Due to the sensitivity of data and information and growing threats, many businesses face the dilemma of outsourcing their cybersecurity. On the one hand, an in-house cybersecurity team is safer. However, companies that outsource cybersecurity operations also enjoy many benefits, such as a unified cybersecurity strategy.
If you’re struggling to decide whether or not to outsource cybersecurity roles, we’ve written this guide to help you. We’ll discuss what outsourcing in cybersecurity means, the risks, pros, and best practices.
What Is Outsourcing in Cybersecurity?
Outsourced cybersecurity is when business leaders hire third-party Managed Security Service Providers (MSSPs) to handle their cybersecurity infrastructure. Companies outsource cybersecurity services to experienced professionals to protect sensitive business and customer data against threats such as Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS), phishing, malware-based attacks, etc.
In the past, many companies preferred using in-house cybersecurity services. While this has its perks, outsourced cybersecurity has grown in the modern business world. In fact, a Deloitte Survey showed that 99% of organizations outsource parts of their cybersecurity operations to third-party MSSPs. This is up from 47% in 2017.
The outsourced cybersecurity functions include security operations, vulnerability management, training, and insider threat detection. However, only about 0.4% outsource all their cybersecurity operations, indicating that in-house cybersecurity teams are still necessary.
Despite these numbers, outsourcing cybersecurity operations is not always the answer. The decision to hire third parties or not depends on your company's size, security threats, budget, business model, and the talents you already employ, among others.
Below, we'll look at factors you should consider before outsourcing parts of your cybersecurity operations.
To Outsource or Insource your Cybersecurity? Factors to Consider
Many companies believe their IT department can handle their cybersecurity needs. But this isn’t always true. Not only are there new cybersecurity threats daily, but emerging trends mean there is a lot to learn. This is why constant cybersecurity team training is critical.
More than 96% of Fortune 1000 companies use Cybrary to train their in-house and outsourced cybersecurity teams. There are numerous free certification courses to build and improve security skills.
As a Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) or security leader, here are the factors you must consider before outsourcing cybersecurity operations.
1. The Type of Security Threats You Face and the Cybersecurity You Need
Cybersecurity is broad and touches on different aspects, such as servers, networks, mobile devices, data, electronic systems, etc.
Before outsourcing cybersecurity services, you must understand the context in which you need IT security protection. This will help you find the right cybersecurity outsourcing company.
Popular organizational cybersecurity needs are network security, application security, operational security, information security, business continuity, disaster recovery, etc.
2. The Cybersecurity Budget
The IT security budget will determine whether you can outsource cybersecurity operations. It could also influence the quality of information security professionals you can employ.
Data breaches are costly, with an average of $4.35 million in losses, according to IBM’s 2022 report.
Performing a cost/benefit analysis will help you understand how to allocate your cybersecurity budget.
3. Confidentiality and Security
This concerns governance and operational control. You have to decide the amount of control the outsourced company will have.
Hiring third-party cybersecurity professionals mean you’ll share sensitive company information and confidential customer data. It’s essential to limit the extent of their access to only what they need to do their job.
Hence, determine the type and level of sensitive information required for the cybersecurity operations you outsource. You must also understand the cybersecurity outsourcing company's steps to guarantee the confidentiality of the information you share.
4. The Expertise of the Cybersecurity Outsourcing Company
This goes without saying, but hiring experienced professionals is necessary. It’s why most companies choose third-party MSSPs. Ensure their employees have the skills, knowledge, and expertise your company needs. Verify their certifications, track record, and if their technology stack aligns with what your company already uses.
The company must also have reliable data backup and recovery measures in place. Hiring a company that cannot provide all the services you want to outsource means you may need to hire more companies. This means sharing sensitive information with multiple third-party providers.
Outsourcing sometimes comes with communication challenges. Some issues may arise due to outsourcing your cybersecurity to a company in an off-shore location, as there will be time zone differences.
In addition, hiring a third-party MSSP may lead to communication barriers due to working with a company with a fundamentally different work ethos.
Outsourcing, in any case, carries the risk of communication breakdowns due to differences in language, culture, time, or background.
Types of Outsourced Cybersecurity Services
Here are some of the common cybersecurity services that companies outsource:
1. Threat Detection
MSSPs monitor computer systems and networks for vulnerability, suspicious activity, and intrusion attempts. They use Cybersecurity Analysts and AI tools to identify potential threats and respond quickly before they cause harm.
2. Vulnerability Management
You can outsource cybersecurity operations to help manage vulnerabilities. MSSPs do this through penetration testing to scan systems, gauge security frameworks, and proactively respond to threats.
