There are plenty of cyber-attack types that can help an attacker approach a business or organisation’s sensitive data, however, supply chain attacks are known in the cyber world to be the most common.
The U.S. Government Supply Chain Attack – March 2020
One of the most recent and popular supply chain attacks we can consider is the event in March 2020. In this event, nation-state hackers attacked the U.S. government’s communications. This was possible for the hackers by using a compromised update through a third-party vendor (namely, Solarwinds).
This attack affected a huge supply chain of the U.S. government’s departments. These departments included:
- The Department of Energy
- The Department of Homeland Security
- The U.S. Department of Commerce
- The U.S. Department of the Treasury
- The National Nuclear Security Administration
- The U.S. Department of State
Apart from these departments, around 18,000 customers were also affected by this attack. This was known to be one of the most sophisticated supply chain attacks ever deployed, and its investigation is still ongoing well into 2021.
It seems almost logical that if even the superpower that is the U.S. government is susceptible to breach – then lower-level organisations are vastly penetrable and exposed.
The Panama Papers Supply Chain Attack – April 2016
An equally huge and highly impactful data breach was against the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca. This attack leaked around 2.6 terabytes of sensitive client data in a breach attack on the firm.
This breach also revealed the tax evasion tactics of more than 214,000 companies and plenty of highly ranked politicians. This was a huge supply chain attack that led to many other notable individuals and companies.
Cyber attacks negatively affect plenty of individuals, with data at risk, but according to Symantec’s study, the rate of supply chain attacks is growing and increased by 78% in 2019. This statistic makes it clear that supply chains often act as a reliable entryway for attackers. Popular names in the business world are easily exposed via their supply chain insecurities.
Supply chain attacks have become a cause of concern for various organisations. As such, the methods of cyber-attacks are also growing over time.
So, what is a supply chain attack?
Simply put, a supply chain attack is an attack strategy that focuses on an organisation’s supply chain. Using vulnerabilities within an organisation’s supply chain, attackers identify vendors that maintain poor security posture and access vulnerable data using an organisation’s third-party vendor.
One such attack was on the AIRBUS supply chain, where the focus of this attack was to steal an aircraft’s technical documents.
What Types of Supply Chain Attacks are there?
The areas of an organisation that are attacked with a supply chain attack are not always easy to identify. This is because when it comes to software supply chain attacks, the main target of these attacks is always the source code, the update mechanism, or the build processes involved in a vendor’s system.
In using these targets, the attacker can seek access to an organisation’s supply chain data in different ways. These ways include:
- Third-party updates of different software
- Installing numerous types of malware on linked devices. These devices can include cameras, phones, external hard drives, etc.
- Various application installer programs/software.
With this in mind – every organisation needs to ask themselves whether they know what threats supply chain cyber attacks bring? Whether organisation stakeholders are truly prepared for the likely scenario of a real-life attack and what cyber security infrastructure can be built into their business plan to facilitate growth in the years ahead?
Attacking the supply chain is possible since third-party vendors of organisations often hold sensitive IP data. This is because vendors often require multiple streams of confidential data to integrate with the internal systems of a partner organisation. Third-party integration tools are a prominent part of digital businesses today.
Business Management & integration tools:
While it’s hard to avoid using third-party tools in a digital business, various other modern aspects of business management bring a lot of risks. Entry-paths for cyber attackers can include analytics, chatbots, payment systems, social media integrations, and even advertisements. These things introduce a business to new risks, posing a threat to the business’s critical data. Unfortunately, this means third-party breaches tend to affect multiple businesses as the result of one non-compliant organisation in a network. Therefore, compliance is key to partnership and trust in developing strong business relations.
In every organisation, a percentage of human input can be calculated and expected not to follow procedures or avoid performing the checks and balances as or when required. Whilst not always intentional, these actions do affect an organisation’s security posture. Sometimes the negligence or ignorance of a few people can affect the entire supply chain. With some disgruntled employees even harming the organisation’s reputation with malicious intent.
Be it a social engineering attack or breach of the internal email system, staff negligence can easily enable attackers to obtain business policies and workplace site layouts.
Targeting a Supply Chain:
Supply chain attacks are frequent and can tarnish businesses and their reputations. It’s become increasingly important to show that your organisation is taking steps to reduce the rate of risk associated with your supply chain. We recommend starting with:
Vetting Your Supply Chain:
The first and most crucial step for businesses to reduce the risks of cyber-attacks and the loss of their protected data is to evaluate their security and privacy policies. This can be done by evaluating business policies along with all the business suppliers’ data. By doing this a business can effectively reduce the risk of breach by 20%.
Conducting Regular Audits:
As the main objective of supply chain attacks is to gain access to business-sensitive data, business and government personnel can protect their data by sourcing the exact location of their data and evaluating who has access to rights. It sounds obvious, but conducting an access audit of your network is a crucial step for your business. This should ensure, to the best of its ability, that your business has taken appropriate and suitable measures to hold security controls in place.
This includes regularly monitoring and reviewing all the activities performed between your organisation and any third-party suppliers/tools. In this way, you can identify the unusual or suspicious activities and address them by possible blocking or using other solutions at the right time – before any breach event takes place.
By gaining visibility of all vulnerabilities within your business, you enable targeted security solutions to be identified and applied as and when required.
Simply put – you can’t address the risks of your business if you don’t understand how these risks will attack your business and the implications of the attack against your entire supply chain. Hence, businesses and governments must understand how attackers infiltrate an organisation. Only then can effective solutions be put in place to secure sensitive information and improve operational business management.
Blockchain attacks are common in businesses and governments today, but preventing these attacks is always possible if you follow proven practices. When one organisation can bring down the whole supply chain of a business or government, maintaining security to prevent cyber-attacks is an essential risk business factor to take into consideration.