How to Conduct Effective 3rd-Party Vendor Security Reviews

In today’s interconnected business landscape, companies often depend on third-party vendors to provide essential services, be they back-office or part of their product or service offering. While these partnerships can foster growth and efficiency, they also introduce a potent source of invisible security risks. As data breaches and cyber-attacks continue to make the headlines, it has become imperative for organizations to conduct thorough security reviews of their third-party vendors.

This article aims to provide a comprehensive guide to performing effective 3rd party vendor security reviews, outlining key steps, best practices, and strategies to mitigate risks and ensure a robust security framework.

Understanding the Importance of Vendor Security Reviews:

Before delving into the process, it is crucial to recognize the significance of third-party vendor security reviews. Third-party vendors often have access to sensitive data, networks, or systems, thereby making them potential entry points for cyber threats. Conducting comprehensive security assessments can help identify vulnerabilities, assess compliance with industry standards and regulations, and ultimately safeguard the organization’s assets and reputation.

Key Steps for Conducting 3rd Party Vendor Security Reviews:

  1. Define Clear Objectives: Begin by outlining the specific goals and objectives of the security review. Identify the critical assets involved, the scope of the assessment, and the compliance requirements pertinent to the industry. It may be you have mandatory requirements that the 3rd party must meet.
    • Scoping this correctly is key, you need to ensure you have discovered all the touch points and ways in which their offering is utilised. You well may need to do an initial discovery with your inhouse IT and developer teams first.
  2. Assess Vendor Risk: Evaluate the potential risk exposure associated with the vendor. Consider the nature of the data shared, how it is transferred, and where it is stored. Then review the vendor’s security practices, their history of security incidents, and their internal security policies and procedures.
  3. Conduct Due Diligence: Gather comprehensive information about the vendor’s security practices. Request documentation regarding their security controls, protocols for data handling, incident response plans, and any relevant certifications or compliance reports. Be clear to inform them why you want such documentation and that it in turn will be appropriately managed and secured.
  4. Perform On-Site Assessments: When feasible and useful, conduct on-site visits to the vendor’s facilities to gain deeper insights into their security infrastructure. Assess physical security measures, employee training protocols, and the overall culture of security awareness within the organization. Is being secure part of their operational DNA?
  5. Review Contractual Agreements: Ensure that the vendor’s security commitments are clearly defined in the contractual agreements. Assess their adherence to industry standards, regulatory requirements, and specific security obligations as outlined in the contract. Look out for clauses that unduly restrict their ongoing security responsibilities.
  6. Conduct Vulnerability Assessments: Utilize robust security tools to perform comprehensive vulnerability assessments on the vendor’s systems, networks, and applications. Identify and prioritize potential vulnerabilities to determine the level of risk associated with the vendor’s services. Of course, only do this with their prior permission and in a way that cannot negatively impact their service.
  7. Implement Ongoing Monitoring: Establish protocols for continuous monitoring of the vendor’s security posture. Regularly review security reports, conduct periodic assessments, and ensure that the vendor maintains compliance with the agreed-upon security standards. This could be as simple as a half-yearly ‘check-in’ to see how they are progressing with their security maturity.
  8. Develop Contingency Plans: Prepare contingency plans to address potential security breaches or incidents involving the vendor. Establish clear protocols for incident response, including communication channels, escalation procedures, and steps for mitigating the impact of any security breach.

Best Practices for Enhancing 3rd-Party Vendor Security:

  • Foster open communication and transparency between the organization and the vendor regarding security practices and concerns.
    • Emphase that this is a two way street, in that you are willing to work with them to identify security issues and improve their security.
    • Ideally liaise at least every 6 months, how often you meet or communicate should correlate with the criticality of their offering to the business.
  • Establish a robust vendor management program that emphasizes security as a priority throughout the partnership lifecycle.
  • Regularly update security policies and procedures to align with evolving industry standards and emerging security threats.
    • This needs to be an ongoing process and if you find a security threat, think if it could apply to one of your vendors and inform them of it. Do not demand they address the threat upfront or require confirmation that it has been resolved. Rather let them freely communicate with you around the risk and work together to cover it off.
  • Provide comprehensive training to employees and stakeholders involved in the vendor management process, emphasizing the importance of security compliance and risk management.
  • Collaborate with legal and compliance teams to ensure that contractual agreements are enforceable and aligned with relevant regulatory requirements.
  • Implement a robust incident response plan that includes the vendor as a key stakeholder, enabling swift and coordinated responses to potential security incidents.


In an era where data breaches and cyber threats pose significant risks to businesses, conducting effective 3rd party vendor security reviews is a crucial component of a comprehensive security strategy. By following the outlined steps and best practices, organizations can proactively identify vulnerabilities, mitigate risks, and foster secure partnerships with third-party vendors, thereby safeguarding their valuable assets, data, and reputation in an increasingly interconnected business environment.

Incorporating these strategies will enable organizations to build resilient security frameworks that prioritize risk management, compliance, and proactive measures against potential security threats from third-party vendors. By establishing a culture of security awareness and vigilance, companies can navigate the complexities of vendor management while ensuring the integrity and security of their operations and data.

At Aykira we have in-depth experience performing 3rd party vendor security reviews, if you would like to know how we can assist you please fill in the form below.

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