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Defense Supply Chain Data Security

by | Jul 10, 2024

The defense supply chain is a complex network of partners that sell, manufacture, and distribute services or products to defense agencies worldwide. It is made up of both major corporations and smaller sub-suppliers. Each country has its own network of supply chain partners, including manufacturers, software, services and logistics providers that deliver products and services for military materiel applications.

From bolt suppliers to weapons manufacturers, defense suppliers handle and manage sensitive information, including critical infrastructure, nuclear, intelligence, proprietary defense designs and technology, controlled unclassified information (CUI), etc.,  which makes them attractive targets for cyber attacks. For this reason, both large and small defense supply chain organizations must meet the stringent information security controls required by the nation they are supplying.

This blog examines the top threats, best practices and tools for securing defense supply chain data security.

Top Threats to the Defense Supply Chain Data Security

Software Vulnerabilities

Cyber attackers typically infiltrate supply chain networks through software vulnerabilities or flaws. They can introduce malware via malicious updates or by compromising open-source code or unpatched software with known vulnerabilities. Misconfigured software can also create an attack point if the settings do not provide adequate security.

Managed Service Exploits

Supply chain organizations often receive technology services from managed service providers (MSPs) that service multiple companies. Outsourcing IT expertise and services benefits customers but also attracts cybercriminals aiming to disrupt numerous organizations simultaneously via an MSP’s systems. MSPs and their clients are especially vulnerable to zero-day exploits or software weaknesses discovered by cyber attackers before IT teams.

State-Sponsored Attacks

Foreign governments can consider an adversary’s supply chains strategically important. Cybercriminals and nation-state hackers from other countries target supply chains to disrupt or halt the delivery of products and services, steal sensitive information and designs, destabilize financial operations, or take military measures.

Data Breaches

The goal of most cyber attacks is to steal personal and financial data from their victim’s systems. Cyber attackers often target smaller supply chain entities, as they typically have weaker security measures and limited resources. By compromising these smaller targets, hackers can gain access to larger partner organizations within the supply chain.

Insider Threats

Employees, contractors and supply chain partners can equally put sensitive supply chain data at risk. From simple mistakes that leave sensitive data publicly exposed or sent to the wrong recipient to theft motivated by personal or financial gain, insider threats are just as damaging and often more challenging to detect initially.

Regulations that Govern Global Defense Supply Chain Security

The growing number of cyber threats driven by digital transformation has prompted governments to enact legislation and enforce cybersecurity standards for their suppliers and partners to mitigate risks.

Defense supply chain organizations are required to uphold stringent information security measures to meet the specific needs of the countries they serve. They must ensure information confidentiality, integrity, and availability and implement robust cybersecurity protocols to safeguard against potential threats and breaches. Additionally, these organizations must adhere to strict compliance standards and regulations to maintain the security and integrity of the defense supply chain.

Some of the regulations that Defense manufacturers and suppliers are subject to by country include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Australia – Defense Industry Security Program (DISP), Protective Security Policy Framework (PSPF), Essential Eight, Australian Security Legislation Amendment (Critical Infrastructure Protection) Act 2022 (SLACIP Act), Security of Critical Infrastructure Act 2018 (SOCI Act), and Systems of National Significance (SoNS).
  • United States – Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement (DFARS), Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC), International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), Export Administration Regulations (EAR), and NIST 800-171.
  • United Kingdom – UK MOD Cyber Security Model (CSM) and Defense Cyber Protection Partnership (DCPP), UK Government Cyber Essentials Scheme (CES), Export Control Act 2002, and Export Control Order 2008.

Best Practices for Mitigating Defense Supply Chain Data Security Risk

Data and intellectual property (IP) are arguably the Defense supply chain’s most valuable assets. They are critical to maintaining a competitive edge in the market and generating revenue from innovation.

Defense suppliers and contractors must regularly take steps to protect supply chain data, including implementing the following controls:

1. Access Controls and Authentication

  • Employ zero trust principles (never trust, always validate) to control system and data access.
  • Implement robust access controls and authentication mechanisms such as multi-factor authentication, attribute-based access control, and privileged access management.
  • Secure networks and software applications to eliminate any vulnerabilities.

