The Ultimate Third-Party Risk Assessment Checklist

Table of Contents

As data breaches and supply chain attacks increase, rigorous third-party risk assessments are more crucial than ever. These assessments are only effective with a detailed checklist that examines all potential risk areas. This article will provide a comprehensive guide for creating a third-party risk assessment checklist.

We’ll cover the importance of checklists for third-party risk management, key risk categories to address, conducting thorough assessments, analyzing results, and the next steps after the assessment.

Follow this guide to build a checklist that covers all bases, enabling your business to manage third-party relationships securely and successfully.

Key Takeaways

It is necessary to identify stakeholders and their roles. It sets the foundation for an effective risk assessment. Also, establishing clear objectives ensures a focused and targeted risk assessment process.

The third-party risk assessment checklist should have well-defined risk categories and detailed criteria under each category. The categories and criteria help in thorough risk evaluation and prioritization.

Evaluate third parties across the checklist and analyze results to, quantify and prioritize the most critical risks needing attention. Analyzing results allows you to understand the overall impact of third-party risks on your business, enabling informed decision-making.

Understanding Third-Party Risk

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The Ultimate Third-Party Risk Assessment Checklist (2).png

Third-party risk refers to potential risks introduced to a business by outside vendors, suppliers, partners, and other entities it relies on for business operations.

Inadequate assessment and management of third-party risks can lead to costly financial losses, compliance violations, reputation damage, disrupted operations, data breaches, and more. Third-party risk management ensures a secure operational environment.

With nearly every business relying on third parties, ranging from service providers to contractors, a systematic approach is necessary to assess and mitigate third-party risks.

Comprehensive checklists form the core of efficient assessment processes, as highlighted in established frameworks like ISO 27001 and NIST RMF (National Institute of Standards and Technology Risk Management Framework).

Preparing for Risk Assessment

The risk assessment methodology will be based on a framework or combinations of frameworks. Before conducting a third-party risk assessment, establish stakeholders, objectives, and information requirements.

Identify key internal stakeholders across business units like procurement, compliance, IT, and executives to participate. Clearly defining the roles and responsibilities of all stakeholders involved in the assessment process ensures a coordinated and efficient evaluation. For example, procurement manages vendor relationships, legal reviews contracts, and IT evaluates technical controls.

Define objectives such as evaluating vendor viability, security posture, regulatory alignment, etc. Setting specific objectives helps focus the assessment on critical areas, ensuring that resources are allocated efficiently.

Gather documentation like contracts, audit reports, and third-party policies to inform assessments. Collecting all necessary documents and information beforehand streamlines the assessment process and ensures that assessments are based on accurate data.

Developing a Comprehensive Risk Assessment Checklist

The checklist should examine risks across the following categories.

Financial Risks

Stability: cash flow, profitability, bankruptcy risk.

Solvency and Liquidity: liquidity ratio, calculated as current assets over current liabilities; and debt-to-equity ratio, calculated as total debt over total equity.

Liabilities: debt load, accounts payable, and receivable.

Profitability: net profit margin calculated as (Net Profit / Total Revenue) x 100; and return on assets (ROA) calculated as (Net Profit / Total Assets) x 100.

Cash Flow Management: operating cash flow to current liabilities ratio.

Financial Trends: growth or decline in revenue and profit.

Insurance Coverage: check adequacy for operations.

Creditworthiness: check credit ratings from relevant agencies and payment history with creditors.

Questions for the checklist in this category can include:

Has there been a consistent trend in profitability over the last few years?

Are there any outstanding loans affecting cash flow?

Has the organization had any significant issues with creditors or debtors?

Are there any outstanding loans or lines of credit that may impact financial stability?

How does the organization manage its debt service obligations?

Does the organization have contingency plans in place for financial emergencies?

Is the organization transparent in its financial disclosures and reporting practices?

Are there any recent instances of financial restatements or irregularities?

Regulatory Compliance: confirm third-party adheres to industry-specific regulations and complies with laws like the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS).

Contractual Obligations: review signed contracts and agreements, including Terms and Conditions.

Data Protection and Privacy: confirming data security measures in place and compliance with data protection laws like the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), etc. Data collection, usage, storage, sharing, and destruction policies

Intellectual Property Rights: verification of intellectual property ownership and rights. Trademark and copyright compliance.

Ethical and Governance Standards: anti-corruption policies and practices. Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) commitments.

Licensing and certification status: validate required permits and licenses.

Check past legal issues, suits, fines, or incidents.

Questions for the checklist in this category can include:

Is the third party aware of and compliant with industry-specific regulations?

Can the third party provide evidence of compliance with relevant laws?

Has the third party faced any regulatory fines or penalties in the past?

Are all contracts and agreements with the third party well-documented and up-to-date?

Have there been any instances of contract disputes or breaches?

Can the third party demonstrate compliance with relevant data protection laws (e.g., GDPR, CCPA)?

Can the third party provide ownership documentation for any intellectual property used in their operations?

Can the third party provide evidence of adherence to ethical business practices?

Can the third party demonstrate commitment to corporate social responsibility?

Does the third party provide compliance training for its employees?

Does the third party undergo regular compliance audits or reviews?

Operational Risks

Process Efficiency: time and resource efficiency in delivering services.

Supply Chain Reliability: supplier audits and performance reviews.

Capacity and Scalability: ability to handle increased workload or demand.

Business Continuity Planning: disaster recovery and contingency plans.

Quality Control: compliance with industry quality standards.

