Every time you sign on with a new vendor—especially if these vendors have access to sensitive company data, systems, or networks—you are exposing your organization to risk. Selecting service providers with the skills and experience to maintain appropriate cybersecurity is essential for protecting your company’s data.

Here are three ways to minimize risk and ensure the vendors you’re working with are meeting the necessary expectations of cybersecurity:

Conduct a thorough risk assessment

Before engaging with any vendor or third-party service provider, companies should perform an independent vendor assessment or engage another third-party firm to conduct a thorough risk assessment to evaluate the potential risks and vulnerabilities associated with the vendor’s access to company data, systems, or networks.

After determining the vendor you’re interested in working with and their level of access relevant to the role you’re hoping to fill, an assessment will be used to gather information about them, including their reputation, experience, and financial status. This information can be obtained through background checks, financial reports, and references.

Then, you or the third party will evaluate the vendor’s security measures, such as their physical and network security, data encryption and access controls, incident response and disaster recovery plans, and employee security awareness training. How often are they testing internal vulnerabilities? Are they in compliance with relevant legal and regulatory requirements, such as data privacy laws, industry standards, and contractual obligations?

Finally, you should ensure the vendor has a plan in place to address unexpected events such as natural disasters, cyber attacks, or other disruptions, and that the plan is aligned with your organization’s own business continuity and disaster recovery plans. Always make sure the vendors you work with not only meet your IT needs, but also show a clear path towards continued growth.

Guard your vendors’ access to data

Before signing a contract, be sure to include provisions for auditing and monitoring the vendor’s security and risk management practices on an ongoing basis. Your organization and its tech vendors should have a very clear agreement on how your systems will interact, including how information will be accessed and shared between the two parties.

Most vendors should have the least-privilege model of data access, which limits user access rights to the minimum level required to perform their job functions. Under the least-privilege model, users are granted access only to the specific data, systems, and resources that are necessary for their work, and no more. This includes limiting access to sensitive data, such as customer information or financial records, and restricting administrative privileges to only those who require them. Each vendor system that has access to your company’s network should be gated through additional security controls and firewalls to impede attackers’ movement.

By reducing the number of users with access to sensitive data and systems, the least-privilege model helps to minimize the potential damage in the event of a security breach. It also makes it easier to track user activity and identify potential security threats.

Monitor and review the vendor’s activity and performance

Working with your IT team, continuously monitor and review the vendor’s performance, security posture, and compliance status to identify and address any potential risks. Although your vendors have ideally been thoroughly vetted, you should still monitor their activity to ensure they follow your established security protocols and are not engaging in any suspicious or unauthorized activity. This may include monitoring network traffic, server logs, and user activity.

Regardless of who your vendors are, companies should implement continuous monitoring or annual penetration testing and vulnerability assessments every six months. It’s not enough to identify risks—you need to always have effective controls in place and continually reassess those controls.

We’re here to help

The only constant in information security is change, and the best program you can implement is one that is flexible enough to accommodate periodic modifications. If you need help vetting your tech vendors, contact us today.

Xamin is a technology, compliance, and security services firm specializing in regulated and reputation-sensitive organizations. As a trusted IT partner, Xamin takes the time to understand each of our client’s unique challenges. We integrate with our clients’ established systems—no matter their size or complexity—and provide guidance that aligns your organization with the right technology, security, training, and policies. And with an unmarred SOC 2 certification, we hold a proven, layered approach to cybersecurity guaranteed to meet the stringent requirements of regulatory guidelines and compliance.