What are Managed Security Services (MSS)?

Get the expertise you need to combat advanced security threats without overloading your in-house staff

A lot changed in early 2020. As the pandemic swept the globe, companies in essentially every industry found themselves scrambling to adapt to new remote work expectations. And even today as infection rates decline and business returns to some semblance of normalcy, the shift to online collaboration is having a lasting impact. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that ~60% of private-sector employers who expanded their remote-work options during the pandemic intend to retain those policies for the foreseeable future.

In other words, remote work is here to stay. But what does that mean for digital security?

Remote Work and the Need for Managed Security Services

Most remote workers are not IT experts, and most remote workspaces are anything but secure. Home-based employees often rely on their own unsecured networks and personal devices to complete tasks, and without trained technical expertise, they might not have the insight they need to respond to threats as they occur – or even to detect them.

Thankfully, remote employees and the businesses that support them don’t have to go it alone; managed security services (MSS) allow you to protect your critical information and infrastructure by outsourcing parts or all of your cybersecurity functions to a trusted security provider.

But what exactly are managed security services? Here, we explore MSS, and what the right MSS solution can mean for your business.

What Are Managed Security Services?

Managed security services are business cybersecurity solutions designed to provide management, protection, mitigation, response, and recovery services delivered by a third-party vendor (called a managed security services provider or MSSP). Simply put, MSS exists to take pressure off your in-house IT departments, making it possible to outsource some or all of your IT security functions as a paid service. This allows you to maintain a powerful security posture, regardless of the number of operational security personnel you currently employ.

Depending on the provider, managed security services may include intrusion detection, firewall management, virtual private network (VPN) service, vulnerability scanning, and antiviral solutions. As an essential part of MSS, most vendors provide 24/7 security monitoring, alerting their clients to possible breaches and suspicious network activity whenever they may occur. Some providers take this much further, managing various aspects of incident response in addition to security monitoring.

Top MSS providers operate via the cloud, allowing them to apply the advantages of high-availability security operation centers to any location and at any time. MSS may be either fully-managed or co-managed; a fully-managed MSS solution will use its own tools to manage and monitor security events, while a co-managed MSS solution operates more as additional support to the teams and tools already in operation.

What Do Managed Security Services Do?

Different managed security service vendors may offer different solutions or specialize in specific areas of data security. That said, MSS tends to fall within at least one of six specific categories:

Compliance monitoring
MSS compliance monitoring helps ensure that your organization is operating within established data-security regulatory standards. The MSS vendor will perform regular scans of your security infrastructure and relevant devices to determine whether your company is treating data securely and in accordance with data privacy laws and regulations. Any changes within your system that might lead to violations are identified and reported.

Managed Security Monitoring
Managed security monitoring keeps constant watch over your organization’s networks and devices. Security monitoring solutions log, investigate, and verify every security event that occurs within the system. Unverifiable or suspicious events are flagged so that response teams can quickly take action to resolve the possible threat.

Network Perimeter Management
Network perimeter management in MSS is focused on separating internal, private assets from external, public ones. To do this, the vendor will use intrusion detection hardware and software solutions and regularly make configuration changes where necessary. This is to ensure that your organization’s network perimeter and all the devices within it are secure against unauthorized access. However, with the move to remote working environments, the “perimeter” is much more difficult to manage, and even define, than it used to be. Remote working means that the “perimeter” is essentially everywhere.

On-Site Consulting
For those organizations that want to handle security services in house but still want the benefit of additional security expertise, MSS providers may offer on-site consulting. In these cases, the vendor will review and inspect the current digital-security posture of your company to identify and secure any possible vulnerabilities.

Product Resale
MSS companies may also sell data-security hardware, software, and services to its clients, as well as offer ongoing technical support for their products. Assembling tools and devices from multiple vendors, MSSPs that offer product-resale services allow you to work with security experts to create a fully customized security solution.

Vulnerability Assessment
Vulnerability assessment is a way for your company to put its defenses to the test without the risk. The MSS vendor performs penetration testing against your network and technology assets by applying a variety of known data-breaching techniques used by actual threat actors. Ideally, this will allow the MSSP to develop a clear picture of your current security posture while uncovering any vulnerabilities in your system.

What’s the Difference Between MSSP and MSP?

