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Vendor Access Management
Technology - MAY 19, 2021
The resource structure of an organization is comprised of many elements. These
elements work together coherently to drive the productivity of an organization and
are comprised of employees, customers, consultants, partners, and third-party
vendors. These elements also require different levels of access to the company’s
facilities and assets based on their specific roles. Consider the case of
third-party vendors. Because they aren’t direct employees, a company cannot give
them free access to all facilities and assets. If the access is too restricted then
it would hamper the work to which they have been assigned. There must be a balance
between permission and security posture. In this blog we will explore the many
attributes of a vendor access management solution.
As illustrated above, the key idea is to walk the line in such a way that you can
protect your critical assets while the vendor can do his job well.
Scenarios Related to External User Access
Suppose you hire an external user to perform specific market research on a
contract established for a limited time. This user will be working both from
the office and at home and will require access to the knowledge database,
shared drives, communication tools, visual interface kits, presentation
templates, etc. within your organization. This user will be using his/her
laptop or other devices not associated with your company.
Your firm’s IT support team hires customer service support personnel for a
long-term contract. This person will work alongside the full-time employees
and would use a computer, assigned by your company, and will be based out of
Your company has outsourced all software development of your organization to
a third-party firm (many companies are following this trend as it is not
always possible to develop and test all software in-house). The third-party
vendors you have hired will need access to all your internal tools,
platforms, privileged accounts, etc. This third party may shuffle personnel
while working on the project which means that designated access must be
allocated accordingly. The vendor’s team would ideally be based off premises
and will need appropriate access to sandbox equipment and corporate systems.
As these scenarios make clear, it is not just important to have a proper onboarding
of vendors but a thorough off-boarding procedure for all third-party vendors. A
company must protect their IP while ensuring that the job assigned to the vendor is
performed properly. This can be complex as the scope, timeline, and nature of the
work are different for each project and each requires a different approach. This
means the state of access will be different and security measures will change among
other variables. This brings us to the next important point: how to manage the
Key challenges in managing Vendor Access
» Every system has a basic access mechanisms wherein anyone accessing the
company’s portal gains access to core corporate infrastructure portals,
browser-based applications, etc. This is known as the unified employee
portal. Tweaking this basic access setup to suit vendor requirements can
pose a challenge to IT departments.
» Vendors may have an agreement that allows them the flexibility to perform
their work from a specific location along with the ability to direct the
technology that will be used. This means they may use their own devices such
as laptops, mobile devices, etc. Facilitating specific access to all these
devices can pose another challenge.
» The third-party vendors might not feature in your Active Directory and
they might not have company’s domain email addresses. Because of this,
securely setting these credentials may take up a lot of time and resources.
» The next challenge is in the compliance space as your company must collate
all the data to ensure that the vendors are following all-access policies
and to protect your systems from any breach.
» Typically, third party vendors report to a specific team created by your
company who also works alongside the third-party. This allows your company
to limit the amount of staff available to securely onboard and off-board the
vendors and ensure that all policies are duly followed.
The cornerstone of all policies should be vendor security, especially when the
engagement is over and the vendor disengages from your firm.
Key challenges in managing vendor access security
» Occasionally vendor access isn’t revoked. This can be due to human error
or the revoking might be postponed because of the belief that it would
require the services of the vendor in near future . In either case, this is
an unsafe practice that could lead to the breach of your sensitive
» There is also a possibility that the vendor might have shared the client
account access among themselves. This could indicate that several people
from the vendor side might be using one account. This again can present a
Without appropriate security procedures, it is easy to overlook vendor activities and
risk the privacy of your company. In addition, you also must ensure that all the
privileged information downloaded on the vendor systems is securely and permanently
deleted. If not done properly, this can lead to unauthorized access and can cause a
compromise of your sensitive information. Additionally, if proper antivirus and
firewall systems are not installed on the vendor’s side, it too is vulnerable to
hackers. For this reason your company must perform adequate checks to ensure that
your information remains protected throughout the vendor’s life-cycle.
