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The Rise of and Mitigation of Cyber Risk in the Supply Chain

As the frantic emails trickle into the CISO of an MSSP with a few dozen employees the reality begins to set in. While at one point they may have thought the storm clouds were approaching, now it is clear the fire and fury of data loss and customer panic are ever present, all under the heavily scrutinizing eye of customers, suppliers, and the bottom line.

Long gone are the days when data could be simply siloed away from the prying eyes of digital advisories. With the rise of the cloud, collaboration platforms, and remote work, the sheer scale of cyber risks has easily brought private and corporate data to the fingertips of hackers.

Complicating this scenario is the extensive interconnectivity and reliance of organizations across the supply chain. From SMBs and rising startups to established corporate titans and industry leaders, everyone is now inextricably connected, bringing one company's risk to your front door.

Interconnectivity and the supply chain

What unifies business across diverse sectors and markets are their collective use of highly complex core technologies and reliance on managed service providers.

Indiscriminate of company size and focus, they all require a secure process to manage their data, sore it and all the while mitigate the third-party risk that puts the collective data in harm's way. The result of this extreme interconnectivity is both a more seamless and integrated world as well as potentially greatly amplified cyber risks.

As businesses expand their footprints and grow more interconnected, they increasingly depend on vendors to outsource key operations and business functions. Consequently, this dependency, if not properly assessed, and monitored, can create avenues for data loss.

According to a recent report from Accenture “While this hyper-connectivity allows for faster growth, this dependency on third-party suppliers means organizations are not always aware where their crown jewels are, and who has access to them, or let alone what impact these dependencies will have if something goes wrong.”

Managing the risks

Understanding the risk environment across the supply chain is essential. In practice, clarity in visualizing potential risks can be the difference between managing a minor exploit effectively to handing in your resignation after a serious loss of data and reputation.

So what does this mean in the day-to-day? How can you practically bring down some of the risk factors?

While there is no clear-cut solution to mitigate all risks across the supply chain, it is possible to focus on a few critical pressure points to better your odds of success. Industry Week, Security Intelligence, and others suggest creating a strategy to maintain functionality and data security. This should include

  • Emphasis on Data visibility and permissions

    • By tracking all data access & limiting permitted users, systems managers can pinpoint shared data and manage demand control.

  • Data Locality

    • Understanding where vital data lies can impact data security and compliance with industry regulations. For some critical infrastructure sectors, data must be stored locally, for others, the cloud (either public or private) may be the key to enhanced security.

  • Managing Third Party risk

    • With nearly every process demanding multiple vendors and the interplay of numerous technical solutions reliant on third-party vendors, it is key to choose partners wisely. Minimize preventable risk and monitor exploits impacting partners in real-time.

  • Building and updating a Supply Chain risk management framework.

    • By visualizing the “impact on the organization if the risk materializes, the likelihood of the risk materializing, and the organization’s preparedness to deal with that specific risk”, an organization can better equate a solutions-based approach to managing operational risk.

  • Agility is key

    • According to Deloitte “agility can make the difference between operations that thrive and those that merely survive. When disruption hits, it upends established practices, but it also reveals new opportunities.

What does the future hold?

Recent findings from IBM estimate “the average cost of a data breach at $3.86 million with mega breaches (50 million records or more stolen) reaching $392 million.” With the payoff reaching epic proportions, attackers will only elevate their illicit pursuits in the future. To mitigate future data losses and build the holistic infrastructure for long-term data security, across the supply chain organizations must plan for risks and implement an effective strategy.

Supply chain risk can be managed by seamlessly blending agility and third-party risk management, data locality, and long-term strategic planning. If balanced correctly, data can be effectively secured, security barriers maintained and businesses can operate at optimal levels of operational functionality.

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