Effectively Managing Third Party Risk at Scale

Third party risk is a significant problem as demonstrated by numerous breaches and security incidents that exploit trusted relationships. One of the major causes of third party risk is a reliance on outdated security technologies with overly permissive access controls. Replacing these solutions with alternatives like zero trust SDP is a critical first step in eliminating third party risks.

Third Party Risk is a Serious Security Issue

Organizations have a number of different cybersecurity risks to be concerned about. Attackers gain access to enterprise systems in a number of different ways and exploit this access to deliver malware or steal sensitive information.

However, one of the most significant security risks from an enterprise comes from trusted outsiders. Of the 44% of organizations that have experienced a security incident within the last year, 74% claim that this breach was made possible because too much access and privilege were granted to third parties.

These security incidents aren’t caused by these trusted partners exploiting their access for personal gain. Instead, cybercriminals take advantage of these trusted relationships to maximize the impact of their attacks. If an organization is compromised by a cybercriminal, that attacker likely gains access to all of the organizations with whom the company has trusted relationships as well for free.

The widespread existence of these trusted relationships makes certain organizations a prime target for certain cyber threat actors. Targeting a managed services provider (MSP) allows an attacker to maximize the impact of their attack because it provides access to customer environments as well. Alternatively, an attacker could exploit a vendor’s poor cybersecurity as a first step in exploiting a more secure and more tempting target.

With trusted third parties granted privileged access to an organization’s systems, a company’s security is only as good as that of its least secure partner. Cybercriminals are well aware of this and are exploiting it in their attacks.

The Challenges of Managing Third Party Risk

Third party risk management is difficult because it requires a careful balance between security and achieving business objectives. On the one hand, strictly limiting or completely eliminating access to an organization’s network and systems is the best way of protecting against third party risk. On the other, some vendors, suppliers, and partners may have a legitimate need for access.

The best approach to managing third-party risk is to implement the principle of least privilege. This states that any user should only have the permissions that they need to do their job. While this means that third parties may still have access and pose a risk if their accounts are compromised, the damage that can be done is limited to the minimum possible without impairing business operations. However, in most cases, organizations are not following the principle of least privilege, as demonstrated by the vast number of organizations breached due to “excessive permissions” granted to external organizations.

Managing user permissions based on business needs is at the core of a zero trust security strategy. However, many organizations – despite the best of intentions – struggle to effectively implement zero trust. The reason for this is not a lack of interest or motivation but the fact that they often lack the resources required to do so.

Many of the networking and security solutions in common use today are not designed for a zero trust environment. For example, virtual private networks (VPNs) require user authentication and encrypt communications but provide full access to the target network to authorized users. VPNs are some of the most commonly used secure remote access solutions, and this popularity of legacy solutions is what makes implementing zero trust and managing third party risk so difficult.

Achieving Scalable Third Party Risk Management with SASE

Organizations will never be successful at implementing zero trust security and managing third party risk without the right tools. While VPNs and similar tools can be augmented with additional solutions for implementing zero trust access controls, this adds additional expense and complexity for resource-limited and understaffed security teams. A secure solution requires better tools.

An important first step in managing the cybersecurity risk posed by third parties is moving to a secure, zero trust-friendly network security solution, like SASE. SASE is a cloud-based solution that integrates the network optimization capabilities of SD-WAN with a full security stack. This makes it an ideal solution for implementing a corporate WAN because it allows organizations to achieve both high network performance and strong security.

From a secure remote access perspective, a major benefit of SASE is that one of the components of this integrated security stack is zero trust network access (ZTNA). ZTNA, also known as a software-defined perimeter (SDP), provides the same remote access capabilities as a VPN but allows access on a case-by-case basis driven by zero-trust access controls. This, combined with the global reach and high-performance networking of SASE, creates an ideal solution for providing access to trusted third parties without opening up the corporate network to attack.

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