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What You Need to Know About the Rise in Supply Chain Cyberattacks

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Cyberattacks are no joking matter. They are highly destructive events that damage much more than a company’s reputation. In particular, supply chain cyberattacks have the capability to destroy an entire industry. Therefore, it is crucial to focus on a supply chain cyberattack and cybersecurity steps businesses can take to protect themselves, business partners, and customers.

What Is a Supply Chain Cyberattack?

Supply chain cyberattacks intend to utilize relationships between a company and a business partner to perpetrate a data breach. The relationships generally include partnerships, customer and supplier relationships, or collaborations. The use of malicious software or code typically facilitates attacks causing a criminal third party to gain access to a network(s). Third parties exploit data breaches to steal data, cause a denial of service, affect product distribution, or disrupt operations. Unfortunately, it may be extremely difficult to stop a supply chain cyberattack until it is well underway. By then, it may be difficult to quantify the extent of the damage caused by the malicious code.

Supply Chain Security Breaches Are Increasing

Recently, the number of supply chain-related cyberattacks has increased. These incidents are symptoms of a broader cyber pandemic that has targeted manufacturers and distributors. In these events, cyber attackers target unsuspecting organizations, disrupting raw material sourcing, finished product distribution, and distributed denial of service (DDOS). Often, cybercriminals utilize DDOS to demand a ransom. In such situations, implementing a malicious source code such as ransomware causes businesses to lose access to their systems until they pay the requested amount.

On the whole, supply chain attacks are on the rise due to the increase in remote working schemes. These arrangements have exposed gaps and vulnerabilities in networks and computer systems. As a result, cybercriminals have targeted these vulnerabilities for their profit. Given the number of threat actors out there, it should be no surprise that supply chain data breaches are increasing.

What Are the Most Famous Supply Chain Cybersecurity Breaches?

Here are some of the most famous supply chain cyberattacks in recent history:

  • SolarWinds. In 2020, hackers gained access to SolarWinds’ production systems using malicious code. The code exploited backdoors in its security updates. SolarWinds and its customers experienced data breaches, information theft, and other cybersecurity issues.
  • Kaseya. In 2021, cybercriminals exploited Kaseya through a ransomware attack. This cyberattack affected over 1,000 customers with malicious ransomware code. In all, the cybercriminals wanted $70m for decryption keys.
  • Codecov. Codecov provides software testing services. Hackers exploited its Bash uploader to disrupt its supply chain capabilities. The data breach caused an exploitation that allowed cybercriminals to steal information, including source code and other trade secrets, from Codecov and customers.
  • NotPetya. NotPetya started as a supply chain attack when a Ukrainian financial firm suffered a malware attack through a system update. The malicious code created a ransomware breach known as a “wiper.”
  • British Airways. In 2018, British Airways suffered a significant cyberattack known as a Magecart attack. This cyberattack affected roughly 400,000 transactions on British Airway’s website. Cybercriminals exploited the supply chain through a vendor and quickly spread throughout the entire system.

How Does a Supply Chain Attack Work?

Generally speaking, a supply chain attack works by taking advantage of the trust among organizations such as customers and suppliers. This trust relationship implies that all parties rely on one another leading them to use a shared software platform. Cybercriminals can exploit the vulnerabilities within these shared software platforms to gain access to one party or all parties involved.

Specifically, supply chain attacks target the weakest point in the chain. This situation occurs when one organization has a great cybersecurity system but another does not. As a result, hackers gain access to the supply chain through the weak link and exploit the vulnerability to target the rest of the supply chain.

A common type of supply chain cyberattack is to target managed service providers (MSPs). MSPs typically have clear access to customer and supplier networks. From there, an exploited MSP allows cybercriminals to burrow within the entire network. For instance, the Kaseya attack exploited a vulnerable MSP allowing it to infect a number of organizations with malicious ransomware code.

How Do Supply Chain Attacks Impact Organizations?

The impacts of a supply chain attack can be quite serious. In some instances, they can be disastrous to the overall supply chain and the organizations’ reputations. In the worst cases, cybercriminals some away with millions of dollars and loads of stolen information.

Here are the most considerable impacts of supply chain cyberattacks:

  • Data breach. A data breach consists of cybercriminals accessing private information. In some instances, hackers can steal considerable amounts of information. In other cases, strong cybersecurity measures can stop a data breach before it is too late. The SolarWinds attack is a good example of a breach that exposed sensitive data on several organizations.
  • Malware distribution. On some occasions, cybercriminals do not necessarily gain access to steal information. They gain access to plan malicious software within networks or local servers. The malware then fulfills various purposes, such as stealing data, encrypting computers (ransomware), or creating backdoor access.
  • Denial of Service. Some supply chain attacks consist of denial of service attacks. These attacks disrupt operations until companies pay cybercriminals. This attack is a type of ransomware and can wreak havoc on a company’s or industry’s operations.
  • Product or service disruption. Some supply chain attacks target product or service disruption. These attacks cause logistical issues that may stop companies and industries from delivering their products or services. The 2021 Colonial Pipeline hack is an example of product or service disruption.

What Can Organizations Do to Prevent Supply Chain attacks?

Here are some helpful practices that organizations can implement to prevent supply chain attacks:

  • Restrict access privileges. In short, the fewer people with access to the network, the safer it will be. Only relevant staff should have access to a network. Also, access must have close monitoring to ensure security.
  • Network segmentation. Breaking up networks into individual chunks can help localize breaches and infections. This approach keeps cybercriminals from accessing an entire network.
  • DevSecOps. Cybersecurity software should become part of the entire network integration cycle. This approach helps create robust network security instead of patching cybersecurity software on top of a finished network system.
  • Automated Threat Prevention and Hunting. Close monitoring of network activity ensures proactive protection against potential threats. Specialized cybersecurity firms offer this type of service along with their cybersecurity software solutions.


Guarding against supply chain attacks requires a proactive approach. Organizations can ensure their networks’ security by focusing on preventive measures. Moreover, having protocols in place when a breach occurs can go a long way to preventing a supply chain attack from becoming a serious cybersecurity incident.