By: Brian DeVault

Holding vendors accountable for their cybersecurity posture is crucial to ensure that they are taking adequate measures to protect your data and systems. Here are some steps you can take to effectively manage vendor cybersecurity:

  1. Vendor Selection: Begin by selecting vendors with a strong commitment to cybersecurity. Conduct thorough due diligence to assess their security practices, certifications, and track record.
  2. Cybersecurity Requirements in Contracts: Clearly define your cybersecurity expectations in vendor contracts. Specify security standards, data protection requirements, incident response procedures, and compliance obligations.
  3. Security Assessments: Conduct security assessments of potential vendors before onboarding them. This can include questionnaires, security audits, and vulnerability assessments to gauge their security preparedness.
  4. Security Audits and Assessments: Regularly perform security audits or assessments on vendors to evaluate their cybersecurity posture. This can be done through third-party assessments or your internal security team.
  5. Access and Permissions Management: Limit vendor access to only the resources they require to fulfill their services. Regularly review and revoke access as needed.
  6. Security SLAs: Include cybersecurity-related service level agreements (SLAs) in vendor contracts. Specify response times for security incidents, breach notification protocols, and resolution processes.
  7. Security Incident Reporting: Require vendors to promptly report any security incidents or breaches that may impact your organization. Clearly define reporting timelines and communication channels.
  8. Penetration Testing and Vulnerability Assessments: Perform penetration testing and vulnerability assessments on the vendor’s systems and applications to identify weaknesses that could impact your organization.
  9. Data Protection and Privacy: Ensure that vendors adhere to data protection and privacy regulations relevant to your industry and jurisdiction. Address data ownership, sharing, and encryption in contracts.
  10. Continuous Monitoring: Continuously monitor the vendor’s cybersecurity practices through regular assessments and ongoing communication. Stay informed about any changes to their security posture.
  11. Vendor Training and Awareness: Provide vendors with cybersecurity training and guidelines to ensure that they understand and follow best practices when handling your data.
  12. Incident Response Testing: Simulate security incidents with vendors as part of tabletop exercises. Evaluate their incident response capabilities and communication procedures.
  13. Contractual Remedies: Establish contractual remedies for breaches of cybersecurity commitments. Clearly outline consequences for security failures and non-compliance.
  14. Regular Communication: Maintain an open line of communication with vendors regarding cybersecurity matters. Encourage them to share updates on security improvements and initiatives.
  15. Exit Strategy: Define protocols for ending the vendor relationship while ensuring that your data is securely transitioned back to your organization.
  16. Collaboration and Transparency: Foster a collaborative relationship with vendors built on transparency and shared responsibility for cybersecurity.
  17. Escalation Points: Establish clear escalation points within your organization and the vendor’s organization for addressing cybersecurity concerns.

By implementing these steps, you can establish a strong framework for vendor accountability in cybersecurity and help safeguard your organization’s data and assets. Keep in mind that vendor management is an ongoing process, and continuous assessment and improvement are essential for maintaining a secure vendor ecosystem.