How Third-Party Access Governance Enhances Data Security and Compliance

Most organizations rely on third-party contractors, vendors, and agencies. They often need to learn the full scope of those relationships or the security risks they pose. Companies should establish precise data security requirements in contracts and regularly audit third-party security practices. Deploying a privileged access management solution is also crucial to reducing risk.

Implementing Third Party Access Governance

Many organizations rely on outside vendors and service providers to support internal IT systems, applications, and infrastructure. These relationships require privileged access governance to ensure third-party data, applications, and infrastructure integrity and security. Manual processes, scalability challenges, and disjointed monitoring tools can create gaps in third-party risk management, increasing the risks of data breaches or loss. What is third party access governance? A purpose-built third-party management solution can help reduce these problems and improve effectiveness. A purpose-built solution integrating privileged access governance and identity management can automate and streamline the lifecycle events of onboarding, changing, and disengaging third parties while ensuring that business, security, and compliance policies are enforced throughout each step. The process is often complex and disjointed, with multiple touchpoints resulting in a lack of contextual automation. This can lead to companies rubber-stamping workers, copying roles, or granting more access than is needed, defeating the principle of “just enough” and opening up additional attack paths into their networks. Additionally, keeping track of the accounts and passwords shared between employees and third parties takes a lot of work. This can result in stale credentials that remain active on systems for months or even years after the contract has expired, creating another pathway for attackers into the network.

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Identifying Third Party Vendors

With most organizations now outsourcing some of their operations to third parties, those organizations must ensure the security of those third-party vendors. This includes deploying a solution that enables privileged access governance, the standard four significant pillars of which are: Identifying third parties that critically impact your organization’s security posture is a crucial step in the process. It involves performing a risk assessment of each of your vendors, which will often involve comparing their externally visible information security posture against the level of risk tolerance that an organization has set. Many people think of third parties as contractors or suppliers, but any company that has a relationship with an organization and works on its behalf can be considered a vendor. This includes shipping services, hosting data, building apps, and other activities that may impact your business. It is also important to realize that the risks posed by these companies can be significant. For example, attackers can take advantage of third parties that have small information security teams and are less likely to secure their networks. They can steal credentials and use them to enter highly protected networks. A key aspect of ensuring the security of these third parties is to require them to be certified as compliant with your specific standards. This will help to reduce your exposure to this type of risk. Providing restricted access based on the least privilege required for the job is also crucial. This means access is only provided when specific contextual parameters are met and removed after the work is complete or the context changes.

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Creating Vendor Access Policies

Vendors, contractors, and service providers can be essential to your business. However, they also pose significant security risks if not properly managed. Many companies need help to balance the need for collaboration with third parties with a desire to protect sensitive information and systems. Developing a policy for vendor access governance can help. This policy should establish what assets and services third-party users have access to, the privileges or rights associated with that access, and how those privileges are granted and removed. A solid approach to implementing a vendor access policy is to follow the principle of least privileged access, which ensures that vendors only have the level of access needed to perform their work. A policy should also define what controls and protections to implement to limit the risk of a third-party data breach or other incident impacting your company. These include using federated identity management for the source of truth, ensuring that any applications or other resources a third party needs to access are configured to use this identity rather than creating a new one, and requiring strong authentication. Policies should also include procedures for disengaging a vendor when the contract ends, including removing physical and logical access and certifying that sensitive information has been returned or destroyed. Additionally, a procedure should be put in place to monitor all incidents reported by the vendor, which should then be escalated to the appropriate internal IT or security teams.

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Managing Vendor Access

Managing third-party access governance requires both process and technical controls. The process must include a consistent and structured approach to identifying, monitoring, and managing third parties with privileged access. This is a crucial first step to ensure the company maintains an appropriate risk posture while allowing vendors to do their jobs. A third party’s access needs must be evaluated to ensure they have the least privilege possible and that this access is revoked once their work with the customer is complete or when the context changes. Access should also adhere to a just-in-time model and be monitored closely, especially for activity outside of business hours or attempts to access restricted or sensitive systems. While many security risks associated with granting access to third parties result from malicious actions, human error also plays an important role. Vendors may share credentials, accidentally delete or share files and data, misconfigure systems and solutions or make other unintentional mistakes. Privileged Access Management (PAM) can help reduce these risks by ensuring that contractors, suppliers, contingent staff, and others only have the minimum level of access needed to perform their job and that sessions are fully recorded, monitored, audited, and controlled.

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