4 Ways to Prepare Your Global Supply Chain for Cyber-Threats

As recent cyber-attacks in Europe show, any company’s supply chain can become a target. Yet, you can analyze cyber risks to your business and prepare to defend against them now instead of waiting until after you’ve been attacked. To do that, you will need to understand and align your organization’s appetite for risk with response and mitigation techniques before criminals come calling.

It’s important to accept that threats exist and know that you cannot completely mitigate their effects. Attacks like these will continue, with varying degrees of magnitude, realized impact, and intended results that range from financial gain to political disruption. Global supply chains are particularly vulnerable. You are connected with other parties that have such a diverse and dynamic set of requirements that they can seem like a moving target. In addition, navigating requirements around the globe can introduce risk when you interact with organizations in countries with varying degrees of security measures. This can make risk mitigation seem daunting.

In addition, socio-economic realities may make your global supply chain especially susceptible to threats. You will need to think wider and deeper to understand your true risk exposure. Here are 4 ways you can get started.

4 Ways to Prepare Global Supply Chains for Cyber-Threats

  1. Think past your immediate customer and supplier relationships and extend several tiers into the supply chain.

For example, you may have an electronic relationship with a supplier in Asia and know your data with them is safe and sound. But they may have an electronic relationship with another supplier that does not have proven security measures. The second supplier can still impact your cyber-security. What can you do? Develop a complete supply chain network connection map that extends at least one tier beyond your direct customer/supplier relationships. Such a map can reveal unexpected dependencies and vulnerabilities.

  1. Evaluate the noise and prioritize the threats you deem to be most viable.

You can take steps that are recognized as effective deterrents. For example, you can and should apply regular software updates and offer basic security education to all employees as a matter of course; this is no longer optional. You can also identify threats and risk mitigation techniques that align with your organization’s attitude toward business disruption. Tier the assets you use in your supply chain—computer equipment, mobile phones and tablets, and employee, customer, and financial data—and address the highest-risk areas with more scrutiny and urgency.

  1. Determine a holistic and tactical recovery method and the maximum time to recover (TTR).

Host a cross-functional discussion within your organization to debate and implement recovery methods. Test those recovery methods regularly to ensure they remain relevant and achieve your expected TTR. Often, the organizational discussion that ensues among your leadership team and the extended discussion that occurs with your partners can result in even more best-practice sharing.

  1. Don’t allow excessive risk mitigation approaches that slow down other business initiatives.

There is a danger of becoming so secure that you can hinder business objectives, like growth through a nimble and effective sales team. For example, it is reasonable that sales executives have access to pricing and customer information on their laptop. But, in the name of security, you can limit them to accessing basic customer information only and restrict laptop access to customer bank account information for the accounts receivable department. That way, if the laptop is stolen, your organization will have limited risk exposure. You will have prevented the release of secure customer information while giving the sales team the tools and information they need to do their jobs.

Final Thoughts

You can approach cyber-preparedness the same way you do any type of business risk. Analyze the risks, prioritize them, develop a plan to mitigate the most serious risks first, and get started. The best offense is a good defense, and the time to prepare is now.

Looking for help improving your supply chain? Utilize the expertise of supply chain experts and consulting services.

Rick Willbanks
Senior Director Software Engineering
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