Supply chains are inherently at risk. Not only are there many moving parts that make a supply chain work, but there are also tight deadlines, environmental and political factors, and even the human worker themselves that can cause delays, hiccups, and issues. As such we must be safeguarding Supply Chains.
One of the biggest wake-up calls for logistics companies was the pandemic. With everything shut down, new rules being put in place, health and safety issues, and of course, the shutdown of manufacturing and production, as well as retail stores themselves, this put logistics companies and their partners into an absolute tailspin.
It highlighted the need for smaller, more effectiveness and safeguarding supply chains so that they can adapt to crises at a moment’s notice.
The threat of another pandemic isn’t the only issue that supply chain companies or departments need to worry about. Cybercrime is also at an all-time high. Socio-political and economic factors are further going to complicate international supply chains.
Bring Supply Chains Closer to Home
International supply chains have reached their fever pitch, and it’s time for companies to bring production closer to home. Not only is the international supply chain the cause of huge greenhouse gas emissions, but it’s also wholly unstable. The pandemic provided this, but that isn’t the only instance where a single upset disrupted production and costs.
The large ¼-mile long ship that got jammed in the Suez Canal is another prime example of how a single disruption can impact not just the shipment of the 18,000 containers on board but the shipment of every boat that should have crossed through the Suez Canal in the period of time it took for them to remove the obstruction.
Supply chains need to come closer to home. It is here where sustainability efforts can be made, and the pressure on international ecosystems can be reduced. Of course, this isn’t just a matter of looking for suppliers nearer to home but also requires a societal shift away from overconsumption.
For companies that must rely on international trade routes, it’s imperative that you make your supply chain redundant. This way, if one route is blocked for any reason, you have an alternative ready and waiting.
How Cybercrime Impacts Supply Chains
Cybercrime impacts all areas of business and society. No one is safe. Information is money, and today all information is online. Though the main focus of cybercriminals is either stealing information and selling that information to the highest bidder or holding systems ransom, that doesn’t mean that brick-and-mortar businesses or supply chain logistics are safe. In fact, it’s become a hot target.
Several logistics companies have experienced massive hits from cybercriminals. Two of the biggest examples are JBS Meatpacking and SolarWinds. What is important to remember when you read about cyber attacks along the supply chain is that it isn’t a matter of trucks not delivering their items or anyone physically hitting your warehouses.
When cybercrime affects supply chains, it targets the logistics systems that run the entire beast. Businesses today rely on enterprise-level systems to automate a huge number of moving parts along their supply chain. Disrupt those systems, or even outright hold them hostage, and entire supply chains can collapse just as easily as a political scandal or even war can impact a supply chain on the ground.
Cybercrime is on the rise, and it’s only going to get worse. Just because the bulk of a supply chain’s worth is in the products themselves does not mean that your logistics systems aren’t worth hitting. In fact, they’re even bigger targets. Yes, you could technically get in touch with everyone manually to coordinate, but when you haven’t used that method in decades, there will be hiccups and mistakes, and everything is going to take far longer.
The world runs on digital systems and with online cloud-based tools. The rise in cybercrime puts your company at threat because of these systems. However, just because there is a risk doesn’t mean you should try to revert. Instead, you need to invest in cybersecurity.
Have a Cybersecurity Specialist on Board
Cybersecurity is more than just investing in a firewall and keeping your system updated. Those are effective strategies, but they’re very basic and not enough for large or international businesses. You need to have a cybersecurity specialist on board. In fact, you would benefit from an entire team.
If the cost of hiring someone is too much, then consider becoming one yourself. It only takes between one to two years. In exchange, you’ll be able to direct your company and manage it in a way that puts security at the forefront of everything you do. This is great for minimizing risk and can be used as a way to advertise your company to big brands that want an effective, secure supply chain logistics specialist on their side.
If you’re interested, you can read this How to Become a Cybersecurity Specialist article which outlines your options. As a working professional, chances are that you’ll want to take on an online degree that gives you the flexibility to continue working while you study. Not only can this help you pay off your degree while you earn it, but you’ll also be able to put what you learn to good use right from the get-go.
If you don’t have any relevant experience, don’t worry. You can usually take a targeted foundation course that will prepare you for the full degree. Like the degree itself, the foundation course will also help you better prepare and manage your company against cybercrime.
Be Aware of the Latest Trends
Being aware of the latest trends is how you can preemptively protect and start safeguarding supply chains from disruption.
Ransomware is a terrifying type of cybercrime that affects all areas of a company, including its supply chains. Essentially a hacker will hack into your system and seize control over it. You won’t be able to use it, save, restart, or do anything to get the hacker out of your system without expert knowledge.
