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How to Prevent Third Party (vendor) Cybersecurity Attacks

Every modern day business needs a network of third party companies to build, distribute, and sell products. It’s standard practice for businesses to outsource too dedicated vendors. Unfortunately, third party vendors don’t always have the know-how or motivation to implement cybersecurity measures.


Research shows that third party cybersecurity attacks cost twice what a normal breach costs. And it’s more prevalent than ever before, with over 50% of surveyed respondents admitting that their data breaches are a result of third party incidents.


It also takes longer to detect third party breaches because attackers are no longer in your business ecosystem. Third party cyber security attacks have wreaked havoc across many Fortune 500 businesses.


The good news is that there are steps you can take to minimize your risk of third party cybersecurity attacks by implementing vendor risk management.

Evaluate Your Vendors Before Outsourcing

Outsourcing to vendors who will gain access into your network and sensitive data without evaluating their cybersecurity exposure is incredibly risky. Despite the risks involved, many businesses fail to perform adequate checks and balances when selecting vendors.


Businesses can limit their risks by taking a hard look at cutting unnecessary services. Some companies may have multiple endpoint detection and response tools when they only need one. It is a good security strategy to look for tools that integrate across your entire tech stack instead of resorting to point solutions.


Evaluating vendors requires patience and time to perform penetration tests and in-depth reviews of mutually inclusive endpoints.

Continuously Monitor Third Party Business for Security Risks

All aspects of security monitoring should be scrutinized on a regular basis. This is important because a vendor’s cybersecurity posture will change over the course of their contract with you. This is why it’s important to monitor the security risks over time.


However, most organizations don’t monitor their vendors and hope to rely on point-in-time solutions. Their idea of a security assessment is taking a bird’s eye view of the vendor’s security posture instead of taking a more in-depth look.


However, they leave many security gaps unaddressed that could result in a security breach.

Set Up Honey Tokens

A honey token is a piece of data that may look useful to attackers, but in reality, it is a fake IT asset. It is used to detect cyber criminal activities before they have a chance of breaching company resources.


This provides organizations with advanced alerts of data breach attempts while also providing details about each breaching method. The data provides organizations to make more effective incident response efforts that are tailored around each cyberattack method.


In some cases, honey tokens may also reveal the identity of the cyber attacker, including their location. Honey tokens are most effective when implemented by vendors to prevent supply chain attacks.


Pro tip: The easiest way to deploy honey tokens is with fake email addresses. If the fake email address receives phishing emails, it’s a sign that the resource was breached.

Implement Privileged Access Management

Cyber attackers are more likely to penetrate deep into an organization in search of privileged accounts. This is because privileged accounts lead them to more sensitive resources and data. Data breaches of sensitive resources usually follow.


This attack sequence is often known as Privileged Pathway and is very common among cybercriminals. Organizations can disrupt an attack’s overall trajectory to prevent supply chain attacks with the aid of a privileged access management framework.


Note that PAM will mitigate the chances of a supply chain attack, it is not immune from external and internal threats. It is common for cybercriminals to leverage social engineering attacks such as phishing attacks and click jacking attacks to breach PAM defenses. This can be addressed with cyber crime awareness training.


Another fool-proof way of protecting PAM defenses is to encrypt all internal data with AES algorithms. This will make it nearly impossible for cybercriminals to initiate a supply chain attack.

Team Up with Your Vendors

Stopping cyber security attacks tracks a team effort. This means you and your business need to have a collaborative approach to preventing cyber threats. Study your vendor’s ecosystem to identify common threats and resolve risks. This will allow your vendor to understand what needs to be fixed and why it poses a risk to your organization.

Using Zero Trust Architecture (ZTA)

A Zero Trust Architecture (ZTA) approach assumes that all activity in the network is malicious by default. This raises up the organization’s guards and every connection is thoroughly reviewed before it is allowed to access sensitive data.


A typical ZTA arrangement is made of three parts:


  • Policy Engine
  • Policy Administrator
  • Policy Enforcement Point


The Policy Engine uses various criteria dictated by the Trust Algorithm to decide if a connection should be permitted. The Policy Administration relays the Policy Engine’s decision to the Policy Enforcement Point.


The Policy Enforcement Point is the final line of defense that either blocks or permits connection requests based on the Policy Engine’s decision.


The best thing about the ZTA framework is that it is malleable and can be customized to the specific needs of all businesses. It can be also used to secure remote endpoints, a popular attack vector after the widespread adoption of remote working.

Survey Your Business and Vendors for Insider Threats

Not all insider threats have malicious intentions. In most cases, they are simply unaware of their actions. A quick cyber threat awareness session will bring most end-users up to par.


Hostile insider threats are significantly more difficult to identify. They are more dangerous to the organization because they have access to all the resources needed to breach businesses. Insider threats can be monitored by regular feedback surveys and creating a supportive work culture that addresses the concerns of disgruntled employees before they turn hostile.

Restrict Access to Sensitive Information

Your organization should separate sensitive data from non sensitive data. This will require a bit of introspection and may take some time.


It is important to limit the number of privileged access accounts. The more privileged access accounts you have, the larger the privileged attack surface. These accounts must be kept to a bare minimum.


Vendors should be scrutinized on a priority basis because they are usually the first target of a supply chain attack. You can use questionnaires and surveys for a more detailed understanding of how vendors process and protect your sensitive data.


Once you have access to this information, you can go about minimizing access to sensitive data to vendors that need them for their services.


Wrapping Up

No cybersecurity strategy is guaranteed to prevent third party attacks. However, regularly checking your vendor ecosystem with suitable remediation efforts will significantly limit the scale of a supply chain attack.


Because vendors are usually the first targets of a supply chain attack, treating the security posture of vendors is the best way of protecting your digital ecosystem.


And don’t be afraid of cutting ties with bad vendors who are unable to meet your cybersecurity standards. Many businesses find it difficult to get monitor third party companies. However, the most secure organizations care about the details.


Empower your organization and take complete control over your digital ecosystem by monitoring vulnerabilities and data leaks. Click here to get an assessment of your risk of third party vendor attacks.