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Shedding light on digital disruption: paving the way for a well-prepared supply chain

(Image credit: Image source: Shutterstock/KAMONRAT)

We are in the midst of unprecedented levels of digital disruption, which is proving hugely beneficial to industries all over the world, from enabling global expansion with more ease than ever before, to automating mundane tasks that allow people to focus on their core business objectives. But it has also catalysed an increase in cybercrime, with the number of significant attacks having grown by more than 50 per cent in the last three years.

This is because, as organisations become increasingly digitalised, they are opening themselves up to a much larger and increasingly threatening landscape. Now companies across multiple industries have fallen victim to some of the biggest attacks we have ever experienced, and it is costing them millions, with British Airways recently paying out a record £183m fine following it’s breach in 2018.

In fact, a recent Vuealta report revealed that, despite supply chains having to contend with a whole host of disruptive forces, from political uncertainty and trade wars, to new entrants encroaching on their market and more adverse weather events, it is new digital frontiers like cybercrime that are posing the largest threat.


With cyberattacks continuing to present an increasing threat to all industries and businesses globally, it’s no surprise that 50 per cent of  organisations were found to see cyberattacks as one of the biggest causes of supply chain disruption in the report. This further aligns with the impact of incidents such as ransomware attacks like NotPetya, which in 2017 claimed global logistics giant Maersk as one of its victims. This served as a huge warning to other businesses, or so you would think. In fact, despite these high-profile incidents, many companies still seem to be unaware of the disruption such an assault could have on their wider operations should they fall victim.

Now, with many businesses in the UK (68 per cent) looking to grow and expand into new markets, the complexity of modern logistics is significantly increased. Interconnected, multi-layered and often unwieldly, a global supply chain can cover half the world, taking in primary, secondary and tertiary manufacturers and producers, freight companies, ocean terminal and airport operators, along with dozens of parties in between. In fact, over half (58 per cent) of the organisations Vuealta spoke to had five or more companies in their supply chain, with 14 per cent having more than 50.  

Working alongside multiple third parties not only increases the complexity of the modern supply chain, it also significantly expands the attack surface that cybercriminals are able to exploit. So how can organisations protect themselves against these kinds of threats, especially when it’s next to impossible to know where or when they are going to come from?

Looking into the future

To overcome the challenges being thrown at them, businesses should look to and learn from those that have already been unfortunate enough to have fallen victim to an attack in the last five years, for whom investing in technology (44 per cent) was predictably the most popular solution for mitigating against future threats. Of course, implementing some sort of security solution or strategy across the organisation is surely a given when looking to protect against a cyberattack. And it seems across all respondents, there was at least some awareness of this, with 43 per cent thinking their business should be investing in cybersecurity to help combat supply chain challenges and pressures.

Next on the list, however, was planning technology (37 per cent), something that not many businesses initially think of when defending against cyberattacks, but which can ensure that organisations have a robust approach in place to manage their supply chain.

Gaining visibility

When all parties work in and across different platforms, there are hundreds if not thousands of entry points for hackers to take advantage of. As such, it’s next to impossible for an organisation to have the visibility needed to manage and protect all of their systems from an attack. Businesses therefore need to seriously consider implementing a connected planning platform across the entire supply chain to increase transparency and reduce the attack surface that hackers can exploit. 

Another significant part of the issue is the speed at which a cyberattacker can take hold. Therefore, any solution needs to be agile and able to react just as quickly. When implemented properly at both a technological and an organisational level, connected planning provides an intuitive map of how decisions ripple through an entire organisation. That connection then allows organisations to rapidly harness data from a variety of sources to quickly formulate and adapt plans.

It seems ironic, but as the risk of cyberattack becomes an ever-increasing threat to global supply chains, technology is in fact the key to preventing any major breach and reacting to external events as they occur. Businesses need to place an emphasis on revolutionising their planning processes that enable them to manage more complex networks and respond to external events with speed. With that agility and foresight, they can ensure they are prepared to navigate any of today’s challenges, including disruption from digital transformation.

Antony Lovell, VP of Applications, Vuealta (opens in new tab)

Antony Lovell has been the VP of Applications at Vuealta since March 2019.