The pace of technological advances that have enhanced every aspect of supply chains in the last decade has been stunning.  But progress hasn’t come without a price.

During this same period, the frequency and intensity of data breaches and cyber intrusions has also grown by leaps.  So, if it has occurred to you that maybe you should pay more attention to cyber security, hold that thought.

According to some estimates, as many as 80 percent of cyberattacks originate in supply chains.  Yet, despite their vulnerability, in more than half of the companies reviewed in recent studies, there is no alignment between the supply chain and cybersecurity teams.

Cyber threats are a growing concern in every business, but it stands to reason that supply chains would be especially vulnerable.  Poor security practices leave them accessible to attack from a host of directions — employees, clients, suppliers, plant operations and who knows what software may have been tainted by malware at any of those sources?

The industry is striving for greater mobility, staying in touch no matter where or when.  Consider the ramifications, then, when 600 million Samsung Galaxy cellphones were identified as having security flaws caused by a software supplier who was unknowingly passing on malware.

That was two years ago.   Since then and before, some of the nation’s largest companies have been breached successfully — Home Depot, Target, Walmart, Nieman Marcus, Yahoo and JP Morgan Chase Bank, to name a few.  Those are companies with considerable IT talent.

So you ask yourself.   Without those big guns, how do we protect ourselves, our clients and our suppliers?

No approach is foolproof, but there are a number of steps that will help secure the data and the communication that is essential to doing business:

  • Set Protocols:  In concert with your IT specialists or data security contractor, set down in writing a meticulous set of standards that will ensure every member of the supply chain has clear direction for handling email, purchasing and using software, discussing company business, storing and sharing data and reinforce those standards through the ongoing support of leaders from each part of the chain.
  • Teach Compliance:  Offer compulsory training that emphasizes the importance of adhering to the policies that have been agreed upon by the supply chain team.  Most data breaches are caused when compliance rules are inadequate or are overlooked.
  • Network Security Standards:  Institute regular communication with major suppliers and clients so that security standards are consistent along the entire supply chain.  A cyberattack that succeeds along any point in the supply chain has the capacity to interfere with the entire chain by disrupting business and causing uncertainty and dissension across the entire operation.  Where possible, apply system technologies across the network.
  • Vet Vendors:  Against standards that you have created with your data security advisers, institute a vendor vetting process before approving any new supplier and review each vendor annually with an eye toward their willingness to cooperate with prescribed security standards.

The security of any organization that is part of a supply chain is only as strong as the weakest member of the chain.

Cyber security is a team sport and the competition can be brutal.  If you are in business, you need to play hard to protect your data and your clients’.   There’s risk in every business, but with planning, communication and cooperation, you can help limit the risk of exposing your supply chain to cyber breaches by maintaining standards that are followed by every member of the team — no exceptions.

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