Vendor security questionnaires accurately evaluate a third-party supplier’s attack surface, but only if they’re utilized intelligently. The quality, and therefore, accuracy, of questionnaires rapidly deteriorates when they become excessively lengthy, one-size-fits-all templates bloated with jargon.

In this post, we suggest x actions for improving the accuracy of your security questionnaires and the overall efficiency of your security questionnaire process.

1. Create Customized Questionnaires

Sending generic security questionnaires might improve productivity from a risk management perspective, but this usually results in many questions having little relevance to vendors, leading to rushed and inaccurate responses.

The solution is to create customized questionnaires tailored to the specific security context of each vendor relationship. Targeted questionnaires don’t only produce more meaningful data for Vendor Risk Management programs because they’re concise and not time-consuming, vendors are encouraged to complete them faster- ideal behavior that’s very difficult to achieve.

What Details Should a Custom Questionnaire Include?

For your custom questionnaire to be highly targeted, it should consider the following categories of cybersecurity information:

  • Regulatory compliance requirements - Your questionnaire should map to each vendor’s regulatory requirements and ideally be capable of identifying all compliance gaps against each standard.
  • Third-Party Risk Management (TPRM) requirements - Your custom questionnaire should include all data security requirements based on regulatory TPRM standards and any vendor information security standards specified by your VRM program.
  • Your risk appetite - Your vendor assessment questionnaire should evaluate the efficacy of each vendor’s security controls and security practices against your organization’s risk appetite.

To learn about UpGuard’s custom questionnaire builder, watch the video below.

Learn how to choose security questionnaire automation software >

2. Simplify the Language of Security Questionnaires

Cybersecurity is a highly-technical field, and as such, using technical jargon in security assessments almost feels necessary to preserve the integrity and accuracy of each question. Unfortunately, not all third-party vendors are familiar with security program esoterics, so this habit increases the risk of inaccurate security questionnaire responses.

Aim to simplify the language of each vendor questionnaire, or at the very least, include additional notes explaining each question in simple terms. This will require some form of questionnaire customization, either with a custom questionnaire-building solution mentioned in the previous point or with spreadsheets (although using spreadsheets isn’t recommended for vendor risk assessments - see this case study to learn why).

If simplifying complex questions isn’t your strong point, you can enlist the help of ChatGPT. If you’re not confident in writing in general, ChatGPT can help you streamline the entire assessment process by creating questionnaires for you.

Learn how to use ChatGPT to create security questionnaires >

3. Don’t Only Rely on Security Questionnaires

Security questionnaires are point-in-time assessments, meaning they only reflect the state of a vendor’s security posture at the time of each assessment. Between due diligence and all other formal assessments, the cybersecurity risks associated with service providers are unknown.

Security questionnaires are point-in-time assessments only reflect the state of a vendor’s security posture at the time of each assessment

The solution is to broaden security posture monitoring efforts to address the attack surface gaps between risk assessments. This is best achieved by augmenting security questionnaires with security ratings.

Attack sirface monitoring ensuring real-time third-party risk awareness.

Security ratings represent an organization’s level of cyber threat resilience as a value. They are calculated by evaluating a vendor’s attack surface against a series of attack vectors, which produces an unbiased, objective quantification of each vendor’s security posture. Vendor Risk Management platforms, like UpGuard, offer this augmentation to provide security teams with continuous awareness of the state of their third-party attack surface.

Learn how UpGuard calculates security ratings >

Without real-time awareness of each vendor’s security posture, you could be overlooking exposures to data breach risks.

How UpGuard Can Help

UpGuard helps risk management teams collect accurate and valuable data from security questionnaires with the following set of features:

  • Customizable Questionnaires - Create highly-targeted questionnaires that are actually relevant to each vendor’s security context, either by modifying existing industry-standard questionnaires or building completely bespoke assessments from a blank canvas. With the option of complete customization, questionnaires can also be simplified to ensure clarity and understanding.

  • Security Rating + Questionnaires - Remain informed of emerging third-party data breach risks in real-time through a combination of point-in-time assessment and security ratings.

  • Regulatory Compliance Tracking - Monitor vendor security compliance by identifying compliance gaps against popular regulations and frameworks, including GDPR, HIPAA NIST CSF, CIS Controls 7.1, ISO 27001, and many more.

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