The Vital Role Of Threat Intelligence In Third Party Risk Management

Last Updated: 

May 28, 2024

Third party vendors and suppliers have become an indispensable part of most organisations today. From software providers to cloud services to supply chain partners, companies rely heavily on external entities for critical business functions. However, these third party relationships also introduce significant cybersecurity risks if not managed properly. Especially for small businesses as the threat can jeopardise their whole operations. Cybersecurity tips and best practices for small businesses come in handy in shielding them from the threats. Recent high-profile data breaches have highlighted how vulnerabilities in a third party’s environment can have severe consequences for the organisation. The total average cost of data breaches in the US last year was $9.44 million. 60 percent of those who suffered breach were forced into bankruptcy within six months. This is where a robust third party risk management program backed by powerful threat intelligence becomes vital.

Key Takeaways on Threat Intelligence

  1. Identifying Unknown Risks: Threat intelligence uncovers evolving risks, such as newly reported vulnerabilities or emerging attacker tactics, not captured by traditional due diligence methods. It helps organisations proactively verify risk levels and implement necessary controls.
  2. Monitoring for Threat Activity: Continuous monitoring of threats affecting third parties is crucial. TPRM threat intelligence tracks threat actors, campaigns, and vulnerabilities over time, triggering alerts for timely responses and reducing the likelihood of compromises.
  3. Informing Security Controls: Threat intelligence informs the implementation of risk-appropriate security controls by revealing attacker behaviours and techniques. This allows organisations to tailor access controls, monitoring, and incident response based on specific threats targeting industry verticals.
  4. Baseline Check for Non-Critical Vendors: While critical vendors undergo regular comprehensive assessments, threat intelligence fills gaps for non-critical vendors. By profiling and tiering vendors based on business impact, organisations can ensure they do not miss potential critical threats as they emerge.

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What is Threat Intelligence

Threat intelligence provides contextual information about existing and emerging threats that may impact an organisation and its third parties. It delivers vital data points ranging from indicators of compromise to in-depth profiles of threat actors and their tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs). Leveraging this intelligence can help security teams prioritise risks, monitor threats and make informed decisions about third party partners. In addition, implementing software solutions for supplier management can streamline the process of collecting and analysing threat data, ensuring a more comprehensive and efficient approach to risk mitigation.

Threat Intelligence Plays A Vital Role In Strengthening Third Party Risk Management In Four Key Ways:

Identifying Unknown Risks

Traditional vendor due diligence relies heavily on questionnaires and certifications to evaluate risk levels. However, these are point-in-time evaluations and provide little visibility into the rapidly evolving threat landscape. Threat intelligence in third party risk management fills these blind spots by uncovering risks like newly reported vulnerabilities, emerging attacker TTPs, or early indicators of a third party getting compromised. Armed with this data, organisations can take proactive steps to verify actual risk levels and ensure adequate controls remain in place to protect their data and environments when working with third parties. A strong cyber risk resilience program combined with threat intelligence significantly lowers the possibility of breaches in the ecosystem.

Monitoring For Threat Activity

Ongoing monitoring of threats affecting third parties is critical for minimising risk exposure. TPRM Threat intelligence enables this by tracking threat actor groups, campaigns, malware strains and known vulnerable applications over time. Dedicated teams translate this data into action by creating targeted watchlists based on the specific technologies and solutions used by vendors and partners. If any relevant threats are detected, alerts are triggered automatically so that relationship managers can investigate and coordinate with the partner to take appropriate precautions. This reduces the likelihood of a compromise. A compromise especially in the third party network eventually permeates the whole environment and supply chains of the business. A comprehensively managed third party risk becomes the need of the hour to bypass these security compromises. Threat intelligence pinpoints the lapses in systems and procedures of third party networks and when combined with efficiently managed third party risk best practices results in fruitful outcomes for all the stakeholders.

Informing Security Controls  

Implementing risk-appropriate security controls is imperative when granting access privileges to third parties. Threat intelligence provides vital support for this by revealing attacker behaviours, exploitation techniques, and security gaps being targeted in specific solution areas or industry verticals. These insights allow organisations to tailor access controls, security monitoring, and incident response appropriately when onboarding new suppliers or modifying contracts with existing vendors. 

For example, if threat intelligence uncovers an uptick in supply chain attacks abusing PowerShell scripts in the technology vertical, additional controls may be enforced for related partners like auditing PowerShell usage or requiring approval before running scripts. Such targeted safeguards enabled by TPRM threat intelligence analysis make security measures far more effective for managing risk.

Baseline Check For Non Critical Vendors

Most organisations already have a subset of vendors that are considered critical. While it is necessary to complete regular comprehensive security assessments of those vendors, at least the basics are to be performed for vendors considered non critical. A profiling and tiering exercise should be undertaken to help you determine how to treat vendors based on whether they are critical to business operations or handle sensitive customer data. 

If the organisation is performing an annual security assessment on its third parties, external threat intelligence can fill the gaps between those annual assessments. This way you will not miss out on the potential critical threats as they emerge.

Conclusion

As organisations increasingly rely on external providers for business-critical functions, they also become more exposed to risks inherited from the cybersecurity posture and resilience of third parties. A formal program for managing these risks is vital, and threat intelligence is indispensable for supercharging these efforts. By providing contextual insights into the fast-changing threat landscape, threat intelligence allows security teams to comprehensively evaluate partner risk levels, continuously monitor for emerging threats affecting partners, and implement controls tailored to current attack trends. Robust third party risk management backed by powerful threat intelligence helps organisations improve their resilience significantly against today’s sophisticated threat actors. The vital question for companies then becomes not whether to invest in this capability, but how soon it can be implemented to minimise blind spots and exposure.

Author Bio:

Nagaraj Kuppuswamy is the Co-founder and CEO of Beaconer, an esteemed enterprise specialising in managed third-party risk using the cloud-native AI-based solution. With an extensive portfolio of accolades and industry certifications, Nagaraj stands out as a seasoned expert, boasting over 16 years of dedicated involvement in the field of Cybersecurity. Throughout their career, he has predominantly focused on elevating the realm of third-party risk assessment. You can connect with him through Linkedin.

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