Marilyn Wilkinson, March 2024

Are Ransomware Supply Chain Attacks a Threat to Your Company?

Your organization might have a solid cybersecurity strategy, but what about your vendors and partners? Supply chain ransomware attacks are a popular tactic for cybercriminals looking to get in via the back door. 

Supply chain attacks have increased by 724% in recent years, and Gartner predicts almost half of organizations worldwide will experience an attack on their software supply chain by 2025.

Keep reading to learn how and why ransomware supply chain attacks happen. We’ll also go through real-life examples, like the attack that halted Toyota’s operations, and cover proactive measures companies can take to protect themselves.

What Are Ransomware Supply Chain Attacks?

Ransomware supply chain attacks occur when cybercriminals exploit vulnerabilities in an organization’s network of suppliers, vendors, or service providers.

Unlike direct attacks that target a single entity, these attacks infiltrate through the weaker links in a supply chain—a trusted third-party that may not have stringent cybersecurity measures in place. 

This method allows attackers to threaten the security and operations of multiple organizations with a single breach.

Cybercriminals can exploit not just one company but entire supply chains, which is predicted to cost the global economy $60 billion by 2025. 

Dangers of Ransomware Supply Chain Attacks

A ransomware attack on a third-party supplier can have a severe impact on your business. 

The interconnected nature of modern supply chains means that disruptions often lead to a domino effect, impacting businesses that might not have been the original target. Even for businesses that are just “collateral damage,” the impact can still be devastating.

A supply chain attack can cause many issues, including: 

  • Operational Disruptions: A ransomware attack can disrupt manufacturing, logistics, shipping, billing, customer service, and any other part of your operations that rely on integrated systems shared with the supplier. 
  • Data Breach: Third-party vendors often have access to your business’s sensitive data, like customer information, confidential business data, and employee details. A ransomware attack on their systems could lead to your data being stolen and leaked, 
  • Reputational Damage: Association with a breached supplier can damage your brand’s reputation. Especially if your brand is more well-known than theirs, you might be the one that ends up in the headlines.
  • Regulatory and Legal Issues: If the breach results in the loss of personal data, your business could face regulatory fines and legal challenges, even if the breach wasn’t your fault.
  • Financial Loss: The costs to mitigate the attack and the long-term financial impact from production delays and lost sales can be significant.

Examples of Well-Known Ransomware Supply Chain Attacks

Let’s take a look at some ransomware attacks on third party vendors, why they happened, and what whe business impact was. 


A cyberattack on Toyota’s supply chain in March 2022 forced the company to temporarily shut down 14 factories in Japan. 

The supplier, Kojima Industries, provides plastic parts and electronic components. They discovered an error in one of their file servers, received a threatening message, and realized they had been infected with a virus. 

The system failure at Kojima left the supplier unable to ship parts, forcing Toyota to pause production. 


Trellance, an organization that provides IT services to credit unions, was targeted by ransomware hackers in December 2023. They managed to breach a part of the company that had been part of a recent acquisition, formerly called Ongoing Operations. 

The attack impacted over 60 credit unions across the United States, resulting in operational disruptions and prolonged service outages.

Applied Materials and MKS Instruments Inc.

Applied Materials, a leading supplier for semiconductor manufacturing, claimed a ransomware attack on a business partner led to a $250 million loss in revenue.

Their supplier MKS Instruments Inc. experienced a ransomware attack that left it unable to process orders and deliver shipments. This attack had a ripple effect on Applied Materials, and it took both companies a long time to recover.

These incidents led to significant data breaches and operational disruptions across multiple organizations. Now, let’s take a look at how to prevent this from happening. 

How to Prevent Ransomware Attacks on Your Supply Chain

Here are some best practices to secure your organization against third party attacks:

  • Develop a Comprehensive Third-Party Inventory

Start by mapping out all vendors within your supply chain to identify potential vulnerabilities. Remember, sometimes the smallest partners can pose the largest risks if their security measures are not up to par.

  • Prioritize Security in Vendor Selection

When companies choose new partners, cybersecurity is often an after-thought. You need to ensure their security practices align with your standards and that they can demonstrate a strong commitment to cybersecurity.

  • Conduct Regular Risk Assessments

Perform assessments (both at the beginning of the partnership and on-going) to monitor the relative risk of each third party relationship. A  one-off assessment isn’t enough. 

  • Require Transparent Cybersecurity Practices

Vendors should be able to prove their dedication to cybersecurity through detailed risk management and vulnerability assessment programs. This transparency is crucial for understanding and managing potential risks.

  • Set Clear Data Handling Policies

Establish and enforce strict guidelines for data storage and transfer to prevent unauthorized access or breaches. Ensuring that vendors treat your data with the utmost security minimizes risks to your information.

  • Enforce the Principle of Least Privilege

Limit vendors’ access to your systems, granting only the minimum level necessary for their tasks. This limits the damage in the event of an attack. 

The most effective way to monitor user and file access permissions is with DataAnalyzer from ProLion. You can set up regular reports to keep an eye on who has access to what, and adjust if necessary.

  • Plan a Containment Strategy

It’s important to plan ahead so you are prepared if one of your partners is attacked. 

If they have access to your IT environment, you will need to be able to isolate and block their access. CryptoSpike from ProLion detects unusual activities in your file system and immediately blocks suspicious users. 

And if the hackers manage to encrypt your files, you can restore the files you need using the granular restore function. 

Incorporating these strategies can greatly enhance your supply chain’s resilience against ransomware attacks, protecting both your operations and reputation.

Protect Your Organization with ProLion

ProLion’s Protection Solutions are the most powerful way to protect your organization from ransomware attacks—both direct and via third parties. Request a demo or read our whitepaper to learn more about the different types of ransomware protection strategies.