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.

Supply chain attacks have become one of the most concerning cybersecurity threats. In recent years, cybercriminals have shifted their focus towards attacking the supply chain of big corporations, instead of directly targeting the victim organization. These attacks have the potential to cause significant losses to companies, disrupt supply chains, breach sensitive data, and affect brand reputation.

What is a Supply Chain Attack?

A supply chain attack is a cyberattack that targets an organization's supply chain, which includes its vendors, suppliers, partners, and contractors. In simple words, it is an attack that exploits the vulnerabilities in the supply chain of an organization to gain unauthorized access to its systems and data.

The objective of a supply chain attack is to infect or compromise a trusted vendor's hardware, software, or firmware with malware or other malicious code. Once compromised, the cybercriminals can use this access to infiltrate the target organization's systems and steal sensitive data, manipulate financial transactions, or launch a ransomware attack.

Types of Supply Chain Attacks

There are various types of supply chain attacks, but the two most common ones are:

1. Software Supply Chain Attack

In a software supply chain attack, the cybercriminals target a vendor's software development lifecycle to embed malware in their products. This type of attack is usually carried out by injecting malicious code into code repositories, software build systems, or through malware-laden updates.

For instance, in 2020, the widely used software development platform, Codecov, was hacked by cybercriminals. It is estimated that around 1,500 companies were affected, including giants like Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) and Atlassian. The hackers injected a sophisticated malware strain into the company's software release process, stealing sensitive information from its clients.

2. Hardware Supply Chain Attack

This type of attack involves tampering with the hardware components of an organization's supply chain. The attackers can modify the hardware to create a backdoor entry point, allowing them to gain unauthorized access to the organization's system.

For example, in 2018, the U.S. Department of Defense discovered that Chinese hackers implanted microchips into the hardware of servers used by Supermicro, a California-based company. The servers were used by numerous American businesses, including Apple and Amazon. This attack could have potentially compromised the data of millions of users and was attributed to Chinese cyber espionage.

Consequences of Supply Chain Attacks

Supply chain attacks are a major concern for organizations as they can have serious consequences, including:

1. Financial Losses

Supply chain attacks can cause huge financial losses to the affected organizations, primarily due to ransomware attacks and data theft. For instance, in the 2017 WannaCry ransomware attack, which was caused by a vulnerability in a third-party software, global losses were estimated to be around $4 billion.

2. Disruption of Supply Chain

A supply chain attack can lead to disruptions in the supply chain, which can result in delays in delivery, increased costs, and lost profits. This can not only affect the organization but also its vendors and customers.

For example, in 2017, the NotPetya ransomware attack disrupted the shipping company, Maersk's, operations worldwide. The attack cost the company around $300 million, leading to significant supply chain disruptions.

3. Damage to Brand Reputation

A supply chain attack can negatively affect the brand reputation of the affected organization, leading to a loss of customer trust. Companies that are unable to protect their supply chain are perceived as irresponsible and may face long-term reputational damage.

How to Protect Against Supply Chain Attacks

Organizations need to take proactive measures to protect themselves against supply chain attacks. Some of the best practices include:

1. Conduct Regular Security Audits

Organizations should conduct regular security audits of their supply chain partners to identify vulnerabilities and ensure that their security posture meets industry standards.

2. Establish Clear Guidelines and Procedures

Organizations should establish clear guidelines and procedures for their vendors and suppliers to ensure that they adhere to the same cybersecurity standards.

3. Monitor the Supply Chain

Organizations should monitor their supply chain regularly and have real-time visibility into its operations. This can help detect any suspicious activity and prevent security incidents.

4. Implement Multi-Factor Authentication

Implementing multi-factor authentication (MFA) can help protect against unauthorized access to systems and data. MFA requires users to provide multiple forms of identification before granting access, making it quite challenging for cybercriminals to exploit vulnerabilities.


Supply chain attacks are a growing threat to organizations worldwide. Cybercriminals are becoming more sophisticated in their attacks, and therefore, it is crucial to be vigilant and proactive in detecting and preventing these attacks. By taking the necessary measures, organizations can protect themselves, minimize losses, and secure their supply chain against future attacks.

