How to Manage Vendors and Third-Party Risk

July 18, 2023

Introduction

Supply chain risk….vendor management…third party cyberattacks…

We have a lot of words for it, but what we’re all talking about comes down to the same thing: Cybercriminals are breaching our systems and other big databases filled with our personal information, by first infiltrating more vulnerable software that we rely on to run daily tasks.

Maybe your computer is secure…but what if your PDF editing software was compromised before your next update? Then think bigger: Could your company’s HR team get hacked if their onboarding software got exploited?

Just consider some of the major supply chain attacks that have happened in the past few years: Colonial Pipeline in 2021, then the world’s largest meat supplier, JBS, just weeks later. Millions of healthcare patients had data exposed because of a compromise managed file transfer service just last January.

To more effectively fight off third-party cybersecurity risks, you must learn how best to manage your various vendors.

Manage Your Supply Chain

Operational security (OPSEC) practices encompass measures and strategies designed to protect sensitive information and maintain the security of your operations, activities and assets. Making security best practices your regular routine will help you prevent unauthorized access, mitigate risks, and preserve the confidentiality, integrity and availability of information.

Here are some key OPSEC practices you should keep in mind:

  • Assess and manage the security posture of third-party vendors and suppliers. Establish security requirements in contracts, conduct due diligence and regularly review their security practices to minimize your risk.
  • Conduct a comprehensive assessment of potential risks and vulnerabilities to identify potential threats and assess their impact. This helps prioritize security efforts and allocate resources effectively.
  • Implement strong access controls to restrict access to sensitive information and resources, especially for third parties. This includes using strong passwords or passphrases, enforcing multi-factor authentication and limiting privileges to the minimum necessary for each user or role.
  • Regular security awareness refreshers remind you about security best practices, phishing awareness, social engineering techniques and incident reporting protocols.
  • Know your incident response plan. What procedures and actions should you take in the event of a security incident or breach?
  • Utilize encryption to protect sensitive data both at rest and in transit. Encryption helps safeguard information from unauthorized access, so even if data is compromised, it remains unreadable without the proper decryption keys.
  • Protect physical assets such as servers, data centers, and devices. This may include access controls, video surveillance, environmental controls, and secure disposal of sensitive materials.
  • Conduct periodic audits and assessments to evaluate the effectiveness of security controls and identify areas for improvement. This helps ensure ongoing compliance with security standards and best practices.

Update your software regularly to prevent the threat of zero-day attacks and develop stronger security as soon as new versions come out.

Conclusion

Implementing and following smart OPSEC practices will lower your third party risks. We can’t avoid using other people’s software to get our daily tasks done, both at work and home, but we can make sure that we’re using them as safely as can be!

The best way to stay ahead of cyber-criminal tactics is to stay aware of what new tools they’re developing for their malicious arsenal. Check back on this blog to keep taking strides forward!

References

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