Supply Chain Attacks: Why They Matter and What You Can Do About Them

Supply Chain Attacks: Why They Matter and What You Can Do About Them

What is a Supply Chain Attack?

A supply chain attack is a type of cyber attack that targets the software or hardware of a third-party supplier, with the aim of exploiting their trust relationship with their customers. Rather than attacking the target organization directly, attackers compromise the supply chain to gain access to the target’s network or data. 

This can be accomplished through a variety of methods, such as injecting malware into a software update or compromising a hardware component during manufacturing or distribution. Supply chain attacks can have devastating consequences, as they can affect a large number of organizations and potentially compromise sensitive data or intellectual property.

Why Software Supply Chain Attacks Are Becoming More Common

There are several reasons why software supply chain attacks are becoming more common. Attackers often exploit third-party vulnerabilities to target many organizations, making these attacks highly profitable. Here are some of the reasons that supply chain attacks are so dangerous:

  • Complexity: One reason is the increasing complexity of software supply chains, which are often composed of many interconnected third-party components and dependencies. This complexity can make it difficult for organizations to keep track of all the components in their supply chain and ensure that they are secure. Attackers can exploit vulnerabilities in these components to gain access to the target’s network or data.
  • Automation: Another reason is the growing trend towards large-scale automated hacking, which has made it easier for attackers to carry out attacks at scale. They can use automated tools and techniques to scan for vulnerabilities in the supply chain, identify weak points, and launch attacks on a wide range of targets. This makes it more likely that an organization will be targeted and successfully compromised.
  • Evasion: Supply chain attacks are also difficult to detect, as they often involve subtle changes to software or hardware components that may go unnoticed. Attackers can use evasion techniques, such as disguising their malware to look like legitimate software or using encryption to hide their activity. This can make it challenging for security teams to identify and respond to the attack.
  • Wide net: Another risk associated with supply chain attacks is that they can affect a large number of organizations at once. Since many organizations use the same third-party components and dependencies, a single compromised component can have far-reaching consequences. This can lead to a domino effect, where multiple organizations are compromised in a short period of time.

In addition, supply chain attacks can be particularly devastating because they can compromise sensitive data, such as intellectual property, trade secrets, or personal information. This can lead to significant financial losses, reputational damage, and legal liabilities.

How Can You Prevent Supply Chain Attacks?

Vet the Suppliers

Vetting the software supply chain involves assessing the security posture of third-party vendors and ensuring that they adhere to best practices. This can help prevent attacks by identifying and addressing potential vulnerabilities before they can be exploited. By evaluating each software supplier, organizations can also gain better visibility into the security of their entire software stack, which can help them respond more quickly and effectively to any potential threats.

Implement Application Security Testing

One way to prevent supply chain attacks is by conducting regular application security testing. This involves using a variety of testing techniques and tools to identify vulnerabilities and weaknesses in the applications and software components that an organization uses, including those provided by third-party vendors. By identifying and fixing vulnerabilities in these components, organizations can reduce the risk of supply chain attacks.

Some common techniques used in application security testing include static analysis, which involves analyzing the code of an application to identify vulnerabilities, and dynamic analysis, which involves testing an application while it is running to identify vulnerabilities in real time. Other testing techniques may include penetration testing, code reviews, and vulnerability assessments.

Understand How Hackers Operate

Understanding how attackers target supply chains can help organizations to better anticipate and prepare for potential attacks. By studying past attacks and identifying common tactics and techniques used by attackers, organizations can implement proactive measures to mitigate risk. This includes implementing multi-factor authentication and access controls, establishing a comprehensive incident response plan, and conducting regular security assessments. 

Organizations can also develop partnerships with their suppliers to share information and collaborate on security best practices. By taking a proactive approach to supply chain security, organizations can better protect themselves and their customers from potential cyber threats.

Monitor Third-Party Suppliers 

Continuous monitoring of third parties is important to ensure that they maintain a secure posture over time. It can help detect any changes or potential security risks, such as changes to the supplier’s security policies, vulnerabilities in their software or hardware, or suspicious activity on their networks. Monitoring and logging are also important for identifying unusual activity that could indicate a compromise.

Establish an Incident Response Plan

Creating an incident response plan is important to ensure that an organization can respond quickly and effectively to security incidents. The plan should outline the steps to be taken in the event of a security breach, including who to contact, how to contain the breach, and how to restore systems and data. 

By having a well-defined incident response plan, organizations can minimize the impact of a security incident and reduce the time to recovery. It can also help to prevent panic, confusion, and potentially costly mistakes, and demonstrate due diligence to stakeholders and regulatory bodies.

Train Employees Cybersecurity Awareness Training

Cybersecurity awareness training is important to prevent and mitigate supply chain attacks as it can help to educate employees on the potential risks and best practices for securing the supply chain. By providing training on topics such as phishing, social engineering, password hygiene, and secure coding practices, organizations can empower individuals to recognize and report potential threats. This can help to create a culture of security awareness, which reduces the likelihood of successful attacks and minimizes their impact.


In conclusion, supply chain attacks are a significant threat to organizations and their customers, as they can compromise sensitive data, disrupt operations, and damage reputations. To mitigate this risk, organizations need to take a proactive approach to securing their software supply chains. 

This includes vetting their third-party vendors, implementing continuous monitoring, conducting regular security assessments, testing applications, and providing cybersecurity awareness training to employees and suppliers. It also involves creating an incident response plan to quickly and effectively respond to any security incidents that do occur. 

By taking these steps, organizations can better protect themselves and their customers from the growing threat of supply chain attacks, and maintain the trust and confidence of their stakeholders.


Author Bio: Gilad David Maayan

Gilad David Maayan is a technology writer who has worked with over 150 technology companies including SAP, Imperva, Samsung NEXT, NetApp and Check Point, producing technical and thought leadership content that elucidates technical solutions for developers and IT leadership. Today he heads Agile SEO, the leading marketing agency in the technology industry.


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