4 Practices for Cyber Supply Chain Risk Management (C-SCRM)

Frankie Wallace

The global supply chain is a powerful part of the economy that connects countless businesses and customers worldwide. As supply chains gain more power, cybercriminals are increasingly targeting them to escalate the impact of their attacks. This has made Cyber Supply Chain Risk Management (C-SCRM) an incredibly valuable practice in today’s economy.

So, what is C-SCRM and why does it matter for supply chains more than ever? Here’s what you need to know about C-SCRM practices and the attacks they can help you prevent.

What Is Cyber Supply Chain Risk Management?

Cyber Supply Chain Risk Management (C-SCRM) is the ongoing process of securing your supply chain, specifically as it relates to Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) and Operational Technology (OT) systems. It involves identifying, evaluating, and decreasing the risks associated with both hardware and software.

Why Supply Chains are Targeted

Every part of the supply chain is deeply interconnected. Suppliers, vendors, retailers, and all other members and all other entities are dependent on each other’s timeliness, accuracy, and cybersecurity strength. Attacking one weak link is an easy way to disrupt a massive amount of businesses at once.

In addition to having a massive potential impact, cyber supply chain attacks have historically been difficult to predict and combat. Customers may be impacted by suppliers that they’re far removed from, and vetting software and hardware has proven difficult for many firms.

How Cyber Supply Chain Threats Have Evolved

Supply chain cyber-attacks are by no means new; however, they’ve certainly become more advanced over the years. While educating employees about cybersecurity basics once sufficed, companies increasingly need to take more proactive and high-tech measures to prevent devastating cybercrimes.

In recent years, the global supply chain has been impacted by skilled ransomware groups, like REvil — the hackers behind the breach of JBS, the world’s largest beef supplier — and Nobelium, which was behind the Solarwinds hack. Supply chain cyber-attacks now cost an average of $1.4 million, with many involving ransomware, Point-of-Sale (POS) system breaches, and loss of devices used for work. 

Supply chain breaches are also becoming powerful political weapons, which means governments may be investing in their advancement. For example, the most devastating breach ever — the Notpetya attack that would cost $10 billion globally — originated from Russia due to its ongoing conflicts with Ukraine. The rising intensity of cyber-attacks has inspired a White House executive order to protect supply chains.

However, supply chain leaders shouldn’t expect attacks to slow down with government intervention. As hacks become more sophisticated, businesses need to get proactive about C-SCRM, rather than relying on government support. C-SCRM isn’t just a temporary cybersecurity trend, but rather a solution for much-needed compliance across supply chains.

Securing your company’s proprietary technology is no longer enough to mitigate cyber supply chain risks. While you may have strong antivirus software, highly secure architecture, and honeytokens that function as tripwires to help you spot threats, the firms you’re working with may not. Here are four C-SCRM practices that you can implement to further protect your ICT and OT systems.

Get to Know Your Suppliers

With trust in suppliers being the culprit of 62% of supply chain attacks, it’s clear that it’s becoming more and more dangerous to have low visibility into suppliers’ development processes. Intensive vetting processes are more important than ever. Before you consider working with a supplier or vendor, prepare a sizable list of questions about their cybersecurity practices.

Make sure your potential supplier’s answers are detailed, rather than vague. Your IT or cybersecurity team should assist in validating third-party code and confirming whether or not their framework is up to par with your company’s expectations.

Create Security Requirements for Vendors

Your high expectations for suppliers’ and vendors’ cybersecurity processes shouldn’t end in the vetting process. Having your standards defined within contracts and other legally binding documents is key to maximizing your protection. 

Additionally, consider hiring staff members who are dedicated to monitoring cybersecurity compliance within and outside of your organization. Risk mitigation is only possible when you have strong processes in place to identify weaknesses before they become issues.

Develop Protocols for Cyber Threats

Completely avoiding risks and threats often isn’t possible, especially for large enterprises as the number and scale of attacks increase exponentially around the world. When you spot a potential or active vulnerability, it’s important to have protocols in place to address it. Suppliers should be included in your improvement efforts.

Of course, if vulnerabilities are spotted within the vetting process, suppliers and vendors should be eliminated from consideration. Collaboration should only occur with suppliers with whom you’ve established a relationship and have proven to be trustworthy, otherwise working with them is likely not worth the risk.

Implement AI and Machine Learning

Though it may seem counterintuitive, implementing more advanced technology can be beneficial in your C-SCRM efforts. Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) are versatile tools that can improve endpoint security by allowing for stronger self-healing endpoint protection throughout the supply chain. They can also help you uncover threats that human error can cause your employees to miss.

Plus, with the implementation of AI and ML, you can increase efficiency and invest in the upskilling of your employees — including your cybersecurity team. This will allow your skilled professionals to level up as quickly as or faster than hackers are advancing.

Protect Your Supply Chain

Cyber Supply Chain Risk Management is growing more invaluable every year. As attacks to supply chains rise, largely due to their drastic impact and unpredictability, supply chain leaders must proactively work to combat threats to ICT and OT systems. In addition to securing in-house hardware and software, businesses must implement intensive vetting processes for suppliers, as blind trust is a common cause of costly breaches. Supply chain leaders must also create strict requirements for vendors and protocols for cyber threats — and frequently monitor for compliance from all parties.

Follow these recommended C-SCRM practices to secure the integrity of your business, as well as protect the entire supply chain.

Frankie Wallace

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