Can Vendors and Contractors Be The Root-Cause of Potential Data Breaches?

Third-Party Cyber-Risk Management

Third-party vendors and contractors tend to provide fast and efficient delivery of products and services. However, their direct access to critical corporate infrastructures make them prime targets for spill-over compromises. Thus, jeopardizing the security of an organization. Therefore, it is imperative to understand the cybersecurity risks associated with third-party service providers, including pertinent countermeasures for an effective third-party risk management framework.

In the process of formulating a cybersecurity strategy, many organizations tend to overlook the level of risks that come with business collaboration with third-parties. Unfortunately, such lack of attention to third-party risk steps from the practice of placing significant focus on insider threats alone.

Third-party vendors and supply chain contractors, many times, have direct access to business-critical information assets, and any instance of misuse or vulnerability of said access can result in massive breaches of confidentiality, integrity, and availability. Such kind of third-party, supply chain breach is capable of affecting the credibility of an organization.

So, as a small to midsize business that relies on deep business relationships with third-party vendors and contractors, how do you handle cybersecurity risks that originate from said vendors and contractors? Well, read on to understand how your organization could be vulnerable to third-party cybersecurity risks and how to mitigate it.

How Can Third-Party Cyber-Risks Affect a Business?

A recent incident at Instacart revealed that employees of a third-party support service provider accessed the personal profiles of Instacart shoppers, which was beyond the scope of their job. Thus, violating the principle of least privilege.

The data obtained during said unauthorized access of Instacart customers’ profiles included personal identifiable information (PII), such as the full names, email addresses, telephone numbers, driver license numbers, etc.

Although such data theft can have undesirable ramifications for the victims, it could also jeopardize other critical organizational assets. Hence, the following must be given huge attention:

  • Intellectual Property Theft: a business can lose its competitive edge, while also experiencing a setback in its growth if its intellectual property isn’t protected safely. This would lead to severe monetary and reputational damages.
  • Credential Theft: a malicious third-party vendor can steal confidential customers’ information, such as credit card payment details, organizational payroll data, and systems access credentials.
  • Spear Phishing: third-party vendors know your organizational environment, therefore a compromise within a third-party computing environment could leak the sensitive information of specific individuals within your organization. Thus, formulating a spear-phishing campaign with high levels of success.
  • Data Exfiltration: the misconfiguration of third-party tools can result in the leak of sensitive organizational data. In simpler terms, a leak in the system of a third party could expose your company’s data to malicious actors.
Effective Response To Third-Party Cyber-Risks

The effective management of third-party cyber-risks is essential to business continuity and resiliency.

In today’s digital transformation across business industries, malicious actors often exploit vulnerabilities and weaknesses to gain unauthorized access to an organization’s information network for nefarious reasons. Such incidents not only interrupt business operations, but can also cause irreparable reputational damage to your brand value as well as substantial financial losses.

For third-party cyber-risks to be proactively handled, businesses should consider implementing the following key processes into their Third-Party Risk Management Plan (TPRM):

  • Screening & Continuous Monitoring: Businesses should conduct thorough screenings of third-party vendors before allowing them access to the organization’s networks. Once they are in, they should be continuously monitored for any deviation.
  • Third-party Categorization: Organizations should classify third-parties into risk assessment categories like financial, legal, regulatory, location, availability, and resiliency. This information can help in assessing monitoring requirements.
  • Due-Diligence: Regular system and forensic audits can help strengthen the organization’s hands and assist in dealing with third-party risks better. A striking example is an audit that assisted in the identification of the data breach at Instacart in August this year.
Conclusion

All businesses must employ strict cybersecurity measures to ensure that confidential customer data does not fall into wrong hands. Organizations need to understand the risks that third-party vendors and contractors pose to the business.

GoldSky Security has expertise in third-party risk assessments and can help your enterprise formulate and implement an efficient TPRM framework.