HECVAT Pro: Streamlining Vendor Compliance in 2024 | Guide

In 2024, vendors in the higher education sector must adapt to the updates in version 3.05 of HECVAT to ensure compliance and data security. This guide clarifies the latest HECVAT for vendors in 2024, detailing how to manage risk assessments effectively and protect sensitive institutional data.

Key Takeaways

  • HECVAT is a critical tool for ensuring information security and privacy in higher education, with the latest update (version 3.05) expanding its scope and aligning with current compliance requirements.
  • HECVAT offers two distinct assessment options – HECVAT Full for extensive risk assessments, particularly with sensitive data, and HECVAT Lite for more concise evaluations – to cater to different vendor needs and data sensitivity levels.
  • Vendors can leverage free or open-source tools and policy templates to reduce HECVAT compliance costs while considering the challenges and potential drawbacks associated with these methods.

Understanding HECVAT for Vendors in 2024

HECVAT for Vendors in 2024

The Higher Education Community Vendor Assessment Toolkit, or HECVAT, is a robust system built to aid higher education institutions and their third-party service providers in risk assessment and management. Its chief objective is the enforcement of apt information security, data privacy, and cybersecurity policies to protect sensitive institutional data and constituents’ Personal Identifiable Information (PII). It’s not limited to a specific group but is pertinent to everyone engaged in higher education, serving as a valuable resource for over 150 colleges and universities, and more than 50 solution providers.

HECVAT is a spreadsheet that adapts to fit the shifting needs of higher education institutions and their vendors. The latest version is 3.05, released in December 2023. The modifications made in this version were aimed at extending its scope beyond cloud service providers and ensuring alignment with the compliance and security requirements of higher education institutions.

Navigating the HECVAT Framework

Although the HECVAT framework may initially appear overwhelming, it’s fashioned for user-friendliness and flexibility. It provides different assessment options, allowing vendors to select the one that best suits their needs. Let’s delve into the details of these options, namely HECVAT Full and HECVAT Lite, to understand how vendors can navigate this comprehensive framework.

HECVAT Full: Comprehensive Assessment

HECVAT Full, designed for vendors handling sensitive data like PCI-DSS or HIPAA compliance requirements, provides a comprehensive risk assessment. It is an extensive evaluation choice that assesses vendors’ compliance with these standards, ensuring the presence of essential security controls.

The HECVAT Full framework provides an extensive coverage with a robust questionnaire encompassing 265 questions. These questions address a wide range of common security control requirements and compliance aspects, ensuring a thorough evaluation of the risk level and control environment of vendors responsible for managing sensitive information, including cloud service providers.

HECVAT Lite: Streamlining Assessments with HECVAT Lite

Conversely, HECVAT Lite serves as a succinct variant of the HECVAT assessment. It is tailored for vendors with lesser risk or when a quick assessment is required. HECVAT Lite consists of 14 out of the 22 overall categories featured in the Full assessment, with a total of 62 potential inquiries. It specifically excludes sections designated for critical data such as HIPAA and PCI DSS, providing a more concise and efficient assessment process.

The impact of HECVAT Lite on the risk assessment process is significant. It offers a succinct set of inquiries, enabling educational institutions to assess the risks associated with procuring and using third-party services efficiently. Despite being less comprehensive than HECVAT Full, it still maintains effectiveness and is instrumental in expedited assessments for lower-risk situations.

The Cloud Broker Index (CBI) Connection

Cloud Broker Index (CBI) Connection

While maneuvering through the HECVAT framework and its assessments is one facet, another key component in this context is the Cloud Broker Index (CBI). The CBI serves as a platform that bridges the gap between vendors and educational institutions, enabling vendors to distribute their HECVAT assessments to multiple institutions using cloud services. The shared assessments working group plays a crucial role in ensuring the smooth functioning of this process.

Vendors can disclose their HECVAT assessments on CBI, making it easier for institutions to find a suitable third-party solution that meets their security requirements. The benefits of using CBI for vendors are manifold. It enables security assessors to research and evaluate the security offerings of service providers and provides a list of vendors who have completed assessments and adhere to IT governance and risk standards. However, vendors should be aware of the challenges they might face, such as the popularity and adoption of HECVAT assessments through CBI.

Best Practices for Vendors Completing HECVAT

Securing a successful HECVAT assessment goes beyond comprehending the framework and selecting suitable options. Vendors need to follow certain best practices while completing HECVAT, especially in light of potential data breach risks. The first and foremost is providing precise and up-to-date answers to the security assessment requests. Vendors should also furnish details regarding their handling of sensitive customer data, including Personal Identifiable Information (PII).

The successful completion of HECVAT also hinges upon the vendors’ ability to address all relevant questions adequately. Best practices in vendor risk management, evaluating vendors based on industry-standard questions and criteria, and identifying potentially unwanted risks are some of the ways to ensure that all relevant questions are addressed. Vendors can also demonstrate their dedication to security awareness and privacy by having a clearly defined public privacy policy and avoiding common errors such as inadequate third-party vendor security and failure to request references.

