Top 3 Ways Hackers Get Into Your Supplier's Network to Launch a Supply Chain Attack

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Supply chain attacks have become one of the biggest threats to organizations this year. With a four-fold increase in attacks in 2021, organizations can ill afford to take security risks, especially when the impact is the downtime of systems, monetary loss and reputational damage.

Take the Danish integrated shipping company Maersk as an example of the devastating impact of a supply chain attack. Back in 2017, it lost between US$200m to US$300m in revenue and much more in recovery costs after a supplier clicked on a phishing email that infected Maersk’s entire network, including almost 50,000 endpoints and thousands of applications and servers across 600 sites in 130 countries. Then in December last year, more than 300 SPAR convenience stores across the UK either had to close or resort to cash-only payments after a cyber-attack knocked their point of sale devices offline.

So, to help organizations safeguard themselves from supply chain attacks, here are the top three ways hackers get into your supplier’s network, with recommendations on how to prevent it and keep yourself safe.

1) Launching Phishing Attacks

91% of all cyber-attacks start with a phishing email, and experts predict another six billion phishing attacks will occur this year. Unfortunately, employees, especially from smaller, less security-aware suppliers, are still falling for the same old tricks. Hackers dupe them into opening a malicious attachment or clicking on a malicious website and inputting their login details. This gives them a point of entry to their network. Still, if that supplier also has direct access to your sensitive data such as financial, operations or HR, hackers could either steal it or launch a ransomware attack on you.

What You Can Do

Work with a vendor risk management company to check the risk level of your suppliers, then ensure high-risk ones who have access to your sensitive data implement training among their employees to enable them to detect phishing emails. They can also deploy solutions that scan for malicious email content and flag suspicious emails to prevent employees from accidentally clicking on them.

2) Exploiting Misconfigured Cloud Apps

Research by Checkpoint shows that misconfiguration of cloud technology has been the highest-ranked cloud threat now for several years. These misconfigurations typically occur when a user, administrator or team fails to implement the correct security settings in a cloud application, allowing hackers to enter your supplier’s network and from there, gain access to the wider supply chain. Unfortunately, while most organizations quickly pivoted to remote working during the pandemic, transitions to the cloud were done quickly and often without following the required security or change management processes. This resulted in a lot of misconfigured cloud apps going undetected, giving hackers lots of scope for easy access.

What You Can Do

Ensure your high-risk suppliers run a cybersecurity audit to identify any misconfigured cloud apps, then make the necessary amendments to improve their overall security posture.

3) Taking Advantage of Negligent Employees

Negligent employees who don’t follow security rules are one of the biggest threats to an organization’s security. Common mistakes include using the same basic passwords for multiple online accounts and not activating two-factor authentication for logins. However, one of the biggest risks is still remote working in public places using an unsecured wifi connection. By exploiting an insecure wifi connection, hackers (or anyone nowadays) can hack into a laptop or mobile device, read emails, steal passwords and hijack website logins. But once they’ve accessed your suppliers’ network, the whole supply chain is at risk.

What You Can Do

Ensure your high-risk suppliers train their employees in security awareness and make sure they always follow cybersecurity policies and best practices. This includes spelling out the potential consequences of misuse.

Assessing Your Suppliers

It’s clear employees still pose the biggest security risk to organizations. Despite hackers getting smarter and more sophisticated, their route into your supply chain often relies on exploiting basic human error. Because all it takes is a new employee at your accounting firm to unwittingly click on a phishing email or work in a public place without secure browsing, your organization could be crippled from a ransomware attack. So, instead of taking risks, assess which suppliers have access to your sensitive data, identify their risk level and then ask them to perform some remediation actions to improve their security posture. Only then will you be able to safeguard your organization from the terrifying risk of supply chain attacks. 

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