Today’s business enterprises are adopting technology at an unprecedented rate, facilitated by factors like labor shortages, tech advancements, and the quest for efficiency. But the COVID-19 situation, arguably the most poignant issue in recent history, has been predominant, resulting in a mass transition to remote work setups.
Technology has enabled the work arrangements and ensured business continuity. But it has come with diverse malicious cyber activity and cyberattacks that add risk to systems and operations, whether you manage them internally or outsource them to third parties.
Still, it’s easy to think you’re doing everything right to overcome the risks, including augmenting your IT and implementing advanced threat detection and mitigation tools. And so you relax knowing that you’ve covered every base. But this may not be the case because you’re still vulnerable if you don’t ward off third-party cybersecurity attacks.
What Is a Third Party Cyberattack?
Also called a supply chain attack or value-chain attack, this threat occurs when a threat actor infiltrates your infrastructure via an external provider or partner authorized to access your data and systems.
This has radically transformed the typical enterprise attack surface as more service providers access sensitive data than ever before.
Increasingly, every company’s risk strategy must involve all the third parties within its supply network. This is because:
- Half of all malicious activities involve island-hoping, where threat actors move laterally in your network and then infiltrate and access partners.
- Supply chain cybersecurity risks are advancing because mobile devices, digitization, and hybrid work setups are expanding the playing field.
- Data breaches take approximately 280 days to be detected.
- No matter the size or years of operations, every business is at risk.
- Cyberattacks are among the leading causes of lost revenue and sometimes business closures.
Malicious actors look for the weakest link in your third-party relationship to access your systems. Therefore, how you effectively handle your supply base will determine your cybersecurity and risk environment.
Properly assessing your suppliers’ data protection and cyber risk management measures can protect you from financial losses or a damaged reputation.
Top Third-Party Risk Cyber Gaps
Partnering with third-party entities potentially expands your attack surface. This is a leading concern, considering a business can lose up to $3.86 million from a simple data breach.
Generally, vendor relationships bring with them numerous vulnerabilities. The most popular loopholes used by threat actors include:
Most companies still leverage vulnerable unpatched technology, yet this is among the top loopholes for threat actors. These aren’t usually updated and likely have numerous known vulnerabilities and exploits.
Using updated resources will help you overcome cybersecurity susceptibilities. The versions have critical fixes and enhancements to address cybersecurity and data privacy loopholes.
There have been numerous reports where criminals introduce hacked code in updates, and company security programs fail to detect them until the damage occurs.
Overlooked Third-Party GDPR Requirements
If you work with third-party service providers outside Europe, you might assume that GDPR isn’t a critical concern – and you’d be wrong to think so.
Companies that have establishments in any European nation provide goods or services to the citizens of these countries, or observe consumer attributes in the EU must align with the regulations. Their third-party partners should also do so. Failure to abide could subject you to severe penalties.
But you’re not just doing it to avoid penalties. Compliance can enhance your IT security and make it easy to handle vendor risks when doing business with third parties.
Open Ports with High-Risk Service
An open port is a TCP or UDP port number that can accept packets. On the other hand, a closed port will reject connections or ignore all packets.
Ports enable your internet connection model to exchange communication, and services relying on internet connectivity (such as file transfers, browsers, and web pages) use them to receive and transmit data.
Developers use them to share data from host to host and run encrypted tunnels. Once a service uses a particular port, running other services will be impossible.
An open port can be a system weak point allowing attackers to tag legitimate services or use malware and social engineering to introduce malicious ones. They can illegally access your data by running these services on your open port.
Unknown Service Providers
As obvious as it may seem, some companies still operate without knowing the vendors they’re connected with. Organizations partnering with numerous suppliers mostly have extra partners they weren’t aware of, which could be a significant cyber risk.
How will you block cybersecurity mishaps if you don’t even know the third parties you’re dealing with in the first place? Failing to monitor and uncover the available vendor relationships could leave you susceptible.
Not Using the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTPS)
HTTP simply enables system communication by transferring data from servers to users’ web browsers. A secure HTTP sign is usually a padlock icon within the address bar (you’ve likely come across one).
Any major website on the web most likely limits unencrypted HTTP traffic.
However, some sites don’t support it entirely, even in sectors that deal with sensitive data. This could be due to expired, missing, invalid SSL certificates or unsecured third-party resources.
Such an internet protocol isn’t secure, and it’s easy for threat actors to eavesdrop on all communications within your network.
The best way to avoid this risk is to transfer sensitive business data securely and only allow authorized users and web servers to access it. This is the work of HTTP.
Lacking a Web Application Firewall (WAF)
Mobile applications and websites face the threat of numerous attacks, including scrapping, DDoS, injections, and cross-site scripting.
A Web Application Firewall is your most effective way around it, protecting you from complex patching problems, phishing, cloud vulnerabilities, and ransomware.
A WAF monitors, blocks, and filters malicious HTTPS traffic, leaving your site and applications secure. It also blocks unauthorized users from accessing your valuable data within the app. Lacking it simply means you’re jeopardizing your system.
Human error is a crucial cybersecurity loophole for any vendor relationship. The risk mainly occurs when employees don’t practice due diligence.
However, many still fail to watch out for activities that can possibly introduce malicious software into their systems.
File sharing and exposed credentials are the most common risks in this category. A threat possibility comes when employees ignore peer-to-peer exchange protocols when transferring media or software. Doing this could leave your infrastructure susceptible to malware infections.
Dubious web asset certifications
While it’s easy to leave untrusted web asset certificates scattered, this is a significant cybersecurity loophole for companies dealing with third parties. These could be self-signed, expired, or invalid certificates that primarily occur when you ignore authentication tasks.
You may be doing everything right on your side, but most vendors keep untrusted certificates, mainly because they’re unused or unofficial items. But there’s a significant danger because criminals continually look for unmonitored or unpatched servers and other similar entry points within your network.
How to Manage Vendor Cyber Risk
With all the possible cyber risks affecting your vendor relationships, it’s time to take action and secure your systems and business. Here’s how you can manage cybersecurity risk in your organization:
Know Your Vendors
First, create a list of vendors authorized to access your systems or data. You can’t manage something you don’t know about, so make sure you maintain an updated vendors list.
Classify The Vendors
There’s no one-size-fits-all in cyber risk. So you can simplify the job by classifying your vendors based on the sensitivity of the systems and data they access.
Determine Your Review and Monitoring
Next, you’ll establish the monitoring frequency and levels of review based on the type and level of third-party risk. Your partners’ access to your systems or data and the information sensitivity will determine the occurrence and depth of reviews.
Maintain consistent monitoring to stay on top of the ever-changing risk environment. Attackers tend to change their methods and threats, and ongoing reviews will prepare your partners for emerging threats.
Know Your Vendors’ Vendors
As more companies access your data, so does your cyber risk. So list all your fourth parties that can access your systems or process your data, then implement the relevant cybersecurity measures.
Hire A Cybersecurity Expert
Understandably, it’s not easy to stay ahead of all cyber threats originating from your vendors’ side and still deliver optimally in your core business. Outsourcing your system security functions to a specialized third party will give you peace of mind and time to optimize your operations.
There’s an ongoing cybersecurity threat associated with third-party relationships, and many organizations have fallen victim to ransomware attacks and data breaches. Every entrepreneur or IT leader must prepare their organization for such risks.
You can only beat them by understanding the most common loopholes and implementing the best practices outlined above. This way, you’ll know all your partners and ensure they align with your cybersecurity strategy.