Where would you be without your manufacturers, suppliers, couriers and anyone else involved in your supply chain?
Think about it; whether you run a B2B or B2C business, you would not be able to deliver your goods and services to your customers quickly and effectively without these other organisations.
The problem is, no matter what industry you’re in, when you’re working with third parties (and often multiple third parties), there will always be an increased risk of a cybersecurity breach.
And, of course, it’s not always your fault, and it’s not often within your control. For example, if a supplier has weak security systems, cybercriminals might take advantage of these vulnerabilities.
But while you might be worrying that there is little you can do about this other than try to choose reliable third parties to work with, we’re here to tell you otherwise.
If you’re concerned about your supply chain security, there are plenty of things you can do to reduce the risks of a breach. Here are X supply chains security best practices you should implement in your business.
1. Conduct careful risk assessments
Although you might be aware that third parties present a risk to the security of your business, you might not be fully aware of what these risks actually are.
So, whenever you’re choosing to work with a new supplier, courier, etc., it’s important that you carry out a risk assessment before signing a contract with them.
This way, you can identify and, therefore, address any security concerns you might have, or perhaps even decide that the risk is too big and that you’d be better off looking elsewhere.
There are a number of different factors you should consider when conducting your assessment, and these are:
How much data will you be sharing with them, and are they then sharing this with their own suppliers or clients? You should also consider the sensitivity of the data you’re sharing; for example, will they be handling your customer’s data?
Frequency of use
Think about how much work you’ll be doing with this particular business. If they are an important and immediate part of your supply chain, you need to put more time and care into vetting them than those that might be infrequent and ad hoc suppliers.
Their security efforts
You should find out what security policies and procedures they use to assure the security of your information and data.
You need to find out whether they have security controls in place and if they are following their own cybersecurity best practices.
Remember, you are perfectly within your rights to ask what systems they have in place to give your business peace of mind before working with them.
Ranking your suppliers
When conducting risk assessments, it can be a helpful idea to separate all third parties into categories to see which pose the biggest threats and which offer the best security systems.
And these considerations should apply to any business, no matter how big or small they are, because, despite common misconceptions, the size of the business doesn’t matter; they are still a target for cybercriminals.
2. Impose your own security requirements
Part of assessing the security systems of a supplier during your assessment means deciding what level of security you need them to have and maintain throughout your partnership. You should ensure these requirements are properly outlined in your supplier policy and any contracts you sign with new third parties.
Your expectations and requirements are likely to vary depending on the nature of the contract and the severity of the risk you think they pose to your business. Let’s say; for example, a courier will be accessing your customer data; therefore, you want them to have the most stringent security measures in place to protect your customers.
You also need to make sure that both their business and your own are meeting all General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR).
You can ask the supplier to prove to you that they have set a certain standard for their security. You should also look out for third parties that have the certifications to prove it. This could mean only working with organisations that have a Cyber Essentials or Cyber Essentials Plus certificate, for example.
3. Practice what you preach
Remember, cybersecurity is a two-way street, and you can’t expect their parties to meet the appropriate security standards if you don’t meet these yourself.
So, in order to bolster your security on both sides, you have to practise what you preach. By being transparent and showing suppliers that you are also meeting the security responsibilities that you are imposing on them, you can forge a strong and trustworthy relationship that lasts for years.
After all, you are just as much a part of your supply chain as anyone else, so don’t drop the ball when it comes to your own supply chain security efforts.
4. Ensure cybersecurity training
Did you know that human error is still the biggest cause of cyberattacks? This makes both your own employees, as well as those within your chosen third parties, a potential security risk.
For this reason, it is a good idea to make sure both your employees and those of your suppliers are aware of the most common types of cybersecurity threats and how they should respond to them.
A simple bit of training can do wonders for your supply chain security, so whether you offer this yourself or perhaps write into your policy that all third party employees must have received cybersecurity training, this can be a big step towards protecting your business.
Some of the most important topics you might wish to cover with your own employees include:
- Understanding the different types of cyber threats
- Knowing how to respond to threats and what the company procedures are
- The importance of password security
- How to safely use email, the internet and social media
- How to safely handle company and customer data
5. Always ensure the secure transfer of data
Finally, in order to do their jobs properly, it’s likely that your suppliers will need access to certain data and information.
As such, it’s vital that any information that is being shared is transferred securely and can only be accessed by those who have the authorisation to do so.
This can be done in a number of ways, firstly by classifying data to ensure that any sensitive information is stored, labelled and deleted in line with GDPR, as well as your own company policies.
By only sharing data that is absolutely pertinent to the supply chain function, you can reduce the risk of data unnecessarily falling into the wrong hands.
It’s also crucial to know where all your data is stored and that all data is backed up regularly, as well as being able to encrypt the information when transferring it to minimise the risk of a breach and prevent data loss in transit.