Nov 9, 2023
When you first hear the word “supply chain,” you might imagine an endless stream of planes, trains, boats, and trucks delivering goods to rows of warehouses. While this is true for most businesses, the term supply chain means something utterly different in cybersecurity.
As the Internet of Things grows, businesses increasingly depend on various third-party suppliers for their software and technology. These also include technologies with built-in integrations with other software for ease of use.
When threat actors target your software supply chain, instead of going after your company directly, they go after the infrastructure of your partners. This is why they are so devastating. In this guide, the St. Louis Cybersecurity experts at Blade Technologies explore this phenomenon and what you can do to prepare for it.
What Are Supply Chain Attacks?
Supply chain attacks occur when cyber criminals target the organizations that supply the software and technology you need to function rather than your business. The goal is not to disrupt the software distributor but to use them to infect other companies further down the supply chain.
Like how a virus enters the human body, hijacks a cell, and replicates itself, these hackers use compromised systems to attach malicious code to software updates for legitimate products. When your business downloads the software patch, the code infects your system. It gives the cyber thieves access to sensitive data.
What Makes Supply Chain Attacks So Devastating?
These attacks are particularly effective because they target seemingly innocuous tools businesses use daily but ignore. These are bits of software most organizations wouldn’t think to protect. For example, the most recent hack involving the MOVEIt file transfer software impacted government agencies, thousands of businesses, and potentially 10s of millions of individuals. In this case, the hackers exploited a zero-day vulnerability in standard software that millions of users had installed.
Another example is the now infamous SolarWinds hack that saw Russian-backed cybercriminals pushing legitimate updates with tainted code that spread the infection to previously secure systems. This method is particularly troubling because it exploits a practice required for good cybersecurity: Frequently updating software.
You’ve probably heard before that ensuring your software is up-to-date is one of the best ways to prevent hackers from exploiting security flaws. We’ve even said it in our other guides discussing ransomware avoidance. That’s why preventing a supply chain attack that only occurs once you’ve updated your software to the latest version is difficult to avoid.
Why Are Supply Chain Cyber Threats Increasing?
You would have hardly heard of this attack a few years ago. But recently, global unrest has led to some unscrupulous actions by other nation-states that are beginning to make them more common.
The SolarWinds and MOVEIt attacks mentioned earlier were part of Russia’s more extensive cyber espionage campaign against the United States. China-backed hackers exploited a security flaw in Barracuda Networks software to access thousands of devices at hundreds of organizations. Cybercriminals associated with North Korea perpetuated a recent supply chain attack against video conferencing software 3CX.
These all coincide with geopolitical events such as the war in Ukraine, the Israel-Hamas conflict, continued saber-rattling and increased global competition with China, and a further souring of relations on the Korean peninsula. Powerful nation-states have shown that they can, and will, completely disrupt business technology supply chains to either infect government systems or wreak as much economic turmoil as possible.
How to Avoid Supply Chain Cyber Attacks
Unfortunately, there’s no easy answer. The worst part about supply chain cybersecurity breaches is that your business can do everything right. Still, another company you work with isn’t, and you get hacked.
All it takes is one employee at any company that supplies your software clicking a link in a phishing email to spell doom for your data. Naturally, you can’t control what employees at other companies are doing, which is why these sorts of attacks are so frustrating.
The best way to prepare for a supply chain attack is to prepare yourself to deal with a cyber breach. A data breach remediation plan helps mitigate the damage done to your company if your systems become compromised.
There are also several precautions your company can take to avoid most of the fallout from a supply chain data breach.
Get A Cybersecurity Assessment
Undergoing a cybersecurity assessment can give you a good idea of your organization’s cybersecurity strengths and weaknesses. You can use this information to prepare for a data breach by shoring up defenses, restricting access points, and identifying likely attack points to monitor for strange activity.
Backup Your Data
Having offsite data backups can be a lifesaver if your critical systems are compromised. Should you lose access to your data through a ransomware attack or other cyber threat, you can restore your systems from the backup and continue operations.
To use this method, you must back up your data frequently. It also doesn’t stop cyber thieves from stealing and selling sensitive data on the dark web.
Use Security Tools
Employing security tools such as firewalls, anti-virus software, and multi-factor authentication (MFA) is a great way to slow attackers down if they manage to breach your system. When used effectively, you can give your team time to discover and halt a breach in progress or significantly restrict where hackers can go within your network.
Adopt a Zero Trust Model
Zero trust is a cybersecurity methodology that assumes no application or user should be trusted by default within your system. Instead, all access points will require some form of authentication that verifies the identity of the person attempting to gain access.
This can take several different forms:
- Require validation of users in-network, even privileged accounts
- Only give users as much permission as they need to complete their tasks
- Implement strict rules on which devices can access the network
Zero trust architecture can make it extremely difficult for attackers to move around within your system as they are met with authentication barriers at every step.
Act Swiftly to Shutdown Compromised Software
This last tip is the simplest but one of the most important. Have the personnel in your organization responsible for cybersecurity keep an eye out for supply chain attacks. Once discovered, these attacks become big news in the industry. If you start hearing about an attack on software you know you use, isolate it and cut it out of your network as soon as possible.
Even if you’ve already been compromised, removing the tainted software can prevent hackers from pushing further updates to thwart efforts to fix identified security breaches.
Let Blade Handle Your Supply Chain Security
We know this can seem like many steps you need to take to keep your data secure, and you’re right. Unfortunately, with how sophisticated criminals are at successfully infiltrating business networks, you need to do much more to protect yourself than you did just a few years ago.
For some businesses, this may seem overwhelming. That’s why the St. Louis cybersecurity and IT experts at Blade Technologies are here to help. We offer cybersecurity and risk management services, from initial network assessments to cyber breach remediation planning. We can even help you get better cybersecurity insurance for your business!
Don’t feel like you have to face the growing tide of cybersecurity threats by yourself. Blade Technologies has your back so you can focus on what you do best: Running your business.
Contact our cybersecurity experts today, and let’s strengthen your supply chain cybersecurity together today.
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