It seems that not a week goes by without a data breach or some other kind of cyber attack topping the headlines.
The targets used to be larger organizations that the bad actors know receive (and store) sensitive customer information such as personal identifiable information (PII) like social security numbers and credit card numbers. These attacks have been quite lucrative in the past.
But there’s a new type of cyber threat that has been making the news more and more in the last few years — third-party cyber attacks where the hackers target one organization with the explicit purpose of gaining access to the systems of the companies that the victim organization does business with.
The damage is exponential and what makes this so challenging to protect against is the fact that you may not even know you’re vulnerable to these threats. It’s easy to assume that every organization takes cybersecurity as seriously as you do, nor did you have a way to learn the truth. Until now.
Yes, there are many challenges facing security and risk practitioners when it comes to protecting an organization from third-party cyber risk. In this article, we give you ten ways to make your third-party cyber risk management (TPCRM) strategy successful now and in the future.
Let’s get started!
The goal of every business is to grow revenue, but to do that, you have to grow your team and the number of third parties and vendors you do business with. Unfortunately, both increase the number of attack vectors that bad actors can exploit. In order to ensure your company’s cybersecurity stays… well…secure, your third-party cyber risk management strategy needs to be able to grow with you. That’s why using static spreadsheets to track and perform analysis isn’t a long-term viable solution. You need to utilize a risk management tool that can grow with you to ensure uninterrupted protection and that is beneficial to all stakeholders across the organization.
2. Complete Visibility
Notice we say complete visibility. It’s no longer sufficient to just have a glimpse into the cyber risk posture of your third parties on an individual company level. It’s imperative that you’re able to see the health of your entire vendor ecosystem to make rapid, well-informed decisions.
When you have complete third-party portfolio visibility you can see not only the inherent and predicted risk posture of each vendor, but also monitor and assess them through the lens that matters most to you.
3. Data-driven Approach
Data tells a story unlike anything else. As humans, we don’t always pick up on things like trends or discrepancies. But when viewed through the lens of the data, you’re able to identify trends and create benchmarks that facilitate smarter decision making.
The key is that it must be standardized data (accessed through risk assessment exchanges) as that’s where you’ll get the actionable insights needed to proactively identify and mitigate third-party cyber risk.
4. Continuous Monitoring
Bad actors don’t take vacations or celebrate holidays. In fact, they know many companies (and security teams) are working with skeleton crews, so cyber threats are more likely to go unnoticed during these slow times. Because of this, your TPCRM solution should provide continuous monitoring capabilities to ensure your vendor ecosystem stays secure, regardless of the date.
Continuous monitoring is also important because relationships with third parties change and evolve over time, including the expansion or decrease of services, changes to location or facilities, and so on. Continual monitoring is vital for the health of the relationship and the safekeeping of company data.
There are many challenges that come with conducting risk management including resource limitations, subjectivity, and the risk of human error. One way to address these issues is through automation. For example, with the use of machine learning, data can be processed and analyzed quickly with no heavy lifting from team members. Automating tasks should reduce the effects of human subjectivity and human error as well.
The automation and standardization of using an assessment Exchange enables you to scale up significantly so you can conduct more assessments and receive more actionable data quickly while using fewer resources.
Whether it’s interdepartmental collaboration to ensure that internal TPCRM processes and procedures are followed, collaboration between first and third parties, or collaboration between enterprises when it comes to providing data about cybersecurity practices, it’s a key piece to the puzzle of keeping us all safe from continuous cyber threats.
The more you’re able to communicate with stakeholders the benefits of a strong TPCRM strategy, the more likely people will be to adhere to the procedures you’ve laid out. And when it comes to communicating with leadership about adopting a strategy, being able to articulate why and how a TPCRM program will help the business grow is an important first step in securing a solution.
Resources — whether time, money, or headcount — seem to be lacking regardless of company size, age, or industry. That’s one reason why it’s important to utilize a TPCRM solution that gives you the visibility into the risk postures of all your third parties, so you can prioritize remediation strategies to get the most bang for your buck.
9. Using an Exchange
A cyber risk exchange like CyberGRX is a great place to access the self-attested and predictive risk assessments for thousands of companies around the world. It takes the grunt work out of having to chase down individual third parties to get assessments completed. When you work with an exchange that provides standardized data (and remember, not all do), then you get detailed risk insights that enable you to make rapid, well-informed decisions when it comes to third-party cyber risk.
10. Regular Security Training and Processes for Employees
We all have a duty to protect our assets, and employees are the first line of defense in preventing mistakes that weaken cybersecurity defenses. These include clicking on links in suspicious emails, opening file attachments from unknown parties, and leaving devices unsecured in public places.
Requiring regular security training for employees is a great way to prevent cyber incidents caused by human error. Regardless of job function, all employees have some interaction with a third party, so it’s everyone’s responsibility to be educated on threats and remain vigilant.
Having well-documented processes in place that help employees validate third-party relationships will also help reduce the risk of team members turning to Shadow IT, which lessens risk even more.
The landscape of third-party cyber risk management is evolving, driven by increased cyber threats and attacks aimed specifically at third-party providers and supply chain vendors. In order for organizations to effectively protect against these threats they must focus on cyber-centric data to enable quick, well-informed decisions.
This article is an excerpt from the book, Third-Party Cyber Risk Management for Dummies. Download the complete guide, available free.
To learn more about how CyberGRX can help you manage your third-party cyber risk, request a demo today.
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