5 Ways to Defend Against Supply Chain Cyberattacks

Cutting corners happens, more so in high-stakes, high-speed jobs. But from employees honest enough to admit when they push vulnerable code live, we can put together a portfolio of products shipped broken. A new study by Osterman Research found a concerning trend — 81% of developers admitted to knowingly pushing vulnerable code live. And that makes it easier for threat actors to launch cyberattacks.

But we’re not mentioning this just to be negative. Instead, it’s a good cue for businesses and agencies to look inward. Reducing supply chain vulnerability starts with creating the right company culture. Developers should feel safe raising a flag about vulnerable code, even if it means a possible missed deadline. Otherwise, the developer may stay silent and increase risk with the code. Employers can’t make a risk-based decision without knowing the full picture of possible vulnerabilities and the impact on incident response. This starts with a culture where cybersecurity is built into the fabric and is a top priority for everyone.

How Changing Company Culture Can Prevent Cyberattacks

However, a single person cannot solve the issue. Reducing supply chain cyberattacks requires teamwork — business leaders who set priorities, cybersecurity experts working closely with developers and developers building security into their code. Waiting until you are already the victim of a supply chain attack or a vulnerability exposes your data is too late.

Here are five keys to start proactively reducing supply chain attack risk:

Inform Developers About Cyberattacks

For supply chain attacks, developers are the front line. You may be tempted to try to cover all your bases with a yearly class or more frequent lectures. However, what really works best is a process where developers are updated on an ongoing basis about new cyberattacks and best practices. By using micro-training, such as text training or short videos, developers can both get the lessons they need and increase their awareness.

Monitor Open-Source Projects

The 2020 State of the Software Supply Chain Report found that cyberattacks on open-source code increased 430% between 2019 and 2020. By using adversary simulation engagements, organizations can get a firsthand look at how well their software holds up during an attack. Developers can also reduce the risk posed by open-source development by reducing dependency confusion issues by increasing the visibility and security of libraries, packages and dependencies.

Zero Trust

Because of the moving parts — data, products, integrations — a zero trust approach is crucial for reducing supply chain cyberattack risk. Assume that any device, user or data isn’t safe until proven otherwise. This way, you can often reduce, and remove, threats that can harm the supply chain.

Built-In Data Protection

A key vulnerability with supply chain cyberattacks is sensitive data in the applications, which must flow both ways. In addition, make sure you’re following all data privacy and protection laws in your code. Developers should build the latest encryption techniques into their applications. They should also use digital signatures, session breaks and multifactor authentication for supply chain.

Focus on Third-Party Risks 

The nature of supply chain is that organizations and applications work together for delivery. That might be through physical products or software security. However, each new connection means more high-risk endpoints. Be sure to double check all integrations and risk. After all, you can’t protect what you don’t know. The next step is working together with vendors and partners to make sure that all parties are following cybersecurity best practices and being up front about risks.

Supply chain attacks are not likely to subside anytime in the near future. By building resilience to this type of damaging cyberattack into your applications and culture, you can reduce your risk.

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Author: Jennifer Gregory