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Mitigating Cyber Risks Through Strategic Third-Party Management

  • In today’s interconnected business environment, companies regularly rely on third parties for critical business functions like supply chain, IT services, and more. While these relationships can provide efficiency and expertise, they also introduce new cybersecurity risks that must be managed. More than 53% of businesses worldwide have suffered at least one cyber attack in the past 12 months and one in five firms attacked said it was enough to threaten the viability of the business. Recent high-profile breaches like the SolarWinds attack have highlighted the dangers of supply chain compromises. Implementing a comprehensive third party risk management program is essential for security. In this post, we’ll explore key strategies and best practices organizations can use to defend against cyber threats from third party relationships.

    Limit Access and Segment Third Parties

    Once a third party relationship is established, limit their access to only what is required for their role. Segment them into their own virtual network or cloud environment isolated from your core infrastructure. Implement the principle of least privilege access for their credentials. Disable unnecessary ports, protocols, and services. Lock down pathways between your network and the third party. The goal is to reduce their potential impact and restrict lateral movement if compromised.

    Continuously Monitor for Threats

    Monitor third party networks vigilantly for signs of compromise. Deploy tools like intrusion detection systems that generate alerts for anomalous behavior. Monitor for unusual data transfers, unauthorized changes, malware, and other IOCs. Conduct vulnerability scans and penetration testing against your third parties’ environments. Audit their logs and security events for issues impacting your security posture. The goal is early detection that can limit damage from a third party breach.

    Practice Incident Response Plans

    Even rigorous security can still experience incidents. Develop plans for quickly responding to a breach impacting a third party. Define escalation protocols and response team roles. Maintain contacts for your third parties’ security staff. Institute plans for containment, eradication, and recovery activities to limit the impact on your organization. Practice responding to mock third party breach scenarios to smooth out the process. Effective incident response can significantly reduce the damage from real world attacks.

    Foster Strong Relationships with Third Parties

    While security requirements and controls are critical, also focus on building strong relationships with your vendors, suppliers, and partners. Collaborate to improve security on both sides. Offer guidance and training to enhance their practices and controls. Recognize those who exceed expectations. Build rapport at the executive level so security is taken seriously. Cybersecurity does not have to be adversarial – work together to protect against shared threats.

    Third party risk management is essential in modern interconnected business ecosystems. Businesses can no longer rely solely on their own security – all external connections must be assessed and managed.
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