Managed Security Service Provider Definition

What is a managed security service provider (MSSP)?

A managed security service provider (MSSP) is a business that supplies security services, software, and/or expertise to other organizations. 

The role of the MSSP can include a wide array of cybersecurity monitoring and management services, such as virus, malware and ransomware detection, general network management, and making customizations or upgrades to the organization’s security information and event management (SIEM) platform. 

Relying on an MSSP for full-scale cybersecurity management allows organizations to maintain high levels of security without accepting the large overhead costs of an in-house team. They operate through a security operations center (SOC) to provide superior cybersecurity expertise and 24/7 access and monitoring. 

Roles of the MSSP

Each MSSP can provide different areas of expertise and select different tools and software to utilize. Regardless, the MSSP will establish an information security program unique to their area of expertise. The typical approach will include: 

  1. Identifying a suitable framework that will serve as the basis for the organization’s cybersecurity program 
  2. Establishing a security measurement process 
  3. Performing a risk assessment to add context for the compliance framework 
  4. Identifying risk gaps across the organization and establishing priorities for addressing their findings 
  5. Implementing or enhancing an employee training and education program, if one does not already exist 

This approach will reveal the critical projects needed to secure an organization's network while also helping both teams look ahead to the upcoming priorities and help the MSSP identify proactive opportunities to improve the organization’s security posture.

The difference between an MSSP and an MSP

Modern MSPs typically offer services like IT system maintenance, implementation, and deployment. Many modern MSPs are increasing the value they provide by including foundational cybersecurity offerings, but their scope or focus is much narrower than that of an MSSP.  These modern MSPs are often referred to as MSP+Security or simply MSP+. 

Organizations can work with both an MSP and MSSP to address needs across their IT and security teams. Smaller organizations may also turn to an MSP+ to gain the performance and administration capacities of an MSP with a slightly greater level of security. 

While the MSSP operates through an SOC, the MSP operates through a network operations center (NOC.) The SOC structure results in MSSPs focusing solely on security processes and software, allowing them to staff their teams with a high level of cybersecurity expertise. 

Narrowing the cybersecurity skills gap to build your MSSP  

The increased interest in cybersecurity expertise is relevant both to the MSPs own business and to better serving their customers. However, the growing skills gap in the cybersecurity industry presents a challenge for those looking to ramp up their practice. 

Of MSPs that we’ve surveyed, 95% feel that cybersecurity certifications are important to their business. However, a shocking 67% are not confident that they can defend against a cyberattack today. 

While an MSP can’t reach MSSP status by simply broadening their security offerings or adding new software to their suite, they can enhance their capabilities to better meet the current security demand. 

MSPs can level up their cybersecurity expertise by introducing a governance, risk management or incident management program. Additionally, MSPs can help their customers define their security architecture within the processes they manage.

Did you know?

The MSSP market is projected to grow from USD 31.6 billion in 2020 to USD 46.4 billion by 2025, compound annual growth rate of 8%. 


Additional resources

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