In recent years, there has been a slew of high-profile data breaches, and many of them have something in common — the vulnerability was from a third-party. Every vendor you work with may unknowingly bring weaknesses with them that hackers can exploit to get to your data. Vendor monitoring is an essential part of keeping your business and data safe. To be most effective, monitoring must happen in real-time, not point in time.

How Can You Best Assess Vendors?

Review your vendors’ security policies to ensure they are adequate and comparable to the security policies you have in place. Before you agree to do business, ask how they handle the following:

  • Do they have comprehensive security policies?
  • Do they have a disaster recovery plan?
  • Do they perform regular backups and recoveries?
  • Do they have redundancies in place to avoid service disruption?
  • Do they conduct regular internal security audits?
  • Do they perform thorough background checks on employees (that may have access to your data)?

It’s also critical to understand the contracts and service-level agreements (SLAs) that tie you to your vendors. Make sure you have a clear understanding of the legal ramifications, both on your side and the vendor’s, regarding data confidentiality, security, treatment, and ownership. Clearly define what constitutes a security breach and the obligations of both parties if one occurs.

How Can You Protect Yourself?

There are a few ways you can protect yourself and your data when working with vendors. Before engaging a new vendor, make sure you know where your sensitive data is and how it is stored, and that you have a strong security policy in place to protect it.

It’s vital that you what data you process and store, as well as whether it falls into a sensitive category such as personally identifiable information (PII), protected health information (PHI) or other regulated data. Any sensitive or regulated data should be stored separately from other data and encrypted. Separating it and protecting with access controls as well as encryption will prevent it from being accessed or stolen if a hacker gets into your system through a third-party vendor.

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Having a strong security policy is important for all businesses, large and small, not just those that work with sensitive data. A comprehensive security policy will protect your data and put policies and procedures in place if your data is compromised. A security policy should include a combination of several solutions, such as:

  • Application firewalls
  • Network access controls
  • Policy-based authentication
  • Real-time malware protection
  • Granular email security
  • Web content security
  • Web application security

When you have a strong internal security posture, you’re in a better position to negotiate with vendors to ensure that their security policy matches up with yours.

Why Use Real-Time Vendor Monitoring?

You’ve put a strong security policy in place, and you’ve vetted your vendors to make sure they operate securely, so why do you need real-time vendor monitoring? Weekly or monthly snapshots only capture a moment in time, they don’t show the whole picture, and they don’t alert you when something is wrong.

The longer a hacker is inside your system, the more damage they can do. Not finding out about an intruder until your weekly report arrives in your inbox can give them days to steal your data and compromise your systems.

Today’s hackers act fast. Having a tool that monitors your third-party applications and vendor activity in real-time can help you keep up with threats as they happen. There are several tools available to help you monitor your third-party vendors, you should look for tools that:

  • Automate the monitoring process
  • Offer continuous monitoring with real-time alerts
  • Integrate with the systems you already have in place
  • Map vendor security controls to your security policy
  • Perform risk assessments
  • Create clear and informative reports

Protecting your data and your business from hackers is an ongoing job. Using tools to monitor your systems and your third-party vendors in real time will make that job easier and help you react quickly to threats.