While the increasing penetration of the internet and cloud-computing has brought flexibility, speed, and scalability to almost all business sectors, it has also made us vulnerable to cyberattacks. The material handling and supply chain industry is no exception to this trend.

While modern supply chains have become highly productive and can adapt to changing market conditions, they are on the hit-list of cybercriminals. According to the 2019 Internet Security Threat Report by Symantec, cyber attacks on supply chains increased by 78% in 2018. The report also states that cybercriminals often exploit third-party supplies and small contractors to compromise the bigger supply chain targets.

When it comes to supply chains, prevention is the best cure because their complex nature makes it nearly impossible to identify and subdue a data breach. That's why you need to take the necessary steps to prevent supply chain cyber attacks immediately.

Here's what you can do.

1. Recruit Vendors with Proper Security Compliance

Supply chain cybersecurity is not an IT-only problem. Therefore, you need to stop treating it like one. The most substantial cyber threat to your supply chain are third-party vendors and outsourcing partners without proper information security compliance.

Different industries have different standardizations to follow. For example, in retail, you must work with vendors following PCI-DSS standards, while in the healthcare industry, suppliers should comply with standards like HIPAA. Although this measure will not guarantee complete security, it will at least ensure that your suppliers are proactively supporting cybersecurity.

Make sure to specify your security requirements and required standards in every RFP and contract. Ask your IT experts to work with third-party actors to identify, address, and monitor their IT infrastructure for potential vulnerabilities. You should also train their employees and in-house IT team to ensure the best IT practices.

2. Implement Robust Internal Cybersecurity Solutions

It is crucial to streamline your internal cybersecurity solutions. Make sure all your internal employees, especially your IT guys, are well-acquainted with your Secure Software Lifecycle Development Program. The SSLD program ensures you are testing unauthorized penetration, reviewing code, and analyzing your IT architecture to identify and fix security vulnerabilities.

You should also train all your employees to ensure the best data-handling practices. Make sure to get the source code for all software you purchase. So, you can make the changes to add more security layers to the software or facilitate its integration with your system without causing any security lapses.

All your hardware should also have a secure booting process. It allows you to boot your system only after recognizing the authentication codes. Keeping your on-premise hardware in an access-controlled environment can also help reduce security risks.

3. End-to-End Encryption for All Applications

Whether it is a TLS, VPN, VLAN, or a physically segmented network, you must use end-to-end encryption for all your applications. It allows only the communicating parties to view the data getting exchanged. You can encrypt all types of data, including chat messages, emails, files, photos, and smart device data, among others.

You should make it a point to encrypt all sensitive data to be on the safe side. Make sure you process, store, transfer, view, and edit the data in a secure environment as per the regulatory and compliance requirements.

However, you also need to implement the right encryption policies and procedures to keep your data safe. Educate your employees about using encryption keys securely. Allow only authorized and high-level management to access master keys.

Keep the master keys in a different location from your data to increase security. Ask your suppliers to implement the same end-to-end encryption policies as you do to ensure there is no weak link in your communications chain.

4. Multi-Factor Authentication Is a Must

Passwords, no matter how lengthy and complicated, are often vulnerable to cyber attacks. That's why, not just electronic payments, finances, and online banking, you should set up Multi Factor Authentication (MFA) for all user accounts.

With MFA, the username and password alone are not enough to access an account. Users usually have to enter a one-time security code or use a security token to access an account, which increases security.

You should also keep track of the logins on your network and make it mandatory for your suppliers to monitor their internal digital traffic too. It will allow you to keep track of who is sending out emails, what data they are sharing, and where they are doing it from.

If you detect any of your third-party associates or in-house employees violating your security policies, take immediate disciplinary action to convey how serious you are about security.

5. Leverage AI-based Cybersecurity Solutions

AI is helping material handling companies to proactively adjust to a constantly fluctuating market, helping optimize their resources. However, the application of Artificial Intelligence (AI) also extends into the supply chain cybersecurity.

It is nearly impossible to manage every security aspect of a complex supply chain network manually. AI-based security solutions can keep track of all activities 24/7, while detecting threats and other potentially malicious activities, and sending real-time threat alerts.

AI is also capable of evolving, growing, and becoming more productive over time. So, an AI-based cybersecurity solution can study your current IT infrastructure and make suggestions to improve your security practices. It can also adapt to your network as your supply chain grows or undergoes changes.

Although the technology is still in its infancy, several different AI cybersecurity companies have started offering sophisticated solutions. These solutions use complex algorithms to detect viruses and malware, and run pattern recognition in your software to detect irregularities.

Parting Words

Running a global supply chain in a world coming under increasing cyberthreats is next to impossible. While you can't eliminate all potential cyberthreats, you can proactively protect your supply chain from these risks by closing the security gaps in it. Hopefully, these five tips will prove helpful in this regard. Make sure to include all your stakeholders when creating your supply chain cybersecurity policy to get the most out of it. Good luck!

Author Bio

Vernon Glick is an experienced content writer and blogger by profession, currently associated with HHI Lifting. The company is the leading provider of superior lifting products and material handling equipment. Additionally, the certified team at HHI Lifting is specialized in delivering the end-to-end industrial lifting solutions and services as per the needs of the industry clients across the globe.