Nowadays, building a zero-trust network has become a standard protocol in the era of evolving business models, multiple workforce platforms, cloud adoption, and increased device connectivity. But, if a business continues to work with at-risk organizations, the zero-trust policy crumbles. Working with well-secured third parties that uphold a zero-trust strategy is crucial for optimal cybersecurity within any business.
In this blog, we will explore the importance of a zero-trust strategy, the challenges it presents, and the implications of working with vulnerable vendors and business partners.
Importance of a zero-trust strategy
The digital transformation has allowed for data to be spread across massive numbers of devices, networks, applications, and most importantly, people. Nowadays, it’s not enough to simply practice good password hygiene to sufficiently protect a network. This is where zero trust comes into play.
Zero trust has been pegged as the ultra-safe defense strategy against unrecognized and undetected threats, as it requires that every user (both internal and external) become authorized before any access can be granted. Establishing a zero-trust strategy helps businesses manage risk associated with insider threats, third-party risk, cloud risk, and remote work. However, when trying to uphold a zero-trust strategy, many organizations run into challenges that stunt operation efficiency, create additional risks, and worst of all, create gaps that compromise cybersecurity.
Challenges of upholding a zero-trust strategy
Despite the importance of a zero-trust strategy, migrating from one cybersecurity strategy to another is time-consuming and can present several challenges along the way. Organizations must be aware of the potential disruptions that could occur within the transition to hopefully mitigate them along the way.
Here are the top challenges we’ve identified to uphold a zero-trust strategy.
Requires commitment to ongoing administration
The need for ongoing administration is often a huge challenge for organizations. Since companies are continuously evolving with people moving into new roles or changing locations, establishing a zero-trust strategy that is built on defined permissions is difficult. And failure to update controls immediately can result in unauthorized parties gaining access to sensitive information.
For example, if your organization cut ties with a business partner and they have not been immediately removed from access controls, the organization could face serious implications if they decide to go rogue. It is the responsibility of the administration to be on top of monitoring access controls and keeping a close eye on organizational changes, to ensure that only specific people have access to information at all times.
Can affect productivity
The only way for a zero-trust strategy to work is if access controls are continuously being updated to reflect changes within the organization. Failure to do so creates several opportunities for productivity to diminish.
For instance, if the role of a business partner changes, they may gain access to sensitive files or applications that they previously had not had access to. If an organization is not on top of updating controls, business partners may find themselves locked out of certain files or applications, putting a wrench in the productivity of the organization. In some cases, the lack of a productive workforce can often become a larger problem than cybersecurity itself.
Continuous monitoring of third-party risks
Continuously monitoring the risks of third parties is time-consuming. And in most cases, organizations do not have the proper tools to continuously monitor the security posture of their third-parties. Although questionnaires and surveys establish the initial risks of a vendor and partner, the results are stagnant, hard to verify, and do not display the risks associated with the third-party down the line. The inability to continuously monitor third-party risks only makes it harder for a zero-trust strategy to be effective.
Implications of working with an at-risk business
According to Gartner, 60% of organizations work with over 1,000 third-party vendors. And while working with third-party vendors can offer several benefits, it can put an organization in financial and reputational jeopardy if they do not prioritize third-party risk management. In the last year, 44% of organizations have experienced a data breach, and of those breaches, 74% were said to have occurred from too much access to third-party vendors. While this may seem like an easy access control fix, many third-parties need access to an organization’s data and systems to be successful — and unfortunately, businesses can’t hold their third parties to the same standards for access control as their own employees.
This reason alone makes it extremely important to assess the risk of a third-party vendor or business partner before conducting work. The reason is, if your customers’ data becomes compromised from a data breach on your third parties’ network, your organization is still directly responsible. This means that any ransom, remediation fees, or legal charges from the data breach will be a direct expense of your organization. And that’s no small amount when the average cost of a data breach is nearly $4.24 million. The implications of working with an at-risk business mean that their risks become your own— and as data breaches continue to escalate, it’s now more important than ever to assess the risk of third-parties, well before sharing sensitive information.
Establishing a zero-trust strategy that prevents internal and external parties from easily accessing and sharing sensitive information is essential if your business happens to work with an at-risk business. Having a robust zero-trust strategy in place will help secure the overall cybersecurity of your business and prevent serious financial and reputational consequences in the event of a data breach on your third-parties network.
How SecurityScorecard can help
SecurityScorecard Security Ratings offer businesses the ability to detect and understand consistent, data-driven ratings of third-party vendors and partners. In addition, SecurityScorecard can independently assess the security posture of business partners, so access controls can be secured and monitored far before they are in the wrong hands. With an inside view of third-party risks and insider threats, Security Ratings make it possible to secure and maintain a zero-trust strategy for any organization.
Organizations with an F Rating have a 7.7x higher likelihood of sustaining a breach compared to organizations with an A. Rated companies that are invited to the platform with low security grades (C, D, or F) typically exhibit on average a 7 to 8 point improvement within 3 months, while the average score of unengaged companies remains relatively unchanged over the same period.
Interested in learning more? Request your free instant scorecard today and gain insight, comprehensive visibility, cyber-risk metrics, and more.