More than 39% of organization leaders agree that cybersecurity is a key business enabler, according to the WEF Global Security Outlook Report. At the same time, the critical infrastructure industries and the public sector reported a shortage of cybersecurity professionals and skills. As a result, 81% of corporate leaders use third-party vendors to manage their cybersecurity functions, as stated in the Deloitte Report.
Outsourcing cybersecurity services is an effective way for organizations to improve their security posture and address cybersecurity talent shortages. This approach saves you money and gives access to expertise that most companies lack internally. It also allows you to focus on your revenue-generating activities. The question is, how do you find a trustworthy outsourcing cybersecurity services partner and what security functions to outsource?
Tips for finding a cybersecurity partner
To discover your perfect IT security vendor, identify your specific needs, whether it's security monitoring, incident response, compliance, or other services. Next, conduct thorough research on potential partners, comparing their services, industry experience, certifications, and reviews. Afterwards, contact shortlisted service providers to discuss their track record, incident response approach, and industry knowledge. Remember to check references from previous clients to assess their quality of work. Lastly, negotiate a contract defining services, costs, and the service level agreement. Consider the following factors when making your decision:
- Expertise and specialization: Look for a partner with experience and expertise in your industry and a deep understanding of compliance requirements. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to cybersecurity, and specialization is important.
- Comprehensive service offering: We recommend choosing a partner that can provide a wide range of cybersecurity services, from risk assessments and compliance consulting to incident response and continuous monitoring. A comprehensive approach is vital to ensure robust protection.
- Certifications and compliance: Check if your prospective IT partner holds relevant certifications and compliance with industry standards such as ISO 27001, SOC2, PCI DSS, and GDPR. It demonstrates the vendor’s commitment to best practices as they have been independently verified to meet or exceed a set of high standards.
- Reputation and references: We advise looking for references and case studies to check the partner’s performance and client satisfaction.
- Scalability: We suggest finding a provider who can expand their services as your business grows or as cybersecurity needs evolve. Flexibility is crucial to adapt to changing threats.
- Transparency: You should have clear visibility into your security posture, so look for a partner who maintains transparency in operations, reporting, and communication.
- Collaboration and communication: Our recommendation is to select a partner that can work seamlessly with your internal teams and provide regular updates on security status. Coordination and cooperation are essential for a successful cybersecurity partnership.
- Incident response: Evaluate the company’s incident response capabilities. Responding swiftly and effectively to security breaches is crucial to minimize damage.
- Cost-effectiveness: While cost shouldn't be the sole factor, ensure the vendor’s pricing aligns with your budget and offers value for the services provided.
- Long-term partnership: Consider the vendor’s potential for a long-term partnership. Since cybersecurity is an ongoing effort, look for a partner who understands the evolving needs of your business.
- Geographical considerations: Depending on your operations, consider whether the partner can provide services in the regions where you work or are planning to expand.
- Customization: Seek a partner to tailor their services to your needs. Avoid cookie-cutter solutions that may not adequately address your unique risks.
- Technology stack: Our tip is to research what technology and tools the partner uses. It is a good sign when your tech company employs up-to-date, effective cybersecurity solutions.
- Response time: Inquire your future partner about their response time for critical incidents. Minimizing the damage from data breaches requires quick action.
- Legal and compliance considerations: Review the contract terms, including data protection, liability, and exit strategies, to ensure they align with your legal and compliance requirements.
What cybersecurity tasks should you outsource?
