Supply chain optimization strategies can help businesses address a number of key fulfillment and management concerns, and increasingly, supply chain management software is a necessary solution for ensuring that telecommunications companies offer secure products.
Foreign entities have more frequently adopted digital tactics to strike back at international adversaries. Instead of sending out the armed forces or shooting a missile, nations are leveraging digital resources more frequently to advance specific agendas. Although massive cyberattacks like Stuxnet are perhaps the most well-known examples of this shift, it is far from the only new technique being used.
In particular, SIGNAL Magazine reported that many countries are eager to exploit the increasingly diversified supply chain network utilize by telecommunications companies to gain covert access to otherwise secure networks. For example, if a country knew that a certain telephone manufacturer partnered with another nation that it had hostile relations with, then it might be tempted to have one of the manufacturer's supply chain partners provide them with parts that are covertly planted with spying equipment. Although this seems like a far-fetched scenario, the United States government and other international bodies are more concerned than ever that seemingly minor decisions made in the telecommunications sector could have potentially disastrous national security implications.
"The United States is increasingly reliant on commercial communications networks for matters of national and economic security," the U.S. Government Accountability Office stated. "These networks, which are primarily owned by the private sector, are highly dependent on equipment manufactured in foreign countries. Certain entities in the federal government view this dependence as an emerging threat that introduces risks to the networks."
Addressing Supply Chain Security Concerns with More Oversight
Thankfully, according to the GAO, these potential security issues inherent in telecommunications supply chains can be squashed with more oversight over all partners. In particular, SIGNAL reported that government officials have begun supplying telecommunications companies with a list of organizations it suggests not conducting business with, and so far most firms have complied with this list and have avoided doing business with others who could potentially complicate national security efforts.
However, because of how the diverse supply chain is utilized throughout the entire telecommunications manufacturing process, complying with these requests and ensuring that firms only partner with safe companies is often easier said than done. For example, while a business can be selective about its partners, many firms have little or no way of determining the other businesses that partner also works with. As a result, a telecommunications company could find that it is inadvertently and indirectly working with an organization that had been previously flagged by the U.S. government or other governing body.
An additional issue, according to SIGNAL, is that supply chain operations are not always linear in nature. In a system in which parts and supplies flow like a river from one organization to another, tracking suppliers and partners is a relatively straightforward process. However, this is often not the case due to the prevalence of third parties in the product testing process.
"Many providers test equipment throughout its lifecycle using third-party testing firms, which perform tests such as vulnerability scans, penetration testing and source code analysis," the news source noted. "Yet, third-party testing has several potential limitations, according to a recent congressional report noted in the GAO report. These include rigid test methods that may not conform to the way the tested equipment actually is installed in the network; equipment behavior that varies depending on how the gear is configured; and vendors that finance their own security evaluations, which can pose a conflict of interest."
However, by using automated data collection software and other supply chain optimization solutions, these threats can be effectively mitigated. The key issue noted by the GAO is that most telecommunications firms do not have enough oversight on operations. By using data collection, these firms will gain a far more holistic view of all involved variables, and good data collection software can even determine indirect supply chain partners, helping these businesses ensure that they do not accidentally conduct business with a company that has been previously flagged as potentially hazardous to national security efforts.
"To successfully protect against these risks, proactive supply chain security must deliver actionable intelligence to mitigate those risks," IndustryWeek contributor Jay Hauhn wrote last month. "Once implemented, this decision-based approach, utilizing information delivered in real time, allows for efficient business practices that not only protect a brand but also the many partners and people connected to that brand."