Third Party Connections’ Security

Do you want your partners trust you directly? Well, do you trust your third party partners directly? When adversaries  are in, they always check different ways to reach more places. So, if one of your trusted third party connection got hacked, it means that there is just a short time they find your connection, and get inside if you did not make your connection secure.

Since 2018, we saw that attacks against third party connections increased. Most of them happened because of the small organizations that are giving support in any subject to larger organizations. Because of these small organizations’ low security budget, it is very difficult to secure the network and PCs for them. Most of these organizations do not have a domain structure, security devices for networks and even endpoint protection tools. What I saw while I am working with them that these type of organizations’ users are local admin in their laptops, and only using an antivirus agent to secure the rarely patched laptop. These laptops are being used to connect to other organizations, and sometimes to keep some sensitive data about of these organizations. They are very close to get hacked, but you must not get this risk while working with them.

Third Party Connection Management in Organizations

Especially in large organizations, since policies not working properly; and maybe since there is no any policy for third party connections, circulation of staff and sudden and fast developing projets, teams can create third party connections how it is easy at that time for them. This creates an unmanaged third party connections structure and so, it becomes worse day by day.

I remember we spent at least four months to fix the third party connections in a large organization. Dozens of leased lines reaching directly to different networks inside, hundereds of S2S VPNs established years ego, has certificates with low key sizes, and etc. Lack of a basic policy like third party connections policy causes a huge waste of time and effort to fix it.

What to Do?

Whoever you are connecting, or connecting to you, you should minimize threats. Because, all organizations are the target for hackers and they all can be hacked. You should not trust anybody else about security. You should understand what security controls they apply in the organization. If they have some weaknesses to determine the attacks made to themselves, it will put you at risk.

Create a 3rd party DMZ network. This is important because these 3rd party PCs should not connect to your network directly from any zone in your firewall. These PCs are something you cannot trust directly. So, at least, a 3rd party DMZ should be created to connect and control these type of connections. If there is no any 3rd party zone and policy, in a long period of time, with some of the activities explained at the beginning, you can see many different 3rd party organizations are connecting to your network from many different zones. And it will be something unmanagable day by day. For the beginning, I suggest to create a different zone for leased line connections to the internet facing firewall, and control these connections policies there. Also, a different firewall should be implemented for S2S VPN connections. It is important to receive these connections in a different firewall and control their connections.

You should use a vendor management program. It helps you to reduce the risk, by collecting more and more information about your third party connection and should be sure they comply with standards and regulations.

You should know what security controls, endpoint security (antivirus, EDR, encryption, etc.) and data leakage prevention methods do your third party connection imply to its users. Mostly, if you do not give a laptop to users that will connect to your network, third party organiztions’ staff uses their own or that company’s PCs. That means, these computer will be connected to your network most of the time, and these PCs will contain your some sensitive information. So, it is important to know whether they are protecting these PCs while working with you.

Screen recording is also a very useful tool. It is impossible to watch directly every consultant’s actions on your network. Most of the time they work on your test servers on test zones, and unfortunately, sometimes they can work directly on production zone or can reach to production zone because of the lack of controls. A screen recording tool will be an important deterrent action for you.

MFA is must. Multi-factor authentication should be used to connect your network. Mostly I suggest time based MFA tools to use. Any time a security incident occurs in 3rd party’s network, MFA will be important to secure you.

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