Spreadsheets are stupid. OK, not because spreadsheets are stupid or people who use them are stupid. I do not say that at all. What an idiot to use spreadsheets to manage third-party information security risks. If I call something stupid, then I better have the logic to support it. Well so i do
Management options for third-party information security risks
Before looking at the details of how worksheets are used, let’s first discuss options for managing third-party information security risks. You have options.
The first option is to do nothing. This is a bad choice given that 61% of US companies have experienced infringements from third parties. Basically, we know that third parties do not value our goods (data) as much as their own goods. We’ve all lent a tool or a device to a friend before, right?
The second option is to use a purely technical solution, as if information security were a purely technical problem. The problem is that information security is not just a technical problem, it’s also a business issue where people are the biggest risk. A technical shortcut solution will not work well either, but this may be a better choice than doing nothing.
The third option is to dig deeper, ask third parties about their security practices, and demand some form of validation from them. This is a good option as we gain insight into the technical security controls and their security practices. If we get the right questions right, we can make good risk decisions. Good risk decisions and risk management form the core of this entire exercise. Do not be fooled that eliminating risks is the goal.
We agree with the fact that we have to ask a few questions and outline the risks of third-party responses. This is our best choice, but how? What is the best way to achieve this goal?
Use a spreadsheet
One way to achieve our goals is to use a spreadsheet. Open Excel, create a questionnaire, enter a series of drop-down lists, possibly some reviews, and even some conditional formats, if you like. If we want to save ourselves from the headaches that come with building spreadsheets, we can download one of the hundreds of templates available with a simple Google search. Time is required to create your spreadsheet, and time is money. The time it takes to create a spreadsheet questionnaire varies, but the average per third party is between 3 and 5 minutes.
Real problems and inefficiencies in using spreadsheets in managing their usage. This includes planning, sending, reminder, support, review, correction, organization, and reporting. The time to use a manual spreadsheet process can be up to five or six hours per third party. The manual process also requires an experienced person to adequately manage it. The more third parties you have to manage, the more chaotic the mess becomes. The manual process is inefficient and error prone.
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