Five reasons why outsourcing cybersecurity operations adds value

07 February 2019 Consultancy.uk

Cybersecurity has in recent years grown to become one of the top threats for companies and entrepreneurs. According to an estimate by security software company McAfee, cybercrime cost the global economy over $600 billion last year. As such, tackling cybersecurity is hugely important for every organisation, yet keeping a business secure is a daunting task and requires specialist knowledge and tooling. 

The rapid rise of cybercrime and the complexity required to ensure safe digital frontiers has led to growth in the outsourcing of cybersecurity processes and managed services of IT systems. External providers specialise in providing expert services designed to identify, classify and address security vulnerabilities, detect and respond to threats, as well as provide advice to help achieve compliance with regulations and standards such as the GDPR and PCI DSS.

Here are five reasons why managed cybersecurity services could help organisations improve their security posture: 

They provide dedicated security specialists

Smaller businesses often don’t have the kind of resources available to hire in-house cybersecurity professionals. This means that cybersecurity is the responsibility of the IT team, who may not have specialist cybersecurity expertise. Smaller IT teams have to juggle a large number of issues and cybersecurity can often be a low priority.

One of the major benefits of an outsourced service is that an organisation can gain access to the expertise of dedicated cybersecurity professionals. Experts who work in the industry monitor the security landscape closely to stay up-to-date with the latest tactics, techniques and procedures used by cyber criminals. They are able to apply this knowledge to improve the identification of vulnerabilities as well as threat detection and incident response capabilities. Having this expertise on board ensures that a business has the knowledge in place to help keep abreast of malicious adversaries.

They can provide support around the clock

Protecting a business is now a 24/7 job – hackers and cybercriminals can strike at any time. This means that in order to detect and respond to threats swiftly and effectively, a network needs to be monitored around the clock. Managing and monitoring the security of even a small organisation 24/7/365 requires at least five full-time professionals. Outsourcing to specialists means that the right level of monitoring can be achieved, without the expense of hiring and training in-house staff. 

They are more cost effective

Even if a business has the budget to hire one cybersecurity professional, if those resources were used to invest in an outsourced service, it would be far more cost effective. High levels of protection can be achieved without enormous upfront investment in staff and infrastructure. The average salary for an IT security role was more than £60,000 last year, so the cost of just one additional hire is typically more expensive than working with an experienced team from a managed cybersecurity services provider. 

They help bridge the skills gap

Another challenge facing businesses that want to improve their cybersecurity is a lack of skills in the marketplace. Many businesses find it extremely difficult to hire workers with relevant cybersecurity qualifications and experience. According to a study by Capgemini, the majority of companies in the UK face a cybersecurity skills gap – almost seven in every ten organisations are reporting high demand for cyber skills, while a meagre four in ten have those skills present within the company today. 

Current trends suggest that there will be a global shortage of around 3.5 million cybersecurity professionals by 2021. This has created a situation where it can be prohibitively expensive to recruit, hire and retain in-house security staff. Outsourcing to a specialist business takes away this problem, as the experts will come as a part of the package. 

They provide independent validation of your security posture

It can be risky for a business to rely solely on the cybersecurity opinions of its own staff. No matter how strong executives believe their cybersecurity function is, it always makes sense to work with an independent partner in order to help validate controls and processes. Independent cybersecurity providers will uncover vulnerabilities and weaknesses in systems and applications that leaders and even IT staff may not have known they even existed. It is good to have faith and trust in a company’s own IT team, but it is always possible that they will be blind to certain risks.

Moreover, several studies have shown that people remain a weak link in the cybersecurity equation. External managed services providers are specialised in not just uncovering blind spots, but also training staff to lower the risk of vulnerability to a cyberattack.

Related: Five reasons cybersecurity is more important than ever.

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Boards of top UK firms must do more on cyber-awareness

06 March 2019 Consultancy.uk

A new report released by the UK Government has found that UK businesses need to do more to build awareness in their firms, if they are to fend off cyber-attackers. The study found that an all-time high of 72% of businesses now see cyber-threats as a top risk, but just less than half of UK boards do not have a comprehensive understanding of the critical assets at risk from cyber-attacks.

