TPCRM: Developing a Third-Party Cyber Risk Management Program for Your Campus

Published: October 14, 2022

The COVID-19 pandemic introduced swift digital changes that created further security vulnerabilities for a hybrid workforce. Due to the distributed nature of modern work environments, organizations must be on the lookout for ways that cybercriminals can expose new vulnerabilities.

In today’s economy, the need to construct a third-party cyber risk management program (TPCRM) program for the current workforce cannot be understated. Every organization must recalibrate their cybersecurity initiatives to tackle new threats and build new protections against online or digital crime.

In this post, we’ll discuss the importance of implementing a Third-Party Cyber Risk Management (TPCRM) program and how your organization can get started, particularly when working with a hybrid workforce.

What is Third-Party Cyber Risk Management (TPCRM)?

Third-Party Cyber Risk Management, otherwise abbreviated as TPCRM, is a strategic process that equips organizations of all shapes sizes to identify, evaluate, and reduce modern cybersecurity risks that are inherent in third-party or vendor business relationships.

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When using third-party vendors to conduct basic business operations, organizations must have a complete and holistic understanding of the potential threats that applications, software, or programs expose. Only then is it possible to develop mitigation plans that tackle these risks head-on.

What is the True Cost of Cyber Risk?

While leaders might know and recognize the importance of protecting an organization’s data at a high level, it’s more challenging to see the real costs of cybercrime unless you’ve been affected. Unfortunately, many businesses have felt these repercussions. The cost of all cyber-related crimes is expected to exceed $105 trillion dollars by 2025.

Not only does such a staggering amount mean setbacks, it also means that consumers, customers, and clients can expect to tangibly feel the results of cybercrime.

Cybersecurity risks can take on many faces as threat actors and other digital criminals seek to evolve and adapt their strategies. Make no mistake—each evolution is purposefully created to expose known vulnerabilities and take advantage of those, no matter the cost.

Choosing Adequate Solutions

By using streamlined security tools and solutions, you can reduce your exposure to threats. Whether your organization works in one physical location or is distributed remotely, having the flexibility to address risks at any time or place is vital to sustainability.

Depending on the purpose and scope of your work, you may need to consider one or a combination of the following tools.

  • Government and risk compliance tools– With these tools, all risk and compliance data is in one centralized place, making it easier to share, report, conduct risk assessments, or review contracts.
  • Security rating tools– These tools help businesses align on their overall security posture when compared to the broader community. Some rating tools are limited and should be used in conjunction with more robust internal ratings.
  • Vendor risk management platforms– For organizations that need to recognize and manage supply chain risks, these platforms provide oversight into hardware, software, and other important aspects of production or delivery.

Recent Attacks Highlight Need for Enhanced Security

As society at large moved toward digital processes, it’s more important than ever to think beyond the headlines. Although digital ecosystems are now considered the “new normal,” preparing and protecting them requires strategic effort.

In recent years, some of the most notable third-party data attacks and breaches include:

  • 2020 SolarWinds Breach
  • 2021 Colonial Pipeline Breach
  • 2021 Accellion FTA Attack

Collectively, these cyber attacks targeted internal networks, key databases, encrypted data, and server frameworks. Each component under attack was integral to business operations and to the protection of sensitive data. As is true for most cyber attacks, these incidents resulted in the loss of data and were incredibly costly (both financially and to reputations).

TPCRM Strategy in a Post-COVID Culture

The COVID-19 pandemic provided a crash course in cybersecurity protocols and vulnerabilities. As social distancing became the norm, more organizations offered remote work opportunities. Even in a post-pandemic world, the implications of COVID have altered the way we conduct work, which is more distributed and hybrid than it was previously.

As a result of the decentralization of workplaces, organizations have also moved to a reliance on third-party vendors and applications, including IoT providers.

The sheer number of security openings make it harder to maintain excellent digital hygiene, which is the process of cleansing data and re-evaluating habits for more secure results.

What we can all glean from the pandemic experience is that critical evaluation and risk assessment are critical for third-party useJust as humans shifted habits to accommodate COVID health protocols, workplaces must now reassess their operational structure and data.

TPCRM for Hybrid Work Environments

When you facilitate work in a hybrid setting, it’s expected that you’ll be giving employees more outside access to internal systems than before. Obviously, when individual devices aren’t protected in one physical location (such as a central hub or office), the risk of cyber vulnerabilities increases.

This change in process necessitates the selection of trusted, secure, and reliable third-party vendors. It also mandates more direct action on the organizational side to train and educate employees about hybrid work security risks.

By making small adjustments to habits and routines, a distributed or remote workforce can increase responsibility for adhering to a comprehensive TPCRM.

Steps for Building and Implementing a TPCRM Program

When created correctly and adequately, a TPCRM program guards an organization’s reputation, bottom line, and overall security or compliance posture. A thorough TPCRM program also provides relevant insights into the overall value of third-party vendor relationships while shedding light on the ability to improve or strengthen them.

While the process can be as simple or as complex as you prefer, the basic guidelines for building a fully functioning TPCRM program are highlighted below.

  • Identify the need– As a hybrid organizaton, the need for security management is obvious. Yet the entire team must be on board to understand why protection is crucial.
  • Achieve stakeholder buy-in– Prior to implementing a new TPCRM strategy, you may need to communicate to executive leaders (CEO or CIO), investors, upper management, and other community members.
  • Decide on a platform or system– Choosing a vendor risk management platform that houses all of your security data in one place is critical to success. Pick your platform, and invest time in learning it.
  • Personalize your own processes– Using your platform of choice, import the information unique to your hybrid business, including which vendors you use regularly.
  • Extract valuable data– Leverage the information you have at your disposal to make strategic choices about the vendor relationships you use and trust.
  • Mitigate risks – Work alongside vendors and third-party providers to reduce risks within your hybrid environment.

Sarah Frazier is the Head of Content Marketing at CyberGRX. She has an extensive background in media and frequently writes about cybersecurity and SaaS marketing. This article was originally published in CS sister publication and has been edited.

Strategy & Planning Series
Strategy & Planning Series
Strategy & Planning Series
Strategy & Planning Series
Strategy & Planning Series