What is a Supply Chain Attack?

In this modern era of technology, supply chain attacks have emerged as one of the most dangerous cyber threats to businesses across the globe. A supply chain attack, also known as a third-party attack, is a type of cyber-attack where hackers target a business's extended supply chain network to access sensitive information.

A supply chain attack takes place when cybercriminals breach the security of a third-party vendor or supplier that has access to a company's data, systems, or network. Once the attackers obtain the credentials, they can use the authorized access of the vendor or supplier to penetrate the target company's system surreptitiously.

Although supply chain attacks are not a new phenomenon, they have become increasingly popular among hackers over the past few years. Cybercriminals use supply chain attacks as a smokescreen to steal sensitive data, launch ransomware attacks, or conduct other malicious activities without being detected, as the attack originates from a trusted source - the vendor.

How Do Supply Chain Attacks Work?

The working method of a supply chain attack is a process of compromise, infiltration, and exploitation of the target company's systems by exploiting the vulnerabilities in the supply chain network. Here are the five phases of supply chain attacks:

1. Reconnaissance

Reconnaissance is the first phase of a supply chain attack, where hackers collect information about the supply chain network of the target company. The attackers look for vulnerabilities in the target company's vendor or supplier network to find a weak link to exploit.

2. Compromise

In the compromise phase, the attackers breach the security of a vendor or supplier in the supply chain network of the target company. This breach can occur through methods such as a phishing attack, malware-infected software update, or exploiting an unpatched vulnerability.

3. Infiltration

Once the attackers gain access to the vendor or supplier system, they try to infiltrate the systems of the target company by stealing login credentials or exploiting existing vulnerabilities. With legitimate access, the attackers can easily move laterally across the network and disguise their activities.

4. Exploitation

Exploitation is the phase where the hackers harvest the target company's sensitive data, plant malware, or conduct other malicious activities. By putting ransomware on the network and demanding payment to decrypt locked files, attackers can cost companies millions of dollars.

5. Exfiltration

In the exfiltration phase, attackers exfiltrate the stolen data from the target company's system and remove all traces of their activity. This can leave the target company unaware of the attack for weeks or months, leading to more damage in the future.

Real-Life Examples of Supply Chain Attacks

Several high-profile supply chain attacks have made headlines over recent years. One of the most mentionable is the SolarWinds hack, which is believed to be one of the most significant cyber-attacks ever conducted. It was discovered in December 2020, and the ramifications of the attack are still being disclosed.

The hackers compromised the SolarWinds Orion software by implanting a malicious code into its update. SolarWinds supplies its software to over 300,000 organizations worldwide, including the US government, federal agencies, and Fortune 500 companies. The vulnerability allowed the attackers to gain access to the email accounts and sensitive data of various government organizations, including the US Department of Homeland Security.

Another example is the NotPetya ransomware attack, which began in Ukraine in 2017 and quickly spread worldwide. It targeted a Ukrainian accounting program, M.E.Doc, used by countless organizations in the country. The attackers inserted a malicious code into the software update, which distributed the ransomware to all connected systems. The attack caused organizations worldwide to experience tens of billions of dollars in damages.

How to Mitigate Supply Chain Attacks?

As supply chain attacks are becoming more common, it is vital for businesses to take measures to prevent or mitigate them. Here are some ways businesses can achieve this:

1. Strong Vendor Management

Increase the security posture of vendors and suppliers that are part of the supply chain network by implementing strict security measures into vendor contracts.

2. Risk Assessment

Conduct risk assessments to identify the security vulnerabilities and gaps in the supply chain network, and reduce them.

3. Regular Security Audits

Perform cybersecurity audits and assessments of vendors and suppliers periodically, testing to ensure they meet security requirements and detect discrepancies.

4. Continuous Monitoring

Maintain continuous monitoring of the supply chain network to detect any malicious activities and identify potential security risks.

5. Utilize Security Solutions

Deploy robust security solutions such as firewalls, intrusion detection and prevention systems, antivirus software, and endpoint security technologies to protect against cyber-attacks.