Although sometimes used synonymously, MSSP and MSP are two different kinds of cyber services:

What Are MSSPs (Managed Security Service Providers)?
An MSSP is a third-party vendor that provides managed cybersecurity services to their clients. The primary focus of the MSSP is on security; it employs constant network and device monitoring via a network operations center (NOC) to manage security incidents and alert response teams to possible breaches as they occur.

What are MSPs (Managed Service Providers)?
Rather than primarily addressing security concerns, MSP maintains a broader focus by offering application, database, network, and general IT support services. MSPs also tend to be more reactive; most MSPs do not offer 24/7 monitoring, and instead must be contacted by the client when they are needed. It is common, however, for MSPs to partner with MSSPs to provide more-specialized security services.

What Are the Advantages of Managed Security Services?

Today, nearly every company is expected to maintain large amounts of sensitive business and customer data. Unfortunately, not every company has the budget, experience, or skills they need to protect that data – and this is all the more true for those companies that field remote workforces. Managed security services help reinforce your security controls while providing additional oversight for your networks, devices, processes, and more. When used correctly, MSS solutions may deliver a range of benefits, including the following:

Access to Vital Security Skills
As the IT skills gap continues to widen, it can be difficult and expensive to find, train, and retain in-house security experts. At the same time, cyberattacks are becoming ever more sophisticated, necessitating increased specialization within IT security teams to counter unique threats. Working with the right MSSP gives your business access to the essential security skills and personnel it needs to remain secure.

Constant Data-Security Protection
If your security monitoring capabilities clock out at the end of the workday, then you’re leaving your data unprotected. Managed security services maintain constant monitoring over your systems, detecting, alerting, and responding to possible attacks whenever they may occur.

Enhanced Security Maturity
Creating an effective data security posture takes time and experience, which is something many new, small, or medium-sized businesses simply do not have. Partnering with an established MSSP gives you the full benefit of their security knowledge, so you can quickly establish a mature set of security solutions, regardless of your organization’s age or size.

Improved Security Tool Management
As security needs increase, many organizations address these issues by investing in more and more security tools. But when you have dozens of tools all operating alongside one another, it can create a prohibitively complex situation for your in-house security team. By consolidating these tools into a single, centralized location, MSSPs can help you get more out of your security investments.

Reduced IT Cost
Building and maintaining an IT security team, equipping that team with the right training and tools, and keeping vital technologies updated – each of these actions comes with its own cost, which can quickly spiral out of control. MSS, on the other hand, provides specific services at well-defined prices. This frees up budgets and reduces many of the unforeseen expenses associated with IT security.

Simplified Regulatory Compliance
Governments around the world are taking steps to ensure that companies are accountable for their management of sensitive customer data. Managed security services can take the complexity out of compliance, helping your organization identify areas where it may not be meeting regulatory standards.

How Do I Choose the Right Managed Security Services?

Not every MSSP provides the same services – some may offer only limited solutions while others can be so specialized that they are a poor fit for the realities of your business. As you compare managed security services, consider the following factors:

The MSSP should have the training, resources, and staff on hand to be completely available at any time to respond to emergent security situations.

Although effective MSSP solutions tend to provide a significant return, they still require an investment that must first be accounted for. Be sure to consider MSSP pricing and your budgets as you shop for the right vendor.

Top MSSPs should be capable of meeting any security situations head-on, and that means having the right experts on hand. Research any MSSP you may be considering to ensure that their staff includes professionals who are experienced in the many different facets of cybersecurity.

Before you can find managed security services to meet your needs, you first have to fully understand what those needs are. Take the time to audit your current security posture and determine what kinds of services would be a good fit for your company.

Your organization can be made or broken by how your data is managed. Work with prospective MSSPs to understand the specifics of how they plan to protect your networks and systems, and only consider those that treat your data with the sensitivity it deserves.

Ontinue ION for Your MSS Needs

With the growing number and sophistication of cyberattacks, the increasing complexity of business networks and systems, and the new reality of remote work, the need for comprehensive data security has never been higher. Ontinue’s cybersecurity solutions are bringing industry-leading managed security services to businesses and industries around the world, with the Ontinue ION MXDR service.

We go beyond traditional managed detection and response. ION MXDR provides 24/7 monitoring by expert-staffed security operations centers, unmatched incident investigation and validation, AI-enhanced threat detection, and customized data protection designed specifically to address your needs and the realities of your business – all delivered to your internal teams as a single source of truth for meaningful security data. And that’s just the beginning.

See how properly managed data security can revolutionize your business, contact Ontinue today!