Scalable vendor security reviews

Monday, March 7, 2016

At Google, we assess the security of hundreds of vendors every year. We scale our efforts through automating much of the initial information gathering and triage portions of the vendor review process. To do this we've developed the Vendor Security Assessment Questionnaire (VSAQ), a collection of self-adapting questionnaires for evaluating multiple aspects of a vendor's security and privacy posture.

We've received feedback from many vendors who completed the questionnaires. Most vendors found them intuitive and flexible — and, even better, they've been able to use the embedded tips and recommendations to improve their security posture. Some also expressed interest in using the questionnaires to assess their own suppliers.

Based on this positive response, we've decided to open source the VSAQ Framework (Apache License Version 2) and the generally applicable parts of our questionnaires on GitHub: We hope it will help companies spin up, or further improve their own vendor security programs. We also hope the base questionnaires can serve as a self-assessment tool for security-conscious companies and developers looking to improve their security posture.

The VSAQ Framework comes with four security questionnaire templates that can be used with the VSAQ rendering engine:

All four base questionnaire templates can be readily extended with company-specific questions.
Using the same questionnaire templates across companies may help to scale assessment efforts. Common templates can also minimize the burden on vendor companies, by facilitating the reuse of responses.

The VSAQ Framework comes with a simple client-side-only reference implementation that's suitable for self-assessments, for vendor security programs with a moderate throughput, and for just trying out the framework. For a high-throughput vendor security program, we recommend using the VSAQ Framework with a custom server-side component that fits your needs (the interface is quite simple).

Give VSAQ a try! A demo version of the VSAQ Framework is available here:

Excerpt from Security and Privacy Programs Questionnaire

Let us know how VSAQ works for you: contact us. We look forward to getting your feedback and continuing to make vendor reviews scalable — and maybe even fun!

By Lukas Weichselbaum and Daniel Fabian, Google Security