How to Identify and Prevent Supply Chain Attacks?

As technology makes it easier for businesses to stay connected and share data across cloud platforms, infiltrating threat actors within the network and posing supply chain threats have become easier than ever! While the intervention of third-party vendors helps maintain seamless operations and facilitate data exchange, this partnership also opens up the doors to supply chain cyber threats that can have far-reaching consequences, ranging from data breaches and intellectual property theft to financial loss and reputational damage.

With the increasing reliance on complex supply chains that span across various vendors and service providers, these supply chain cyber threats have become a genuine concern in the cybersecurity space and require a more proactive approach to mitigate these risks. 

In this article, we’ll give you insights into identifying and preventing supply chain attacks, empowering you to enhance your business’ security posture and protect your valuable assets. 

The Development of Complex Supply Chains 

The Global Security Attitude Survey in 2021 found that only 36% of organizations report having vetted new and existing suppliers in the last year. These statistics emphasize the alarming reality that organizations today are woefully underprepared. But what led to this significant rise in supply chain attacks? 

To meet the ever-evolving needs of the customer and stay ahead of current agile market trends, organizations have been working on switching traditional, linear supply chains for ones that are far more complex, intelligent, and transparent. This paradigm shift has enabled enterprises to streamline operations, minimize costs, and efficiently meet client needs. However, this increased connectivity and the vast amount of data flowing through the supply chain networks come with a significant tradeoff— an expanded risk profile.

With increasing vulnerabilities and entry points for adversaries, the scope of supply chain compromise and hostile attacks increases significantly. However, by implementing robust security practices, leveraging technology solutions, and fostering strong collaboration across the supply chain network, businesses can fortify their defenses against supply chain attacks and safeguard their operations.

Recent Examples of High-Profile Supply Chain Attacks 

Supply chain cyber threats have garnered significant attention in recent years due to their far-reaching impact and the vulnerability they expose in interconnected systems. Here are a few notable examples of these attacks:

SolarWinds Supply Chain Attack (2020)

One of the most notable supply chain attacks in recent years, the SolarWinds attack enabled the attackers to unauthorized access into the company’s systems development process. It injected a trojan code into their Orion software updates. As a result, around 18000 customers, including government agencies, unknowingly installed the compromised updates, potentially compromising sensitive data.

Kaseya VSA Ransomware Attack (2021)

In July 2021, an IT solutions developer Kaseya, fell prey to a supply chain attack that used its remote monitoring and management software, impacting their clients’ systems. The attackers exploited a vulnerability in the software and distributed a malicious update, allowing them to gain unauthorized access to the MSPs’ networks. This resulted in the encryption of data and subsequent ransom demands, affecting thousands of organizations worldwide.

What Does a Supply Chain Attack Look Like?

Supply chain security threats refer to cyberattacks that target trusted third-party vendors who are vital to the supply chain instead of the businesses themselves, making them harder to detect. These attacks can manifest themselves in various ways, including: 

Domain Spoofing 

Attackers may spoof a legitimate domain name to create a fake website or email address that resembles a trusted supplier or partner. This can trick organizations into interacting with these fraudulent domains, leading to data compromise or the introduction of malware into the supply chain.

Lookalike Domains 

Attackers create domains that closely resemble legitimate ones by making slight variations in spelling or punctuation. This leads unsuspecting users to be redirected to these fraudulent websites, where they can fall victim to phishing attacks, credential theft, or downloading of malicious content.

Domain Name Spoofing

Attackers forge the sender’s email address to make it appear that the communication comes from a trusted source within the supply chain, leading to data breaches, financial loss, or unauthorized transactions.

Compromised Supplier Account 

If a supplier’s account within the supply chain is compromised, it can enable threat actors to gain unauthorized access to their systems. Once inside the compromised account, attackers can manipulate orders, invoices, or communications, leading to financial losses, disruption of services, or more. 

Why is it Important to Secure Your Supply Chain?

Recognizing the importance of protecting the integrity and security of their supply chains is essential for organizations to safeguard their operations, maintain customer trust, and mitigate significant financial and reputational risks.

One primary reason why supply chain cybersecurity is vital is the interconnected nature of modern supply chains. A single weak link in the chain can expose the entire network to potential cyberattacks. Adversaries often target suppliers and third-party vendors to gain unauthorized access to valuable information or exploit vulnerabilities to compromise larger organizations. Additionally, by infiltrating the supply chain, threat actors can compromise sensitive data, disrupt operations, introduce malicious software, or even steal intellectual property.

How Can You Protect Against Supply Chain Attacks? 

According to research, by 2025, 45% of organizations globally are expected to be potential victims of software supply chain attacks, a threefold rise from 2021. These numbers point towards the ubiquity of these attacks and the need for robust supply chain risk management strategies. 

Here’s how you can protect your organization against a supply chain compromise: 

Know Your Network 

To ensure comprehensive third-party cyber risk management, organizations should have a clear understanding of their supply chain network. Identifying suppliers, contractors, and other third-party entities with access to your systems can help map out their threat landscape.

Prioritize Email Authentication 

Email is a common vector for supply chain attacks, such as phishing and spear-phishing. So it is crucial to implement robust email authentication protocols such as Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance (DMARC), Sender Policy Framework (SPF), and DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM) that help verify the authenticity of emails and prevent spoofing or impersonation attempts. 

Educate Your Employees 

To mitigate the risks of supply chain attacks, train your employees on security best practices, emphasizing the importance of scrutinizing emails, attachments, and links before opening them. Additionally, regular security awareness training can significantly reduce the risk of supply chain attacks caused by human error.

How Red Sift can help identify risks and secure your supply chain

As businesses become more interconnected, maintaining their security is no longer limited to deploying defenses around their own organization. Instead, it extends to inspecting the entire ecosystem that involves today’s complex supply chains. 

At Red Sift, we offer comprehensive solutions for your business to gain visibility into the security posture of your supply chain to identify potential vulnerabilities that need securing. Contact us today to learn how we can help protect your business against supply chain attacks.

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Red Sift

13 Sep. 2023



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