Your supply chain: How and why network security and infrastructure matter

With digital transformation, the rapid adoption of cloud computing and the IoT, and the global scale of today’s supply chains, cybercriminals have more entry points to networks and access to data than ever before. In the past year alone, cyberattacks on the supply chain have negatively impacted industries across the globe almost four times more than last year, with no slowing in sight.

supply chain security strategy

Business leaders and organizations must prioritize securing supply chains and be aware of their vendors’ security practices to mitigate critical risks that can hinder productivity, delay product delivery, or worse. But how can organizations be as certain as possible that their networks are highly secure, and businesses they collaborate with have proper security?

A security-first mindset is necessary for the global supply chain

Supply chains connect suppliers, vendors, logistics, and transportation to create goods or services. If one of these elements is attacked, it can have a trickle-down effect, which is why securing each endpoint within a supply chain is a critical part of supporting the delivery of safe products to customers.

Threats to the supply chain can take many forms, including malware attacks, piracy, unauthorized access to enterprise resources and data, and unintentional or maliciously injected backdoors in software source code. In addition to these threats, the hyper-connected structure of global supply chains creates additional complexity for organizations to manage and protect.

Although one organization may have a strong security infrastructure in place, other firms, suppliers, and resellers they are in close communication with may not. As vendor networks become interconnected, the sharing of information (both intentional and unintentional) will occur.

An accidental data leak indicates a weak spot in an organization’s network, giving the green light to malicious actors looking for a way into it. Attacks can happen at any tier of a supply chain, but most attackers will look for weaker spots to exploit, which then impacts the entire operation.

Having a security-first mindset will help businesses stay ahead of threats. This means putting security at the center of the supply chain and making it a foundational element. That old adage of a chain being only as strong as its weakest link is appropriate now more than ever.

Zero trust and 5G in supply chain security

Meeting the demands of today’s manufacturing and allocation models across industries requires advanced network reliability and the visibility into every facet of the supply chain, from manufacturing to delivery, regardless of physical location.

Many organizations choose to implement 5G solutions into their operations because 5G networks are already transforming and enhancing mobile proficiencies at a large scale, offering organizations significant enhancements in security capabilities such as:

  • Enhanced identity protection: 5G shields connections from external devices mimicking cell towers to discover the identity of the user,
  • More intelligent software and virtual hardware: Allowing for safer data routing through virtual hubs, and
  • Edge computing: Allowing data to be processed closer to where it is created and consumed and, thus, heightened awareness for threat detection.

The security architecture of 5G allows for significant performance benefits and diversity of applications as it leverages network slicing, cloud-based resources, virtualization, and other emerging technologies. However, as more enterprises and industries adopt 5G to connect their operational devices and applications, the attack surface increases. To protect against potential new security threats, new security controls are needed.

Given the complexity and interconnectivity of supply chain operations, a critical component of an effective cybersecurity strategy is zero trust. Zero trust champions the notion of “never trust, always verify” across an organizational security architecture, further segmenting networks and only allowing access to certain areas of a network to those who legitimately require it.

With zero trust, the security status of an endpoint is immediately untrusted—denying access and authentication to a user—until the zero-trust network can verify the user and location. Implementing a zero-trust strategy is beneficial to organizations of all types and sizes. Large businesses with extensive supply chain operations stretching the globe should have the tools and infrastructure required to implement this security framework into their network environment—and should move in a zero-trust direction.

Supply chain security strategy

The pandemic caused a renewed focus on data security — in the manufacturing industry some may refer to this focus as “smart manufacturing”— that prioritizes risk and resilience as part of security in the production and fulfillment process, rather than just providing a technological element to operations. Manufacturers today are considering what the attack and protection surfaces look like, as a guide for implementing the most effective strategies for securing the supply chain from end to end and mitigating the possibility of risk.

Another key component of developing a supply chain security strategy is collaborating with external organizations. This involves ensuring that each member of the chain has individually created, and continuously maintains, a strong cybersecurity program. Given the needs, regulatory requirements, budgets, and priorities that single organizations require, working closely with vendors in a global supply chain to determine the level of protection they are offering your organization, and customers, in addition to their own, is paramount.

Taking the time to confirm with internal teams and external vendors that there are strategies in place to address the weak points in their chains will better serve organizations in the long run.

If business leaders are not mindful and strategic in their approach to securing supply chain operations, they are leaving themselves vulnerable to attacks that can have lasting effects on their brand reputation, as well as detrimental internal repercussions such as data and financial loss. Maintaining a meticulous security infrastructure allows businesses the opportunity to preserve their relationships with customers, protect customer and employee data, and deliver safe and quality products to customers.

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