Why an MSP Packs More Cyber Security Punch Than You Think
When you partner with a managed service provider (MSP), you tap into an extensive range of expertise across multiple IT disciplines. For example, at Doherty Associates, we help clients with cloud migration, network architecture and business intelligence. And that’s just scratching the service. Where MSPs excel is taking care of the heavy lifting, so business owners get the time back to do what they do best – growing their business.
Cyber security is another area where MSPs can be worth their weight in gold. A good MSP will assign a cyber security expert to help you evaluate your cyber security. They’ll determine where you are now, and where you need to be in order to safeguard your network and valuable customer data, mitigate risk and comply with regulations. Then, they’ll help you get to that point with strategic advice and practical implementation and support you with continuous monitoring.
Some businesses prefer to outsource cyber security to a specialist managed security service provider (MSSP), but in most cases, that’s a false economy. If you already work with an MSP, aggregating your security makes financial sense. In addition, you get a more holistic service. Your MSP has visibility of day-to-day tickets, faults, alerts, requests and metrics that an MSSP wouldn’t. Where an MSSP would often have to log and notify you of any alert, an MSP with strong cyber security capabilities is able to filter out the noise and false alarms, while taking the appropriate action immediately across all platforms. After all, in today’s world, understanding the context of a business, its critical assets, data and processes go hand-in-hand with keeping it running safely at full strength.
In this article, we’ll look in more detail at how partnering with an MSP for your business’ cyber security could be one of the smartest moves you ever make.
1 – Understanding the Role of an MSP in Cyber Security
From a cyber security perspective, a managed service provider can offer you a wide variety of services to help safeguard your IT infrastructure, network and data. Services include:
- Protection – Deploying and maintaining the latest tech tools to anticipate risk and prevent data breaches
- Operations – Taking care of monitoring, threat intelligence and responding to cyber threats
- Compliance – Ensuring your organisation complies with all cyber security regulations relevant to your industry
- Reporting – This is essential to give stakeholders the necessary visibility
These services are critical to your business. Failure can lead to disastrous consequences, including costly downtime, heavy fines and reputational damage. For most businesses, it’s better to put your trust in a cyber security expert MSP who can ensure all your bases are covered.
For a small or mid-sized business, choosing an MSP over an MSSP makes sense, for reasons discussed at the start of the article. If you’re an enterprise-level business, you might think a managed security service provider may give you a more specialised service than an MSP. However, forward-thinking MSPs like Doherty Associates can take a different, consultative approach to security, providing vCISO capability. We work alongside other providers and address gaps in security posture – regardless of an organisation’s size.
1.1 – Importance of Proactive Security Measures
In today’s world of sophisticated cyber attackers utilising the latest tech to breach companies’ defences, being proactive on cyber security is essential. Once the breach has happened, it’s too late. You’re already dealing with downtime, lost business and possible compliance issues. You have to do the hard work before the cyber attackers strike. Choose an MSP that can provide continuous monitoring, threat detection and prevention to mitigate a broad range of cyber risks.
At Doherty, we advocate an approach to cyber strategy that follows the five principles of the industry standard NIST Cyber Security Framework:
- Identify – What types of cyber threats pose a risk to your business?
- Protect – How do you effectively safeguard the assets you identified?
- Detect – How will you find out if there are cyber threats against your assets?
- Respond – If you detect cyber security threats, what’s your action plan?
- Recover – If a cyber-attack impacts your infrastructure and wider business, how will you fix it and bounce back?
You can learn more about the NIST framework in this blog from Doherty Associates. LINK HERE to Blog 4 (NIST).
