Enhancing cybersecurity: Why third-party access management is needed now more than ever

As the data threat landscape continues to wreak havoc, it highlights the pressing need for dedicated third-party access security. We'll look at some of the key challenges that come into play, as well as recommendations on how to secure third-party access to protect your most sensitive data and systems from potential threats.

As businesses become more dependent on third-party services and applications, managing user access to those services is becoming increasingly important. While third-party relationships are necessary, giving third parties and vendors access to systems does make businesses more vulnerable to data breaches and other malicious attacks with far-reaching consequences.

A closer look at why

You don’t have to look far to find examples of why third-party access management is so crucial. Recently, a popular identity management provider disclosed a third-party data breach in its support case management system. Attackers were able to leverage stolen credentials to access the system, using valid session tokens in HAR files to target 134 of the company’s enterprise customers. The organization worked to ensure that the embedded session tokens were revoked to prevent further abuse — earnest efforts that are both costly and time-consuming. Ultimately, this data breach wiped out more than $2 billion in market capitalization. The longer-term impacts of reputational damage will be seen in the coming months and years.

Another example of the dangers inherent to third-party access is the Uber data breach in December of last year. An attack on a third-party vendor resulted in the personally identifiable information of 77,000 Uber employees being released, as well as internal reports and possibly even source code. These are just two examples highlighting the need for third-party security in a year crowded with a record-breaking number of U.S. data compromises – 2,116 in the first nine months of 2023 compared to the previous record of 1,862 incidents reported for all of 2021.

Understanding the need for third-party access security

In today’s digital world, third-party services and applications are integral to business operations. As a result, managing user access to these services has become an important part of safeguarding sensitive data and critical systems. To ensure businesses are adequately protected from cyberattacks, they must implement robust third-party security protocols.

Third-party access security involves managing and verifying vendor user identities, as well as implementing granular access control and authorization policies. Without such protocols, businesses are vulnerable to malicious attacks that can have serious financial, legal, and reputational implications. The recent spate of high-profile third-party data breaches serve to highlight the necessity of robust third-party access management.

The need to protect data against malicious attacks cannot be overstated — especially when working with vendors whose systems may not have been designed with your business’s level of security in mind. Stringent policies and enforcement around third-party user authentication and authorization processes can help protect your organization from potential threats while ensuring compliance with relevant regulations.

Key challenges of third-party access management

As businesses become increasingly reliant on outside services, efficiently managing and authenticating external user identities is a challenge. Meeting the challenge involves verifying the digital identity of individuals attempting to gain access, enforcing the use of individual versus shared accounts, and verifying users’ current employment status.

Organizations often turn to their existing remote access solutions, like VPNs, to provide third-party remote access. However, these solutions make it difficult to set up granular controls to prevent users from accessing parts of the network they shouldn’t. They also provide very little visibility into what these third parties are doing within the network.

Data privacy and integrity must also be upheld when dealing with third-party access. Organizations must establish procedures that protect customer data while complying with applicable laws and industry standards such as the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards (PCI DSS) and the Health Insurance Portability & Accountability Act (HIPAA).

In short, effective third-party access management requires secure authentication processes and authorization protocols, session monitoring, verifying data privacy, and ensuring compliance — all of which fortify sensitive information and critical systems against cyberthreats.

Recommendations for securing third-party access

There's no doubt that securing third-party access is critical. The most effective way to protect data and systems against third-party access risks is to implement a vendor privileged access management solution. These solutions enable:

  • Individual account enforcement via multi-factor authentication
  • The provisioning of least-privilege access rights
  • The elimination of broad, over-privileged access methods like VPNs

They also provide crucial visibility through session monitoring and recording. This enables organizations to identify suspicious activity or anomalies that may indicate or forecast a security breach. Additionally, conducting regular vulnerability scans can help businesses recognize and halt potential threats before real damage is done.

To protect their customers and systems, organizations must follow stringent policies around third-party user authentication and authorization processes. These policies should also be regularly reviewed and updated as needed; a strong vendor access management solution allows organizations to do this easily.

Why you need to take third-party access security seriously

The importance of third-party access security can't be overstated in today's digital age. Data breaches wreak havoc on businesses, leaving them with costly financial and reputational damage. Companies must take proactive steps to protect themselves from threats by establishing reliable authentication processes and secure, Zero Trust connectivity methods when granting access to third parties.

By leveraging the capabilities recommended above, companies will both meet the highest standards of security and regulatory requirements while safeguarding their data and the data of their customers.

Taking these precautions is essential for organizations to not only ensure cybersecurity, but also the integrity of their own business in the long run.

Learn about the dedicated tools you need to stop third-party data breaches in our on-demand webinar, "Why small shifts are not enough to stop rising third-party hacks.”