Supply Chain Attack: A Modern Cybersecurity Challenge
In recent years, cybersecurity has become a major concern for businesses and individuals alike. The increasing reliance on digital technologies has created new vulnerabilities that hackers can exploit. To that end, attackers have come up with new strategies to breach a network, and supply chain attacks are among the most effective. In this article, we will explore what supply chain attacks are, their impact on businesses, and how organizations can protect themselves against them.
What is a supply chain attack?
A supply chain attack is a type of cyberattack that targets a company's suppliers or partners. The objective of a supply chain attack is to gain access to the target company's network through the vulnerabilities in supplier systems. Cybercriminals use this approach to bypass complex security measures and infiltrate an organization's infrastructure with malicious software or malware.
Supply chain attacks can occur anywhere in the supply chain, from the initial manufacturer to the end retailer. These attacks have become popular for two main reasons. Firstly, as business operations become more complex and more dependent on technology, companies find themselves outsourcing vital services to third-party providers. Secondly, cybercriminals see supply chain attacks as a low-risk and high-reward option since once access is gained, they can move laterally across the network undetected and cause damage or steal sensitive data.
Real-world examples of supply chain attacks
Recent supply chain attacks have shown the devastating impact they can have on businesses. Here are some real-world examples of the most notable supply chain attacks:
SolarWinds – In December 2020, SolarWinds, a Texas-based software company, discovered a supply chain attack that had infected its Orion IT management software. The malware, later named Sunburst, was concealed in a software update that was automatically downloaded by more than 18,000 SolarWind customers. The attacker gained access to sensitive data in government agencies and tech enterprises around the globe.
Kaseya – In July 2021, cybercriminals used a vulnerability in the software of Kaseya, an IT software company, to deploy ransomware to over 1,500 companies worldwide. The attackers demanded a ransom of $70 million in return for the decryption keys. The sophistication of the attack indicates that the hackers had extensive knowledge of the company's operations.
Microsoft Exchange Server – In March 2021, attackers exploited four zero-day vulnerabilities in Microsoft Exchange Server software, which is used by many businesses for their email services. The vulnerabilities allowed attackers to access email accounts and sensitive data. The attack, believed to be from China, affected thousands of businesses worldwide.
The impact of supply chain attacks on businesses
Supply chain attacks are becoming more frequent and severe each year. According to a survey by the Ponemon Institute, more than 60% of businesses experienced a supply chain attack in 2020, and the number is growing. Supply chain attacks can have a significant impact on businesses. A successful attack can result in:
Data breaches – Supply chain attacks offer cybercriminals access to the sensitive data of businesses, including customer data and intellectual property. The attackers can then use this data for fraud or sell it on the dark web.
Ransomware – Attackers can use ransomware to encrypt a company's data, demand a ransom, and threaten to delete or publish it if the ransom is not paid.
Lost revenue – A supply chain attack can cause downtime, which can result in lost revenue and reputational damage.
Compliance violations – Businesses are often required by regulation to maintain data privacy and security. A supply chain attack can result in the business being found in breach of these regulations.
How to prevent supply chain attacks
Preventing supply chain attacks is challenging, but there are several steps that businesses can take to reduce the risks. Some of these include:
Conducting due diligence on suppliers – Businesses need to verify their suppliers' cybersecurity protocols to ensure that they are secure. This includes conducting security audits, regular assessments, and checking their compliance with regulations.
Implementing multi-factor authentication – Multi-factor authentication provides an extra layer of security by requiring users to provide additional verification to access the network.
Regular security patching – Regular security patching of hardware, software and regular software upgrades to maintain the integrity of technology use.
Supply chain attacks are a growing concern for businesses worldwide. These cyber threats have the potential to cause significant harm to a company, including data breaches, lost revenue, and reputational damage. Organizations must acknowledge the risks posed by supply chain attacks and take the necessary steps to protect themselves. Implementing cybersecurity measures such as regular security patching, multi-factor authentication, and conducting due diligence on suppliers can help reduce the risks and prevent a devastating supply chain attack. Cybersecurity is a shared responsibility, and we must work together to combat these unique and complicated challenges.