Supply Chain Attack



Supply Chain Attack- A supply chain attack is a type of cyber-attack that targets a company’s supply chain.

When a cybercriminal accesses your systems through an external partner or service provider with access to your network and data, this is known as a supply chain attack. The attack aims to cause harm to a company by focusing on less-secure supply chain parts. The supply chain attack is substantially increasing an enterprise’s attack surface as more suppliers and service providers get access to your network.

Important Points to Remember

  • When hackers target a business through an outside service provider or partner, this is known as a supply chain assault.
  • Supply chain attacks are exemplified by the SolarWinds incident and the FireEye breach.
  • Most firms are not prepared for supply chain attacks, as evidenced by recent supply chain attacks.
  • To reduce supply chain risk, conduct thorough due diligence before hiring a vendor. You might also use the least privilege paradigm or collaborate with a managed security services provider.

How Does It Work?

It is necessary to study about the supply chain in order to understand how supply chain assaults function. A supply chain is a set of actions that involve producing, processing, handling, and distributing items in order to transmit resources from vendors or suppliers to end users. The system consists of interconnected participants who meet a product’s demand and supply.

A supply chain attack, in terms of cybersecurity, entails tampering with IT resources including computers, networks, and software items in order to install undetectable malware that harms participants farther down the supply chain system.

Cybercriminals have the resources and technical tools they need to generate a cyberstorm. Because organisations rely on third-party methods to establish supply chain trust, hackers can access systems and information by breaking the chain of trust. The majority of supply chain attacks start with advanced persistent threats that locate a supply chain actor with exploitable flaws.

Malicious actors are drawn to supply chain attacks. When thieves penetrate popular services or applications, for example, they have the ability to acquire access to all businesses who employ the product. Installing a rootkit, spyware, or hardware-based surveillance components is a common way for hackers to meddle with a product’s development.

From the financial sector to the oil industry to government entities, supply chain attacks can happen in every industry.

Supply Chain Attacks are More Popular Today

Enterprises construct intelligent supply chains that offer increased resilience, speed, and transparency in response to changing customer and market demands. Traditional supply chains are being digitally transformed by manufacturers, governments, and suppliers to obtain greater flexibility and tighter chain networks.



More connection points with the outside world are being introduced as a result of current supply chain reforms. More data is flowing between diverse stakeholders, allowing businesses to move at a faster pace. This trend, on the other hand, is dramatically raising the risk profile by broadening the cybersecurity attack surface.

Because businesses operate in such a complex, interconnected world, security is no longer only about protecting the company’s perimeter. Instead, it entails safeguarding a supply chain’s entire network of connections. You are only as safe as the weakest link in the supply chain, as the saying goes.

Open Source Supply Chain Threat

According to Sonatype’s 2020 State of the Software Supply Chain Report, supply chain assaults targeting open-source software projects are a significant risk for enterprises, given that 90% of all apps incorporate open source code and 11% of products have known vulnerabilities.

The 2017 Equifax data breach is a good example. An unpatched Apache Struts (a free, open-source, MVC framework for constructing attractive, modern Java web applications) vulnerability was exploited in this incident, costing the organisation $2 billion.

Without sufficient security measures in place, attackers will continue to build vulnerabilities, compromising supply chains on purpose through open-source development and dissemination.

Supply Chain Attacks Examples

SolarWinds Incident

An outstanding example of a supply chain attack is the SolarWinds event. Through a hacked update to SolarWinds’ Orion software, a group thought to be Russia’s Cozy Bear got access to government and other institutions (a partner to those organizations). The hack allowed thieves to get access to US Treasury and Commerce systems, prompting the US National Security Council to convene an emergency meeting. 425 Fortune 500 companies, the top 10 US telecommunications corporations, the top five US accounting firms, all US military branches, the Pentagon, the State Department, and hundreds of institutions and schools throughout the world may have been affected.

FireEye Breach

In another famous case, nation-state hackers exploited FireEye’s modifications to a popular network monitoring product to launch an assault. FireEye is a leading cybersecurity organisation with big enterprise and government clients across the world. The firm does in-depth research on state-sponsored threat actors and offers dependable incident response services. Highly sophisticated threat actors were able to gain access to government entities and other businesses as a result of the hack.

The attackers are said to be the cyber arm of Russia’s SVR foreign intelligence organisation, also known as Cozy Bear or APT29, according to the Washington Post. The criminals were looking for information about FireEye’s clients, particularly government entities.

Preventing Supply Chain Attacks

The most obvious takeaway from these episodes is that most businesses are unprepared for supply chain attacks. To avoid future supply chain assaults, take the following steps:

In-depth Due Diligence

Enterprises should do sufficient due diligence to mitigate supply chain risk in addition to negotiating a contract with a vendor. Establishing established plans to control third-party risks is part of the process. Questionnaire assessments, documentation reviews, remote assessments, cybersecurity ratings, and onsite security evaluations are all examples of due diligence techniques.



Questionnaire assessments, on the other hand, should be followed by another technique, such as onsite security assessments. Enterprises should not trust vendor responses and should demand verification that their suppliers are compliant with security standards. Businesses can request a bill of materials from software manufacturers, which identifies all of the code components in software packages. Such information can assist in identifying potential application component vulnerabilities.

Suppliers should be required to follow a list of authorised security measures, which should be implemented and enforced by organisations. In addition, they should undertake site assessments at partner locations on a regular basis to improve security posture.

The Principle of Least Privilege

Least privilege should be prioritised by organisations. Assume that vendor-supplied software necessitates internet communication. Users can improve their security in this instance by limiting access permissions to preset sites, which will prevent the application from talking with rogue command and control servers.

Designing for Security

Security mechanisms should be built into software to identify and prevent illegal code access and alteration. They should test and tighten the security of the programme on a regular basis.

Partnering with Managed Security Service Provider

Organizations can benefit from security service providers’ expertise. In supply chains, security providers offer automated threat forensics and dynamic malware protection against known and unknown threats.

Jennifer Thomas
Jennifer Thomas is the Co-founder and Chief Business Development Officer at Cybers Guards. Prior to that, She was responsible for leading its Cyber Security Practice and Cyber Security Operations Center, which provided managed security services.