Businesses today are increasingly reliant on third-party vendors to help them run their operations. These third-party sources can come in the form of cloud services solutions, external marketing partners, managed service providers - the list can be endless. But while there are many benefits to working with third-party providers, especially regarding business scalability, these relationships also introduce new security risks.
This article will discuss six of the most common security gaps that can occur when working with third-party vendors and how you can mitigate them.
Why You Need To Assess Third-Party Security Gaps
According to a 2020 Ponemon survey, the typical enterprise has an average of 5,800 third parties that they are actively engaged with, and this trend is spiking considerably year over year. The main reason is that businesses are looking for ways to become more agile and efficient, and third-party vendors can offer both of those benefits.
But with this increase in third-party relationships comes an increase in the risk of a data breach or other security incident. The survey found the average company has a 41% chance of experiencing a data breach in any given year, and that number goes up to 60% when you include third-party vendors.
It can be easy to assume that the security risks posed by third-party vendors are someone else's responsibility. Still, the truth is that you need to assess and manage these risks just as you would any other part of your organization. By creating partnerships with third parties, you are extending the borders of your security perimeter, and if these partners are not meeting their standards, your organization is at risk.
Most Common Third-Party Security Gaps
Now that we've established why it's essential to assess and manage the security risks posed by third-party vendors, let's look at six of the most common security gaps that can occur and what initial steps can be taken to reduce your exposure.
1. Unpatched Servers and Software
One of the most common security vulnerabilities that certain third-party vendors can exploit is unpatched servers and software. This is because many companies don't have the time or resources to patch every server and application in their environment, so they rely on their third-party providers to do this for them.
But if a third-party vendor does not patch their systems promptly or at all, your organization can be left vulnerable to attack. The best way to mitigate this risk is to require your vendors to provide you with documentation of their patch management process and then audit them regularly to ensure they are following through on their commitments.
2. Compromised User Credentials
Another common security vulnerability that third-party vendors can exploit is the theft or compromise of user credentials. This can happen if a vendor's employee is targeted by a phishing attack, for example, and their login information is stolen. While there are systems to protect against this, like two-factor authentication, many of them can be easily circumvented if a vendor's employees are not adequately trained on using them.
The best way to protect your organization from this type of attack is to ensure that all user credentials (internal and external) are encrypted, and that access is granted on a need-to-know basis. In addition, providing all of your partners use two-factor authentication or other similar mechanisms is an excellent way to reduce your risk.
3. Unprotected Web Assets
In addition to user credentials, many third-party vendors also store sensitive data in the form of web assets. This can include customer data, financial information, and trade secrets. If these assets are not adequately protected, they can be easily accessed by hackers and used for nefarious purposes.
To mitigate this risk, you need to ensure that all of your vendor's web assets are adequately protected with firewalls and other security measures. You should also require them to use encryption for any data that is being transmitted or stored.
4. Inadequate Data At Rest and In Motion Protection
When storing company data with a third-party vendor, you need to ensure that it is adequately protected both at rest and in motion. This means that the data should be encrypted while stored and transmitted. While many vendors do this by default, you should still verify that they are doing so and that their encryption measures are adequate.
Protecting data storage and movement is critical for any organization and should be a top priority for any third-party vendor you work with. By reviewing your vendors' security measures and ensuring that they are up to par, you can help protect your organization from a data breach.
5. Poor Virtualization-Based Security Protocols
As more and more companies move to the cloud, virtualization-based security protocols become increasingly important. This includes things like firewalls, intrusion detection/prevention systems (IDS/IPS), and virtual private networks (VPNs). If a third-party vendor does not have adequate virtualization-based security protocols in place, your organization can be left open to multiple attacks.
When reviewing your vendors, be sure to ask about their virtualization-based security protocols and how they protect your data. They should be able to provide you with a comprehensive security plan that identifies all of the risks associated with operating in a virtualized environment and how they plan to mitigate them.
6. Lack of Transparency
One of the most significant risks associated with working with third-party vendors is the lack of transparency. This means that you may not always know what they are doing with your data and how it is being protected. This issue can be amplified if organizations do not adequately communicate when breaches occur or if their data is compromised.
Seeking transparency from your vendors is critical for any organization. You need to be able to trust them with your data and know that they are doing everything possible to protect it. If they are unwilling to be transparent with you, it is probably best to find a different vendor.
Closing Third-Party Security Gaps
One of the main challenges of working with third-party vendors is the fact that there are so many relationships to manage. This can make it easy to lose track of the security risks associated with each one, as well as their relative compliance when it comes to data security.
Being able to create unified visibility into all of your third-party relationships is essential for any organization. This includes having a centralized dashboard that provides an overview of all the vendors, their security posture, and their compliance status.
When all of your vendor data is in one place, it becomes easier to identify and close any security gaps. This helps organizations be proactive instead of reactive when it comes to data breaches and other security incidents and can help prevent them from happening in the first place.
Ensure Compliance and Protect Your Data
Evaluating security gaps across all third parties is critical to protecting your organization from data breaches and other security incidents. By taking the time to review your vendors' security posture, you can ensure that they are compliant with your organization's security standards and help protect your data from various threats.
CyberGRX is the first and only global cyber risk exchange, providing broad third-party risk management coverage for organizations of all sizes. Creating visibility and control into your organization's cyber risk exposure, CyberGRX offers a real-time view of your third-party risk environment as well as actionable insights to help you move from straight data analysis to actual cyber risk management.
To learn more about how CyberGRX can help you manage your third-party cyber risk, request a demo today.