Exploring third-party risk: 5 common issues on the modern attack surface

The use of third-party software in today's digital landscape is almost unavoidable. From cloud providers and SaaS platforms to customer analytics and data collection tools, businesses of all sizes rely on external vendors to provide critical services and functionality. However, as we continue to depend more and more on third-party software solutions, the risks associated with this dependency also increase.

External third-party risks across the software supply chain can be significant, and it's essential to manage these risks proactively. If left unaddressed, these risks can result in a range of issues, including data breaches, regulatory compliance failures, reputational damage, and financial losses.

Identifying vendors & their most common issues

One essential step in managing third-party risks is identifying the third-party technologies that power, connect, and enable your web properties. This includes the SaaS platforms and cloud providers that host your web assets, the software powering your applications, and the third-party scripts enabling new business functionality and collecting customer data. Unfortunately, the issues related to these dependencies are often overlooked by traditional vulnerability and risk management processes.

Across these third-party vendors, some of the most common issues organizations find include:

  • Unknown and unmanaged vendors: Organizations often employ vendors and technologies unknown to GRC (Governance, Risk, and Compliance) and risk management teams. These blindspots are a form of "Shadow IT" that creates risks for both compliance and security. Organizations need to maintain a comprehensive inventory of their technology and supply chain dependencies.
  • Poorly offboarded vendors: Organizations often struggle with offboarding vendors completely, leading to partially offboarded vendors. Incomplete offboarding can create risks such as subdomain takeovers, where bad actors can take control of a subdomain of the organization's domain and use it for malicious purposes. For instance, an attacker can create a fake subdomain that looks like a legitimate one and use it to launch phishing attacks or distribute malware. Organizations should have defined processes for removing legacy solutions and DNS records, and double check that those have successfully been removed.
  • Out-of-date software: Many organizations use third-party software solutions that are not up-to-date and have known vulnerabilities. This can make them an easy target for cybercriminals who exploit these vulnerabilities, often to gain unauthorized access to sensitive data or disrupt the organization's operations. Organizations need to ensure that all third-party software solutions are updated regularly to address known vulnerabilities and security flaws.
  • Misconfigurations: Misconfigurations in third-party solutions can expose organizations to external risks. Misconfigured solutions can result in unintended data exposure, network misconfigurations, and an increased risk of data breaches. Organizations need to ensure that all third-party software solutions are configured correctly and monitored regularly for any changes.
  • Exposed secrets and API keys: Exposed secrets and API keys are a common concern in third-party software solutions. Bad actors can use these credentials to gain unauthorized access to sensitive data or control the organization's IT infrastructure. Organizations need to ensure that all secrets and API keys are securely stored and not exposed to unauthorized parties.

Tips for managing third-party risk

To manage external third-party risks effectively, organizations need to have a comprehensive risk management framework that includes regular vendor assessments, monitoring, and incident response plans. The risk management framework should include clear policies and procedures for onboarding, offboarding, and regularly auditing vendors and dependencies to ensure that they meet the organization's security standards and adhere to relevant regulatory requirements.

The role of external attack surface management in managing third-party risk

Any strong third-party risk management program starts with identifying the vendors and services the organization relies on.

External attack surface management solutions like the Halo Security platform can help organizations address this challenge by compiling a comprehensive inventory of external third-party software solutions in use across the organizations' external attack surface.

We understand that managing third-party software risk is a complex and challenging task that requires ongoing attention and diligence. The Halo Security platform helps thousands of organizations identify and monitor both known and unknown third-party vendors and their associated risks.

If you’d like to see firsthand how Halo Security’s platform helps keep organizations safe from third-party risks, feel free to book a time to meet with one of our security experts.