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What is a Managed Security Services Provider? An MSSP 101 Guide

By: Mary Beth Hamilton

How to Choose MSSP

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Each year MSSP Alert lists the Top 250 MSSPs and we can only imagine the number of submissions they receive is far greater than that. Managed Security Services Providers (MSSPs) have become increasingly popular as the threats posed by cybercriminals grow in scale and sophistication.

So, what is an MSSP, and what do they do? In simple terms, an MSSP is an organization that takes care of businesses’ security-related needs, such as threat detection, risk assessment, and incident response. An MSSP works by remotely monitoring a company’s IT security systems and providing ongoing management to detect and mitigate cybersecurity threats.

The primary goal of an MSSP is to provide a proactive approach to cybersecurity to prevent potential vulnerabilities from being exploited. This is done through extensive risk assessments, continuous monitoring of networks, and the implementation of advanced security solutions include MDR and SIEM.

An MSSP can also help businesses stay compliant with various security standards such as HIPAA or PCI DSS. Compliance can be a time-consuming and challenging task for businesses, but an MSSP can help to make sure that companies meet all necessary requirements.

Types of Services Offered by an MSSP

Risk Assessment

A risk assessment is an essential component of any cybersecurity strategy and serves to identify the risks that an organization faces and evaluate the likelihood of those risks materializing. Once the risk assessment is complete, a roadmap to mitigate the risks and prevent potential attacks should be created.

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Threat Detection and Response

One of the most critical services that an MSSP provides is managed threat detection and response. While an organization may have a firewall and other security measures in place, a layered approach to security is critical for protection. In the realm of MSSP services, it is common to hear the acronyms EDR, XDR and MDR. Understanding the differences between Endpoint Detection & Response, Extended Detection and Response and Managed Detection and Response is key to ensuring your organization’s security posture aligns with stakeholder expectations.

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Incident Response

Incident response is the process of managing and controlling the impact of an event that affects an organization. An incident may be a breach, malware, ransomware, or any other occurrence that poses a risk to an organization’s data, systems, and network availability. Resolving and remediating after a cybersecurity incident can be a large undertaking. By working with an MSSP, you can reduce the burden and focus on what your organization does best.

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Vulnerability Management

Vulnerability management is a proactive process that aims to identify, classify, and mitigate vulnerabilities across an organization’s systems, applications, and networks. Vulnerability management services can include vulnerability scanning, penetration testing, and remediation advice. These services are designed to help an organization identify and fix vulnerabilities before they can be exploited by attackers.

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Compliance Management

The continuously evolving regulatory landscape at the government and industry level are another regions many organizations consider relying on a managed cybersecurity partner. From HIPAA, PCI DSS, and GDPR, to CMMC and SEC regulations the list is long.  Compliance management is one of the essential services MSSPs offer to help organizations stay compliant with industry regulations.

Identity and Access Management

Identity and access management service provides robust and secure access control across an organization’s IT infrastructure. Identity and access management solutions include multi-factor authentication (MFA), password management, and user privilege management. These solutions are often designed to work in conjunction with an organization’s existing security measures like firewalls and antivirus software.

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Benefits of Using an MSSP for Security Management

Enhanced Security Posture

MSSPs offer a holistic approach to security management that covers all aspects of cyber-security. They provide 24/7 monitoring, threat detection, and incident response to help businesses respond quickly to any security incidents.

Access to Security Expertise

MSSPs employ a team of security professionals who are trained in the latest threat detection and response techniques. These experts have the knowledge and experience needed to identify potential security breaches and take corrective action to prevent them from occurring. By partnering with an MSSP, businesses can access this expertise without having to invest in expensive in-house security teams.

Cost-Effective Solution

Partnering with an MSSP is a cost-effective solution for businesses that want to enhance their security posture. MSSPs offer flexible pricing models that can be tailored to suit businesses of all sizes. This allows businesses to benefit from the expertise of security professionals without having to invest in expensive hardware and software solutions.

