Small business security: to MSSP or not to MSSP?

Horacio Zambrano | November 12, 2020

For most of human history, small business owners had to worry about one thing and one thing only: establishing and growing the business. Today, it is no longer the case. 
Digital transformation has changed everything, including the world of cybercrime.  

Attacks on large organizations and government entities may dominate the news, but small businesses are more vulnerable to an attack. Less than half of cyber-attacks are targeting small businesses, yet in 2018, nearly 60% of all cybercrime victims were small businesses. 

The average cost of a cyberattack is $200,000 — more than most small business owners can afford to pay. In fact, due to the high cost of cyberattacks, 60% of small companies go out of business within six months of being victimized. These are not the odds that any business owner would like to take. 

Why are small businesses so vulnerable? 

Today, in the US alone, there are 30.2 million small businessescomprising 99.9% of all businesses in the country.  But only a tiny fraction (14%) of those businesses are adequately prepared to defend themselves against cyber threats.  There are several factors contributing to this vulnerability: 

Exploding attack surface 

Modern IT infrastructures are complex and sophisticated — the amount of virtual ground that SMBs need to safeguard has grown exponentially. To make matters worse, the threat landscape is always evolving. Phishing, malware, ransomware, and user error: the potential for security breaches for SMBs is growing. 

Lack of IT staff and resources to keep up 

Off-the-shelf IT security software installed by vendors is a go-to option for many small business owners who believe that this secures their systems.
However, even the top-notch software alone can not protect against modern threats. The security infrastructures need to be constantly monitored and actively managed.  

The security threat landscape is constantly changing, and new attack tactics methods and strategies are popping up all the time. This means small businesses have to update, manage, and scale their IT security systems on an ongoing basis – a luxury most SMBs cannot afford.
With limited security expertise, resources, and budgets, small businesses find it unrealistic to focus on their cyber defenses the way they should. 

Lack of access to the latest tech 

Large enterprises are usually the most prepared for cyber attacks. They spend millions on hiring and training expert personnel and purchase the latest software and equipment. 
But for SMBs, getting access to state-of-the-art technologies directly from vendors, especially real innovative and disruptive ones, is often impossible.   

Enter MSSPs. 

Managed security vendors can effectively secure small businesses 

One way to solve the issues mentioned above is with managed security, typically by a Managed Security Service Provider (MSSP.)  MSSPs are security specialists with expertise in all aspects of cybersecurity, specializing in detecting and remediating threats on the customer’s digital infrastructure. MSPs and MSSPs are a great way to efficiently boost security for smaller organizations that cannot afford the infrastructure and expertise required to run all aspects of a modern cybersecurity array. 

Managed Security service providers remove the labor-intensive, time-consuming manual activities out the business environment and keep security up to date. With the expertise and access to the most current products and services to suit client needs, these service providers help small businesses reach a new level of efficiency. 

What is the difference between MSP and MSSP? 

There is an important difference between Managed Service Provider (MSP) selling a security product and a Managed Security Service Provider (MSSP) offering expertise and ongoing support. 

MSP is focused on technology administration 

MSPs are mainly focused on technology administration: managing roles and permissions, onboarding new employees, recording, and providing log data, and troubleshooting.  MSPs provide infrastructure, application, and network security support. But to keep data safe and secure, SMBs need to implement an MSSP. 

MSSP if focused on security and compliance 

A Managed Service Provider (MSP) ensures your IT systems are operational, but a Managed Security Service Provider (MSSP) offers true security as a service, ensuring that all the systems are safe, secure, and compliant.
MSSP provides cybersecurity monitoring and management, as well as ensuring that the business complies with the many security and privacy regulations that it must follow. This can be a huge weight off of your company and can free up your legal, and IT teams to focus on other activities to move your business forward. 

Why MSSP is the best option for small business security? 

  • Integrates with SMB tech stack
    MSSPs can handle the integration of security services, as well as other IT assets as required by the business. An MSSP will fit the package to client needs and infrastructure, which is an especially important factor for SMBs whose internal IT resources are limited.
  • Handles licensing
    MSSPs handle licensing and often can offer lower licensing costs than those available from the vendor directly. This solves a common roadblock to better security faced by many smaller companies that can’t commit directly to the vendor’s terms.
  • Manages vendor relationships
    MSSPs have a good command of new technologies and are up-to-date on the latest industry standards. They can provide good advice, and fix the most urgent issues before they become a problem.  

But maybe the biggest advantage is that MSSPs have direct relations with tech vendors. MSSPs hold more clout with vendors than any individual SMB could possibly have on its own. By maintaining close and direct contact with vendors and manufacturers, MSSPs are enabling smaller companies to get access to the best tech available. 

The case for MSSPs for SMBs 

Managed Security Services (MSSP) helps companies of all sizes solve their business problems. However, small business features, pricing, setup, and installation needs differ from businesses of other sizes. Employing a managed security service provider (MSSP) is a great option for resource-constrained SMBs. MSSPs monitor IT networks, detect threats, and manage systems that ensure up-to-date security infrastructure. 
Managed Security Service Providers provide flexibility and support and offer a cost-effective option for SMBs to supplement their current security team.
The fact that MSSPs maintain close relationships with vendors on their behalf ensures that SMBs can gain access to technologies, services, and pricing they otherwise wouldn’t possibly get such as enterprise-grade passwordless authentication and modern MFA solutions.

The majority of small businesses are underprepared to face modern security challenges. Even those with in-house IT security teams are finding it difficult to keep up. So it should come as no surprise that the MSSP market is expanding significantly, and SMBs looking to protect their business should take note.