May 17, 2020

ASOS Warehouse Fire Reveals the Costs of Supply Chain Risk

Supply chain risk
Risk Management
2 min
The global retailer watched its immediate distribution channel go up in flames
A recent distribution centre fire on the premises belonging to global online fast-fashion and beauty retailer, ASOS, has brought to light many of the ri...

A recent distribution centre fire on the premises belonging to global online fast-fashion and beauty retailer, ASOS, has brought to light many of the risks to which modern supply chains are exposed.

ASOS keeps 70 percent of its stock in Barnsley, England and it is believed that the fire could have affected more than $50 million of inventory.

The facility is over 600,000 square feet and the fire, which police believe was deliberately set, spread to four floors. Although the website is up and running after being disrupted this weekend, ASOS’s share price fell by two percent before bouncing back, proving just how much disaster can affect a company.

John Manners-Bell, CEO of Transport Intelligence and author of the recently published book, Supply Chain Risk: Understanding Emerging Threats to Global Supply Chains, commented: “One of the problems of operating global distribution centres is the concentration of risk in one location.

“Centralisation of logistics operations makes sense on an operational basis in terms of keeping stock levels low and reducing redundancy. However if you start costing in external risks such as fires, floods and security issues, then suddenly it doesn’t look so smart.

“As it is very difficult to quantify the financial cost of ‘Black Swan’ events, many companies pretend that the risks don’t exist. Although ASOS had insurance and the disaster could have been a lot worse, there will still be implications for the retailer in terms of customer service and reputation.”

Manners-Bell added: “To get back up and running so quickly, ASOS obviously had exceptional contingency plans in place, no doubt helped by an earlier experience when its previous distribution centre in the UK was badly damaged by an oil depot blast.

“However this further disaster demonstrates the systemic fragility of many global supply chains and perhaps suggests that it would be sensible to spread risk over a number of locations, despite an increase in internal supply chain costs.”

In Supply Chain Risk, Manners-Bell assesses the various sources of external threat to the supply chain, including environmental, geopolitical, economic and technological, and describes how to deal with them strategically.

“It’s not about preparing your supply chain for a known threat, it’s about making it resilient against all risks,” he said. “This requires a great deal of scenario planning; putting processes in place, implementing the technology to sense and respond to events as they happen. It has to go to the very core of a company’s supply chain strategy.” 

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Jun 21, 2021

Google and NIST Address Supply Chain Cybersecurity

Elise Leise
3 min
The SolarWinds and Codecov cyberattacks reminded companies that software security poses a critical risk. How do we mitigate it?

As high-level supply chain attacks hit the news, Google and the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have both developed proposals for how to address software supply chain security. This isn’t a new field, unfortunately. Since supply chains are a critical part of business resilience, criminals have no qualms about targeting its software. That’s why identifying, assessing, and mitigating cyber supply chain risks (C-SCRM) is at the top of Google and NIST’s respective agendas. 


High-Profile Supply Chain Attacks 

According to Google, no comprehensive end-to-end framework exists to mitigate threats across the software supply chain. [Yet] ‘there is an urgent need for a solution in the face of the eye-opening, multi-billion-dollar attacks in recent months...some of which could have been prevented or made more difficult’. 


Here are several of the largest cybersecurity failures in recent months: 


  • SolarWinds. Alleged Russian hackers slipped malicious code into a routine software update, which they then used as a Trojan horse for a massive cyberattack. 
  • Codecov. Attackers used automation to collect credentials and raid ‘additional resources’, such as data from other software development vendors. 
  • Malicious attacks on open-source repositories. Out of 1,000 GitHub accounts, more than one in five contained at least one dependency confusion-related misconfiguration. 


As a result of these attacks and Biden’s recent cybersecurity mandate, NIST and Google took action. NIST held a 1,400-person workshop and published 150 papers worth of recommendations from Microsoft, Synopsys, The Linux Foundation, and other software experts; Google will work with popular source, build, and packaging platforms to help companies implement and excel at their SLSA framework


What Are Their Recommendations? 

Here’s a quick recap: NIST has grouped together recommendations to create federal standards; Google has developed an end-to-end framework called Supply Chain Levels for Software Artifacts (SLSA)—pronounced “Salsa”. Both address software procurement and security. 


Now, here’s the slightly more in-depth version: 


  • NIST. The organisation wants more ‘rigorous and predictable’ ways to secure critical software. They suggest that firms use vulnerability disclosure programmes (VDP) and software bills of materials (SBOM), consider simplifying their software and give at least one developer per project security training.
  • Google. The company thinks that SLSA will encompass the source-build-publish software workflow. Essentially, the four-level framework helps businesses make informed choices about the security of the software they use, with SLSA 4 representing an ideal end state. 


If this all sounds very abstract, consider the recent SolarWinds attack. The attacker compromised the build platform, installed an implant, and injected malicious behaviour during each build. According to Google, higher SLSA levels would have required stronger security controls for the build platform, making it more difficult for the attacker to succeed. 


How Do The Proposals Differ? 

As Brian Fox, the co-founder and CTO at Sonatype, sees it, NIST and Google have created proposals that complement each other. ‘The NIST [version] is focused on defining minimum requirements for software sold to the government’, he explained, while Google ‘goes [further] and proposes a specific model for scoring the supply chain. NIST is currently focused on the “what”. Google, along with other industry leaders, is grappling with the “how”’. 


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