The cybersecurity landscape is a complex and constantly changing one. The threats grow more numerous and more serious every year, and organisational dependence on technology increases exponentially over time.
Many organisations are turning to managed IT security services providers, or MSSPs, to obtain top-tier security skills without managing and training those resources internally.
Today we’ll discuss what a MSSP is, how it’s different than a MSP, the benefits and significance of the discipline, and what to look for when selecting the right MSSP for your business needs.
MSSP stands for managed security services provider and describes an organisation dedicated to monitoring and managing the digital and cyber security of other businesses’ systems and tools. A MSSP takes on the numerous challenges of maintaining digital security in the modern business context, including over and within Cloud systems.
A MSSP also typically engages in IT security compliance, ensuring an organisation gets and remains compliant with various data and privacy regulations.
The MSSP concept (not to mention the acronym itself) is similar in some ways to a Managed it services provider, or MSP. Indeed, some of the work done and services offered by businesses in each of these categories will overlap: a managed services provide may advertise or offer some security services, and a MSSP may offer limited IT service support.
But there are key differences between the two which are most easily understood as focus and specialty.
A managed services provider sets up and maintains IT systems, keeping them running well and functioning in a way that supports needed business capabilities. MSP functions can include IT infrastructure management, IT Help desk, network management and numerous other functions that focus on the systems and infrastructure itself.
This can and does often involve a basic level of security support, but the focus is on the IT systems themselves.
A managed security services provider, on the other hand, sets up and maintains IT security systems and processes, including security information and event management (SIEM), vulnerability management, and more.
Similarly the MSSP function often involves some involvement in the IT systems themselves. The difference here is that the focus isn’t on maintaining the systems, but on maintaining the security of those systems.
Contracting with a MSSP delivers numerous benefits, including these.
Increasingly connected and Cloud-reliant systems have more points of vulnerability than ever before. Without a dedicated team monitoring and addressing vulnerabilities, an organisation opens itself up to the risk of data breaches and worse. A MSSP brings the experience and specialisation businesses need to adeptly manage vulnerabilities rather than address them after the damage is done. Contracting with a MSSP delivers numerous benefits, including these.
Governance, Risk and Compliance (or GRC) is an area of significant concern for Australian businesses. There is risk in any venture, but managing this risk and dealing with data in compliant ways are crucial. MSP compliance is certainly a place to start, but a MSSP focuses more closely on the security component and can set up effective governance policy to help you stay compliant and lower your risk.
The security landscape is complex and ever-evolving. Hiring adequate numbers of sufficiently experienced staff in-house remains a challenge for many firms. Partnering with a MSSP shortcuts this process, giving businesses access to deep security expertise that they may not be able to source on their own.
In addition to the expertise advantage, a managed cyber security services provider offers an advantage of scale. Implementing new security measures, training, and the many other responsibilities within security services all require a resource investment. A MSSP can deliver more resources when needed — and these are professionals who are already trained and need little to no onboarding. Compared to the process of hiring, onboarding, training, and maturing internal security staff, the MSSP model delivers significantly more agility.
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Cybersecurity matters to businesses of all sizes because (with certain exceptions) it’s increasingly rare for any business to operate without an internet presence. As an organisation’s internet exposure grows, so does the likelihood that it may be targeted for a cyberattack.
Note that internet here means far more than simply having a website. It includes operating a network that’s connected to the internet as well as using any tools, services, or infrastructure that live in the Cloud.
The threat of a cyberattack is real, and so are the consequences of a breach. Businesses that experience a cybersecurity breach can incur some, even all, of these consequences:
• Reputational harm
• Loss of customer trust
• Loss of operational capability
• Loss of data
• Compromised customer information (payment details and more)
• Theft of trade secrets or proprietary business information
• Destruction or disabling of critical systems (ransomware attack)
• Fines for violating privacy and data regulations
A MSSP can be vital in helping to neutralise critical threats against your business, including those that no firewall or filter can fully stop.
Social engineering and phishing (along with all its variants) require education along with careful governance and appropriate IT protections, many of which a typical MSP may be able to handle.
But other more technical threats go beyond that basic level of complexity: targeted attacks, ransomware, malware, and the like. To neutralise more critical threats (including these) requires a more specialised approach.
Look for these characteristics as you search for the ideal MSSP for your business.
Your business is unique: you don’t need the cybersecurity plan that works for your neighbour or your competitor, and you certainly don’t need one that was crafted months or even years ago. You need a customised solution that truly fits the needs and contours of your business and its IT landscape.
Your business needs cybersecurity experts with a proven track record, a stable partner who isn’t new to the business and isn’t likely to disappear after a year or two.
