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4 key elements to keeping security questionnaires accurate and up to date

4 key elements to keeping security questionnaires accurate and up to date

Lack of clarity creates challenges — especially when filling out security questionnaires. When it’s unclear who needs to fill them […]

Category: Tag: Security questionnaire process

4 key elements to keeping security questionnaires accurate and up to date

4 key elements to keeping security questionnaires accurate and up to date

Lack of clarity creates challenges — especially when filling out security questionnaires. When it’s unclear who needs to fill them out, how much detail needs to be included, and how much time it will take, each time you sit down to fill one out can feel challenging.

Luckily, there are experts who can help provide key insights into making the overall security questionnaire process faster, smarter, and stronger. Companies like RFPIO bring teams together by providing software that automates and streamlines the process of responding to a request, so you can respond with confidence to security questionnaires.

Tapping into their knowledge around complex questionnaires like RFPs, RFIs, security questionnaires, and more, we discovered tips you can implement in your own companies. Here are their four key elements to keeping security questionnaires accurate and up to date:

1. Content Moderation

Keep your library up to date by assigning content owners and setting up regular review cycles.

Security questionnaires are often repetitive and require a manual responder to ask the same questions of their internal subject matter experts over and over again. By properly maintaining security questionnaire content, you can build confidence in your response process— advantageous when you’re under a tight deadline—and save time to get back to what you do best.

The ultimate result of good, consistent content management is winning new business. RFPIO makes it simple to set up Content Library moderation by assigning the appropriate content owners, setting a cadence for regular review cycles, and customizing alerts for a cadence that works best for your team and organization.

2. Maintain Accuracy

Flag questions that may be out of date for review.

Accuracy is crucial in security questionnaires. If an incorrect or out-of-date response is submitted, it could cost you the sales opportunity or impact your organization’s reputation. To ensure your response is of the utmost quality and compliance, maintain accurate content and responses that articulate your current offering’s latest and greatest capabilities, and omit what is no longer accurate.

In addition to the above process of assigning content owners and setting up review cycles, we also highly recommend completing a ROT analysis as part of your content audit processes.

ROT stands for “Redundant, Outdated, and Trivial.”

  • Redundant Content is duplicate and/or similar content. If you’re using RFPIO, run a duplicate report on questions and answers, and click on “View Similar Content” to find comparable responses.
  • Outdated Content is expired or sunset content. Isolate any content not used in the last year—“expired content”—using the Advanced Search function in RFPIO. Then, identify content from products, services, and solutions that are no longer relevant—“sunset content”—using tags and/or product names.
  • Trivial Content is deal- or client-specific content. Identify trivial content by searching for specific client names.

Next, move the content you’ve identified out of your active Content Library. We recommend storing this content in an archived collection in RFPIO, so it isn’t permanently deleted.

Including your most recent pentest data is important.
Some security controls are easier to verify than others. For example, it’s relatively easy to ask to see the results of a third-party risk assessment or penetration test that covers the OWASP Top 10 and business logic. It’s harder to prove that a particular security process or best practice is being followed.

When your client does ask to see the results of a recent pentest, your first response might be, “We don’t typically provide that information.” If they press further, you can share a high-level summary of findings, generally referred to as an attestation. Some companies will require that you share detailed findings from a pentest report, and a few may request evidence that findings have been fixed. This is where Cobalt’s customizable reports can save you some valuable time.

3. Automate Your Process

Automatically respond to long and complex questionnaires in a single click with RFPIO’s AI-enabled Content Library.

A response management platform like RFPIO automates almost everything, helping teams cut their response time by 40-50% on average. Automation frees up your time to produce the highest quality deliverable possible—and, of course—move on to other priorities on your to-do list.

With an Content Library full of reviewed, pruned content you can trust, use Auto Respond to quickly fill in relevant content from past responses and minimize how many questions you need to complete manually.

4. Stay Consistent

Respond to each security questionnaire using the same pre-approved and vetted content, ensuring consistency across responses.

When questionnaires are answered manually, there is a likelihood that answers won’t be consistent across different questionnaires or different SMEs writing the answers. This can cause complications during an audit process.

Consistency ensures accurate responses to compliance requirements. Ensure your gold-star, key content is present in your library by employing regular review cycles. This, in turn, ensures consistency in your responses.

This article was co-authored by and co-published with Cobalt. Cobalt provides a Pentest as a Service (PtaaS) platform that is modernizing the traditional, static penetration testing model by providing streamlined processes, developer integrations, and on-demand pentesters. Our blog is where we provide industry best practices, showcase some of our top-tier talent, and share information that’s of interest to the cybersecurity community.

