May 17, 2020

Research In Motion inventory stockpile soars

Supply Chain Digital
Inventory Optimization
Inventory Mana
Freddie Pierce
2 min
Facing slowing sales, Research In Motion’s BlackBerry and PlayBook inventories have doubled
If you want to study up on poor inventory optimization, look no further than Research In Motion. The Canadian telecommunications company known mostly f...

If you want to study up on poor inventory optimization, look no further than Research In Motion.

The Canadian telecommunications company known mostly for its BlackBerry mobile phones has seen its inventory more than double in just two quarters, with supply values $600 million in late February to nearly $1.4 billion in late August.

A series of disappointing sales figures indicate that RIM is having trouble selling its products. Much of the valued inventory is the raw materials required to make BlackBerrys and PlayBooks.

A startling trend, however, is the number of finished products that have gone unsold. The value of those items has tripled in that time, from $94 million to $298 million.

Speculation is that much of the unsold finished inventory is PlayBooks. The recent announcement of a price cut on the first-generation tablet to $199 seems to further back up those claims.

The PlayBook’s struggles have been well-documented, but consider this: HIS iSuppli estimates the tablet’s components cost $205 alone. That would indicate that RIM is taking a hit on each PlayBook sold, and that’s before factoring in costs associated with logistics.


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An interesting twist in the RIM struggle has been a change in accounting policy. Traditionally, the company had listed sales and profits once a product was sold to retailers and wireless carriers, not when said products were ultimately sold to the end user.

RIM has reportedly changed its accounting policy to allow for retailers and carriers to return unsold products, which has contributed to the company’s stocked warehouses.

Inventory management can be a tricky business to navigate, especially in a volatile economy. A few years ago, overstocked RIM warehouses wouldn’t be a problem with soaring SmartPhone demand.

With manufacturers like Apple and Samsung quickly taking control of the field, however, RIM’s inventory stockpile is a huge concern for the company moving forward.

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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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