Supply Chain Attacks: Insulate Your Organization With Passpack

Supply Chain Attacks

Supply chain attacks are increasingly threatening organizations worldwide. Discover what they are, gain crucial insights, and learn effective strategies to minimize exposure and bolster your defenses in our comprehensive guide.

What are supply chain attacks?

Supply chain attacks are cyber-attacks that seek to break into a larger organization’s IT environment through a trusted third-party supplier or vendor. The criminal theory here being that smaller businesses are less secure.

Regardless, as trusted partners these companies are connected to the hacker’s ultimate target, which makes them extremely attractive to cyber criminals. Should a supply chain partner’s credentials be compromised, they can be used to gain access to systems not only of the target organization, but potentially countless other businesses up and down its supply chain.

These attacks are particularly vicious because the cyber criminals are using credentials stolen from a trusted source, usually one of hundreds of vendors. It appears as if their presence is authorized, making them difficult to trace.

This gives criminals extended time to conduct their malicious activities and penetrate other companies’ systems before discovery. As such, supply chain attacks can be massive in scope with devastating consequences on upstream and downstream businesses not related to the original target.

Supply chain attacks can happen at any time in any industry. The vehicle can be software or hardware based. The most often targeted industries include healthcare, financial services, professional services, manufacturing, government, and education.

The most common attack vector used by hackers is to target smaller companies that provide technical or financial services to larger enterprises, as they typically have digital access to client networks.

These attacks can take many forms. Attackers may steal login credentials of a supplier through phishing attacks. They may try to disrupt operations through a denial-of-service (DoS) attack, steal customer data, or install malware into software or firmware used by the supplier via USB drive, which can then be used to compromise the hacker’s ultimate target.

Supply chain attacks: Coming soon to an organization near you

Perhaps you heard of the SolarWinds supply chain attack where malware installed during a software update impacted operations at the US Treasury Department, the US Department of Defense, and many other government agencies and their suppliers.

A more recent example in the private sector was the MOVEit Transfer supply chain attack, discovered in June of 2023 and perhaps the largest hack of the year. MOVEit is a managed file transfer service used by thousands of organizations around the world to move large amounts of sensitive data over the Internet.

A software vulnerability allowed attackers to raid MOVEit Transfer servers and steal customers’ sensitive data including the names, addresses, dates of birth, and Social Security numbers of 11 million individuals and counting. The primary target wasn’t MOVEit – they just used the file transfer platform to get to their customers’ data.

To date more than 620 organizations and their users in the US, Germany, the United Kingdom, and Canada have been impacted with costs reaching into the billions.

As the world becomes more reliant on global, interconnected digital supply chains, we can only expect the number of these types of attacks to increase, and understanding the risks and implications of such attacks is therefore crucial to building a proactive defense strategy and maintaining organizational security and resilience.

Cybercriminals generally don’t break in, they login

When thieves smash through the door of a business after hours, alarms usually sound. They’ve got a few precious seconds to snatch and grab valuables and get out before authorities arrive. But if they have the keys to the door and the alarm code, they could stay there all night and clean the place out at their leisure. That’s the danger of supply chain attacks.

By assuming the identity of a trusted partner, the criminals know they can walk through the front door undetected, at least for a little while. That’s why most supply chain attacks do not originate from brute force attacks that will set off alarms, but rather phishing or social engineering campaigns that quietly manage to steal an unsuspecting user’s credentials.

If your business is part of a larger supply chain, recognize that the issue of cybersecurity is about more than protecting just your organization. The chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Here are a few tips to minimize the risk for your organization:

  • Choose third-party vendors that have good security controls in place. You can no longer allow a supplier to blindly connect to your IT environment without first verifying their network won’t be a backdoor into your organization. Ask about their security posture, network defenses, and password policies. Do they use a password manager, multi-factor authentication (MFA), or single sign-on SSO to verify users? When the project or contract is over, be sure to disable third-party access to your systems.
  • Deploy network security and malware detection around your organization. Don’t assume you’ll be safe if the businesses around you are protected. New threats arise every day, some with zero notice. It is imperative that every organization with a digital presence (that is to say, just about all) implement continuous threat detection and breach monitoring software to enable prompt response and isolation of affected assets.

    There are hundreds of network security apps and providers available. The best ones employ a zero-trust security framework, end-to-end-data encryption, and multi-layer identity and access management (IAM) tools. Whichever is the best for your organization’s needs, be sure to keep up to date with software and security patches.
  • Educate your employees. We would be remiss if we did not mention the most basic of all steps: train your employees on security awareness. Teach them to recognize phishing scams, not to open emails from suspicious/unknown senders, and to report incidents of attempted breaches to the proper personnel.
  • Use a password manager application. Again, most attacks begin by compromising a weak password/access. These tools (including MFA) provide rules and policies around password creation, strength, expiration, reuse/recycling and phishing protection. They enforce the use of strong and unique credentials, minimizing the risk of exposure while alleviating the need for users to remember multiple passwords.

Use Passpack for Insulation Against Supply Chain Attacks

This last point is where Passpack can help. As a password manager app designed for small- to medium-sized businesses, Passpack is perfectly positioned and priced to safeguard the passwords of every link in the supply chain.

In addition to providing a robust password generator tool and enforceable policies for credential management, Passpack supports MFA, SSO, and secure password sharing company-wide among authorized users.

Recently Passpack has added several features that will be of particular interest to companies involved in intricate supply chains, including advanced domain name system (DNS) validation and user access controls over external connections – critical to keeping data limited to trusted domains and reducing the attack surface.

With Passpack, your organization can be better protected from the effects of a supply chain attack even if your vendors aren’t maintaining strict cybersecurity standards or using the best tools. Don’t be the weakest link.

Try the new Business Plan free for 28 days to see firsthand how Passpack can shore up your supply chain.

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