Let’s start with the basics. What exactly is outsourcing cybersecurity? Outsourced cybersecurity is when an organization enlists the support of an outside third-party to manage a range of sophisticated security needs, including network security, operational security, application security, and information security. This can be a daunting undertaking for many companies, which is why the use of managed security service providers (MSSPs) has increased steadily since 2017 and is projected to continue growing for many years to come. By 2026, the global spending for MSSPs is expected to grow to $43.7 billion – up from $22.8 billion in 2021.
But how do you know if outsourcing the cybersecurity responsibility is right for your organization? Should you keep some cybersecurity tasks in-house while handing off specific areas to an external entity? It all depends on your unique cyber requirements, capabilities, and resources.
To help you decide what path is right for you, we’ve laid out some of the key benefits and drawbacks of outsourcing cybersecurity. Keep reading to learn about the pros and cons.
Benefits of Cybersecurity Outsourcing1. Reducing Costs and Maximizing Efficiency
If we look at the business model of an MSSP, they allocate employees and the overall cost of tools, hardware and software across multiple customers, which reduces the overall expenditure for the same level of service. As a result, your business can allocate money and resources elsewhere in the organization that cannot be handled externally.
To perform network monitoring, for example, you would need to pay for a team of people and the security solution to monitor potential threat activity both during and outside of business hours.
For SMBs, in particular, it can be game-changing to save on the costs of full-time salaried employees and the investment in IT infrastructure and equipment. That money can be used to drive business growth and increase the bottom line.
2. Cyber Expertise
In IT and cybersecurity – much like every other professional field – the tools are only as good as the technician using them. Even with the most advanced, state-of-the-art equipment, a secure environment is impossible to achieve without highly trained, skilled, experienced, and knowledgeable employees. Just like it is a college’s number one job to educate students, it is a security organization’s top priority to provide expertise on the security threats and the evolving cyber threat landscape.
When implementing an Identity and Access Management (IAM) platform, for example, like BIO-key's PortalGuard, means that your business will benefit from state-of-the-art infrastructure, best-of-breed tailored solutions, and a team of certified experts available 24/7/365 for security-critical operation of the platform.
Outsourcing cybersecurity management, however, means that you have dedicated service provider made up of cybersecurity professionals to help manage that solution, including tasks like maintaining MFA methods, connecting new Single Sign-on (SSO) apps, and helping customers set up security policies.
3. Regulatory Compliance Management
The regulatory compliance landscape – across industries – is growing increasingly complex. New laws and regulations are continuously passed and enacted, which means businesses need to continuously evolve their security protocol to remain complaint.
For example, banks and financial institutions are required to comply with a range of stringent regulations, including PCI-DSS, GLBA, and the SOX act. What’s more, they need to also be able to provide detailed reports and logs to auditors in order to demonstrate that the required security controls are in place.
In the United States, government agencies face a different set of requirements and regulations beyond mainstays – like NIST – that are just as strict. FISMA, for example, is a law that defines a framework for security standards to protect highly sensitive and classified information. In Europe, new cybersecurity directives have been enforced by way of updates to the NIS 2 Directive – legislation that establishes security requirements for public entities responsible for critical infrastructure and essential services.
These types of regulations are constantly changing, and if your policies do not evolve with them, your business could risk non-compliance. A high-quality MSSP serves as your expert in compliance management, staying abreast of industry changes to ensure your organization always remains compliant.
Risks of Cybersecurity Outsourcing1. Less Control Over Sensitive Data
When outsourcing to a third-party, the primary organization will inherently lose some control over their data and systems. In a perfect world, this doesn’t present any major issues, but in reality, any business that outsources cybersecurity makes itself vulnerable to outside third parties with access to their valuable information. As a result, the potential of a data breach or hack can drastically increase, putting your organization at risk if sensitive information becomes accessible to bad actors.
The 2020 SolarWinds attack is a prime example of this. The managed IT services firm was used by tens of thousands of high-profile customers, including Fortune 500 companies and the upper echelons of the United States government, like the Department of Homeland Security. Once the hackers were able to create a backdoor into SolarWinds’ systems, they had access to all their customers’ sensitive information.
When considering if outsourcing is the right move for your organization and its cybersecurity strategy, always keep in mind the balance between risk and risk sharing.
2. Lack of Specialization, Customization and Flexibility
Every company has unique needs and requirements when it comes to cybersecurity needs. Some may have specific products or tools in-house they prefer to use, while others may need a specialized approach due to stringent laws, regulations or requirements.
Looking at a couple access management scenarios, many industries are limited by no access the mobile devices for authentication. Contact centers, for example, do not permit the use of mobile devices for security purposes, while many government agencies have employees who simply do not want to use their personal devices for work purposes.
These are examples of specific use cases that require a flexible, specialized solution. At BIO-key, we design our products and solutions to reflect those capabilities – security solutions that work for your specific needs – but often times a third-party security firm like an MSSP will already have a cybersecurity solution in place that they use for their customers. Unfortunately, the MSSP’s product of choice may not address your business’ unique requirements.
3. Lack of Organizational Knowledge
An outsourced cybersecurity or IT professional has a singular top priority: keep the data secure. Unlike an internal employee, a cybersecurity service firm does not have a strong understanding of your organization’s business and security nuances as well as day-to-day operations. For example, your outsourced security provider would have no insight into basic activities like employee turnover or setting up new network configurations.
If your business is in a highly regulated or specialized space, this becomes a critical factor. At BIO-key, our customer success team and security experts are your partners working on the same team, working to achieve your goals. So, if you’re considering whether which pieces of your cybersecurity operations to hand off to a third-party – and if that includes IAM – keep in mind that we do more than just deploy our IAM platform, PortalGuard – we collaborate with your internal teams to understand unique organizational requirements and the environment you operate in.
The decision to outsource cybersecurity or keep it in house is multifaceted and depends on the unique environment of each individual organization. There are many factors to assess, like cost and resourcing, but at the end of the day it boils down to one core consideration: risk ownership and management. As a business, you’re putting trust in a third-party when outsourcing cybersecurity, and that level of trust needs to outweigh the risk of losing control of your highly sensitive data.
Interested in learning more about our custom IAM platform? Explore PortalGuard here.