Appgate Cybersecurity|January 24, 2024

Third-Party Cybersecurity Risks: How ZTNA Safeguards Your Data and Network

Most organizations rely on third-party vendors and partners to deliver products and services. While these collaborations offer numerous benefits, they also expose organizations to a significant risk if these third parties fall victim to a cybersecurity breach. Organizations seeking to protect their networks against threat actor infiltration via third-party exploits are using Zero Trust Network Access to shrink attack surfaces and cloak resources from unauthorized users and devices.

Understanding the impact of third-party cyber attacks

Third-party cyberattacks can have far-reaching consequences for organizations of all sizes. When a third-party vendor or partner experiences a security breach, the ripple effect can be devastating. Not only does it compromise the sensitive data of the affected organization, but it also damages its reputation and erodes customer trust. This can lead to financial losses, legal ramifications and long-term business implications.

Moreover, third-party cyberattacks often go undetected for extended periods, allowing hackers to exploit vulnerabilities and exfiltrate data without detection at the primary organization they are targeting through the third-party. This delay in detection further exacerbates the impact of the attack, as threat actors have ample time to cause damage and steal valuable information. Therefore, it is crucial for organizations to adopt proactive measures like Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) to mitigate third-party cybersecurity risks and harden their overall network security postures.

Common types of third-party cybersecurity risks

There are several common types of third-party cybersecurity risks that organizations need to be aware of. One of the most high-profile examples is supply chain attacks like the successful SolarWinds breach, where attackers gained access to the networks, systems and data of thousands of SolarWinds customers, including organizations in the U.S. federal government. Supply chain attacks can occur through compromised software updates, counterfeit hardware or malicious insiders within the supply chain.

Another significant risk is data breaches resulting from third-party negligence. When organizations entrust their data to third-party vendors, they expect them to have robust security measures in place. However, if these vendors fail to adequately protect the data, it can lead to unauthorized access and subsequent breaches. To understand impact, one simply should research the breach of Target's gateway server via credentials stolen by threat actors from a third-party vendor. They then exfiltrated the credit and debit data of approximately 40 million Target shoppers. Ultimately, Target paid out $18.5 million to settle claims and reported that the cost of the infamous data breach was $202 million.

Phishing attacks and credential stuffing targeting third-party vendors are also a significant concern. Hackers often employ social engineering tactics to trick employees of vendors into revealing sensitive information or granting access to their systems. Once the attackers gain a foothold within a vendor's network, they can pivot to target the vendor's clients, including the organizations they serve.

The importance of Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA)

To combat the growing threat of third-party cyberattacks, organizations are turning to Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA). ZTNA assumes no user or device can be trusted by default, regardless of their location or network connection. It focuses on verifying and validating every user, device and transaction before granting access to critical resources.

ZTNA offers several key advantages in mitigating third-party cybersecurity risks. First, it provides granular control and visibility over user access, allowing organizations to enforce least-privilege access policies. This limits the potential damage and lateral movement that can be caused by compromised third parties accessing an organization’s network via insecure VPNs. Second, ZTNA ensures that all connections are encrypted and authenticated, minimizing the risk of unauthorized access and data extraction.

Implementing a ZTNA framework to mitigate third-party risks

Implementing ZTNA to mitigate third-party risks requires a systematic approach. First, organizations should conduct a thorough assessment of their current third-party relationships, identifying the vendors and partners that have access to critical systems and data. This assessment should include evaluating the security measures in place and the level of access each third party has.

Once the assessment is complete, organizations can prioritize their third-party relationships based on risk exposure. High-risk vendors should be subjected to more stringent security requirements, including regular security audits and assessments. This ensures that vendors are held accountable for maintaining a strong security posture and promptly addressing any vulnerabilities.

Additionally, organizations should establish clear security requirements and contractual obligations for all third-party relationships. This includes specifying minimum security controls that vendors must adhere to and the consequences for non-compliance. Regular monitoring and auditing of third-party security practices are essential to ensure ongoing compliance and identify any emerging risks.

Best practices for safeguarding your data and reputation

In addition to implementing ZTNA, there are several best practices organizations should follow to safeguard their data and reputation. Regular employee training and awareness programs are crucial to educate staff about the risks associated with third-party interactions and the importance of following established security protocols.