When you have a security crisis, you don’t want to end up on hold or waiting for an email or chat reply. You want in-the-moment responsiveness. The best MSSPs offer strong, in-person customer response and can meet your needs when you need them — not days or weeks in the future.
If your business handles customer data, then it is subject to various regulations and compliance standards. Certain fields (such as health care or finance) have more extensive compliance needs than others, and not every MSSP is equally versed in every regulatory standard or industry.
Look for a partner with experience in your industry and demonstrated capability regarding the regulatory requirements you face.
Are you looking for a partner that will proactively recommend and implement their ideal solution, or do you want a partner who can adapt to and work with your existing technology? Both are reasonable approaches depending on a business’s digital and security maturity. Make sure you are well aligned in this way with a MSSP before proceeding.
Additionally, expertise matters: it’s the main driver for choosing to work with a dedicated MSSP rather than a generalist service provider who also offers security in some form.
A worthwhile MSSP does not simply react when they (or, worse, you) notice a problem. They proactively scan for and detect security threats. Many threat vectors (including ransomware and data breaches) can take time to execute. So finding threat actors and patching vulnerabilities before the attack is complete rather than after is a significant advantage.
Some MSSPs specialise into specific industries or verticals, such as finance or healthcare. Others serve the general market or may have multiple specialisations.
A piecemeal approach to IT can create inefficiencies and other issues. In some cases, a managed services organisation that can handle all aspects of your IT estate is the better choice. Whether you are looking for managed network services or managed security services, they got you covered.
A quality MSSP can back up its claims with satisfied customers and real-world data, showing that it has the track record to become your trusted partner for security services.
As you consider which MSSP to partner with, the questions below can help you focus your decision and weed out less qualified or unserious vendors.
Startups and SMBs have a certain set of security needs at this moment, but those needs will change as their businesses grow. Ask any prospective MSSP what their plan for that growth is, and ensure they have the resources to accommodate you no matter how large you grow.
What methods will you have of accessing support from your MSSP? Do they close for holidays? Are they available after hours? Do you have a dedicated rep or direct phone access? These questions may not seem vital in the big picture, but in the moment of crisis you’ll want to know exactly how the MSSP will and won’t support you.
This question extends to a MSSP’s broader capabilities, too: many businesses considering a MSSP are also wondering, does my business need managed network services? Some firms can support multiple managed services, while others are more limited in breadth.
You’re already exploring outsourcing your security services, so there’s no need for sleight of hand here: many MSSPs themselves also outsource certain services or call in a third party for particularly complex needs.
This need not be a deal-breaker, but you may want to know just what the MSSP is handling internally and what may be being sent to an off-shore team or vendor. That additional third party may need access to sensitive systems or data, and you don’t want to be in the dark when or if that’s happening.
Onboarding with a MSSP is a complex process that requires deep access to your systems (or at least it should). Before signing a contract, make sure you have a clear picture of what the MSSP will need from you and what they will provide to you as far as onboarding.
Last, any MSSP worth considering should be able to answer this question confidently and to your satisfaction. No single organisation is equally good at all things or serves all industries equally well. Learning what sets a given MSSP apart from the competition gives you further insight into this specialisation and whether your organisations are an ideal fit.
Moving to a MSSP model requires a realignment of your IT budget. The spend required for optimal security services may meet resistance. Comparing that spend to the financial risk a breach would create is one strategy for justifying the cost.
Additionally, contracting with a MSSP should move certain functions to that team currently being handled another way. If your MSP is handling certain security elements, it may be time to renegotiate that contract and allocate the savings to your new MSSP contract.
There are other less obvious cost savings opportunities when working with a MSP, such as solving a staffing shortage, reducing head count, reduced internal training costs, and better productivity.
Canon Business Services ANZ (CBS) is a truly full-service technology partner: security isn’t just a bolt-on package to our other services; it’s one of many core and specialised services we offer. Our Advanced Security practice is part of the Microsoft Intelligent Security Association (MISA), an ecosystem of independent software vendors and managed security service providers that have integrated with Microsoft Security to better defend against a world of increasing cybersecurity threats.
MISA sets a new standard for security, compliance, and identity by validating partners and their solutions offered to its customers.
CBS presents customers with a unique combination of secure and trusted MSP, offering core IT managed services across network, infrastructure and support, alongside the advanced capabilities of a dedicated in-house MSSP. As A result, at CBS you can get so much more from a single partner with capabilities both broad and deep. Our workforce has the depth to support organisations of any size, from small business to enterprise.
Do you know if your environment is secure and protected 24/7? When was the last time you reviewed your security posture? Contact us today to discuss how our Managed Security Services can give you visibility and peace of mind.