Although retaining certain cybersecurity functions in-house, such as security strategy, policy development, and architectural design, is advisable, an array of tasks can be effectively delegated to external partners:
- Security operations centre (SOC): With cyber security consulting, traditional services have expanded to encompass outsourced security operations centres. These services have evolved to include offerings related to threat intelligence, incident response, managed detection and response (MDR) and extended detection and response (XDR). You can access many essential services when you partner with a dedicated SOC service provider. This includes expertly implementing and configuring log collection and monitoring tools, fortifying your digital defence. Your cybersecurity partner can proactively detect and divert potential threats by leveraging honeypots and deception tools. Well-defined incident response procedures establish swift and effective actions in the event of cyber incidents. Furthermore, SOC services include comprehensive threat intelligence activities, enabling the provision of actionable insights to your organization. Your company's cyberattack resilience is fortified with round-the-clock monitoring, incident detection, and rapid response services. In case of security incidents, forensic investigations help you understand the full scope of the breach and take measures to prevent future threats.
- Application security services: Outsourcing application security services can be a game-changer for organizations aiming to fortify their software and digital assets against evolving cyber threats. Companies can access a comprehensive suite of essential security services by engaging with expert providers. These include rigorous application security testing, infrastructure penetration testing, and efficient vulnerability management. Moreover, outsourcing facilitates critical activities such as security architecture review and threat modelling, equipping businesses with proactive defences. It doesn't stop there–security training for developers and tech professionals ensures a culture of security awareness. Organizations can systematically strengthen their security posture with services like security code review, dependency analysis, and security requirements management. Furthermore, expert guidance in Secure Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC) and DevSecOps practices enables businesses to embed security seamlessly into their software development processes, resulting in a robust, proactive security strategy.
- Governance and compliance: Outsourcing governance and compliance services can be a strategic move for organizations that aim to navigate the intricate web of regulatory standards. It also helps to ensure adherence to crucial frameworks such as ISO, SOC2, PCI DSS, GDPR, and HIPAA.
7 key cybersecurity frameworks to protect your business
In addition to selecting the right partner for outsourcing cybersecurity risks, adhering to the appropriate security frameworks is paramount for companies. These frameworks provide a structured and streamlined approach to cybersecurity, helping organizations establish and maintain robust security measures. By aligning their security strategies with recognized frameworks like ISO 27001, NIST cybersecurity framework, or CIS critical security controls, companies can ensure they have a comprehensive plan to protect their digital assets and sensitive data. These frameworks offer a roadmap for risk assessment, threat mitigation, and compliance with industry regulations. They enhance an organization's ability to withstand cyber threats and build trust with customers and partners.
- NIST 800-171 is a vital cybersecurity framework offering guidance on safeguarding Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI) in organizations beyond the federal government. Any sensitive but unclassified information is considered CUI, requiring confidentiality. It comprises 14 control families and 110 controls, covering areas like access control, incident response, and media protection. Compliance with NIST 800-171 is essential for organizations handling CUI, regardless of their ties to the government, to avoid penalties and loss of contracts.
- The ISO 27000 Series is a comprehensive framework for information security management systems (ISMS) introduced by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). ISO 27001 is the primary ISMS standard. It offers a systematic approach to safeguarding sensitive information, addressing risk management, asset management, and access control.
- SOC 2 which stands for Service Organization Control 2, is a framework for evaluating and reporting on the controls in place at service organizations that are relevant to the security, availability, processing integrity, confidentiality, and privacy of customer data. It is a widely recognized standard for assessing and ensuring the security and privacy of data and systems in cloud computing, Software as a Service (SaaS), and other service-oriented businesses.
- The Cloud Security Alliance's (CSA) Cloud Control Matrix (CCM) is a security framework covering access control, user authentication, encryption, audit logging, and incident response for cloud-based systems and applications. A CCM is aimed at helping organizations comply with relevant regulatory standards along the same lines as HITRUST.
- Control Objectives for Information and Related Technology (COBIT) is an IT governance and management framework. Developed by ISACA, it suits organizations of all sizes and industries and focuses on governance, risk management, and compliance.
- The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI-DSS) includes 12 requirements covering data encryption, network segmentation, access control, and vulnerability assessments.
- The Center for Internet Security (CIS) has developed a framework containing 20 prioritized actions in three categories: Basic, Foundational, and Organizational Controls. These actions enhance cybersecurity posture based on real-world threat insights. Complying with CIS Controls substantially reduces the risk of cyberattacks.
