We all know how cyber security has become an increasingly important issue as the reliance on internet-connected devices has increased. This is why some companies seek third-party providers to handle their IT security needs to free up resources and reduce costs. Find out what you should be looking for in a provider, as well as why security outsourcing services can be a good option for some businesses.
If you work in services domain, this comment from customers isn’t new:
To handle our clients’ increasingly complex IT needs, we’ve decided to outsource some of our cyber security needs. This will allow us to focus on what really matters—creating and executing strategies for success.
It is true and makes sense regarding business strategy, saving time, and maximising efficiency while minimising costs. There are certain pitfalls to this and that’s what we are covering in our ARTICLE.
What does security outsourcing mean in computer terms?
In general, outsourcing means engaging outside resources such as security services to do or manage particular works that can typically be done in house.
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, as the term “outsourcing” can mean different things to different organizations. In general, however, outsourcing cyber security typically refers to the practice of hiring third-party vendors to provide services and solutions that help protect an organisation’s computer networks and data from attack. This set-up could be a third party security team, internal security team or mix of the two.
IT security outsourcing is contracting a third party or individual to manage or maintain the IT infrastructure functions. It varies and ranges from customer support representation, IT desk support, hardware or software implementation or maintenance, cyber security surveillance, etc.
Can cyber security be outsourced?
The brief answer to this question is YES.
Yes, you can outsource the whole cyber security service or even some of its functions; it totally depends on your industry sector, requirements, and your security skillset.
Whereas, to have a detailed answer to this question, it is important to analyse your organisation’s skillsets and worthwhile asking to yourself, “Is cyber security something we can do in-house in our business?”
If yes, then identify and classify which security areas can be handled in-house and what resources would be needed. Then, further, expand your analysis by determining the cost of in-house cyber security management. A managed security service provider already has this skill-set ranging from security incident analysis to security architecture to help with most of the cyber security aspects.
For instance, how many resources would you need and their cost in terms of salary and other benefits, what security solutions or tools would be required to process security assessments, what expertise level would be needed to perform any task, etc.
Likewise, if you cannot handle cyber security in-house and need outsourcing computer security, then classify which areas need external support. For example, what budget would be required, what level of service is expected, would you need a managed service provider or one-time service, the level of agreement, etc.
What is outsourcing in cyber security?
Outsourcing cyber security means having an externally managed security service provider handle, maintain and perform cyber security practices for your organisation on your behalf. Traditionally, consulting services under cyber security have expanded to offer outsourced SOC services, which have grown to offer threat intel, incident response, MDR, XDR and other areas such as GRC in cyber security.
Setting up in house security function consisting of security analysts could be a costly security investment.
The growing ratio of sophisticated cyber attacks has increased the demand for cyber protection that obliquely require several resources and proficient skill level to ensure the organisation is secure.
Outsourcing security services eliminate the cost of internal employees along with hiring in house security team and upskilling them to perform specific tasks. You only pay for what you use and what you need when you need it.
The cost of risk analysis, threat modelling, threat models, security applications, appliances, and equipment, is the same as the cost of maintaining and paying the costs even during downtime. Therefore, it greatly helps organisations protect their IT infrastructure and critical assets within a limited budget and 24/7 availability by professionals specialising in their cyber domain.
Why do companies opt for outsourcing cyber security?
Outsourcing security services has multiple benefits that lead companies to outsource cyber security. Some of them are:
It is one of the primary reasons which makes companies outsource cyber security services. You never know when cybercriminals launch attacks against you; it takes only a few seconds to deploy ransomware or a DDoS attack. Therefore, you need to be prepared 24/7/365 in order to respond to and remediate threats efficiently.
Outsourcing security is excellent in this situation because your service provider remains alert and attenuative outside of your business hours and is responsible for maintaining the security on the agreed budget. However, if you do this in-house, it relatively increases the cost in terms of employees, security teams and utilities.
Minimise costs and maximise efficiency
Services providers allocate the employees, costs of tools and hardware across multiple customers, reducing overall expenditures for the same level of service. This allows you to reallocate resources elsewhere in the business, so it’s truly a win-win situation.
For example, to perform specific tasks such as monitoring, you need a team and security products to monitor your network inside and outside the office hours and require resources to supervise them.
A managed cyber security service provider has standard cost and time estimates. Most of these offer customised services according to the business requirements that reduce the hassle of managing an in-house team and human efficiency.
As a non-IT business, it often gets confusing to hire security experts and build an in-house security team to manage the cyber security on the ground level. You need certain expertise to stay updated with the latest defence tactics in the evolving threat landscape, which is challenging to maintain with business development and operation. The cyber threat landscape evolves every day following the most basic to more advanced cyber attacks that make daily headlines.