1.2 – Comprehensive Security Solutions
While other MSPs focus primarily on the ‘protect’ pillar of NIST at the expense of the rest, the best MSPs take a comprehensive approach to cyber security. Services you can utilise from your MSP partner should include:
- Network security – Protect the integrity and useability of your IT network and business data. A popular network security tool is a firewall, such as offered by Fortinet (2)
- Data encryption – Encryption renders your valuable data unreadable to everyone except those you want to have access. Microsoft OneDrive is an industry leader in data encryption in the cloud (3)
- Strategic advice – Your MSP can help you plan a cyber security strategy that allows you to take a proactive approach to prevention, but also sets out a plan to deal with cyber threats and recover if the worst happens
- Third-party risk management – Your MSP can also monitor the vendors you work with to make sure they don’t leave you exposed to excessive risk
- Managed detect and response (MDR) – You can outsource threat detection and mitigation to your MSP
- Governance – Your MSP can provide all the necessary cyber security measurement and reporting to boost compliance and help you handle regulators
- Breach detection – The faster you discover a breach, the faster you can eliminate it. Trust your MSP to identify the small problems before they become big ones
2 – Expertise and Specialisation of MSPs
Your MSP’s team of professionals will possess a wide range of technological skills, but to be effective at cyber security, they’ll need more than the basics. Here are three attributes the best security-focused MSPs will offer:
Firstly, risk identification and management. Your MSP must know how to assess vulnerabilities and create future-proof solutions to fix them. They should also be able to evaluate potential threats from inside and outside your business and construct measures to counteract them. They should follow proven methodologies such as NIST (4) and ISO 27001 (5) to ensure they cover all bases.
Next, your MSP will be well-versed in threat intelligence. Cyber-attackers get more sophisticated every day, employing new methods and technologies to get past organisations’ defences. Your MSP needs to stay one step ahead, knowing how to collect and analyse threat intelligence from a variety of tools and turn their insights into action.
Finally, your MSP will know how to respond to cyber security incidents. Despite your best efforts at prevention, breaches still happen. Research by Verizon found that 43% of all cyber-attacks were aimed at small or medium-sized businesses (6). Your MSP will help you deal with it quickly, containing the threat and minimising damage, and providing advice and guidance in interactions with regulatory bodies, customers, and other stakeholders.
2.1 – Cyber Security Certifications and Training
How do you know the MSPs on your shortlist of partners are as good as they say they are? If they possess certifications in the areas of cyber security relevant to your needs, that’s a great sign.
Regulatory bodies and tech providers issue certifications as a seal of approval that they’re experts in what they do. MSPs must renew their certifications regularly to stay up-to-date, which may involve extra training and examinations.
For example, Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) is a globally recognised cyber security certification for IT professionals. During the course, which ends with a demanding exam, subjects covered include network security, risk management and security testing (7).
Two well-regarded certifications in the UK are Cyber Essentials and Cyber essentials plus from the National Cyber Security Centre (8). They’re available for businesses who want to master the basics of cyber security. They help organisations ensure they’re cyber-ready, with the Plus option offering a technical verification on top of training. These certifications are useful as a low bar to cyber security for small businesses. They can also help you reduce the cost of your cyber insurance.
2.2 – Continuous Learning and Adaptability
The world of cybersecurity never sleeps, and as cyber-attackers get more sophisticated, the technology that stops them gets more advanced too. It’s essential for MSPs to stay ahead of the curve and keep abreast of the continuously evolving cyber threat landscape.
Make sure the MSP you partner with invests in ongoing training to adapt their security practices to new vulnerabilities and attack vectors. If they’re certified, they’ll need to stay up-to-date in order to renew their certifications. However, you can also tell how up-to-date an MSP is by the technologies they leverage. For example, Gartner Peer Reviews publishes a list of the latest tools (with user reviews) across a wide variety of categories (9). Does your MSP recommend these solutions?
2.3 – Partner with an MSP that Truly Understands your Business
Your MSP should be a partner, not a service provider. They should become a trusted advisor, almost a function in your business. The best MSPs will take the time to get to know your business, its goals, company culture and employee working patterns. When they make recommendations, they should directly address your business needs. There’s no room for one-size-fits-all here.
For example, if you have employees who regularly travel abroad to advance your business, your MSP should work with you to make their lives easier and remove the barriers that stop them from working effectively. If they need to log in from an airport lounge before their next flight, the last thing they want is your network access control preventing them.
3 – Advantages of Outsourcing Cyber Security to an MSP
For small and medium-sized businesses, partnering with an MSP for your cyber security makes sense. While you could run your cyber security in-house, you need to hire people with precisely the right skills and provide them with the latest technologies to do their job.
What’s more, cyber events don’t sleep – if you have an internal team you’ll need to make arrangements for 24/7 coverage, which will be beyond the financial means of many businesses. Therefore, it’s smarter business to consider outsourcing the real time monitoring and management 24/7.