Organizations should also regularly review and update their incident response plans to include specific provisions for third-party cyberattacks. This ensures that the organization is prepared to respond swiftly and effectively in the event of a security breach involving a third-party vendor.

In addition, organizations should bolster their security ecosystem with threat intelligence feeds and security analytics tools to proactively monitor for signs of compromise within their networks and third-party relationships. This allows for early detection of potential threats and enables organizations to take prompt action to mitigate the risk.

Assessing and managing third-party cybersecurity risks

Assessing and managing third-party cybersecurity risks requires a comprehensive approach that encompasses the entire vendor lifecycle. This includes conducting due diligence when selecting vendors, evaluating their security practices before onboarding and regularly monitoring their ongoing compliance.

Cybersecurity audits and assessments play a vital role in this process. These assessments provide an objective evaluation of a vendor's security controls, identifying areas of weakness and opportunities for improvement. Organizations should conduct these audits regularly and leverage the findings to drive continuous improvement in their third-party risk management practices.

Additionally, organizations should establish clear communication channels with their vendors to foster a collaborative approach to cybersecurity. This includes sharing threat intelligence, conducting joint vulnerability assessments, and collaborating on incident response plans. By working together, organizations and their vendors can effectively address and mitigate third-party cybersecurity risks.

Mitigating potential damage of third-party related breaches

Organizations need to better manage the risks of third-party access to decrease the chances that attackers can penetrate through each of the defense layers. An effective security solution should be able to tell if the context of a remote connection is suspicious, such as if it originates from an unusual location or time of day, or from a device with no antivirus software installed. And it should be able to ask for additional authentication steps like one-time passwords (OTP), adjust user permissions on the fly, and ultimately block access according to the level of risk.

By using a universal ZTNA solution organizations can ensure that all endpoints attempting to access a given infrastructure are authenticated and authorized prior to accessing any resources on the network. All unauthorized network resources are made inaccessible. This not only applies the principle of least privilege to the network, it also reduces the attack surface area by cloaking network resources from unauthorized or unauthenticated users with single packet authorization (SPA). Zero Trust Network Access overcomes the constraints of traditional tools like VPNs and NACs by effectively creating a dynamic, individualized perimeter for each user—a network “segment of one.”

The future of third-party cybersecurity risks

As technology evolves, so do third-party cybersecurity risks. Organizations need to adapt and stay ahead of emerging threats to protect their data and reputation effectively with advanced, agile secure access technologies like ZTNA, regular training and awareness programs and a culture of proactive risk management.

Emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning will also play a crucial role in mitigating third-party cybersecurity risks. These technologies can enhance threat detection capabilities, automate response processes and provide valuable insights into emerging threats and attack trends.

Taking proactive steps to protect your data and reputation

In an era where third-party collaborations are becoming increasingly prevalent, organizations must take proactive steps to protect their data and reputation from the inherent risks. By implementing Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA), conducting thorough assessments, and following best practices, organizations can minimize their exposure to third-party cybersecurity risks.

Appgate SDP: A proven third-party ZTNA remote access solution

As technology continues to evolve, so too will the landscape of third-party cybersecurity risks. Organizations need replace risky VPNs with a comprehensive ZTNA solution that can secure all user-to-resource and resource-to-resource connections to protect their data and reputation effectively and can adapt to the growing needs of the business.

Appgate SDP, our industry-leading ZTNA solution, is adaptive, identity-centric and enforces least privilege third-party remote access for your vendors, partners or other outside parties in real-time to your network. Benefits include:

  • Unauthorized resources are completely invisible
  • 1:1 connections are secure and encrypted between user and resource
  • Built like the cloud—massively scalable, distributed and resilient
  • Consistent access control across cloud-native and hybrid environments
  • Better network security than legacy VPNs, NACs and firewalls
  • Third-party remote access is identity and context sensitive
  • Eliminates lateral movements on the network

For more information on how Appgate SDP helps mitigate third-party risk, explore these additional resources or register to attend a monthly ZTNA Table Talks session.

Additional third-party remote access resources

Datasheet: Reduce over-privileged third-party access
Whitepaper: Managing the risks of third-party access
Blog: How to protect against ransomware and other top cyberthreats with ZTNA

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