Written by Solène Gabellec
on October 31, 2019

Knowing how to protect your data is a necessity for any organization. Information security should be a part of every business process to prevent accidental data leaks and breaches—especially when outsourcing tasks to third-party vendors.

However, many potential third-party vendors may not have the right tools, processes, and expertise to ensure data privacy and information security. Without knowing how to protect your data when outsourcing to third-party vendors, you may be exposing your organization to data privacy risks. Case in point: according to data cited by Experian, “65% of companies who outsourced work to a vendor have had a data breach involving consumer data.”

Thankfully, there are a few things you can do to maximize your data protection when outsourcing business processes. All it takes is a little information security know-how and some careful vetting of your third-party vendors.

So, without further ado, here’s how to protect your data when outsourcing something to a third party:

Ensure Strong Vulnerability Management by Limiting Vendor Access

Third-party vendors probably don’t need access to every computer on your organization’s network (unless they’re servicing them or providing data protection services that involve configuring all your internal network security endpoints). So, it’s a good idea to take a careful look at what you’re outsourcing to that vendor and make sure they only have access to the specific apps and databases that they need to do those specific tasks.

Applying such a “policy of least privilege” can be crucial for protecting your company’s data security and ensuring your customers’ data privacy. For example, if the vendor suffers a data breach or other information security problem, you’ll be able to rest easy in the knowledge that they won’t be able to cause too much harm—all because the vendor was already locked out of critical systems. Though, you’ll still want to take proactive measures to minimize any potential data security risks if you discover that one of your third-party vendors has experienced a breach.

Investigate the Third-Party Vendor’s Data Protection Measures

Before outsourcing work to a third-party vendor, be sure to vet that vendor’s processes for vulnerability management and data protection. Knowing how your vendor ensures cyber security can do a lot to help you understand if they’ll be good at protecting your data privacy (and that of your customers).

For example, when preparing to hand over access to sensitive data to a vendor, you may want to ask them how they store and process that information. Do they simply stuff it in a Google Doc that can be shared with anyone in their organization? Do they use encryption on sensitive files? Are their databases protected from outside access? If so, how? What vulnerability management practices do they follow (penetration testing, security patch schedules, etc.)?

There are a ton of questions you should ask your third-party vendors about their data protection methods before handing them the proverbial “keys to the kingdom,” or even the keys to the janitor’s closet in a minor county of the kingdom.

Periodically Review Your Information Security Measures with Vendors

A key part of vulnerability management is taking the time to double- and triple-check your data protection measures every now and again. So, even after establishing a long and fruitful relationship with your third-party vendors, it’s important to check back with them from time to time to see if they’re keeping current with data security standards.

Aside from asking them questions like the ones outlined in the previous part of this article, it can help to have your network’s administrator check the user account profiles of your third-party vendors for potential issues like:

  • Unused User Accounts. If a user account goes unused for a long period of time, it may be an indication that the vendor isn’t deleting employees from the system after they’re let go. This can be a data security problem because each of those unused accounts could be compromised at some point and then used to carry out other attacks. Deleting unnecessary accounts preemptively helps you to reduce this risk.
  • Weak and Easy to Guess Passwords. Most people really don’t think their passwords through—creating weak and easy-to-guess passwords simply because they’re easier to remember. Checking that user accounts meet certain minimum password strength requirements (and applying two-factor or better authentication) helps make user accounts harder to hijack.
  • User Accounts with Abnormal Privileges. Does a vendor’s user account have access to apps and databases that have nothing to do with the vendor’s work? Keeping an eye out for accounts with abnormal privileges can help you identify potential data security threats early so you can remediate them. If you identify unusual data access requests, you may have a potential information security breach to deal with—so the earlier you can catch this, the better.

By reviewing your data privacy and security measures frequently, you’ll be in a better position to preemptively counter potential cyber security threats.

Need more help protecting your organization’s sensitive data? Get started with CyberEasy from Knogin! Our threat detection and intelligence solution can help you better protect your data by spotting potential problems early!

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