This guest blog was contributed by Marc Gaffan, CEO, IONIX
The modern attack surface refers to the sum total of all the systems, vulnerabilities, and potential avenues of attack that an organization has in the current digital landscape. It extends beyond the assets you own and control to their digital supply chains. Each connected device or system represents a potential entry point for cybercriminals. With the proliferation of connected assets, the attack surface has significantly widened in recent years, creating endless opportunities for cyber threats and leaving most organizations overexposed and extremely vulnerable.
On June 13, 2023, two significant events occurred that underscore how interconnected today’s digitally transformed businesses are. The first was an outage at AWS that took thousands of customers offline from the Associated Press to Taco Bell. The same day, the Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) issued a Binding Operational Directive to federal, executive branch, departments, and agencies to safeguard federal information and information systems. CISA is especially concerned about devices that connect to the internet. The order covers routers, switches, firewalls, VPN, load balancers and out-of-band server management interfaces. It also covers remote management tools, like SolarWinds.
You may recall SolarWinds, a company that handles remote management of enterprise IT systems. In 2020, one of its software updates was compromised. When customers downloaded the update, they were infected. The attack impacted 18,000 organizations. The lesson learned was that a threat actor set on penetrating your organization doesn’t care whether they’re attacking your internet-facing asset directly or exploiting a vulnerability from a third-party digital service that provides a toehold into your environment.
The digital supply chain encompasses the network of suppliers, vendors, partners, and contractors involved in the production, distribution, and support of goods and services. Cybersecurity risks can propagate through the digital supply chain due to the interdependencies and interconnectedness of various entities involved in the chain. Cybersecurity risks can propagate through the digital supply chain several ways:
Third-party vulnerabilities: Organizations often rely on third-party vendors and suppliers to provide components, software, or services. If these third-party entities have vulnerabilities or weak security practices, attackers can exploit them as entry points to gain unauthorized access to the digital supply chain.
Malware and supply chain attacks: Attackers may infiltrate the supply chain by injecting malicious code or malware into software updates, firmware, or hardware components. When these compromised elements are integrated into the supply chain, the malware can propagate further, compromising the security of multiple entities within the chain.
Weakened security controls and misconfigurations: The digital supply chain spans across assets, connections, and infrastructure. If any entity within the chain has weak security controls or inadequate protection measures, it can provide an opportunity for attackers to infiltrate the chain and exploit vulnerabilities.
Lack of visibility and control: In a complex digital supply chain, organizations may have limited visibility and control over the security practices and measures of their suppliers and vendors. This lack of oversight increases the risk of vulnerabilities going undetected, allowing cyber threats to propagate through the chain.
Data breaches and information leakage: If sensitive data is not adequately protected throughout the digital supply chain, a single breach at any point within the chain can result in the exposure of confidential information, leading to reputational damage, financial loss, and potential legal consequences.
To mitigate cybersecurity risks in the digital supply chain, organizations must conduct thorough assessments of third-party vendors and suppliers' security practices before engaging with them. Organizations should continuously monitor and assess the security posture of suppliers and vendors, and implement access controls and data protection measures throughout the supply chain. By prioritizing cybersecurity at every stage of the digital supply chain, organizations can reduce the risk of propagating cyber threats and better protect their operations, data, and reputation.
About the Author
Marc Gaffan, IONIX's CEO, is a successful business leader and entrepreneur. With a focus on building and scaling companies, Marc has led startups to become industry leaders with thousands of worldwide customers. Marc has over 20 years of cybersecurity experience, most notably founding Incapsula and bringing it to $100M ARR and its acquisition by Imperva.