The What, Why, and How on Answering Safety Questionnaires

You have got many choices for options that can assist you situation a safety questionnaire. 

On the subject of answering a safety questionnaire, there are fewer choices, however you’ll be joyful to know that options exist that can assist you with what some contemplate to be a painstakingly handbook, repetitive course of. 

Safety questionnaires exist so organizations can confirm that their knowledge might be safe in transit, in use, and at relaxation with third-party distributors. Shoppers demand that their personal, monetary, medical, and different knowledge be secured always. In most industries, compliance rules exist to make sure minimal safety requirements are met.

To show compliance, distributors should full safety questionnaires as a part of a danger evaluation.

Historically, safety questionnaires arrive within the type of a spreadsheet or different downloadable doc. Know-how options that automate the response course of to those questionnaires could be indispensable if you wish to save time and guarantee consistency when answering questionnaires. 

There’s a rising development of on-line safety questionnaire portals that make automation tough and require distributors to reply extra questions one after the other. Whereas there are some applied sciences and strategies that may assist velocity up answering safety questionnaires in on-line portals, methods for automation rely closely on proprietary third-party integrations that may be expensive and will solely apply to at least one “taste” of safety.

As a vendor who might be going through extra safety questionnaires of accelerating sophistication, you’ve got a problem to reply them effectively and comprehensively. 

What’s a safety questionnaire? 

A safety questionnaire is used when a company must assess whether or not their knowledge might be protected when it’s past their management, sometimes within the arms of a vendor.

Shoppers and shoppers belief organizations with their enterprise and personal knowledge with the idea that it is going to be protected whereas below that group’s management. Organizations should be sure that any individual or entity outdoors of the group maintains a minimal stage of safety equal to that of the group. 

In different phrases, when you have a bodyguard with a black belt in karate who goes with you in every single place to verify your pockets is protected, you can not let anybody borrow your pockets except their bodyguard additionally has no less than a black belt in karate. And each bodyguards must be there if you hand over your pockets, regardless that the place the place the handoff takes place is meant to be fully safe, too.

Safety questionnaires typically come from one of many following three locations:

  1. Construct your personal, normally in a spreadsheet, that features an evaluation of all minimal safety necessities wanted to entry your knowledge (i.e. “Fill out this way to show that your bodyguard is pretty much as good as my bodyguard.”).
  2. Purchase your personal. You possibly can swing for the fences and consider the whole lot with one thing like a SIG (Standardized Info Gathering) Questionnaire. Or you possibly can assess a particular danger with, say, Nessus, which is a community safety evaluation device.* 
  3. Borrow a safety questionnaire that’s publicly out there. Some non-profit organizations present questionnaires that embody requirements as agreed upon by a membership of like-minded professionals. One such instance is the Consensus Evaluation Initiative Questionnaire (CAIQ), which is revealed by the Cloud Safety Alliance (CSA).

One factor a safety questionnaire isn’t is a due diligence questionnaire (DDQ). There are two main variations. One, DDQs usually are not as detailed and focus extra on course of. It’s possible you’ll obtain a DDQ when a company needs to understand how you’ll adjust to their requirements and meet their wants. It’s within the safety questionnaire the place you’ll have to offer the proof.

Two, DDQs normally arrive earlier within the gross sales course of in comparison with a safety questionnaire. Consider the DDQ as the primary filter. Organizations determine that if you happen to don’t know the way to comply on the DDQ stage, then it’s not value spending time on the small print additional alongside within the gross sales course of. 

That doesn’t essentially imply that safety questionnaires must be considered as key milestones within the gross sales course of. They will seem early on like DDQs, however they will additionally seem on the demo stage additional alongside within the gross sales course of and even put up shut when onboarding plans start to take form. Receiving a safety questionnaire isn’t a sign of your eventual success.  However not responding on time and precisely may definitely kill a deal. 

Why are safety questionnaires wanted? 

Within the olden days, software program functions had been hosted in home, or on premise, which meant that the proprietor of the info was in possession of it always. There have been nonetheless safety questionnaires, however they had been a lot much less concerned.

With the SaaS shift, knowledge and enterprise important functions are trusted to a 3rd occasion. Earlier than a company onboards a SaaS answer, it must be assured in two issues, from a safety perspective. One, all of its knowledge might be protected with the seller of that SaaS answer.

