Supply chains and logistics firms are always at risk of some form of error or another. Shipment delays, loss of inventory, incorrect orders etc. The COVID-19 pandemic, however, has manifested a new risk in the logistics industry. That risk is cyber security. A large chunk of a logistics enterprise deals with transferring and handling sensitive electronic data. The more advanced the technology, the quicker access to necessary information, the quicker the access to that information, the more efficient the logistics process becomes.
However, supply chains can become extremely vulnerable the larger the links are in that chain. Also, the larger and more reliant on technology they become the more at risk they are of a major attack.
Attack on the Vaccine
Data and information is crucial to the process because that information is shared through the various parties involved in the delivery of products and services in the chain. In other words, the amount of data transferred, used, and accessed within the supply chain process is massive. And that makes the logistics industry a very appealing target for cyber criminals.
The impact of a single cyber-attack on a logistics firm can be incredibly destructive for everyone involved. A perfect example of this was back in December 2020 when IBM’s cyber security division discovered a series of planned cyber-attacks on companies planning on distributing the coronavirus vaccine.
The threats were so alarming that the Department of Homeland Security issued its own warning about the threat.
IBM said the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Taxation and Customs Union was one target of the attacks, as well as European and Asian companies involved in the supply chain, whose names have not been disclosed.
IBM disclosed that among the targets were the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Taxation and Customs Union as well as certain European and Asian companies that dealt with the supply chain.
Hackers Want Access To Data
The purpose of the attack may is still unclear but it may have been to gain credentials, potentially get access to corporate networks and sensitive information regarding the vaccine itself.
That means it will require specialized logistics companies such as Haier Biomedical, a Chinese-owned cold chain supply company working with the World Health Organization and the United Nations.
Since a variation of the vaccine requires storage in special containers at -20 degrees Celsius only very specialized cold chain supply companies could undertake its distribution. Such a company was Haier Biomedical, a Chinese-owned supply chain company that worked with the World Health Organizations and the United Nations to transport the vaccine.
Hackers impersonated an executive from the company and sent phishing emails to different organizations they believed were responsible for providing materials to transport the vaccine.
The New Dangers of Supply Chain Cyber Attacks
Even more problematic, however, is the fact that a cyber-attack on a logistics company doesn’t only impact the logistics firm, it has detrimental consequences on everyone in the supply chain. 80 percent of cyber-attacks now begin at the supply-chain. Meaning that a breach in the smallest vendor can have major ramifications for even the largest enterprises.
The Solar Winds supply-chain attack proved that definitively. The Sunspot virus was deployed on the Orion digital platforming service, a solar winds product. As a result, the attack endangered Solar Winds and every single company, organization, and institution that used Orion.
One problem in securing the supply chain is where the organizational responsibility lies. Many different departments of an enterprise work with the supply chain and other critical partners, but there’s no one person or team held accountable.
So how can logistics firms ensure protection?
Protect Your Internal Systems
To protect your internal systems from malware attacks like the ones described above, invest in firewall, anti-virus programs, or even managed IT services for proper technology support and expertise. The programs your company uses should have a strong security and password protection capabilities such as multifactor authentication and verification codes.
Moreover, perform regular backups for all your data to avoid losing valuable information in the event of an attack.
Train Your Employees
All employees and personnel should trained on cyber security hygiene. They should learn about the potential for a major cyber-attack, hacking attempts and what they look like. That includes suspicious emails, unfamiliar links or URLs, and email attachments. Anticipation of a threat is the best way to prevent it.
Choose Your Supply Chain Partners Wisely
As we’ve demonstrated, the larger the supply chain the easier it is to fall into a cyber attack that can affect the entire network of vendors and distributors. And for the most part, there isn’t any system of accountability. Therefore choose supply chain partners that take the appropriate measures to safeguard their own data by conducting periodic security audits or have security credentials. In essence find partners that adhere to basic cyber security practices to ensure everyone’s protection.
Hire a Cybersecurity Expert
While the aforementioned methods will significantly reduce the cyber risks your company may face, the threat can never be fully eliminated. However, you can do more to strengthen your security, namely, having a skilled cybersecurity expert on your IT team. Cybersecurity professionals have been trained to protect data and are not just IT professionals with some knowledge of cybersecurity. This difference will often determine which companies will react well to a cybersecurity incident and those that will not.
Contract Cybersecurity professionals
Cyber threats can be managed but never completely eliminated. Hiring experienced experts with IT consulting and cyber security skills can do more to improve your cyber security. As we’ve seen with the Coronavirus pandemic of 2020, supply chains and logistics companies are more important than ever. They’ve become an invaluable resource for distributing important goods across the world including medicine, foods, vaccines, personal protective equipment and more.
But as we’ve also seen, hackers are taking notice. Any disruption into the supply chain when delivering critical medicines or equipment can cause irreparable harm to not only companies but ordinary citizens. Hackers attack essential systems in healthcare, and now logistics, because they hope that the desperation to get supplies to the right people will force companies to give in and pay large sums of money in exchange for access to their own systems again.
The cyber threats are real and they are becoming more dangerous. Improving your firm’s cyber security in light of all the attacks in recent years should be a main focus. As a logistics company, you want to aware of all possibilities and prepare for them accordingly.