Best Practices for Third-Party Access Governance

When working with third-party vendors, it’s important to balance security with the ability to do business. This requires a solid process that starts with the contract, extends to day-to-day collaboration, and includes continuous monitoring.

Many account access privileges remain in place months or years after the vendor’s relationship has ended, creating an opening for attackers. Learn how a converged governance solution incorporating IGA, privileged access management, and third-party access governance can close this gap.

Define Vendor Remote Access Policies

So, what is third party access governance? As organizations rely on third parties to support business, security professionals must ensure they take the proper steps to protect data and mitigate risk. A lack of visibility and control over third-party endpoints leaves a company vulnerable to attacks from internal and external actors. At the same time, overly restrictive access can thwart an organization’s ability to work with these partners.

To address this issue, it’s essential to establish a clear remote access policy for vendors that outlines how privileged accounts are invited, provisioned, and de-provisioned. These policies should also explain a process for enforcing compliance and providing security officers with the necessary tools to implement policy.

This policy should be based on the principle of least privilege, ensuring that third parties can access only those assets and permissions required to perform their role. This differs from traditional role-based access methods, often managed through human resource systems that automatically recognize employee titles and assign appropriate permissions.

In addition to establishing the appropriate policies, a robust third-party access governance plan should include continuous monitoring and periodic evaluations. This will help reduce the chance of a third-party breach or unauthorized access and help maintain an optimal balance between access and productivity. For example, access should be denied to devices that haven’t been updated or meet minimum requirements.

Ensure Vendors Are Authenticated

Vendors, contractors, and service providers need privileged access to corporate systems for support and management purposes. Without access, they can’t do what you hired them to do. But if your security controls are too restrictive, you’re limiting their effectiveness and putting them at risk.

Ensure you’re using strong authentication to authorize privileged access. Whether through a remote access tool, a virtual private network, or another type of solution, you need to be sure you’re connecting to a legitimate source. This is important because a hacker could leverage these credentials to penetrate your systems.

To limit third-party exposure to sensitive data, use a VPAM solution that allows you to grant the least privilege possible to each user. You can use the solution to set the baseline access level and then configure granular permissions within each system to control what actions users can take, such as which buttons can be clicked, which text can be read, and more.

It’s also essential to set clear cybersecurity rules for your vendors and train them on them. It would be best to establish an internal policy for granting and revoking access that clarifies their responsibilities and outlines the requisite steps for different procedures. Reviewing the policy regularly and involving your compliance teams in these reviews is also essential. They will be able to ensure that your security practices are aligned with your compliance standards and regulations.

Ensure Vendors Have Access to Only the Resources They Need

Vendors are often granted privileged access to systems, applications, and data because they are needed to perform their jobs. However, a lack of visibility and control of their access to these resources can leave organizations vulnerable.

The first step in addressing this issue is establishing a robust onboarding process for third-party users. This should include a strong identity management component to confirm identities and a thorough role-based approach for granting access, including the principle of least privilege.

Another important aspect of this process is regular user access reviews. Accounts that have not been used for a while can be a significant risk, as they may still be active and allow unauthorized access to critical assets. A VPAM solution can prevent this by enabling access governance policies that automate alerts to data owners when credentials are out of sync with a role or position.

These processes should also be integrated into a system that is easy to use and understand by the organization and its vendors. This will help ensure that the correct credentials are being utilized and that a complete picture of activity is being monitored, allowing accountability to be maintained. An example would be a centralized log repository that can capture all privileged sessions and record their actions, regardless of the device or location.

Monitor Vendor Access

A secure vendor access management program requires an integrated, cross-disciplinary approach across IT & security. When a team works independently, missing necessary steps and introducing risk is manageable.

A common approach is to use a privileged access management solution, like VPAM, to define and enforce policies around what kinds of permissions to grant vendors. Using discovery tools, these technologies automatically monitor for any accounts created by third parties and ensure that all accounts are listed in a central portal when they need to be revoked.

But this approach is insufficient because granting or revoking access to a vendor account doesn’t necessarily mean that the account will be unused, nor does it guarantee that an abandoned privileged account won’t be discovered by hackers and exploited. Without an airtight off-boarding procedure, it’s straightforward for a vendor to create and share accounts or credentials and then leave the company.

A more comprehensive approach to reducing the risks inherent in vendor remote access is cataloging new vendors, sharing vital information about their services and which departments they serve, and establishing a framework for securely onboarding and off-boarding them.

Ideally, the policy should strictly enforce the principle of least privilege: Access to your systems should be provided only when certain contextual parameters are met and promptly de-provisioned when those conditions change or when contracts expire.