Two, the appliance might be out there when it’s wanted and compliant with agreed-upon uptime benchmarks (e.g. you don’t need the HR system happening simply earlier than processing payroll). Safety questionnaires have proliferated on account of the onslaught of SaaS options. 

However, safety questionnaires assess extra than simply elements particular to knowledge safety, corresponding to encryption or storage. Questions could cowl community safety, auditing and compliance processes, and even the bodily safety of your places simply to call just a few. The actual fact is that questionnaires have gotten extra widespread, longer, and extra advanced for 2 major causes.

First, SaaS options are rising in complexity and interconnectivity. Hardly ever is there a enterprise software that’s completely standalone. They typically want to speak to one another to assist organizations obtain a bigger purpose.

The extra functions that want to speak to one another, the higher the higher danger publicity, which leads to extra stringent safety assessments.

Second, threats are continually evolving. There’s no such factor as a 100% safe system, primarily as a result of regardless of how safe and clever techniques get, there’ll at all times be a human fingerprint someplace. 


of knowledge breaches could be attributed to human error. 

Supply: CISO Magazine

From voting techniques to gas distribution networks to giant retailers, dangerous actors can pivot shortly to direct cyber assaults wherever they discover a weak spot.  

What do safety questionnaire reviewers count on?

An trustworthy, direct, and full response. And to respect their time. Take note of the directions. Some questions require temporary, direct solutions. Others require detailed explanations in regards to the kinds of controls in place.

Even with automation assist, you’ll need to assume by way of each response to verify it’s correctly answered. If a two-part response is required, at all times present a short description of your reply. That is particularly essential when it’s important to reply “no” or “not relevant”.

Your response doesn’t at all times need to be within the affirmative. Don’t say sure as a result of you’ve got plans to implement one thing. These plans develop into obligations that you could be not have the ability to fulfill. By no means reply within the affirmative if you happen to can’t ship. At all times count on the shopper to ask for proof.  

Be direct. Use an energetic voice. Concision issues. Typically questions are requested in several methods a number of occasions. Keep away from copy and pasting and presumably sounding evasive. Don’t waste time attempting to guess reviewers’ priorities. They not often reveal what’s necessary. Assume compliance and danger groups might be reviewing all responses with a fine-toothed comb. 

Your purpose must be to have as full a response as potential. The extra full the response, the much less doubtless you’re to have follow-ups – the earlier the danger evaluation is full, the earlier the deal can shut. You don’t need the safety questionnaire response to carry up the deal. They arrive later within the gross sales course of and a number of rounds of follow-ups or clarifications will decelerate the method, which can frustrate your gross sales staff to no finish.

Key parts of a safety questionnaire 

Most often, safety questionnaires assess a large spectrum of safety controls. Count on questions throughout a number of kinds of safety. 

Safety “Taste”

Pattern Query

Utility Safety

Does your internet software have an SSL certificates?

Audit & Compliance

How typically do you audit for California Shopper Privateness Act (CCPA) compliance?

Enterprise Continuity

Within the occasion of an outage, how does your software stay in service?

Catastrophe Restoration

Within the occasion of an information breach, how lengthy will it take you to inform us?

Change Management

What’s the definition of an emergency change?

Knowledge/Info Safety

What tips do your safety program comply with?

Knowledge Privateness

What’s the course of for backing up your knowledge?

Encryption Administration

Does the product use encryption or different cryptographic strategies?

Bodily Safety

Do you’re employed in a shared workplace house?

Governance & Threat Administration

Do you retain a document of safety occasions?


Do you practice your workers on the way to detect cyber assaults?

Identification & Entry Administration

Does your software provide single sign-on (SSO)?

Third-party Administration

Do you outsource safety capabilities to third-party suppliers?

Vulnerability Administration

Which software program or strategies do you employ to conduct vulnerability analyses?

Many questions and content material necessities will fall below one of many following 4 parts.

1. Safety compliance certificates

Proof of safety compliance certifications is essentially the most generally requested piece of data in a safety questionnaire. Examples of safety compliance certificates embrace Service Group Management 2 (SOC 2), Worldwide Group for Standardization (ISO), and Nationwide Institute of Requirements and Framework’s Cybersecurity Framework (NIST CSF).

