Vendor Management Techniques Michael Desrosiers
This month's topic is about vendor management and granting system access to third party service providers.
In today's world of providing secure endpoint connections and access to your organizations vital information, granting system access to a third-party provider is a risk that can introduce security threats and technical and business dangers for your enterprise. Giving any provider access to your institutions infrastructure and information is a critical security risk. Even if there is no malicious intent, or the access to the data is provided for a legitimate business purpose, it should be strictly controlled, audited and monitored.
Let's start with some potential risks and then provide ideas for practical workarounds. Besides the threat of introducing malware into your systems, there are other technical and business dangers. First, granting system access lowers your security level. If they have feeble controls, they now will become the weakest link in your security chain. If an outside attacker compromises their system, they can use that as a backdoor into your network. In parallel, as their risk increases, so does yours.
Second, there are also business and reputation risks. If a breached system is used to gain malicious access to your system, your company's name will also be in the headlines. Bad press will drive away customers, actual and potential business and can even lead to an unwelcome regulatory review.
Third, allowing access of this nature, circumvents technical controls, such as firewalls or other security appliances. If unfettered access is allowed, why bother with firewalls and access controls? You might as well leave your network wide open for anyone to come in. Further, if the new software they want to install contains malware, their remote access is a direct pipeline for malicious code into your network.
Before even considering such access, you'll need to do the following:
- Conduct a thorough risk assessment;
- Have the provider supply referrals and references;
- Obtain Certificate of Liability or SAS70 documentation;
- Visit the providers facilities, particularly their data centers.
Also, make sure that they meet current best security standards, like an ISO 17799 framework, in the following areas:
- Physical Access Controls;
- Technical Access Controls;
- Administrative Access Controls;
- Information Security Policies covering these controls;
- IT Security Programs that abide to these controls and procedures.
And finally, severely restrict access to your systems. The provider should only have access to a segment of your network that is segragated from the internal network by firewalls or an isolated subnet. Access should be restricted to only specific IP addresses from the outside party, and be limited to a restricted time period and then closely monitored. However, the best practice for updating third-party software is the reverse. Your IT team should access their network to retrieve updates rather than allowing them to go fishing in yours.
There you have it. Many organizations are looking towards containment of their service providers access. Beyond technology installations however, controlling and limiting this access will go a long way in reducing risk and exposure to possible data loss.
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Until next time.....
Founder & Principal Consultant
Managing Your Security and Risk Needs
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More Articles by Michael Desrosiers © 2009-11-07 Michael Desrosiers