IT supply chain ‘hacking’, combined with deep and widespread supplier outsourcing, will force security products, operating systems and IT infrastructure to “fragment along geopolitical lines”, says technology analyst firm, Gartner.
That’s the forecast for 2017 in Gartner’s new “Maverick” branded research, which, without the usual "consensus" based reports, delves into fears that governments across the world are currently grappling with.
"IT supply chain integrity issues are real, and will have mainstream enterprise IT impact within the next five years," said Neil MacDonald, research vice president and Gartner Fellow.
"In the shorter term, the market for information security offerings will fragment along geopolitical lines. In the longer term, the same will happen for OSs and other IT system infrastructure software, reshaping the IT landscape moving forward.”
“Enterprise IT departments must begin to make changes today to protect their systems and information in a world where all IT systems are suspect.”
Supply chain threats are not a new concern, which Gartner acknowledges by covering the threat that counterfeit Cisco kit could have on government networks.
The Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) has been combatting chinks in the IT supply chain for several years in an effort to prevent US, Canadian and European resellers flogging Chinese-made networking equipment under the more expensive Cisco brand.
In 2008, the bureau cited a KPMG report which estimated that 10 per cent of IT equipment was counterfeit.
While the focus today is on threats to national security, back then security was not considered the primary threat. Cisco had, according to leaked FBI documents, tested fake equipment without finding modifications that introduced security vulnerabilities and concluded that counterfeiting was pursued for profit rather than penetration.
Nonetheless, the general supply chain had been compromised. Some of the counterfeit Cisco kit sold to the government was sourced from Cisco’s “Gold” and “Silver” partners, which generally achieve that status by proving advanced Cisco support capabilities.
Gartner also touches on Huawei being “banned from Western Government deals”. Prior to the US House Intelligence Committee review that stated Huawei and ZTE “cannot be trusted to be free of foreign state influence”, a report from the Australian Security and Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) warned the Australian government off using Huawei kit in its National Broadband Network.
Supply chain threats to non-Western nations will also have an impact on all enterprise operations. The analyst firm covers the reportedly US-Israeli developed Stuxnet attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities software flaws in Siemens’ programmable logic controllers (PLCs).
The encroachment of software on traditionally hardware-based processes will complicate the supply chain, which may force companies to reassess risks associated with physical and virtual elements of their procurement. These include components, frameworks, middleware, language platforms, virtual machines and operating systems, and the broader application ecosystem, including digital certificates.
"IT supply chain integrity issues are expanding from hardware into software and information," said Ray Valdes, research vice president at Gartner.
“This has significant implications for businesses, governments and individuals moving forward in a world where the integrity of the IT supply chain is no longer completely trustable, and where all layers of the IT stack will be targeted for supply chain compromise."