Digital technology has revolutionised modern business, with a rate of innovation present in many companies that arguably eclipses that of the industrial revolution. The huge opportunities presented by technology mean that many firms have rushed to digitalise their offerings; but while this means they are able to take advantage  of the latest trends, it has also opened innumerable doors for cyber-criminals looking to use technology to loot corporations from across the globe.

Illustrating the extent to which cyber-crime has boomed in the last decade, in the final quarter of 2018, a study commissioned by Bromium and presented by Dr. Michael McGuire at RSA found that the cyber-crime economy has grown to an estimated $1.5 trillion dollars annually. That is only a conservative estimate – but that conservative figure alone is so large that if it constituted a national GDP, instead of a collection of digital frauds, it would be the world’s 13th largest economy.

Amid this state of play, it is easy to see why cyber-security has become one of the key watchwords of any board room in the 21st century. The cyber-security consulting segment has boomed, with the world’s 10 largest operators in the segment bringing in more than $11 billion in related fees, as businesses tap external expertise to help find areas where they can improve their defences. As noted by a new UK Government report, the legacy of this spike in consulting activity is that almost all UK businesses now have a cyber-security strategy, with only 4% admitting otherwise. 

Cyber threats are increasingly seen as high risk in comparison to other risks that businesses face

This comes at the end of a sea-change in attitudes toward cyber-security over the last five years. According to the 2018 FTSE 350 Cyber Governance Health Check, in 2013, the largest minority of businesses felt cyber-threats represented a low operational risk, at 38%, compared to just 25% who saw it as a very high group risk. Now, the two opinions have seen a dramatic reversal, with only 6% seeing cyber-security as a low threat, compared to a huge 72% of businesses which see it as a very high risk. Considering the high profile hacks that occurred in the interim, this is perhaps not that surprising.

However, while cyber-awareness in general is at an all-time high, this is where the positive news ends. According to the study, while the vast majority of firms in the UK have a cyber-security plan in place, only 46% have a dedicated budget to enact that strategy. Should their financial positions change rapidly in the near future – something increasingly likely with the prospect of a No Deal Brexit still looming over the horizon – then that plan could fall by the wayside, with the funding shortfall exposing firms to even greater financial damage in the near future.

The study, released by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) in March 2019, was undertaken in partnership with Winning Moves and support from EY, KPMGPwC and Deloitte, working with their FTSE 350 clients to participate in the survey. The study also found that while most businesses have incident response plans, most are not testing them: 95% of FTSE 350 businesses have an incident response, but a mere 57% test their crisis incident response plans regularly. With companies facing the consistently evolving threat of cyber-attacks, that could leave major chinks in their armour undiscovered until it is too late.

Board understanding of business-critical assets

Similarly, many firms also seem oblivious to the threat posed by their wider supply chains, which if left unchecked, provide hackers with a blank cheque to access company data. A majority of boards do not recognise supply chain risks beyond the first tier, as 77% of FTSE 350 businesses told researchers they did not recognise the risks associated with businesses in the supply chain with whom they have no direct contact.

Meanwhile, almost half of UK boards do not understand the critical assets at risk from cyber-attacks. 54% of businesses in 2018 rated the board’s understanding of critical information, data assets and systems as comprehensive, while of that, only 12% said understanding was the best it could be. This compares to 43% of boards in 2017 and 32% in 2015/16 stating they had a clear understanding, suggesting that key progress is being made, but also that there is a great deal of room for improvement.

Commenting on the findings, Digital Minister Margot James said, “We know that companies are well aware of the risks, but more needs to be done by boards to make sure that they don’t fall victim to a cyber-attack. This report shows that we still have a long way to go but I am also encouraged to see that some improvements are being made. Cyber-security should never be an add-on for businesses and I would urge all executives to work with the National Cyber Security Centre and take up the government’s advice and training that’s available.”