It’s not just you: Avoiding third-party security vulnerabilities

Cyberattacks are on the rise and every individual and business can become a victim. To combat the threat of a cyberattack, companies are investing huge capital in securing their own on-premises infrastructure and data. But there are several ways a company can be attacked — some you may not even be considering. For example, third-party security vulnerabilities caused by lapses from your vendors and service providers can be a huge problem.

Businesses while planning their security strategy and performing other security checks such as auditing, log management, maintenance, and support do not always extend these best measures to their third-party associates. Cybercriminals are targeting this weakness and are victimizing companies. It is essential to include the potential for third-party security vulnerabilities in all of your security strategies.

Here are some of the top measures to identify, tackle, and mitigate potential third-party security vulnerabilities.

Third-party security vulnerabilities: Know where your data resides

Third-party vendors and service providers usually have access to confidential and sensitive data of an organization they are working with. Although data privacy and confidentiality is a part of the service agreements, often an organization cannot affirm that their data is safe with their vendors and service providers

An organization cannot be 100 percent sure how their valuable data is being safeguarded by their third-party associates. Therefore, it is very important for an organization to know where the data resides and what data can be accessed by vendors and service providers. Organizations can then take proper security measures to protect their shared data.

Have proper agreements in place

Vendor and third-party agreement or contract management is a challenging aspect for every organization. Organizations need to focus on all the key areas with respect to cost, security, social impacts, dependencies, infrastructure, support, and operations.

First, you must make sure every vendor agreement or contract has the price and payment for the services offered. The size and scope need to be very clearly defined to avoid unwanted billing hikes. All your proprietary and confidential information must be clearly categorized and access rights to an organization’s data must be properly documented. Also make sure that you will be immediately informed of any future changes in the vendor’s or service provider’s security infrastructure.

Develop a common security strategy

One of the most common assumptions among various organizations is to have a different security strategy for internal and external resources. Most companies focus on securing the resources, infrastructure, and data that are within their perimeter and often overlook the third-party vendors.

Although these third-party associates reside outside the company’s perimeter, they still must be treated as an integral part of the company’s security infrastructure. Although the infrastructure and operations are taken care of by the third-party service providers, it is every organization’s responsibility to include all the external vendors and service providers in the organization’s security strategy. Having a common plan enables organizations to have a common monitoring platform, ease of management, and maintenance.

Administering third-party services

A service agreement is made when a company agrees to a deal with an external service provider or a vendor for any service. The service agreement includes all the privacy and security-related aspects, which the vendor needs to adhere to. However, not all of security policies and safety measures are implemented fully by service providers — they, like you, are looking to save costs wherever possibile. It is the responsibility of the organizations to thoroughly administer external vendors.

Companies also need to set up a separate team or department depending on the volume of external services being used to manage all the vendors. Vendor management can be guided by the legal, finance, and compliance department of the companies. The assigned or designated team needs to make sure that all the signed policies are being followed by the third-party vendors.

Single sign-on solutions

Having a single sign-on solution (SSO) can be very beneficial in the identity and access management process in an organization. Having an SSO will ensure there is uniformity in the user login and access control. This can also be used to ensure timely updates in passwords, multifactor authentication, and other security aspects that will remain constant across an organization and with the external vendors.

Companies must tie up with a secure SSO provider and ensure that all users and processes are secured. These SSO solutions can be integrated with the organizations existing security strategy to mitigate the risk of human errors in losing credentials. They also increase efficiency along with security.

Ensure proper endpoint security

Endpoints are often the weak links in an organization and can be easily used as a means of intrusion by cybercriminals. Having a proper endpoint security plan with external vendors is an absolute essential. Companies need to ensure that the endpoint security has been properly deployed to the core even with the external vendors.

Develop a backup and recovery plan

Cyberattacks and data breaches are inevitable. And so is data loss caused by software or hardware problems or outages — yours and your third-party associates. Therefore, it is essential for companies to be prepared with a backup plan in case things go southward — even if the problems are caused by a problem from your third-party associates.

Also, companies need to make sure to have all confidential and business-critical data backed up to continue operations in case of a potential breach or data loss.

Yes, third-party security vulnerabilities are a real threat

A fully mature, functional, clear, and secure approach to managing your vendors and service providers greatly helps in avoiding third-party security vulnerabilities. When searching for an external vendor or a service provider, companies must try to enforce the principle of least privilege in order to avoid the possible security-related issues. Achieving a complete level of trust with all the third-party vendors might not be practically possible, but having proper measures in place can ensure safety.

Images: Shutterstock

Sukesh Mudrakola

Sukesh is a computer science graduate by profession and an IT enterprise and tech enthusiast by passion. He holds an expertise in mobile and wearable technologies and is an avid Android fan.

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Sukesh Mudrakola

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