UK supply chain could be damaged by US/Iran tensions

The US assassination of Iran’s top general Qassem Soleimani could have a knock-on effect on the UK IT supply chain.

Jake Olcott, VP of Government Affairs at BitSight and former lawyer at the House Homeland Security Committee, said there was an increasing cyber threat to the UK supply chain as tensions in the Persian Gulf escalate.

Olcott said: “With the current international climate surrounding Iran, the need for British agencies and critical infrastructure operators to remain vigilant is crucial. Organisations need to ensure their basic security hygiene is kept up-to-date through updated software and patching. Organisations need to ensure that risks in their supply chain, which are a huge concern for critical infrastructure are monitored against threat actors.”

Tom Kellermann, head cybersecurity strategist at VMware Carbon Black and former cybersecurity commissioner for President Obama, anticipates significant and at times very serious cyber warfare activity from Iran over the next few weeks. “So what actions can we expect Iran to take against the US when it comes to cyberattacks, and how well prepared is the US to withstand them?”

Kellerman told GlobalData: “I think it’s [cyber attacks] very likely in terms of the impact on US civilians and US critical infrastructure. I don’t think it will be limited to a cyber response.

“I do think that this will be prolonged, that the cyber attacks against the US will be prolonged. They will mimic more of an insurgency than one-off massive attacks due to the nature of which Iranians have successfully burrowed into numerous US critical infrastructures over the past couple of years, specifically in energy, and that backdoor and that footprint on those systems has yet to be fully eliminated.

“The US as a whole is not well prepared to deal with this type of attack because of the nature in which the private sector does not allow, typically, US government agencies to come in and help them solve their cyber problems. Because of the lack of industrial policy in the US, the Department of Homeland Security can’t proactively help harden or protect corporations in the US unless they are invited to do so. This is compounded by the fact that in the US, we’ve taken a very reactive approach to cybersecurity and critical infrastructures with more of a focus on things like resiliency, which have exacerbated the cyberattack surface. And in addition to that, more of a focus on vulnerability assessment, then active cyber threat hunting.

“I think that hopefully, the silver lining here of this very ominous dark cloud will be that we will see a shift in the culture of cybersecurity in the US to make it a functionality of conducting business, and to really go to a proactive stance where people are actively looking for compromised systems and backdoors and systems on a regular basis through cyber threat hunting.”

Does he think we are going to see a shift in the way people see cyberattacks, where they see them more in line with terrorist attacks?

“I do and I do think that, tragically, what we will experience over the next few weeks will highlight that the nature in which cyberattacks can have physical real-world consequences and can leverage kinetic events that could very much result in a loss of life of human beings.”