Disruptions in the supply chain can ripple throughout entire industries. As the world becomes more interconnected, these threats become increasingly worrisome, with widespread issues throughout the COVID-19 pandemic highlighting their severity.
Supply chain attacks rose by 42% in Q1 2021 in the U.S. alone, impacting 7 million people. In light of these rising threats, supply chain security is more important than ever. Here are seven pointers for improving safety.
1. Restrict Access Privileges
One of the primary drivers behind rising supply chain attacks is these networks’ wealth of valuable data. Logistics organizations have gone digital and now generate and store vast amounts of information that cybercriminals can steal or hold for ransom. Restricting access privileges can help mitigate these threats.
The more people have access to a system or database, the more potential entry points there are for cybercriminals. Supply chains can eliminate these vulnerabilities by restricting who can see or interact with which systems. A good practice to follow is the least privilege principle: Only those who absolutely need given data to perform their duties can access it.
Tighter access privileges should pair with thorough authentication measures. Users must verify their identity through multifactor authentication (MFA) before accessing anything they’re authorized to.
2. Verify Third Parties’ Security
Third-party actors are another common vulnerability among supply chains. As an example of how pressing this issue is, the now-infamous SolarWinds hack, the biggest cyberattack of 2020, came from a third party. Hackers gained access to thousands of businesses and agencies by infiltrating SolarWinds, a third-party service they all used.
Supply chains must verify the security of any third party before doing business with them. That can mean asking for proof of security measures, only partnering with certified organizations or auditing third parties’ security through independent specialists.
Organizations should also apply the principle of least privilege here. Third parties should only have access to the systems and data they need and nothing more. That way, a breach on their end will cause minimal damage.
3. Secure All IoT Devices
Many have unknowingly created new vulnerabilities as supply chains have embraced new technologies. The widespread use of Internet of Things (IoT) devices to track inventories and shipments can put supply chains at risk. While these gadgets are extraordinarily helpful, they’re notoriously risky if companies don’t secure them properly.
A seemingly innocuous IoT device can act as a gateway to more sensitive systems and data on the same network. Thankfully, the steps to mitigate this threat are relatively straightforward. First, supply chains should host IoT devices on separate networks from other systems so hackers can’t access more sensitive data through them.
Next, supply chains must encrypt all IoT communications to secure their data transmissions. Encryption is often disabled by default, so this step is easy to overlook. Enabling automatic updates will help keep these devices secure, too.
4. Equip Workers Appropriately
While cyber threats may be the most pressing aspect of supply chain security, organizations shouldn’t neglect physical security, either. Piracy, physical theft and similar crimes are still relevant dangers. Supply chains can protect against these by hiring security staff and equipping them appropriately.
New padding technologies can consist of 0.01% solid material but still provide sufficient protection. Equipment like that will help security workers stay safe while not restricting their comfort or range of motion. Other tools like metal detectors, flashlights and ID scanners can further provide these employees with the utmost protection.
Equipping drivers and other supply chain workers with emergency resources is crucial, too. Radios, medical kits, rations and similar supplies should be standard in trucks, ships and other vehicles.
5. Improve Supply Chain Transparency
Supply chains can improve physical and digital security by increasing transparency. The more an organization can see about its operations, the faster it can respond to any incoming threats.
IoT security systems can let workers monitor cameras from their phones, giving quick access to security information. Similarly, organizations can employ smart sensors to monitor for break-ins, fires, leaks and other threats to alert employees when a situation arises. When companies learn of these risks faster, they can respond more effectively.
Similarly, network monitoring tools can give IT teams insight into potential data breaches. Artificial intelligence (AI) systems can continuously monitor for suspicious activity, alerting workers when there’s a possible cybercrime attempt.
6. Train Employees in Security Best Practices
No matter what other security steps an organization takes, employees must be taught about them. All it takes is one misstep from a worker to jeopardize a supply chain’s security, regardless of how strong its other defenses are. For this reason, as many as 85% of data breaches result from human error.
Every employee should receive security training covering relevant risks, best practices and emergency procedures. It’s important to stress why these methods are important so workers understand the gravity of their actions in some situations.
In addition to initial security training sessions, supply chain organizations should host regular refresher training. That way, proper procedures will remain fresh in employees’ minds, preventing mistakes related to them forgetting best practices.
7. Create an Incident Response Plan
Supply chains must understand that no defense system is perfect. Disruptions in this industry are too risky, and it’s likely they will someday experience an emergency. They should create a formal incident response plan to enable quick, effective action should an unexpected event occur.
More than half of all companies have experienced downtime that’s lasted eight hours or more in the past five years. Supply chains can prevent this through a disaster recovery plan. What this looks like will vary among organizations, but it should include backup resources, communication strategies, specific protocols for each department and contingency plans.
Supply chains don’t need to prepare for every emergency but should determine which events are the most likely or potentially destructive. These incidents deserve formal, detailed response plans, which all employees should know. To ensure ongoing efficacy, organizations should periodically review and update these plans.
Supply Chain Security Is Essential
If a supply chain experiences a security breach, it could affect far more than the logistics company itself. That risk, coupled with the rising trend of supply chain attacks, makes these security steps essential.
These seven points are not a comprehensive list of security procedures but cover the most important factors. Supply chain organizations should ensure they consider these steps and take further action if necessary.