Cyber Security Procurement Support Tool: guidance for suppliers

Guidance for suppliers on how to embed use of the Cyber Security Procurement Support Tool into the procurement process.

Cyber Security Procurement Support Tool (CSPST) Decision Making Support Tool – What To Expect

1. This section provides information on what to expect when a public sector buyer is using CSPST to assess the cyber security of bidding suppliers.

A. How Does A Public Sector Buyer Use CSPST To Determine The Cyber Risk Profile For A Contract?

2. Before issuing a contract notice and invitation to tender, a public sector buyer will use the CSPST tool to complete a Risk Profile Assessment (RPA) for the contract. This will generate a cyber risk profile for the contract that, in turn, generates a risk-based question set for suppliers.

The CSPST tool’s risk-based question sets align with key authoritative pieces of guidance (from the UK National Cyber Security Centre) or the key requirements of widely-used cyber security certifications/accreditations.

Each risk profile builds on the one preceding it – so if you meet the requirements of a lower risk profile, you will already at least be on the path to meeting the requirements of a higher one.

3. The basic (unadjusted) risk profiles are:

B. Information In The Contract Notice And Invitation To Tender (Risk Assessment Reference Number)

4. The public sector buyer should have included information in the Contract Notice and Invitation to Tender about the minimum cyber security requirements for the contract, and how to access the CSPST tool to complete a Supplier Assurance Questionnaire. The key pieces of information you should look for are:

  • The link to the CSPST tool (which can be found here).
  • The unique Cyber Risk Assessment Reference Number for the contract (which you will need in order to access the Supplier Assurance Questionnaire for the contract)
  • The full list of questions and minimum answers that will be presented in the CSPST tool, which make up the minimum cyber security requirements for the contract (so that you can familiarise yourself with these before accessing CSPST).

5. If the public sector buyer is adopting a flexible approach to suppliers meeting minimum cyber security requirements, they should also have included a template for a Cyber Implementation Plan (CIP). The CIP will allow you to set out credible plans to achieve any minimum cyber security requirements that you do not currently meet, if you are awarded the contract. A CIP template can be downloaded here.

C. How To Access CSPST And Complete And Submit A Supplier Assurance Questionnaire (SAQ)

6. As part of preparing your bid for a public sector contract, you should register for and/or login to the CSPST tool. Note that, to ensure the security of your information, CSPST uses two factor authentication. You will therefore need to provide a mobile phone number to be able to access CSPST.

7. You should then select the “Complete a Supplier Assurance Questionnaire” option on your CSPST dashboard. When promoted, input the unique Cyber Risk Assessment Reference for the contract.

8. CSPST will then lead you through all of the questions in the Supplier Assurance Questionnaire (SAQ) that are relevant to the risk profile for the contract. You should complete these questions, taking care to provide frank and honest answers. The answers you provide will form part of the legally enforceable terms and conditions for the contract, and may be subject to audit.

If you are relying on third parties to provide the network/IT that will be used to deliver the contract, you may need to seek information from them about whether they comply with the minimum requirements. Some companies publish information about their cyber security arrangements, and their compliance with key standards, on their websites.

Note that, once completed for the first time, you can re-use the answers for future contracts with the same, or similar, risk profiles (see “Benefits of CSPST” below).

In addition, the number of questions you have to answer will be reduced if you hold certain certifications/accreditations (Cyber Essentials, IASME Gold and/or ISO27001).

9. Just before you submit your final answers, you will have the opportunity to download a draft SAQ report that will help you understand whether you meet the minimum cyber security requirements for the contract. If you need to go back and change any of your answers (e.g. because you have made an error in your submission), you should do so at this point.

10. Once you are content with all of your answers, you should complete submission of your SAQ in the CSPST tool. You will then be provided with a final downloadable SAQ report. You should download this and submit it with all other tender documentation.

11. If the SAQ report shows that you do not meet the minimum cyber security requirements for the contract, and the public sector buyer have said they will accept Cyber Implementation Plans (CIPs), you should also complete a CIP and submit this alongside your final SAQ report. The CSPST tool and the CIP template make clear that the CIP must set out clear, credible information on:

  • the supplier's proposed actions to achieve the requirements it currently does not meet – this may include proposed alternative mitigations or controls to manage relevant cyber risks; and/or
  • the supplier's reasoning as to why compliance with specific minimum requirements is not necessary for the contract; and
  • in line with any requirements specified by the contracting authority in CSPST and Instructions to Tenderers, the date or contract phase by which the supplier intends to achieve the requirements or have in place alternative mitigations or controls.

The commitments you make in a CIP will form part of the binding contractual terms and conditions.

D. What Happens Next?

12. The public sector buyer will then assess your SAQ report (and any completed CIP) alongside all other tender documentation. Contract award will be made based on all relevant criteria in the usual way, in line with procurement regulations.

E. Benefits of CSPST

13. Completing an CSPST questionnaire for the first time can take time and effort. However, as the tool is expected to be used widely across the Scottish public sector, there are some significant potential benefits for your organisation in using it.

Benefits of CSPST

  • You can expect that the questions you are asked about cyber security by Scottish public sector organisations using CSPST will be more consistent. You shouldn’t be faced with multiple different spreadsheets asking questions about cyber security based on different standards.
  • Once entered into CSPST, your answers can be re-used for contracts with the same (or similar) risk profiles for any public authority using CSPST. This can help reduce significantly the amount of time spent answering questions on cyber resilience overall.
  • CSPST can be useful as a cost-free way of assessing to what extent your organisation currently meets the requirements of cyber security certifications and authoritative National Cyber Security Centre guidance. This is because the risk profiles broadly align with these key pieces of guidance/certifications.
  • By ensuring your cyber security arrangements align with the authoritative sources of guidance and certification used in the tool, you can gain greater confidence that you are managing the cyber risks to your business appropriately.

F. Further Help And Guidance

14. The CSPST tool includes links to authoritative guidance. If you need further help or guidance on cyber security, please visit:

15. The Scottish Government and its partners have made available some key sources of support that suppliers and private and third sector organisations in Scotland can access to help improve their cyber security and resilience arrangements.

  • Digital Development Loans are unsecured 0% interest loans of between £5,000 to £50,000, which can be used to improve cyber security for SMEs.
  • The Digital Boost Scheme, delivered by Business Gateway, offers an online digital health check that includes consideration of organisational cyber resilience, and access to tutorials and one-to-one advice from trained advisers.
  • The Scottish Government is working with the Supplier Development Programme to provide advice and answer questions to public sector suppliers, including via a number of events and webinars.
  • A training guide is available here that any organisation can use to help train their staff understand the basics of cyber security.

This advice note has been produced by the Scottish Government Cyber Resilience Unit to support implementation of the Scottish Public Sector Cyber Resilience Framework and the Supplier Cyber Security Guidance Note.

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