What Are Managed Security Services?
Managed Security Services are any cybersecurity oversight, monitoring, maintenance, or management tasks outsourced to a third-party provider. It’s a broad term, encompassing everything from firewalls to threat detection and response. Vendors that provide Managed Security Services are similarly quite diverse, with many specialties.
It is a common misnomer that Managed Security Services apply exclusively to the network, partly owing to the mistaken belief that perimeter-based security is still relevant. The reality is that Managed Security Services extend well beyond the network’s edge and include disciplines such as Identity and Access Management, Endpoint Protection, and data governance. This is necessary given that distributed work and IoT are more prominent than ever.
The current climate also makes Managed Security Services more critical than ever, as many organizations lack the resources to contend with sophisticated threat actors and an ever-expanding attack surface.
Benefits of Managed Security Services
Organizations usually engage with Managed Security Services because they cannot handle critical security processes and functions in-house. This may be due to a skill or knowledge gap, but it may also simply be a matter of limited resources. For example, most small and mid-sized businesses lack the necessary budget to operate and staff a 24x7 security operations center.
Instead, they choose to engage with an experienced third-party provider, which confers several significant benefits:
- Continuous oversight, response, and support
- More effective incident management
- Improved threat detection identification, and mitigation capabilities
- Access to extensive, specialized cybersecurity expertise
- Reduced IT workload
- Lower overhead and total cost of ownership
- The ability to keep pace with a constantly evolving threat landscape
- Better vulnerability management
How to Choose a Managed Security Service Provider
When choosing an MSSP for your organization, there are a few best practices you should follow to ensure you receive the best services possible:
- Take a thorough account of your internal cybersecurity resources. What expertise do you have in-house? Where are your knowledge and skill gaps—what do you need to outsource?
- Involve multiple stakeholders in the decision before choosing a vendor. Remember that cybersecurity is no longer the sole domain of the IT department, but rather a shared responsibility
- Create a shortlist of vendors that provide the services your organization requires.
- For each vendor, research:
- Their history: How long have they been in operation? What sort of experience does their team possess?
- Reviews: What are people saying about the vendor online? Are they worth their asking price?
- Vendor specializations: Does the vendor have experience working in your sector? How knowledgeable are they about industry-specific regulations?
- Cost: What’s your maximum budget for bringing in an MSSP? While there may be some wiggle room if you find an otherwise perfect vendor, it’s generally better to set a reasonable price and stick with it
- Service portfolio: Does this vendor provide every security service your organization requires? What additional services do they offer that you might find valuable?
- Accreditations: What sort of accreditations or certifications does the vendor hold?
- Clients: What sort of organizations do they typically work with? If you select an MSSP that primarily works with small startups, you may run into trouble when it comes time for your business to scale up
- In-house security: What sort of in-house security measures does the MSSP have in place? Do they use their own products and solutions?
- Staffing: Who does this MSSP employ? Do they have a dedicated team of security experts in-house? What sort of turnover rate exists among their staff?
- Differentiators: What differentiates this MSSP from competitors?
- Discovery process: What is this MSSP’s discovery process?
- Success stories: Are they willing to describe some challenges they’ve helped clients overcome?
Managed Security Services vs. Managed Services
There is significant overlap between MSSPs and Managed Service Providers (MSPs), as both kinds of vendors serve a similar purpose. They even use similar delivery methods and messaging. The primary difference between the two is in their scope.
Though its focus is quite broad, an MSP is primarily concerned with administration. MSPs essentially exist to help an organization keep the lights on by ensuring business-critical systems are both operational and accessible. This may include:
- Network performance monitoring
- Business continuity and disaster recovery
- Hardware maintenance
- Software lifecycle management
- Technical support
MSSPs, on the other hand, are focused on ensuring business-critical systems are inaccessible to threat actors. They help an organization ensure the integrity of its data and the security of its assets, providing the necessary tools and expertise to bridge any internal cybersecurity knowledge or skill gaps. Services offered by an MSSP may include:
- Intrusion detection and prevention
- Cyber Threat Intelligence
- Vulnerability assessments
- Risk assessments
- Penetration testing
- Cybersecurity awareness training
- Identity and Access Management
- Malware prevention
- 24x7 monitoring
It’s worth noting that the line between MSP and MSSP is not clear-cut. An MSP might offer cybersecurity services to add more value to its core offerings, while an MSSP might provide administrative services to help further improve the security of its customers.
Distinguishing between the two is generally a matter of looking at branding: A vendor that positions its cybersecurity expertise front-and-center in its marketing and promotes cybersecurity-focused services is likely an MSSP, while one that appears more general in scope is likely an MSP.