Deciding Between MDR or MSSP? Here’s What You Need to Know

The frequency of security breaches has increased by 68% since 2020, according to the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC). Additionally, with IBM revealing the average data breach now costs £3.93 million, organizations must keep on top of their cybersecurity defenses more than ever before.

When breaches occur, you need to be prepared. To that end, the ability to shift from normal operations to emergency mode is something that a managed security service provider (MSSP) or managed detection and response (MDR) provides. Your business can handle cybersecurity in various ways, but in many cases, the best option is to outsource the responsibility to professionals.

Dedicated services are heavily-equipped to deal with the constantly evolving cybersecurity environment. This includes the latest software, tools and resources, as well as the most efficient industry practices.

While some companies choose to work with an MSSP, others will opt for an MDR service. These are two of the most common options for businesses that allow organizations to outsource their cybersecurity requirements to a third-party provider.

What is the Difference Between MSSP and MDR?

For any business, deciding between managed cybersecurity solutions inevitably leads to one decision – MDR or MSSP. Both services come with their unique benefits. However, their differences are commonly misunderstood despite the fact they offer quite different value propositions.

What is an MSSP?

MSSPs started in the late 1990s as remote firewall management, conducted by a company’s internet service provider (ISP). Since then, they’ve evolved to encompass many aspects of security to become a more complete package.

An MSSP provides outsourced security services which include the monitoring and management of devices and systems. This will often include intrusion detection, firewall management and vulnerability scanning. Additionally, it will manage network access, meaning unauthorized individuals won’t be able to access your network, systems or sensitive information.

Working with security experts means your own IT team will be freed up for other projects to support and expand your business. The MSSP professionals collect information from your network and significantly decrease the chance of your organization falling victim to a cyberattack.

What is MDR?

An MDR is also a third-party cybersecurity service but it acts more like an internal security team. Providers offer detection and response solutions, with a more extensive reach within your network. They specialize in responding to threats, as opposed to just alerting you of them.

Implementing a blend of human expertise and technology, a managed detection and response team remotely monitors endpoints within your systems. If your business were to suffer a cyberattack, the MDR would either contain or remove the threat, before restoring the affected infrastructure.

What Are The Main Differences Between MDR and MSSP?

MSSPs operate as an extension of your IT department, providing continuous security monitoring, intrusion detection, risk assessment and threat intelligence.

You can think of an MSSP as an extension of your current IT team. Building a team of cybersecurity experts can be daunting and expensive, so gaining the competence of highly trained professionals is invaluable.

On the other hand, MDR services focus on responding to threats, rather than preventing them entirely. These solutions are less reliant on automation and are centered on live agents monitoring your network.

An MDR provider will often include more forensic tools in their service, reaching deep into your infrastructure to uncover problems hiding in the darkest corners. If an MSSP is an extension of your team, an MDR is replacing it entirely and fully outsourcing your cybersecurity measures.

Should You Use an MDR or MSSP for Cybersecurity?

Cybersecurity professionals are often overwhelmed by false positive results when monitoring networks for threats. In fact, data from Cisco showed that 43% of organizations claim to have experienced false positive alerts in 20% of cases and a further 15% report that over half of their threats turn out to be false.

To avoid this, an MSSP implements highly specialized technology to identify real threats, highlighting them for further investigation. This kind of software is extremely expensive to purchase and implement and requires in-depth expertise to use effectively.

While an MDR is great for finding existing threats within your infrastructure, the longer a threat continues, the more damage it can cause. MSSPs focus on preventative measures to ensure threats don’t make it into your network in the first place.

MDR services are considered to be a mix of technology and human expertise. Professionals sift through data to uncover threats and respond to ongoing incidents to help prevent future attacks.

However, this isn’t to say that MSSP solutions are devoid of human input. Most reputable providers will supplement you with an incident commander, responsible for drawing on various resources to provide targeted support, no matter the type of threat.

Overall, both services are viable options for businesses looking to bolster their cybersecurity protection. For those looking to save money and divert their resources to other areas, you might consider an MSSP.

How to Choose Between MSSP and MDR

The decision between an MSSP and MDR depends on your specific circumstances. Realistically, the division of one versus the other is not always as clear as we’d like.

For example, if your business doesn’t have a fully-staffed Security Operations Center (SOC) providing around-the-clock support, an MSSP is the best starting point to cover your bases. If a service doesn’t offer non-stop security, it’s worth shopping around for one that does.

Moreover, some MDRs offer preventative measures, while some MSSPs offer incident response services. The market for cybersecurity is competitive and, as such, you’ll have to prioritize your business needs to ensure you make the right choice.

What Security Outcomes Are You Looking to Achieve?

The choice you make is heavily contingent on the nature of the response you want from a provider. If your business has strict privacy policies, you may only want a third party to alert your IT department to threats.

You can benefit from fast response times and automated tasks, but would need in-house cybersecurity professionals to action any threats.

If your needs align with this, it’s best to opt for an MSSP. This doesn’t mean you necessarily have minimal security requirements, but you’re looking for a more preventative approach. Security professionals will keep you protected against threats, as well as attract and retain promising cybersecurity talent to keep up with the latest trends and reinforce your defensive measures.

Alternatively, you might wish to work with a provider that actively seeks out threats and isolates parts of your network until they’re neutralized. This way, your in-house team are able to identify the threat  and your outsourced security provider won’t need authorization for threat hunting.

This requires extensive access to your infrastructure and any bad decisions could interrupt operations and increase the risk of a data breach. In this case, an MDR could be more suited, especially if you have very specific requirements surrounding threat hunting.

What Type of Data Protection and Monitoring is Offered?

With an MDR, all of your data protection and monitoring is outsourced to a team of professionals. The process is largely automated, but the experts will step in to address any potential cybersecurity threats to your business. This will increase your readiness to tackle security issues, as well as build resilience.

