Managing Security Risks of a Vendor Using OpenAI’s API

So, the business team walks up to you, excited about a potential vendor who is using OpenAI’s API, including ChatGPT, and they want to bring them on board. As a security manager, risk manager, or data protection officer at a startup, what do you do?

Let’s explore the concrete steps you need to take to manage the information security risks of engaging this vendor.

Recognizing the Security Challenges with AI Technologies

Understanding the AI Landscape

Before diving into specific security procedures, it’s essential to grasp the underlying technology. Start by familiarizing yourself with AI technologies like ChatGPT, how it’s utilized by vendors, and the potential benefits it brings. An understanding of the potential security risks associated with its usage also plays a pivotal role in formulating an effective security strategy.

Identifying Vendor-specific Data Privacy Concerns

As the next step, identify potential data privacy concerns that are specific to the identified vendor using OpenAI’s API. These concerns could range from their data handling practices and storage methods to their access controls and data breach response procedures. A thorough understanding of these aspects will guide the establishment of an effective ChatGPT policy.

For more insights on data privacy related to ChatGPT, you can refer to this ChatGPT data privacy course. It will equip you with the necessary knowledge to address potential privacy concerns effectively.

Formulating a ChatGPT Policy (including a Vendor Engagement section)

Upon recognizing these security challenges, the next logical step is to develop a robust ChatGPT policy. It should especially cover the topic of engaging with vendors using OpenAI.

However, I believe its central focus should be guiding employees on how to use ChatGPT in a way that is compatible with the data protection of the business.

This policy will outline the data handling procedures, the acceptable usage of ChatGPT, and the steps to be taken in case of a security breach. The policy must be drafted in collaboration with the business managers and communicated effectively to all relevant parties within the organization.

You can start with this ChatGPT policy template (written with ISO 27001 compliance as a priority), and then improve it with the internal relevant stakeholders.

Evaluating a Pre-Identified Vendor

Understanding the Vendor’s Offering

Start by thoroughly understanding what the vendor offers and how their use of OpenAI’s API aligns with your business needs. This understanding is crucial to evaluate the potential benefits and risks associated with the vendor.

Administering a Standardized Questionnaire

Once you have an understanding of the vendor’s offerings, create a standardized questionnaire to gain insights into their data handling procedures.

Request information about their compliance with data protection laws (GDPR, CCPA, etc.), the encryption methods they employ, and their risk management strategies. Regarding encryption, we need to know how they protect data at rest and during transit. Remember, any weak link in data protection can be exploited.

Don’t be shy about asking for certifications or audit logs. These will provide tangible evidence of their adherence to data privacy laws.

Send this questionnaire using whatever suits you best, but Google Forms does the job. The answers provided by the vendor will help you gauge their commitment to data security and their practices around data protection.

You would like a questionnaire template? Let me know in the comments section.

Conducting a Deep Dive into Vendor’s Security Practices

The next step involves a detailed evaluation of the vendor’s security practices (yes, based on the replies provided in the questionnaire).

Evaluation based on what? I would say, your internal security requirements and your security risk appetite. Not clear enough? In a more polite way: make sure it is OK with the security culture of your organization.

This deep dive will not only give you an understanding of their security practices but also highlight any potential areas of concern that need to be addressed.

Once your assessment is done, share it with the business manager that requested the vendor.

Then, it is finally their decision.

Negotiating Data Protection Agreement

After evaluating the vendor’s data handling and security practices, you will be in a better position to negotiate a data protection agreement that aligns with both your company’s and the vendor’s practices. This agreement should clearly specify the roles and responsibilities of both parties in relation to data protection.

Work with the legal department to make this happen.

Performing Regular Vendor Compliance Reviews

Once the vendor is onboard, ensure that they stay compliant with their data protection responsibilities by performing regular reviews. This could involve periodic audits or self-assessment questionnaires for the vendor to fill in.

These steps will help you ensure that the chosen vendor’s data protection practices align with your company’s needs and expectations, and also with the relevant laws and regulations. This proactive approach will go a long way in ensuring the secure usage of OpenAI’s API.

Understanding ISO 27001 and Its Role in Vendor Management

The Underpinning of ISO 27001

ISO 27001 is a widely recognized standard for managing information security. It lays out a set of guidelines and requirements that an organization can adhere to in managing its information security risks, including those associated with vendors. Familiarizing yourself with this standard will provide a strong foundation for assessing vendors, including those who use AI technologies like ChatGPT.

Applying ISO 27001 in Vendor Management

ISO 27001 has explicit clauses on vendor management. It requires organizations to identify, assess, and treat the information security risks associated with their vendors. The application of ISO 27001 extends to any organization’s vendor management process. Applying these principles to your vendor management processes can greatly enhance your overall vendor risk management strategy.

Integrating ISO 27001 principles into your ChatGPT Policy

Incorporating ISO 27001 principles into your ChatGPT policy can help in aligning the policy with globally recognized best practices. It will not only establish robust vendor management but will also instill confidence in your stakeholders about your organization’s commitment to information security.

Furthermore, there are resources available online that can support you in this endeavor. For instance, is on a mission to bridge the gap between AI tools and best information security practices from ISO 27001. Check out the policies they offer to improve your ISMS. Their resources can greatly streamline your policy creation process and ensure you are adhering to the best practices.


Engaging with a vendor that uses OpenAI’s API need not be an intimidating task. By following these comprehensive steps, you can effectively manage the information security risks that come with AI technology usage. By crafting a solid ChatGPT policy, educating your employees about secure AI usage, and integrating ISO 27001 principles into your vendor management, you can ensure a safe, secure, and effective use of AI technologies. This approach is not just in line with the best vendor management practices but also in compliance with ISO 27001 standards.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What are the potential security risks with vendors using OpenAI’s API?

Potential security risks with vendors using OpenAI’s API primarily revolve around data privacy and security. The vendor might have access to sensitive data, and if not handled correctly, it can lead to data breaches.

2. How can I ensure the vendor’s compliance with our ChatGPT policy?

You can ensure compliance through regular audits and self-assessment questionnaires. It’s also crucial to have clear communication channels for any queries or issues that the vendor might have regarding the policy.

3. Why is ISO 27001 important in vendor management?

ISO 27001 is a globally recognized standard that outlines the best practices for managing information security. It includes specific clauses about vendor management, helping businesses to identify, assess, and treat the risks associated with vendors.

4. How often should I review the vendor’s compliance with the ChatGPT policy?

The frequency of reviews can vary depending on your organization’s policy and the sensitivity of the data handled. However, it is generally recommended to conduct reviews at least annually.

5. What should I do if the vendor fails to comply with the ChatGPT policy?

In case of non-compliance, it’s important to have a procedure in place. This could involve a detailed investigation to understand the reasons for non-compliance and taking corrective actions. Severe or repeated non-compliance could result in termination of the contract.

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