2. Cybersecurity insurance policies and coverage paperwork

These will doubtless be your most time consuming. They cowl loads of areas, together with info, bodily, software, infrastructure, and community safety. These questions assess your IT safety, knowledge privateness, and enterprise resiliency insurance policies. Typically you’ll be requested to offer the total coverage doc. Different occasions you’ll be requested to tug out particular sections.

3. Safety procedures

This element is the place organizations wish to assess your procedures to safeguard buyer info, knowledge, and techniques. 

Questions and requests could deal with:

  • Procedures for worker safety consciousness coaching 
  • Procedures for patching, upgrading, and mitigating vulnerabilities on servers or desktops
  • Incident administration procedures in case of a safety breach or different incident
  • Catastrophe restoration and enterprise continuity plan in case of extended downtime
  • Monitoring and monitoring for malicious exercise

4. IT dangers and mitigation controls 

If a company goes to simply accept your danger by including you as a vendor, then they should know what they’re stepping into. Much more essential, they wish to know what you’re already doing to mitigate danger. 

You’ll see inquiries corresponding to:

  • Submit a danger administration plan
  • Determine the checklist of dangers that might straight affect our knowledge and knowledge techniques
  • Describe your danger evaluation methodology
  • Listing safety controls in place to mitigate dangers
  • Listing personnel/roles answerable for danger administration

Be aware that you just in all probability have already got most of the solutions to those questions. The query is the place are they situated? That’s the important thing to answering safety questionnaires quicker.

5 ideas for responding to safety questionnaires quicker

With extra safety questionnaires coming on account of the proliferation of SaaS (and infrastructure as a service [IaaS] and platform as a service [PaaS]), accuracy, effectivity, and repeatability might be important to seamlessly responding to a number of questionnaires yearly. These 5 ideas will assist.

Implement AI and machine studying to automate responses 

Automation options exist already. Paradoxically, they’re SaaS, too. What’s essential, whether or not you construct your personal or search out a vendor, is that the answer has AI/ML capabilities to do extra than simply copy and paste. There’s extra to a response than discovering any reply; you’ve got to have the ability to discover the most effective reply, quick. 

Develop a content material administration answer to streamline looking for and updating solutions 

You doubtless have already got a lot of the solutions to safety questionnaires. Normally, the issue is that the paperwork the place these solutions lie are siloed, duplicated, outdated, could solely enable restricted entry, and usually are not searchable. Centralizing your content material will remedy this drawback.

Observe finest practices for lowering turnaround time whereas bettering accuracy 

Your inner and exterior collaboration mechanisms will drive enchancment right here. Along with AI/ML-enabled automation, cueing up assignments for material consultants to reply and overview can be automated. Getting your staff in lockstep is crucial to avoiding these irritating follow-up questions that may consequence from an incomplete or inaccurate response.

Determine a SaaS answer that helps know-how to work together straight with third-party on-line portals 

AI/ML automation works finest on downloadable kinds, corresponding to spreadsheets, paperwork, or PDFs. On-line portals are extra troublesome and, as of this writing, can solely be automated by way of backend partnerships between safety questionnaire issuer and responder answer suppliers.

One know-how that may assistance is a browser extension portal that hyperlinks to your content material library. They make it easier to work by way of an internet portal quicker since you don’t have to change between functions to entry solutions.

Full safety questionnaires forward of the shopper’s deadline 

This portrays proficiency and good will. It additionally offers your shopper higher peace of thoughts that you just take safety severely whereas respecting their useful time.

Don’t let safety questionnaires put a chokehold on income

Answering safety questionnaires in a single type or one other might be a part of the seller onboarding course of for the foreseeable future. Primarily based on the present panorama, you possibly can count on safety questionnaires to proceed to develop in dimension and class.

Cybersecurity spending is slated to exceed $1 trillion, and third-party distributors account for 63% of knowledge breaches. Organizations will need extra assurances that their knowledge might be protected and that their functions might be out there. 

By implementing enterprise processes that take a safety questionnaire from consumption to submission, automating as a lot of the response course of as potential, and bettering collaboration to maintain material consultants on activity, you possibly can velocity up and simplify the way you reply questionnaires. Your purpose is to by no means let safety questionnaires be a bottleneck to the gross sales course of. 

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