3. Regulatory Compliance
Depending on your location and industry, you must comply with specific regulations. Cybersecurity outsourcing companies can ensure you meet these compliance requirements and avoid potential penalties.
4. Incident Response
Outsourcing cybersecurity can provide a comprehensive incident response strategy. This will limit the cyber-attack impact and help you protect the company against future threats.
5. Security Training and Awareness
You can also outsource cybersecurity training. Depending on the model, third-party MSSPs can train your internal employees on the best practices to avoid cyber threats.
Pros of Outsourcing Cybersecurity
If you want to outsource your cybersecurity operations to an MSSP, here are some benefits you should look forward to:
- Access to a Broad Range of Cybersecurity Skills and Experience: Outsourcing gives you access to top experts worldwide. Depending on your budget, you’ll have more options to choose from than would possibly be in-house. MSSPs have the essential skillsets, experience, and cutting-edge technologies to defend your security system against legacy and new threats.
- Lower Costs: In most cases, hiring outsourced professionals is more cost-effective than using your in-house team. You don't have to commit time, money, and resources to train in-house security teams or fill new positions. However, companies can still use industry-recognized cybersecurity training platforms such as Cybrary to train in-house employees to complement outsourced professionals. Choosing an MSSP can switch big parts of the cybersecurity budget from CAPEX to OPEX, providing certain accounting benefits such as predictability in the budgeting process.
- Fast Setup: When you outsource cybersecurity operations; you immediately employ experts who are already set up. As soon as the contract is signed, work begins without delay. This is especially important for companies with existing cybersecurity threats where time is of the essence.
- Reduced Stress on In-House Employees: Outsourcing parts of your cybersecurity operations reduces the workload on your in-house employees. This ensures everyone is focused on specific security functions, leading to a more secure and comprehensive cybersecurity strategy. There is a reduced chance of burnout and human error.
- Flexibility: When it's time to scale up, you might face certain cybersecurity challenges, especially when security is only managed in-house. This causes limited flexibility in adapting to organizational changes. Organizations that outsource parts of their cybersecurity needs can benefit from the ability to adapt while remaining secure quickly.
Cons of Outsourcing Cybersecurity
Outsourcing your cybersecurity operations comes at some costs. And you must know them before diving right in. Here are the disadvantages of outsourcing cybersecurity.
- Sharing Sensitive Data: It’s inevitable. If you must outsource your cybersecurity, be prepared to share sensitive business and customer data. This can create many security vulnerabilities as there’ll always be risks of losing or exposing data due to negligence.
- Third-Party Company May Manage Multiple Clients: Although a cybersecurity provider working for multiple companies will have experience, this can also be a problem. The workload can sometimes affect the quality of service. Priority is also often given to companies with bigger budgets, affecting those with modest spending.
- Less Control: Outsourcing cybersecurity processes take full control away from you. While you can limit the extent of governance or operational control the third party has, you must ensure they have enough access to be efficient.
- Different Response Times: Although most providers promise immediate response times, this isn't always the case. Companies often experience irregular responses from the providers, which can be catastrophic, especially during a cyber-attack.
Best Practices to Outsource Cybersecurity
- Verify the Provider: It's critical to vet the potential cybersecurity outsourcing company thoroughly. They must be reliable, trustworthy, and have a good track record. Ask for recommendations, and don't ignore red flags in their past.
- Ensure you Agree on Cybersecurity Approach: Not all MSSPs have the same cybersecurity approach. Do you want something tailored to your specific need? Or maybe you only require a generic cybersecurity approach to secure your information and data. Agree on the approach that suits your needs, budget, and the current framework you use.
- Confirm That There Are No Hidden Costs: Hidden costs are some of the cons most people face when outsourcing information security. Companies don't often know the full cost of hiring a provider because it's usually an approximation that depends on various factors. So, ensure that your company understands all the costs before putting pen to paper.
- Prepare a Service Level Agreement (SLA): Ensure a well-detailed Service Level Agreement (SLA). It is perhaps the most critical document in any outsourcing services contract. The SLA must cover the description of the services, the responsibilities of each party, metrics to measure success, and penalties for breach of the agreement.
Ultimately, outsourcing cybersecurity services has numerous benefits. It will help business leaders focus on aspects of their business without worrying about cybersecurity threats. If you decide to outsource cybersecurity operations, you should strive to work around the drawbacks and put the best practices in place.
The best cybersecurity strategy involves complementing in-house efforts with outsourced professionals. To ensure your employees are on the same level as experts, Cybrary provides a range of cybersecurity training. These courses cover real-world cases and hands-on learning. Learn for free now.