With a trusted MSP running your cyber security operations, you get:
- A cost-effective service that scales with your business
- The latest cyber security tech in your hands
- Time to focus on what matters to your business
- A single point of contact for all your managed services
- A holistic view of your IT estate
Let’s look at these in more detail.
3.1 – Cost-Effectiveness and Scalability
When you partner with an MSP for your cyber security, you get the most bang for your buck. This is because you can choose your desired level of protection and only pay for the services you use. As your business grows and you add people and technology to your organisation, your MSP can easily add or remove services.
Working with an MSP makes financial sense compared to running your own cyber security in-house. You don’t have to hire in people with the right cyber skills, cover 24/7 monitoring, nor do you have to invest in expensive security infrastructure. In addition, knowing that you’re protected by professionals means you’re less likely to have to pay to recover from a data breach. It’s great peace of mind.
3.2 – Access To Cutting-Edge Security Technologies
The expert cyber security professionals at your MSP are paid to stay ahead of the latest cyber trends and incorporate the latest technology into their work. When you partner with an MSP, you get the benefit of state-of-the-art security technologies that may be out of reach of most organisations.
For example, an MSP will leverage advanced threat intelligence tools, such as Microsoft Defender (10), which uses AI to help you learn which cyber-attackers are active, their activities, and crucially, how to stop them. Solutions like this are expensive, but also quite complex, requiring specialist skills to utilise optimally.
With an MSP, you get the comprehensive protection you need at all stages of the NIST framework, meaning you minimise the likelihood of an attack.
3.3 – Focus on Core Business Functions
You have enough to worry about when you run a small or medium-sized business. You focus on winning and serving your customers, hiring and retaining talented people, and above all, achieving your business goals. Cyber security is massively important to the success of your business, as cyber-attacks are expensive to fix and can destroy your reputation. But, at the same time, cyber security is also complex and specialised.
Why try to take cyber security on yourself when you can outsource it to a cyber security expert MSP who will do it for you? They’ll give you that time back so you can focus on what matters to your business, while creating a more effective cyber security operation than you could ever create alone.
Your MSP will take care of the nitty-gritty of running a cyber security operation:
- 24/7 monitoring and incident response
- Data encryption
- Data backups
- Up-to-date threat intelligence
- Software updates – and more
Don’t make even more work for yourself. Let your MSP take the strain.
3.4 – The Power of Having One Cyber Security MSP Partner
If you run your own cyber security operation, here are just some of the parties you’ll need to deal with:
- Hardware vendors
- Multiple software vendors (firewall, data encryption, threat intelligence, etc.)
- Your in-house cyber security team
- ICO, cyber insurers and other third parties requesting information
You’ll need to talk to vendors at least once a year for renewals, while dealing with natural churn in your in-house team, while regulators will regularly contact you with questions.
With an MSP, your cyber security reporting is streamlined with other normal MSP reporting and renewal activities, reducing the time burden on you. You have one number to call, and one relationship to manage.
Your MSP will deal with software and hardware vendors, while doing the heavy lifting to help you breeze through interactions with regulators. Sit back and enjoy the easy engagement and the peace of mind that comes with it.
When you partner with an MSP for your cyber security rather than the alternative options of an MSSP or doing it in-house, you gain a broad range of advantages:
- A provider who truly understands your broader infrastructure, as well as your cyber security needs
- A cyber security expert who can make the right recommendations to create a robust cyber strategy aligned with your business goals
- Experienced professionals to set up and run your cyber security operation
- Cost-effectiveness and scalability
- Access to the latest, cutting-edge cyber security technologies
- Time back to focus on your core business functions
- One partner at your service whenever you need them
The secret is to select an MSP that has both security and your wider business needs at the heart of everything they do.
Selecting the right MSP for long-term success is essential – one with the experience, reputation, service offerings, and pricing to suit your business needs. Then, you can reap the rewards.
To find out more about Doherty Associates, visit our Services page.
2 – Fortinet
3 – Microsoft OneDrive – How OneDrive safeguards your data in the cloud
4 – NIST Cybersecurity Framework
5 – ISO 27001
6 – Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report
7 – IT Governance: What is CISSP?
8 – NCSC Cyber Essentials
9 – Gartner Peer Reviews Security Threat intelligence
10 – Microsoft Defender