Supply chain risk to dominate 2020: from the cloud all the way to the remote worker

by Bharat Mistry

We all know that the success or otherwise of most modern organisations depends to a large degree on their supply chains. From professional services partners to software providers and transportation contractors, an average enterprise could maintain hundreds of these partnerships. But these all threaten to introduce extra risk to the business, especially in the cyber domain.

Trend Micro’s newly released 2020 predictions report highlights some of the key areas where organisations may be exposed next year: from cloud and managed service providers (MSPs), new DevOps dependencies and even supply chain risks associated with their remote workers.

A new spin on an old risk
Supply chain risk is not a new phenomenon per se. The infamous NotPetya ransomware attacks of 2017 were introduced via the software supply chain, for example, while Operation Cloud Hopper was a major attack campaign targeting global organisations via their MSPs.

However, the scale of the threat coming down the line requires urgent attention. It stems to a large degree from the way organisations are changing the way they work. Digital transformation is viewed by many as an essential driver of business growth, enabling firms to respond with agility to changing market demands. In practice, this means cloud and DevOps increasingly taking centre stage in the IT departments of the coming decade.

More agility, more risk?
Unfortunately, this will introduce new cyber risk. First, organisations’ increasing reliance on third-party cloud providers will encourage attackers to go after data stored in these accounts, via code injection attacks exploiting deserialisation bugs, cross-site scripting and SQL injection. They’ll also capitalise on mistakes made when misconfiguration of these accounts leaks data to the public-facing internet.

Next, they’ll look to exploit the reliance of DevOps teams on third-party code in container components and libraries to compromise microservices and serverless environments. As these architectures become increasingly commonplace, so will attacks.

The risk posed by MSPs will also escalate, enabling a much higher ROI for attackers because they can access multiple customers via a single provider. Such threats will imperil corporate and customer data, and even pose a risk to smart factory and other environments.

Finally, supply chain risk may come from an unlikely source in 2020 and beyond. As remote and home working becomes the norm for many employees, hackers may come to view these as a handy stepping-stone into corporate networks. Whether they’re logging-on via unsecured public Wi-Fi hotspots or at home, where smart home flaws could provide an unlocked door to sneak through, these employees need to be considered as part of holistic enterprise risk management strategies.

What to do
I
t will be tough for CISOs to keep up with the rapid pace of technological change as we head through the next decade. But it’s vital that teams are equipped with the right tools and strategies to manage these third-party risks and other threats to the bottom line and corporate reputation. Here’s a snapshot of advice offered in the report:

  • Improve due diligence of cloud providers and MSPs
  • Conduct regular vulnerability and risk assessments on third parties
  • Invest in security tools to scan for vulnerabilities and malware in third-party components
  • Consider Cloud Security Posture Management (CSPM) tools to help minimise the risk of misconfigurations
  • Revisit security policies regarding home and remote workers

To find out more on our predictions for 2020 and advice on how best to manage risk in your business, check out the report here.

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