Enabling a Secure Supply Chain for Government Agencies

Takeaways

  • Today’s government supply chains face more risks and increasingly sophisticated attacks.

  • Remote work has greatly expanded the attack surface of many government agencies.

  • Visibility, collaboration, and thorough evaluation are critical to ensuring comprehensive protection.

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The Complexity of a Modern Supply Chain

Today, the federal government relies on a wide and diverse supply chain to source infrastructure, equipment, and other essential goods. To meet their needs—from processors in air traffic control systems to laptops for remote workers, and much more—agencies rely on a large range of manufacturing and logistics partners. Each node and connection in this global supply chain represents significant potential security risks.

Malicious actors see these risks as opportunities. With the right access, they can sabotage, steal, or modify otherwise legitimate supplies—both physical and digital—and use them as covert entry points or intelligence gathering tools. The complexity of the modern supply chain affords them many ways to gain access. Threat actors are employing sophisticated strategies and using software such as ransomware and phishing tools to compromise protections and achieve their objectives.

Manufacturing, production, and development supply chains have also become more complex. Companies rely on a broad spectrum of third-party partners for any number of components in their offerings, as well as transportation and management services for logistics. For government agencies, that means that the risks extend beyond just the company they partner with directly.

The sophistication of modern threats combines with global supply chain complexity to create very real security and risk management problems for government agencies.

The Importance of a Secure Supply Chain

What happens when a government supply chain is compromised? It’s the first step to any number of undesirable outcomes: from the theft of sensitive and private information to downtime of vital government services.

In the digital world, your supply chain is more exposed than ever. That’s why implementing formal supply chain risk management programs to reduce risks and thwart attackers is so essential. Tools such as cybersecurity suites, warehouse management and logistics monitoring solutions and asset tracking solutions can help protect your organization.

Current Supply Chain Threats

The rapid adoption of remote work has amplified supply chain risks and greatly expanded the overall attack surface of many government agencies. Remote workers often use networks that are outside of IT’s control, resulting in less-stringent security. Users are also spending more time online, which increases their exposure to risks.

Faced with new challenges, supply chain management and supply chain security concerns are expanding to consider a wider range of physical and digital threats. Federal government supply chains must anticipate a variety of attacks that could be carried out by any number of bad actors, including state-sponsored hacking groups, criminals, hacktivists, insiders, and disgruntled parties seeking to cause chaos.

To achieve their goals, attackers use any number of physical and digital tactics.

Physical Threats

  • Theft and hijacking of devices, equipment, and materials
  • Tampering—the modification or altering of a device for malicious purposes
  • Inauthentic or counterfeit goods

Digital Threats

  • Injecting malware in the manufacturing process or infecting software suite components
  • Phishing, ransomware, botnets, and other common cyberattacks that target users
  • Attacks to IT networks and other digital infrastructure
  • Compromising third-party cloud services to gain unauthorized access

Best Practices for Creating a Secure Supply Chain

Government agencies are focused on improving the security of their supply chains. Many are deploying dedicated supply chain security teams. A key priority is enabling a more holistic view of the threat landscape—across physical, digital, and human attack vectors. The goal is to more effectively aggregate information to see attack trends. With improved monitoring across the supply chain, government agencies can stay more informed as risks emerge.

Holistic Visibility and Intelligence

A holistic approach to supply chain security information also helps fuel deeper conversations between supply chain risk managers and other stakeholders such as cybersecurity specialists, physical security teams, and human resources. Increased collaboration and connectivity between these disciplines is critical.

Likewise, threat intelligence services can help you stay informed of the latest attack trends and tactics. Many suppliers are seeking ways to share information and help protect their industries against threats.

A Zero-Trust Security Approach

Zero-trust security is quickly becoming another new standard. Here, employees and partners are assigned only the access they require to do their job, and nothing more. This limited approach to granting access privileges helps combat the increasing number of threat mechanisms and attack vectors throughout the supply chain. Employing a zero-trust approach can help enhance your agency’s information security risk management.

Certifications and Third-Party Validation

Many agencies are seeking to align with supply chain security standards to ensure their assets are protected. Certifications such as ISO28000 and ISO27001, or the use of the NIST cybersecurity framework, can provide assurance that you’re taking the right steps to prevent and quickly remediate breaches. External validation and finely tuned internal controls can help confirm compliance and promote more-effective certification efforts.

Thorough and Ongoing Evaluation

Scrutiny should be applied at each node in your global supply chain, including thorough up-front evaluation and rigorous ongoing auditing of all supply chain partners. Contracts can be used to solidify agreements and standardize supplier expectations. Audits can then help verify that suppliers are adhering to the agreement. Taking the appropriate remedial steps when issues are flagged and carefully tracking their progress is also critical. These response and remediation practices should be embedded into existing supplier management or quality improvement programs. Transparency and trust should be the foundation of any supply chain relationship.

Intel’s Dedication to Supply Chain Security

At Intel, security is always a top priority. We offer the Intel Transparent Supply Chain (Intel TSC) solution, which enables deeper visibility and traceability of hardware components, firmware, and systems on select Intel® platforms. It delivers a detailed look at your device’s chain of custody, helping to provide you with assurance that your investment has not been tampered with.

In addition to the Intel TSC offering, we’ve taken steps to strengthen our own supply chain security We use a risk management framework that’s based on best practices and industry standards throughout our vast supplier network—from design, services, and IP management to warehousing and logistics. Our program includes supplier selection guidelines that consider security practices and posture, regular supplier risk assessments, contractual language protections for counterfeiting, on-site auditing, and real-time cybersecurity monitoring. These capabilities are embedded into our standard supplier management practices to enable deeper visibility into our operations and help us quickly spot anomalies and risks.