Launching a vendor due diligence process at a growing company is a critical but daunting task. The first step in the process can often be the hardest: knowing what types of questions to ask a vendor to understand their security posture. Luckily, there are many existing security questionnaire frameworks and templates available, including the Consensus Assessment Initiative Questionnaire (CAIQ) and the Standardized Information Gathering (SIG) assessment.
On the surface both the CAIQ and SIG are third party security questionnaires that enable the vendor due diligence process. But understanding a few differences and nuances between the CAIQ and SIG questionnaires will help you choose the one that best suits your business needs.
In this post we will review all the SIG and CAIQ basics you need to get started:
There are two primary security questionnaire templates on the market today: the CAIQ and the SIG, each created by a different security organization. And each questionnaire comes in the full version (CAIQ, SIG) as well as the condensed version (CAIQ Lite, SIG Lite).
All four of these questionnaires are uniquely designed to help you assess the security posture of your vendors, and to monitor their ongoing compliance. This, in turn, helps your company stay secure and maintain compliance with frameworks like SOC 2 and ISO 27001. But which template is best for you and your vendor?
The CAIQ is a 259 question questionnaire designed by the Cloud Security Alliance (CSA) that helps companies to document security controls used by their cloud vendors and cloud providers. The CAIQ questionnaire assesses 16 specific security controls outlined in the Cloud Controls Matrix. When building out this questionnaire template the CSA leveraged a panel of hundreds of IT security professionals to put together a detailed questionnaire that streamlined the cloud-vendor assessment process.
The CAIQ is designed to evaluate your higher-risk cloud-based vendors.
If you work in a highly regulated industry and/or you are evaluating a higher-risk cloud-based vendor, the CAIQ may be a good questionnaire for you to use. Let’s say you work in financial services and you’re looking to bring on a cloud vendor that will have access to customer PII and PCI; in this case the CAIQ will be a good option for you.
The CAIQ Lite is a 73 question questionnaire also designed by the CSA. It is a lighter version of the CAIQ that still hits on all 16 security controls. Its length and time requirements are much lighter for your cloud vendors.
The CAIQ Lite is a shorter questionnaire designed to assess the security of your cloud vendors who need a basic level of evaluation.
If you want to engage more easily with your cloud vendors and not overburden them with a large questionnaire, the CAIQ Lite is a great questionnaire choice. For example, if you are a software company hoping to bring on a new cloud-based learning management system (with no access to PII or PCI), the CAIQ Lite would be the best option.
The SIG questionnaire, developed by Shared Assessments, is a lengthy industry standard template used to assess higher risk vendors across 18 risk domains. Unlike the CAIQ, the SIG is not focused just on cloud vendors but on a more broad scope of your vendors. The SIG has upwards of 1200 questions. Shared Assessments updates the SIG each year to reflect domestic and international regulations, standards and guidelines for a wide range of industries.
The SIG is typically for your very high-risk vendors where you want a thorough understanding of their risk posture.
Typically the SIG is sent out by those in highly regulated industries like banking, pharma, and insurance. If you work for an insurance company and you want to bring on a high risk vendor that will have access to PII and PCI, the SIG may be the best questionnaire for you to use.
The SIG Lite is a condensed version of the SIG with just 150 questions. It takes high-level concepts and questions from the SIG questionnaire and distills them into a more concise template, still checking against the 18 risk domains and is far more manageable for your vendors.
The SIG Lite is designed for any vendors that need a basic level of due diligence.
The SIG Lite is a great questionnaire to send your vendors (cloud or otherwise) because it’s thorough while also being easier for your vendors to complete. For example, if you work for a marketing tech company and you want to bring on a new lead generation system, the SIG Lite could be a great option. Your vendors are far more likely to complete the SIG Lite than a full SIG.
For many companies evaluating new or existing vendors, any template will help you gain insights into security best practices and potential vulnerabilities. However, answering just a few quick questions can help you right-size your security review process and ensure your questionnaire makes sense for your vendor.
If your vendor is cloud-based you should be using the CAIQ Lite or the full CAIQ. These questionnaires are specifically designed with cloud vendors in mind, and will include relevant questions that dig into how .
If your vendor is high risk (the majority of your vendors won’t be), you should be using the full SIG or full CAIQ as these are larger, more in depth questionnaires.
A high risk vendor is one that collects and stores PII (personally identifiable information), PHI (personal health information), PCI (payment card industry), highly regulated data, or they’re mission critical (ie you use AWS and if they went down your technology wouldn’t work anymore).
If time is a concern for your company, the CAIQ Lite will enable you to save your team many hours in the evaluation process as well as many hours for your cloud-vendors. The SIG Lite is also a time saver and is great for a broad range of your non-cloud vendors.
Conducting due diligence on your vendors can seem a bit daunting if you’re just getting started. Perhaps you don’t have a security questionnaire template and you’re not even sure what you should ask the vendor. Having a template to use ensures that you follow a standardized process and get all important information from vendors as you go through your onboarding process. This ensures your security review process is able to scale as your company and team grows.
While larger organizations may create their own vendor security review template, this is a time and resource-intensive process. Many smaller organizations aren’t even sure exactly what they should be asking about or including in a security questionnaire. Luckily there are options to help get you started quickly and confidently.
The CAIQ and SIG were both created by third-party security organizations who leverage communities of cybersecurity experts to identify best practices in the space. This means that dozens or even hundreds of security experts have agreed that the CAIQ and SIG questionnaire templates are strong starting points to understanding and assessing vendor risk.
Using a CAIQ or SIG questionnaire is a big time saver when you’re kicking off a vendor risk assessment. To save even more time and automate the process, HyperComply makes it easy to send both CAIQ Lite and SIG assessments directly from our product in one click. Sign up for free to start sending vendor questionnaires today.