How can supply chains be more secure?

Supply chain security is a crucial part of supply chain management that focuses on minimizing risk for the supply chain, logistics and transportation management systems. The issue of security, in particular, has become an urgent issue for companies due to the use of technology and the connection to several series of networks.


Supply chains are particularly important for all sectors and organisations as they get customers and businesses what they need and when they need it. Any disruptions within the chain risk the integrity of the services and delivery of products, as well as data privacy in the supply chain, and the transaction as a whole. Data breaches and other cyber attacks that compromise supply chain security can occur within any stage of the end-to-end process. The effect of these breaches cause severe disruptions and the biggest challenge is mitigating these effects.


There are five key factors that threaten a company’s security landscape, as stated by Accenture’s Cyber Threat Intelligence Report (2019).


  • Compromising geopolitics

  • The adapting nature of cybercriminals

  • Expanding motives for ransomware

  • Vulnerabilities in cloud infrastructure

  • Threats to the supply chain ecosystem



The National Cyber Security Centre, based in the UK, provides guidance on this topic, proposing 12 principles on how UK companies can establish control of their supply chain and better oversight.


The Solution- Steps to better supply chain security


Part of the challenge for organisations is that there is no single method or centralised function dealing with supply chain security. This area is particularly broad, dealing with everything from physical threats and cyber threats. Companies would have to be aware of which threats they should tackle, taking relevant legislation and appropriate steps into account.


Here are some ways in which organisations can better their security for existing supply chains:


Assess existing strategies

Organisations would have to assess risk and compliance, as well as security governance put in place, if any, within every aspect of the supply chain. This includes third party risk, IT regulations and data privacy. These should ideally be specified in due diligence processes and be updated and monitored regularly.


Enable supply chain visibility

Companies should look to improve their visibility to every block of the supply chain. There should be a program in place to monitor the supply chain on a regular basis, as explained in our previous blog about Blockchain (Blockchain: Transparency within the Supply Chain)


Data identification and permissioned control

Permissioned controls allow for third party access and those in the business network to access specific information as allowed by the company. This ensures a secure and reliable exchange of information between strategic business stakeholders. This type of access management is key to sharing sensitive data throughout a supply chain ecosystem and lowers the risk of improper access or breaches.


In addition to this, data protection programs and policies must include classification and discovery tools. These allow for the latest standard of protection and encryption policies to protect all types of data regarding customer information, inventory, financial data, etc.


Third-party risk management

As networks become larger and more connected, organisations need to expand their scope of risk management to include end-to-end security. This allows companies to keep track of their supply chain from end-to-end, assessing, improving and monitoring both internal and external risks throughout the life cycle of the chain. Organisations should start by bringing their teams together and identify any and all possible risks that could potentially damage them.


Digitize data

Although there are risks of cyber attacks with modern digital data, there is an equal risk with data that still relies on paper, phone, or faxes, such as the shipping industry (How is Blockchain changing Container Shipping?) which still heavily relies on physical data. Technological solutions, such as blockchain, would be easier for supply chains with regards to security and reliability, allowing for each party to be updated in real-time. As business processes are modernised and software is updated, companies can take advantage of the use of encryption, data loss prevention, file access, and constant monitoring.


Have a dedicated security team

A larger supply chain is often complex and fragmented in nature, which would be a key challenge for organisations. Although the implementation of technology, such as file transfer systems and blockchain technology, is more present and proactive, as it can be overwhelming for individual employees to manage the whole chain themselves. Organisations can employ a dedicated security risk officer to manage this but would need a wider dedicated team and educate employees throughout their company.


Proactive planning

It is vital for an organisation to prepare for disruption or breach of their supply chain and have a robust response plan for each individual risk, often referred to as a Business Contingency Plan. These scenarios need to be anticipated and practised in the event that they occur in the future. Implementing these plans and having company associates aware of them provides a better understanding of the chain and how it works, as well as prepare employees against potential attacks and incidents.


What are companies doing to ensure supply chain security now?


There are several major businesses that have been implementing steps, such as the above, and others in order to ensure better security. A few examples are; using an omni channel platform to improve trust in inventory data and flexibility, implementing a blockchain platform to incorporate third parties and a company’s network, and having a reliable file transfer infrastructure to allow for reliable and rapid exchange with consumers and clients.


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