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Mind the Gap: Yearly Assessments for Third-Party, Supply-Chain Vendors

Updated: Mar 19

Securing the supply chain and ensuring that third-party vendors are up to the highest cybersecurity standards is essential for any organization. It's all about ensuring that confidential data, customer information, and other sensitive information is protected from malicious actors looking to gain access or cause disruption.

Yearly assessments of vendor security practices can help an organization identify potential security gaps and vulnerabilities in its network before they become major problems. By conducting regular assessments, organizations can stay ahead of threats, reduce risk exposure, and ensure their operations are running smoothly and securely.

In this article, we'll discuss third-party risk management and why yearly assessments of third-party vendors in the supply chain are so important.

Mapping the Vendors

Mapping vendors refers to the process of identifying and cataloging the various vendors and third parties that your organization works with. This process typically involves creating a list of all the vendors you work with, categorizing them based on their type (such as cloud providers, software vendors, hardware vendors, etc.), and then analyzing the risks associated with each vendor.

The goal of vendor mapping is to understand the potential risks posed by each vendor and to develop strategies for managing and mitigating those risks. This might include identifying alternative vendors or backup plans in case of a disruption or breach, as well as implementing security measures to protect against potential threats.

Classifying the Vendors and Giving Them Weights

When mapping vendors and assessing their risks, it can be helpful to assign a weight or priority to each vendor based on how important they are to your organization and how their relationship with your organization might affect it. This can help you prioritize your risk management efforts and allocate resources accordingly.

  • To assign a weight to a vendor, consider factors such as:

    • Does the vendor have any connectivity to my network or access to my facilities?

    • Do I send vendor-sensitive data?

    • Is my business operation dependent on the vendor?

  • The sensitivity of the data or information they handle: Vendors that handle sensitive data or information may pose a higher risk to your organization, and as such, may warrant a higher weight.

  • The criticality of the service they provide: Vendors that provide services essential to your business operations may pose a higher risk and thus should carry a higher weight.

  • The potential impact of disruption or breach: Vendors that are critical to your organisation's operations or that could cause significant damage if their services were disrupted may also warrant a higher weight.

  • The likelihood of disruption or breach: Some vendors may be more prone to disruptions or breaches due to their size, industry, or the nature of their services. These vendors may also warrant a higher weight.

Define the Minimum Cybersecurity Requirements

Defining minimum cybersecurity requirements for vendors is an important step in managing vendor risks and ensuring the security of your organization's data and systems. These requirements can help to ensure that vendors are meeting basic security standards and can help to mitigate the risks posed by vendors.

Some key considerations when defining cybersecurity requirements for vendors might include:

  • Data protection and privacy: Vendors should have appropriate safeguards to protect the data they handle and ensure that it is not accessed or shared without authorization. General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) compliance and other relevant privacy regulations should be considered.

  • Access controls: Vendors should have strict access controls to prevent unauthorized access to your organization's data and systems.

  • Encryption: Vendors should use encryption to protect data in transit and at rest.

  • Incident response: Vendors should have a plan in place to respond to security incidents and should be able to provide timely and accurate reporting in the event of a breach.

Third-Party, Supply-Chain Vendors Assessments

Perform Annual Assessments

Performing annual assessments of your vendors and analyzing the results can help you identify any gaps or weaknesses in your vendor management processes that may have emerged over the course of the year and take steps to address them.

To perform an annual assessment of your vendors, you might follow these steps:

  1. Review your vendor list and categorize each vendor based on their type (such as cloud providers, software vendors, hardware vendors, etc.).

  2. Develop a questionnaire or checklist to use during the assessment process. This might include questions about the vendor's security measures, data protection practices, incident response processes, and other relevant areas.

  3. Conduct the assessments with each vendor, either in person or remotely, depending on your organization's preferences and the vendor's availability.

  4. Analyze the results of the assessments to identify any gaps or weaknesses in your vendor management processes.

  5. Develop a plan to address any identified gaps or weaknesses, including implementing new security measures, strengthening existing controls, or finding alternative vendors if necessary.

Monitoring the Vendors to Close the Gaps Identified

The final step in third-party risk management is to regularly monitor your vendors and the systems they manage on your behalf. This can help to identify any new risks that may have emerged since the last assessment and ensure that all requirements are being met.

Here are a few steps you can follow to ensure that your vendors are meeting their obligations and closing any identified gaps:

  1. Communicate with your vendors: After performing a vendor assessment and identifying any gaps or vulnerabilities, communicate these findings to your vendors and work with them to develop a plan for addressing them. This might include setting specific deadlines for implementing new controls or providing additional training to staff.

  2. Review and verify: To ensure that your vendors are following through on their commitments, regularly review and verify that they are taking the necessary steps to close any identified gaps. This might include requesting documentation or conducting passive scanning to check for suspicious activity.

  3. Monitor for ongoing risks: Even after gaps have been addressed, continue monitoring your vendors to ensure they remain compliant with your organization's security standards. This might include regularly reviewing vendor policies and procedures and monitoring for any changes or developments that could impact your organization's security.


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