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Vendor Cyber Risk Management: Now Is a Good Time to Do Another Check-In

4 min read
Featured Image

Tis the season! Third party risk will never be the same. Why is it that cyber thieves, aka hackers, are more active around the holidays? Around Halloween each year, information security professionals begin the process of bracing for the inevitable onslaught of bad actors attempting to perform a successful business email compromise (BEC) or a corporate account takeover. BEC revolves around a bad actor gaining control of an email account which results in money being wired from a business’ bank account to a fraudulent bank account controlled by a bad actor.

Corporate account takeovers are usually executed by a bad actor farming enough information about a business or a high net worth individual to gain access to their bank account, and again, wire the money to an offshore account. At the same time, massive numbers of consumers go online to shop! For all these reasons, it’s a great time to do another vendor cyber risk check-in.

Online shopping overtook sales in stores in February this year while cybercrime is literally costing the world billions every year. You can see where this is going. Right? It doesn’t end well. Today, internet gold isn’t just found in Bitcoins. It’s found in the bank accounts and debit/credit cards of everyone who has a bank account or a debit/credit card. Businesses worldwide are under siege from cyberthieves working day and night to invent new ways to access data and turn that data into dollars. Consumers worldwide are at risk of falling prey to fraudulent experiences and both the consumer and their credit card company lose money.

Like the rising tide raising all boats, third party risk also rises during this time of year. And, don’t forget about the fourth party risk…Let’s just say failure to properly manage all your vendors and all your vendor’s vendors can lead to your organization becoming a Fox News moment and yet another statistic in the fight against cybercrime.  

How Do Vendor Managers Fight Cyber Risk?

So, what do you do? Ramp up ongoing monitoring. We often refer to ongoing monitoring as the forgotten pillar of vendor management. When it comes to cybercrime, forgetting this pillar is not the best place to find yourself during the holidays.

It’s critical to monitor your vendors’ cyber preparedness with SSAE 18 SOC report reviews and, if needed, you can utilize monitoring services like Security Scorecard to get an idea of how secure your vendors are when handling your data or your customer’s data. These reports are part of the big picture.

If the SOC reports or the security monitoring service are giving you information that causes you to pause, then you need to take the following five steps for your critical and high-risk vendors to keep Santa from leaving you a lump of coal.

  1. Review your risk ratings for the vendor and the product or service to determine if there are any areas that require your scrutiny. Your critical and high-risk vendors are where you need to focus this effort. Any critical or high-risk vendor that has a high inherent risk score in a technical area is the focus of this exercise.

  2. Ask your vendor for a copy of their SETA (security education and training awareness) program. The SETA program is where your vendor will be attempting to educate their employees and customers on the perils of opening the wrong email or giving out information over the phone without properly authenticating the person on the other end of the line and the steps to take in the event a security incident occurs. Remember, it only takes one click to allow a bad actor to gain access to money.

  3. Take the lead. When it comes to cybersecurity, be a leader and not a follower. Communicate well with each of your critical and high-risk vendors and ask how they’re preparing for the risky season. Ultimately, you’re all in this together.

  4. If you have a vendor that is struggling with cybersecurity or just having a problem with technology in general, create a plan of action for your worst-case scenario. It’s better to think it through now than to wait until everyone around you is scrambling to recover.

  5. Prepare your staff. Ensure they’re ready to handle the inevitable increase in customer touches.

You must wonder why bad actors love the holiday season. It’s simple really. We are all human. We all have sleepless nights and things that happen in our personal lives that can distract us. A distracted employee can click on the wrong link in an email or forget to properly authenticate someone calling in to move funds from one account to another. All of us have clicked on an email that we shouldn’t have or taken a website redirection we shouldn’t have. Today, that can lead to ransomware, corporate account takeover or a business email compromise. During the holidays there are more distractions for us and more opportunity for the bad actors.

You simply can’t cover all the bases by yourself. You’re going to need help to keep the money in the right hands. Educating your employees and checking in on your vendors is key.

General Security Tips

Yes, this is meant to be an informative blog on how to check-in on your vendors this time of the year and why; however, I think it’s helpful to share some general security tips:

  1. Never allow anyone access to your bank account. Use credit cards and not automatic withdrawals.
  2. Be sure to properly authenticate every caller. Even your mother. Never rely on caller ID. Phone numbers are too easy to spoof today.
  3. Be extra vigilant when you’re using email.
  4. Always shop on a secure website. Look for the https:// in the search bar (the “s” indicates it’s a secure site).
  5. Never use your debit card to shop online.
  6. Reach out to your customers with a version of your SETA program geared to help them cope with the increased risk of the season.
  7. Prepare for the inevitable fraud that will occur. Plan your response before you need it!

We all need to be extra cautious all year, but especially this time of the year – vendors, organizations, customers.

Proactively prepare for vendor data breaches to safe guard your organization. Download the infographic. 


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