A rise in third-party risks call for modern identity-based defense strategies

June 2, 2023
Business leaders must adopt a forward-thinking, high-risk identity management-based approach to combat rising human-centric attacks

Earlier this year, Jen Easterly, Director of the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, warned that foreign hackers operating in countries, including Russia and China, have been quietly amassing U.S. corporate and government secrets. The attackers achieved this through the exploitation of gaping identity-based security holes in major software programs – making organizations prime targets as millions of employees operate on these platforms daily.

Part of the problem, as described by Director Easterly, is that software companies lack transparency when it comes to the safety of their platforms and are not taking enough measures to release secure products. Identity-based software insecurities, in particular, are increasing the volume and complexity of third-party attacks – plaguing corporations as they struggle to accurately measure the risk of their partners’ security postures. These vulnerabilities make it easier for cybercriminals to use legitimate credentials to compromise a company’s internal systems.

Amid rising cyber threats and increasing foreign tensions, corporations cannot afford to wait for software companies to patch their vulnerabilities. With the frequency and sophistication of cyberattacks increasing, it's not a matter of if, but when, an organization will be targeted.

With today’s economic and geopolitical climate, it is imperative for businesses to take proactive defense measures to limit exposure to risky third-party users and programs. Let’s explore a few of these measures and discuss the key high-risk identity management defense strategies critical to safeguarding sensitive
employee information.

Third Parties Are Risky Business

For quite some time, organizations have been leveraging third-party vendors to accelerate efficiency in different areas, including delivery, development and more. As business leaders know, these partnerships can result in a positive impact on company growth. However, they also pose a significant risk to enterprises’ security.

To effectively collaborate with one another, both businesses need to share sensitive assets including information, systems and network access. While a corporation may have its own security measures and standards in place, third parties are not subject to those same security policies. For example, a company’s IT team cannot instruct the vendor to use certain authentication services, devices or encryptions. In addition, vendors are not a part of their customers’ networks, so they cannot monitor attackers and malware. The different security and compliance measures within third parties have created substantial cybersecurity issues among many corporations today.

Director Easterly’s mention of foreign attackers breaching vulnerable software programs is just one of many rising third-party security threats enterprises are currently facing. Take, for example, Uber, which recently experienced its third major breach within the last 12 months. This time a third-party vulnerability exposed critical user data, including names and social security numbers. In this instance, Uber could have deployed the most comprehensive security measures available to protect all assets within its perimeter. However, like many organizations, the company fell victim to placing trust in their external parties’ security measures, failing to ensure critical user data housed outside their network was protected.

So, how can leaders ensure their defense efforts enable all data to be safeguarded, no matter which party is granted access to it? Let’s dive into this in the next section.

Security Leaders Must Take Matters Into Their Own Hands

To enhance the protection of their most critical assets, business leaders must take all security matters into their own hands. This can be accomplished through the adoption of a zero-trust mindset, leveraging modern high-risk identity management strategies to protect crucial information both inside and outside of an organization’s perimeter. Enterprises that integrate modern zero-trust architectures are empowered with key third-party identity-based management capabilities, including:

  • Stronger Access Control – Current research indicates that 54% of cyberattacks involve third parties. With third parties at an accelerated risk of attacks - due to their access to larger corporate data – comprehensive oversight and control of all user access are paramount to protecting critical information. Through modern high-risk identity management tools, IT teams can immediately grant or restrict access for any third party and run continuous authentication measures for each login attempt. Thus, only authorized users with access to the specific data and systems need to perform their duties while minimizing the risk of a potential cyberattack.
  • Enhanced Compliance – The rise in the adoption of modern, cloud computing solutions have heavily blurred the lines of the perimeters of organizations’ technical environments – making them almost impossible to define. IT and security leaders are juggling access and control challenges among new multi-cloud solutions, remote users, corporate on-premise users, bring-your-own-device and more. These new capabilities generate endless complexities to compliance assessments that are already time-consuming and resource-draining. Shifting to an identity-based perimeter simplifies the boundary-defining process for an auditor and bolsters the protection of organizations’ networks from unauthorized resources or users.

        As enterprises face increasing pressure to take full responsibility for cyberattacks - despite the cause being a third-party breach - maintaining strict security compliance is critical to protecting sensitive data within and beyond corporations’ digital infrastructure boundaries and reducing the costs and complexities associated with breaches.

  • Real-Time Monitorization & Recording - Zero-trust means to trust no one, even those who have been granted access. Through high-risk identity management tools, admins are empowered with the ability to supervise and audit all activity. This includes the ability to monitor and record both online and offline users logged into the network in real time.

Between rising foreign tensions, accelerated third-party risks and unresolved software vulnerabilities within major programs, sensitive data has never been more vulnerable. Business leaders tasked with the pertinent objective of securing sensitive assets among both internal and external parties must adopt a forward-thinking, high-risk identity management-based approach to combat rising human-centric attacks. In doing so, they’ll decrease their attack surface, reduce threat complexities and cut costs through streamlined cyber defense tactics.

About the author: Dor Dali is the Head of Security Researchat Cyolo with many years of experience in security research and security program management. Dor is very enthusiastic about everything related to fixing and fixing problems in security and holds a deep understanding and knowledge in the fields of web applications, product, and infrastructure security.