Protection in the Third-Party World

The reliance on third-party providers for so many data servers continues to grow. That increases your dependence on other people’s diligence, and it increases your responsibility to be more vigilant.

“NJ Biz” recently devoted a series of articles to many aspects of online safety and protection, and one of them focused on issues we’ve been discussing: verifying the integrity of third-party providers and two-factor authentication. Third-party providers are being used more and more by businesses of all types because they can scale up faster and more economically to handle any number of users from any number of locations.

However, you need to rely on those providers to protect your data, and according to Jonathan Dambrot, CEO and co-founder of Prevalent, a Warren-based IT security, compliance and third-party risk management service provider, the security environment is far from ideal. In one of the “NJ Biz” articles, he says: “Depending on who you talk to, between 40 to 80 percent of all data breaches are happening at third-party vendors, because that is where most of the data is. People are focusing on third-party data security risks because criminals are going after the data where it resides.”

If a provider has weak security, it can be more vulnerable to an attack by hackers. But government and industry leaders are getting together to help you. Last December, Congress passed The Cybersecurity Act of 2015 to encourage companies to share with the government and each other technical details of hacking threats. This regulation reflects a growing acceptance of collaboration as a way to access data security threat intelligence and enforce vendor compliance.

It’s the latest of several early steps in a fluid regulatory process.

“Regulators have put controls in place over the last two-and-a-half to three years, and there is a combination of reasons why third-party or downstream risk has become really important to people as they look at their cybersecurity,” Dambrot said. “Third-party vendor and business associate risk has really changed as vendor services have changed. Years ago, people weren’t talking about cloud usage as much as they are today, and so, regulators will continue to change the wording to match the way data is handled.”

This collaborative effort, however, doesn’t get you off the hook. On the contrary, you need to do more. Two other articles we recently came across expand on two security matters we discussed last month: two-factor authentication and asking the right questions of any data-services provider.

Rather than re-explain some of the more effective ways to use two-factor authorization (2FA), we can refer you to a recent post by Ed Bott on ZDNet. There are many options available, including apps you can download to your mobile devices.

As he asks, “How much are your private communications worth? How about your reputation? Your bank account? Your identity?”

We know they are priceless to us but have great value on the black market. With 2FA enabled for a cloud service, any attempt to sign in on an unrecognized device might require you to enter a secret code that’s either received as a text message or generated by an authenticator app on your previously registered smartphone.

“Depending on the service, entering a code might automatically establish the current device as trusted, or you might be given the option to trust the current device,” he writes. “If this is your new computer or tablet (or a new browser), and you have this option you should say yes. When you’re signing in on a device you don’t control, you shouldn’t allow it on your trusted list. One way to make sure that the device isn’t marked as trusted is to use a browser in private mode (aka incognito in Chrome). If a bad guy manages to steal your credentials for an account that’s protected by 2FA, he’s unable to do any damage. Because he is signing in on an unrecognized device, he’s required to provide a second form of authentication. Without access to your trusted device, he can’t authenticate himself and can’t go any further.”

There are many variations on that theme, and we can help you find one or two 2FA programs that can best meet your needs and comfort level with your devices. But you need to be sure the data center that houses your information has all the right policies and procedures in place, too.

Services provider vXchange, which estimates some 78 percent of work-related data will be on the cloud by 2018, has a list of 10 questions you should ask your next data center manager, and we suggest you read them to get an idea of what’s at stake. They’re questions we ask of ourselves and our provider to minimize your risk and ours.

While you don’t get total control of your data, you will have a much better grasp of the possible risks and the steps you can take to maximize your protection.

As your trusted IT service provider and advocate, we have 2FA techniques we prefer and providers with which we have established relationships. We can answer your questions and address your specific concerns in selecting and installing 2FA programs, and we can help you select and vet data centers. Call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us to set up an appointment to discuss your specifics.