Choosing a Managed Security Service: MDR, Firewalls & SIEM

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Many large enterprises struggle to stay on top of serious cyber threats like ransomware. For a small business, the challenge can seem overwhelming.

Between the growing threats and a shortage of cybersecurity talent to defend against them, many businesses have turned to managed security service providers (MSSPs) for help, with services like managed SIEMs, managed firewalls and managed detection and response (MDR).

We’ll take a look at managed SIEMs, managed firewalls, and MDR; how they differ; and where they can best help your organization.

Managed Firewalls

Many small- to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) can definitely use some outside expertise in managing their firewalls. While the perimeter firewall doesn’t hold the same prominence it once did, it still serves as the foundation of your network.

Firewall configuration entails a lot more today than just the opening and closing of ports. Today’s next-generation firewalls (NGFWs) now incorporate multiple security tools to secure the complex network, edge and SD-WAN infrastructures of today.

Managed firewall services help ensure that organizations have the proper policies in place to secure both incoming and outgoing traffic. These services are often part of a broader security services portfolio offered by MSSPs and allow internal IT staff to outsource mundane maintenance tasks, such as the installation of necessary updates and patches.

Managed security providers have a highly experienced staff that know how to maximize the security tools that come standard with today’s NGFWs. They can offer great suggestions on how to properly segment your various zones, sites, and VLANs, and how to maximize the effectiveness of tools like intrusion protection, web filtering, and SD-WAN utilization.

While it can be more expensive to rely on outside experts to manage your firewall, for an SMB with little cybersecurity knowledge or experience on board, a managed firewall service would be the logical place to start.

Managed SIEM

In an effort to thwart the ongoing growth of new cybersecurity threats, IT managers have typically applied a best of breed approach to cybersecurity. A new threat is discovered, security vendors create a tool to combat it, and sales people sell it.

While these tools certainly do the job they were intended for, they can create a large array of disparate tools that often don’t work well together. It is not uncommon for large companies to have more than 50 cybersecurity tools operating at once. All of these can create attention gaps as IT personnel try to keep up with the screen interfaces to interact with them. Thus the necessity for security information and event management (SIEM) was born.

The purpose of the SIEM is to collect logging data from your many devices such as firewalls, servers, switches, and other network appliances. It then sifts through all that data in order to identify vulnerabilities and threats, giving you visibility into what is truly going on within your network. Rather than overload your internal staff with a tidal wave of alerts, the system filters and extracts only the most pertinent of events.

Because hackers don’t have office hours, SIEM systems operate on a 24/7 basis, which means there needs to be someone available to interpret the analytical results even on nights and weekends. This is all handled by the third-party services team.

As you can imagine, implementing a SIEM is a complex endeavor, as it must integrate with many different types of components. Choosing to implement a SIEM in-house is a decision that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Not only do these systems garner heavy price tags, it can be challenging to find and retain highly trained specialists that know how to work with them.

For smaller companies or ones without a sophisticated security staff who decide they need a SIEM to oversee their security environment, an experienced SIEM services provider can implement and manage your system far better than you probably can. Keep in mind that a managed SIEM is not a replacement for a firewall or endpoint security system; it’s used to monitor and manage all that and more.

To use a SIEM services provider, you also must be comfortable with the fact that some of your information may reside offsite with your SIEM provider. But for organizations with greater complexity, a SIEM can make a lot of sense.

Managed Detection and Response

A managed firewall service is defensive in nature, while a SIEM provides overall monitoring and analysis. These reactive approaches are in contrast to managed detection and response (MDR). MDR is based on the old adage that the best defense is a good offense.

An MDR can be about stopping threats at endpoints (laptops, servers, workstations), but it can also proactively hunt down threats and eliminate them before they can escalate into damaging incidents. This service is provided by highly specialized teams of cybersecurity professionals that utilize threat intelligence, security monitoring, and incident analysis to perform incident response and remediation in real time. They don’t send you monitoring alerts or provide you compliance reporting. What they do send is the confirmative actions they took to combat a possible threat to your network. Analysts communicate with your internal staff through direct mediums such as voice and email rather than a portal.

As you may have guessed, these professionals don’t come cheap, and not every organization can justify the cost. For highly regulated industries such as finance or healthcare, they can be the extra measure of protection needed to adequately secure your organization.

See our picks for the Best MDR Services

Turning Security Over to the Pros

Cybersecurity is a dangerous business and getting more dangerous all the time. Few organizations can afford the data loss or lengthy downtime a cyber attack can bring. The idea of spending money on defense is unappealing to most organizations, but the cost savings can be enormous. And in the hands of a good security services provider, reliable cybersecurity protection is much easier to achieve.

Further reading: Best Ransomware Removal and Recovery Services

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