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Vendor Risk Assessment - Connecting the Dots

Updated: Mar 19

A new dimension of cybersecurity - correlating between business needs, cybersecurity tools, third-party vendors, and potential risks.

Introduction: A Deeper Perspective on Risk

In the vast expanse of the digital realm, identifying risks is akin to spotting stars in the night sky – they are countless and often elusive. Yet, merely recognizing these risks without comprehending their context and potential impact on your business is akin to seeing constellations without understanding their stories. This analogy underscores the essence of cybersecurity in the modern business landscape. The interconnectedness of technologies and the infiltration of third-party vendors into our operational tapestry have given rise to a pressing need for a new dimension of risk management – one that harmonizes risk identification with real-world implications. The interconnectedness is where the art of correlation steps in, illuminating the path to a safer digital journey.

The Crucial Role of Correlation: Weaving the Threads of Security

Imagine your business as a grand tapestry woven intricately with threads of technologies and vendor partnerships. Each thread represents a distinct element – a potential entry point for cyber threats. The challenge lies in identifying these threads and understanding how they weave together, potentially creating vulnerabilities that hackers might exploit. This is where correlation emerges as a crucial tool. Let's delve into real-world scenarios that underscore the pivotal role of correlation in identifying and mitigating potential cyber vulnerabilities.

We put together these actionable tasks to help you understand how to create a correlation process between third-party vendors' potential risks and business needs.

Crafting a Vendor Risk Assessment Blueprint

  • Framework Development: Develop a comprehensive vendor risk assessment framework that aligns with your company's business objectives and risk appetite. This framework should categorize vendors based on their access to sensitive data, integration into critical business processes, and potential impact on operational continuity. If you don't have a dedicated technology for this framework, you can start using a Google spreadsheet that maps all your third-party vendors and the potential risks they have on your business in the case of a cyber breach from the vendors' side.

This may be a huge pain point for large organizations as the list of vendors can be endless. Here is how you can start creating this list;

  • Map the organization’s departments.

  • Consult with your colleagues from each department and map the most significant or crucial third-party vendor and his effect on your business in the case of a cyber-attack.

For example, a vendor with access to your financial data or your customer’s personal data will be marked as high-risk. On the other hand, a vendor with access to your marketing information might be marked with a much lower risk. If your marketing agency faces a cyber-attack and your online campaign creatives are exposed, this might not be very nice. Still, your company will be able to continue to operate almost without interfering.

We created these guidelines for developing a comprehensive vendor risk assessment for third-party vendors that integrate with your organization’s data. This process will help you to identify, evaluate, and mitigate risks associated with vendor relationships.

  1. Define the Scope and Objectives

    1. Scope: Determine which vendors will be assessed. This could be all vendors or a subset based on their access to company data.

    2. Objectives: Clearly state what you aim to achieve with the assessment, such as identifying potential risks or ensuring compliance with industry regulations.

  2. Vendor Categorization

    1. Risk Tiering: Classify vendors based on the level of risk they pose. For instance, a vendor with full access to customer data or the organization's IP might be considered high-risk. In contrast, a marketing supplier with limited access to the organization’s public assets might be low-risk.

    2. Service Type: Categorize vendors based on their services, e.g.

      1. IT services

      2. Logistics

      3. Consultancy

      4. Employees services

      5. Operations

  3. Data Collection

    1. Vendor Profile: Gather information about the vendor's business, such as size, location, financial health, services offered, and media activities.

    2. Data Access: Understand what data the vendor has access to and how they access it.

  4. Risk Identification

    1. Data Risks: Identify data breaches, misuse, and unauthorised data access risks.

    2. Operational Risks: Consider risks like service interruptions or vendor insolvency.

    3. Reputation Risks: Evaluate potential damage to your company's reputation due to vendor actions or a breach at vendor’s. How will such a breach affect your business?

    4. Compliance Risks: Ensure the vendor complies with relevant industry regulations and standards.

  5. Risk Assessment

    1. Likelihood: Determine the probability of each risk occurring.

    2. Impact: Evaluate the potential damage or loss if the risk materializes.

    3. Risk Rating: Assign a risk rating (e.g., Low, Medium, High, Critical) based on likelihood and impact.

  6. Risk Mitigation

    1. Controls: Implement controls to reduce or eliminate identified risks. This could be technical controls (like encryption) or administrative controls (like vendor training).

