How to Manage Third-Party Cybersecurity Risks

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In today's digital age, businesses rely heavily on third-party vendors and suppliers to operate efficiently. However, with this increasing reliance comes the risk of third-party cybersecurity breaches. These breaches can lead to data loss, financial loss, and damage to a company's reputation. In this article, we'll explore how to manage third-party cybersecurity risks.

Understanding Third-Party Cybersecurity Risks

Before we dive into how to manage third-party cybersecurity risks, let's first understand what they are. Third-party cybersecurity risks refer to the potential for a security breach to occur due to a third-party vendor or supplier's access to a company's network or data. This can happen when a vendor or supplier has weak security measures in place, or when they are targeted by cybercriminals.

Third-party cybersecurity risks are becoming increasingly common, and the consequences can be severe. For example, in 2019, Capital One experienced a data breach that affected over 100 million customers. The breach was caused by a third-party vendor who had access to Capital One's network.

Conducting a Risk Assessment

The first step in managing third-party cybersecurity risks is to conduct a risk assessment. This involves identifying all third-party vendors and suppliers that have access to your network or data, and evaluating the level of risk associated with each of them.

During this assessment, consider factors such as the type of data that the vendor or supplier has access to, the level of access they have, and their security practices. This information will help you determine which vendors or suppliers pose the highest risk, and where you need to focus your risk management efforts.

Establishing Security Requirements

Once you've identified the vendors or suppliers that pose the highest risk, the next step is to establish security requirements. This involves setting standards for the security measures that vendors or suppliers must have in place to do business with your company.

These security requirements should be based on industry best practices and should be tailored to the specific risks associated with each vendor or supplier. For example, a vendor that has access to highly sensitive data may be required to have multi-factor authentication and regular security audits.

It's important to communicate these security requirements clearly to vendors and suppliers. This can be done through contracts, service level agreements, and other documentation.

Monitoring Third-Party Vendors and Suppliers

Establishing security requirements is only the first step in managing third-party cybersecurity risks. The next step is to monitor vendors and suppliers to ensure that they are complying with these requirements.

This can be done through regular security audits, vulnerability assessments, and penetration testing. It's also important to have a process in place for reporting any security incidents or breaches that occur.

Regular communication with vendors and suppliers is also important. This can help you stay informed about any changes to their security practices or any potential security risks.

Building a Relationship with Vendors and Suppliers

It's important to remember that managing third-party cybersecurity risks is not just about setting requirements and monitoring compliance. Building a strong relationship with vendors and suppliers can also help mitigate these risks.

By working closely with vendors and suppliers, you can gain a better understanding of their security practices and help them improve their security measures. This can lead to a more secure supply chain and reduce the risk of cybersecurity breaches.

Regular communication with vendors and suppliers can also help build trust and foster a culture of security. This can lead to a more collaborative approach to cybersecurity, where everyone is working together to reduce risk.


Managing third-party cybersecurity risks is a critical component of any cybersecurity program. By conducting a risk assessment, establishing security requirements, monitoring vendors and suppliers, and building strong relationships, you can reduce your risk of cybersecurity breaches and protect your company's reputation and assets.

Remember, cybersecurity is an ongoing process, and it's important to regularly review and update your risk management strategies to stay ahead of emerging threats. By following these best practices, you can stay one step ahead of cybercriminals and protect your business from the devastating effects of a cybersecurity breach.