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Want to Start Your Own MSSP? Here’s a Checklist

Cybersecurity threats are constantly evolving. It’s absolutely necessary for businesses with internal or external networks to run intrusion detection and prevention systems, antivirus solutions with advanced malware detection heuristics, vulnerability monitoring, ensure regulatory compliance and maintain security information and event management systems.

But not all organizations have the resources to conduct those sorts of security services in-house. More and more companies are moving at least part of their network to the cloud so that they don’t have to deal with the expense and hassle of having everything physically on-premises. With all of this, many companies also need a managed security service provider.

Table of Contents

    All About MSSPs

    What is an MSSP? An MSSP is a third-party network service provider which offers security services to their clients 24 hours a day, 7 days per week. A managed security services provider requires constant uptime.

    As a managed security services provider, it is necessary to provide your clients with:

    • Monitored firewalls
    • Sophisticated antivirus solutions (which include heuristics for detecting zero-day exploits and fileless malware)
    • Patch management
    • Intrusion detection systems
    • Security assessments
    • Audits
    • Data to assure regulatory compliance

    Managed security services also include vulnerability management, incident response, and feeding logs into a SIEM. (SIEM will be explained further on.)

    MSSP Checklist

    Your MSSP clients will each have unique internal networks, cloud networks, and configurations. They may operate in a variety of different industries, which can mean different regulatory requirements and different cyberattack threats.

    To be successful at providing managed security, you will have to understand your clients’ specific needs and be ready to fulfill them.

    Here’s a list for MSSPs to get started in determining what their clients need, and how to get safeguards and controls implemented from the customer's business perspective:

    1. Understanding Clients’ Goals and Objectives

    Your clients will each have very different needs, and what their stakeholders and customers expect from their business will also be a bit different according to their industry and what they do. Are they a retailer with a point-of-sale system? Do they provide online video gaming services and require server capacity and bandwidth for a certain number of players? Are they an insurance company that needs to maintain a certain data storage capacity for keeping their records, and extra safeguards for keeping very sensitive data private?

    2. Mapping Infrastructure for Pain Points

    Their network may be entirely on-premises, in the cloud, or they may have a hybrid cloud. Your MSSP clients may have data centers in multiple physical locations, whether on-premises or through third parties (they’ll have different types of server and client machines). They may integrate IoT (Internet of Things) and mobile devices, and perhaps have a bring-your-own-device policy. Maybe they have corporate-managed notebook PCs which they allow employees to take home with them.

    They may have different types of networking appliances, network configurations, different amounts of bandwidth, different types of network segmentation, or different sorts of network topographies. Their pain points are often the aspects of network security management that are the greatest challenges. Are they drowning in network logs without enough analysis? Do cyber attacks penetrate their firewalls? Are user account management and permissions a hassle? Are their intrusion prevention systems outdated? Find out what they’ve been dealing with before considering you as a potential managed security service provider.

    Why do they need you at this point?

    3. Risk Acceptance

    Absolutely nothing is completely secure from a cyber attack. Sometimes implementing cybersecurity measures in a certain way can hurt functionality. You may need to conduct a risk assessment that’s catered to client’s specific needs. As a managed IT security services provider you need to figure out what your clients willing to lose and what they won’t be able to take. Make an inventory of their computing assets and also understand how regulations that pertain to them may affect what amount of risk they’re allowed.

    4. Threats and Vulnerabilities Classification

    This will require some security testing, auditing, and assessments.

    5. Metrics

    Once you understand the degree of risk they can allow and what their particular cybersecurity threats and vulnerabilities are, you can then establish metrics and monitoring to measure the effectiveness of your clients’ safeguards.

    You’ll need to conduct risk assessment by transferring, mitigating, or accepting residual risk. That process may have to be repeated every so often because business needs, regulations, and technologies change over time.

    Tools MSSPs Need

    As a managed IT security services provider, there are specific types of software that you’ll be expected to deploy. Let’s have a look at the most important types of applications that you’ll need to have:

    SIEM

    SIEM is a must.

    SIEM is an acronym for security information and event management.

    SIEM software integrates into the various security appliances in your client’s network to make sense of what’s going on. Data is acquired from the operation of your client’s network, and SIEM will let you as a managed security services provider know which events you’ll need to pay attention to in order to keep your client’s network secure.

    Client and server computers, intrusion detection and intrusion prevention devices, firewalls, routers, antivirus, and other components in your customer’s network should be generating event logs on a constant basis. Those logs should be fed into your SIEM, where specifically configured correlation rules are used to determine if something happens that a human being must pay attention to. Often, indications of a cyber attack can receive a much quicker response when SIEM software provides a notification. The most wide-known SIEM providers are AlienVault, Splunk, and EventTracker.

    Antivirus Software

    Malware is one of the most significant types of security threats, and you as an MSSP should be able to provide an enterprise-grade antivirus solution for your clients. Antivirus software will be running on your customers’ endpoints and server computers, and possibly on some of their networking appliances as well, such as routers. Signatures and heuristics are deployed for malware detection. Popular enterprise antivirus providers include Cylance, Sophos, and Symantec.

    Endpoint Security Tools

    There are also different types of endpoint security tools that MSSPs may be expected to offer. They include antivirus interfaces for clients, event monitoring, vulnerability detection, and monitoring of network interfaces, among other functions. Some endpoint security tool vendors include Comodo, Sentinel One, and Cybereason.

    Backup and Disaster Recovery

    A client may need you to deploy a backup and disaster recovery solution. A BDR solution includes different types of data backup systems, so if something like a cyber attack or natural disaster damages some of your client’s physical data storage, they have redundant data backup in different physical locations. 

    Email Firewall

    Email is vital to business, including that of your MSSP clients. You might have to deploy email firewalls to keep those vital systems safe from cyber attack. Some email firewall vendors include Cisco, McAfee, and Fortinet. If you are looking for a secure email firewall tool, you may also find our email firewall comparison article helpful.

    Password Management Tools

    Insecure passwords are a major vulnerability that cyber attackers can exploit to acquire unauthorized access to computer systems. You may need to help provide your clients with a password management solution to ensure that stronger passwords are used for better security. Some popular password managers are 1Password, Centrify, and Dashlane.

    Application Whitelisting Tools

    Application whitelisting can compliment an antivirus solution to assure that only authorized software can be used in your client’s network. Applications which aren’t whitelisted might be malicious. Some application whitelisting vendors include Airlock, Bitdefender, and Lumension.

    MSP Software

    MSP (managed service provider) software can have lots of different functions. It can include remote monitoring management (RMM), professional services automation (PSA), account management, asset management, and backup and patching automation. Some popular MSP software vendors are SolarWinds, ManageEngine, and others.

    Conclusion

    With the right software, infrastructure, qualified security practitioners, and responsiveness to your client’s needs, you can be a successful managed security services provider. There is a great need for MSSPs because of the costs and various demands associated with digital security in today’s cyber climate.

    Businesses across industries will rely on your service to operate with constant uptime and frequent communication in order to help keep them secure according to their unique needs.

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    About the author

    Kim Crawley is an infosec news junkie and cybersecurity writer. She works as a Contributing Writer at Bora and publishes on a variety of security blogs. You can follow her on Twitter @kim_crawley