Working with a third-party vendor is a lot like inviting someone into your home during a pandemic. Even if you hear great things about that person, that they’re fun to hang out with, considerate, and you both like doing a lot of the same things, you have no idea whether they’re vaccinated or if they’ve been hanging out with infected people. In other words, even though the two of you could have a solid, working relationship, you don’t know whether they pose a risk to your health.
Similarly, your cyber health is at risk anytime you invite a third-party vendor into your digital environment. Regardless of how qualified the vendor is, how many people rave about its services, or how well their solution fits your business model, it can be hard to determine the impact working with them will have on your cyber security. This is why continuous monitoring of your third-party vendor ecosystem is so essential. You can use it to gain the peace of mind you need to fully immerse yourself in a mutually beneficial business relationship.
Why You Need Continuous Monitoring of Third-Party Vendors
You need continuous monitoring of third-party vendors because it provides you with accurate, up-to-date data regarding the risk they pose to your data and systems. Your next best option would be to rely on risk assessment forms that vendors fill out regarding their cybersecurity protections and their attack landscape.
The problem is there’s no way of telling whether the information provided is complete, trustworthy, and up-to-date.
On the other hand, with a continuous monitoring system, you get a more objective, holistic picture of the risk each vendor introduces to your business. In this way, you can better assure those within your company, external stakeholders, and customers that the data you have is safe, as are the systems that power your digital infrastructure.
How Continuous Monitoring Works with Your TPCRM Program
Continuous monitoring enables you to pinpoint the critical cyber risks that your organization needs to be aware of in connection with each of your third-party providers, tracking them on an ongoing basis. Your organization gains the visibility it needs to identify the risks vendors introduce to your system as they occur.
What are some of the areas you should be continuously monitoring?
Anytime a third party has access to your data, the relationship introduces a certain amount of risk, so monitoring their data security program is a crucial step in reducing the chances of a breach happening via that vendor.
For example, suppose you hire an accounting firm that has a cloud-based platform it uses to connect its accounting software to the one you use, such as QuickBooks. There are several different potential access points for hackers, such as:
- A VPN the company uses to interface with your software
- The cloud-based platform they use to manage your accounting
- The in-office computers the company uses to work with your accounting
- The company’s in-office network
- The networks remote and hybrid workers connect to
- The laptops and other personal physical devices employees use while away from the office
Because there are so many different access points an attacker could use to gain access to your data, it’s critical to continually monitor that vendor’s data security systems, particularly as they apply to your company’s data. For instance, if the accounting provider transitions from a completely in-office work environment to a hybrid arrangement, this may introduce novel risks to your data. Depending on the sensitivity of the information its employees may have access to, you may want to initiate fresh mitigation policies to ensure appropriate data security control.
The security of your network presents an even more diverse range of risks when you provide access to a third-party vendor, particularly because your network provides access to multiple sensitive assets. If a cyber criminal can get inside your vendor’s network and they’ve linked with yours, you could be leaving the doors open for several different kinds of attacks. But by continuously monitoring network security, you can limit or eliminate these vulnerabilities.
One of the more well-known third-party breaches, the Target hack, came as a result of a hacker gaining network access through a third-party vendor. Target gave an HVAC company in Pennsylvania that had weak network security access to their network. The hacker bypassed the thin security of the HVAC company, and because they had connected to Target’s system, the attacker was able to get inside the retail giant’s network.
They began in less-sensitive areas of the network before moving on to those that were used to manage consumer data. After getting their hands on this bounty of data, they exfiltrate it out of Target’s network before their security team was able to stop the attack.
By continually monitoring your third-party risk ecosystem, you can greatly reduce the chances of becoming the “target” of an attacker. You can also avoid another kind of threat: a fourth-party breach.
A fourth-party breach is another omnipresent threat when dealing with third parties. Consider the Target attack mentioned above. Suppose you’re an electronics manufacturer that had been using Target to distribute your products during the HVAC breach. Even though the threat actors may have been after consumer data, once inside the network, there was nothing stopping them from going after the data of Target’s other partners as well. For instance, they could try to steal payment data your electronics company shared with Target, exfiltrating it and either using it for fraud or selling it to someone else on the dark web.
But continuous monitoring can help prevent these and other kinds of breaches, freeing you up to assess the risk of the organizations you work with and make an informed decision as to how to proceed next.
Continually Monitor Your Third-Party Risk with CyberGRX
With CyberGRX, you gain access to the kind of continuous monitoring system you need to reduce the risk your third-party vendors introduce to your network. Once you have a system in place, you can make decisions according to your risk appetite, such as accepting, avoiding, or reducing your exposure based on the data you glean. Connect with CyberGRX today to learn more.