Mitigating Third-Party Cybersecurity Risks

by Trava, Cyber Risk Management

Safeguard your business by understanding and mitigating third-party cybersecurity risks. This blog explores essential strategies for identifying potential threats, evaluating vendor security practices, and implementing robust protection measures to ensure data integrity and resilience against cyber threats.

Learn more about this topic in our podcast episode "Identifying Third-Party Vendor Risks With Michael Magyar, Trava."

Partnerships with vendors and third parties are essential for operational efficiency and growth. However, these relationships also introduce significant risks — particularly in the realm of cybersecurity. As a responsible business leader, it’s crucial to understand these risks and implement protocols to safeguard your organization's data. In this post, we’ll delve into the critical aspects of third-party cybersecurity, offering you valuable insights to better protect your business.

Understanding Vendors and Third Parties

To begin, let’s define what we mean by vendors and third parties in the context of cybersecurity. Essentially, these are external entities that have some level of access to your business environment or sensitive customer information. This could be anything from the company that handles your credit card transactions to cloud service providers storing your data. Essentially, if an external party has access to your system or data, it introduces a potential security risk.

Identification of Potential Risks

Effectively identifying potential security risks associated with vendors and third parties is a formidable task. This challenge arises primarily because your organization lacks visibility into the internal operations of these third parties. However, this does not mean that risk management is an impossibility.

One approach is to scrutinize public statements and documentation from these vendors regarding their security measures. Transparency and prompt responses to past security incidents can serve as indicators of a vendor’s commitment to cybersecurity. Additionally, third-party audits and certifications can help verify their security posture. Look for vendors with certifications like FedRAMP, PCI DSS, SOC 2, or ISO 27001, as these indicate adherence to rigorous security standards.

Real-World Incidents: Hard Lessons

The necessity of robust third-party security measures is underscored by several high-profile breaches. One of the most notable examples is the SolarWinds incident of 2020. Threat actors exploited a vulnerability in SolarWinds' software to distribute malware to numerous organizations via software updates, compromising sensitive data across various sectors.

These incidents serve as stark reminders of the pervasive risks associated with third-party software and services.

Recognizing Red Flags

When evaluating potential vendors, be vigilant for warning signs that may indicate a heightened security risk. Some red flags to watch for include:

  • Lack of Transparency: Vendors that are vague or evasive about their security practices or past incidents should be approached cautiously.

  • Poor Incident Response: Assess how quickly and effectively a vendor addresses security breaches. Transparency and prompt remediation actions are key indicators of a robust security posture.

  • Absence of Relevant Certifications: Security certifications from recognized bodies can provide assurance that a vendor adheres to industry-best practices.

Key Cybersecurity Measures

To safeguard your business, ensure that potential vendors have implemented appropriate security measures. Key aspects to consider include:

  • Multifactor Authentication (MFA): MFA adds an extra layer of security, making it significantly more difficult for unauthorized users to gain access.

  • Single Sign-On (SSO): Vendors that support SSO without exorbitant costs indicate a commitment to secure and convenient user authentication.

  • Log Exporting Capabilities: The ability to export logs allows your organization to monitor and analyze user activity, providing crucial forensic data in the event of a security incident.

Regular Monitoring

Cybersecurity is not a one-time effort but an ongoing process. Regularly reassess the security posture of your vendors to account for changes in technology, leadership, and operational processes. Many certification frameworks require annual audits, offering a structured opportunity to reevaluate vendor security.

Incident Response Protocols

In the unfortunate event of a security breach involving a third party, having a well-defined incident response plan is essential. Key steps include:

  • Assess the Impact: Identify the information and systems affected by the breach.

  • Contain the Threat: Implement measures to limit the breach’s impact and prevent further damage.

  • Engage Experts: Notify incident response teams, legal counsel, and cybersecurity consultants. Engaging with experts can help mitigate the breach’s impact and guide your communication strategy.

  • Notification Obligations: Ensure compliance with legal and regulatory requirements for breach notifications.

Vigilance and Preparedness

While the risks associated with third-party vendors are significant, they are manageable with diligent planning and ongoing vigilance. Conduct thorough assessments, regularly monitor security practices, and maintain robust incident response protocols to safeguard your organization’s sensitive data.

Protecting your business in this connected world requires a proactive and comprehensive approach to cybersecurity. By implementing these strategies, you can mitigate risks and enhance your organization’s resilience against cyber threats.

For additional guidance or to discuss how we can assist in strengthening your cybersecurity framework, please feel free to reach out. Your business's security is our top priority.


We can help!  Talk to the Trava Team and see how we can assist you with your cybersecurity needs.