What Is a Supply Chain Attack?

What Is a Supply Chain Attack?

4 Min.

A supply chain attack aims to compromise and interfere with the computer systems of a company's supply chain to cause harm to the target. The concept is that a company's leading suppliers or vendors may be easier targets for attacks than the primary target, making them weak links in the target's network. Supply chain attacks are becoming increasingly common compared to attacks on primary targets. These attacks can happen in two ways: either through hacking attempts or by inserting malware.


Supply chain attacks, a form of cyber warfare, pose a substantial threat to companies worldwide. By capitalizing on vulnerabilities within the intricate network of supply chains, attackers aim to inflict significant damage upon their targets. Employing relentless and stealthy techniques, these cyber assailants exploit weak links in the supply chain, infiltrating the targeted firm's network with a single purpose: to unleash chaos and disruption.

In recent years, the growing interconnectivity of supply chains has exacerbated the risk factor. Startling statistics from Accenture's 2020 report revealed that 40% of cyberattacks originated from the extended supply chain. This alarming trend highlights the urgent need for businesses to fortify their defenses, as even the slightest weak point within the supply chain can become a gateway to devastating consequences.

Supply Chain Attacks

In the realm of cybercrime, supply chain networks have emerged as prime targets, offering cyber criminals a potential gateway to the coveted data held by larger organizations. This troubling reality exposes a crucial truth: a company's cybersecurity defenses are only as strong as its weakest link within the supply chain.

Rapid advancements in technology have ushered in an era of unprecedented data availability. Companies can now exchange vast amounts of data with their partners and third-party vendors through channels like the Internet, mobile devices, and cloud computing. This exchange of information, while promising improved operations and enhanced customer engagement, also carries inherent risks, including the looming threat of cyber theft. Savvy cybercriminals recognize the value of this data and meticulously devise strategies to breach the defenses of targeted companies, seeking access to their most sensitive information.

Pursuing cost efficiency through technological progress has given rise to complex supply networks. These networks typically comprise manufacturers, suppliers, handlers, shippers, and purchasers, all playing a vital role in bringing products to end consumers. Since the primary target company may possess formidable security measures, supply chain attacks are often directed at third-party entities with the weakest safeguards. Once a vulnerability is exploited within a member's security protocols, the risks extend to the entire supply chain, with the target company's security becoming compromised.

Malicious software, commonly called malware, presents another avenue for supply chain attacks. Cyber attackers employ various types of malware, including worms, viruses, spyware, Trojan horses, and counterfeit components that manipulate the source codes of a manufacturer's software. Through these insidious means, perpetrators gain unauthorized access to the target company's files, effectively pilfering its proprietary information.

As organizations grapple with the intricate dynamics of supply chains and the ever-evolving threats posed by cybercriminals, bolstering cybersecurity measures throughout the entire network becomes an imperative task. Safeguarding sensitive data demands constant vigilance and proactive strategies to counter the persistent and elusive adversaries lurking within the shadows of the supply chain.

Supply Chain Attacks in Action

Supply chain attacks can manifest in various forms, with devastating consequences. A prime example is the notorious breach that befell Target in 2013. The attack was orchestrated by stealing a vendor's credentials, granting hackers access to Target's affiliated companies.

By exploiting the compromised security credentials of a third-party vendor, cybercriminals successfully infiltrated Target's system. The stolen credentials provided the hackers with login credentials, passwords, and network access to Target's computers. Exploiting the vendor's lax security practices, the attackers managed to breach Target's defenses, resulting in the theft of a staggering 70 million customers' personally identifiable information.

The aftermath of this breach was nothing short of catastrophic for Target. The repercussions included the resignation of the CEO and a financial toll exceeding $200 million. This glaring example is a stark reminder of the severe ramifications that supply chain attacks can have on even the most prominent organizations.


Supply chain attacks represent a significant and escalating threat to businesses worldwide. By targeting vulnerabilities within supply chain networks, cybercriminals seek to exploit weak links and compromise the security of larger organizations. The interconnected nature of supply chains amplifies the risk, as evidenced by the alarming statistic that 40% of cyberattacks originate from the extended supply chain. The adoption of emerging technologies and the exchange of vast amounts of data increase both opportunities for growth and potential risks of cyber theft. Malware, along with stolen credentials, serves as potent tools for attackers to gain unauthorized access and extract sensitive information. Safeguarding supply chains against such attacks requires constant vigilance, robust cybersecurity measures, and collaboration among all stakeholders to fortify the weakest links and mitigate the impact of cyber threats.

Supply Chain Attack