Supply chain attacks are significant threats that can cause a lot of damage to businesses and their partners. As attackers continue to innovate new techniques, it's essential to implement measures to prevent or counter these attacks. By having strong vendor management, conducting thorough risk assessments, regular security audits, continuous monitoring, and utilizing security solutions, businesses can protect themselves against supply chain attacks.

Supply chain attacks have been gaining popularity in recent years, with cybercriminals shifting their focus away from traditional methods of attacking organizations’ networks and instead targeting their supply chain partners. A supply chain attack is a cyberattack that targets a company’s supply chain network or service provider. This type of attack can have devastating consequences for the targeted company and any of their customers who use their services. In this article, we will discuss what supply chain attacks are, how they work, and some real-life examples of supply chain attacks that have taken place in recent years.

What is a Supply Chain Attack?

A supply chain attack involves hackers infiltrating a company’s network through one of their supply chain partners. Typically, the target of such an attack is a company that provides a service, such as a software provider or cloud service provider. In these cases, hackers look for vulnerabilities in these companies' systems and use them as an entry point to the targeted company's systems. Once they gain access to the supplier's network, they can move laterally within the system, searching for valuable data to steal, corrupt or destroy.

For hackers, supply chain attacks are an attractive proposition as they represent a weak link in an organization's security, providing a backdoor to access sensitive data without directly targeting the primary company. Additionally, supply chain partners are often smaller and less sophisticated, making them an easier target for cybercriminals to gain access to their networks.

How Do Supply Chain Attacks Work?

Supply chain attacks often involve a multi-stage process. The first stage involves hackers attempting to gain access to a company’s supply chain network or service provider. This could be achieved through a variety of tactics, such as social engineering, phishing email attacks, or exploiting known vulnerabilities in the supplier's software.

Once hackers have successfully gained access to the supplier's network, they can then move laterally within the system to escalate their privileges and gain access to critical data. They may deploy malicious software or backdoors to persistently maintain access to the system. In some cases, attackers might also manipulate the system’s software, such that it becomes a Trojan horse for the targeted organization.

Finally, the attackers will find and harvest valuable data and use it to achieve their objectives. These objectives can include cyber espionage, intellectual property theft, blackmail, or destruction of the targeted company's infrastructure.

Real-Life Examples of Supply Chain Attacks

A number of high-profile cyberattacks in the last few years have involved supply chain attacks. One of the most notable examples is the SolarWinds hack, which affected numerous US government agencies and private sector companies. In December 2020, it was revealed that hackers had gained access to SolarWinds' software build system, allowing them to tamper with the software update and infect it with malware. The infected update was then downloaded by thousands of SolarWinds customers, including the US government and Fortune 500 companies. The attack is believed to have been conducted by the Russian group APT29, and it is thought to be one of the most significant cyberattacks in history.

Another example of a supply chain attack is the NotPetya malware outbreak, which affected numerous companies across the globe in 2017. NotPetya was initially delivered via an update to a tax accounting software suite used in Ukraine. Once it was on a computer, the malware was able to spread rapidly across networks, infecting computers in Ukraine, Denmark, Russia, and other countries. The attack caused widespread disruption and significant financial losses, with some companies losing hundreds of millions of dollars as a result of the outbreak.

How to Prevent Supply Chain Attacks

Preventing supply chain attacks requires a multi-faceted approach, with security experts recommending several strategies to mitigate the risk of an attack. Some of the most common strategies include:

1. Risk Assessment - Encourage vendors, suppliers, and partners to assess their systems' vulnerabilities, regularly updating, and patching systems.

2. Monitoring - Monitor vendor and partner activity regularly to ensure potential attacks can quickly identify compromises.

3. Notification - Establish clear lines of communication between a company and its partners to ensure an efficient response to suspected attacks.

4. Training - Educate employees and partners to be aware of potential vulnerabilities and to take precautions to prevent attacks.

5. Cybersecurity Controls - Implement cybersecurity policies and technologies such as firewalls, intrusion detection, and prevention systems, and continuous monitoring procedures to detect and prevent attacks.


