Third-party products and services are an integral part of business operations. Organizations depend heavily on optimizing their solutions by reducing costs; thus, bringing about the need for external expertise. Third-party organizations promise timely delivery of products and services, meeting compliance requirements, and optimizing the organization’s overall business performance.
Reasons for bringing in a third party for various business operations include:
With the engagement of organizations other than your own in business operations, exposure to threats and risks increases. Threats arising from third-party engagements require enterprises to adopt a risk management approach for these assets.
If these risks are not mitigated, consequences may include:
Creating a risk mitigation strategy for a third-party organization can be a tedious task. The identification and mitigation of risks requires a well-established and automated risk management program. This program can be used for both internal applications and services, and external tools and services.
Let’s examine an approach to identify, assess, and mitigate third-party risks:
Based on the scope of work, third-party tools and services are allowed access to various systems, resources, network appliances, applications, and data (either stored or in transit). Potential risks accompany access. Determining the security risks in these circumstances can be tricky.
At a high level, organizations should follow these best practices to identify security risks from third-party engagements:
Evaluation and assessment are important steps to comprehensively mitigate risks. This step prioritizes risks to see them through to mitigation in a time- and cost-effective manner. A risk management program cannot be successful if the assessment of each security risk (based on its impact to the business) isn’t calculated.
To best assess third-party security risks:
Identifying and assessing vulnerabilities also requires a mitigation strategy. This strategy is used to reduce the severity of the identified risks and/or remediate them.
Follow these practices to help your organization mitigate and prevent threats and risks posed by third parties:
Implement a holistic program for managing third-party activities. Organizations should, if they haven’t already, use a scalable and automated risk management program to continuously identify third-party threats and risks. Assess the risks against the business and ultimately mitigate them through the implementation of security controls. Provide capabilities to monitor third-party assets, allowing the organization to detect and mitigate risks stemming from non-compliance, unethical practices, exposure to systems and resources, legal issues, and access to confidential data.
Following these recommendations will minimize redundancies and inefficiencies, in addition to improving visibility into risks, performance, and compliance of third-party activities.
Anupam Mehta is a security consultant at Synopsys. He holds a Bachelor's Degree in Information Technology from Vellore Institute of Technology (India) and a Master’s Degree in Security Informatics from Johns Hopkins University. Anupam specializes in web application security. He also works to provide consulting services in secure design, architecture, and deployment of in-house and third-party applications. In his free time, Anupam enjoys spending time with family, writing poetry, cooking, and watching sci-fi, thriller, and action movies and TV shows. He also loves to play racquetball, cricket, lawn tennis, and badminton.