They hold your entire company hostage. If you don’t pay their demands, chances are they’ll delete the important files, if not your entire company, so that you cannot access and restore them.
Your entire company can be wiped off the map. It’s a terrifying thought, particularly when you have a lot of money wrapped up in the ground. It’s for this reason that most companies hit with ransomware pay their hackers. There have been cases where companies pay out millions of dollars in the hope that their attacker will relinquish control over their business and leave.
Phishing scams are another common cyber security threat that essentially steals money from people and businesses by pretending to be someone else. They will steal funds, login information, and more based on the type of attack.
Phishing scams can be incredibly elaborate. During the lockdowns at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, a phishing attack targeted Haier Biomedical’s network. The attackers got into their email system and sent out phishing emails directly to their partners. Attackers may also pose as freight forwarders to negotiate how much you owe them.
It can be hard to identify some phishing scams since they pose as legitimate businesses. It’s even harder when they use the guise of a company you know and have worked for regularly.
Sensor Data Intercepting
Many supply chains use sensors, machine learning, AI, and the internet of things (IoT) in order to get products and materials from their origin to their destination. Cybercriminals can hack into this system and sell your data to a competitor or even to other criminals who would then physically attack shipments (when it’s determined the payload is worthwhile).
Train All Employees (and Customers) on Cyber Security
A cybersecurity specialist can only do so much when most attacks are actually caused by human error. An employee downloading a virus by accident and then logging onto your network with their infected computer, for example, can put your whole system at risk.
That’s why it’s important to set new, better standards of operation in safeguarding Supply Chains. Some of this can be done just by requiring more advanced security features (like a complex password that needs to be changed and updated every six months or year). In other cases, you’ll need to train your employees.
Train Them to Recognize Common Scams
Once a month, you should send out a newsletter or even hold a meeting just to refresh your team on the latest and most common phishing scams and attacks going on right now. While they should know how to investigate links, they also need to be aware of the new approaches. This way, they can anticipate attacks before they happen and know how to spot issues as they arise quickly.
Teach Them How to Protect Themselves at Home
While you should invest in endpoint protection, you’ll also want to train your employees on how they should stay safe at home. You can absolutely refuse to have personal computers connected to your system. Many companies offer specially designed work computers and even phones for their employees to use because of this.
Teach them how to also protect their personal devices, and you’ll have minimized many of the most common data breach sources.
Limit User Access
Every employee needs a unique ID and a password that is not used anywhere else. This way, if their login information is stolen elsewhere on the internet, those criminals cannot use that information to gain access to your system.
Similarly, you won’t have to worry about employees accessing data that they aren’t supposed to. There should not be multiple keys to your entire network. Your employees should only have access to the information that they need and nothing more. This limits any criminal activity from occurring in your business and from outside of it.
Regularly Re-Evaluate Your Supply Chain
Things change, new companies arise, new technologies are released, and new rules and regulations will impact your supply chain. If you want to continue to get the best out of your supply chain, you’ll need to re-evaluate it regularly and audit your suppliers.
Part of this will be to regularly investigate the full cost-benefit of your options. With 3D printing, for example, you may be able to print the parts you need for your warehouse instead of bringing them in from across the world. While the upfront cost may be more, you may end up saving a lot by keeping more of your business in-house.
Sometimes the opposite may be true, and it’s more cost-effective to look outside of your business to partner with a company instead. Partnering with new businesses means being able to avoid the high upfront fees of implementing new technology.
Don’t just look overseas, however. With increasing pressure from the public to curb emissions, you should assume that new taxes and stricter regulations are going to choke international supply chains. You need to prepare for this eventuality and start establishing more sustainable alternatives closer to home in order to get ahead of the rising changes.
Keep Everyone Updated
When it comes to managing and safeguarding supply chains, it’s better to assume something will go wrong. When it does, it’s best to be fully upfront than to hide the information. When giving tracking information to customers or to your clients, give them live updates and warnings. It’s the same as if someone were to plan a journey. They want to know if there’s going to be traffic and what their new arrival time estimation.
Keep everyone appraised of the real-time updates, and the entire system can adjust accordingly. It’s also worthwhile having fail safes in place in case issues arise, like a border is closed or the Suez Canal is blocked.
Having a plan in place for safeguarding Supply Chains and keeping everyone updated with realistic expectations is how you can manage everyone’s time better and keep customers and clients happy with you. Things will happen beyond your control. Having a backup in plan and an accurate new time date will assuage any frustration and keep your chain running smoothly.