Each framework has its unique benefits and areas of focus, making them valuable tools for enhancing an organization's cybersecurity. Implementing these frameworks may require suitable software solutions to ensure compliance and security.
Mitigating the risks of cybersecurity outsourcing
Indeed, outsourcing cybersecurity services has become common for many organizations looking to bolster their digital defences and protect sensitive data. While this approach offers many advantages, such as cost-effectiveness and access to specialized expertise, it has potential pitfalls. The risks can include data breaches, loss of control, and even damage to your organization's reputation if not managed diligently. However, these issues can be mitigated with careful planning and well-thought-out risk mitigation strategies.
- Comprehensive vendor assessment: The foundation of successful risk mitigation in cybersecurity outsourcing is a comprehensive assessment of potential vendors. Your due diligence should include a deep dive into their reputation, track record, and industry certifications. Ensure that they have a proven history of delivering robust cybersecurity services and have a team of qualified experts in place. By selecting a reputable and trustworthy partner from the outset, you minimize the chances of having significant issues down the road.
- Clear contractual agreements: Robust and transparent contractual agreements are essential. You must define the scope of services clearly, set precise service level agreements (SLAs) that align with your organization's specific security needs, and establish data handling protocols. These agreements should be structured to protect your interests and define how your outsourcing cybersecurity services partner will manage, secure, and store sensitive data. Without clear contracts, misunderstandings and disputes can arise and lead to security vulnerabilities.
- Regular auditing and monitoring: The work continues once you've chosen an outsourcing partner. Continuous evaluation and oversight are crucial. Implement mechanisms for ongoing auditing and monitoring of the outsourced cybersecurity services. Regularly assess the vendor's performance, ensure they adhere to SLAs, and confirm that they consistently meet the required security standards. This proactive stance allows you to identify and address potential issues before they escalate.
- Incident response planning: Cybersecurity incidents can happen, even with the most robust defences. Collaborate with your outsourcing partner to develop a comprehensive incident response plan. This document should clearly define roles, responsibilities, and communication procedures in case of a security breach. Regularly test the plan through tabletop exercises and simulations to assess its effectiveness and readiness, ensuring that both parties are prepared to respond swiftly and effectively.
- Data ownership and recovery: Data is often at the heart of cybersecurity concerns. Specify data ownership rights and procedures in your outsourcing agreement, especially regarding data transfer in case of contract termination. Establish comprehensive data recovery procedures, including backup and restoration plans for data loss or breaches. These processes ensure that your data remains secure, even in challenging circumstances.
- Employee training and awareness: Finally, pay attention to the human element. Employee training and awareness are pivotal. Ensure that employees working with the outsourcing partner receive adequate cybersecurity training. They should fully understand their roles in maintaining security and be well-versed in best practices. Promote a culture of vigilance and cybersecurity awareness among your staff to prevent insider threats and maintain an active defence against potential risks.
In summary, while outsourcing cybersecurity services introduces potential risks, these can be effectively managed through thorough vendor assessment, clear contractual agreements, ongoing auditing and monitoring, incident response planning, defined data ownership and recovery procedures, and comprehensive employee training and awareness programs. These strategies empower organizations to leverage the advantages of outsourcing while maintaining robust cybersecurity defences.
Outsourcing cybersecurity services can be an effective way for organizations to improve their security posture and address cybersecurity talent shortages. However, it is important to choose a trustworthy and experienced cybersecurity partner.
N-iX is an ISO 9001:2008, PCI DSS, FSQS, ISO 27001 certified company. It is also a participating member of the CyberGRX Exchange and the Datadog Partner Network. Our certifications and memberships are a testament to N-ix's dedication to quality, security, and compliance. They provide our clients with peace of mind, knowing that they are partnering with a company that places a premium on delivering top-quality services while prioritizing data security and industry-specific requirements.