Third-party vendors are an important source of strategic advantage, cost savings and expertise. Yet outsourcing is not without cybersecurity risk. As organizations' reliance on third parties grow, so too does their exposure to third-party risk and fourth-party risk.

A HSB survey found nearly half of data breaches in 2017 were caused by a third-party vendor or contractor. and the yearly Cost of a Data Breach report by IBM and the Ponemon institutes consistently finds that breaches involving third-party vendors result in higher damage costs.

These concerning trends are encouraging organizations to strengthen their Third-Party Risk Management (TPRM) and Vendor Risk Management (VRM) investments. However, with an increased dependence on VRM technology comes an increased need for scalability.

The influence of automation technology could drastically improve the efficiency and scalability of your VRM program, supporting vendor risk mitigation and reducing the threat of reputational damage that often follows a supply chain attack.

For an overview of how to improve the scalability of your VRM lifecycle with automation technology, follow these four tips.

Learn how UpGuard streamlines Vendor Risk Management >

1. Use Risk Management Automation to Improve the Speed of Vendor Risk Assessments

Third-party risk management software can greatly increase the speed at which your organization can identify risks. A key challenge for most organization's third-party risk management programs.

Traditional vendor risk assessment processes and communication methods have long turnaround times, inhibiting your organization's ability to obtain a quick and comprehensive view of your digital supply chain's security posture. This can greatly increase the risk exposure of your organization and delay the onboarding of new service providers.

In order to make quick decisions, Governance, Risk, and Compliance (GRC) teams need to be able to access and aggregate data about third-party relationships quickly and efficiently.

The speed at which your organization can comprehensively assess vendor information is critical to the success of any Vendor Risk Management program and, ultimately the value that new vendor relationships bring to your business.

Learn about the top VRM solution options on the market >

Automaton technology can increase the speed of risk assessment delivery in two ways:

(a) Leverage AI technology in Questionnaire Response Workflows

Questionnaire responses need to be detailed, but often anxiety over ensuring readability could remove one’s focus from delivering value. The integration of AI technology addresses both metrics of this question.

AIEnhance by UpGuard is an example of such an implementation. With AIEnhance, questionnaire recipients can generate detailed and well-written responses from either a set of bullet points or a roughly written draft, allowing respondents to focus entirely on delivering value.

UpGuard's AIEnhance feature
UpGuard's AIEnhance feature

(b) Autofill Questionniare Responses

Another very powerful method of spending up risk assessment submissions is to automate the process of completing security questionnaires. UpGuard is pioneering this area of automation with the development of its AI Autofill feature.

UpGuard leverages automation technology to streamline what's arguably the most frustrating component of Vendor Risk Management - vendor questionnaires.

AI Autofill by UpGuard instantly generates questionnaire response suggestions by referencing a repository of historical questionnaire responses. With this feature, vendors no longer need to keep a record of all questionnaire responses in spreadsheets. Now, by using the UpGuard platform as a tool in a VRM program, vendors can complete and submit their questionnaires in just hours instead of weeks.

Learn how to implement an effective VRM workflow >

With faster questionnaire submissions, your security teams can understand the state of each vendor’s security controls quicker and complete vendor assessments more efficiently.

UpGuard's AI autofill feature suggesting a response based on referenced source data.
UpGuard's AI autofill feature suggesting a response based on referenced source data.
UpGuard's AI Autofill feature removes all of the frustrating, manual processes commonly associated with security questionnaires, giving your VRM program a significant competitive advantage.

Watch this video for an overview of UpGuard's AI Autofill feature.

Learn more about UpGuard’s AI-powered features >

2. Use Editable Templates for Security Questionnaires

Editbale questionnaire templates streamline questionnaire delivery workflows, supporting quicker risk assessment processes.

When these editable templates map to popular regulatory standards and cyber frameworks, such as the GDPR, PCI DSS, ISO 27001, etc., they automate the discovery of compliance gaps against these standards, which positively impacts vendor onboarding, and VRM techniques like vendor tiering.

A snapshot of some questionnaire themes available on the UpGuard platform
A snapshot of some questionnaire themes available on the UpGuard platform

Learn more about UpGuard’s security questionnaires >

Watch this video to learn how the UpGuard platform can be used to manage compliance with NIST CSF and ISO 27001.

Learn how to get your security questionniares completed faster >

3. Use Automation in Risk Management to Improve the Scalability of your VRM Team

The number of vendors and other third parties in every organization's ecosystem is on the rise. According to a report by BeyondTrust, on average, 181 vendors are granted access to a company's network in a single week, more than double the number from 2016.

Most organizations are resource-constrained and do not have the people or time required to adequately conduct due diligence on all of their third and fourth parties.

This is why IT security teams are quickly turning to software to automate the burden of third-party risk management processes allowing them to focus on vendors based on risk and criticality to the business.

With the vendor landscape increasing so quickly, continuous monitoring efforts are getting more difficult to manage with internal resources alone.

The most cost-effective method of addressing the problem of increasing vendor vulnerabilities and lack of real-time visibility with limited TPRM bandwidth is to leverage managed third-party risk services. A Third-Party Risk Management service (TPRMs) allows organizations to quickly flex their internal resources towards a higher risk management output in line with seasonal variances. Should stakeholders prefer to embrace the cost-saving benefits of outsourcing a complete TPRM program to a managed service, this will result in the most scalable VRM program model, one that can rapidly expand, free from the logistical constraints associated with growing an internal team.

For an overview of how a Third-Party Risk Management service works, watch this video.

Learn how to choose automated vendor risk remediation software >

4. Use Technology to Improve Collaboration

The most difficult aspect of vendor risk management isn't identifying the risk. It's working with vendors, suppliers, and third parties and giving them the resources they need to fix security issues. Getting vendors to act quickly means that both organizations must communicate effectively, using data and evidence rather than conjecture.

Additionally, it can be hard to prioritize what to fix first and which security issues are weakening your security posture the most. For small vendors with limited resources, understanding what actions provide the greatest improvement is essential.

Just as SLAs are becoming more data-driven, you need to have a data-driven conversation with vendors and have an agreement about what will be fixed first and be able to independently verify when it has been fixed.

Helping your vendors remediate risks and improve their security posture doesn't just benefit your organization, it benefits the broader ecosystem as shared third parties make security improvements.

UpGuard's Vendor Risk management tool provides organizations and their vendors with the data and resources that are critical to these conversations.

Watch this video for an overview of how UpGuard innovates the vendor collaboration process.

Take a self-guided tour of UpGUard's Vendor Risk Management solution >

How UpGuard Helps With Automated Risk Management

UpGuard Vendor Risk helps organizations scale their third-party risk program by automatically monitoring their vendors' security performance over time and benchmarking their performance against their industry.

Each vendor is rated against 70+ criteria and given a Cyber Security Rating calculated daily., allowing you to track the security postures of all your vendors in real-time.

Security rating calculations on the UpGuard platform.
Security rating calculations on the UpGuard platform.
UpGuard will notify you when a vendor’s score drops and automate your security questionnaires to help scale your security team by 10x.

Our risk management system centralizes your vendor risk into a dashboard that prioritizes the most critical risks and provides remediation workflows to ensure risks are resolved in an auditable manner.

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