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Cybersecurity and your supply chain: a wake-up call

By Toby Gooley | August 06, 2015 | 1:02 PM | Categories: Supply Chain

By now, everybody on the planet is aware that criminals have at various times hacked into the customer databases of giant retailers like Target and Home Depot, and that even government agencies—including the military—are not immune to such crimes. But what many of us don’t realize is that our supply chains are also vulnerable to electronic infiltration.

As Drew Smith, founder and CEO of the computer security company InfoArmor, writes in “Is your supply chain safe from cyberattacks?” in the Q2/2015 issue of our sister publication, CSCMP’s Supply Chain Quarterly, global supply chains are highly reliant on the rapid sharing of data among supply chain partners. Yet each of these relationships represents a potential point of access to an organization’s proprietary information. Exchanging data with suppliers, it turns out, is risky business.

That last sentence deserves your full attention. Today’s integrated, interdependent systems, Smith notes, are rife with cybersecurity risks. These include the transmission of information to and from vendors; open access to data rather than “need to know” access; frequent changes in suppliers and products; a lack of standardization of security protocols among suppliers and other supply chain partners; and obsolete or infected hardware and software.

Smith argues that cybersecurity should therefore be an integral part of supplier vetting, and that every buyer should require its suppliers to meet specified security standards. “One of the most important and effective steps you can take,” he writes, “is to include cybersecurity protocols, conditions, and capabilities in the procurement function’s approval criteria for all potential new vendors.”

The Home Depot security breach came about because criminals obtained and manipulated vendors’ computer credentials. Target was compromised because a service provider failed to follow accepted information-security practices. If cybersecurity standards are not currently included among your vendor-approval criteria, I urge you to circulate Smith’s article in your procurement organization, and to conduct a risk assessment soon.

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