Third party risk management (TPRM) depends on effective third party risk monitoring. Dramatic stakes necessitate accurate scoping, vulnerability analysis, and (ideally) advanced techniques.
- All third party hardware, software, and networks are in scope for monitoring
- Deviations from the secure baseline may indicate vulnerabilities or threats
- Third party risks are especially elusive, ubiquitous, and severe
- Advanced techniques like penetration testing help shore up vulnerabilities
How to Identify and Catalog Third Party Assets
First, you need to monitor all in-house networks and systems for third party hardware, software, and users. That means scanning for devices, programs, and user accounts associated with third parties. These need to be indexed alongside their first-party counterparts, and differences in terms of security settings need to be marked as potential vulnerabilities. Lapses in visibility or control over these assets will make detecting and responding to events more challenging.
Then, you’ll need to scan for networks, servers, and other connectivity infrastructure used by third (or first) parties. These may include cloud networks or other platforms not owned or directly operated by your organization but nonetheless essential to your operations. As with devices and programs, any notable differences from your first party networks and platforms must be indexed.
Ideally, that catalog can form a secure baseline against which to compare suspected incidents.
How to Scan for Vulnerabilities and Threats
Supplier risk monitoring establishes a relationship between vulnerabilities impacting third party assets and threats that exploit them. Risk is a measure of how likely and costly that would be.
Once you have an accurate, dynamic index of all third party assets, you need to scan each one regularly for security vulnerabilities. These are gaps or weaknesses that could be exploited by attackers. Patches and updates that address these areas are released regularly; an outdated operating system could render a piece of hardware and any programs or users on it vulnerable.
With respect to threats, you need to account internal and external attackers, along with other phenomena that could lead to data being compromised. Common attack vectors include social engineering and schemes involving unsecured networks. Make sure to scan often for any irregular activity across user accounts and employ restrictions such as deny-all-except filters.
What Makes Third Party Risks So Critical?
In third party risk management, ongoing monitoring is a bare minimum cyberdefense practice that is necessary to prevent data breaches and other incidents. Counter-intuitively, third party risks are just as impactful on your organization as their first party counterparts, if not more so.
The biggest reasons you need to monitor and manage third party risks are their:
- Elusiveness – By nature, even the most obvious third party risks are harder to fully appreciate than even the most insidious first party ones. Third party assets and risks impacting them are often known unknowns at best and unknown unknowns at worst.
- Ubiquity – Despite how hard they are to detect, third party risks are everywhere. The sheer volume of third party assets across your system is one factor, but the diversity of devices, programs, and user behaviors across them multiplies the variables of each.
- Severity – Third party risks are among the most impactful, not least because of the shared nature of the resources and stakeholders they impact. Simply put: one entity’s vulnerabilities can cause harm to their own personnel and clientele, along with those of their partners. Without TPRM, you could potentially endanger your entire network.
Given the stakes at hand for all parties involved, effective vendor risk monitoring is a must.
Advanced Third Party Risk Solutions
Some of the best vendor monitoring solutions turn attackers’ own methods against them, leveraging offensive tactics to defend you and your partners more effectively and efficiently.
On one level, there are practical incident response tabletop exercises that can be incorporated into your training and awareness programs. These modules assess both staff and third parties on their ability to respond to attack-like situations swiftly and appropriately to neutralize threats.
On another level entirely, your organization can engage in penetration testing focused on third party assets. These tests gauge system-wide readiness for an attack by studying the methods attackers use and determining how easy it is to enter your systems (in external testing) and ultimately seize control of central resources (in internal testing). As with training modules, these can be focused on third party assets exclusively or on a more holistic scope including them.
Monitor Third Party Risks Effectively
Effective third party vendor monitoring starts with scoping out all third party assets and creating a secure baseline, then scanning for any irregularities or deviations from it. Vulnerabilities and threats impacting third party assets specifically can be especially harmful to your own team and your clients, so advanced methods like third party penetration testing are highly recommended.
At RSI Security, we believe the right way is the only way to protect your IT environment and every stakeholder connected to it. We’re committed to helping organizations protect their staff, clients, and extended network of strategic partners. Work with us to rethink your TPRM strategy.
To learn more about third party risk monitoring, contact RSI Security today.