Last updated at Wed, 16 Mar 2022 12:55:03 GMT

When one mentions supply chains these days, we tend to think of microchips from China causing delays in automobile manufacturing or toilet paper disappearing from store shelves. Sure, there are some chips in the communications infrastructure, but the cyber supply chain is mostly about virtual things – the ones you can’t actually touch.  

In 2018, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) established the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Supply Chain Risk Management (SCRM) Task Force as a public-private joint effort to build partnerships and enhance ICT supply chain resilience. To date, the Task Force has worked on 7 Executive Orders from the White House that underscore the importance of supply chain resilience in critical infrastructure.

Background

The ICT-SCRM Task Force is made up of members from the following sectors:

  • Information Technology (IT) – Over 40 IT companies, including service providers, hardware, software, and cloud have provided input.
  • Communications – Nearly 25 communications associations and companies are included, with representation from the wireline, wireless, broadband, and broadcast areas.
  • Government – More than 30 government organizations and agencies are represented on the Task Force.

These three sector groups touch nearly every facet of critical infrastructure that businesses and government require. The Task Force is dedicated to identifying threats and developing solutions to enhance resilience by reducing the attack surface of critical infrastructure. This diverse group is poised perfectly to evaluate existing practices and elevate them to new heights by enhancing existing standards and frameworks with up-to-date practical advice.

Working groups

The core of the task force is the working groups. These groups are created and disbanded as needed to address core areas of the cyber supply chain. Some of the working groups have been concentrating on areas like:

  • The legal risks of information sharing
  • Evaluating supply chain threats
  • Identifying criteria for building Qualified Bidder Lists and Qualified Manufacturer Lists
  • The impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on supply chains
  • Creating a vendor supply chain risk management template

Ongoing efforts

After two years of producing some great resources and rather large reports, the ICT-SCRM Task Force recognized the need to ensure organizations of all sizes can take advantage of the group’s resources, even if they don’t have a dedicated risk management professional at their disposal. This led to the creation of both a Small and Medium Business (SMB) working group, as well as one dedicated to Product Marketing.

The SMB working group chose to review and adapt the Vendor SCRM template for use by small and medium businesses, which shows the template can be a great resource for companies and organizations of all sizes.  

Out of this template, the group described three cyber supply chain scenarios that an SMB (or any size organization, really) could encounter. From that, the group further simplified the process by creating an Excel spreadsheet that provides a document that is easy for SMBs to share with their prospective vendors and partners as a tool to evaluate their cybersecurity posture. Most importantly, the document does not promote a checkbox approach to cybersecurity — it allows for partial compliance, with room provided for explanations. It also allows many of the questions to be removed if the prospective partner possesses a SOC1/2 certification, thereby eliminating duplication in questions.

What the future holds

At the time of this writing, the Product Marketing and SMB working groups are hard at work making sure everyone, including the smallest businesses, are using the ICT-SCRM Task Force Resources to their fullest potential. Additional workstreams are being developed and will be announced soon, and these will likely include expansion with international partners and additional critical-infrastructure sectors.

For more information, you can visit the CISA ICT-SCRM Task Force website.

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