IT staffing augmentation involves temporarily hiring external contractors or consultants to supplement a company’s in-house IT team. It provides greater flexibility to meet short-term needs or fill skill gaps. However, bringing third-party IT personnel on board also introduces potential data security and confidentiality risks that must be carefully managed.
This post will investigate some of these data security challenges that can arise with IT staff augmentation and the best practices companies should follow to minimize risks.
Data Security Risks of IT Staff Augmentation
While IT staffing augmentation provides faster access to skilled talent, it also creates data security vulnerabilities that must be proactively mitigated. Some key risks include:
- Unauthorized data access
External contractors may access confidential data they are not supposed to view or expose it negligently through poor security practices.
- Data theft
IT staff could steal sensitive customer, financial, product or other proprietary data and share it with unauthorized parties.
- Malware infections
Contractors might inadvertently introduce malware into company systems through unauthorized software installations or unsafe browsing.
- Non-compliance with policies
IT augmentation staff may intentionally or unknowingly violate defined data security, acceptable use or other IT policies.
- Exposure of vulnerabilities
IT contractors could identify and even exploit company systems and processes vulnerabilities for malicious intents.
- Account hijacking
Attackers could steal usernames and passwords of external IT staff to infiltrate company networks and cloud applications.
- Insecure data transfers
Augmented IT staff working remotely may transfer sensitive data over unsecured networks and lead to interception by cybercriminals.
- Data deletion
Disgruntled temporary IT workers who are leaving the company could sabotage systems by deleting critical data and files.
Augmented IT personnel can expose your organization to serious data breach incidents or compliance violations without adequate oversight and controls.
IT Staff Augmentation Data Security Best Practices
Here are some recommended data security best practices to enable safe IT staff augmentation:
Conduct thorough background checks
Do detailed background checks including criminal history, education, employment history and professional references on all candidates before onboarding.
Execute non-disclosure agreements
All augmented IT staff must sign NDA and non-compete agreements to bind them to protect data confidentiality contractually.
Limit data access
Provide external staff access only to specific systems and data that they need for their role through access controls and data segmentation.
Control external devices
Implement policies prohibiting external IT staff from using personal devices, storage media or email for company data.
Log and monitor augmented staff’s systems and data access through security tools to detect unauthorized activities.
Limit on-premise access
To protect your company from data breaches, it is essential to apply access control. Physically segregate on-site external staff from sensitive systems and data centers using access cards and multi-factor authentication. However, you should do it so that external IT personnel don’t feel uncomfortable with it.
Secure remote access
It is important to leverage VPN and MFA for all remote access. But what is more vital is to terminate credentials immediately after engagement ends. This way the attackers can’t take advantage of stored credentials from the system.
As mentioned earlier, having a strict access control is the key. Assign temporary admin credentials to augmented staff with expiration instead of building out permanent access. Revoke all access promptly after the end date.
Train all parties
Everyone needs to stay updated with the Educate in-house staff, external talent and IT services partners on security policies, risks, safe data handling and incident reporting.
Continually review controls
Regularly review controls, policies and risks related to external IT staff augmentation providers and personnel. Adjust based on changing needs.
Choose partners carefully
Work only with trusted and reliable IT staffing firms who conduct their own vetting and background checks on candidates.
By implementing these measures, companies can allow their internal teams to securely leverage outside IT talent and expertise without compromising data protection.
Key Selection Criteria for IT Staffing Partners
When partnering with IT staff augmentation company, ask yourself the following list of questions as well as assess their security practices and controls as part of the selection process:
- Vetting process: Do they do criminal checks, validate work eligibility, degree validity on candidates?
- Security training: Is data security training provided to candidates before assignment?
- Confidentiality enforcement: Strict policies and NDAs in place to protect client data?
- Screening of skills: Are technical skills properly evaluated through assessments before submittal to clients?
- Cyber insurance: Do they carry adequate cyber liability insurance coverage?
- Data handling processes: What data does the provider collect, store and share? Are controls like encryption in place?
- Information security policies: Do they adhere to secure practices like least-privilege access outlined in written policies?
- Client communication: Will they proactively notify clients of any breaches or exposure involving contracted staff?
- Remote staff controls: Are adequate controls in place to secure remote access by augmented staff?
- Ongoing monitoring: Is activity of contracted staff tracked to identify potential breaches?
Using these criteria allows you to select reliable IT staffing partners who share your commitment to data security when sourcing contract talent.
Managing Data Security Risks of Onboarded IT Staff
Once you have onboarded external IT personnel, ongoing diligence is required to avoid data protection incidents:
Enforce Least Privilege Access
- Provide minimal access to specific systems based on role needs only. Never use shared or generic logins. Revoke access promptly after end date.
Limit Data Visibility
- Mask or anonymize sensitive data fields before exposing to augmented staff. Provide live customer data sparingly.
Require Secure Remote Access
- Mandate that all remote contract staff use VPN and MFA to access internal resources or data.
- Watch for suspicious access requests, downloads or data transfers by external staff through UEBA solutions.
- Have a checklist for promptly restricting access, collecting assets and reminding departing contract staff of confidentiality obligations.
Backup Critical Data
- Keep recent backups of critical systems and data in case augmented staff accidentally (or intentionally) delete information.
- External staff should be escorted and visually monitored if on-premises to prevent unauthorized physical activities.
With well-defined policies, controls, monitoring, and training reinforced throughout the IT staff augmentation process, the risk of data security incidents can be greatly reduced. While taking help of a dedicated development team for digital transformation, proactively identifying and addressing vulnerabilities introduced by third-party IT staff is key to enabling secure augmentation.
IT staff augmentation enables companies to fill urgent skill gaps, meet temporary needs and access niche expertise in an agile manner. However, external IT staff also represent a heightened data security risk if not properly vetted, trained, and monitored.
Organizations can safely augment their IT workforce by conducting due diligence on providers, limiting data access, monitoring activity, securing remote access, and having strong contractual confidentiality clauses.
With the proper precautions, IT staff augmentation allows companies to compete and innovate in an agile manner while still keeping their most valuable data assets secure. The influx of specialist skills and new perspectives ultimately enables more robust protection by diversifying knowledge and identifying potential blind spots.