How A Managed Security Service Provider (MSSP) Provides Cyber Defense

By Frank Smith | April 20, 2021
Frank is Manager of Ntiva's cybersecurity and consulting practice, has deep expertise in the government contracting space, and boasts multiple security certificates including CISSP and CMMC-AB practioner.

A managed security service provider (MSSP) could be one of your best business investments. Why? The most obvious reason is the escalating cyber incidents which threaten your business on a daily basis. Here's how an MSSP can help protect you!

We hear about the big breaches in the news almost every day.

For starters, there’s the glaring cybersecurity example of the Microsoft Exchange email service being hacked.

Hundreds of thousands of organizations around the world were left vulnerable to data theft, blackmail, industrial espionage and ransomware attacks.

This comes hot on the heels of the SolarWinds hack that used compromised security software to infect over 18,000 government and private computer networks with a virus that opened them up to data breaches. 

There are a multitude of cybersecurity threats happening in 2021, but most intrusions start with email.

Humans are the weakest link and hackers know this!

Did you know that sophisticated email phishing surged 600% during the COVID-19 pandemic?

That follows the huge rise in reported malware infections seen between 2009 and 2018 - from 12.4 million to 812.67 million infections.

In other words, a tsunami is upon us.

It’s been estimated that the average cost of a ransomware attack in 2019 was $141,000, a more than 200% increase over what it cost organizations in 2018.

That’s enough to cripple a smaller business on its own, and that’s without factoring in the cost of reputation damage.

Yet half of surveyed security professionals say they don’t think their companies are ready to fend off such attacks.

If this confession of people in charge of cybersecurity worries you, then it could be time to hand over some (or all) of your security needs to a managed security service provider who excels in cybersecurity protection.


The Role of a Managed Security Service Provider (MSSP)

First of all, let's be clear about what these are and what they do.

A managed security service provider (MSSP) specializes in offering a wide range of security products and services to businesses, offering true "security as a service" to ensure your data is safe, secure and compliant around the clock.

As companies grow they often look to hire people who specialize in cyber defense, but this can be an expensive option for smaller outfits, particularly since demand continues to outstrip the supply of skilled cybersecurity practitioners.

Effective security operations today requires not only expertise, but the use of ever-evolving automated tools and processes.

This may include a 24x7 Security Operations Center (SOC) which is not something that most businesses would ever think of building and maintaining due to the expense.

What is a SOC?

McAfee provides a great description of a SOC: 

"A Security Operation Center (SOC) is a centralized function within an organization employing people, processes, and technology to continuously monitor and improve an organization's security posture while preventing, detecting, analyzing, and responding to cybersecurity incidents."

Cyberattacks can occur at any time, not just during an organization’s standard business hours. A good MSSP should provide a 24/7 SOC, providing continual detection and response to potential cyberattacks.

This becomes even more important for companies in heavily regulated industries like finance, healthcare and law firms who need to comply with varying regulations surrounding cyber security.

Note that there is a difference between "compliance" and "security"! 

A managed security service provider can play a key role in ensuring that your security and compliance requirements are being met, regardless of your industry.


How many MSSPs are there?

There are thousands of IT service providers, but few have the resources to invest in the latest software tools and automation required for effective cyber threat defense.

That alone is typically what separates an MSP (Managed Service Provider) from an MSSP (Managed Security Service Provider.)

An MSP may ensure your IT infrastructure is operational, along with help desk, onsite support and many other services, but an MSSP offers all of that plus enhanced security services.

As the bad guys get more sophisticated with improving technology, the imperative is to stay one step ahead by continually upgrading the cyber defense tech stack.

This has become extremely difficult for most organizations to tackle by themselves.


What Do Managed Security Service Providers Actually Provide?

A whole host of services which may include:

  • firewall management
  • protection against distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks
  • patch management
  • zero trust security
  • dark web monitoring
  • identity and access management
  • vulnerability scanning
  • encryption
  • content filtering
  • multi-factor authentication
  • intrusion detection and response
  • cybersecurity risk assessment
  • Virtual Chief Information Security Officer (vCISO)
  • endpoint detection and response
  • phishing prevention training
  • IT governance, risk and compliance


Managed Security Services Explained!

The list above covers some of the more important services. Here are explanations of each:

Firewall Management

A firewall is a virtual perimeter that’s put up around your business network and the devices connected to it. It’s governed by rules that can allow or exclude different traffic, and managing these rules along with monitoring alerts and logs is something that you can outsource to a managed security service provider. Doing so may free your staff to concentrate on other things, which could be better for your bottom line if they’re spending less time on security-related housekeeping. 

