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Supply Chain Security Tips for Canadian Retailers

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By Devin Partida

Cybersecurity is a more prevalent concern for Canadian retailers than ever. As the retail industry embraces digital transformation to meet the needs of a changing market, it faces new challenges from cybercriminals. One particular area of concern is the supply chain.

A 2018 survey revealed that 66% of global organizations had experienced a supply chain attack. More than half of this group reported experiencing these attacks on multiple occasions. Supply chain security is no longer something retailers can afford to overlook.

Why Are Supply Chains at Risk?

Today’s supply chains handle far more data than they used to. You may collect clients’ personal information like names and addresses, credit card information, or valuable intellectual property. If cybercriminals can steal this data, they could hold it for ransom or sell it to other criminals, making a considerable amount of money.

Supply chain attacks also have the potential to be remarkably destructive. Take the recent SolarWinds hack in the U.S., for example. Hackers managed to infect 18,000 customers with malware by putting malicious code into a supply chain software update. That level of disruption makes supply chains a high-value target for cyber-terrorists or enemy state-sponsored hackers.

Cybercriminals may also target retail supply chains simply because they’re easy targets. Many retailers don’t understand the need for supply chain security, so they remain vulnerable. Here’s how you can reverse that trend.

1. Examine Supply Chain Partners Carefully

Experts say that you can’t fully trust something unless you continuously monitor it. Since you can’t monitor all of your suppliers and logistics partners, you should limit how much you trust them. Never assume another company shares your cybersecurity standards, because they might not, and any oversight can be risky.

Before partnering with another company, you should also thoroughly vet their cybersecurity. Ask how they protect their data and that of their clients, and request verification, like a security audit. If they can’t answer these questions or don’t demonstrate high standards, avoid partnering with them.

2. Tighten Access Controls

In that same vein, you should limit what data your partners can access. If a supplier has access to your mission-critical systems or sensitive customer data, a data breach on their end will impact you. Minimizing what third parties can see and do mitigates any potential damage if their security fails.

Everyone should only have access to the data and systems they need to do their job. This same philosophy applies to your employees, too. Restrict access as much as possible and require tight controls like multi-factor authentication to prevent data breaches.

3. Secure IoT Devices

Many retailers have started embracing the Internet of Things (IoT) to improve supply chain visibility. These devices help make supply chains more flexible and resilient, but they also present a security risk. Hackers can use them as gateways into the rest of your network, accessing sensitive data from unexpected locations.

You can mitigate these threats by limiting the types of data you transmit over these systems. Similarly, IoT devices shouldn’t operate on the same network as unrelated, more sensitive information. Be sure you also encrypt all of these devices’ signals and update them regularly.

4. Develop a Continuity Plan

Finally, you should develop a business continuity plan should you fall victim to an attack. Ransomware attacks in Canada demand an average of $148,700 and surpass the million-dollar mark in some cases. That’s too significant a financial impact to ignore, so you should have a contingency plan in place.

First, analyze your setup to determine what data and systems you need to continue operations. Make backups of all of these mission-critical systems, ideally both on the cloud and offline. You should also have a way to communicate with involved employees and partners efficiently.

What your continuity plan looks like will vary depending on your specific situation. In general, though, you should ensure you can keep your most critical operations working through an emergency.

Canadian Retailers Must Improve Supply Chain Security

Retailers can’t operate without a safe, functioning supply chain. As these become increasingly popular targets for cybercriminals, you must secure them. Follow these tips and always look out for ways to improve to protect yourself and your customers from cybercrime.

Devin Partida is a writer and blogger, as well as the Editor-in-Chief of ReHack.com

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