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Case study

Fraudulent Transaction Illuminates
Third-Party Risk


3 minutes read

In the summer of 2018, eSentire was engaged by a financial services firm to conduct third-party risk assessments because the firm had experienced a failed audit due to the discovery of a fraudulent transaction from a compromised third party. Being in the heavily regulated financial services industry, the client had a dedicated internal compliance team and a depth understanding of the various risks associated with information security. In an attempt to mature and formalize its security program, a full-time CISO and dedicated security personnel were recruited but program formalization was ultimately unsuccessful due to the scarcity of qualified and available candidates. As a result, responsibility for information security policies and implementation of controls fell back on the cross-functional teamwork of the firm’s internal compliance and IT teams.

32% of organizations reported lack of internal time/resources to evaluate or monitor third-party risk1



Trigger Event:

Fraudulent transaction by third-party

Client Challenges:

  • Time and resource constraints
  • Limited third-party risk visibility
  • Informal security policies for third-party risk management
  • Questionnaire and measurement criteria relevance to business risk profile
  • Limited expertise in conducting third-party risk assessment and progress measurement

Collaboration between the cross-functional teams resulted in an improved security posture, but limitations remained in their ability to measure and mitigate third-party risk. Inventory measurement concluded that over 50 vendors and third parties had network and data access to some degree resulting in potential risk to overall business operations. Unfortunately for the client, risk became consequence during a routine audit, when a transaction with a trusted third party was discovered to be fraudulent, facilitated by a compromised user within their third party network. Investigation revealed the user was compromised from a spear-phishing campaign culminating in substantial financial losses and lengthy time and resource consuming claims processes with their cybersecurity insurance provider.

The eSentire Security Strategist immediately went to work helping the client update their third-party risk policies, formalizing mandatory annual and bi-annual risk assessments of critical vendors based on type and risk profile. eSentire then executed tailored risk assessments on 10 clients that were both critical to continued business operations as well as high-risk profiles. The data from the assessments was compared against eSentire’s Security Framework based on NIST foundations, financial industry standards, and specific risk indicators.

The Security Strategist discussed the findings with the client’s cross-functional and Executive team and began to develop a pragmatic plan to systematically reduce risk among the 10 vendors that were subject to the assessment. Satisfied with the progression of the firm’s security posture under their Virtual CISO, recruiting efforts were ceased. With the tedious work of creating and conducting the 10 assessments handled by eSentire, IT and compliance teams were able to focus on other projects. Both of these benefits from eSentire’s Vendor Risk Assessments resulted in operational cost savings for their business.

  1. eSentire/Spiceworks Third-Party Risk Research, January 2019

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