Anti-DDoS Protection

Distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks flood servers and firewalls with a tidal wave of fake requests until they eventually keel over and your website goes down. Anti-DDoS protection detects bad traffic and filters it out so that only genuine traffic gets through and your business carries on unaffected.

Patch Management 

Statistics show 60% of breaches happen because of patches that weren’t applied. A patch is an essential update to software that improves its functionality and/or fixes any security vulnerabilities. But if you have 250 machines running a lot of different software, making sure that they’re all patched and up-to-date starts to look like a full-time job, so it might be more cost-effective just to outsource it. 

Dark Web Monitoring

The dark web is a part of the Internet but it’s hidden from search engines and can only be accessed with particular software and authorizations. It isn’t illegal but criminals routinely use it to share or sell hacking tools and stolen data. Dark web monitoring can alert you if leaked data from any of your customers finds its way there. Admittedly, this may be a case of “closing the gate after the horse has bolted” but it’s better if you’re the first to find out. 

Identity and Access Management

This is about controlling who gets access to what systems and information within the organization. Not everyone needs access to everything all of the time. From a security perspective it’s far better to limit who can get at what data on a need-to-know basis. 

Vulnerability Scanning

Scans your network and fixes the loopholes that attackers look for, including overlooked security patches, non-secure settings, and unnecessary services. 


Data goes further and further these days — across networks, borders, and Internet-of-things devices like connected cameras — so one of the best ways of keeping data under lock and key, even while it’s in transit, is encryption. This turns sensitive data into unreadable text that’s useless to anyone who intercepts it.

Content Filtering

Automated filters can automatically weed out dangerous web content so that it can’t find its way onto any of your company’s devices.

Multi-Factor Authentication

MFA puts extra obstacles in the way of attackers, so for instance, even if they’ve stolen your system password they’ll stay locked out if they don’t have the code that’s sent to your phone or security device.. 

Intrusion Detection and Response

IDR (a.k.a. security information and event management) permanently monitors a network, looking for signs that may point to an imminent attack. It’s a combination of automated threat detection and an expert human response to any positives, shutting them down so swiftly you often won’t realize there was a problem.

Cybersecurity Risk Assessment

This provides the perfect starting point to protection, assessing where you are right now as a business and identifying which of your assets could be vulnerable to attack. Ntiva can lay out the risks associated with each one, and help you to identify where your priorities for protection lie. We can use this information to secure your enterprise.

Virtual Chief Information Security Officer (vCISO) 

Whatever the endeavor, there’s nothing quite like knowing that an experienced hand is at the wheel. Experience is something that is earned over time, so it’s not something you can just buy. 

Some managed security service providers (like Ntiva) can supply you with a Virtual CISO.

This means that you get access to a high-level security expert with valuable knowledge, as and when you need them. It’s a great compromise because this level of expertise is hard to source, hard to recruit, and perhaps hard to justify if your organization isn’t all that big. 

By using a vCISO only when you need them, your company always has affordable expertise waiting in the wings. 

Endpoint detection and response

Modern hacking techniques need modern responses. Ntiva’s Endpoint Detection and Response uses both AI and a 24/7 security operations center to defend all your business devices, even when they’re outside the company firewall. And with so many devices in use these days, it’s good to know that they're well protected.

Phishing prevention training

The stats indicate 90% of attacks start with a phishing email opened in error by an employee. Since prevention is better than cure (and cheaper too in this case), having a managed security provider look after your staff’s cyber security training is a worthwhile investment. After all, you’re effectively turning your staff into another line of defense.

IT Governance, Risk and Compliance (GRC)

This is your strategy for handling overall governance, enterprise risk management, and compliance with regulations. Ntiva can help you put this together, to give you a clear framework that fits with your business goals.


You’ll find that there are as many fee structures as there are managed security service providers.

You could find yourself paying an upfront fee followed by an ongoing subscription, or you could pay based on the number of security events, incidents detected and dealt with, or by the amount of data throughput, number of users, or the number of assets being protected.

Ntiva offers a competitive pricing model which offers different options for security protection, customized to your needs.

Online threats are evolving all the time, but a reliable managed security services provider like Ntiva can help keep your business safe!

If you'd like more information, take a look at our Cyber Security Solutions Overview which will give you additional details on our security offers:

Ntiva Cyber Security Solutions Overview 

Tags: Cybersecurity