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A Closer Look at the Cybersecurity Questionnaire

September 14, 2022

Very few people enjoy filling out a security questionnaire. They’re long (some have hundreds of questions), they can be repetitive, and there’s no standard format, so copying and pasting answers from previous questionnaires is not an option. 

Despite the fact that cybersecurity questionnaires can be tedious and time-consuming, they must be filled out if your company wants to do business with an enterprise client. Organizations are extremely conscious about supplier risk, and with good reason: according to data from Akamai Technologies, 63% percent of data breaches are caused by vendor vulnerabilities. 

So what exactly is a cybersecurity questionnaire, and why does your team have to fill them out?  This article will take a closer look at everyone’s least favorite document and why they are so important. 

What is a cybersecurity questionnaire? 

A cybersecurity questionnaire is a list of questions about a company’s security posture, sent to a potential vendor by a client as part of the client’s due diligence process. Often, before a customer will do business with a company, they must have a completed security assessment that meets their security standards. 

This questionnaire is designed to assess the effectiveness of the company’s cybersecurity program so that the client is able to trust the company with sensitive customer and proprietary data. Often questionnaires are based on security standards and frameworks like NIST, ISO 27001 and 27002, or SOC2. Some may even be questionnaires purchased from the organizations that developed those standards. Sections of the questionnaire may deal with how data is stored, the security of applications, business continuity, disaster recovery, as well as other information security issues. 

Although some standards issue their own questionnaires, there is also a lot of variety when it comes to security questionnaires. Some are lengthy, running hundreds of questions long. Others focus on specific risks. Some are complex, and others may ask the same question in a variety of different ways. 

It can be a time-consuming task, but it’s an important part of due diligence and security. 

Why are security questionnaires necessary? 

In the past few years, cybercriminals have learned that the most efficient way to attack a large organization is by attacking its digital suppliers. Large companies and corporations often have tight security controls, and well-developed security teams. They patch their software regularly, and have policies in place governing employees’ online behavior. 

This isn’t always the case with enterprises’ suppliers, many of which may be small businesses or startups with limited funds or tiny workforces. Many small SaaS (software as a service) providers may handle sensitive information for larger organizations. Once criminals realized they could exploit suppliers’ vulnerabilities to hack into larger (or multiple) companies, they began to attack. 

Breaches caused by supply-side vulnerabilities are often more damaging than direct attacks. According to the Ponemon Institute, vendor attacks cost 2.5% more and take 26 longer to discover than the average data breach. 

Because vendors can’ simply be made to comply with an enterprise’s own cybersecurity standards, questionnaires are an important way of making your security posture visible to potential clients who are worried about a breach. 

Can security questionnaires be made easier? 

The good news is yes, the process of answering security questionnaires can be made simpler. Not all questionnaires need to be answered from scratch, nor should your team waste time by going through old responses to find answers that kind of work for the questionnaire you’re filling out now. 

One way to make answering security questions simpler is to use a content library. Content libraries, like the one developed by Ombud, keep all your previous answers in one place so your team can quickly and easily pull together a draft when answering questions. This cuts down on the time spent answering questions, and lets your team pay closer attention to the questions they haven’t seen before. It also lets you get through more questionnaires more quickly, so your sales team can close more deals with potential customers. 

Interested in a demo? Request one today.

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