Cyber Security News

Strengthening Supplier Chain Management - how to ensure your suppliers keep your data safe

In the digital age, businesses are increasingly reliant on supplier chains to deliver goods and services efficiently. However, this interconnectivity also exposes organisations to potential cybersecurity risks and data breaches.

To mitigate these threats and safeguard sensitive information, implementing information security management systems (ISMS) such as ISO 27,001, the globally recognised standard for information security, can be leveraged to enhance supplier chain management practices.

In this article, we will explore five critical aspects of supplier chain management, ensuring a robust and secure information ecosystem.

The best way to assess your suppliers and the risk to your business or organisation is to use a spreadsheet or table and a standard traffic lights approach to risk with the said suppliers and what would happen if that particular supplier were subject to a breach.

Suppliers can be broken down into the following categories

  • Critical - Your business doesn't function without them.
  • Strategic - You have a longstanding relationship with these suppliers - they enhance your business or organisation and give you a competitive advantage.
  • Commodity - Suppliers that you purchase goods and services from but don't have the potential to affect business continuity.

The easiest way to understand your list of suppliers is to extract them from your accounting software which can be done in order of spending per annum as well.

Then categorise them based on the above.

From here the other columns in your table could be:

  • What they do for your business
  • Do you have a contract with them?
  • Are there data protection and security clauses in their contract?
  • Do they have Cyber Liability Insurance
  • Do they have information security certificates ie ISO27001
  • What data do we share with them?
  • When did we last review them and when we will next review them?

This will form the basis of the supplier risk register.

Create a supplier management policy that details managing these suppliers and the risk register. We have a template attached here that you can use.

On an ongoing basis, these are the top 5 things you should think about with regard to Supplier Chain Management:


Supplier Assessment and Selection

The first step towards securing the supplier chain begins with a comprehensive assessment and selection process. It is crucial to evaluate potential suppliers' information security practices before onboarding them.

ISO 27001 serves as a valuable reference for determining suitable security standards. Organisations must analyse suppliers' security policies, procedures, and controls to ensure they can be put into your risk register and assessed.

During the assessment, organisations should identify and address potential risks associated with each supplier. Some suppliers may have access to sensitive data, making it vital to verify their ability to protect and handle such information securely.

By conducting thorough supplier evaluations, organisations can create a strong foundation for a secure and trustworthy supplier chain.


Contractual Obligations

Once suitable suppliers are identified, the next step is to establish robust contractual obligations that prioritise information security.

These contractual obligations should outline specific information security measures that suppliers are required to comply with, such as data protection, confidentiality, access controls, and incident reporting.

Clear contractual obligations help establish shared responsibility for information security between organisations and their suppliers. This clarity ensures that both parties understand their roles in safeguarding sensitive information and provides a basis for holding suppliers accountable if security breaches occur.


Continuous Monitoring and Auditing

Information security is not a one-time effort or set-and-forget; it requires continuous monitoring and auditing to maintain a secure supplier chain. We want to emphasise the need for regular assessments and evaluations to ensure ongoing compliance with security standards.

Organisations should conduct periodic security assessments of their suppliers to verify their upkeep of security practices. These assessments should cover various aspects, including technology infrastructure, data handling processes, and employee training.

Additionally, organisations can request updated certifications and reports from suppliers to validate their security measures.

By consistently monitoring suppliers' security practices, organisations can identify potential weaknesses or gaps in their supplier chain and take proactive measures to address them.


Incident Response and Management

Despite taking preventive measures, no organisation is immune to security incidents. An efficient incident response and management plan is crucial to minimise the impact of security breaches and ensure swift remediation.

Building a structured approach to incident response planning, encompassing identification, containment, eradication, recovery, and lessons learned. This approach should extend to suppliers as well. Organisations and suppliers must collaborate on establishing clear incident reporting procedures and response protocols.

By integrating suppliers into the incident response plan, organisations can enhance coordination during critical situations, mitigate damages, and protect their shared information assets.


Information Sharing and Collaboration

Effective communication and collaboration with suppliers are central to ensuring a secure information ecosystem. Highlight the importance of fostering a culture of information security within an organisation. This culture of security should extend to suppliers through information sharing and collaborative efforts.

Organisations should actively engage with suppliers to promote awareness of security best practices and emerging threats. Regular communication channels should be established to share relevant security information, updates, and training materials.

Additionally, suppliers can also share their insights into potential security risks or vulnerabilities that may impact the organisation.

Securing the supplier chain is a critical aspect of ensuring information security in today's interconnected business landscape. By integrating the above principles into supplier chain management practices, organisations can strengthen their overall security posture and protect sensitive information effectively.

Through thorough supplier assessment, clear contractual obligations, continuous monitoring and auditing, cyber security training, robust incident response planning, and collaborative information sharing, businesses can foster a resilient supplier chain.

Embracing a robust framework enables organisations to cultivate a culture of security that extends beyond their walls and fortifies their information defences across the entire supply chain. With these measures in place, organisations can confidently navigate the digital landscape, minimising the risk of data breaches and ensuring the trust and loyalty of their customers.