May 19, 2021

UK Government to boost Cyber Resilience of Supply Chains

Supplychain
riskmanagement
UK
Cybersecurity
3 min
New proposals to help British businesses manage cyber risks attached to supply chains are being considered by the government

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) is calling for views on a number of measures to enhance the security of digital supply chains and third party IT services, used by firms for things such as data processing and infrastructure management.

The UK government is seeking feedback from industry voices on its proposed measures following the SolarWinds and Codecov attacks.

The SolarWinds cyber-attack was discovered in December but had been in operation for months prior. Hackers used US company SolarWinds’ Orion platform to target US government departments, along with about 100 private companies, and small numbers of UK organisations. Nearly 18,000 customers had installed the malicious software.

Hundreds of clients were compromised in the Codecov supply chain attack, and investigators said that the attackers not only exploited the company but also used it as a launchpad for attacks against numerous customer networks.

DCMS research shows only 12% of organisations review the cybersecurity risks coming from their immediate suppliers and only one in twenty firms (5%) address the vulnerabilities in their wider supply chain.

As digital transformation accelerates and organisations increasingly move their operations online, digital supply chains and third-party IT service operators are becoming vital to companies’ everyday operations and are hugely important for business continuity and resilience. 

The government has helped organisations improve their cyber risk management during the pandemic, including through £500,000 of funding to enable critical suppliers in healthcare to boost their preparedness and resilience through the Cyber Essentials scheme. Although now the government is looking at what more it can do to support UK firms.

Digital Infrastructure Minister Matt Warman said: “There is a long history of outsourcing of critical services. We have seen attacks such as ‘CloudHopper’ where organisations were compromised through their managed service provider. It’s essential that organisations take steps to secure their mission critical supply chains – and remember they cannot outsource risk.

“We’re seeking views from firms that both procure and provide digital services, as a first step in considering whether we need updated guidance or strengthened rules.”

Guidance on supply chain risk management

The government wants views on the existing guidance for supply chain cyber risk management and is also testing the suitability of a proposed security framework for firms which manage organisations’ IT infrastructure, known as ‘Managed Service Providers’.

According to the government the proposals could require Managed Service Providers to meet the current Cyber Assessment Framework - a set of 14 cybersecurity principles designed for organisations that play a vital role in the day-to-day life of the UK.

The framework sets out measures organisations should take, such as:

  • Having policies to protect devices and prevent unauthorised access
  • Ensuring data is protected at rest and in transit
  • Keeping secure and accessible backups of data
  • Training staff and pursuing a positive cybersecurity culture

The Call for Views on Supply Chain Cyber Security Call will be open from 17 May to 11 July 2021.

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