Questions for the checklist in this category can include:

Does the third party have performance metrics in place to monitor process efficiency?

Are there contingency plans in place for potential disruptions in the supply chain?

Has the third party experienced any significant business disruptions in the past?

Can the third party effectively handle increases in workload or demand?

Does the third party have a business continuity plan in place?

Are there measures to protect against information security-related risks, such as cyber threats or system failures?

Are employees trained and equipped to handle potential safety hazards?

Are there documented procedures for handling regulatory requirements?

Reputation Risks

Brand Image Alignment: consistency in representing brand values and image.

Crisis Management Capabilities: Preparedness and response to reputational crises.

Media Coverage and Public Perception: Media Sentiment Analysis.

Reviews and ratings: customer satisfaction ratings and feedback.

Past Performance and History: previous incidents or controversies involving the third party.

Questions for the checklist in this category can include:

Have there been any past incidents or controversies involving the third party that could impact our reputation?

Are there any notable positive or negative customer reviews or feedback about the third party?

Have any recent media coverage or articles mentioned the third party?

Are there any instances where the third-party’s communication practices could impact our reputation?

Cybersecurity Risks

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The Ultimate Third-Party Risk Assessment Checklist (1).png

Network Security: Firewall configuration and intrusion detection systems.

Data protection measures: encryption protocols for sensitive data.

Access Control and Authentication: user access policies and Multi-Factor Authentication.

Security Compliance and Certifications: compliance with industry standards (e.g., ISO 27001).

Questions for the checklist in this category can include:

Does the third party have firewalls, intrusion detection systems, and other security measures in place and regularly updated?

Are encryption protocols and standards adhered to for sensitive information?

Are multi-factor authentication and strong password policies enforced?

Does the third party have a well-defined incident response plan in case of a security breach?

Is there a regular schedule for applying critical updates?

Does the third party have robust data backup and recovery procedures in place?

Are there contractual agreements in place that address cybersecurity responsibilities?

Are there mechanisms in place to quickly identify and respond to abnormal behavior?

Does the third party conduct regular vulnerability assessments and penetration tests?

Use a pass/fail criteria for the questions tailored to each risk factor. Prioritize risks using a risk matrix evaluating the likelihood of occurrence and potential impact. High likelihood and high impact should have high priority, while low likelihood and low impact should have low priority.

Conducting the Risk Assessment

Execution is crucial in turning preparation into actionable insights. With the checklist in place, execute assessments by following the steps below.

Explain the assessment process: Provide a step-by-step guide on conducting the assessment.

Assign responsibility to risk analysts: Assign roles to individuals responsible for the risk assessment.

Gather data and evidence: Collect relevant data, completed questionnaires, and evidence to support the assessment process.

Use the customized checklist to evaluate each third party: Systematically review each third party against the checklist and document your findings.

Document findings and observations: Ensure all findings and observations are well-documented for further analysis and future reference.

Analyzing the Assessment Results

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The Ultimate Third-Party Risk Assessment Checklist.png

Turning data into actionable insights is crucial. With assessments completed, analyze results to

Evaluate risks identified: Assign them a priority either as high risk or low risk.

Quantify and qualify risks: Develop risk mitigation and monitoring plans.

Aggregated risk exposure: Consider risks collectively to identify the most vulnerable partnerships.

Identify critical risks requiring immediate attention: Pinpoint critical risks needing immediate mitigation based on a priority scale.


A detailed third-party risk assessment checklist tailored to your business risk landscape is vital for identifying, assessing, and managing the many risks external partners and vendors introduce. Follow this guide to develop a checklist that is the foundation of an effective third-party risk program.

If you need further guidance or support in implementing these strategies, Captain Compliance is here to help. Contact us for assistance managing third-party risks, starting with a customized risk assessment checklist. We are available for all your compliance needs!


What is a third-party risk assessment checklist?

A third-party risk assessment checklist is a tool a business uses to evaluate and assess potential risks posed by third parties systematically it partners with for business activities. It references all risk areas like financial stability, security, regulatory alignment, incident response, etc.

In addition to customized checklists, get familiar with the wide range of compliance solutions we offer.

What are examples of third-party risks?

Common third-party risks include supply chain disruption, compliance violations, data breaches, contractual risks, financial instability, reputational damage, and more. Comprehensive risk assessment checklists cover all risk areas.

For more in-depth information on why businesses and third parties must be compliant, refer to our complete guide on the accountability framework.

How do you conduct a third-party risk assessment?

Conducting a third-party risk assessment involves several steps, including identifying stakeholders, setting clear objectives, gathering relevant documentation, developing a comprehensive checklist, executing the assessment, and analyzing the results.

For detailed guidance, refer to our checklist discussed in this article. Also, find out how to outsource your compliance needs to us.

What are the 5 phases of third-party risk management?

The five main phases of third-party risk management are:

Identify inherent risks from third parties.

Assess risks using checklists and processes.

Develop risk mitigation strategies.

Monitor ongoing risks continuously.

Report on risk status to stakeholders.

Each phase plays a crucial role in effectively managing third-party risks.

We have a detailed guide on compliance frameworks that complement third-party risk management.

How often should a business conduct a third-party risk assessment?

The frequency of third-party risk assessments can vary based on factors like industry regulations, the nature of the business partnership, and the severity of risks identified. At Captain Compliance, we recommend conducting risk assessments periodically before taking on a new partner and when significant changes in the business environment or the third-party relationship occur.

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