Much like a physical ecosystem, a cyber ecosystem is composed of those that interact with each other to form one functioning unit—only these ecosystems are linked to each other digitally rather than physically. Your organization sits at the core, while the entities surrounding it are your vendors, suppliers and other third parties.

The Ripple Effect Within Your Cyber Ecosystem

Also similar to the natural world, the ways in which cyber entities interact constantly evolve and become more dependent on each other. A cyber ecosystem thereby creates a target-rich environment for cyber criminals to exploit vulnerabilities to steal personal data and identities, and even company secrets.

The biggest difference between physical and virtual communities is that the digital landscape evolves at a much more rapid pace. Threat actors have proved to be more adaptable than complex supply chains and have diverted their focus to prey on weaker links that can create a ripple effect reaching larger, more sought after organizations.

Consider the SolarWinds attack that spearheaded the shift in the conversation around third-party risk management (TPRM). Through one shared vendor, the cybercriminal group potentially accessed 85% of the US Fortune 500, all five branches of the military, hundreds of universities and colleges, and many more… and that’s just one supply chain attack.

Since the SolarWinds incident alone, we’ve recorded dozens of third-party data breaches.

Major Attacks Against Supply Chains in 2021

  1. By leveraging Accellion’s third-party transfer application, bad actors obtained patient health information (PHI), customer and stakeholder data, personally identifiable information (PII) and more from hundreds of organizations including Qualys, University of Miami Health, Flagstar Bank and more.
  2. Through SocialArk, cyber criminals compromised personal records of over 200 million social media users.
  3. Software auditing company CodeCov compromised confidential data belonging to its customers including, The Washington Post, Atlassian and more.

Growing Threats on Digital Supply Chains

Threat landscapes continue to transform alongside their digital supply chains. Now sitting at the top of the digital “killchain”, ransomware attacks have become top-of-mind for organizations across the globe. In fact, 80% of CISOs at mid-sized organizations anticipate becoming a victim of a ransomware attack at least once within the next 12 months.

Conti, one of the most notorious ransomware groups, has even recorded more than 10 ransomware victims within one day. There’s no method to the madness, either, and critical infrastructure and healthcare are among the most targeted. Bad actors are becoming more ruthless, looking for where they can cause the most disruption to then receive the largest payout.

It isn’t the ransom itself that makes these cyber attacks such a nightmare for CISOs, either. In fact, the ransomware impacts of greatest concern to CISOs are:

  1. Exposure of sensitive information or proprietary data: 45% of victims that paid ransom were unable to recover all of their data.
  2. The cost of recovery: One in 5 ransomware victims had a total financial impact of $5 million, while one in 20 had an impact greater than $50 million.
  3. Loss of revenue due to operational disruptions: Ransomware victims face an average of 23 days of downtime after an attack.

What else did CISOs have to say about ransomware? Download the Report →

How to Protect Your Cyber Ecosystem

During periods of disruption, adaptation is critical to survival. Implement modern cybersecurity best practices to ensure your digital community doesn’t find itself on the wrong side of natural selection:

1. Maintain robust cybersecurity standards across your supply chain

Gartner predicts that 60% of organizations will use cybersecurity as a determining factor when conducting third-party transactions and business engagement. Supply chains become more complex each day. Implementing strong third-party risk management standards today creates a stronger foundation to mature supply chain security tomorrow.

Hold your vendors to the same standards you maintain internally and prepare a list of must-ask questions including.

  • Do you have a formal security framework?
  • What is your software security policy?
  • Do you have controls in place for sharing sensitive information?

2. Know where your weakest links are, and address those first

Unlike physical security, the interconnected nature of modern cyber networks makes it virtually impossible to detect and address all vulnerabilities. You don’t need everyone to be ahead of the pack, you do have to be mindful of the weaker links within your cybercommunity.

There’s more to the story than a simple “score”. A poor cyber security score alone doesn’t necessarily indicate an organization will become a cyber attack victim. We can get a much clearer understanding when we combine cyber ratings with other controls such as level of criticality, potential financial impact and ease of access.

3. Adopt a security-first culture all the way to the top

It’s no coincidence that 40% of boards of directors anticipate adding a dedicated cybersecurity committee within the next few years. A growing threat landscape inherently presents greater responsibility. It’s time we all step up to the plate with a unified approach to TPRM.

Black Kite provides full visibility into a cyber ecosystem. It enables enterprises to continuously assess third-party risks, assigns a letter grade to each vendor, correlates findings with industry standards to inform compliance requirements, and determines probable financial impact if a third-party experiences a breach.

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