Cybersecurity in the Supply Chain: Why Vulnerability Management is Key

A new report from the U.S. government’s ICT Supply Chain Risk Management Task Force includes guidance on vulnerability management, mitigation and prioritization as key to understanding operational risk.

Information communications technology (ICT) — defined by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) as “the capture, storage, retrieval, processing, display, representation, presentation, organization, management, security, transfer and interchange of data and information— is critical to the day-to-day operations of the U.S. economy and to our national security. Our increased reliance on these systems in the COVID-19 pandemic-era work environment has fundamentally shifted the ICT threat landscape.

The U.S. government’s ICT Supply Chain Risk Management (SCRM) Task Force was established in 2018 under the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency’s (CISA) National Risk Management Center (NRMC) to respond to cyberthreats to government and industry from foreign adversaries, hackers and cybercriminals. This public-private partnership, composed of members from the federal government as well as the commercial IT and communications sectors, aims to improve the country’s collective ability to assess and mitigate threats to the ICT supply chain and improve the security and resilience of its systems.

On December 1, 2020, the ICT SCRM Task Force approved its Year 2 Report, expanding on its first-year progress to advance meaningful partnerships around supply chain risk management. The Year 2 Report reflects on the progress of the Task Force and its respective working groups, including in areas of information sharing, cyberthreat assessments and qualified bidder and manufacturers lists, among others.

This year, a new working group, the Vendor SCRM Assurance Template Working Group (WG4) developed a standardized template questionnaire for both public and private organizations to assess the cybersecurity practices and supply chain risk posture of their vendors.

A key section of this questionnaire will help organizations understand vendor operational risk management practices from a cybersecurity perspective. It includes several key recommendations to improve cyber hygiene and align with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) cybersecurity framework and other risk management frameworks. Vulnerability management, mitigation and prioritization are key focus areas for enterprises seeking to understand the operational risk management practices of their suppliers. As such, the WG4 questionnaire properly highlights the importance of vulnerability management for both vendor product development and operational cybersecurity. Further, recognizing the expanding attack surface and changing threat dynamic, the questionnaire also addresses managing security risks between an organization’s IT and operational technology (OT) systems.

As chair of the IT Sector Coordinating Council, I’m especially proud that we are one of three chartering organizations of the ICT SCRM Task Force. We need information and guidance forged by public-private partnerships like the Task Force to help companies and organizations solve some of their most challenging ICT and OT challenges.

We know that most successful hacks and cyberattacks are a result of bad actors exploiting known vulnerabilities. For example, recent hacks and ransomware attacks against organizations, governments and hospitals were successful not because they involved sophisticated techniques, but because they successfully exploited poor cyber hygiene. Therefore, we are encouraged to see vulnerability management and prioritization throughout WG4’s guidance recommendations.

Vulnerability management is a critical practice that must be adopted widely as the foundation supporting the pillars of a secure ICT supply chain. Without visibility into the threats surrounding these intricate systems, organizations are at risk of cyberattacks with significant consequences.

At Tenable, we are proud to work with our government partners to address cyber exposure and prioritize their most pressing cybersecurity issues. We look forward to helping improve vulnerability management best practices for both public and private organizations to help keep the nation’s critical ICT supply chains operating in a secure fashion.

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