Managed Security Services: MSP, MSSP, MDR, and More
What are Managed Security Services (MSS)?
Managed security services (MSS) provide cybersecurity services to organizations. MSS vendors help monitor and manage security systems, devices, and Software as a Service (SaaS) applications. Organizations can outsource overall security responsibilities or specific tasks to a team of experts, located in-house or in a remote location.
MSS vendors provide around-the-clock monitoring and management of tools like firewalls, intrusion detection systems (IDS), and endpoint detection and response (EDR). They can oversee patch management and upgrades, perform security assessments and audits, and respond to security incidents. There are various MSS service models, each providing different services and security coverage. These include MSP, MSSP, and MDR.
The Need for Managed Security Service
MSS vendors help organizations extend their security coverage. The goal is to reduce security gaps to the bare minimum, minimize the attack surface, support the organization’s IT and security staff, and offer around-the-clock expertise to ensure rapid detection and response.
Organizations are constantly under attack, and the attack surface keeps getting bigger. With distributed networks, remote work and bring-your-own-device (BYOD) paradigms, and cloud and hybrid environments becoming the new standard, organizations need to extend more efforts toward attaining visibility and control over the network. MSS vendors offer expert skills and tools to help cover the varied needs of today’s complex IT landscape.
The cost of data breaches
Data breaches may result in costly consequences, such as fines, revenue loss, reputational damages, data loss, and ransomware payments. Post-attack costs can reach the tens of millions, depending on the scope of the attack and legal repercussions. MSS vendors can help minimize the scope of attacks, helping reduce the cost of data breaches or prevent and block threats when possible.
MSS vendors manage teams of security experts supported by advanced technologies to help protect against threats. In some cases, the MSS vendor has an entire security operations center (SOC) that provides a global security footprint. Organizations can employ this expertise to fill in the gaps left by an understaffed internal security team.
A full in-house cybersecurity team requires skilled expertise, hardware, software, and various tools. The cost of setting up and maintaining such a team can be overwhelming. MSS vendors offer a cost-effective alternative, offering their services for a monthly fee. As a result, organizations can reduce capital expenditures, avoid amortization, and shift internal budgets.
Response and investigation
MSS vendors deliver rapid response times to security incidents, supported by security teams dedicated to threat investigation and remediation. As a result, organizations gain the time and expertise needed to minimize the scope of attacks. It can also help stop a threat before it causes significant damage.
Insight and intelligence
MSS vendors employ multiple security data sources to achieve a comprehensive understanding of the organization’s security posture and its effectiveness. These vendors leverage their expertise across many customers, providing organizations with the insights needed to make data-backed decisions to improve their security.
Types of Managed Security Services
Managed Service Providers (MSP)
MSP vendors manage IT on behalf of the organization, including personnel and infrastructure. They cover network infrastructure, systems, applications, and various security requirements, providing continuous monitoring, management, support, and maintenance.
MSP vendors can provide remote and on-site resources. Organizations are free to host their infrastructure and assets in various locations, including in-house data centers, third-party data centers, and public cloud providers.
Managed Security Service Providers (MSSP)
MSSP vendors provide network security monitoring and management services that cover the organization’s entire IT environment. They offer a greater scope compared to MSPs that cover basic security services. MSSPs offer 24x7 network monitoring and various continuous security services, such as security configuration management and vulnerability management.
Co-Managed IT Service Providers
Co-managed IT service providers (Co-MIT) offer a service model that blends client management, internal IT teams, and MSP offerings. It produces a collaborative effort between various teams, each offering different perspectives, tools, and expertise. The organization’s IT team provides an in-depth understanding of the organization, and the Co-MIT vendor provides expertise and tools to cover the organization’s security needs.
Managed Detection and Response (MDR)
MDR vendors actively search for threats to identify and alert organizations on existing or new threats. MDR providers employ 24x7 monitoring capability powered by artificial intelligence and machine learning to monitor and detect security incidents. MDR differs from MSSP in that MDR employs a proactive approach while MSSP is a reactive service. MSSP vendors can issue threat alerts but do not investigate them, while MDR vendors offer investigation services.
Choosing a Managed Security Service
When choosing an MSS service provider, it is important to consider the issues the organization is trying to solve and the maturity of the company's existing security programs:
If your organization has a mature internal SOC, but needs additional assistance to handle an evolving threat landscape, MSSPs may be the solution.
If your organization doesn't have the resources, doesn't want to maintain a full internal SOC, or wants to cut costs, an MDR service is a better option.
Managed security services provide multiple levels of response — an important consideration is what level is more appropriate for your organization. Providing a full end-to-end response can provide value, but also requires the service provider to have deeper access to organizational systems, including potentially sensitive data.
Most security service providers provide one of these response levels:
Lighter response — warnings or alerts only. This is useful because it is fast to implement and has limited privacy impact. However, it has limited scope and requires internal security staff to respond.
Deeper response — can include activities like threat hunting, identifying indicators of compromise (IoC) or triaging and validating alerts. This is useful because service provider teams can be faster and have more capabilities than in-house teams. At the same time, it can expose some sensitive data.
End-to-end response — full recovery from persistent threats and confirmed high severity incidents. This provides a comprehensive response and can significantly reduce load on internal security staff. However, it requires broad access rights, creates a bigger potential for privacy issues and sensitive data exposure.