How to reduce the cost of HECVAT compliance

Despite the necessity of HECVAT compliance, the associated costs can pose a challenge for certain vendors. However, there are methods to reduce HECVAT compliance costs without compromising the quality of the assessment.

We’ll examine these cost-reducing approaches, specifically the application of free or open-source tools and policy templates.

Free or open source tools for HECVAT requirements

Several free or open-source tools can aid in fulfilling HECVAT requirements. One such example is Cloudflare’s Web Application Firewall (WAF), which enables a vendor to comply with the HECVAT’s question pertaining to the use of a Web Application Firewall (WAF). These tools can significantly lower costs by eliminating the need for licensing fees associated with proprietary software.

Nonetheless, vendors need to verify the quality of third party software tools by assessing their compliance with open-source licenses and the standard of documentation.

The Pros and Cons of using Policy templates

Policy templates are another way to reduce HECVAT compliance costs. These are predefined frameworks or checklists aligned with HECVAT’s security controls, which aid in the efficient creation of compliant policies. These templates can alleviate the burden on cloud service providers and result in substantial cost savings in the HECVAT compliance process.

However, using policy templates also comes with its own set of challenges. While they can offer a standardized method for assessing security and alleviate the burden on cloud service providers, policy templates may unintentionally disregard the distinctive characteristics of a vendor’s environment or operations. This could lead to insufficient security measures and potential financial and reputational harm.

HECVAT Scores and What They Mean for Vendors

As vendors traverse the HECVAT framework and finalize their assessments, they receive a numeric HECVAT score contingent on their responses. But what does this score mean, and how is it interpreted by educational institutions?

A HECVAT score is a reflection of a vendor’s cybersecurity risk and compliance level. The minimum recommended HECVAT score for vendors is 70%. However, it’s essential to remember that these scores are not conclusive in assessing a vendor’s ongoing security posture as they do not account for potential changes post-completion.

Furthermore, each educational institution reviews the vendor’s responses and adjusts them to be relevant for their specific risk model, meaning being accepted by one institution does not guarantee acceptance by others.

Overcoming Challenges: Modern Solutions to HECVAT Compliance

Modern Solutions to HECVAT Compliance

Although HECVAT furnishes an all-inclusive framework for vendor risk management, it brings along its unique set of challenges. However, surmounting these challenges is not an impossible task. Modern solutions like automated compliance platforms and visual dashboards can provide the much-needed assistance to vendors and help them improve their overall security posture.

Automated compliance platforms, for instance, allow for the automation of questionnaires within a unified platform, consolidating the management of HECVAT compliance and scoring. Tools like Centraleyes offer:

  • Visual dashboards and tailored reports
  • Streamlining vendor management through intelligent questionnaires and active risk monitoring
  • Centralized management for HECVAT assessments
  • Visual representations of compliance data
  • The capability to generate customized reports

These modern solutions, along with strategies like automating governance, risk, and compliance functions, using HECVAT to mitigate security risks, and employing HECVAT Pro, can significantly help in overcoming HECVAT compliance challenges.


Navigating the HECVAT framework can seem daunting, but with a clear understanding of the process and the right tools at hand, vendors can effectively manage the risks associated with data protection and security. The emergence of modern solutions and platforms like automated compliance platforms and visual dashboards has made the process more efficient and manageable. At the end of the day, the focus should be on not just getting a high HECVAT score but ensuring a robust and secure system that safeguards sensitive information.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a vendor data zone?

A vendor data zone refers to the country or region in which a vendor is based and operates, encompassing the relevant laws and regulations within that area.

What is the SIG questionnaire?

The SIG questionnaire, short for Standardized Information Gathering, is a repository of third-party information security and privacy questions indexed to multiple regulations and control frameworks, published by a non-profit called Shared Assessments. Unlike the HECVAT, SIG is not specific to any industry.

What is the SOC 2 Certification and how does it relate to the HECVAT?

SOC 2 Certification is an auditing procedure that ensures service providers securely manage data to protect the interests and privacy of their customers. It’s related to HECVAT as both are tools for assessing a vendor’s risk management and data protection capabilities. A vendor with SOC 2 Certification has demonstrated a high level of security control, which can be beneficial during the HECVAT assessment process.

What is HECVAT?

HECVAT, or the Higher Education Community Vendor Assessment Toolkit, is a tool that assists higher education institutions and their third-party service providers in assessing and addressing information security, data privacy, and cybersecurity risks.

How is a HECVAT score calculated?

A HECVAT score is calculated based on a vendor’s responses to the HECVAT questionnaire, assessing their cybersecurity risk and compliance. The numerical value reflects their overall assessment. However institutions may modify the weights of questions to align with their specific use case and risk model.

What are the differences between HECVAT Full and HECVAT Lite?

HECVAT Full is for higher-risk vendors handling sensitive data, while HECVAT Lite is a streamlined version for vendors with lesser risk or when a quick assessment is needed. When bidding to an institution they will likely advise which version they require.

We’ve assisted numerous clients in discussions with institutions to shift the requirement from HECVAT Full to HECVAT Lite, leading to significant savings in time and resources.

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