In summary, supply chain attacks are a growing threat to businesses, with potentially devastating consequences. These types of cyberattacks are successful as attackers leverage the gap between companies and agents within the supply chain. Knowledge of the threat and applying well-designed cybersecurity measures, monitoring tactics, and employee education will lessen, if not entirely prevent, a successful cyber attack. Organizations need to pay attention to their third-party supply chain providers and put stringent standards to guarantee security best practices are in place as an additional layer of defense. Supply chain attack may become more daunting, but it can be averted with proactive risk management.

What is a Supply Chain Attack?

Imagine you receive a package from Amazon, and inside it, you find a smart speaker purchased by your friend. But what if that speaker had come not from Amazon, but from a warehouse of an impersonator masquerading as the online shopping giant, and carrying a malicious payload? That's a supply chain attack, where hackers infiltrate an organization's systems by targeting its third-party suppliers.

Supply chain attacks have become an increasingly common modus operandi for cybercriminals. They prey on the fact that modern businesses rely on interconnected networks, where one weak link can compromise the entire system. In a supply chain attack, attackers leverage vulnerabilities in these networks to infiltrate one supplier, leading to access to the next organization and the next until they reach the ultimate target.

For example, in 2020, attackers targeted SolarWinds, a software provider that manages the IT infrastructure of over 300,000 companies. The attackers infected SolarWind's software updates with malicious code, which was installed by the customers of SolarWinds and gave the attackers access to their systems. The malware was able to avoid detection since it was coming from a trusted source. Over 18,000 customers of SolarWinds, including several US government agencies, were breached.

Types of Supply Chain Attacks

Supply chain attacks come in various forms. Here are some of the most common ones:

1. Third-Party Software Attacks

This is the most common type of supply chain attack. In this attack, attackers exploit vulnerabilities in third-party software, which is installed on the target's systems. It is often difficult to detect malware in third-party software since it appears to be legitimate.

2. Hardware Attacks

Attackers may also breach a supply chain by introducing vulnerabilities in hardware components like memory chips, routers, and servers. These attacks can be difficult to detect since they are built into the hardware.

3. Firmware Attacks

Attackers may seek to bypass antivirus software by targeting the firmware that operates the hardware components of a computer system. Firmware attacks allow hackers to infect a device without the need for any software interaction. They're difficult to detect since they occur deep within the hardware.

4. Services Attacks

In this type of attack, hackers infiltrate a supplier's network to gain access to its sensitive data. They are often looking for ways to exploit any shared services that may be used by their target organizations.

5. Physical Attacks

Physical attacks involve tampering with supply chain components during shipping or storage. For example, hackers may modify packaging and delivery labels to redirect shipments to a different location, and then install malware on the compromised equipment.

Preventive Measures

Supply chain attacks pose a significant challenge for cybersecurity professionals, who must now cast a wider net to identify threats and sector-specific risks. Here are some steps that organizations can take to mitigate these risks:

1. Risk Assessments

Organizations can conduct supply chain risk assessments to identify their potential vulnerabilities. They need to know what data is at risk, who has access to it, and what security measures are in place to protect it.

2. Contractual Requirements

Organizations can include security requirements in their contracts with third-party suppliers. These could include data encryption, access controls, and security monitoring.

3. Ongoing Monitoring

It's critical to continuously monitor suppliers' security posture through audits and penetration testing. Organizations must also monitor their networks, looking for evidence of vulnerability exploitation or malware installation.

4. Employee Training

Employees should be trained in identifying and reporting suspicious activities to the IT department. This includes performing regular security awareness training and updating their knowledge of security protocols and policies.

5. Cyber-Insurance

Organizations may consider purchasing cyber-insurance coverage to help mitigate risks and respond to a breach should all other measures fail.


Supply chain attacks are complex and challenging breaches. They're difficult to detect and remediate once they happen. Organizations must work together to protect their assets and data from these types of breaches. This means increased awareness of the risks posed by third-party suppliers, continuous monitoring of supplier networks, and robust incident response plans. With these preventive steps in place, businesses can continue to build resilience in the face of cyber threats.

