What is a Managed Security Service Provider (MSSP)?

By Kasey Hewitt

Posted on Jun 17, 2020

As cyber threats increase in sophistication, more resources and personnel are needed to accurately manage an organization’s cybersecurity posture and IT network. This is true for businesses of all sizes, but for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), it’s often a concept easier said than done. This is because they typically have limited resources and in-house capabilities. To accurately manage an organization's cybersecurity posture in an evolving threat landscape, you need exceptional security expertise and talent.

For organizations operating without the luxury of a complete IT department, managed security service providers (MSSPs) can offer the same level, or in some cases more advanced, levels of expertise and labor that would already be expected of an in-house team. Managing a cybersecurity network is an ongoing process that never ends, and without a dedicated IT department regularly monitoring a network, risks, and liabilities are much more likely to go undetected. MSSPs fill this gap by helping security teams meet the demands of a continuously evolving threat landscape and ensure that network security is prioritized at all costs.

What is a managed security service provider (MSSP)?

A managed security service provider (MSSP) is a third-party team of cybersecurity experts that assist within a business’ in-house IT department by remotely managing a customer’s IT infrastructure on a day-to-day basis. These teams are responsible for monitoring and managing business networks, devices, and systems and providing guidance on the latest technology developments and trends. They ensure that networks remain secure through firewall, antiviral inspections, intrusion detection, and vulnerability scanning. MSSPs intend to find opportunities to reduce wasted spend and identify liabilities within a cybersecurity network while also maintaining operational efficiencies. Once systems have been evaluated, MSSPs then create custom solutions that cater to their customers’ needs and objectives.

In addition to added intelligence from an MSSP, these experts also free up time and lessen the workload for in-house security teams, allowing businesses to focus on programs and initiatives that relate to overarching business goals. A recent market forecast conducted by Statista showed that the demand for managed security services is only going to grow. By the year 2026, MSSPs are expected to have a 37.03 billion dollar increase. As the market and need for these experts continues to grow, it’s important to recognize the services they provide and how they could benefit your company.

6 main categories of managed security services

There are managed services available for nearly all facets of a business, including but not limited to IT, payroll, workforce management, human resources, and vendor management. The level of service provided is often dependent on the needs of the organization; however, the main categories within these services stay consistent. Let’s take a look at the 6 main categories that make up the bulk of managed security services.

1. Consulting

Consultants assess business risks and create security policies and processes around the risks that they detect. This includes mapping out or designing an assessment of the technology, procedures, and vulnerabilities the company currently has. With that added information and program guidance organizations’ internal teams can more easily combat and mitigate future risks.

2. Product resale

Oftentimes, MSSPs resell software, hardware, and services to provide their customers with a customized security solution made up of products from multiple vendors. They might also provide technical support, testing, and auditing services for the devices.

3. Managed cybersecurity monitoring

An organization's network must be constantly managed to stay up-to-date and ahead of potential risks. MSSPs will often provide day-to-day monitoring of security events such as network entries and permission changes and will investigate any abnormal events that are detected. This ensures that an organization’s cybersecurity is continuously monitored throughout standard business operations.

4. Compliance monitoring

MSSPs will provide compliance monitoring services to ensure that networks are in constant compliance with rapidly evolving cybersecurity rules and regulations. Continuous monitoring can prevent a business from legal complications and publicity scares.

5. Perimeter management of client’s network management

Perimeter management can include anything from installing, managing, and upgrading, to monitoring all functions of a client's network (hardware and software, email communication, firewalls, virtual private networks). MSSPs will also facilitate configuration updates based on customer needs or requests.

6. Penetration testing and cyber vulnerability assessment

Penetration testing and cyber vulnerability assessments are a large component of the managed security service process. MSSPs conduct penetration tests and vulnerability assessments to see potential vulnerabilities on a client’s network and will then subsequently patch them.

MSP vs. MSSPs: What’s the difference?

While both MSPs and MSSPs are third-party organizations that offer services, the range of services they provide differ.

MSPs are focused on technology usability and performance and work to remotely manage a customer’s IT infrastructure on an ongoing basis. Managed service providers offer a variety of services to their clients, including hardware and software implementation, deployment, and upkeep. In contrast, MSSPs offer security-related services such as network monitoring, security configuration, and network management. The difference between them lies in the kind of protection your business needs.

While most of the tasks performed by an MSP are essential to maintaining a well-run tech stack and staying up-to-date on the latest technology developments and trends, companies looking to uncover and remediate IT risks should look to an MSSP. MSSPs are focused on security and offer round-the-clock security monitoring and incident response services. Managed security service providers dedicate their time to ensuring that risks associated with cyberattacks and their impact are minimized at all costs and helping to maintain compliance within business networks.

Five areas to consider when evaluating an MSSP

It’s important to find a managed security service provider that is educated and knowledgeable about the specific security services your business requires. Here are the 5 key areas to consider when choosing an MSSP for your organization.

1. Expertise

An organization will not benefit from an MSSP if the staff is not qualified. Ensure that staff are experts within the field of focus, including cybersecurity professionals and engineers. Do your due diligence before hiring by taking a look at online reviews and customer testimonials.

2. Services

Evaluate the kinds of services a particular MSSP specializes in and determine if their services align with the needs of your business. Do they offer all of the services your business requires? If not, it may be best to turn to a provider that can offer it all.

3. Staff

Security is required at all times. This means you need to work with an MSSP that has several experienced staff members available at all times to provide 24/7 coverage and assistance when you need it.

4. Security

Every MSSP handles and manages sensitive information differently. Ensure that the provider’s policies align with your business’ policies to protect against any potential liabilities.

5. Budget

MSSPs can be costly. A business looking to incorporate an MSSP must first evaluate pricing to see if it aligns with their budget. Note that MSSPs are often more cost-effective and offer a higher level of scalability when compared to hiring in-house staff.

How SecurityScorecard Professional Services can help

SecurityScorecard’s Professional Services empower organizations to improve their cybersecurity posture with the help of knowledgeable industry experts. When it comes to improving a network’s security hygiene, deciding where to start can be daunting. With the help of our providers, organizations gain remediation advice that leads to real improvements.

Our Scorecard Manager helps enhance vendor risk management (VRM) programs by filling staffing gaps with VRM experts that continuously monitor your vendors’ Scorecards and promote self-management and education. This allows teams to shift focus to strategic tasks with confidence knowing that their vendor population is being properly managed. Our Atlas Manager accelerates due diligence by taking over the entire questionnaire and remediation process, minimizing wasted time and resources.

Third-party vendors also play a critical role in the efficacy of an IT network, so their cybersecurity efforts must be monitored and managed as well. Our Professional Services enhance the scale, efficiency, and management of an organization’s third-party risk management program through strategic assistance, tailored to your exact needs. With the ability to fully leverage an organization’s available resources and opportunities, managed security service providers enable security teams to accelerate program transformation that scales their impact within the organization.

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