The technology industry is at the forefront of digital transformation, enabling all other industries to achieve greater operational capabilities and connectivity through innovative solutions. Tech companies, such as SaaS vendors, provide crucial software infrastructure to hundreds or even thousands of other organizations. These vendors access, store and transmit large volumes of sensitive information, including valuable healthcare and finance data.
Tech companies must implement strict data protection measures as part of an overall robust cybersecurity program to ensure the troves of sensitive data they handle remains safe. For complete protection, they must also ensure their own vendors are upholding adequate information security measures as part of a robust TPRM (third-party risk management) program. A data breach anywhere in the supply chain is an immediate cause for concern for all linked organizations.
Read on to learn more about why managing third-party vendor risk is crucial in the tech industry, with effective security practices for ensuring supply chain security.
Why Tech Industry Vendor Risks Are So Dangerous
Motivated by political or social reasons, hacktivists target powerful institutions, like government agencies and large financial institutions, to send a message. Aware of the advanced security measures such organizations deploy, these seasoned cybercriminals pair open source intelligence with more intrusive measures to scope an organization’s entire ecosystem for external connections.
Tech vendors are more prone to having vulnerabilities and weaker access management controls, such as a lack of multi-factor authentication and excessive cloud permissions, offering the perfect attack vector for hackers. Paired with the potential to compromise multiple high-profile companies at once, hacktivists see the maximum potential in software service providers.
Supply chain cyber attacks against major software providers with poor data security have devastating ripple effects. A prime example is the SolarWinds attack of December 2020, which caused irreversible reputational damage following notification of the large-scale data breach.
A group of nation-state threat actors found a backdoor in the network management vendor’s Orion software and injected malware that was then delivered to victims via a routine software update. This malicious code infected almost 18,000 Orion users, including the US Government, who unknowingly installed the code via a contaminated software update.
Other tech vendors, including Intel, NVIDIA, and Microsoft, also paid the price for this large-scale security incident. Thousands of their customers’ data were subsequently compromised during the breach.
The crippling domino effect data breaches of this nature have is why it’s so important for tech companies to extend their cybersecurity measures to address the supply chain attack surface, and third-party vendor security risks.
How to Manage Vendor Risk in the Tech Industry
1. Perform Due Diligence
Tech companies must perform due diligence throughout the entire vendor lifecycle – from onboarding to offboarding, starting with a risk assessment. Risk assessments surface vulnerabilities and threats affecting a vendor. They also document a vendor’s compliance with required cybersecurity frameworks and regulations.
Organizations can leverage these insights to determine if their risk appetite aligns with the cybersecurity risks associated with the vendor before commencing the vendor relationship. Failure to vet vendors during the onboarding process can easily result in data breaches facilitated by unforeseen vulnerabilities in the IT vendor’s Infrastructure.
Once onboarded, vendors must be subject to routine security questionnaires to ensure they’re upholding an acceptable level of cybersecurity and continuing to comply with mandatory requirements – a time-consuming task when performed manually.
Vendor risk management (VRM) software automates the risk assessment process, including the sending, completion, and documentation of security questionnaires. Complete VRM solutions also provide security ratings, which organizations can leverage for quick insights into a vendor’s security posture between assessments.
2. Prioritize High-Risk Vendors
With a focus on shipping new in-demand products at speed, tech solution providers are rapidly outsourcing key operations. Now facing an ever-growing list of vendors, addressing the cyber risks of each service provider is near impossible. Tech providers can manage their risk remediation efforts by prioritizing their high-risk vendors. Implementing a vendor tiering strategy helps security teams systematically rank their vendors by business impact.
UpGuard automates the vendor tiering process for faster prioritization. The Vendor Risk Matrix feature offers a visual comparison of vendors’ level of risk and business impact, allowing security teams to clearly communicate these insights to executive management.
3. Address Compliance Gaps
Most cybersecurity legal and regulatory compliance requirements mandate an organization’s vendors must also comply with all applicable security controls. If a tech company’s vendor fails to comply with these security standards, the company itself also faces non-compliance. Regularly addressing any compliance gaps through security questionnaires is the key to maintaining compliance year-round. With several industry frameworks and regulations to consider across hundreds to thousands of vendors, traditional spreadsheet documentation methods are growing obsolete.
The most efficient way to assess compliance at scale is using a VRM solution with a pre-built security questionnaire library for the most popular cybersecurity standards, such as NIST CSF and ISO 27001. UpGuard pairs its built-in questionnaire library with a Compliance Mapping feature, allowing security teams to easily identify vendors’ compliance gaps and implement threat mitigation strategies.
4. Continuously Monitor the Entire Attack Surface
Cyber threats emerge daily. Left undetected, zero-day vulnerabilities are the attack vector of choice for cybercriminals looking for a direct pathway into software providers’ infrastructure. Tech companies need equal visibility into security flaws affecting their internal and third-party attack surface to ensure comprehensive supply chain coverage.
Complete attack surface management solutions extend their real-time threat detection to the third and even fourth-party ecosystem. UpGuard instantly detects vulnerabilities in the supply chain, with automated workflows to ensure remediation occurs before security breaches can.