Supply Chain Attacks: What They Are and How to Protect Your Business from Them

As the world becomes more interconnected, so do supply chains. Companies rely on a complex web of suppliers, vendors, and third-party providers to deliver goods and services to their customers. While this interconnectedness brings significant benefits, it also presents a significant challenge: the rise of supply chain attacks.

A supply chain attack is a cyberattack that targets a company's supply chain ecosystem to gain unauthorized access to sensitive data, systems, or intellectual property. Attackers exploit vulnerabilities in one or more third-party vendors, suppliers, or service providers to infiltrate a target company's network and steal or disrupt its operations.

These types of attacks have become increasingly common in recent years, affecting businesses of all sizes and industries. In 2020, several high-profile supply chain attacks made headlines, including the SolarWinds attack, which exposed sensitive data from government agencies and companies such as Microsoft, and the Accellion attack, which targeted multiple organizations, including the Reserve Bank of New Zealand.

Why Are Supply Chain Attacks So Dangerous?

Supply chain attacks are particularly dangerous for several reasons. First, they can be challenging to detect and thwart, as attackers can exploit vulnerabilities in a company's supply chain outside of its direct control. Second, these types of attacks can have widespread implications, as they can affect multiple organizations through the interconnected supply chain.

In addition, supply chain attacks can be financially devastating, as businesses may face substantial fines or lawsuits for failing to protect sensitive data or intellectual property. They can also damage a company's reputation and erode customer trust, leading to lost revenue and opportunities.

Examples of Supply Chain Attacks

One of the most infamous supply chain attacks occurred in 2013 when hackers compromised the point-of-sale systems of Target, one of the US's largest retailers. Attackers infiltrated Target's network through a third-party vendor that provided refrigeration and HVAC services.

The hackers were able to steal as many as 40 million credit and debit card numbers, along with the personal information of up to 70 million customers. The attack cost Target $202 million in settlement agreements with affected customers and financial institutions.

Another example is the WannaCry ransomware attack in 2017, which affected hundreds of thousands of computers across the globe. The attack exploited a vulnerability in Microsoft Windows, which was initially discovered by the National Security Agency (NSA) and subsequently leaked by hackers. WannaCry infected computers through a malicious software update of a third-party server used by many companies and organizations.

In 2018, Chinese hackers launched a supply chain attack that compromised Supermicro, a US-based computer hardware supplier. Attackers reportedly implanted tiny microchips on Supermicro's motherboards, which were used in servers deployed by various US government agencies and technology companies, including Amazon and Apple.

While the full scope and impact of the attack remain uncertain, it highlights the far-reaching implications of supply chain attacks and the importance of securing the supply chain against potential threats.

How to Protect Your Business from Supply Chain Attacks

Securing your business against supply chain attacks requires a multifaceted approach that involves identifying and managing supply chain risks, implementing robust cybersecurity measures, and fostering a culture of security awareness within your organization.

Here are some steps you can take to protect your business from supply chain attacks:

1. Conduct a Risk Assessment

Start by examining your supply chain ecosystem, identifying critical vendors, suppliers, and service providers. Develop a risk management plan that includes a comprehensive risk assessment, regular audits, and contingency planning to address potential vulnerabilities and disruptions.

2. Implement Robust Cybersecurity Measures

Ensure that all third-party vendors and service providers follow robust cybersecurity protocols, including regular updates and patches, multi-factor authentication, and encryption of sensitive data. Verify their compliance with your organization's security policies and assess their security posture regularly.

3. Monitor Your Supply Chain

Implement a continuous monitoring program to detect potential security incidents or breaches within your supply chain. Use security intelligence tools, such as threat intelligence feeds and automated vulnerability scanning, to identify and isolate suspicious activity.

4. Foster a Culture of Security Awareness

Create a culture of security awareness within your organization, emphasizing the importance of cybersecurity as a shared responsibility. Provide regular training and awareness programs for employees, contractors, and vendors to raise their awareness of cybersecurity threats and best practices.


Supply chain attacks are a complex and evolving threat, but they can be mitigated with a proactive and comprehensive approach to cybersecurity. By identifying and managing supply chain risks, implementing robust cybersecurity measures, and fostering a culture of security awareness, businesses can protect themselves from the potentially devastating consequences of supply chain attacks.

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