High-level strategies for third-party risk mitigation
There are so many technologies and strategies and buzz words around cybersecurity these days that it can be difficult to know where to start. It’s hard enough thinking about the myriad threats that can find their way into your organization without even broaching the subject of third-parties and trusted connections. However, there are a few fundamental, high-level strategies to consider applying in your third-party risk mitigation plan. They can be used individually or in tandem to create a strong cybersecurity framework for your organization.
Defense in Depth
The primary principle of defense in depth is to build layers of security into your organization’s digital architecture, so that if one layer fails, there will be others to back it up and maintain security. It is essentially a “fail-safe” strategy that assumes threats will most likely eventually find a way through one or two layers of defense (a safe assumption in most cases). There are no limits to the types of security involved, just those that best fit your organization. Role-based access controls, authentication, data encryption/tokenization, firewalls, data diodes, SIEM, and other technologies can all be used together to create a sophisticated, hardened defense.
Assuming that threats will eventually breach your network’s defenses (you may be sensing a theme), a risk-based strategy applies more security resources to your most sensitive assets while less resources are applied to the lower risk assets. Risk-based strategies also typically assume that there is not a way to eliminate risk – there will be a need for multiple sophisticated connections to external networks, for a large number of users to access or collaborate on (sometimes sensitive) data, legacy or outdated equipment in use, or other complex issues that complicate traditional security methods. Over time, larger and higher performing companies have evolved the idea of a risk-based strategy into a more comprehensive method of protecting their organizations known as “zero trust.”
A zero-trust strategy assumes that a threat can come from anywhere inside or outside your organization, and therefore a continual assessment of every request or attempt to connect or access networks, devices, or information is required. This can be highly resource intensive, and typically requires sophisticated authentication schemes as well as some sort of SIEM automation in the form of cloud data collection, systems monitoring, etc. User and systems data are monitored continually to develop a baseline of what is considered “normal” activity, which then allows for alerts if any abnormal activity occurs. Reducing the number of your external connections, applying the least privilege principle, and having dedicated resources to monitor and calibrate the results are all key to making this strategy effective, and while it is theoretically a great strategy for complex, highly-connected organizations, in practice it is very difficult to fully achieve today.
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