Why and How to Implement Security Questionnaire Automation

automate vendor assessments

Digital transformation can increase productivity, reduce costs, improve user and customer experiences, and more. But it also forces you to rely on more and more third-party vendors which significantly increases your digital attack surface. Today, 62% of network intrusions originate with an organization’s partner.

To mitigate third-party cyber risk, it’s critical that you assess your vendors’ security practices and controls. But vendor risk management (VRM) programs typically rely on manual, time-consuming security assessments, making them hard to scale and error-prone.

According to Gartner, 80% of legal and compliance leaders say that third-party risks were identified after initial onboarding and due diligence, stressing the need for a new approach to VRM.

One such approach is security questionnaire automation. Let’s look at the benefits of this approach to VRM and how you can achieve it.

Why automate the security questionnaire process?

The goal of your VRM program is to understand your vendors’ security performance and ensure they don’t compromise your security standards. But achieving this level of insight using traditional security questionnaires isn’t always possible. Here’s why:

  • Manual security questionnaires only capture a point-in-time view of your vendors’ security postures and don’t account for evolving risk.
  • Using emails and spreadsheets to keep track of questionnaires and responses is time-consuming and inefficient. Plus, sharing critical security documents via email or unencrypted cloud-hosted links can expose sensitive data that compromises you and your vendors.
  • Vendor responses may be incomplete or outdated and fail to provide full visibility into the third-party risk landscape.
  • Manual security assessments create a business bottleneck, potentially delaying the onboarding of critical vendors and increasing the risk of shadow IT.

The benefits of security questionnaire automation

With automated assessment technology – like Bitsight Vendor Risk Management – you can confidently onboard new vendors and quickly get them working for your business.

Here are five key benefits to security questionnaire automation:

1. Retire tools like emails and spreadsheets

Manual security assessments are resource-intensive and involve spreadsheet-based questionnaires, time-consuming email follow-up, and calendar reminders. An over-reliance on these tools limits your ability to effectively track and report on vendor risk.

By automating these manual and repetitive tasks you can focus your efforts on risk mitigation – as opposed to collecting data.

2. Move beyond point-in-time insights

Security questionnaires provide valuable insight into a vendors’ security controls, but how can you be sure that nothing changes for the remaining 364 days of the year?

WIth security questionnaire automation, you can move beyond static assessments. For instance, Bitsight VRM continuously monitors your vendors’ security postures. You’re alerted in near real-time the moment risk is detected, such as exposure to a new vulnerability or a change in a third parties’ security rating.

3. Validate vendor responses with confidence

Because security questionnaires require vendors to report on their own security postures, there is a chance they could mis-report or mis-represent their controls, policies, and procedures.

Bitsight VRM takes advantage of Bitsight Security Ratings to automate the process of identifying red flags in vendor responses. These ratings provide an array of insights into your vendors’ security performance and add a layer of verification to your vendor risk assessments, complementing security artifacts and questionnaires with objective findings.

4. Customize VRM workflows and organize documents

Most vendor assessment efforts are one-size-fits-all, meaning the most critical vendors get the same treatment as the non-critical vendors. But with the Bitsight VRM, you can customize your program to

  • Automate time-consuming manual processes.
  • Use risk assessment workflows to make sure that your most critical vendors are adequately vetted.
  • Create custom questionnaire templates for tailored outreach.
  • Store critical documents and vendor responses for quick reference.

5. Collaborate with vendors to reduce risk

To evaluate a vendor's cybersecurity performance, you will need to work closely with them. But this can be challenging. There may be differences in the tools and risk management protocols used by your vendors. And, if a cyber incident occurs, they might not respond to outreach as quickly as you need them to.

With Bitsight VRM, you can invite your vendors to collaborate within the same data platform. With access to your view of their security data, risk remediation can happen quicker and more effectively.

Learn more

Bitsight VRM’s comprehensive capabilities – including security questionnaire automation – span all levels of vendor risk management in one fully integrated solution, speeding risk assessments and improving decision making. Watch the video below and learn more about what sets us apart.


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