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MSSPs Part 2: Reasons to be wary

Seven shortfalls of outsourcing security

By Jian Zhen, LogLogic
December 9, 2004 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - In my previous article, I talked about 10 reasons why outsourcing to managed security service providers (MSSP) may be a cheaper and better way for companies to implement part of their security infrastructures. However, as with everything, where there are pros, there are always cons.
Here are some reasons why you should think twice before outsourcing.
1. Infrastructure control
Once you outsource your security infrastructure, such as firewalls and intrusion-detection systems, you may lose some or all control over it. Many MSSPs want to retain full control in order to reduce the finger-pointing when a catastrophe happens.
Also, MSSPs usually have the tools to manage security on the network, and they'll do it differently than your in-house administrators would, so shared control can create problems when both sides can't agree on certain issues. However, you still have control over system policies. If you can't swallow the fact that you will lose control, look for an MSSP that will share access with you.

2. Security policy
Any good security policy requires knowledge on the company's corporate culture and business. The MSSP won't know everything about your company. For example, it won't know that your company's extranet can only be accessed by specific strategic partners. Nor will it know that only specific administrators can access security data and that these people must have access at any time. It's your responsibility to work with the MSSP to make sure that it understands and builds your security policy. Some MSSPs can provide professional services to help you, but you will have to pay more.

3. Security environment
Unless the MSSP handles all of your infrastructure, it won't know all of the applications and servers you have. That means it's difficult for the vendor to accurately determine whether a security event is critical or just a false alarm, because it has insufficient information. Most MSSPs can work with you to set up an escalation policy that includes partial knowledge of your environment, including information on the applications and servers in your infrastructure. However, it's up to you to keep that information current and to update the MSSP as necessary.

4. Administrative access
One of the biggest surprises for companies considering outsourcing their information security is that most MSSPs have a team of engineers and they all have administrative access to the client company's systems. The team size can sometimes be as many as 30 engineers.
In contrast, most companies probably have only two or three administrators who are allowed to manage systems. To mitigate the risk of having too many people who can make modifications, work



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