Website security is overlooked in most IT governance frameworks.
Managing a website isn’t as easy as you think. Sure, you test your code and periodically scan web applications but this only addresses your first-party owned code. What about third-party code?
Considering more than 78% of the code executing on enterprise websites is from third-parties, IT/ website operations departments cannot truly control what renders on a visitor’s browser. This inability to identify and authorize vendor activity exposes the enterprise to a host of issues affecting security, data privacy and overall website performance. And, your website isn’t immune.
Masked vulnerability: What you don’t know can hurt you
The fact that the majority of the code executing on an enterprise website is not seen, let alone managed, does not absolve the enterprise from blame should something go wrong—and it does.
Much publicized stories about website compromises and digital defacement point to the embarrassing reality that websites are not easy to secure. But that’s not all.
Digital property owners—websites and mobile apps—are beholden to a series of regulations covering consumer privacy, deceptive advertising, and data protection. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission U.S. has dramatically stepped up enforcement of deceptive advertising and promotional practices in the digital environment over the past few years and recently signaled interest in litigating enterprises found to be violating the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).
Data privacy regulations don’t only apply to minors accessing the website. The recent overturning of EU-US Safe Harbor and resulting EU-US Privacy Shield framework calls attention to the need to understand what data is collected, shared and stored via enterprise digital operations.
Don’t forget that these third parties directly affect website performance. Problematic code or behavior—too many page requests, large page download size, general latency, etc.—render a poor experience for the visitor. Potential customers will walk if your website pages take more than two seconds to load, and third parties are usually the culprits.
The problem is that the prevalence of third-party code masks what’s really happening on a public-facing website. This blindness exposes the enterprise to unnecessary risk of regulatory violations, brand damage and loss of revenue.
Seeing through the camouflage
This is a serious issue that many enterprises come to realize a little too late. Third-party vendors provide the interactive and engaging functionality people expect when they visit a website—content recommendation engines, customer identification platforms, social media widgets and video platforms, to name a few. In addition, they are also the source of numerous back-end services used to optimize the viewing experience—content delivery network, marketing management platforms, and data analytics.
Clearly, third parties are critical to the digital experience. However, no single individual or department in an organization is responsible for everything that occurs on the site—marketing provides the content and design, IT/web operations makes sure it works, sales/ecommerce drives the traffic, etc. This lack of holistic oversight makes it impossible to hold anyone or any group accountable for when things go wrong that can jeopardize the enterprise.
Case in point: can you clearly answer the following:
- How many third-party vendors executing on your website?
- How did they get on the site, i.e., were they called by another vendor?
- Can you identify all activity performed by each vendor?
- What department authorized and takes ownership of these vendors and their activity?
- How do you ensure vendor activity complies with your organization’s policies as well as the growing body of government regulations?
- What is the impact of individual vendor activity on website performance?
- What recourse do you have for vendors that fail to meet contractually-agreed service level agreements (SLA)?
Questions like these highlight the fact that successfully managing an enterprise website requires a strong command of the collective and individual technologies, processes and vendors used to render the online presence, while simultaneously keeping the IT infrastructure secure and in compliance with company-generated and government-mandated policies regarding data privacy.
Adopting a Website Governance strategy will help you satisfy these requirements.
Take back control
What happens on your website is your responsibility. Don’t you think you should take control and know what’s going on? It’s time you took a proactive approach to security. The Media Trust can shine a light on your entire website operation and alert you to security incidents, privacy violations and performance issues.
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