Enhanced Business Continuity & Resilience

Disaster recovery and business continuity must be tightly integrated to enable organizations to be resilient. No longer can they be siloed. Five key reasons to ensure your DR and cybersecurity teams are tightly integrated and routinely collaborating are:

  • Streamlined planning and strategy
  • Improved communication and collaboration
  • Enhanced incident response
  • Cost savings and resource optimization
  • Improved risk assessment and management

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Tips on Choosing the Right MSSP for Your Organization’s Needs

We’ll leave you with some tips on choosing the right MSSP for your organization’s needs.

Determine Your Security Needs

Infographic on How to Choose the Right MSSP
Infographic How to Choose the Right MSSP

By conducting a thorough risk assessment to identify the areas of your organization that are most vulnerable to security breaches. This will help you to identify the type of security services that you require. For instance, if your organization handles sensitive data, you may require advanced security solutions such as intrusion detection and prevention, data loss prevention, and advanced threat analytics. By understanding your security needs, you’ll be better placed to select an MSSP that can provide customized solutions that meet your specific requirements.

Check the MSSP’s Security Expertise

An MSSP’s security expertise is a critical factor to consider when choosing an MSSP. Ensure that the MSSP has experience in securing the type of data and applications that your organization uses. Inquire about the MSSP’s expertise in specific security areas such as network security, application security, cloud security, and compliance regulations. Check if the MSSP is certified in relevant security standards such as ISO 27001, PCI-DSS, or SOC 2, among others.

Evaluate the MSSP’s Technology and Infrastructure

A reliable MSSP should have robust technology and infrastructure to deliver security services to your organization. Evaluate the MSSP’s security operations center (SOC) to determine if it has adequate security monitoring tools and methodologies. Check if the MSSP has invested in the latest security technologies to ensure robust protection against cyber threats and if they regularly publish security alert digests.

Consider the MSSP’s Response and Reporting Capabilities

When a security breach happens, time is of the essence. Hence, it’s crucial to choose an MSSP with fast response times and clear reporting capabilities. Check the MSSP’s response time in their service level agreement (SLA) and compare it with other MSSPs. Inquire about their incident management and reporting processes to ensure that you’ll receive prompt notifications and detailed reports during a security breach. Furthermore, check their communication channels to ensure that they’re responsive and easy to access.

Verify the MSSP’s Compliance with Regulations

Regulations such as GDPR, HIPAA, and CCPA have strict guidelines on how organizations should protect their data. Ensure that the MSSP is conversant with the regulations that govern your organization’s industry. Inquire if the MSSP has a compliance team that’s proficient in the relevant regulations. Additionally, check if the MSSP conducts regular compliance audits to ensure that they remain compliant with the latest regulations.

Consider the MSSP’s Cultural Fit

Beyond technical considerations, it’s important to find an MSSP that shares your organization’s values and culture. Consider factors such as the MSSP’s communication style, their willingness to collaborate with your IT security team, and their commitment to transparency and accountability.

The Future of MSSPs & What to Expect

According to Gartner’s Emerging Trends: Future of Security Services report, by 2026, more than 50% of service providers will have realigned portfolios to deliver use-case-based outcomes.

Here are some trends to watch in the realm of cybersecurity services.

  1. Increased Automation and Artificial Intelligence
  2. Shift to a Holistic Security Approach
  3. Human-Centric Security Design (source: Gartner)
  4. Emphasis on Incident Response and Threat Hunting
  5. Collaboration between MSSPs and Internal Security Teams
  6. Cybersecurity Validation (source: Gartner): Through 2026, more than 40% of organizations, including two-thirds of midsize enterprises, will rely on consolidated platforms to run cybersecurity validation assessments.
  7. Boards Expand Their Competency in Cybersecurity Oversight (source: Gartner)

Read Gartner’s full Top Cybersecurity Trends for 2023 report here.

Ready to find an MSSP?

Look no further than Dataprise.

  • Managed Detection & Response (MDR): Get 24/7 fully managed protection to detect, investigate, and respond to threats rapidly.
  • How Dataprise MDR Works: Detect threats and quickly respond to security incidents with 24/7 monitoring, detailed analysis, and access to global security alerts
  • Security Assessments: Achieve your business security goals with in-depth cybersecurity assessments that informs your strategic plan of action for reaching critical milestones.


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