Chapter Outline Minimize

Although cyber supply chain security has improved somewhat over the last five years, there is still cause for concern. IT and information security professionals at critical infrastructure organizations believe that the threat landscape is getting worse and that cyber supply chain security is growing more difficult. Furthermore, more than two-thirds of critical infrastructure organizations have experienced a multitude of types of security incidents, including those emanating from vulnerabilities in software they developed in-house. Finally, many critical infrastructure organizations are pursuing new types of IT initiatives like cloud computing, mobile applications, and IoT projects. These technologies are in their genesis phase and may be fraught with vulnerabilities. Meanwhile, cybersecurity best practices and skills around IT innovation also lag behind.

All of these factors add up to continuing cyber supply chain security complexities. Based upon the research data presented herein, ESG offers the following recommendations for critical infrastructure organizations, IT technology vendors, and the U.S. Federal Government.

For Critical Infrastructure Organizations

ESG’s research indicates that not only are critical infrastructure organizations inadequately prepared for the current threat landscape, but most are compounding this problem by not doing enough to mitigate  the risks associated with cyber supply chain security. To address these shortcomings, critical infrastructure organizations should:

Assess cyber supply chain risk across the organization. Since the cyber supply chain includes a broad range of participants, including IT vendors, suppliers, business partners, and contractors, many critical infrastructure organizations delegate cyber supply chain security management to a variety of internal groups and individuals. While this makes sense at an operational level, it makes it impossible to get a comprehensive perspective of cyber supply chain security or accurately measure cyber supply chain risk. To alleviate this unacceptable situation, CISOs and risk officers should take the time to map out their entire cyber supply chain—every partner, IT equipment vendor, SaaS provider, supplier, etc. Clearly, this will take time and require ample resources, but an end-to-end and up-to-date map of the cyber supply chain is an essential foundation for situational awareness and proactive risk management.

Integrate cyber supply chain security into new IT initiatives. When asked why cyber supply chain security has become more difficult, 44% of cybersecurity professionals blamed new IT initiatives that have increased the cyber-attack surface. This isn’t surprising given massive adoption of technologies like cloud computing, IoT, and mobile applications over the past few years. Unfortunately, new IT initiatives often prioritize business objectives at the expense of strong cybersecurity. Given today’s threat landscape, this type of laissez-faire approach to cybersecurity must be expunged from the organization. To address and mitigate cyber supply chain risk, CEOs must lead by example with the goal of building a corporate culture that inculcates strong cybersecurity into all business processes, programs, and supporting IT initiatives.

Fully integrate security into IT procurement. ESG data demonstrates that processes and procedures governing IT vendor security audits lack consistency and usefulness. As mentioned, best practices for IT vendor security audits should include the following steps:

Audit all strategic IT vendors (including service providers, cloud service providers, and distributors).

Follow a standard process for all vendor audits.

Implement a corporate policy where IT vendor security audit metrics have a significant impact for all procurement decisions.

A stringent audit process should pay for itself by lowering cyber supply chain risk over time. It will also send a clear message to IT vendors: Adhere to strong cybersecurity policies and procedures or hawk your insecure products and services elsewhere.

Address all aspects of software assurance. As in other findings in this report, critical infrastructure organizations have made progress on software assurance since 2010, but these improvements are based on additional tactical actions rather than an end-to-end strategic approach. Software assurance must be anchored by a secure software development lifecycle and the right skill set for secure software development. Furthermore, software assurance best practices must be followed with no exceptions. This demands an enterprise program for internally developed software as well as stringent controls on third-party software development, maintenance, and testing. Leading companies will also impose testing and quality standards on all commercial software.

Formalize external IT security. When it comes to cyber supply chain security, risk associated with working with third-party partners must be managed and mitigated with the same care as internal activities like vulnerability scanning and patch management. In fact, strong cyber supply chain security has become an SEC mandate and will likely find its way to other industries beyond financial services. Once again, this demands a consistent, documented, and measurable approach for third parties that provide IT services to or consume them from an organization. Aside from legal contracts, governance frameworks, and certifications, CISOs should explore new types of cyber intelligence designed for monitoring third-party risk from vendors like BitSight and SecurityScorecard.