Generally, a provider will tailor their services to provide a package that works for your business, rather than offer a standard service.

An MSSP alleviates the need for multiple cybersecurity personnel within your business. Overall, the service covers a larger range of issues and offers a wider perspective on the readiness of your company to deal with threats.

An MSSP implements measures like penetration testing, firewalls, patching and responding to emergencies. Your security is monitored around the clock using multiple solutions that most businesses couldn’t afford or implement otherwise.

What Type of Expertise is on Staff and Available to Customers?

Businesses that work with an MDR benefit from a sophisticated technology stack, fine-tuned to provide proactive threat detection, investigation and mitigation. These services are backed by incident response experts, who proactively engage with company data. Moreover, an MDR offers remote response investigation to customers, including investigating and containing cybersecurity threats instead of just alerting organizations to them.

It’s a myth that an MSSP is fully automated. In actuality, providers have teams of professionals who collaborate to appraise a company’s security landscape. This involves understanding weaknesses and researching the most effective industry practices and security threats.

Additionally, an MSSP will evaluate the likelihood of your business violating regulations, like PCI DSS, and formulate a plan to keep you within the guidelines. Furthermore, cybersecurity specialists constantly perform advanced threat detection on your security infrastructure. Staff are full-time and are often available to clients outside regular business hours, meaning you can rely on fast response times.

What is Endpoint Detection and Response?

Endpoint detection and response (EDR) is a separate branch of cyber threat protection, focusing specifically on responding to incidents on the endpoint. Generally, this involves professionals monitoring devices and recording endpoint events. This data is sent back to a central operations center, prompting investigation and analysis.

EDR is efficient, but limited, as it ignores threats on anything other than an endpoint. Fortunately, more reputable MSSP providers incorporate MDR, EDR and anti-data exfiltration offerings within their own products, further increasing the appeal of a full-service cybersecurity solution.

Choosing The Right Service For Your Business

Does your in-house IT team consist of cybersecurity masters, monitoring and defending your infrastructure at all times? For almost any business, the answer is no. To address this, you can outsource your security requirements to an external provider. In turn, they will develop a multi-layered security infrastructure to provide you with a non-stop, world-class defense against cybercrime.

What is More Cost-Effective, MDR or MSSP?

Managed security solutions like MDR and MSSP provide a much superior cost-to-benefit ratio than the alternative, which would be to hire an in-house team. With flexible plans, there are plenty of pricing models available from most providers, allowing for a service that is truly personalized for your business.

The actual costs for either service will depend largely on the complexity and size of your business, what services you need and the provider’s pricing structure. Consider MSSP and MDR blanket terms, covering a wide variety of specific cybersecurity tools. The greater your infrastructure and number of digital assets, the higher your quote will be.

Each provider has its own pricing model, which is often the significant determinant of total cost. You can generally expect the following options:

  • Price per unit – based on your hardware capacity
  • Price per user – great for stable organizations with low staff turnover
  • Flexible pricing – used for a unique service package
  • Bundled pricing – benefits companies that have repetitive security needs
  • Flat fee pricing – all-encompassing, without the need to reassess the budget each month
  • Monitoring only – the most cost-effective, additional support will require extra fees

How Do You Know if Your MSSP is Equipped to Support You Through a Breach?

To establish a position where your MSSP can protect you against, or support you through, a breach, they have a responsibility to get to know your business. A reputable provider will start by having you fill out some templates and questionnaires before you sign up to their service.

However, the best providers will continue to understand you. This includes capturing information from you to populate their own portfolio on your business. The benefit of this is that the MSSP will then be able to tailor alerts and tune the overall service to suit your needs, filtering out harmless traffic and focusing on real threats.

Additionally, a good MSSP will be able to conduct tabletop exercises, which you and your provider will run through you in the same room. It’s best to do this physically, rather than on the phone so the expert can better understand your pain points. You might consider asking your MSSP some of the following questions to assess how prepared they will be in an emergency situation:

  • What processes do you have in place?
  • Can you provide customized tabletop exercises? If not, what template scenarios do you have?
  • Will you be present during the exercises, or will they take place over the phone?
  • What is your typical incident response time?
  • Will I have a team of cybersecurity experts?

Why Do You Need Managed Security Services?

Businesses often find that working with a managed security services provider has a plethora of benefits. The money you’ll save in reduced training, staffing and investment costs is one of the largest appeals. To name just a few, some of the other advantages of working with an MSSP or MDR include:

  • Having more time to focus on your business
  • Accessing highly specialized tools and expertise
  • Benefitting from fast response times and effective guarantees
  • Reducing time spent dealing with false alerts
  • Improving overall infrastructure security
  • Minimizing the risk of falling victim to a cyberattack

In addition, managed security services can be scaled up and down based upon the needs of your business. Moreover, if you need to scale back at a particular time, you can. The necessary infrastructure can be adapted whenever you require changes.

Ask Your Cybersecurity Provider About BlackFog

BlackFog’s preventative approach to cybersecurity understands the limitations of existing perimeter defense techniques and neutralizes attacks before they become problematic.

As pioneers of on-device anti-data exfiltration (ADX) technology, BlackFog defends against ransomware, malware, spyware, phishing and unauthorized data profiling and collection. It implements sophisticated technology to regulate and intervene against potential threats across all endpoints, offering a complete cybersecurity solution.

Regardless of whether you choose an MDR or an MSSP for your security solutions, ADX is crucial to keeping your business safe. It controls how information flows through networks and provides a direct way to protect sensitive data and disrupt attack chains used in cyberattacks.

At a time when cybercrime is rapidly evolving, choose a managed service provider that’s always one step ahead.