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Group Crafts Standards for Evaluating Outsourcers

February 6, 2006 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - Six large U.S. banks, an industry group and four major accounting firms joined forces in early 2004 to create standards for assessing the security practices of outsourcing vendors that work with financial services firms.
The goal was to create consistent standards for use in evaluating the controls that outsourcing vendors use to protect sensitive data, said Faith Boettger, a senior consultant at BITS, the technology arm of the Washington-based Financial Services Roundtable.
The standards are now available to the financial services community, following a trial of the program undertaken by five service providers, including IBM, Acxiom Corp. and First Data Corp.
The standards program, called the Financial Institution Shared Assessments Program, was developed by BITS, Bank of America Corp., The Bank of New York Co., Citigroup Inc., JPMorgan Chase & Co., U.S. Bancorp and Wells Fargo & Co. Accounting firms Deloitte & Touche LLP, KPMG International, PricewaterhouseCoopers and Ernst & Young International serve as technical advisers for the program.
The guidelines can be used to evaluate an outsourcer's controls for access, asset classification, personnel security, physical and environmental security, communications, business continuity and regulatory compliance, Boettger said.
The group expects that the standards will result in improved security and risk-management practices, she said. The program will also give auditing firms standard criteria for measuring the security practices of different service providers, she added.
"BITS member companies have for a long time been focused on looking at the management of risk within outsourcing relationships," Boettger said. The new programs should help such companies better meet their regulatory and risk management requirements, she explained.
Joe Duffy, lead managing partner for the performance improvement practice at PricewaterhouseCoopers, said the initiative is an example of the private sector coming together to address information security issues at a time of heightened regulatory oversight.
"What is groundbreaking here is the fact that industry, the accounting profession and the supplier community are coming together and agreeing" on common assessment standards, Duffy said.

Read more about Security in Computerworld's Security Topic Center.

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