Supply Chain Security for Ecommerce Brands

Guest Post

This post was written by Zac Amos, a cybersecurity and AI writer and editor for ReHack.

Ecommerce’s boom is great news for businesses capitalizing on this growth, but it may also attract attention from cybercriminals. In light of increasing cyber risks, ecommerce brands must ensure thorough protection, which means securing their supply chain.

Most companies understand the need for internal cybersecurity at this point. However, third-party vulnerabilities can affect other organizations within the supply chain. Here’s how ecommerce businesses can address these risks.

1. Maximize Visibility

Supply chain security starts with visibility — lacking it is the third most common cybersecurity challenge today. Businesses can’t secure what they don’t know is vulnerable, which is even more challenging in complex, often opaque supply chains.

Ecommerce brands need to know how their data travels through the supply chain, including who has access to which information. Data mapping software can help clarify this area. Similarly, using a centralized cloud management system instead of multiple separate platforms will make it easier to get the full picture.

Enterprises can use Internet of Things (IoT) tracking solutions to see how their products move through the supply chain. This transparency can reveal any partners they may need to contact to ask for more information.

2. Hold Partners to a Higher Standard

Next, ecommerce brands need to think about who they work with. When 98% of organizations work with at least one third-party that’s experienced a breach, it’s hard to be too careful.

Businesses should only work with supply chain partners who meet certain security requirements. They may lack the power to hold second and third-tier suppliers to this standard, but they should be more careful about choosing tier-one suppliers, 3PLs and any software vendors. Any business that gets access to potentially sensitive data must prove its security.

Look for certifications from established standards like ISO 27001 or the NIST Cybersecurity Framework. Manufacturers and software vendors are most likely to have these kinds of credentials. When partners lack them or they aren’t common in a sector, ask organizations about their security measures before partnering with them

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3. Limit Access Permissions

Even if a brand only works with trusted partners, it’s important to restrict access permissions. This also applies internally — employee theft accounts for 44% of inventory shrinkage, so companies can’t always trust their insiders. Malicious activity aside, simple mistakes can create vulnerabilities, so limitations are essential.

The key here is only providing access to what people need to do their jobs. Suppliers may need some financial and logistics data, but they don’t need end customers’ information, so they shouldn’t be able to access it. 3PLs and brokers don’t need access to the ecommerce payment system or site management tools.

These restrictions are particularly crucial for warehouses, as they handle so many different parts and processes. Some enterprises have products like medical devices that carry extra risks and only trained employees should move them. These limits may be inconvenient at times, but they ensure a breach at one point in the supply chain won’t affect the whole network.

4. Perform Regular Penetration Testing

Ecommerce enterprises must also recognize that cybersecurity is always evolving. Security researchers discovered more than 26,000 vulnerabilities in 2023 alone. Because new threats emerge so regularly, organizations must review their security frequently to ensure they’re as safe as possible.

Regular review is crucial in any security context, but the complexities of supply chains make them all the more important, as it can be harder to spot weaknesses. The answer is penetration testing — hiring security experts to try and breach a business’s security to reveal its weak points.

Performing penetration tests at least once a year will help ecommerce brands stay on top of shifting security and cybercrime trends. It’s also best to ask tier-one suppliers, warehouse partners, software vendors and 3PLs to conduct this testing. Sellers can’t authorize this testing on their partners’ behalf, but they should request it to keep the whole supply chain safe.

5. Create an Emergency Response Plan

Of course, breaches are still possible, even if ecommerce companies follow all these other steps. Consequently, they must develop a formal and detailed emergency response plan.

Automated detection and response tools are a crucial part of this planning. This technology can identify and contain breaches faster and more accurately than human workers, which is particularly important for complex supply chains.

Emergency plans should also include steps to communicate the issue with suppliers or downstream partners whom the incident may affect. Similarly, any upstream suppliers, 3PLs or providers should have a way to communicate breaches on their end to the ecommerce organizations. This communication won’t stop attacks, but it’ll minimize the damage by aiding a faster, more cooperative response.

Bottom Line

Without thorough supply chain security, ecommerce brands’ suppliers and other partners could jeopardize their security and that of their customers. When everything connects, one party’s vulnerability affects everyone else’s security.

Embracing these five steps will help any ecommerce company secure its supply chain to minimize these risks. They can then reduce losses and continue to ensure reliable, safe customer service.

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