The IT infrastructure architecture is becoming more complex day by day, and hence organizations are using other third-party tools to simplify it. But this exposes businesses to another type of threat called a supply chain attack. Because the main organization cannot confirm whether the third party’s equipment is vulnerable or whether the third party is secure enough to protect itself from cyber-attacks. Hence, it becomes very sophisticated for major organizations to protect themselves against cyber attacks
The first known supply chain attack was in 1982, and the attack was on a pipeline system. Hackers compromised the trans-siberian pipeline system, which caused the pipeline shutdown for several days. In 2020, the world has seen the biggest supply chain attack ever, the SolarWinds Hack. The hackers inject their malicious code into SolarWinds software named Orion. That was distributed to government agencies and businesses.
What is a supply chain attack?
In a supply chain attack, attackers target trusted third-party vendors who provide services in the supply chain. The goal of a supply chain attack is to hack into the victim’s system by hacking into a weakly trusted third party’s system.
Example: An attacker compromises the account of a software developer who works at an open-source software development company. Then he (the attacker) injects malicious code into his project under the developer’s account. Later that software is used by an organization with malware injected. Which means the organization is also compromised by the attacker.
Varieties of supply chain attack:
There are two main types of supply chain attacks:
- Software-based: This is the most common supply chain attack. Attackers inject malicious codes into software applications or updates. When the victim installs the infected application on his system, he gets hacked.
- Hardware-based: It is less popular among attackers. Attackers inject malicious code or install malicious kits on hardware devices. When a person connects infected hardware to their network or computer, their network or computer gets hacked. These attacks involve physical devices such as hard drives, network devices, etc.
How to prevent supply chain attacks:
Preventing supply chain attacks is harder than preventing any type of attack because the security vulnerability is not on your system but on a trusted third-party system. But there are some practices you can do to protect your system against supply chain attacks:
- Implement Honeytokens: Simply Honeytoken is a method that alerts organizations to suspicious activity on their networks. Honeytokens pose as sensitive data, and attackers think these might be valuable then they interact with them, a signal gets activated, and the organization’s incident responder team gets alerted about the intruder in their system. This gives the organization an advance warning before a data breach.
- Secure Access Management: An attacker’s first attempt after a security breach of a business’s infrastructure will be to access privileged accounts. An organization must secure its privileged access controls to protect itself from any type of cyber attack. A pentester can secure an organization’s access management. He will test organizations’ IT infrastructure against all possible means of breaching access management controls.
- Implement a Zero Trust Architecture: Because of ZTA, every network has to go through strict security policies. Any type of network outside of policy will be identified as a potential threat to the organization. ZTA is a combination of a policy engine, a policy administrator, and a policy enforcement point. The policy engine determines whether network traffic should be allowed following the rules set by the trust algorithm. The policy administrator reports the policy engine’s decision (pass or fail) to the policy enforcement point.
- Fix any kind of Insider Threat: Supply chain attacks often involve attackers breaching an organization’s network. This means that once an attacker is inside your business infrastructure, the attacker’s next step would be to breach internal security to gain access to high-level privileged accounts or data. A pentester can simulate an insider attack to detect and fix all kinds of vulnerabilities in an organization’s IT infrastructure.
- Minimize Access to Sensitive Data: Make sure only very few highly privileged accounts have access to sensitive data if lower privileged accounts have access to your sensitive data, that can be a bad security issue for your organization. The fewer accounts that have access to sensitive data, the less likely a data breach is.
- Use MFA for all accesses: Use a multi-factor authentication system to access any account. This provides an additional layer of security for accessing an account’s system. There are different kinds of MFA. Like:
- OTP method: Whenever someone tries to access the account, a cloud-generated code must be given to the system to access the account. So, even if an attacker breaks into the network and tries to access someone’s account, you will receive an OTP on your personal device. In the SolarWind attack, a FireEye employee received an OTP on his phone when an attacker was trying to access his account before they learned that their system had been breached.
- Biometrics: To protect physical devices, biometrics is a very powerful security method. Such as, A computer that contains very sensitive data should protect under biometrics.
MFA is a very effective method against supply chain attacks. MFA should be added to every single account login system. And also for hardware computers.
- Run Regular Security Audit: As humans need to feed healthy food every day to live, organizations need to check their infrastructure every day for security breaches. That any attacker is secretly monitoring your organization’s office network or trying to breach it, it is important to check manually because creative attackers can fool automated tools. It’s best to hire a SOC team or an inner SOC team.
In conclusion, the increasing complexity of IT infrastructure architecture has led organizations to rely on third-party tools and services to simplify their operations. However, this reliance on external parties exposes businesses to the risk of supply chain attacks. These attacks occur when attackers target trusted third-party vendors with the goal of infiltrating the victim’s system by exploiting third-party security vulnerabilities. An organization must follow the above steps to make them secure from supply chain attacks. For any kind of help, RedNode is there.