2. Data Encryption and Key Management

  • Encrypt sensitive data at rest, in use or in transit.
  • Ensure data is encrypted whenever it moves across external or internal networks.
  • Automatically encrypt sensitive files shared via email to ensure only intended recipients can access them.
  • Employ FIPS 140-2 certified or compliant encryption, which many governments require.
  • Maintain control of your encryption keys to meet data sovereignty requirements.

3. Network and System Security

  • Ensure appropriate security is in place on your networks, servers, and endpoints.
  • Employ security best practices, including firewalls and intrusion detection/prevention systems.
  • Routinely update and patch all software to ensure vulnerabilities can’t be exploited.

4. Third-Party Risk Management

  • Identify supply chain processes that may compromise sensitive data and systems and establish appropriate security protocols.
  • Evaluate the risk associated with each supplier, then establish and inform them of the minimum security requirements.
  • Ensure that all third parties and subcontractors comply with any relevant regulations (e.g., ITAR) and have implemented the appropriate security and access controls.

5. Compliance Management

  • Work with legal and compliance experts to develop and implement an effective data security and compliance strategy.
  • Educate employees and contractors on data security and export control best practices and any applicable compliance requirements.
  • Routinely audit your security practices for compliance.

6. Incident Response and Business Continuity

  • Despite having robust security measures in place, breaches are often inevitable. An incident response plan is essential to isolate and mitigate the damage from a breach quickly.
  • Routine backups, disaster recovery, and business continuity planning are essential to quickly recovering from a cyber attack and restoring operations.

Supply Chain Data Security Challenges

Meeting all of the stringent cybersecurity requirements mandated by the government for Defense supply chain partners can be quite challenging. The level of compartmentalized access and sharing controls needed to meet the various government regulations can be costly and difficult to achieve.

Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) often face difficulties due to the lack of in-house expertise and financial resources needed to implement the required data security controls. Consequently, defense manufacturers and suppliers that fail to demonstrate compliance may find themselves unable to compete for Defense business opportunities.

Bolster Defense Supply Chain Data Security with archTIS

These regulations and best practices share two critical controls: enforcing robust data security policies and tightly controlling access to protect supply chain data.

archTIS solutions help defense suppliers, large and small, meet data security requirements with dynamic, policy-driven access controls and protection that leverage user and data attributes to ensure users and partners securely access, share and collaborate on sensitive, classified and top secret information. archTIS policy-enforced access control methodology applies zero trust principles at the data layer to meet information security and compliance requirements.

All archTIS products use a data-centric attribute-based access control (ABAC) methodology that applies fine-grain policies to grant or deny access based on various factors, such as file sensitivity or classification, security clearance, nationality, role and more. These policies can also be used to implement file-level protections, such as encryption, user-specific watermarks, enforce read-only access, and more, to control how authorized users interact with and share information to which they have access.

Whether you need a secure system to store classified information or need help securing sensitive files within your Microsoft applications, archTIS can help. Our products enable fine-grain, policy-enforced access control and data-centric security out of the box.

Kojensi is designed to help organizations quickly meet complex requirements for handling and sharing sensitive information, including up to TOP SECRET compartmented information. Information custodians can set up secure workspaces to share and collaborate on sensitive and export-controlled information, ensuring only authorized users can access the information. It is available as an on-premises or SaaS platform that can be consumed as needed, eliminating the substantial costs of implementing new on-premises secured ICT infrastructure.

NC Protect safeguards information stored and shared using Microsoft applications, including Microsoft 365, GCC High, SharePoint Server, and Windows file shares, by adding complementary ABAC capabilities and unique data protection features. It enhances native security with fine-grain, dynamic ABAC policies and unique security trimmings, including multi-labels, user-specific watermarks and dynamic encryption that cannot be met using Microsoft products alone. It also manages controlled unclassified information (CUI) tagging and the application of visual marking required for ITAR, CMMC and other U.S. Defense regulations.

For more information or a demonstration of archTIS products, contact us.

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