Brexit and Stockpiling: What’s the answer?
Brexit is dominating conversations once again and creating waves of uncertainty in almost every industry. But the big questions everyone is asking right now is: do we have to start stockpiling our imported goods to prepare for a no deal Brexit? What happens to our food if it’s held up at customs? Will there be shortages?
It might sound apocalyptic, but if the UK leaves the EU without a deal - which is a distinct possibility - we could find ourselves in a situation where food, pharmaceuticals and even car parts are not readily available.
Despite Airbus announcing they were going to stockpile goods in preparation of increased tariffs, supermarkets asking their suppliers to provide a breakdown of any ingredients and packaging materials sourced from the EU, and the NHS working to make sure medical supplies don’t run out for the next six months, the UK government insists that retailers won’t need to resort to stockpiling.
Yet, there have been whispers about measures already being prepared for this eventuality, such as the Ministry of Defence looking into how the armed forces could be deployed to carry out various civil functions, including using RAF jets to transport food supplies across the country.
It looks like Brexit secretary, Dominic Raab, isn’t going to provide much advice on what retailers need to do to protect themselves and their stock either. So what’s the plan?
An uncertain future?
The reality is that no one knows exactly what is going to happen when the UK leaves the EU, not to mention if we leave without a deal. But one thing is clear - retailers need to take matters into their own hands and have contingency plans in place in order to ride out the period of uncertainty they face.
The media will have us believe that the UK simply doesn’t have enough warehouse space to accommodate emergency stockpiling of goods. But this is simply not the case - the space is there, but it is just tied up in warehouses that are already in use, yet are not full. The problem is that people just don’t know where it is nor have to access it.
Warehouses are typically let out on long-term leases. It takes a long time to find a negotiate a warehouse lease so organisations always take more space than they need just so they have room to grow if required and do not have to go out looking for another warehouse any time soon.
What we have seen over the last few years is that organisations have over-estimated their needs, not grown as expected and as a result, their warehouses are not full. On average, each warehouse in the UK is only 75% full, so that is tens of thousands of square metres of space that is not being utilised.
Business must get better at using space that is already built instead of investing thousands in building new warehouses to accommodate short-term uncertainty. On-demand warehousing is the solution to the stockpiling problem and for retailers who need a contingency plan.
Stowga brings the sharing economy model to warehouse space. Its marketplace allows organisations to list their available warehouse space, be it 10 or 10,000 pallet spaces, and makes it available to businesses who need the space. It can be rented for as little as a month at a time, on a pay-as-you-go basis, so it is extremely flexible to be scaled up and down when required. The spaces available aren’t just ambient either - temperature controlled, frozen, and specialised warehouses are also available, which means every type of business can prepare for all eventualities.
It’s unlikely that the government is going to give much advice or guidance for retailers or businesses when it comes to their supply chain post-Brexit. No one should risk failure, so they must take their contingency plans into their own hands and consider new ways to adapt.
Google and NIST Address Supply Chain Cybersecurity
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”’.