Push for more help from Washington. Like many other critical issues, cybersecurity has been relegated into partisan politics and pork barrel programs. Critical infrastructure organizations should work together, come up with legislative recommendations, lobby for action, and make sure to keep the public aware of any partisan behavior or stalling in Washington.

For the IT Industry

IT product and service providers should view this report as a harbinger of things to come. Critical infrastructure organizations have much work ahead, but ESG data does indicate clear progress since 2010. It is therefore wise to recognize that critical infrastructure organizations are slowly but surely making strong cybersecurity a requirement for all IT vendors. To prepare for this security transition, the entire IT industry must:

Build comprehensive internal cybersecurity programs. Several large IT vendors including Cisco, IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, and VMware have not only created strong cybersecurity programs internally, but also published details about these programs for customer review. Typically, these programs include features like cyber supply chain security management, secure product design, security testing, employee training, IT security, and security services and support. All IT vendors should study and emulate these programs to the best of their abilities.

Take a solutions focus to cyber supply chain security. As secure as any one vendor’s products and processes are, business applications and IT infrastructure are composed of a myriad of connected piece parts working together. This means that IT vendors should take a proactive approach to engaging with product and services partners and participate fully in cybersecurity testing, deployment, and operations for complex IT solutions.

Include strong security as part of customer engagements. Even the most diligent customers may not be aware of the cybersecurity intricacies of individual IT products. Smart vendors will work with customers to answer questions, recommend reference architectures, help them harden their products, and maintain a constant stream of communications.

For the U.S. Federal Government

While cybersecurity continues to be topical in the halls of Congress, this and other ESG research reveals a growing gap between cybersecurity professionals and Washington. To alleviate this disconnect and truly engage with the cybersecurity community, the U.S. Federal Government should:

Start with clear and concise communications. ESG research indicates that only 22% of cybersecurity professionals working at critical infrastructure organizations have a clear understanding of the government’s cybersecurity agenda. This may be because there are too many cybersecurity voices at different agencies, an abundance of programs with confusing acronyms, and far more rhetoric than action. The U.S. government can only rectify this situation by developing a comprehensive strategy for cybersecurity for critical infrastructure industries. Of course, there is no shortage of documents and programs that claim to do this, but the cybersecurity community at large is looking for one program, bipartisan support, strong and cogent communication, and a visible government leader who actually “owns” cybersecurity. Sadly, many cybersecurity professionals view Washington as part of the problem rather than part of the solution. Government officials will not reverse this cynicism without an honest two-way dialogue, a mutually beneficial partnership, and a clear long-term strategy.

Treat cybersecurity as a national security rather than a political issue. After years of political wrangling, the Cybersecurity Act of 2012 received bipartisan support in the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. Unfortunately, the bill never proceeded to the senate floor for a vote. Why? It was a presidential election year, so finger pointing took precedence over collaboration. The cybersecurity legislation remains. In August 2015, the senate left Washington for recess without passing a pending cybersecurity bill on public/private threat intelligence sharing. While politicians continue to give stump speeches about data breaches, cyber-adversaries, and national security concerns, cybersecurity legislation continues to languish. Frustrated by this inactivity, President Obama issued several executive orders in this area. One of these led to the promising NIST cybersecurity framework—a good addition but more of a suggestion than anything else. The U.S. has faced an unprecedented wave of cybercrime and cyber-espionage over the past few years with no end in sight. It’s time for the President and congress to:

Fund cybersecurity education programs.

Expand the Cyber Corps program as a way to exchange cybersecurity training and tuition funding for public service.

Improve the hiring process and compensation structure for federal cybersecurity professionals.

Create incentives for cybersecurity investments.

Work as an equal partner with the cybersecurity community at large. Make sure that federal cybersecurity programs in this area are equally accessible to all cybersecurity professionals in all industries and locations—not just within a few hundred miles of Washington D.C.

Create and promote standards like STIX and TAXII for threat intelligence sharing.

Share threat intelligence and best practices.

Limit liabilities to organizations that truly commit to strong cyber supply chain security.

Impose penalties on organizations that continue to minimize cybersecurity.