Vendor Risk Assessment

Making vendor risk assessment easier

As the business world grapples with seismic changes and digital transformation in IT environments and how employees work, companies must pay close attention to how they manage third-party risk. Businesses are bringing on vendors faster than ever before, yet third-party risk management (TPRM) teams are under tremendous pressure to do more with less. Streamlining vendor risk assessment can help onboard third parties more efficiently while continuing to monitor and mitigate risk.

BitSight for Third-Party Risk Management facilitates a trusted cyber risk strategy by helping businesses gain immediate visibility into risks within potential vendor ecosystems. BitSight also enables TPRM teams to determine which vendors need more in-depth or more frequent vendor risk assessments.

How to conduct a more efficient vendor risk assessment

Your IT vendor risk management program must balance two competing priorities: the need to onboard new vendors quickly and the need to protect your organization from risk originating in third parties. A more efficient and effective vendor risk assessment process can help to achieve both objectives. Here’s how to accomplish this in three essential steps.

1. Identify a risk threshold

Begin by identifying the level of risk you’re willing to accept for each vendor. Vendors such as cloud service providers or payroll providers will likely need to be held to a higher security standard and risk threshold, requiring a more extensive or more frequent risk evaluation. One of the most effective ways of determining risk thresholds is with BitSight Security Ratings, which provide a trusted, data-driven view of a vendor’s security performance. By tiering vendors into groups based on their risk and criticality to your business, you can perform more efficient vendor risk assessments and focus resources where they’re needed most.

2. Ask the right questions

During a vendor risk assessment, some questions are more critical than others. Your baseline set of questions should ideally be based on industry-standard security assessment methodologies such as the NIST Framework and the CIS Critical Security Controls. The most important questions should touch on key governance and structural issues, such as how each vendor protects customer information, whether they outsource IT or security functions, and how cyber incidents are reported. Other critical questions should provide insight into a vendor’s cybersecurity controls and technology, such as how they manage access privileges, how they monitor remote connections, and how they prevent the exfiltration of sensitive customer data.

3. Trust, but validate

While questionnaires are an important part of vendor risk assessment, they represent a point-in-time understanding of cyber risk and can’t quickly reveal changes in security posture. They also rely on the vendor’s self-reporting cybersecurity updates, which can sometimes be inaccurate or unclear. Rather than taking vendors at their word, your risk teams can use transparent BitSight Security Ratings to quickly validate each response in a vendor questionnaire, as well as gain historical context into responses. BitSight cybersecurity data can also help your teams investigate risky areas of your vendor’s digital infrastructure, such as malware infections or their history of cyber incidents.

40 questions vendor risk ebook

With this ebook, we'll help you prioritize which vendors need the most attention with an in-depth security assessment – such as those with low security ratings, or critical vendors that maintain constant contact with your company’s systems. 

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BitSight for Third-Party Risk Management

Built on BitSight’s industry-leading cybersecurity data and analytics, BitSight for Third-Party Risk Management (TPRM) simplifies and facilitates vendor risk assessments to better align third-party security controls with risk tolerance and organizational objectives.

Validate vendor security performance

Whether you’re assessing a new or existing vendor, BitSight for TPRM lets you quickly and confidently ensure that vendors are within your organization’s risk tolerance. BitSight’s cybersecurity data makes it easy to compare the level of inherent risk with a third party’s security rating to best prioritize assessments and mitigation efforts. Vendor risk managers can utilize objective data aligned to standard and custom questionnaires to quickly identify red flags indicative of cyber risk.

Monitor third parties continuously

BitSight enables you to continuously monitor the security posture of vendors to track changes, prioritize responses, and drive more effective risk reduction through proactive, evidence-based collaboration. BitSight also enables greater visibility of fourth-party networks with tools for automatic discovery for your entire expansive attack surface.

Communicate risk effectively

With BitSight, you can deliver compelling reports that demonstrate the effectiveness of your vendor risk assessment process. Using the industry’s most extensive security domain coverage, you can share a historical perspective of the performance of third-party controls as well as a predictive view of the likelihood of a breach. Easy-to-use data analytics and cybersecurity reporting reveal vendor performance and trends across your portfolio, instilling confidence in your TPRM program among stakeholders and board members.

How BitSight ratings improve vendor risk assessment

BitSight Security Ratings offer a comprehensive, outside-in view of a vendor’s overall cybersecurity posture. Security ratings range from 250 to 900, with higher ratings correlating to better overall security performance.

Rather than relying on traditional techniques like penetration testing, on-site visits, or vendor risk management questionnaires, BitSight Security Ratings are derived from objective, externally verifiable information and require no input or participation from rated entities.

To develop ratings, BitSight leverages cybersecurity analytics data from 120 sources around the world, mapping data points to individual organizations. The data on which ratings are based falls into four categories: evidence of compromised systems, security diligence, user behavior, and public disclosures of data breaches. BitSight weights this data according to the risk it presents and uses a proprietary algorithm to calculate a rating.

Research shows that BitSight Security Ratings correlate to data breaches and offer insight into the vulnerabilities within an organization and its third-party vendors. For example, the likelihood of a cybersecurity attack in companies with a BitSight Security Rating of 500 or lower is nearly 5 times greater than in companies with a rating of 700 or higher.

BitSight ratings offer an instant evaluation of an organization’s cybersecurity performance management programs. When used for vendor risk assessment, BitSight ratings provide a tool to continuously monitor the security posture of vendors and make it easier to track a company’s performance over time.

Why trust BitSight?

BitSight is trusted by some of the world’s largest organizations to deliver visibility into their security performance and the security posture of their vendors. Founded in 2011, BitSight pioneered the security ratings industry and is the most widely adopted data and analytics platform in the world. BitSight’s 2,500 customers include 20% of the Fortune 500 companies, 120 governmental organizations in 30 countries, and all 4 of the Big 4 accounting firms.

BitSight’s proprietary method of collecting data from 120+ sources provides customers with unprecedented visibility into key risk factors, many of which are completely unique to BitSight. BitSight offers the ability to view 12+ months of historical data on security performance, enabling security and risk leaders to identify trends and gain greater insight into risks and vulnerabilities. BitSight also owns the largest botnet sinkholing infrastructure, delivering greater visibility into compromised systems – a risk that has been highly correlated to data breaches.

Get a personalized demo to find out how BitSight can help you solve your most pressing security and risk challenges.