Staying ahead of supply chain cyber attacks

The key to staying ahead of supply chain attacks is to take proactive approaches

The weakest link in your enterprise security might lie with partners and suppliers. Supply chains are constantly exposed to risk, ranging from continuity disruptions to various levels of operational destruction. Cybercriminals are increasingly exploiting unsecure network protocols, unprotected server infrastructures, unsafe coding practices, and more.  

Why do cybercriminals target the supply chain?  

Supply chains are massive in scope and complex, making attacks difficult to trace. Cybercriminals compromise the weakest entity in the supply chain and gain access to sensitive business information, customer records, and more. They target organisations using cyberattacks such as:  

  • Data Breaches: Supply chain attacks are commonly used to perform data breaches. The SolarWinds hack exposed the sensitive data of multiple public and private sector organizations.  
  • Malware Infections: Threat actors exploit supply chain vulnerabilities to deliver malware to a target organization. SolarWinds included the delivery of a malicious backdoor.  

What are the different types of supply chain attacks?  
 Software Supply Chain Attack  

Attackers inject malicious code into the source code of an application. They often use software or application updates as entry points. They “sign” the code using stolen certificates to make it look legitimate and difficult to trace.  

Hardware Supply Chain Attack  

Hardware attacks involve hardware or physical devices like the USB keylogger. Attackers will target a device that makes its way through the entire supply chain to maximize its reach and damage.  

Firmware Supply Chain Attack  

Hackers tamper with firmware by embedding malicious code. Boot firmware is often the target. Once a computer boots up, the malware is executed, jeopardizing the entire system. Firmware attacks are quick, highly damaging, and often undetectable.  

What are the most common supply chain threat vectors?  

The goal of supply chain attackers is to compromise trusted services and work their way up to gain access to more valuable corporate resources. The most common supply chain threat vectors include:   

  • Third-party software providers  
  • Data storage solutions  
  • Development or testing platforms  
  • Website building services  

How can we minimize the possibility of a supply chain cyber-attack?  

Develop a minimum baseline security standard for partners and suppliers. Grant access to your network only if they satisfy the minimum criterion. Further, continuously audit their security posture to ensure compliance.  

Implement the principle of least privilege and assign employees, partners, vendors, and software, for example, APIs, only the permissions needed to do their job.  

Use network segmentation and ensure that third parties access only a specific zone to do their work. This way, if a supply chain attack compromises part of the network, the rest is still protected.  

Implement industry-standard DevSecOps practices that help to detect malicious code injection into the software.  

Implement automated threat prevention and threat hunting solution that detects suspicious behaviour in the network, cloud, or endpoint devices that may point to possible compromise.  

Educate your partners and suppliers about cyber attacks and responsible usage by including them in your security awareness program.  

Supply chain applications help enterprises to deliver services at scale. It also creates a larger attack surface for threat actors. The key to staying ahead of supply chain attacks is to take a proactive approach to mitigate the risks by comprehensively monitoring the entire ecosystem, educating your suppliers, and conducting stringent and frequent audits of suppliers at all levels.

FAQ

A supply chain attack occurs when a trusted third-party vendor or partner who offers services or software is compromised and the threat actors then move up the supply chain to gain access to other organizations’ environments.

A supply chain attack occurs when a trusted third-party vendor or partner who offers services or software is compromised and the threat actors then move up the supply chain to gain access to other organizations’ environments. 

Cybercriminals exploit the trust relationships and compromise the weakest entity in the supply chain. Once the cybercriminal gains access to the supplier’s network, they work their way up the supply chain to the target organization. It may take them months, but they persist until they gain access.  

The SolarWinds breach. Cybercriminals accessed and embedded a backdoor in its Orion network monitoring product.

Supply chains are massive in scope and complex, making attacks difficult to trace. Cybercriminals compromise the weakest entity in the supply chain and gain access to sensitive business information, customer records, and more. They target organisations using cyberattacks such as:  

  • Data Breaches: Supply chain attacks are commonly used to perform data breaches. The SolarWinds hack exposed the sensitive data of multiple public and private sector organizations.  
  • Malware Infections: Threat actors exploit supply chain vulnerabilities to deliver malware to a target organization. SolarWinds included the delivery of a malicious backdoor.  

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