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4 tips for getting started with managing supply chain cyber risk

By Avetta Marketing
October 03, 2023
6 minutes
supply chain cyber risk

Fun fact, in case you didn’t already know: this month is the 20th anniversary of Cybersecurity Awareness Month. Here’s another fact (maybe not so fun): By 2025, Gartner predicts that 45% of global organizations will be impacted by a supply chain cyber attack.

For supply chains — cyber risks come mainly in the form of attacks on third-party software suppliers and vendors connected to the actual or intended target. Incidentally — or not — the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) just released a new (voluntary) framework to help standardize how technology hardware vendors communicate their purchases with customers to further mitigate risks in U.S. supply chain systems. Although it’s beyond the scope of this blog to get into the specifics of that 30+ page framework, the fact the CISA even bothered to put it together speaks volumes about just how big of an issue cyber risk is for supply chains.

Every third party you work with brings a degree of cyber risk into your organization. Suppliers, contractors, and vendors often have less mature IT and security functions, leaving the entire supply chain vulnerable to a cyber attack.

Cyber attacks can cause debilitating business disruptions due to lost files, stolen data, and locked systems, and they can flow up or downstream through a supply chain. They also can also be high-profile, putting a company’s reputation at risk even without a direct data leak or business interruption, and, not to mention, expensive, with the average cost of a data breach now at around $4.45 million.

While some companies have limited cyber security screening or security tools to evaluate vendors, security gaps can remain as these screenings are generally not integrated into the procurement process. Cyber screenings can also delay hiring of key services or materials suppliers if the cyber vetting process takes too much time.

Here are the four most important things you can do to protect your supply chain from cyber risk.

1. Cover your full supply chain

Some companies only monitor their high-spend or high-risk suppliers within their compliance process. However, every single third party within a supply chain can introduce cyber risk – even those with whom you don’t share data.

Cyber criminals typically seek out the companies that you least expect and sneak in through a simple email or an online payment system.

Small businesses are particularly vulnerable to cyber attacks. Almost half of small businesses have been cyber attack victims. A 2021 study of 24 cyber attacks found that all 24 were two-part attacks, with attackers first gaining access through a smaller contractor before accessing the main target, which is typically a prime contractor or hiring company. Thus, coverage of the entire supply chain is crucial to prevent a single attack from infiltrating (and potentially taking down) the rest of your supply chain.

2. Ensure continuous monitoring

While a one-time or annual cyber check is beneficial, risks can appear anytime between these checks. Continuous monitoring can supplement and enhance a company’s current process, identifying gaps in cyber health and alerting you of changes in supplier and contractor cyber health scores.

Cyber criminals target contractors to get to the hiring client. Contractors have no idea and often see no signs of being used.

Many workers know that sharing any type of data is an obvious risk, but a contractor or supplier data breach can also put the hiring company’s sensitive data at risk. Stolen data is frequently posted or sold to other cyber criminals, greatly increasing the scope and risk of that breached data. Through continuous monitoring, hiring companies can prevent a supplier’s security issue from becoming their own.

3. Integrate cyber into your other risk management solutions

Cyber monitoring that uses internal processes and point solutions often means that companies cannot evaluate risks in one place. Stakeholders receive a holistic view of third-party risks by managing cyber, safety, and other risks in a single solution.

By consolidating risk mitigation efforts, stakeholders receive a holistic view of third-party risks by managing cyber, safety, and other risks in a single solution. This allows companies to streamline business processes by eliminating disparate systems and manual processes for greater efficiency and cost savings.

4. Make sure the solution fits your needs

Companies that are not managing cyber risk at all – or doing so minimally – can get started with a monitoring tool that allows them to easily spot potential vulnerabilities throughout their supply chain. This can be done without the need for IT resources or hyper-technical solutions.

Companies that already have a cyber evaluation process can use a digital solution to check for gaps and ensure they’re not excluding a large portion of their supply chain or relying on annual checks.

Avetta gives you quick insights into your supply chain cyber health and vulnerabilities, enabling you to enhance your cyber and IT vetting processes with broader visibility, faster insights, and continuous monitoring.

Managing supplier risk is crucial for hiring companies to prevent data breaches before they happen. Learn more about how Avetta can help you identify cyber risk here.

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