Schedule a demo with RFPIO for more details on automating response to security questionnaires.

Security questionnaires: 6 processes before and after automation

Security questionnaires: 6 processes before and after automation

Security questionnaires have become a household name for modern organizations. When the opportunity for new business presents itself, data concerns accompany that opportunity. From vendor security assessments to due diligence questionnaires, complex spreadsheets are a part of daily life for responders with technical expertise.

56% of RFPIO customers use our software to respond to security questionnaires. Security questionnaire automation helps these teams collaborate in a meaningful way and eliminate manual workarounds.

See what life was like before and after security questionnaire automation for six responders. They transformed their process…and so can you.

Collaboration ease with vendor security assessments

Before security questionnaire automation

A senior account executive was frustrated with their internal process of receiving, managing and completing vendor security assessments—and she knew there had to be a better way. The ability to build out an Content Library was her primary objective, as a centralized content hub would align resources and responses. She began evaluating security questionnaire automation platforms to find the best feature stack.

After security questionnaire automation

RFPIO presented neatly categorized information so security questionnaire contributors could complete any project successfully. Security questionnaire automation streamlined the entire process of receiving, managing, and completing vendor security assessments. RFPIO remained responsive to questions and feedback to further support her team’s success.

Security questionnaires tackled by 100+ contributors

Before security questionnaire automation

A director of presales support spent her days wrangling responses (and resources) for security questionnaires, RFPs, and RFIs. Many business units participated in responding to lengthy, repetitive security questionnaires. With so many voices—and a decentralized Content Library—they lacked consistency with their responses, which affected the content quality and win potential for all of their submissions.

After security questionnaire automation

Today over 100 contributors actively use RFPIO and they add new users every week. This director of presales support has integrated users from IT, HR, Legal, Finance, Professional Services, and Education Services. Across departments, team members feel more productive since they process multiple projects simultaneously. Now documents are more consistent and higher on the quality scale.

Centralized database for faster response completion

Before security questionnaire automation

A proposal manager and his response management team completed many security questionnaires from healthcare organizations annually. Since responses were not centralized, SMEs could not find relevant content easily. This team spent roughly 16 hours to complete a single security questionnaire.

After security questionnaire automation

On their first live security questionnaire project in RFPIO, this response management team saw immediate time-saving benefits. Multiple people now collaborated on the same response, eliminating back and forth communication via email and phone calls. The proposal manager viewed progress within the project overview dashboard—offering visibility he never had before so he could stay ahead of deadlines.

100 security questionnaire responses in two hours

Before security questionnaire automation

An information security advisor led the response process for security questionnaires, due diligence questionnaires (DDQs), and RFPs. His presales, sales, and information security teams were all involved, answering 100-700 technical questions on a regular basis. Without security questionnaire automation, they relied on a FAQs document that contained 300 responses to their most common repetitive questions.

After security questionnaire automation

RFPIO’s answer recommendation engine gave the team newly discovered superpowers with security questionnaire responses. They set up their Content Library with past security questionnaires and RFPs. When they started a new project, they leveraged the recommendation engine to fill in most of the responses. This team now responds to 100 questions in two hours.

Enterprise collaboration with the end-user in mind

Before security questionnaire automation

A global RFP manager handled a large number of IT security questionnaires, DDQs, vendor applications, and RFPs for enterprise organizations. He wanted to build a scalable and repeatable response process centered around a cloud-based software system. He evaluated several security questionnaire software providers to find the best platform and pricing structure.

After security questionnaire automation

A collaborative environment was key for such a complex organization. This global RFP manager recognized RFPIO’s authentic focus on teamwork, which allowed quick collaboration among SMEs without license limitations. Throughout their entire group of companies, RFPIO easily allowed him to invite multiple contributors, authors, and reviewers to tackle lengthy security questionnaires efficiently.

DDQ automation makes a team lean and powerful

Before security questionnaire automation

A proposal manager embarked on a self-improvement journey with due diligence questionnaires. Improvements in efficiency and accuracy were at the top of her list. To keep up with DDQ responses, she often hired consultants and writers for additional support. She wanted to keep her team “lean and mean” and scale capabilities, so she turned to security questionnaire software.

