results can also have a devastating effect on a company’s finances. About 39% of organizations affected by spear phishing attacks cite direct instances of monetary loss, like transferring cash. Reputational and financial damage can cause closure or bankruptcy. Such an imbalance can cause supply chain problems and eventually affect the economy.

Addressing Spear Phishing

Spear phishing is a viable threat. However, it is preventable to a certain degree with the correct methods. 

1. Provide Employee Training

Employees in a supply chain are viable targets for spear phishers. They can access sensitive information like names, addresses, certificates, tax forms and Social Security numbers. Educate them about the dangers of spear phishing and to be more discerning with their communications. 

A spear-phishing attack can be incredibly convincing, especially since the sender pretends to be someone close to the recipient. After gaining trust, the perpetrator will send a request, such as opening an attachment or providing login credentials. Promote confidentiality and suggest reporting the incident so IT can verify it. Discourage taking telephone calls from unknown numbers.

Promoting a low profile on social media platforms is also important. Spear phishing experts will likely sweep public accounts to review targets and their backgrounds. Ask employees to limit posting personal information. They should avoid posting company news or mentioning their employer to deter cyberattackers.

2. Verify Organizations

Working with a new supplier or vendor can be exciting. However, be wary of their background and whether they have ties to cybercrimes. Spear phishing can make companies out of thin air or impersonate legitimate ones.

Verify third-party legitimacy before conducting business. It’s best to hold in-person meetings with an established authority rather than relying on digital communications. 

3. Secure Vehicles

Some logistics businesses look to self-driving trucks because of labor shortages. The trucking industry saw a deficit of 80,000 drivers in late 2021. Autonomous vehicles provide a big advantage in meeting demand and regulating fuel use. However, these preprogrammed systems are susceptible to hacking when cyberattackers gain access.

Some people may use spear phishing to pose as a maintenance specialist or another authority figure to gain access to the self-driving system. Restrict access to these assets. Be vigilant when receiving messages.

4. Conduct Inventory Reviews

Inventory is another vulnerable aspect of the supply chain. Stored products can hold incredible value in quality and quantity. Technological devices also have access to sensitive data, so limits should be placed on who can use them.

It’s also imperative to conduct inventory reviews. Regularly update who has accessed what and which devices are on a company’s network. Audit logs of suspicious activity can uncover a spear phishing attack or another cybercrime. 

5. Improve Order Monitoring

Professionals responsible for order management should look for ways to optimize the processes. Some people coordinate through email to manage things— about 82% of companies saw a higher volume in 2022. However, this entails a higher risk of email-based threats like spear phishing.

Use machine learning-powered email security solutions to filter spear phishing messages from an inbox. Seek unique and protected order monitoring platforms. The ideal system can simplify operations and fulfillment while securing vendor and patron information. 

6. Update Company Security

Company cybersecurity should never be overlooked. Adopt the right policies, such as keeping financial information and passwords secure. Passwords should be changed regularly to avoid data leaks that will compromise the supply chain.

Make sure to verify all email recipients and senders. Use a work email address to make internal communications safer in the long run. For external communications, seek tech specialists who can vet profiles.

It’s also ideal to install up-to-date security software on all work devices. Systems like firewalls and antivirus software can detect spear phishing emails and alert employees. Early identification is key to preventing anything drastic from happening.

7. Create a Contingency Plan

Spear phishing can be incredibly elusive and slip through security. That’s why it’s vital to have a contingency plan. The right processes can offer significant damage control and recovery in the wake of a cyberattack. 

If data is compromised, file a cyber insurance claim to cover the damages. It’s also essential to back up data and change all passwords. Restrict access to prevent more information from leaking. Ensure they’re more secure than previous variations.

Seek assistance from the IT team in charge. These specialists can scan and remove malware and other threats from the system. They can also trace the exact date and time the infiltration happened. Companies should also file a report with the Internet Crime Complaint Center. An investigation can prevent criminals from spear-phishing other businesses and bring them to justice.

The Securities and Exchange Commission also requires public companies to disclose cybersecurity breaches and risk management processes. Details should include the nature of the incident and its material impacts and be submitted within four business days.

Shield Supply Chains From Spear Phishing

Supply chains are vulnerable to spear phishing. Companies should be aware of how it happens and stay on high alert at each step of operations. Effective security is vital to ensuring commerce continues without a hitch and nothing interrupts the process.