What is Supply Chain Security and Why is It Important?

Written by Sam Jones
Apr 6, 2021 - 5 minute read

Supply Chain Security involves managing both physical threats and cyber threats, all the way from terrorism and piracy to non-compliance and data loss...

Protect Supply Chain with Cyber Essentials

I'm going to make a pretty safe assumption - your business, however big or small, uses a number of suppliers to help deliver your product or service to the market.

You've probably clicked on this page because you know supply chains inevitably mean risk; risk that can involve physical threats and cyber threats, all the way from terrorism and piracy to non-compliance and data loss.

This risk is rising because businesses are finding it harder to establish control over their supply chain. What used to be an easily managed, linear chain of suppliers, is now often extremely complex, and this leads to a multitude of challenges when it comes to managing these things. One of these challenges is making sure the supply chain is secure and well protected against cyber attack.

So let's dive in and find out out what supply chain security really is and why you need to be actively addressing it...

Why is supply chain security important?

The day to day operations of a supply chain are complicated, with products and services needing to be delivered at the right times and in the right way. If something were to happen to disrupt these processes, an organisation could be dealing with major financial, reputational and operational difficulties. 

Modern day supply chains have a large surface area, leaving greater potential for vulnerabilities to exist at any stage or tier of the supply chain. Managing its security has never been more important as one security incident in a third-party supplier could be catastrophic for other organisations within that supply chain. 




The Government's Cyber Breaches Survey 2020 discovered there is a lot of confusion regarding how your suppliers' cybersecurity is directly relevant to your own business. Simply put, in order to keep up with the fast paced, highly demanding consumer market, it is normal for suppliers to be able to access enterprise systems and data in order to carry out its operational activities. This means that however indirectly, your suppliers' systems are linked to your own, and any vulnerabilities within them become ones you must bear too.

Complacency is the biggest concern when it comes to supply chain security, but once this relationship between yours and your supplier's cybersecurity is understood, you can start to address the risks. 


| "You're only as secure as the weakest link in your Supply Chain" 



Top Cybersecurity Risks for Supply Chain:

  • Poor visibility of your supply chain: It goes without saying, if you don't have a clear picture of your supply chain and each supplier's access privileges, it's highly likely you're unaware of a third-party supplier or subcontractor that's posing major security risks which could affect the supply chain as a whole.
  • Compromised data: If you have sensitive data being handled or retained by a supplier and they experience a breach, this data can be stolen, tampered with or deleted by cybercriminals, harming your business' reputation and potentially resulting in operational downtime, financial losses, legal action and regulatory fines. 

  • Software solution providers: Many harmful supply chain attacks originate with software solution providers. Cybercriminals will inject malware into the software, for example through an update, which is then widely dispersed allowing the malware to harm anyone's systems that use the software and installs the update.   

  • Security vulnerabilities in supplier systems: While you might be implementing important security measures within your own company, this is rendered useless if your suppliers have not done the same. Vulnerabilities in supplier systems can be exploited at any level, allowing hackers potential access to your own assets and systems. 

  • Poor supply chain management: A properly managed supply chain immediately helps to mitigate cyber threat. If security expectations are not communicated to suppliers, there is no way to ensure a baseline level of security is met, thus reducing overall risk to the supply chain. 

It's a Big Deal...

With 40% of Cyber Attacks now thought to be originating from supply chains, securing them is something that should be a number one priority. Some of the biggest cyber catastrophes to hit the media have been to do with the supply chain.

Check out this infographic for a timeline of supply chain attacks and you'll see that no business is safe...


Supply Chain Attacks (1)


So how do I secure my Supply Chain?

The good news is that you don't just have to sit back and wait to be hit by one of these supply chain attacks. There are things that every business can and should do to protect their supply chain.

As a first step, a clear picture of who your suppliers are is imperative to your Supply Chain's security. This can be challenging because in the modern business world, supply chains can be constantly evolving. Many businesses will have a good idea of their immediate 'Tier One' suppliers, but unfortunately these aren't the only ones that pose a risk. Working with your immediate suppliers to find out who's supplying to them is important as well. 

Once this network is mapped out, you should figure out the extent to which each of these companies are able to access assets within your organisation. Do they need to hold certain data or get into your systems to be able to perform their role in your Supply Chain? This will help establish the risk level of your suppliers and therefore the level of protection they need to aid your wider supply chain security. 

Finally, you can establish a framework through which you will ensure your suppliers are meeting the baseline level of security that you have deemed appropriate. There are different ways to do this, but a common and tangible standard that your suppliers can achieve and demonstrate to you is optimal. The nationally recognised UK Government standard of Cyber Essentials is a great place to start, with two levels of the certification to suit suppliers of varying risk levels. 


Know Your Suppliers


We work with businesses to secure their Supply Chain with Cyber Essentials as a fully managed service, helping to match the most suitable level of certification to each supplier and carrying out the whole certification process.

Topics: Cyber Attack, Cyber Security, Supply Chain


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