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Improving Supply Chain Security, Resiliency

Chief supply chain officers must adopt a proactive, comprehensive approach, build partnerships with IT security, and continuously assess and mitigate risks.

Nathan Eddy

January 17, 2024

4 Min Read
Supply Chain concept and Shipping cargo distribution challenge as piling ship containers or distributing freight and goods idea with container boxes.
Brain light via Alamy Stock

At a Glance

  • CSCOs should be conducting regular risk assessments for each partner, as risk and vulnerabilities are constantly evolving.
  • While CSCOs and IT security leaders have distinct roles and responsibilities, there are some overlapping goals.
  • As digital supply chains become more prevalent, CSCOs must spearhead the adoption of advanced cybersecurity strategies.

In the digital era, supply chains are not just a means of physical goods movement but also a complex network of intertwined software systems. As such, chief supply chain officers (CSCOs) must pivot toward robust cybersecurity strategies to safeguard these intricate ecosystems and adopt a multi-layered approach to cybersecurity as they expand their supply chain networks.

Having a software bill of materials allows CSCOs to assess the security posture of their vendors and can help identify and mitigate potential risks associated with third-party software. Another foundational step in this approach is the thorough due diligence of new partners and vendors.

“Understanding the cybersecurity postures of these potential collaborators is critical,” Brad LaPorte, advisor to Tidal Cyber, explains in an email interview. “It allows CSCOs to grasp the risks involved and ensure that partners align with the organization's security expectations.”

He points out implementing a uniform set of cybersecurity standards across the supply chain is also vital.

“This ensures every link in the chain adheres to established baseline security practices, creating a unified defense against cyber threats,” LaPorte says. “Such standardization not only simplifies security management but also fosters a culture of security within the entire network.”

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From LaPorte's perspective, a zero-trust approach is another key element in a robust cybersecurity strategy. “By operating on the principle that trust is never assumed and always verified, CSCOs can significantly restrict and control access to sensitive data,” he explains. “In the zero-trust model, verification is an ongoing process, making security a continuous priority.”

Conduct Regular Risk Assessments

Dilip Bachwani, chief technology officer at Qualys, points out CSCOs should be conducting regular risk assessments for each partner, as risk and vulnerabilities are constantly evolving. “Furthermore, CSCOs should be working closely with IT security leaders to build secure and resilient digital supply chains,” he told InformationWeek via email.

While CSCOs and IT security leaders have distinct roles and responsibilities, there are some overlapping goals, such as uninterrupted operations and improving risk management.

“The more these two organizational functions can work together to achieve their shared goals, the stronger their organizations will be,” Bachwani explains.

To ensure they maximize each other’s strengths, it’s important for CSCOs and IT security leaders to meet regularly to exchange information and ideas for improving their organizations. “For example, they can each share their threat intelligence with each other, whether it’s about cyberattacks or supply chain vulnerabilities, so their teams can prepare and address risks proactively,” Bachwani says.

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They can also work to develop and implement common guidelines and standards for cybersecurity and data protection, including supply chain partners.

LaPorte says that any partnership should be rooted in a culture of collaboration and transparency, sharing best practices and intelligence on emerging threats. “By working together on strategic security planning, both CSCOs and IT security leaders can ensure that their policies and procedures are not only current but also forward-thinking,” he explains.

This collaboration is essential to eliminate the detrimental “silo mentality” and “lone wolf syndrome”, where departments work in isolation and information is not shared effectively.

“When CSCOs and IT security leaders unite their expertise and resources, the organization stands a much better chance of defending against and mitigating the impact of cyber threats,” he notes.

Role of Regulatory Compliance

Regulatory compliance plays a vital role in how cybersecurity strategies are built: Compliance mandates like GDPR and the NIST Cybersecurity Framework provide foundations for data protection, access control, and incident response.

Related:IT Must Clean Up Its Own Supply Chain

“With these baselines in place, organizations can ensure that there is a certain level of security across all supply chain partners, which reduces the overall risk landscape,” Bachwani says. “Compliance also fosters a culture of security, which drives continuous improvement.”

He adds that the pressure to meet regulatory standards necessitates ongoing risk assessments, proactive risk management practices, and regular vulnerability patching, which prioritizes cybersecurity in decision-making.

“Regulatory frameworks often come with heavy fines and reputational damage for those who do not comply,” Bachwani notes. “This incentivizes everyone within the supply chain to prioritize cybersecurity and invest in robust safeguards.”

Christopher Warner, senior security consultant at GuidePoint Security, says regulatory frameworks often specify security controls and standards that organizations must follow.

“These controls serve as a basis for cybersecurity best practices within supply chains, influencing the selection of security technologies and implementing security policies,” he says via email.

He adds regulatory compliance often involves audits and assessments by regulatory bodies or third-party auditors and assessors.

“Organizations in the supply chain must be prepared to demonstrate their cybersecurity measures and adherence to compliance requirements during such evaluations,” he explains.

LaPorte says as digital supply chains become more prevalent, CSCOs must spearhead the adoption of advanced cybersecurity strategies, foster partnerships with IT security leaders, and integrate regulatory compliance into their security framework. “By implementing these practices, organizations can build resilient supply chains capable of withstanding the evolving landscape of cyber threats,” he notes.

Read more about:

Supply Chain

About the Author(s)

Nathan Eddy

Freelance Writer

Nathan Eddy is a freelance writer for InformationWeek. He has written for Popular Mechanics, Sales & Marketing Management Magazine, FierceMarkets, and CRN, among others. In 2012 he made his first documentary film, The Absent Column. He currently lives in Berlin.

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