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Third-Party Data Protection: Are Your Vendors Prepared?

3 min read
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As news of recent data breaches has become more common, it’s more important than ever to protect your organization from cyber criminals. Organizations who have fallen victim to data breaches suffer legal action as well as damages to reputation and revenue.

However, ensuring that your organization is ready to protect against data breaches is only half of the equation – your vendors play an equally important role in safeguarding your sensitive information. By assessing your vendor’s preparedness and implementing data protection best practices into your third-party risk management program, you can identify additional risks and protect your data.

Lock Your Backdoor

All organizations, no matter the size or industry, could be the target for a cyberattack. When your customers trust you with their sensitive data, you’re responsible for implementing the proper procedures and tools to keep the data secure. Just as you might check your locks and security systems in your house, it’s necessary to remain up to date on the latest regulations and identify any potential weaknesses that could leave you vulnerable to a data breach.

Data protection is an integral part of your ability to protect your customers’ data and your organization’s reputation. If your customers learn that their personal data may have been compromised, how could you expect them to trust you again?

In cases where your vendors have access to your organization’s data, it’s necessary to integrate data protection into your third-party risk management strategies. Data breaches can be detrimental to organizations who are unprepared.

Just as you lock your back door to keep out intruders, you should ensure that your vendors are prepared to identify cybersecurity threats and have the tools to protect your sensitive data. In today’s world, it is not a matter of if, but when you and your vendors will be the target of a cyberattack.

Are Your Vendors Prepared?

When performing due diligence on a vendor, you should be sure to identify any potential risks and weaknesses that could leave your organization vulnerable to a data breach. Especially if the vendor will have access to sensitive data, you must ensure that the vendor can protect the data from hackers.

To determine whether your vendors are properly prepared, consider the following questions:

  1. Does the vendor remain updated on changes to regulations and new data protection laws?
  2. What controls are in place to protect your customers and your sensitive data?
  3. How does the vendor train their staff on cybersecurity best practices?
  4. Does the vendor run network and social engineering tests to check how well it can identify common cyberattacks such as phishing emails?
  5. What effective response plans are in place?
  6. How would the vendor handle follow up and resolution to data breaches?

Understanding how the vendor would handle an incident may give you a good idea of any risks present and how well the vendor’s procedures and priorities align with those of your organization.

Throughout your relationship with the vendor, you’ll continue to review and assess their measures for any weaknesses and gaps. Additionally, as regulatory guidelines continue to evolve to protect organizations and set strict standards for data protection, it’s important to ensure that your organization and your vendors comply, or risk heavy fines.

Don’t Forget Your Fourth-Party Vendors

An additional important step to understanding your third-party data protection strategy is also to understand the risks that fourth-party vendors may pose. While it’s possible to set standards and report on your third parties, mitigating fourth-party risk can be difficult. However, by communicating with your critical vendors to receive information including their vendor management policies and lists of their critical vendors, you can gain insights into any potential security risks from a fourth party.

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Best Practices for Third-Party Data Protection

The initial due diligence process is only one part in your time with your vendor, and the risks associated with your vendor will continue to exist throughout your entire relationship. Just as you’ll regularly assess your vendor’s performance, services, and financial health, for example, it’s also imperative to perform ongoing due diligence to check for cybersecurity measures.

Here are several suggested best practices for implementing third-party data protection into your third-party risk management strategies:

  1. Only share sensitive data with vendors when necessary, and don’ give vendors access to sensitive data when it isn’t required.
  2. Monitor your vendor to ensure that they’ve continued to perform well. You should regularly assess reports and document any new weaknesses.
  3. Maintain the expectations of your organization and stay up to date with updated laws and regulations – and ensure that your vendor does as well.

To best protect your organization and your customers, you must remain vigilant. By implementing third-party data protection and continuing to monitor your vendors, you will be able to mitigate cybersecurity risks and protect your organization from disastrous data breaches.

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