Wednesday 24th May 2023

BLOG: Key Components of an Effective Third-Party Risk Management Programme

As the business landscape becomes more interconnected, organisations are increasingly dependent on third-party vendors and partners to facilitate their operations. However, this growing dependence also introduces novel risks and challenges. In order to mitigate potential threats and ensure uninterrupted business operations, organisations must establish a comprehensive third-party risk management programme.

Past incidents serve as cautionary tales to organisations. An example is the supply chain disruption in the automotive industry in September 2022. The automotive industry experienced a significant supply chain disruption due to a failure in third-party risk management. A key supplier, responsible for providing critical components to multiple automakers, encountered financial difficulties and abruptly ceased operations. This unexpected event caused a chain reaction across the industry, resulting in production delays, vehicle recalls, and significant financial losses for the affected automakers.

The lack of proper vendor assessment, monitoring, and contingency planning in the affected automakers’ risk management programmes meant they were unprepared for this type of event. The incident underscored the need for proactive risk assessment, diversification of suppliers, and close monitoring of critical vendors to mitigate the impact of potential disruptions. It also highlighted the interdependencies and vulnerabilities that can arise from extensive reliance on third-party suppliers in complex supply chains. This example and other notable examples demonstrate the serious consequences that organisations can face when they fail to establish effective third-party risk management programmes. By neglecting to assess and manage risks associated with vendors, organisations not only jeopardise their security and operations but also put their customers, stakeholders, and broader industry at risk. Proactive and robust third-party risk management is crucial for maintaining trust, minimising vulnerabilities, and safeguarding the resilience of organisations in an interconnected world.

We will explore the key components of an effective third-party risk management programme that can safeguard organisations against potential vulnerabilities and promote a secure and sustainable business ecosystem.

  • Comprehensive Risk Assessment: The foundation of any successful third-party risk management programme lies in conducting a thorough risk assessment. This process involves identifying, categorising, and prioritising risks associated with third-party relationships. It is essential to evaluate factors such as data security, regulatory compliance, financial stability, and operational resilience of potential vendors. By employing risk assessment frameworks, organisations can gain insights into potential vulnerabilities and make informed decisions when selecting and managing third-party relationships.
  • Due Diligence and Vendor Selection: Effective third-party risk management extends beyond initial risk assessments. Organisations must establish stringent due diligence processes when selecting vendors. This involves gathering comprehensive information about the vendor’s business practices, financial stability, information security protocols, and compliance with applicable regulations. Performing background cheques, reviewing certifications, and conducting site visits can provide valuable insights into a vendor’s capabilities and commitment to risk management.
  • Defined Contractual Agreements: Well-draughted and comprehensive contractual agreements form the backbone of a strong third-party risk management programme. These agreements should clearly outline the responsibilities and expectations of both parties regarding risk mitigation, data protection, security measures, compliance, and incident response. The contracts should also specify the consequences of non-compliance and provide provisions for audits and ongoing monitoring of the vendor’s performance.
  • Ongoing Monitoring and Reporting: Once a third-party relationship is established, it is crucial to maintain regular monitoring and reporting mechanisms. This involves continuous evaluation of vendor performance, adherence to contractual obligations, and compliance with industry standards and regulatory requirements. Organisations should establish a system for collecting and analysing relevant data, conducting periodic audits, and utilising technology-driven solutions such as automated risk assessment tools and real-time monitoring platforms to identify and mitigate potential risks promptly.
  • Incident Response and Business Continuity: No matter how comprehensive the risk management programme is, incidents can still occur. A well-defined incident response plan is essential for minimising the impact of any potential breach or disruption caused by a third-party vendor. The plan should include clear guidelines on incident detection, escalation procedures, communication protocols, and post-incident analysis. Regular testing and simulation exercises can help identify any gaps in the response plan and ensure its effectiveness during critical situations.
  • Continuous Improvement and Adaptation: The threat landscape and business environment are constantly evolving, making it imperative for organisations to continually enhance and adapt their third-party risk management programme. Regular reviews and assessments of the programme’s effectiveness, incorporating feedback from stakeholders, and staying abreast of emerging risks and regulatory changes are essential. This iterative approach enables organisations to proactively address vulnerabilities, strengthen controls, and foster a culture of risk awareness and compliance within the organisation.

Implementing a robust third-party risk management programme is a fundamental requirement for organisations seeking to mitigate potential threats arising from their vendor relationships. By incorporating comprehensive risk assessments, due diligence, contractual agreements, ongoing monitoring, incident response plans, and a commitment to continuous improvement, organisations can create a secure and resilient ecosystem.

The investment of time, resources, and expertise in developing an effective programme will not only protect organisations from potential risks but also build trust with stakeholders and maintain a competitive edge in an increasingly interconnected business landscape.

How can Orpheus Cyber help?

At Orpheus Cyber, we specialise in providing a unique and threat-led approach to third-party cyber risk management. Our expertise as a cyber threat intelligence company, combined with an assessment of the attack surface of your third parties, allows us to deliver accurate cyber risk ratings. Our approach enables continuous monitoring of your third parties, taking into account changes in both the threats they face and their attack surface over time.

Using our platform, you can easily visualise and prioritise the risk levels of the organisations you wish to monitor through a heat map. This allows you to quickly identify and focus on organisations that pose the highest level of risk. Additionally, we highlight the most critical vulnerabilities present in your third parties and provide intelligence reports and Orpheus’ CVE scoring to explain why these vulnerabilities are problematic.

By providing the risk context of the attack surface issues your third parties have, we facilitate collaboration to improve their security, which, in turn, enhances your security posture. Our platform streamlines the process of working with third-party organisations to enhance their security measures.

Here are the benefits of our approach:

  • Ease of setup: Our platform requires no input from third-party organisations, making it quick and easy to set up. Within hours, you can review the cyber risk associated with the organisations you work with.
  • Continuous monitoring: Unlike traditional point-in-time annual or quarterly reviews, our approach enables continuous monitoring of suppliers. This ongoing monitoring reduces the risk to your organisation by providing real-time insights into the security posture of your third parties.
  • Detailed risk information: Access to the detailed information behind the risk scores empowers you to collaborate effectively with your suppliers. You can work together to reduce risk and verify that the necessary security improvements have been implemented, rather than relying solely on their assurance.

At Orpheus Cyber, we aim to provide you with the tools and insights necessary to proactively manage third-party cyber risks. By leveraging our threat-led approach and the capabilities of our platform, you can enhance your overall third-party risk management programme and strengthen the security of your organisation. Find out more here.

Get our latest cyber intelligence insights straight into your inbox

Fill out the short form below to subscribe to our newsletter so that you never miss out on our cyber intelligence insights and news.