Managing Third-Party Cyber Risk

3 minute read

October 2021

Each day organizations face new threats that jeopardize their critical networks. Standard cybersecurity practices help mitigate the impacts of a direct cyber-attack, but third-party cyber risk often goes unrealized until it’s too late. 

Third-party outsourcing is increasingly relied upon for internal and external processes. As organizations expand their third-party networks, they create more opportunities for exposure to their sensitive data and applications.  

This reality widens the potential vulnerabilities in an organization’s cybersecurity posture. Organizations need to develop a plan for managing third-party cyber risk across key departments – IT, Procurement and Third-Party Risk Management.

Consequences of Third-Party Cyber Risk Incidents 

The results of a data breach can have a devastating financial and reputational impact on an organization. For example: 

  • In 2020, software company SolarWinds was infiltrated by a foreign hacking group. Cybercriminals were able to spy on private companies and the US government for months without detection. The events served as a wake-up call on cybersecurity in many organizations and institutions.  

With more cloud-based applications being adopted, organizations should know where data is accessed and how protected it is throughout the supply chain.  

Getting Started with Managing Third-Party Cyber Risk 

Managing risk from third-party vendors may seem overwhelming – after all, some organizations work with hundreds, if not thousands, of vendors. The tips below can help you set a solid foundation for managing and mitigating third-party cyber risk: 

  • Establish Enterprise-Wide Integration and Accountability: Implement a cross-functional approach to managing third-party cyber risk across IT, Procurement, Information Security and all relevant departments. It is typical for separate departments to have their own sets of vendors to manage, so creating an understanding of cybersecurity priorities helps get every department on the same page. Cybersecurity programs should assign security responsibilities and ownership, communicate priorities regularly and engage executive team members. This can help the organization gain clarity on its cybersecurity posture. 
  • Determine Cybersecurity Priorities: Develop an understanding of your organization’s risk tolerance by taking internal and external risk into account. It is impossible to eliminate risk completely, but this will narrow down how much third-party risk you can manage. Establish a set of internal standards that vendors must be held to for the duration of the relationship. The bottom line is that vendors should be treated like first parties, as their security is your security.  
  • Assess High-Value Assets: Assess your organization’s high-value assets, or the applications that house sensitive data, to understand key areas of vulnerability. Identify the third parties that access these applications and ensure that they have appropriate security controls implemented.  

Download: How to Assess High-Value Assets for Cybersecurity Program Management 

How ProcessUnity Cybersecurity Program Management Can Help

The evolution of cyber risks demands that organizations focus on internal and external risks equally. Organizations need a standardized cybersecurity program to facilitate effective third-party cyber risk mitigation. Today’s top cybersecurity programs utilize ProcessUnity Cybersecurity Program Management to identify threats, prioritize cybersecurity projects and manage cyber budgets. To schedule a ProcessUnity Cybersecurity Program Management demo, click here.  

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ProcessUnity is a leading provider of cloud-based applications for risk and compliance management. The company’s software as a service (SaaS) platform gives organizations the control to assess, measure, and mitigate risk and to ensure the optimal performance of key business processes. ProcessUnity’s flagship solution, ProcessUnity Vendor Risk Management, protects companies and their brands by reducing risks from third-party vendors and suppliers. ProcessUnity helps customers effectively and efficiently assess and monitor both new and existing vendors – from initial due diligence and onboarding through termination. Headquartered outside of Boston, Massachusetts, ProcessUnity is used by the world’s leading financial service firms and commercial enterprises. For more information, visit