5 Security Questions to Ask Your IT Service Provider

Reposted from the
original article
Ironwood Cyber
Ironwood Cyber
May 2, 2023

In today's interconnected digital world, choosing the right IT service provider is more important than ever. The rapid pace of technological advancements has made it crucial for businesses to rely on a trusted partner to manage their IT infrastructure, ensuring smooth operations and protecting sensitive data.

While outsourcing your IT needs can bring numerous benefits such as cost savings, access to cutting-edge technologies, and scalability, it’s important to be diligent in selecting a provider that aligns with your organization's security requirements. To help you navigate this critical decision, we’ve compiled a list of 5 essential security questions you should ask your current or potential IT service provider. These questions will help you evaluate their security posture and determine if they have the necessary measures in place to safeguard your company's digital assets.

1. What are your security strategies for ensuring our data is protected throughout its lifecycle?

Your IT service provider should be able to provide a comprehensive overview of the security measures they implement to keep your data safe. These can include, but are not limited to:

  • Firewalls to protect your network from unauthorized access
  • Antivirus and anti-malware software to detect and neutralize threats
  • Intrusion detection and prevention systems (IDPS) to monitor network traffic and block malicious activities
  • Data encryption to secure data in transit and at rest
  • Multi-factor authentication (MFA) for enhanced access control

Ensure that their security controls cover the maintenance of confidentiality, integrity, and availability of your information.

2. How do you handle access control, identity management, and security updates for clients?

In order to maintain the highest level of security for your IT infrastructure, it is crucial that your IT service provider exhibits diligence, thoroughness, speed, and responsiveness. Timely updates and patches are key to minimizing the window of opportunity for hackers to exploit vulnerabilities, while rigorous testing ensures that patches don’t introduce new vulnerabilities or adversely impact system performance.

Be sure to ask:

  • How frequently they monitor for new updates and patches for your systems and applications
  • If they provide automated patch management to ensure timely updates
  • How they test and validate patches before deploying them to your environment

3. How do you monitor and audit your network, systems, applications, and employees to ensure your own IT environment is secure?

Your IT service provider has access to your sensitive data and systems, so it's vital to know they maintain a high level of security internally. They should share how they manage employee access to client data and systems, as well as how they monitor for potential security breaches or unauthorized activity. If they have a hybrid or remote work environment, you should know how they’ve adapted their security measures accordingly.

Inquire about their:

  • Internal security policies and procedures, including how they handle sensitive client information
  • IT access controls and monitoring
  • Security adaptations to a remote work environment, such as secure remote access
  • Physical security measures at their facilities, such as access controls

4. How do you manage third-party relationships and ensure the security of your supply chain?

Supply chains unfortunately provide a backdoor into the private data of unsuspecting businesses, creating a tempting opportunity for cybercriminals. They will often run "supply chain attacks" by targeting smaller businesses in the supply chain as a way to gain access to larger organizations further down the line.

With this in mind, your IT service provider should address the following key points:

  • Third-Party Risk Assessment: Evaluating the security posture of vendors, their compliance with regulations, and commitment to security best practices.
  • Vendor Onboarding Process: Thoroughly vetting and onboarding new vendors, ensuring they meet your organization's security requirements.
  • Continuous Monitoring: Tracking the security performance of third-party vendors and addressing any issues that arise over time.
  • Service-Level Agreements (SLAs): Defining security responsibilities and expectations for both parties, along with penalties for non-compliance or security breaches.
  • Incident Response Collaboration: Establishing a joint incident response plan with third-party vendors for seamless communication and swift action in the event of a security incident.
  • Software Bill of Materials (SBOM): Do they have an SBOM? Are they able to provide a list of the software that is being used in their services?

5. What is your incident response/disaster recovery process in case our data is breached?

Data loss or downtime can have devastating effects on your business, which is why an incident response and disaster recovery process is essential for organizations. It's important to know:

  • How often they perform data backups and the types of data included
  • The backup storage locations and their security measures
  • Their disaster recovery plan and how quickly they can restore your data and systems in the event of a disaster

In the event of an actual security incident, a swift and effective response is critical. Make sure your IT service provider has a well-defined incident response plan that covers:

  • Detecting security incidents in a timely manner
  • Containing and remediating the issue to minimize damage
  • Communicating with your organization about the incident and the steps taken to resolve it
  • Learning from the incident and updating procedures to prevent recurrence

Partner with Ironwood Cyber

By thoroughly vetting your IT service provider, you can establish a strong foundation for a successful and secure partnership.

Founded by two former Lockheed Martin Fellows, Ironwood Cyber is a team of seasoned cybersecurity experts with decades of experience protecting our nation's most critical defense weapon systems. Our Ironwood Cyber Rx™ product can help your organization establish an affordable and complete cybersecurity program, including processes, user awareness training/testing, and continuous assessment of your cybersecurity health.

Have Any Questions?

Learn about your cybersecurity posture and how you can reduce your risk today
Let's Talk