The Importance of Supplier Due Diligence

Supplier Due Diligence

In today’s interconnected world, businesses rely heavily on third-party suppliers for various services, from IT support to cloud storage. While outsourcing can enhance efficiency and reduce costs, it also introduces significant risks, particularly in information security. Supplier due diligence is essential to mitigate these risks, ensuring that suppliers adhere to stringent security standards and protecting your business from potential breaches.

What is Supplier Due Diligence?

Supplier due diligence is the process of thoroughly evaluating potential and existing suppliers to assess their ability to meet security, regulatory, and operational requirements. This involves reviewing their policies, procedures, and controls related to data protection and information security. The objective is to ensure that any supplier you work with does not compromise your security posture.

Why Supplier Due Diligence is Critical

Protecting sensitive data is a primary concern when working with third-party suppliers who often have access to sensitive business information. Without proper due diligence, you may inadvertently expose your data to threats. For instance, a 2020 study by Ponemon Institute found that 53% of companies experienced a data breach caused by third-party access . Ensuring suppliers have robust security measures in place can prevent such incidents.

Compliance with regulations is another crucial aspect. Various regulations, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the EU and the Data Protection Act 2018 in the UK, mandate stringent controls over personal data. Non-compliance can result in hefty fines and reputational damage. Conducting due diligence helps ensure that suppliers comply with these regulations, protecting your business from legal repercussions .

Maintaining business continuity is also vital, as supplier failures can disrupt your operations. Due diligence assesses a supplier’s financial stability and their ability to deliver services consistently. This is particularly crucial for services critical to your operations, such as cloud service providers or IT support.

Mitigating supply chain risks is essential because cybercriminals often target suppliers as a weak link to infiltrate larger organisations. A notable example is the Target breach in 2013, where attackers gained access through a third-party HVAC vendor, leading to the exposure of 40 million credit and debit card accounts . Conducting thorough due diligence can help identify and mitigate such risks.

Key Components of Supplier Due Diligence

Security policies and practices should be evaluated to ensure the supplier’s information security policies align with industry best practices and your own security standards. This includes their approach to data encryption, access controls, and incident response.

Compliance and certifications are critical. Verify if the supplier complies with relevant regulations and holds necessary certifications, such as ISO/IEC 27001 for information security management. Certifications indicate a commitment to maintaining high security standards.

Risk assessments should be conducted to identify potential vulnerabilities in the supplier’s operations. This includes evaluating their supply chain, subcontractors, and any third parties they work with.

Incident response plans must be reviewed. A robust plan should detail how they detect, respond to, and recover from security incidents. This ensures they can handle breaches effectively and minimise the impact on your business.

Ongoing monitoring is crucial as supplier due diligence is not a one-time activity. Regularly monitor suppliers to ensure they maintain security standards over time. This includes periodic reviews and audits of their security practices.

Implementing an Effective Due Diligence Process

Define criteria and standards for evaluating suppliers based on your business needs and regulatory requirements. This helps maintain consistency in the due diligence process.

Use a risk-based approach to prioritise suppliers based on the level of risk they pose to your business. Focus more resources on those with access to sensitive data or critical systems.

Leverage technology by utilising tools and platforms that automate parts of the due diligence process, such as risk assessment software and third-party risk management platforms. This can enhance efficiency and accuracy.

Collaborate with suppliers to foster a collaborative relationship. Encourage transparency and open communication about security practices and potential risks. This can lead to a more secure and trustworthy partnership.


Supplier due diligence is a critical component of information security, particularly in an era where third-party services are integral to business operations. By thoroughly evaluating and continuously monitoring suppliers, businesses can protect sensitive data, ensure regulatory compliance, and mitigate supply chain risks. As cyber threats continue to evolve, diligent supplier management remains a cornerstone of robust security practices.


Ponemon Institute (2020) – “Cost of a Data Breach Report 2020“.
Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) – “Guide to the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)“.
Krebs, B. (2014) – “The Target Breach, By the Numbers“.

Stu Walsh

Stu Walsh

I have recently left my position as the Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) for Blue Stream Academy Ltd. who are a leading provider of online training and HR solutions to healthcare organisations in the UK. I oversaw the organisation’s information security strategies, ensuring the protection of sensitive data, and complying with healthcare industry-specific regulations and standards. During my time as CISO, I established and maintained the Information Security Management System (ISMS) required for our ongoing General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) compliance, ISO27001 and PCI-DSS certifications.

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