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The Power of MSSPs

When I was leading technology organizations, one of the most critical and valuable partner vendor relationships was with our managed security service provider (MSSP). They served in three capacities: 

  • Around-the-clock 24/7/365 monitoring for malicious activity, including proactive threat hunting.
  • Served as the first responder and technical expert to mitigate and manage security alerts.
  • Provided metrics and ongoing guidance to continuously improve our security posture along with new and emerging threat information.

Our internal team always remained the point of escalation, but 95% of the time alerts and incidents were primaily handled and closed by the MSSP team.

While this certainly helped us sleep better at night, the MSSP also provided a wealth of knowledge and operational clarity to our ongoing security practices. They would monitor changes to our Microsoft 365 and Azure secure scores, proactively hunt for threat indicators within our environment, and be a resource for us in all things security, including advice on how to best onboard and secure new services or technologies.

The fact is that small and medium-sized businesses (less than a few thousand employees) are almost never in a position to afford a dedicated, experienced, around-the-clock security team. Using an existing team member or tacking security on as a secondary responsibility for existing staff is not a realistic or effective approach for something this important.

After engaging an MSSP, the business and the technology team saw benefits in a few areas:

Risk Reduction
  • You benefit from using a third party that has other clients. An MSSP will have a far larger set of diverse experiences and develop better practices than an internal team. They are able to leverage what they learn from all their clients to the benefit of all the others. An in-house team will only see much narrower field of attacks, so their perspective can be limited.
  • The vendor had time to do proactive threat hunting. An internal team may struggle to prioritize this, and similar to the point above, they may not be as effective at it without a diversity of experience.
  • The vendor had time and expertise to tune rule sets and automation. Security response isn’t just about buying some licensing and acting on alerts. Calendar time is needed to configure tools, tune, and effectively continue building security service maturity.
  • The vendor produced regular reporting, metrics, and provided a structured review process. It made it easier for the internal team to understand what was happening so we could make better decisions.
  • You have a partner to identify trends, alternatives, and approaches as threats evolve or internal systems change. That also applies to all the improvements and changes that vendors like Microsoft make to their security products and services so you can take advantage of them more quickly.
Financial Efficiency
  • The people with the specialized knowledge and experience required to effectively secure and monitor the computing environment are expensive and hard to find.
  • Hiring and managing for active 24×7 monitoring increases the already high staffing costs by 3-4 times.
  • Cyberinsurance rates are far easier to keep in check with an MSSP as part of the information security program.
  • The MSSP had predictable costs and drove continuous risk reduction. That allowed us to avoid the bursts of reactive panic or incident response spending that would be required if we didn’t have a vendor with time dedicated to helping keep us secure.
  • The MSSP vendor was flexible and able to pivot their services as our needs changed. That is far more difficult and expensive (and time consuming) to do internally.  Sometimes staffing changes or advanced training need to be executed on quickly. The vendor had designed themselves to be able to do that.
Improved Internal Team Focus
  • Our MSSP offloaded and filtered the security noise from the internal team. Internal staff could then focus on serving the company’s goals and initiatives more fully. Completing projects and service delivery were much improved because the only time spent on security was for true (and fairly rare) event escalations. I can’t overstate how much of a positive impact this made in the internal team’s effectiveness.
  • Employee satisfaction was improved. The people in IT operations, networking, service desk, and other disciplines were no longer dragged into security tasks that they did not have expertise in, but felt like they needed to own anyway. Prior to engaging an MSSP, staff (myself included) always felt obligated to jump on security issues first, which would make all the other work overdue. This definitely caused anxiety and increased stress.

Advice and Other Considerations

  • For example, if you are using Microsoft M365 and/or Azure security products, make sure the MSSP uses Defender for Endpoint, Sentinel, and other Defender applications to monitor and manage their clients’ environments. This way you can leverage your existing cloud ecosystems and application stack to avoid additional costs.
  • Regular reporting from the MSSP is a must. Monthly or quarterly metrics to track and improve security vulnerabilities and readiness like secure scores, incident rates, patch compliance, and other critical measures over time are critical.
  • Reporting and metrics should dovetail into regular conversations with the vendor about upcoming product changes and threats to prepare for.
  • In order to onboard your organization as a client, MSSPs will often have a minimum set of requirements you need to meet in terms of licensing and applications (such as Defender for Endpoint, Intune, or Sentinel) to allow them to integrate your environment into their monitoring platform or other services.

The reality is that many Technology groups (and their budgets) are going to have a difficult time effectively self-managing their security. I found that using a third-party MSSP is more affordable, more effective, and more scalable. Given the current prevalence of malware, ransomware, data exfiltration, and other malicious activity, security management is far too important to be lost in the shuffle in a busy person’s inbox. Security incidents and ongoing monitoring require immediate response and mitigation. Anything less puts your organization at significant risk, and there are readily available services to not only take much of the burden off the technology team’s shoulders but also more effectively prevent incidents in the first place.

Contact our team of award-winning experts today to get started on your MSSP journey or check out our website to learn more about how we can manage your environment from end to end.

Tom Papahronis

Tom Papahronis

Strategic Advisor - eGroup | Enabling Technologies

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Last updated on July 31st, 2023 at 01:10 pm