Is it possible to overestimate the importance of the supply chain? The economy hinges on it. It keeps grocery markets full and department stores stocked. In many ways, it makes the world go round. Yet the supply chain is invisible to most eyes – as most working systems are; that is, until something breaks. So where are the weak links in this particular chain?

Is the supply chain (cyber) secure?

The problem with the cyber security of supply chains is that there’s not enough of it. The Verizon RISK team, which publishes a data breach investigation report every year, continually brings attention to the fact that too many businesses fail to take even the most basic cyber security precautions, such as customizing default passwords on their IT systems.

Supply chain managers are especially vulnerable to making that mistake. They face a constant pressure to optimize speed and cost, while the need for security can fade into the background. Call it user error. But whatever you call it, the threat of cyber attack becomes more urgent with each passing month, and supply chains are a target.

“Supply chains, especially critical infrastructure supply chains, can potentially be very vulnerable to hacking and malware attacks and, depending upon the attacker’s motivation, susceptible to business interruption and extra expense exposure,” said Ken Goldstein, Chubb Corp vice president and worldwide cyber security manager.

Physical risks are just as pressing.

Not all attacks are virtual. Natural disasters pose real risks to physical targets. Weather patterns are changing, for one thing, and sea level is on the rise. More, there’s an enormous quake on the horizon for the west coast of the United States, comparable to the earthquake and tsunami that struck Tōhoku in 2011.

Events like these pose a serious threat to coastal supply hubs, which aren’t engineered to withstand catastrophes of such a magnitude. They also threaten the aging regional infrastructure on which supply depends.

According to the 2013 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure, which assigns our national infrastructure a letter grade once every four years, American ports are earning a C. Roads get a D. Rail and bridges are doing just a little better, with a C+. What would it take to raise our grade by 2020? Concerted effort, plus about $3.6 billion.

Don’t forget the people behind the machine.

Truth be told, those hubs may not wait for Mother Nature to shut them down. Last winter, a labor dispute between dockworkers and employers in Long Beach hung a “closed” sign on some of the world’s busiest seaports, CBS said, incurring costs of up to $2 billion per day.

Worker mistreatment spells supply chain liability; same story when there just aren’t enough workers to go around. That’s the situation for United States truck drivers. There’s a shortage in the driver pool, and it’s going to get worse before it gets better, said Journal of Commerce last spring.

Virtual. Physical. Social. These are just a few of the risks that be. Want to see a few more? Take a look at Property Casualty 360’s top eight. Want to spare yourself the reality check? We don’t blame you.

In the meantime, if you need domestic or international moving insurance, logistics insurance or storage insurance, contact us. While we can’t control hackers, earthquakes or labor strikes, we are pretty proficient at insuring household goods, commercial goods and commodities in transit.