After security questionnaire automation

RFPIO allowed this team to drastically improve its DDQ response process. Flagging questions for review made content updates easy to assign to SMEs. Subject matter experts responded to DDQs with greater speed and accuracy, eliminating the need for outsourcing support. Contributors found clarity with their role in DDQ responses—together, this team became more powerful in their pursuit to win new business.

Schedule a demo of RFPIO to automate security questionnaires and transform your response process.

5 cloud security questions to ask when you’re SaaS shopping

5 cloud security questions to ask when you’re SaaS shopping

If you take a good look at your SaaS vendor selection process today, is cloud security on your checklist? Or, does your checklist consist of all the shiny features you’d like to have?

The SaaS model makes it easy to sign up and get going—with free trials and integrations with your favorite applications. While it is important to evaluate if the solution solves your business problem, it is just as important to look beyond the core features.

cloud usage

Source: RightScale

SaaS vendors range from a couple of guys operating out of a garage to full blown enterprises. During the startup phase, the focus is on getting a workable product out to the market with the intent to “shore up” the product when they have a few customers that have kicked the tires.

Unfortunately security ends up taking a backseat. Failure to evaluate security features with these vendors can mean major trouble for businesses, both short term and long term.

As just one example, we’ll use cloud-based RFP software solutions.

Say your SaaS provider has an outage when you have a request for proposal deadline looming. You have no way of retrieving that data, and you don’t have it backed up, because you entrusted your SaaS vendor with everything.

By the time your vendor is up and running again, it’s too late. You missed out on submitting your RFP responses and lost millions of dollars in potential revenue.

cloud adoptionSource: RightScale

Focusing on a tool’s exciting features during SaaS vendor selection is alarmingly common. Enterprise companies will typically bring in their IT department when choosing a SaaS solution, but frequently companies operating with smaller teams miss this important step.

It’s never too late to optimize your vendor selection approach, whether you’re just establishing security measures, or strengthening existing processes.

Here are a few cloud security questions worth asking when you’re evaluating SaaS vendors.

saas challenges

Source: RightScale

#1  What is your disaster recovery plan?

Most SaaS vendors have a disaster recovery plan, but not all plans are created equal. Some mistakenly believe taking regular backups constitutes disaster recovery.

Make sure your SaaS vendor has a solid plan that covers a recovery timeline, routine testing, and geographic isolation. In other words, if there is a tsunami, is that going to wipe out all of your centers?

#2  What if you go out of business?

Often we think of catastrophic events in the form of natural disasters, but a vendor going out of business can do just as much damage. When comparison shopping, look into business viability and don’t be afraid to ask some tough questions.

If I invest all of my work, data, history into your solution, is that safe? What is your fallback plan? Having access to that data is non-negotiable no matter what happens outside your control.

it cloud softwareSource: RightScale

#3  Do you take my security seriously?

Okay, you don’t have to frame the question that way—instead you can ask if they have a proper security plan. Be careful when a vendor sidesteps security to focus on the shiny features. You don’t ever want security to be an afterthought.

If you find it difficult to know which security features are most important, bring in your IT department for guidance.

The security rundown might include:

  • Encrypting data
  • Secure data transmission and storage
  • Access restrictions
  • Secure practices
  • Staff training
  • Regular monitoring and scanning

enterprise cloud
Source: RightScale

#4  Who is responsible?

Accountability is a big one, because you want to know who you are dealing with when a support request spirals into a data mess. Many vendors depend on others, and the finger-pointing can escalate quickly. This is the last thing any business wants to experience when there’s a problem, so be upfront to avoid a surprise down the road.

A storage solution managed entirely by the SaaS vendor is preferable, as mom and pop cloud storage companies can be unreliable. The accountability factor can speed up your selection process in a jiffy if a vendor fumbles over roles and responsibilities.

#5  How scalable is your product?

It is one thing to watch a flawless demo, or run through a proof of concept without a glitch. But can the application withstand what the real world throws at it? Unfortunately, it is tough to know the answer to this until the real world happens.

For example, if one of the other clients of the service provider executes a huge project, is that going to negatively impact security? It is smart—and absolutely appropriate—to inquire about how well the vendor can scale their product to meet demands, and how quickly those demand will be met.

saas securitySource: RightScale

Finding the right SaaS vendor should never be taken lightly, so always think of it as a collaborative decision.

While these questions will cover your cloud security bases, if you can, get your IT person involved in the process too. If you are unable to engage your IT department in vendor selection, you can still take these steps to ensure the vendor has a solid security footing.

What cloud security questions do you ask when you’re selecting a SaaS vendor?

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