The Symbiosis Between Public Cloud and MSSPs

To the surprise of many, public cloud appears to be driving a renaissance in adoption and advancement of managed security service providers (MSSP).

For several years, the major public cloud providers have settled upon a regular rhythm of rolling out new security features for inclusion in their workload management tooling – adding new detections and alerting capabilities that, for want of a better description, are designed to help subscribers clean up an expanding corpus of horrible little mistakes that expose confidential information or make it easy for an attacker to abuse valuable resources and steal intellectual property. To my mind, this incremental rollout of embedded security features represents perhaps the single most valuable advantage of moving to the cloud.

Many of these security features are simple and non-intrusive. For example, they could alert the subscriber that they just created a publicly accessible data storage device that is using a poor administrator password, or that they’re about to spin up a virtual machine (VM) that hasn’t been patched or updated in nine months. Moving beyond alerts, the cloud security tooling could also propose (or force – if enforcing compliance mandate) that both a stronger password be used and that multi-factor authentication be applied by clicking a button or, in the case of a dated VM, auto-patch the OS and installing an updated security suite on the image. 

Getting these security basics done right and applied consistently across millions of subscribers and tens of millions of workloads has, year over year, proved that businesses operating in the public cloud are more secure than those that are solely on-premises. Combining the cloud’s security benefits with MSSP solutions unlocks even greater value, the most common of which are:

Small and medium businesses (SMB), prior to moving to the cloud, were lucky to have a couple of IT support staff who probably between them managed three or four security technologies (e.g. anti-virus, firewall, VPN, and an anti-phishing gateway). Upon moving to the cloud, the IT team are presented with 20+ default running security services and another 50+ security product options available within a single clicks reach, and are simply overwhelmed by the volume of technology presented to them and the responsibility of managing such a diverse portfolio of security products.

The move to the cloud is not the flick of a switch, but a journey. The company’s in-house security team must continue to support the legacy on-premises security technology while learning and mastering an even larger set of cloud-based security options and technologies. These teams are stretched too thin and cannot afford the time to “retrain” for the cloud.

Businesses embracing DevOps strive to optimize value and increase the pace of innovation in the cloud. Operationalizing a DevOps culture typically requires the business to re-orient their internal security team and have them master SecDevOps. As in-house security expertise focuses on SecDevOps, daily security operational tasks and incident response require additional resourcing.

Locating, hiring, and retaining security talent is becoming more difficult – especially for SMBs. Companies moving to the cloud typically either hire new security expertise to carry the organization into the cloud or retrain their smartest and most valuable in-house security talent to try to backfill those “legacy” security roles.

Traditionally, MSSPs value lay in their ability to manage a portfolio of security products that they sold to and installed into their customers’ environments. To ensure service level quality and depth of knowledge, the most successful MSSPs would be highly selective and optimize the portfolio of security products they could support.

As their customers move workloads to the public cloud, larger MSSPs are retraining their technical teams in the cloud-native security offerings from the top public cloud providers. In tandem, the MSSPs are updating their internally developed SOC, NOC, and incident handling tools to embrace the default public cloud provider’s APIs and security products. 

At the same time, MSSPs, appear to be doing better with hiring and retaining security expertise than SMBs. Not only are they able to pay higher salaries but, perhaps more importantly, they’re able to provide the career development paths not present in smaller businesses through a diverse spectrum of security challenges spread over multiple customer environments. 

The parallel growth of default public cloud security capabilities and MSSP adoption offers a solution for the dearth of entry level information security personnel and access to experienced incident responders. Combining cloud efficiencies with MSSP delivery creates advanced capabilities beyond that on-premises only defense can achieve.

Smart MSSPs are embracing cloud operations for their own optimizations and service delivery. Many are taking advantage of the built-in AI and elastic compute capabilities to provide more advanced and personalized security services to customers – without needing to scale their pool of human experts. In this way businesses embracing the efficiencies of the public cloud and on-demand security expertise gain a critical advantage in working around the shortage of security professionals.

Today we have less horses from a century ago and consequently less trained farriers but more qualified welders. As businesses move to the cloud and embrace MSSP, this will make it possible to deliver advanced capabilities that help fill entry level security requirements which account for the majority of security vacancies around the world. As result, existing defenders can work on higher level problems, enabling companies to cover more ground.

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Original author: Gunter Ollmann
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