If you stick with any movie through the end credits, you\u2019ll see not just the household names who act and direct, but the full scope of players who make a film. The scroll can seem endless: writers, CGI designers, location scouts, animal handlers, and the illustrious \u201cbest boy grip.\u201d It\u2019s a wide-ranging ecosystem where everyone plays a role. And it\u2019s very similar to the high-stakes cloud and digital initiatives that today\u2019s enterprises are driving forward\u2014and today\u2019s attackers are targeting.\n\nA successful transformation requires a diverse cast. Securing them calls for a closer look at who has risky levels of access to sensitive resources. It\u2019s not only the IT employees working in critical environments. And it goes beyond the sharp increase in everyday employees accessing sensitive data in applications.\n\nRoll the credits for any top enterprise initiative, and you\u2019ll see an ecosystem of contributors from outside the workforce who also need access to internal resources, to do their jobs. The scroll would look something like this:\n\nEvery day, external business-to-business (B2B) contributors use enterprise-provided applications, portals, and services from various devices and locations. And attackers know it.\n\nExternal B2B users: key to success and key attack targets\n\nConsider how many outside contractors work for your organization and imagine just one falling victim to a phishing attack. A malicious actor tricks them into sharing their password for an enterprise app, digs around until locating high-value resources, and makes a devastating next move.\n\nIt\u2019s a movie we\u2019ve seen, but the script is flipped to entail third-party vulnerabilities that are hard to control.\n\nOne example: an insurance company\u2019s extended workforce of third-party agents who use the company\u2019s online portals on the road\u2014one compromised identity could result in the data of millions of policyholders being leaked. For a private hospital system\u2019s network of electronic healthcare data vendors, this type of attack could result in a central database of patient records being held for ransom.\n\nIt\u2019s a movie we\u2019ve seen, but the script is flipped\u2014to entail third-party vulnerabilities that are hard to control.\n\nAnd that\u2019s just considering external B2B users who are actively working with organizations.\n\nThird-party risk often stems from B2B users who no longer work with an organization but still have lingering access to its applications, data, and environments. IT security teams are already bogged down with manual processes for managing full-time employees\u2019 access. The complexity grows when considering external users. One missed step in a manual, error-prone offboarding process can allow threat actors to exploit inappropriately provisioned, overprivileged, or orphaned accounts.\n\nHow to provide protection and positive UX for external collaborators\n\nAcross any industry or use case, there\u2019s a common link: External B2B users need as fierce protection as your employees. In addition, their user experience in accessing your applications and resources must be designed to help them succeed. Here\u2019s a brief look at five areas of best practices to help you achieve that balance.\n\n1. Ensure escure, user-friendly access to applications\n\nA frictionless experience is essential for external B2B users when they authenticate applications to engage with your organization. This helps vendors and contractors do their jobs; it also helps ensure that clients and partners view your brand favorably. But how can you achieve these outcomes without sacrificing security? Here are a few building blocks to keep in mind:\n\n2. Bring structure to identity data storage and management\n\nAs your organization\u2019s digital and cloud initiatives grow in scope and scale, the number of external B2B identities requiring protection is surging and disparate. So, how can you ensure their information is accounted for and protected while not making things difficult for partners? Here are some best practices:\n\n3. Balance flexibility with security in identity administration\n\nIt\u2019s challenging enough to stay ahead of identity administration for employees. The job can feel unwieldy when factoring in external users. You can reduce the burden and risks of third-party identity administration by giving partners a mix of autonomy and security-first features, including:\n\n4. Automate processes and tasks for managing identities\n\nAutomation can help IT security teams escape from the pattern of manually connecting dots and scripting integrations between variables like data and applications. The same applies to manual procedures and workflows for granting, adjusting, or revoking access.\n\nHere are some examples of how automation can help IT security teams regain bandwidth and reduce risk:\n\n5. Secure access for third-party privileged users\n\nWhile the nature of third-party risk has expanded beyond the traditional definition of privilege, it remains critical that organizations secure the identities of external users with the highest levels of sensitive access.\n\nTake, for example, an IT user working for one of your vendors. If this user\u2019s identity is compromised, the attacker\u2019s next steps\u2014e.g., lateral movement and privilege escalation\u2014aren\u2019t limited to the vendor\u2019s environment. They\u2019re a stepping stone to yours. Here are a few capabilities and controls that can help you secure third-party privileged access:\n\nNext steps: achieving high-quality UX and security-first access balance\n\nThe cast of characters playing essential roles in driving your high-stakes initiatives continues to grow in number, scope, and risk. Keeping their identities secure is essential for preventing third-party breaches and attacks\u2014and for protecting everything these external B2B users are building for your enterprise.\n\nSimilar to the movies, this blog post has a director\u2019s cut with additional content. For a deeper dive look at the controls and capabilities needed to protect external B2B identities, read our recent whitepaper, \u201cSecure Your External Users\u2019 Access to Enterprise Applications.\u201d\n\nJohn Natale is a senior content marketing manager at CyberArk.