Luckily, there are many privileged access solutions in the market that can manage the
vendor activity for you and mitigate the illustrated risks. In addition, they can
streamline the vendor activity workflow and help you manage their services in a
Vendor access management Tools
Workflow tools: The life-cycle when working with a vendor follows the
following path- authorize, enable, reclassify, and de-authorize. At the end of the
lifecycle, you have the option to recycle or renew this access. With a holistic
privilege access solution, your team can create a custom yet automated workflow
which can govern all these elements. This workflow can be used by the third-party
whenever it wants to access specific organizational assets. The workflow also
ensures that before entering the system, vendors must enter all the requisite
information in order to be verified. They can be then asked to give their consent to
all the policies which they will be bound to for the duration of their tenure. It
will then generate a request to the management team who will assign the vendors’
designated access A central portal will govern all these activities and will also
keep track of vendor usage of the company’s assets.
Policy tools: When granting access, it is important to clearly state and
define the level of access. To do that, you can leverage RBAC (role-based access
control) to draw default access and rights within each system. This also involves
determining the access on the minutest of levels. For example, which texts the
vendors can read, which buttons they can click, etc. It also involves setting up
appropriate time frames for each action so that at the end of the life-cycle the
access can be automatically revoked.
Monitoring tools: Privileged access management can help you track all vendor
account activities, including the systems they are accessing and the actions they
have taken in those systems. PAM can perform a risk-based score to determine the
sensitivity of access based on the vendor’s work and create a risk profile for all
third-party vendors. This can be done by evaluating the work they are doing and by
monitoring their log-in sessions, and browser activities.
Behavior detection tools: Along with monitoring user vendor sessions, your
team can also perform behavior detection. This involves looking for incidents where
vendors may have accessed systems that are beyond their authorization. This tool can
also see if the activity monitor has suddenly jumped, meaning you are seeing
abnormal traffic coming from a vendor system. Also, the tool can follow IP addresses
closely and see if the account is being accessed from random locations. It is also
important to ensure that one user access remains with one user and is not
interchanged between many users from the vendor side.
Discovery tools: PAM also provides discovery tools that regularly check for
vendor accounts and ensures that every authorized account is listed in the central
portal. If for any reason the access needs to be revoked it can be done via the
Vendor access management policies
Along with technology-focused approaches, consider aspects related to processes and
policies specific to access permissions for vendors.
This includes documenting a policy that provides answers to the below use
» How the vendors get access to internal resources?
» Do the access policies follow the guidelines set up by external bodies
such as NIST, GDPR, etc?
» Do the vendors follow multi-factor authentication?
» Is the access policy illustrated enough so that it can be duly
» Do the policies allow enough flexibilities to accommodate different usage
» Do the policies include risk profiles of each of the personnel from the
vendor side who is working on the project?
» How do you handle exceptions?
» Have you created a version of the policies which can be accessed by the
vendors and other third parties? Have you clearly illustrated the
consequences of any breach of compliance?
» Last but not the least, are the policies easily accessible to all relevant
people within the organization?
Structure processes related to Vendor access policies
» Have you established a thorough process on how the vendors are granted
» Does the process incorporate sufficient rights and authorities, based on
» Have you automated the processes so that you can track all actions and use
them in audits?
» Have you ensured a minimum level of access to vendors? Just enough for
them to do their jobs efficiently.
» Have you included periodic audits in the process?
» How do you handle the onboarding and offboarding of the vendors?
ISSQUARED’s Vendor access offer
ISSQUARED, a premier IT infrastructure, cybersecurity, and managed services firm
offers a structured approach to manage your vendor’s identity and access services.
With ISSQUARED, you can eliminate the security risks related to vendor access while
effectively monitoring and auditing all the activities of the third-party vendor.
ISSQUARED offers a dedicated External Identity Access and Governance platform (EIAG)
which streamlines vendor onboarding and offboarding. The platform also automates the
IAM space to efficiently manage external user identities, and security and
governance controls. Its innovative vendor digital interface ensures seamless
transactions between your firm and the third party, thus increasing the process
efficiency and giving you the flexibility to govern external identities.
ISSQUARED’s vendor access management services are tailormade to meet your every need.
For any query, please reach out one of our experts. We would be delighted to
showcase our services. You can reach out to us at email@example.com or call us
at +1 (805) 480-9300.