IT security supply chain risks are increasing. Outsourcing, the increasing use of integrations between different software packages, and regulation are part of the story.
Define Your IT Security Current State For Your Supply Chain
If you make the wrong changes to your supply chain, you might make security worse. To avoid that situation, slow down and understand your current situation. Follow these steps to understand your current suppliers.
Inventory Your Supply Chain Providers
Create a list in a spreadsheet of all of your suppliers. In this stage, it makes sense to go broad and include every supplier that you and your colleagues can think of.
Classify Your Suppliers By Importance and Risk
In this step, add a score to each supplier based on importance and risk. To help you come up with reasonable scores, ask yourself, “How long could we operate the business without this supplier?” From an IT security perspective, consider how much sensitive data each supplier has. For example, a vendor that manages a customer database with names and addresses needs to have strong security controls in place.
Identify Repetitive Tasks For Automation
By following the above tasks, you will have a list of high-risk and high-importance suppliers. For example, you may have a technology consulting firm that is leading your company through a digital transformation project. That firm has access to sensitive data and needs to retain that access. However, you may have observed that the firm periodically changes its staff assignments. Whenever there are staff changes, you need to make identity and access changes. Those changes create more work for you. Such changes represent an opportunity for automation.
Three Ways To Increase Automated IT Security With Your Suppliers
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach in implementing your IT security supply chain. However, the following techniques are generally successful in bringing automation to your supply chain.
1) Manage Supply Chain Access on a Group Basis.
In the previous steps, you organized your suppliers into different categories based on risk and importance. Using a low, medium and high-risk classification scheme is a popular approach. With this approach, you can use Group Requestor to create and manage user accounts on a group basis. High-risk vendors might be subject to more frequent management reviews (e.g. biweekly or monthly checks for inactive user accounts).
2) Automate Password Administration For Your Supply Chain
To perform their work, your supply chain partners need access. However, those suppliers may not always be a top priority for your help desk. To relieve that stress, equip your suppliers with a self-serve password reset tool. For instance, you might have a supply chain partner located in another country. Those partners may work in different time zones compared to the rest of your employees. Bringing an IT security chatbot will make supply chain processes faster.
3) Add IT Security Supply Chain Process To Your IT Audit Process
You probably have dozens or hundreds of IT security supply chain providers. Managing all of them effectively and checking whether or not they are living up to your security requirements is tough! There’s a simple way to solve this problem. Ask that your internal audit group periodically audit third-party suppliers to verify their security processes.
Alternatively, you may choose to use a third party, such as a specialized consultant, to review security. For more guidance on this process, read the Third-Party Security Assurance guide published by the PCI Security Standards Council for further details. This level of inspection is time and resource-intensive, so it makes sense to apply it only to your highest-risk supply chain partners.
Third-Party Software: A Special Supply Chain Security Risk
In comparison to other parts of your supply chain, software and technology vendors present special risks. For example, you might choose to store all of your customer data in a cloud environment. If that data becomes corrupted or deleted, your business could suffer a catastrophic loss. Likewise, just think of the damage that malware or a virus could do to such a vendor.
Fortunately, there are ways to automate IT security supply chain management for technology providers. You may not be able to implement all of these ideas, depending on your resources. Each technique you implement will make it easier to cut your security risk.
Automate Your Security Reporting
You should not be spending hours each week building IT security reports. Standardizing the information you receive from vendors is the first way to automate your reporting. For example, use a standard spreadsheet report and ask each software provider to complete it monthly. When those files come in, you can use an Excel macro to automate your reporting.
Automate Your User Account Control
Controlling user accounts does not have to be a time-consuming process. Use a solution like Compliance Auditor to run reports identifying inactive user accounts. Once you have these reports, you can quickly find which accounts have no activity. Every inactive account you deactivate, whether it is at a vendor or not, reduces your security risk.
For additional convenience, let your key suppliers know that they can request account changes through a smartphone app. Find out more about Avatier’s Android and Apple smartphone apps.
Enforce Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)
To reduce the risk of unauthorized access, request that your high-risk supply chain partners all use multi-factor authentication. It is not necessary to require them to purchase specialized MFA hardware. Instead, you can use smartphones or phone calls as a secondary authentication channel.
What To Do After You Maximize Your Supply Chain Security Automation
By using all the tips in this article, you will automate some of the most time-consuming IT security matters. However, there is a limit to how much you can automate security for third parties. When you reach that limit, you may need to look at other ways to mitigate IT security risk in your supply chain. For example, ask suppliers to increase their encryption practices when they are handling your data.