Supply Chain

Understand Your Supply Chain Threats With Supplier Assurance

Your organisation’s security extends beyond its own walls. Every organisation has suppliers. Whether they deliver products, systems, customers or services, the modern landscape of business means your growing supply chain plays a crucial role in your organisation’s overall security. No matter how big your supply chain gets, you will always be responsible for your own security. With cyber attacks on the rise, diligence in procuring suppliers to avoid a weak link matters.

Supplier assurance is a process that ensures suppliers and vendors adhere to an organisation’s security policies and standards. It involves assessing, managing, and monitoring the security practices of third-party suppliers to ensure they do not introduce vulnerabilities into the organisation’s ecosystem. Supplier assurance aims to build a secure supply chain, mitigate risks, and protect sensitive information.


Why is Supplier Assurance Important?

  1. Risk Mitigation: Suppliers often have access to critical systems and data. Ensuring they follow robust security practices helps mitigate the risk of data breaches and cyberattacks.
  2. Regulatory Compliance: Many industries are subject to strict regulations that require organisations to manage third-party risks. Supplier Assurance helps in maintaining compliance with these regulations.
  3. Protecting Reputation: A security incident involving a supplier can damage an organisation’s reputation. By ensuring suppliers adhere to high security standards, organisations can protect their brand and customer trust.
  4. Business Continuity: Ensuring suppliers have strong security measures in place can help maintain business continuity by preventing disruptions caused by cyber incidents.


How Much Assurance Do You Need?

Assessing whether your supply chain meets your cybersecurity requirements can be challenging. First, you need to understand the structure and scale of your supply chain. Then, you have to evaluate the relative importance of each supplier to your business and the risk they pose in case they create vulnerabilities in your defences (whether accidentally or deliberately) or suffer exploits themselves. Then you need to establish what would be considered appropriate security requirements for each one.


Determining Confidence Levels

Determining whether your supply chain meets your cyber security requirements can be difficult. First, you need to understand what your supply chain looks like. Then you have to work out the relative criticality of each supplier to your business and what risk they pose. You also need to work out what would count as proportionate security requirements.


Supplier Assurance Questionnaire

After establishing acceptable levels of security for each supplier, you then have the job of verifying whether they are up to that standard. The simplest thing to do is to just talk to them, and get to grips with the measures they have in place. To help with this conversation, the National Cyber Security Centre has a set of basic cyber-security questions, so that you end up with a clear picture of your suppliers’ cyber security.


Evaluating the Responses

After receiving responses from the supplier, it’s crucial to evaluate the level of evidence required to support their answers. This evaluation should consider the supplier’s criticality and the associated risk to your organisation. Factors influencing this risk include:

  • Connectivity to your IT systems
  • Whether the supplier is a critical single point of failure, such as providing a unique service or product that is difficult to replace quickly
  • The volume and sensitivity of the data they process, transmit, or store
  • Their potential impact on your critical business functions
  • Likelihood of strict information or service availability requirements

It’s important to remember that the risk profile of a supplier relationship can evolve over time, so supplier assurance is not a one-time job, it’s a continuous evaluation of your supply chain. Factors affecting their risk profile include (but are not limited to):

  • Significant increases in the volume of data being processed by the supplier
  • Implementation of new technology
  • Introduction of different types of data, including personal or commercially sensitive information
  • Changes in the organisation’s overall threat landscape

When changes like this happen, it is essential to reassess and update your cyber security arrangements accordingly.


Supplier assurance is a vital component of an organisation’s overall security strategy. By implementing a robust supplier assurance program, organisations can mitigate risks, ensure regulatory compliance, protect their reputation, and maintain business continuity. In today’s complex supply chain ecosystem, proactive management of supplier security is essential to safeguarding an organisation’s critical assets and sensitive information. By following the key components and best practices outlined in this article, organisations can build a strong supplier assurance program that enhances their security posture and fosters trust with their suppliers and partners.


At OmniCyber Security, we understand the intricate web of supply chain security. Contact us today for advice on the next steps for securing your supply chain.

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