06 Apr 2023
Supply Chain cybersecurity Risk in Operational Technology
Supply chain cybersecurity risk in operational technology (OT) refers to the potential threats and vulnerabilities that can occur within the supply chain of a company's OT infrastructure that could result in cyberattacks or data breaches. These risks can arise from the use of third-party vendors and suppliers, who may not have the same level of cybersecurity controls as the company itself, or from supply chain disruptions that can be exploited by cybercriminals.
OT systems are constantly critical to the operations of artificial installations, including manufacturing shops, energy grids, and transportation networks. These systems are increasingly connected, and their reliance on third- party merchandisers and suppliers can produce vulnerabilities that can be exploited by cybercriminals.
The consequences of a successful cyberattack on an OT supply chain can be significant, including disruption to operations, loss of productivity, and potential safety risks to personnel and the public. In some cases, cyberattacks on OT systems have resulted in significant financial losses, reputational damage, and regulatory penalties for the affected companies.
To address supply chain cybersecurity risks in OT, companies must implement robust cybersecurity controls and ensure that their suppliers and vendors are also taking appropriate security measures. This may include conducting regular security audits and risk assessments, implementing secure supply chain management protocols, and developing contingency plans to address potential cybersecurity incidents. It is also important for companies to maintain a comprehensive understanding of the cybersecurity risks within their OT supply chains and to remain vigilant for emerging threats and vulnerabilities.
Recent Notable cyber security Supply Chain Attacks in OT
SolarWinds Supply Chain Attack: In December 2020, it was discovered that a supply chain attack had compromised SolarWinds, a company that provides IT management software to many government agencies and large corporations. The attackers were able to compromise SolarWinds' software updates, which were then downloaded by thousands of customers. This allowed the attackers to gain access to sensitive data and systems across multiple organizations, including government agencies and major corporations.
Colonial Pipeline Attack: In May 2021, the Colonial Pipeline, which supplies fuel to much of the US East Coast, was hit by a ransomware attack that forced the company to shut down its operations. The attack was traced back to a compromised vendor account, highlighting the importance of managing supply chain cybersecurity risks.
Oldsmar Water Treatment Plant Attack: In February 2021, a hacker gained unauthorized access to the control systems of a water treatment plant in Oldsmar, Florida. The attacker was able to change the levels of chemicals in the water, but the attack was detected and the changes were quickly reversed. The attack is believed to have originated from a compromised remote access account.
Most common cyber security risks associated with the supply chain in OT environment
There are several common cybersecurity risks associated with the supply chain in an operational technology (OT) environment. Here are some of the most prevalent risks:
- Malware and Ransomware: Malware and ransomware attacks are a significant threat to the OT supply chain, as they can spread quickly from one system to another, compromising the entire network. Malware and ransomware can be introduced into the supply chain through infected software updates, compromised devices, or unauthorized access.
- Third-Party Access: Third-party access to the OT network can also pose a significant cybersecurity risk. Hackers can use stolen or compromised credentials to gain access to the supply chain, bypassing security controls and compromising the entire network.
- Unauthorized Devices: Unauthorized devices that are connected to the OT network can also pose a risk to the supply chain. These devices may not be properly secured or configured, making them vulnerable to attack. Hackers can use these devices to gain access to the network or to launch attacks against other systems.
- Lack of Vendor Management: Inadequate vendor management can also pose a significant cybersecurity risk to the OT supply chain. Vendors and suppliers may not have adequate security controls in place, or they may not be aware of the potential risks associated with the supply chain. Companies must ensure that their vendors and suppliers are properly vetted and managed to minimize the risk of a cyberattack.
- Insufficient Data Protection: Insufficient data protection can also be a significant risk to the OT supply chain. Sensitive data may be stored in unencrypted or poorly secured databases, making it vulnerable to theft or unauthorized access. This can include data related to intellectual property, operational processes, and critical infrastructure.
- Lack of Employee Training: Finally, a lack of employee training can also pose a significant cybersecurity risk to the OT supply chain. Employees may not be aware of the potential risks associated with the supply chain, or they may not be trained on how to identify and prevent cyberattacks. Training employees on cybersecurity best practices can help reduce the risk of a successful attack.
Overall, the cybersecurity risks associated with the OT supply chain can be significant and varied. It is important for companies to take proactive measures to identify and mitigate these risks to ensure the security and reliability of their critical infrastructure and data.
Identify, Mitigate, And Prevent Supply Chain cybersecurity Risks associated with OT environment
Identifying, mitigating, and preventing supply chain cybersecurity risks in an OT environment can be challenging, but there are several key steps that companies can take to help reduce their risk exposure. Here are some general recommendations:
- Conduct a Risk Assessment: A thorough risk assessment can help identify potential vulnerabilities and weaknesses in the OT supply chain. Companies should assess risks associated with their vendors, suppliers, and other third parties involved in the supply chain, including their cybersecurity posture, access controls, and incident response plans.
- Establish Cybersecurity Requirements: Companies should establish cybersecurity requirements for their vendors, suppliers, and other third parties involved in the supply chain. This can include security controls, incident response protocols, and data protection standards. These requirements should be clearly defined and communicated to all parties involved.
- Implement Secure Supply Chain Management Protocols: Companies should implement secure supply chain management protocols to monitor and manage their supply chain cybersecurity risks. This can include controls for supplier selection, assessment, and monitoring, as well as measures to protect against unauthorized access to critical systems and data.
- Conduct Regular Security Audits: Companies should conduct regular security audits of their supply chain to ensure compliance with cybersecurity requirements and to identify any vulnerabilities or weaknesses. These audits should be performed by a qualified third-party auditor and should be conducted on a regular basis.
- Develop Contingency Plans: Companies should develop contingency plans to address potential cybersecurity incidents in their OT supply chain. This can include incident response plans, disaster recovery plans, and business continuity plans. These plans should be regularly reviewed and updated to ensure they remain effective in addressing evolving cybersecurity risks.
- Train Employees and Third Parties: Companies should provide regular cybersecurity awareness training to their employees and third parties involved in the supply chain. This can help them understand the risks associated with the supply chain and how to identify and prevent potential cybersecurity incidents.
- Stay Up-to-Date with Threat Intelligence: Companies should stay up-to-date with the latest threat intelligence to understand emerging cybersecurity risks in the supply chain. This can help them identify new threats and vulnerabilities and take proactive measures to prevent incidents before they occur.
Overall, managing supply chain cybersecurity risks in an OT environment requires a holistic approach that involves all parties involved in the supply chain, including vendors, suppliers, and third-party service providers. By taking proactive steps to identify, mitigate, and prevent cybersecurity risks, companies can help protect their critical infrastructure and data from potential cyberattacks.
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