Today, practically every business generates data and depends on technology to serve customers and manage its operations. That also means that potentially every business is vulnerable to digital crime and attacks. Clearly, you need to take measures to safeguard your data, applications, and systems. But what is the best strategy for achieving cybersecurity? Should you contract with a managed security services provider (MSSP) or have your internal IT department take care of cybersecurity? In this post, we consider how and when an MSSP could be of value.
How do companies compromise their security?
Digital threats and attacks can be devastating to individuals and organizations. Ransomware extortions have been prominent in the news when they disrupted healthcare services, governments, financial institutions, or well-known companies. Phishing practices are becoming increasingly sophisticated, tricking even careful users into disclosing confidential information or providing access to digital assets. Identity and data theft is still common. Careless employees can expose sensitive data to risk and disgruntled workers may outright steal or corrupt it.
Many companies assign cybersecurity to their IT team because it is primarily seen as a technology issue. IT may implement firewalls, install antivirus software, give users access credentials, secure their laptops and desktops, and back up data. Investments of time and money on purchasing security solutions or training the workforce on potential risks and best practices are often relatively small, because security may not be seen as closely tied to revenue generation or organizational productivity.
Organizational awareness of data at risk may also be minimal and static. For example, companies may think of their financial and customer data as sensitive and in need of protection but may treat employee-related information or specific business processes as a lower priority. Or, a manufacturing company may safeguard the files with its patents, designs, and other intellectual property, but leave robotic industrial machinery or the collaboration tools used by engineers and product designers vulnerable.
Reactive and untested approaches
Once they implement security solutions or certain policies, businesses frequently do not test their data protection or processes. They don’t really know how effective their security measures are until somebody attempts and maybe succeeds at stealing data, demands a ransom payment, or compromises cybersecurity in another way. Then these organizations react to the incident that just happened. IT may add more data protection to the company’s technology environment and some policies may be updated, and a subsequent incident might demonstrate how effective these security enhancements are.
However, treating cybersecurity reactively never actually reduces your risk when criminals and their tools and approaches are becoming ever more capable of inflicting harm. At the same time, IT teams in many organizations are not able to assign time and resources to boost their security capabilities. They may already be fully absorbed by managing the everyday operations of applications and systems. If there’s any time left, companies often prefer that developers create new apps or that IT advances urgent initiatives like enabling everybody to work from anywhere.
Starting an MSSP engagement
At that juncture, an MSSP can assume accountability for safeguarding an organization’s digital assets. Some MSSPs are also managed services providers (MSP) and deliver a broad portfolio of technology services in addition to cybersecurity, like Sikich. You can expect that an MSSP could help you immediately. MSSP team members would understand your specific security threats and requirements, work with you to assess risks and gaps, and help you devise a security strategy that addresses current issues and gives you a line of defense against emerging problems.
MSSP experts would have the insight to place your specific security challenges in the context of rapidly changing threats and risks on one hand and steadily evolving security technologies and approaches on the other. By collaborating with an MSSP, your organization could become proactive in terms of digital security instead of responding to events and threats in the past. For a predictable service fee, you could gain the benefit of advanced expertise you can access now, as opposed to taking the time to build their own security practice at great expense.
What changes when you work with an MSSP?
For many organizations, engaging with an MSSP may be the first time they resource and approach security concerns appropriately. After addressing immediate, urgent problems, the MSSP team could work with you to tackle security problems depending on their risk potential. Considering data sources, data types, applications, data center setup, user groups, customer and partner needs for application access, and so many other conditions, every organization’s path to cybersecurity will be unique. The right MSSP can help you chart the best route. If lacking security awareness, insufficient practices or even disgruntled employees are a concern, the MSSP can get to work without a conflict of interest. Instead of grappling with security issues, IT can follow expert MSSP guidance and free up time to drive transformational, strategic initiatives for the business.
Proper testing validates your data protection
Testing and validation are invaluable for your cybersecurity. At the beginning of an engagement and at regular intervals later, an MSSP can test your cybersecurity systems and processes. Your MSSP contacts will know how to design a specific testing protocol for data and applications, the data center, edge technologies, client devices, the various onsite and remote user scenarios. Sensitive intellectual property and important business-critical systems might require sophisticated, simulated attacks and more challenging tests than cloud-based business productivity tools, but the business context should determine testing conditions.
Treating security and compliance holistically
One important aspect of testing and risk management is compliance with regulatory mandates and industry or even company-specific quality standards. Given the complementary nature of security and compliance, you should look to your MSSP to help you assess, test, and strengthen security and compliance holistically. As you evaluate providers, you might want to ask how they approach compliance management and what their expertise and capabilities are for addressing the compliance concerns that matter to your business.
Balancing security and productivity
Many companies were challenged with keeping users and systems secure when the pandemic forced them to implement remote working almost overnight. Your MSSP can make an important contribution in this area and help you achieve the best balance of productivity, efficiency, compliance, and security. Security can become inflexible and stand in the way of productivity when companies implement it on their own and enforce the same high level of access and data protection for every user, system, and use case. Without the agility to reflect changing business conditions, security can become stifling. It takes industry and business expertise, and diligent relationship-building and factfinding with clients, for an MSSP to enable companies to get this right across their internal users, customers, and partners.
Aligning cyber insurance and security practices
More and more companies are considering or already covered by cyber insurance to mitigate the costs of ransomware attacks, phishing, theft, and other crimes. In some industry segments, trading partners and enterprise customers demand that their vendors carry cyber risk or cyber liability insurance. Sikich consultants generally recommend cyber insurance. It can effectively shield organizations from costly, reputation-damaging lawsuits and help them recoup the costs of data breach investigations and remedial efforts.
Cyber insurance firms provide more than financial damage protection. Some are assisting their clients in better understanding their risks and implementing strong data protection measures. Others are enforcing certain security protocols when new clients apply for coverage or current customers renew it. As the cyber insurance market matures, we see more of the latter. These insurance concerns should be part of the conversation with your MSSP. Often, a fully managed security engagement will be the most effective way to ensure the security policies and measures insurers ask for, and their requirements may also have a bearing on detailed aspects of managed security.
A culture of pervasive security
For some organizations, it may be helpful for the MSSP to provide a virtual chief information security officer (vCISO) as part of their leadership team to ensure that security and business goals align. The vCISO may be in the best position to help the other executives and the business groups understand that cybersecurity is not just a technical issue, but a high-level concern that needs to reach every single user and all business processes and systems. Everybody in the company needs to learn about security within their realm and be able to choose the right actions. It takes pervasive, culturally ingrained security to mitigate most of today’s threats and risks.
Taking the next step
Sikich serves as an MSP and MSSP to many different clients across several industries and is proud to enjoy their long-term partnership as they go along their digital journeys. We bring the same empathetic, collaborative, individualized approach to all our MSSP and MSP engagements. If you believe it’s time to evaluate how managed and cybersecurity services from Sikich could help you in your business, we should talk.