HIPAA and HITRUST are two frameworks that are commonly compared because they are used in the healthcare industry.
Standardized Information Gathering (SIG)
As organizations increasingly rely on third-party vendors and service providers to support their operations, the need for comprehensive third-party risk assessments has become a critical aspect of modern cybersecurity and compliance strategies. Conducting these assessments efficiently and effectively is essential to ensure that vendors meet specific security and compliance requirements. Standardized Information Gathering (SIG) is a widely adopted framework that streamlines and enhances the third-party risk assessment process.
What is Standardized Information Gathering (SIG)?
Standardized Information Gathering (SIG) is an initiative developed by the Shared Assessments Program, a consortium of leading organizations and industry experts focused on promoting third-party risk management best practices. SIG provides a standardized questionnaire and framework for collecting and evaluating information related to the cybersecurity, privacy, and compliance practices of third-party vendors. The SIG questionnaire is designed to be a comprehensive and flexible tool that can be adapted to meet the specific risk assessment needs of different organizations and industries.
Key Components of Standardized Information Gathering (SIG)
The SIG questionnaire comprises a series of detailed questions organized into several control domains. These control domains cover critical areas related to third-party risk assessment, including:
Information Security: This domain focuses on evaluating a vendor’s information security controls, policies, and procedures. It includes questions related to access controls, encryption, incident response, vulnerability management, and security awareness training.
Privacy: The privacy domain assesses a vendor’s data handling practices and compliance with privacy regulations. Questions cover topics such as data collection, use, retention, and sharing.
Business Continuity Management: This domain addresses a vendor’s ability to maintain essential services and operations during disruptions or incidents. It includes questions about business continuity planning, disaster recovery, and resilience measures.
Risk Management: The risk management domain evaluates a vendor’s overall approach to identifying, assessing, and mitigating risks. It includes questions about risk assessment methodologies, risk treatment plans, and risk reporting.
Compliance: This domain focuses on assessing a vendor’s compliance with relevant laws, regulations, and industry standards. It includes questions about data protection laws, financial regulations, and other applicable compliance requirements.
Vendor Management: The vendor management domain assesses a vendor’s internal controls and governance related to third-party relationships. Questions address due diligence, contract management, and performance monitoring.
Benefits of Standardized Information Gathering (SIG)
Efficiency and Consistency: SIG offers a standardized approach to third-party risk assessments, making the process more efficient and consistent. Organizations can use the same questionnaire across multiple vendors, allowing for easier comparisons and analysis.
Comprehensive Coverage: The SIG questionnaire covers a wide range of critical risk areas, ensuring that no essential aspect of third-party security and compliance is overlooked. This comprehensive coverage enables organizations to conduct thorough and meaningful assessments.
Tailorability: Although standardized, SIG allows organizations to customize the assessment based on their specific risk management requirements and industry standards. Organizations can tailor the questionnaire to focus on areas most relevant to their operations and compliance needs.
Industry Best Practices: SIG is continuously updated to align with emerging industry best practices and regulatory changes. Organizations that adopt SIG benefit from staying current with the latest risk assessment methodologies and security controls.
Collaboration and Shared Assessments: SIG promotes collaboration between vendors and their customers. Vendors can complete the SIG questionnaire once and share the results with multiple customers, reducing the burden of completing numerous questionnaires.
Vendor Accountability: By using a standardized questionnaire like SIG, organizations can hold vendors accountable for their security and compliance practices. The objective nature of SIG questions allows for clear evaluation and comparisons of vendors’ responses.
Using Standardized Information Gathering (SIG) in Third-Party Risk Management
To leverage the benefits of SIG tools effectively, organizations should follow a structured approach in their third-party risk management process. Before engaging a vendor, organizations should determine if the vendor will be required to complete the SIG core questionnaire. This step ensures that only relevant and high-risk vendors undergo the SIG assessment process. Once a vendor is selected, the SIG questionnaire can be sent to the vendor. Vendors are expected to provide comprehensive and accurate responses to the questionnaire. Organizations should thoroughly evaluate the vendor’s responses to the SIG questionnaire, identifying any areas of concern or potential risks. If necessary, organizations can request additional documentation or conduct follow-up discussions with the vendor. Using the SIG questionnaire as a foundation, organizations can conduct a risk assessment to quantify the vendor’s risk exposure and determine the appropriate risk treatment strategies. Vendor risk assessments should be an ongoing process. Organizations should periodically reassess vendors’ security and compliance practices to ensure they maintain an acceptable level of risk.
Standardized Information Gathering (SIG) is a valuable framework that streamlines the third-party risk assessment process, allowing organizations to efficiently evaluate their vendors’ security and compliance practices. By providing a comprehensive and flexible questionnaire, SIG enables organizations to gather essential information and make informed decisions about vendor selection and risk management. The adoption of SIG fosters consistency, collaboration, and accountability in third-party risk management, supporting organizations in protecting sensitive data, ensuring compliance, and maintaining the overall security and resilience of their supply chain.