Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Is Your Supply Chain Prone to a Hack Attack?

We've all heard of hackers and most of us have experienced at least one or two hits—the trojan that ultimately disables a laptop or those annoying people who steal your email address and send advertisements to your contacts. Although these threats are more annoying than seriously detrimental, these simple scams do show how widespread hacking has become. A supply chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Therefore, supply chain managers need to recognize the reality of hackers and the costly risks they present.

Basic Principles
These days, the prevalent use of smart phones, personal computers and online services has caused governments worldwide to research the true threats which might arrive through these everyday, seemingly innocent means. In order to combat cyber-attacks, supply chain managers must remember that protection should be based on risk, not on assumptions about places or people who are likely to present risk. Cyber security can be breached from unlikely sources. Supply chains should be as transparent as possible, which can aid in detecting a potential threat as soon as possible. In addition, supply chain risks need to be assessed in ways that match the organization. Cyber threats vary based on the target—government departments and different types of business models all have unique security needs.

Beware of Danger
What exactly can cyber criminals do? Clearly, the injection of viruses into the software or hardware of a company could lead to serious slow-downs along a supply chain. Worse yet, malware can be designed to steal intellectual property or cause massive disruptions in networks. If a company's IP address is compromised, this could damage the firm's competitive advantage or critically endanger its reputation. The most daunting fact of all is that cyber attacks can come from almost any direction. Large companies may have numerous “kinks in the chain”, but small and medium-sized businesses should be wary as well.

Biggest Threat
The greatest threat of all is internal. A new study by Dr. Ken Saban, funded with a $360,000 grant from the Department of Defense, shows that most cyber attacks come from inside breaches created by unsatisfied or angry employees. This means that the person already has access and familiarity with the system which could lead to quite insidious malware. Other findings from the study show that cyber threats affect businesses of all sizes at about an equal level, and unfortunately, owners of small and medium-sized businesses tend to assume that they will not be targeted.

Secure It!
Ultimately, your supply chain will need security from end to end including developers, vendors, customers and others. Since most hackers are persons with access to the systems, firewalls cannot remain the only defense. Ironically, your supply chain needs a cyber security supply chain to protect it. Be aware of all avenues of attack: malware put into software or hardware, vulnerabilities with the company's software system which can be found and utilized by hackers, and compromised systems that are unsuspectingly brought into the office. The simple answer is this: your supply chain management needs to network closely with your company's computer security team. Working together, you can analyze the supply chain and remain knowledgeable of threats, both the kind you might expect today and the morphed ideas which could emerge tomorrow. In the case of small businesses, make sure your cyber security software addresses all reasonable points of attack.

In supply chain management, we work diligently to create profitability while holding together all facets of the chain. What a shame if a cyber criminal wreaks havoc on it all! These days, no one can afford to ignore cyber security. Be aware of the dangers and protect your efforts.

Contributed article by Kaity Nakagoshi, Bisk Education, University of San Francisco

The University alliance, in partnership with the University of San Francisco’s online program, has provided this article. They offer a variety of advanced professional certificates, each of which targets specific business and management skills. A supply chain management certification focuses on up to date trends, regulations, and sustainability issues. . For more information on the courses offered please visit .

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