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March 29, 2017

SMBs Need to Bulk Up Cyber Security

Summary:

Professional cyber criminals avoid large companies' massive security systems and target the small provider, with its minimal controls.

Photo Courtesy of Pexels

Third-party risks—the notion that a contractor or a supplier could inadvertently expose the first-party organization to a network breach—may not be the sexiest cybersecurity issue out there. But at RSA 2017—the weeklong cybersecurity conference that drew 43,000 attendees to San Francisco’s Moscone Center last month—there was much talk that third-party risks are destined to ascend as a bellwether phenomenon.

I mean that in this sense: Actually addressing third-party risks is something companies of all sizes—from enterprise-class first-party organizations to SMB-size third-party suppliers—must come to grips with, probably sooner than later. What’s more, as the journey to mitigate third-party risk unfolds, trustworthiness of internet-centric commerce naturally will rise, perhaps dramatically.

New market emerges

One marker is that tech research firm Gartner has begun monitoring a dozen or so technology vendors marketing third-party risk solutions to large enterprises. Gartner refers to this fledgling cottage industry as the “IT vendor risk management” market. In a report last fall, Gartner predicted that the IT VRM market would expand 30% by 2019.

See also: Ransomware: Growing Threat for SMBs  

The main growth driver: regulatory requirements.

Case in point: New York state’s freshly minted Cybersecurity Requirements for Financial Services Companies, which took effect March 1, includes provisions that require financial services companies to ensure the security of the systems used by their third-party suppliers.

Meanwhile, Europe has begun to roll out a comprehensive set of data-handling rules that also call out the need to address third-party risk. These include the new framework for commercial data exchange between the U.S. and the European Union, referred to as the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield, as well as the new EU privacy rules known as General Data Protection Regulation or GDPR.

SMBs in hackers’ cross-hairs

To be clear, the burden does not solely rest with large enterprises to mitigate third-party risks. This issue profoundly affects small and medium-size organizations. SMBs no doubt will face increasing requirements to prove their cybersecurity fitness to win contracts from first-party business customers.

“Third-party issues are driven by the fact that outsourcing trends are continuing unabated,” says Jonathan Dambrot, CEO and co-founder of Prevalent, one of the leading IT VRM vendors tracked by Gartner. He says third-party suppliers, in fact, are believed to be the source of as much as 70% of the network breaches that occur today,

Professional cyber criminals are fully aware of capabilities of the multimillion-dollar security systems that large companies have in place. So they wisely target “the small provider who’s providing some service and who doesn’t have their security controls,” Dambrot says.

Vendors lack knowledge

Meanwhile, all too many third-party suppliers continue to operate either ignorant of, or in denial of, the exposures they’re creating by failing to adhere to security best practices.

“A lot of smaller firms are still struggling with even understanding what they need to do, from a policies standpoint all the way down to the technical controls,” Dambrot says. “Do they have appropriate controls for encryption, identity management and multifactor authentication?”

It’s very early in the ballgame. A Ponemon Institute survey conducted last May found that the majority of the 600-plus respondents agreed that third-party risk was both serious and has been significantly growing in their organizations.

See also: Cyber Attacks Shift to Small Businesses  

However, Ponemon found that only a third of those organizations had formal programs in place to manage third-party risks, and only about a quarter of them purchased cyber insurance to reduce the economic impact of third-party risks.

But the potential for elevating internet security, in the longer run, is palpable.

This post originally appeared on ThirdCertainty.

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About the Author

Byron Acohido is a business journalist who has been writing about cybersecurity and privacy since 2004, and currently blogs at LastWatchdog.com.

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