The Key Threats and Risks That Third-Parties Create to Websites
These third-party tools and apps also play a vital role in generating revenue for your website. If you examine any given website today, you will find dozens of these tools. We use them for advertising and digital marketing, user engagement, widgets, chatbots, social media tools, analytics, cloud storage, trackers, developer frameworks, and lots more.
The Risk of Using Third-Party Apps
No one can deny the benefits that these third-party apps provide. They bring better functionality for your customers and allow your organization to monetize its business and generate more revenues. However, these apps also present significant security risks and privacy threats to the users’ data. Yes, you might have been using an Intrusion Prevention Systems (IPS) or a Web Application Firewall (WAF) to protect your website from web-based attacks. But these controls alone are simply not enough for end-to-end security of the web applications on a website. Standard web security solutions like IPS or WAFs can help protect the communication between the end-user and your servers. However, they are not as effective when it comes to third-party web apps. Why? Because for these apps, the client-side is responsible for the connections with the third-party vendors, and your IPS or WAFs’ protection mechanism simply doesn’t function on that environment. In fact, the enduser generates communications with dozens of global locations, butwebsites have minimal capabilities to monitor it within their existing security products. And this is a problem!
In spite of the most stringent tests and checks, third-party services can infiltrate your systems without requiring any permission from your website. This blind spot in your website security infrastructure can end up compromising your software platforms and data, leading to severe consequences.
There are three major types of risks that third-party apps and services can pose to your website:
- Supply Chain Attacks
- Third-Party Vendor Errors
- Privacy Breaches and Regulation Issues
Supply Chain Attacks
Supply chain attacks happen when hackers penetrate systems through an external partner or service provider and gain access to your systems and data. Every organization has a massive supply chain working for them down the line. These suppliers and service providers have access to the most confidential information of your customers, as well as to your security systems. Not every organization in your supply network deploys the best security measures. Cybercriminals take advantage of this aspect and tamper with your systems or the automated manufacturing process of your product in a production unit by installing hardware-based spying components. On the web environment, this becomes even more critical, as all your vendors are being loaded to your page when the users are browsing your website semiautomatically. To demonstrate – it’s like embedding a vendor’s straight inline into your code. You will not do it with usual outbound suppliers, but on your website, you don’t have a choice. They are there!
Vendor (Third Party Service Providers or Contractor) Errors
A website is connected to many third-party apps which are also developed by various vendors. Nevertheless, organizations, companies and business owners are all equally responsible for the actions of the third-party vendors. Eventually, it is their reputation that will be at stake, even if the error is on the third-party vendor’s end. No matter how you look at it, it is your responsibility to ensure that everything is in order. You might expect your third-party vendor to use the same kind of security measures that you use to protect your website, but usually, this isn’t the case. Therefore, monitoring your third-party vendor services becomes a crucial aspect of the proper functioning of your website. One error on their side could cause irreparable financial losses and damages to your reputation.
Organizations take different measures to protect themselves against third-party risks, usually by deploying a questionnaire or an organized process that comes before third-party integration. But even if such procedures are perfect (and they are not), third-parties commonly use other third-party apps of their own. And they bring their third-parties to your site. Hence, one data breach can lead to another down the line.
How do you deal with third-party threats and risks?
The time-tested formula in risk management is to identify, assess, and mitigate third-party risks:
Identify the Risk: Taking measures that will allow you to identify potential risks is the first step towards protecting your business from third-party threats. Identification includes understanding who are the actors using your site. It also extends to identifying the location from where they are accessing it. It involves knowing what they are doing, as well. Create and manage inventory for them and conduct threat modeling.
Assess the Risk: Evaluating the risk is critical to understand the magnitude of damage it can cause to your data. Periodic assessment of the security aspects followed by your existing and erstwhile third-party service providers is vital. Perform penetration testing and dynamic code analysis by closely engaging with your third parties at all entry and exit levels, i.e., end-points. This assessment also helps you to understand the different types of risks and learn from the various sources of risks databases.
Mitigate the Risk: Mitigating the risk is the final part of the risk management exercise. Maintaining an inventory of all third-party assets is crucial. It is also imperative to review third-party service level agreements and non-disclosure agreements at periodic intervals. Regular security system audits can help in identifying, assessing, and mitigating such third-party risks. Reducing the risk levels entails employing higher levels of security such as firewalls and other security validation techniques to protect from any arising threats.