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Top 10 Questions in Vendor Cybersecurity Questionnaires

Jan 22, 2020 by Joel Keller

When building a vendor questionnaire or reviewing a questionnaire completed by a vendor, it’s essential to ask the right questions to properly understand the vendor’s cybersecurity environment. It’s especially important to provide and/or retrieve correct information surrounding the following top 10 cybersecurity questions.

The Top 10 Vendor Cybersecurity Questions

Here are the top 10 cybersecurity questions in vendor questionnaires:

  1. Are penetration tests performed by a qualified third party vendor? If so, how often are they performed and when was the last test performed? Ensuring your vendor has regularly scheduled penetration tests performed by a third party is essential in knowing how secure their environment is and where the weaknesses are so they can be secured before they’re exploited by an attacker.

  2. Is there a formal information security  program in place? A security program provides the framework for keeping a company at a desired security level by assessing the risks that are faced, deciding how those risks will be mitigated and planning for how to keep the program and security practices current.

  3. Is there a formal logical access review process? Having regularly scheduled access reviews of users is essential in knowing who should have access to your system and who no longer needs access. Failures in logical access review procedures are the top reason for exceptions in SOC reports.

  4. How has your vendor implemented the principle of least privilege? Role-based access privileges are vital in only allowing employees to have access to data they need while denying access to data they don’t need to perform their job.

  5. How is data protected in transit between the vendor and the client as well as between the vendor and the end-user? How is data protected at rest on servers and backup media? Encryption of data in both in-transit and at-rest stages is extremely important to keeping it safe from unauthorized access.

  6. How is retired media (hard drives, flash drives, CDs, documents, etc.) sanitized? Physical and electronic data should be disposed of in a secure manner when no longer needed to keep information from falling into the wrong hands.This has become more difficult with the adoption of public cloud services as data may move across multiple physical systems and reside on shared resources.

  7. Are employees and contractors required to attend security training? Providing security awareness education to users of all systems is an important step in limiting user errors that could harm your IT infrastructure and information. 

  8. What due diligence  is performed on contractors and vendors prior to and post contract? Completing due diligence over your vendor’s third party (your fourth party) is important especially if they have access to your data. You want to make sure they have a secure environment to help keep your information secure.

  9. Is there a formal incident management program in place? Proper incident handling procedures allow situations to be analyzed and prioritized so that the next appropriate course of action can be taken to address the problem. Breach notification, a key component of incident management, is now included within multiple regulations with emphasis on vendor reporting.

  10. Does your vendor describe technical prevention measures in place? Utilizing various security tools such as firewalls, anti-virus products and intrusion detection and prevention systems allow you to help secure your network from adversaries.

The next time you find yourself building or reviewing a vendor’s cybersecurity questionnaire remember to pay special attention to the above questions. It may take some time to fully build and/or review a comprehensive cybersecurity questionnaire, but it could save you a lot of time and risk exposure in the future. It’s an invaluable questionnaire that provides a lot of insight. 

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Joel Keller

Written by Joel Keller

Joel is an experienced cybersecurity analyst with experience working in Litigation Support, Manufacturing and Healthcare information security sectors. Prior to his role with Venminder, his experience has been in the areas of digital forensics, governance, risk and compliance and vulnerability management.

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