The volume of critical data traveling across linked and integrated networks is driving cyber risk. Almost every company relies on a healthy supply chain and many conventional and non-conventional partners — suppliers, vendors, and consumers — who frequently have direct access to corporate systems and data.

With tens of millions of workers working from home and billions of customers buying items from anywhere on their phones, securing mission-critical and other critical data across a complex network of partners has never been more important. Enforcing risk management policies like CMMC security that look both within and outward to monitor and safeguard connections with third-party companies is now a critical business requirement for CIOs, CISOs, and other data security professionals. Failure to set proper safeguards to secure partners and their data exposes whole networks to attackers.

Fortunately, C-suite executives understand the difficulty and the need to protect digital supply chains. A sizable majority (79 percent) of CEOs believe securing their partner environment is just as critical as strengthening their own company’s cyber defenses.

 Here is how businesses can secure their digital supply chain

1. Consistently align security needs throughout the process.

Whether for a manufacturer, vendor, or consumer, thoroughly screening prospective partners’ corporate security measures and the encryption embedded into their offerings must be incorporated into an organization’s contract negotiation process.

Although this approach may give near-real-time risk awareness, it is too time-consuming and expensive for most enterprises, especially as the partner ecosystem becomes more complicated. As a result, IT executives are shifting away from a compliance-based approach and toward a more proactive strategy that places continuous surveillance, threat intelligence, and tight identity verification (zero trust) at the center of their ecosystem security architecture.

To reduce the stress of the procedure, some enterprises, particularly those in regulated sectors, are turning to security rating agencies. These services enhance point-in-time evaluations by calculating security risk ratings based on pre-defined factors and providing thorough analysis and assessment of partner and environment risk. However, keep in mind that they may not meet every criterion.

2. Consider employing constant security monitoring to change from a limited emphasis on compliance to a more functionally focused view of security.

A solid risk management approach that looks both internally and outside is critical, particularly in high industries like, finance, energy, and healthcare. CMMC regulation and CAM goes further, shifting security evaluations away from point-in-time operations that rapidly become outdated. CAM seeks to bring insight to operational security concerns without raising expense or risk by using emerging guidelines for machine-readable evaluations.

Using machine-readable evaluations, CAM may shorten vendor cycles, eventually improving risk and control monitoring. However, vendor cooperation throughout an organization’s security architecture is required for CAM to be effective. This paradigm may drive ecosystem stakeholders to shift away from a compliance-based strategy and toward a more operational emphasis that allows for real-time remedial actions with or without human participation.

3. Look for ways to use automation to improve supply chain security.

By adopting automation, especially artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, IT administrators can reduce the time and expense of continually vetting and monitoring their security environment (ML).

AI and machine learning (ML) may be used in security policies to solve shadow IT concerns and improve control of third-party Software as a Service (SaaS) offerings. They may also be used to develop self-service virtual assistants and automate many facets of a company’s third-party risk management procedures. Automation improves an organization’s risk management structure while freeing up time and resources for qualified security personnel to focus on more critical tasks.

Furthermore, adopting AI-powered digital employees can ease many low-value, high-cost manual tasks that typically burden security teams during the assessment. The capacity of these digital teammates to swiftly access numerous data sources, examine artifacts at wire speeds, and deliver a better service for corporate stakeholders and suppliers are all compelling reasons to start incorporating this into your third-party protection toolset.