    2. Contractual Agreements: Ensure contracts with vendors include data protection, confidentiality, and breach notification clauses.

    3. Insurance: Consider requiring vendors to have cyber liability insurance.

  7. Monitoring and Review

    1. Continuous Monitoring: Use tools and software to monitor vendor activities and access.

    2. Periodic Reviews: Regularly review and update the risk assessment, especially after significant vendor relationship or business environment changes.

    3. Incident Response: Develop a plan for vendor-related incidents, such as data breaches or service interruptions. A structured IR plan will enable you to overcome cyber incidents and can significantly reduce the potential damage, time, and effort to deal with such an incident.

  8. Reporting

    1. Internal Reporting: Ensure the organization’s stakeholders are informed about the vendor risk assessment findings and any actions taken.

    2. Vendor Feedback: Share relevant findings with vendors and collaborate on risk mitigation strategies.

  9. Training and Awareness

    1. Internal Training: Ensure your employees understand the risks associated with vendors and their role in managing those risks. Your employee's awareness is vital to help you keep the organization’s security. According to Stanford University Professor Jeff Hancock, almost 90% of data breach incidents are caused by employee mistakes.

    2. Vendor Training: Offer or require training for vendors, primarily if they handle sensitive data.

  10. Documentation

    1. Record Keeping: Maintain detailed records of all assessments, findings, actions taken, and vendor communications.

    2. Templates: Develop standardized templates for risk assessments to ensure consistency.

  11. Feedback Loop

    1. Lessons Learned: After each assessment, gather feedback and learn from mistakes or oversights to improve the process.

    2. Vendor Surveys: Periodically survey vendors to get feedback on the assessment process and collaboration.

  12. Technology and Tools

    1. Risk Assessment Tools: Consider using software solutions to automate the risk assessment process.

    2. Integration: Ensure that your risk assessment tools integrate well with other systems in your organisation, such as procurement or IT management systems.

    3. Correlations: Use correlation tools to link the vendor’s information, such as Risk Assessment, Risk Rating, Categorization, and Data Access, and correlate it with the business critical vector. For example, A vendor with access to sensitive data and high risk on the business side must always pass the risk assessment tests at the highest score.

Rescana Vendor Risk Assessment

Suppliers’ Mapping

We listed the suppliers' information you need to map your vendors and the potential risk they might have on your business. With this information, you can estimate the potential threat to your business of a breach for each third-party vendor you work with.

  • Supplier Name

    • Communication Description

    • Contact person name

    • Contact person position

    • Contact person email

    • Contact person's phone number

    • Service category

    • Service description

    • Vendor Categorization (Supplier's cyber threat risk )

      • Critical Risk

      • Medium Risk

      • Low Risk

The intricate dance of managing third-party vendors is a continuous cycle, one that demands attention, precision, and foresight. As we've explored, understanding the potential risks and correlating them with business needs is paramount. But this isn't a one-time endeavor.

Every year, the dance begins anew:

  • Onboarding New Vendors: As fresh vendors join the ensemble, ensure they're in step with your cybersecurity rhythm. Their past performances, current capabilities, and potential risks should harmonize with your business's security requirements.

  • Bidding Farewell: As some vendors exit the stage, ensure a graceful departure. Confirm they no longer possess any of your data and revoke their backstage passes to your systems. Make sure all the privileges the vendor had were closed. This issue is often forgotten and can be a backdoor to your sensitive information. Create an internal Vendor’s Depart Protocol

  • Annual Encore: For those who remain part of your performance, an annual review is essential. Update your choreography, ensuring they're still in sync with your evolving cybersecurity needs. Reevaluate their risk profiles and adjust your strategies accordingly.

Rescana's platform helps businesses grow by reducing cybersecurity complexities and pain. Rescana is developing its unique technology embedded within its platform that uses the power of Machine Learning to identify, correlate, and alert security officers on potential threats and risks based on business logic and vendors' access to sensitive data.

The feature automatically identifies the importance and criticality of each asset and assigns the potential risk score accordingly.

If you wish to learn more about our technology, contact us at

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