Do You Have Secure Vendors? Here’s How to Find Out

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In our digital age, the cybersecurity of your business is not the only thing you have to worry about. When a cyberattack happens, it can often be traced back to your vendors. In fact, it happened to Target a few years ago. It’s important now more than ever to make sure you have secure vendors on your team. The good news is a cybersecurity provider can help you vet your vendors.

Why Should You Care About Vendor Security?

If your vendor has access to sensitive information such as credit cards, medical data or any other personally identifiable information, that can pose a potential security risk. Protecting your company’s and your customers’ sensitive information should be a priority. You are only as secure as your least secure vendor. 

The consequences of not ensuring your company is using secure vendors can cause legal trouble, data breaches and reputation damage. Those consequences are hard to recover from. It can sometimes take years of work to get back to your previous status. 

There’s no need to cut off relations with all your vendors. Instead, you can rely on a vendor security assessment. 

What’s Included in a Vendor Security Assessment?

The assessment will give an overview and evaluate any potential risks and vulnerabilities associated with the vendor. It will assess threats to compliance, data confidentiality and how adequate the vendor’s systems and software updates are. The secure vendor assessments generally give a score. When you receive all your vendors’ scores, you can rank them to see which ones you need immediate attention. 

Who Should Do the Vendor Security Vetting?

It’s important that a cyber security professional conducts your assessment. This can be someone on your team or an external consultant. Either one should be a specialist in cyber security and vendor risk management. 

A lawyer or member of your legal department should read through any vendor contracts. Have them keep a close eye on any mentions of cybersecurity and clauses.

How to Vet Your Vendors for Security

Here are some key steps to take when ensuring you have secure vendors:

  • Review compliance reports: Your vendors should send you a compliance report on a yearly basis (at a minimum). If they do not, you may need to request it. It is important to read through these reports thoroughly. Ensure that the scope matches the services they provide. There should be details on certifications, security processes and how they address control gaps. If your vendor marks “not applicable” and does not give a clear explanation, it is important to ask for more clarification. A secure vendor is essential. If they cannot or will not provide a security report, you may want to rethink how secure your vendor is.
  • Talk to the right people: When enquiring about the security of your vendors, do not rely on anyone who is not in the cybersecurity department for insights. Interview the cybersecurity professional on their expertise, and how their cybersecurity protocols work, especially when they interact with their vendors. For example, how do they securely send data to their clients?
  • Review vendor agreements: Once again, we highly recommend that you and legal counsel review any vendor agreements. This is where you can see how they will take responsibility for protecting your data and intellectual property. Pay particular attention to clauses that guarantee they’ll maintain their security and compliance posture. Keep this agreement in mind when you are reviewing the compliance reports mentioned earlier. 
  • Avoid automated questionnaires: There are plenty of generic vendor questionnaires on the internet, but they tend to be fairly generic and not geared toward your company’s specific needs. These questionnaires can be a good jumping-off point, but used as is, you may get too much irrelevant information. If you do not have a security team of your own, contacting a security company is a good place to start. 

Benefits of a Strong Vendor Security Program

By proactively ensuring you have secure vendors, you gain key advantages:

  • Reduced security risk: You will be able to address any potential security vulnerabilities before they become an issue.
  • Improved compliance: When partnering with secure vendors, they actively support your compliance efforts with any relevant data privacy regulations. 
  • Focus on core business: When you know you have a team of secure vendors on your side, you free up valuable time and resources for your business, no matter how big or small. 

Security Ratings: Another Tool for Secure Vendors

Security ratings offer a valuable tool for analyzing vendor risk within your organization.  These ratings can help you prioritize which vendors require the most attention when it comes to security monitoring.

Selecting Secure Vendors: Evaluating Security Ratings 

First, create a list or spreadsheet with all of your vendors. Next to their name you will want to assign a security rating. This rating should be based on their access level (Do they have access to your building? Your files?) and level of risk. 

You will need to create clear risk management expectations, this should come through defined metrics. These key performance indicators (KPIs) should be used to regularly monitor vendor performance. You may even want to consider adding these KPIs to any contracts you have with your vendors.

Based on the number of vendors you have, assign a team or someone on your team to regularly monitor vendor security. There should always be continuous monitoring. 

Leverage a Security Company to Be Proactive

When you proactively determine if you have secure vendors on your team, you can save your company from major security risks. Ensuring their security can help you maintain compliance with laws and regulations, keep sensitive data private and more. Do you need a qualified team to continuously vet your vendors? Book a meeting with us today to better protect your business from third-party risks.



OrlanTech is a managed service provider (MSP) that was founded in 1995 and is now the market leader in delivering technology-as-a-service to small and medium size businesses (SMB) in the central Florida area.

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