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Security Journal Authors: Mehdi Daoudi, John Walsh, Liz McMillan, Elizabeth White, Pat Romanski

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Guardians at the Gate: Securing Third-Party Access to Critical Systems | @CloudExpo #Cloud

Enterprises are encompassed with the challenges around managing access to clouds and their various flavors

Access is everything. It is the fundamental pillar that determines whether critical enterprise assets are safe or exposed. Knowing the answers to the questions of who is accessing what, where they are accessing that information from, why they are accessing that information and, finally, what exactly they're accessing are the basic questions that stand between a breach and brand reputation.

Today, access extends well beyond the borders of the enterprise. Global supply chains are increasingly complex. This year at RSA, Josh Douglas, CTO at Raytheon, described the global supply chain as being comprised of shared processes and shared technology that distributes products used in creating, sharing and distributing information. The global supply chain is intertwined intimately and it doesn't seem it will unravel itself anytime soon.

Enterprises are encompassed with the challenges around managing access to clouds and their various flavors, along with their network infrastructure, applications and data. In doing so, third parties become more and more critical to help deploy, control and maintain this transforming and fluid IT landscape.

This access is not only about people accessing machines to undertake their daily operational activities. This access also includes machines talking to other machines in an automated fashion and the underlying content of those interactions.

Yet for some reason, managing third-party access often comes as an afterthought in the industry's overall security strategies and postures. However, the data would suggest that this topic warrants more attention:

  • 70 percent of enterprises enter into contracts with external vendors without having conducted any security checks
  • 92 percent of enterprises don't have any supply chain risk management abilities in place.
  • 44 percent this year compared to 54 percent last year - are bothering to put in the effort to vet the security of third-party providers and others in their IT supply chain
  • 60 percent of organizations allow third-party vendors remote access to internal networks
  • 63 percent of data breaches are caused by security vulnerabilities introduced by third parties
  • 58 percent of organizations have no confidence that their third-party vendors are securing and monitoring privileged access to their network

The greater challenge in decreasing third-party risk exposure is what I call the "I got it, you take it" effect, where each party expects the other to take the primary responsibility for ensuring the security of the access. In reality, like any healthy relationship, security results from an equal continuous committed effort of both parties.

The data also suggest that solutions to this challenge are less complicated than they may appear. Basic measures put in place around people, processes and technology can help organizations decrease their risk exposure significantly.

Some basic measures include:

  • Engaging with suppliers, vendors, and service providers to create contractual obligations that ensure the vendor can control, monitor, and audit their third-party access and verify why the access is required. Taking this one step further, enterprises should be able to enforce the same upon their own third-party access to their own IT ecosystem.
  • Limiting access to on-premise and cloud infrastructures and performing inspection of encrypted traffic for both interactive and machine-to-machine connections in tandem with existing DLP, IPS and IDS toolsets available. An identifiable bridge between privileged access and data loss prevention should be traceable.
  • Building in gateway or chokepoint structures through which privileged access to critical infrastructure is channeled. VPN access followed by a jump server is not a sufficient control channel. Again: auditing, monitoring and control of privileged encrypted sessions and data transfers should be supported in tandem with two-factor authentication mechanisms.
  • Ensuring that key-based authentication for third-parties is controlled on a time basis, key usage can be monitored and that for longer term engagements keys can be rotated on a periodic basis. Be able to identify through IP source restrictions whether a key is accessing infrastructure from a non-authorized location.

With over 63 percent of data breaches being introduced by third-party access and 60 percent of enterprises permitting remote access by their third-party vendors, it is clear that dedicated mechanisms to control this form of access must be introduced at a people, process and technology level to reduce risk. The complexity of the intermeshed supply chain and the direction that third-party access will continue to grow in the years to come begs the consideration that this can no longer be considered as a footnote in enterprise security strategies. Instead, it must be considered as an integral component to the core of the strategy.

More Stories By Matthew McKenna

Matthew McKenna is Chief Strategy Officer and vice president of Key Accounts at SSH Communications Security. He brings over 15 years of high technology sales, marketing and management experience to SSH Communications Security and drives strategy, key account sales and evangelism. His expertise in strategically delivering technology solutions that anticipate the marketplace has helped the company become a market leader.

Prior to joining the company, Matthew served as a member of the executive management team of ADP Dealer Services Nordic and Automaster Oy, where he was responsible for international channel operations and manufacturer relations. In addition, he was responsible for key accounts including Mercedes Benz, General Motors, and Scania CV. Before this, he played professional soccer in Germany and Finland.

Matthew holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in German from the University of South Carolina and an MBA from the Helsinki School of Economics and Business Administration.

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