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What are Supply Chain Attacks and How Can You Protect Against Them?

By Published On: May 27th, 20204 min read


When it comes to your organization’s security, you’re not one to take chances. That’s why you’ve invested in all the […]

Supply Chain Attacks

When it comes to your organization’s security, you’re not one to take chances. That’s why you’ve invested in all the best antivirus and firewall software for your workforce, developed iron-clad processes, and prioritize employee education.

You do everything you can to prevent cyberattacks from victimizing your business — but can you say the same for your partners and vendors?

More than 53% of IT pros say they’ve experienced at least one data breach caused by a third party over the past two years, with an average cost of $7.5 million, according to a 2019 Ponemon report.

In other words, if you’re not factoring supply chain attacks into your cybersecurity efforts, it could cost you dearly.

But what is a supply chain attack, exactly, and how do you go about mitigating your risk? Here’s what you need to know:

What are Supply Chain Attacks?

A supply chain attack (also called a third-party breach or value-chain attack) happens when a hacker accesses your systems by exploiting the vulnerability of an outside organization with access to your network and data. While the largest percentage of third-party attacks target financial services companies (56%, according to Ponemon), no organization is safe.

One of the most well-known examples of a supply chain attack is the infamous Target breach. In 2013, hackers successfully phished the retail giant’s HVAC provider, logged into the supplier portal, and installed malware that compromised 40 million records and cost Target around $300 million in damages and settlements.

How Supply Chain Attacks Happen

Photo by Soumil Kumar on Pexels

But, while these types of attacks aren’t always as massive as the Target breach, they are becoming more common. In fact, third-party breaches rose 78 percent between 2017 and 2018, according to Symantec data shared by Nextgov. And hackers are victimizing businesses of all sizes and industries.

3 Things You Can Do to Reduce Your Risk of a Third-Party Breach

The bad news? You can’t control how other companies secure their systems. The good news? You can take a few additional precautions to ensure your business isn’t in the line of fire.

Here are three actions we suggest you implement immediately:

Know who has access to your data

Can you list every single organization that has access to your company’s data? And can you say, for certain, whether those third parties are sharing your information with other suppliers?

If the answer to either question is “no,” then you’ve got some work to do.

It’s essential you know which third parties you share data with, and how much access they have, so you can quickly trace the issue should you experience an incident. Additionally, it’s a good idea to stipulate security requirements when creating vendor contracts.

“Requirements should include the ability for an organization to audit the third party’s security practices and business continuity plans, establish performance standards, and clearly define default and termination terms,” says Technology Reporter Jai Vijayan in an article for Dark Reading.

Third Parties Can Access Your Data

Photo by Campaign Creators on Unsplash

Vet third-party vendors more thoroughly

Assessing partners and vendors is not only time-intensive, but it can also get expensive — and that’s one of the reasons so many organizations fail to perform their due diligence. But the cost of not properly vetting third-parties is often significantly higher.

And, luckily, third-party risk assessment technology can streamline the process.

Take time to carefully review each of your current and potential partners and vendors, and keep in mind that those with a history of breaches are usually more likely to have a future of breaches, too.

Leverage actionable threat intelligence

Another way to reduce the risk of supply chain attacks is to use threat intelligence. This solution can help you identify whether your organization’s data has been exposed on the dark web, and trace those leaks to specific individuals, so you know which people and behaviors are putting your organization most at risk.

The best threat intelligence providers will also alert you in real-time if your information has been compromised so you can take steps to protect your business before an attack occurs.

Supply chain attacks will undoubtedly become more popular over the next several years, especially as companies increasingly rely on third-party technology to support business operations. And as hackers become more sophisticated and empowered through the dark web, the number of threats you’ll face will only grow. By factoring third-party risks into your cybersecurity processes, leveraging the right tools, and arming yourself with knowledge, you’ll be ready.

Interested in learning more about what threat intelligence can do for you? Request a demo now!


Featured image by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash.


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