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Federal Nation-State Attack Shows Supply Chain Risk Danger

December 17, 2020

Every Business Needs to Take Precautions Against Supply Chain Risk 


While there have been many lessons to learn from the massive cybersecurity disaster that the US Federal government experienced this week, one important lesson that every organization should take away from this is the often-overlooked danger of supply chain risk. No business is an island. If you’ve got suppliers, vendors or service providers for your business, you’ve got supply chain risk – and you need to take precautions to mitigate it. 


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Extending Trust Means Increasing Risk


This week’s incident is a great cautionary tale to remember when considering the implications of supply chain risk to your company’s cybersecurity. Just like most organizations, the US federal government utilizes a variety of vendors for specialty services. From operating coffee stands to supplying security solutions, they do business with thousands of vendors who directly interact with federal facilities and equipment. Each of those vendors represents a potential security threat.  

Extending trust to vendors is part and parcel of doing business. After all, you wouldn’t have chosen to develop relationships with these companies if you didn’t trust them to take care of a specialty service that’s outside of your business’ wheelhouse. However, you’re also giving them sensitive information about your business or access to critical systems to provide these services, and that exposes those things to additional risk


Cybercriminals Will Find Your Defensive Gaps


In December 2020 the true impact of a massive, precisely targeted nation-state attack was felt by the United States government and many large corporations in the wake of a breach at cybersecurity software giant SolarWinds. A messy tangle of back doors, fake patches, malicious code, email compromise, phishing, and more was unraveled exposing the alarming fact that likely Russia-sponsored nation-state hackers had been inside US government and defense agency systems for months, accessing all sorts of information. The same group of hackers was also linked to attacks at Microsoft, Cisco, FireEye, and more major tech players. 

Supply chain risk has become an issue that threatens every organization in every sector. Through the BlackBaud breach in 2020, hundreds of non-profit organizations experienced data exposure because of a hack at a trusted vendor. Unlike this incident, the cybercriminals involved stole data about those organizations from BlackBaud instead of gaining access to the affected organizations’ systems. That’s also an important risk to keep on your radar. As the Dark Web economy continues to grow in a market that’s hungry for data, ransomware and other data-stealing attacks are growing as well to keep feeding that demand. 

The federal government was reminded of this issue in a hard lesson that serves as a great example of the potential repercussions of how even sophisticated defenses can be subject to defeat from supply chain risk. Nation-state hackers didn’t gain entry to federal agencies and systems by hacking in directly. Instead, they used a back door opened through a patch from a federal government supplier, SolarWinds. That then enabled the hackers to continue using this unassuming beachhead to fly under the radar and wend their way into all sorts of other places for months while escaping detection. 

These nation-state hackers made a smart choice when it came to finding a simple, effective, devastating way to penetrate some of the world’s most critical environments: exploiting boring, routine maintenance. By sneaking malicious code into a seemingly routine software update, nation-state hackers were able to piggyback on the access that the federal government had given to a trusted vendor to do their dirty work – and similar damage from supply chain risk could happen to your business too.


10 Facts to Remember About Nation-State Cybercrime


Keep these facts in mind as you explore the danger that nation-state hackers could pose to your business:


Limit Risk and Minimize Danger Fast


Entirely eliminating danger to your business from supply chain risk isn’t possible, but you can take several steps to mitigate it, reducing the chance of a cybersecurity disaster like a data breach at one of your vendors or service providers from becoming your problem too. 

  • Add secure identity and access management immediately. If you’re not already using Passly to secure the access points to your systems and data, you’re failing to do the easiest thing that you can do to protect your business from incursions. SEE VIDEO OF THE VALUE OF PASSLY>>
  • Start using multifactor authentication now. This simple tool, included with Passly, puts a roadblock between bad actors and your systems and data because even if they do manage to snatch credentials to attempt entry, they still need a second identifier to unlock the door. 
  • Embrace single sign-on. Personalized LaunchPads for every user with Passly eliminates multiple IT problems at once. Not only does it reduce the burden on your IT staff from constant password and access resets, but it also gives them a quick, easy way to quarantine and remove access from a compromised user account.  
  • Use Dark Web monitoring to gain an advantage. With Dark Web ID, you’re putting a guardian on the job 24/7/365 to monitor that Dark Web for your company’s credentials and alert you if they appear in a Dark Web market or dump, enabling your IT team to act before the bad guys do. SEE VIDEO OF DARK WEB ID AT WORK NOW>>
  • Upgrade and update security awareness training. Make sure that your staff is always looking for red flags like unexpected email activity or suspicious password reset requests with security awareness training that’s refreshed at least quarterly. BullPhish ID provides easy-to-understand security awareness and phishing resistance training that keeps your staff up to date on the latest threats. SEE VIDEO OF BULLPHISH ID IN ACTION>>

While your budget may be tight in a challenging economy, the damage that could be caused to your business by supply chain risk could be devastating. Contact the experts at ID Agent today for an assessment of your business risk and how our solutions can help you secure your systems and data at a price you’ll love.

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