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Cybersecurity is integral to today’s digital-driven landscape. Internal cybersecurity measures have sharpened given the awareness and exposure of corporate data breaches, but how do organizations strengthen the external integrity of their security posture?

One tactic used is the security questionnaire, which helps organizations assess the security practices, policies, and operating procedures of potential vendors and partners. 

Security questionnaires are a preventative cybersecurity measure, mitigating potential risks through detailed evaluations. They are a common, yet intensive procedure requiring significant effort from both the evaluating party and the vendor.

This article will explore the technical components of security questionnaires, some standardized formats, what goes into completing a security questionnaire, and a discussion of a questionnaire’s importance.

What is a security questionnaire?

A security questionnaire is a predetermined set of questions for identifying cybersecurity gaps or vulnerabilities among third and fourth party service providers. They’re an execution method for vendor risk assessments, providing thorough insight into vendor security postures.

These questionnaires cover a wide range of topics, including (but not limited to):

  • Access control
  • Audit assurance and compliance
  • Business continuity
  • Cybersecurity insurance
  • Datacenter security
  • Encryption and key management
  • Governance and risk management
  • Hiring and personnel policies
  • Information security policy
  • Infrastructure security
  • Network security
  • Operational resilience
  • Organizational security
  • Physical security
  • Privacy
  • Risk management
  • Security certifications
  • Security incident management
  • Security procedures
  • Supply chain management
  • Third party management
  • Threat and vulnerability management

Responses to security questionnaires also go beyond vendor/service assessment, helping the questioning organization identify areas of improvement and potential vulnerabilities within its own security framework. This secondary benefit of a security questionnaire is through self-assessment to enhance an organization’s overall security posture. 

Retrieving data on a vendor’s cybersecurity position is a necessary step in any TPRM protocol. Many organizations rely on standardized questionnaire frameworks to kickstart the security review process.

What are the types of standard security questionnaires?

There are several types of standard security questionnaires, serving different purposes. Let’s explore a few based on the specific requirements and objectives of an organization evaluating third party cloud services and SaaS providers.


The Consensus Assessments Initiative Questionnaire (CAIQ) was created by the Cloud Security Alliance (CSA). It helps assess the security capabilities of cloud service providers. The CAIQ questionnaire includes a wide range of security domains, including data governance, data center security, and incident response.


The Standardized Information Gathering (SIG) questionnaire and its abridged standard, SIGLite, are a global source for third party risk management assessments. Developed by the Shared Assessments Program, the SIG questionnaire provides a holistic evaluation of third party vendors' controls related to data privacy, information security, business continuity, and regulatory compliance. The SIGLite questionnaire is an amended version of the standard SIG, tailored for low-risk vendors using broader questioning.


The Vendor Security Alliance (VSA) Questionnaire was developed to better streamline security questionnaires and make the security review process more accessible. As a vendor-focused questionnaire, it’s widely used across many industries like financial services, tech, healthcare, government, and higher education.

How to complete a security questionnaire

Completing a security questionnaire requires a fine balance of conciseness and clarity, but thoroughness and detail in your responses. To reduce the chances of inaccuracies and complications with questionnaires, keep these seven steps in mind:

1. Outline and systemize

Thoroughly review the questionnaire and understand the intent behind each question. Create a system that centralizes all your questionnaire responses, rather than bouncing between responsible parties and multiple documents to organize information.

2. Collect

Gather any necessary security policies, incident response plans, and relevant certifications. If any of the needed documentation is unclear, ask questions to expedite the discovery process and offload responsibility from the vetting organization. Understanding the context in which the questions are asked can help tailor your responses to meet the necessary criteria.

3. Assign

It is essential to involve key stakeholders from different departments when completing a security questionnaire. Leverage subject matter experts within your organization to assume the questionnaire responsibilities relative to their experience. This improves response accuracy, builds customer trust, and can spotlight inconsistencies in your security measures.

4. Supplement

Provide supporting documentation as evidence of implemented security controls — prior CAIQ and SIG documentation, penetration test reports, compliance certifications, etc.

5. Answer

Provide truthful responses to each question. Ensure each response is validated with internal sources, and provide additional details when needed.

6. Review

Have all responsible parties cross-reference each others’ work during the validation process before sending questionnaire responses back — if you intend to complete the questionnaire in segments, set submission deadlines and ensure all reviews comply.

7. Iterate

With an organized library of questionnaire responses documented, your organization can evaluate the overall strength of your security posture. Reverse engineering questionnaire responses will help identify weaknesses and gaps, while demonstrating a commitment to security for the client.

Adapt these seven steps to make the security questionnaire process less disjointed and align your organization’s efforts.

How to reduce security questionnaires

Remember when we said security questionnaires are a means to an end?

While security questionnaires do help both parties collect and view relevant security data, the process can be time-consuming and resource-intensive. Security questionnaires were the standard for organizations shifting into the digital-first landscape; the analog process is outdated and inconsistent with premium security protocols.

Security questionnaire alternatives

To reduce security questionnaires is to lessen the laborious burden of the process, not the information discovery itself. Your organization can downsize or eliminate the security questionnaire altogether, while still reaching its end goal. Building and utilizing a Trust Center is the key alternative to the manual questionnaire process.

A Trust Center houses all critical security information typically involved in a security questionnaire, reducing the likelihood of a technically demanding questionnaire process. It addresses one of the glaring weaknesses of security questionnaires: redundancy. 

With questionnaires, your organization has to manually exchange security information and repeat the same time-intensive processes. Using a Trust Center, buyers can download required documentation in a self-serve manner, streamlining NDAs and the security review process.

Trust Centers may also facilitate security questionnaire automation, in the event the security questionnaire process is still required.

What is security questionnaire automation?

Security questionnaire automation uses AI to leverage your pre-sourced security information. Using a service like a Trust Center, with all of your information housed in one location, security questionnaire automation allows you to approve answers, edit, and collaborate on AI-generated responses.

With automation, your organization reduces the chances of inconsistencies and inaccuracies in your questionnaire responses. One-off questions, varying file formats, TPRM portals: they’re all streamlined with security questionnaire automation through Trust Centers.


Security questionnaires shine a light on the integrity of a vendor’s cybersecurity posture, for better or worse. As they are intended, security questionnaires are a preventative measure to identify and mitigate risks through comprehensive TPRM.

Your organization can find various security questionnaire standards to base your approach on. Those findings from questionnaires alone can bolster your security infrastructure. Plus, the meticulous attention to detail involved with security questionnaires may serve as a benefit to your organization’s security assessment. 

However, if your organization only has to populate that information once (via Trust Centers), it will reduce security questionnaires and the repetitive manual burden involved. With or without the requirement of a security questionnaire, building a single source of truth for all organizational security is a growing expectation in security review protocols.

SafeBase is the leading Trust Center Platform designed for friction-free security reviews. With an enterprise-grade Trust Center, SafeBase automates the security review process and transforms how companies communicate their security and trust posture. 

If you want to see how fast-growing companies like LinkedIn, Asana, and Jamf take back the time their teams spend on security questionnaires, create better buying experiences, and position security as the revenue-driver it is, schedule a demo.