Outsourced and dedicated cyber security specialists continuously update themselves with industry certifications and standards, one of the most important benefits of outsourcing security.
Outsourcing cyber security eliminates delays in seeing the value of a new software solution deployed with in-house staff. New attack vectors mean new or improved defence tools that require a learning curve to install and use effectively. Software solutions are also expensive to purchase and maintain licensing, and support also requires a budget. In contrast, vendors have up-to-date software and advanced technology that reduces costs and expenditures to a great degree while upgrading the business security.
What are the downsides or cons to outsourcing security services?
Lack of cultural awareness and internal knowledge
When you outsource cyber security, every threat is detected and remediated by your cyber security service provider, and you only get the reports. It significantly impacts the security awareness culture within your business.
As a result, your teams’ technical competencies lack in understanding the cyber security risk and fail to recognise the chained consequences of threats and vulnerability on the overall business infrastructure on the technical level.
Service quality levels may differ
One should not expect the service provider to report all findings from their vulnerability assessments and penetration tests, especially if they have been tasked to secure the infrastructure and related security systems or data.
This is a SOD (segregation of duties) and COI (Conflict of interest) issue of the highest levels. If a vendor must secure systems and provide third-party security risk reports, their reports must be validated with some tricks.
It is possible that when you outsource cyber security to any vendor or security professionals, their services might not meet your expectations.
Conflict of interest by selling multiple services by the same vendor
Selecting a security provider and accurate service is somewhat like window shopping. In cyber security, various services such as CREST-accredited penetration testing and vulnerability assessment, risk management including risk mitigation and third-party risk assessment, red teaming and APT assessment.
Unfortunately, all such services confuse non-IT businesses to understand their key differences. In confusion, they opt for unnecessary services and eventually spend a lot of money on the wrong services.
Nevertheless, some security solution providers are often respectful no matter how unreasonable an organisation might be as they want to be selected for the outsourcing security services project. But, still, it is hard to find a reliable vendor that could help choose the cyber security services according to the business requirement and necessities.
What parts of the information security should the organisations outsource?
This totally depends on the organisation size, finances, operations, domain, etc., because there is no one size fits all. However, based on our experiences and cyber attack trends, we suggest outsourcing following the information/cyber security services that every organisation must do regardless of its size. Data breaches are way too common these days due to a lack of security monitoring or security controls.
Cyber criminals can attack you anytime, anywhere, and you need a 24/7 radar to detect them. In this situation, outsourcing the entire security operation service or some of the functions such as security monitoring, vulnerability management and threat detection are cost-effective and allow you to leverage their expertise and skillset with your business while leaving behind the necessity of hiring a large grade of security experts and solutions.
Vulnerability Assessment & Penetration Testing (VAPT)
We are all aware of how unpatched vulnerability affects the system, network, and overall business security. Remediating vulnerabilities is not a one-time solution; you need a regular check and balance to mitigate threats. These may include networking monitoring, patching checks and related security management tasks.
This can be very challenging for you if your cyber security team is inexperienced with it. Outsourcing the vulnerability assessment or penetration testing greatly helps find flaws and prioritise them according to the most critical assets and vulnerability severity.
Security education – awareness training and testing
It is an essential service that must be delivered, no matter you want to do it in-house or outsourced as third-party security team or partially outsourced. If you are a small business or large enterprise, budgets and other constraints are the defining factors.
To upgrade your organisation’s security culture, you need to be aware of the latest threats landscape and practices, which are often challenging to manage in-house.
Third-party cyber security providers and vendors whose core function is cyber security education constantly update themselves according to threat actors’ and industry trends.
Adherence to compliance is necessary to maintain a business reputation among the industry and customers. In-house audit to meet the company’s internal regulations is good. Still, to meet the general regulation such as ISO, GDPR, Cyber Essential, etc., you must verify our effectiveness of security controls with certified security professionals.
In addition, you can outsource audits either to vendors or individual security practitioners to determine how well your organisation is complying with the regulations and standards.
Get in touch with us; as a cyber security service and solution provider, we help businesses secure their cybersphere with our extensive focus on service equality. We believe cyber security is a continuous process. We do not just report and run; instead, we provide aftercare, contextual awareness and support as a part of our engagement process. Our consulting services match your budget, business objectives and the most important element, ‘the context’.
Shahrukh, is a passionate cyber security analyst and researcher who loves to write technical blogs on different cyber security topics. He holds a Masters degree in Information Security, an OSCP and has a strong technical skillset in offensive security.