Cybersecurity operations aim to protect an organization's websites, data, databases, and communication channels but a Security Operations Center (SOC) should also defend an organization's business processes.
Having a SOC in-house gives an organization complete control over security incidents monitoring. With an internal SOC, an organization can tailor the security operations to better meet the needs and requirements of the different departments and teams. These advantages come at a cost and a growing number of organizations tend to outsource their security operations to managed security services providers (MSSPs) that operate SOCs in the cloud.
SOC Outsourcing Decision is Business-Critical
There are two ways for an organization to build and manage its cybersecurity operations: in-house or outsourcing to a third party. Thus, the choice between an in-house SOC and the use of an outsourced one is a business-critical decision to make.
Over half of the organizations take advantage of IT security outsourced advice and consulting services, industry reports show.
IT Security Services Organizations Outsource to Third Parties
These organizations are taking advice from security companies on how to build and manage their own cybersecurity defenses i.e. they mostly rely on internally managed cybersecurity operations.
On the other hand, between 49% and 38% of organizations outsource IT security services related to threat detection and monitoring, incident response, threat intelligence and security risks remediation. We can make an informed guess that most of these organizations are outsourcing all the services a SOC performs to a third party.
The growing complexity of cyber threats is driving the trend toward outsourcing one or more of an organization's security operations for over a decade. The strategic choice between an internal and an outsourced SOC involves many factors to consider and the right choice may have crucial consequences as malicious code penetrating a business system now can ruin an entire business. Hence, when an organization decides to opt for outsourcing their IT security operations, the top management should thoroughly assess all the ensuing benefits and drawbacks.
Pros of SOC Outsourcing
The cost of the adoption and maintenance of a complex SOC center is prohibitive for the overwhelming majority of small- and medium-sized enterprises. The same is true for finding the required IT talent to build and run a SOC that meets the ever-increasing IT security requirements. Another major challenge before organizations is to cope with the often-conflicting interests of the teams and departments across their organizational structure.
Get Cybersecurity Skills Immediately
Opting for an external SOC solves those problems by taking advantage of a tendering process during which enables an organization to select a service provider offering competitive pricing and get access to a pool of skilled cybersecurity experts.
By conducting an independent cybersecurity audit, an MSSP identifies the specific security gaps and balances the interests of all stakeholders, which prevents conflict of interests across the organization’s departments.
The major benefit of hiring external cybersecurity experts is that those specialists are immediately available with all their expertise in securing similar environments and their access to cyber-threat monitoring and research databases.
Ease of Implementation and Scalability
Adoption of an in-house SOC is both costly and hard to implement as modern-day security operations must deal with overly complex IT infrastructures and sophisticated cyber threats. A SOC should defend the immediate organization’s perimeter but also remote locations and mobile devices connecting to the network, which is quite challenging when a growing number of employees are working from home offices.
Scalability is another problem with in-house SOCs, as the organization should invest heavily and continuously in expanding and updating the hardware and software tools required to support an acceptable level of cybersecurity. That is why you get a markedly better return on investment (ROI) when your organization contracts an external SOC.
Uninterrupted and Guaranteed Service
Cyber threats and bad actors do not sleep, and automated malicious tools are scanning for network vulnerabilities day and night. Maintaining 24/7 cybersecurity operations requires additional team members while immediate threat response is mandatory to quarantine a threat and prevent it from spreading across your networks.
A managed security service provider grants you peace of mind by running a 27/7/365 SOC and by sticking to a service level agreement (SLA) that defines the scope and delivery of the service.
The SLA (Service Level Agreement) also guarantees that an organization gets all the required software updates and patches as they become available or countermeasures against a new threat are ready to implement.
Access to Threat Intelligence
Cyber threats are evolving faster than the tools to counter them, so an advanced SOC should provide both pro-active cyber defenses and threat intelligence, including research and protection against unknown threats.
Only a company specializing in cybersecurity services can afford to support a threat intelligence department that effectively finds and detects all kinds of new malicious code. By adopting an external SOC solution an organization gets access to a threat intelligence team that relies not only on internal research but has access to up to date threat databases and tools for exchange of information between the members of the global community of cybersecurity experts.
Save on Overall Cybersecurity Costs
The initial investment to build a SOC and the ensuing costs are quite burdening for the average organization. Estimates are that an enterprise would need to spend double to support an efficient SOC internally as compared to outsourcing its cybersecurity operations. An MSSP (Managed Security Services Provider) can take advantage of the economy of scale, which in turn means your organization benefits from reduced operational costs.
The costs for outsourcing your SOC activities account under operating expenses (OPEX), and not capital expenses (CAPEX), which makes those expenses easier to budget.
Major Pros and Cons of SOC Outsourcing
Outsourced SOC Advantages
Outsourced SOC Disadvantages
Easier to budget and manage costs
Storing data outside the organization’s perimeter
Immediate access to cybersecurity experts
No dedicated IT security team
Scalability and flexibility
Possible compatibility and reversibility problems
Threat intelligence and access to multiple threat research databases
Limited knowledge of the organization’s specific business
No conflicts across the organization's departments
Limited customization options
Easy to scale up
Tiered pricing and service levels
Cons of SOC Outsourcing
The noticeable disadvantages of outsourcing your SOC mostly relate to the MSSP’s abilities to perform a thorough assessment of your existing IT infrastructure and properly analyze your needs concerning your business niche and operations.
Little Knowledge of the Business
External SOCs usually service multiple enterprise-grade clients, which makes it hard for an MSSP to devote dedicated experts to each organization. Client organizations share the available SOC resources such as cybersecurity experts, threat databases, threat response and research teams as well as the SOC’s IT infrastructure.
A risk exists that the service provider would miss possible gaps in your cybersecurity systems or would not fully understand the organization’s business processes and procedures to protect them properly.
Threat Data and Analysis Are Stored Externally
Evidently, most of the data collected from the monitoring of the organization's business systems and networks are stored at the external SOC and outside the organization's perimeter.
Such a practice possesses risks of both data leaks and data loss if the SOC’s own cyber defenses are compromised or if you part ways with the service provider.
While you can usually keep track of threat alerts in-house, most of the data is processed outside the perimeter, which limits your ability to store and analyze extended historical data about detected threats and possible data breaches.
Interoperability and Customization
An external SOC rarely offers complete customization of the services on offer as they are shared among multiple customers. The limited customization options can result in reduced efficiency across the organization’s departments and inability to properly protect certain endpoints, networks, and communication channels.
Interoperability is another possible risk as the bulk part of the large MSSPs rely on proprietary cybersecurity solutions, which suffer from compatibility issues. Adoption of a particular business system might be impossible with some MSSPs while conflicts with other security platforms may occur.
Tiered SOC Service
An MSSP offers tiered services most of the time. What it means for your organization is that you may start cheap, but the costs may increase as your organization grows and your security needs grow accordingly.
After looking at the pros and cons of outsourcing your SOC, you will realize that an organization needs to find a balance between in-house cybersecurity operations and outsourcing to a third party.
It is good to keep at least some IT security operations in-house to benefit from proper security information and event management (SIEM) and keep it in line with your IT infrastructure.
Some organizations take a mixed approach by using an external SOC only during the period in which they are building their own security operations center. In any case, once an organization outgrows the stage of starting up its business, it needs to choose between developing its own centralized cyber-defenses and opting for an external SOC.
If you are considering hiring and outsourced SOC and reputable MSSP, contact us today for a no-cost consultation.