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July 9, 2015

Cloud-Based Security Brings First-Party Control to Third-Party Offices

Cloud-Based Security Brings First-Party Control to Third-Party OfficesFor all the crucial gaps they fill and critical services they provide, third-party software vendors give the first parties who hire them plenty of challenges to overcome — and they almost all center around the idea of control.

As a rule, first parties don't have the ability to exert direct influence over their vendors. That means the strongest business agreements and strictest contractual terms aren't always enough to prevent variances in the way first- and third-party organizations operate. In terms of security, that can cause some serious headaches.

These issues make cloud-based security services incredibly useful additions to the vendor-client relationship. While hiring another service to bring consistency to an existing third-party relationship may seem strange at first, the added focus on security is something everyone in a given product's software development lifecycle can appreciate — from developers, to users and the people paying for it all.

Single-Point Platform, Single-Point Administration

Every third party a given buyer brings on has its own way of doing things. Different approaches yield different results, and when one business hires another to build some component of a product (or the whole thing), it's usually because that business likes what the third party has produced in the past.

The problems start when you consider the third party's process. From a security standpoint, how a third party gets things done raises a lot of questions beyond the strictly technical stuff: How strict are its policies? What products does it currently use to confirm its code is clean? How does it handle internal issues, such as access to sensitive information?

The list goes on. In that sense, a cloud-based security platform can help keep third parties honest, so to speak, by allowing buyers to exert control over sensitive areas of production without imposing their wills over the vendor's overall workings (unless they need to do that, too).

Take the previously mentioned concerns over information access. By providing a secure environment in which first- and third-party actors can collaborate and exchange info, first parties worry less about outside factors (such as improper handling and liberal access policies) contaminating the process. Centralized policy management, another feature of solid cloud-based security platforms, addresses similar concerns as they relate to policy administration.

Safer Code, Anywhere and Everywhere

On a more technical end, security platforms similarly allow companies to exert first-party control over third-party offerings (even if they don't have direct access to the vendor's source code) through services such as static analysis. This homogenizes and automates the testing process, ensuring first- and third-party submissions are held to the same standards. That's a big step up from hoping the vendor's existing security solutions are as strong as one's own.

That same idea takes self-attestation out of the process. Instead of relying on a third party's own figures, the hiring company can use automatically generated metrics to monitor its vendors. No more asking the vendor how many flaws it introduced or how many issues it fixed — the platform crunches those numbers. That's helpful for both benchmarking and documentation in the event of an audit.

To that end, cloud-based security services can also help prevent flaws by promoting consistency in training: When the same platform that catches the flaws also provides effective, relevant training and remediation to first- and third-party developers alike, future security errors are less likely to occur. Giving everyone access to the same material negates concerns over substandard training and remediation. In other words, it gives first parties more direct control over their product's security.

If regulations are a concern, cloud platforms can be a major help, ensuring a product is built under certain standards while simultaneously reducing the need for (and subsequent errors brought on by) direct manual oversight. Putting your developers in a compliance-friendly workflow not only promotes better security, it also helps maintain adherence to industry- or government-mandated requirements such as PCI and HIPAA — major concerns in industries where first parties are held responsible for their vendors' mistakes. Moreover, doing the work within a cloud-based platform can be crucial for generating documentation in the event of an audit or security breach.

With vendor security, "winging it" is not an option. Errors stemming from third-party contributions can cause countless problems for the first party responsible for the software, including damage to the company's reputation, penalties from government bodies and missed time-to-market goals. Cloud-based security platforms bring first-party control to third-party offices, beefing up a product's overall security at a time when even "small" data breaches and attacks are big-time hassles. They're much more than another middleman, and they're worth a look if current vendor security practices aren't up to snuff.

Photo Source: Flickr

Evan Wade is a professional freelance writer, author, and editor from Indianapolis. His time as a sales consultant with AT&T, combined with his current work as a tech reporter, give him unique insight into the world of mobile/Web security and the steps needed to properly secure software products. Follow him on Twitter.

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