What a difference a year makes! Before 2023, artificial intelligence (AI) was primarily a subject for movies, business analytics, or sophisticated background applications. But since late last year and throughout 2023, we’ve witnessed an explosion in AI technologies spreading into every corner of our digitally-powered world.
The advances have been both impressive and worrying, especially if you are concerned about cybercrime. Criminals are using the newer AIs to amplify scams and deceptions, and they continue to utilise more established intelligent technologies to automate and scale attacks. In October this year, criminals used AI and automation to launch the biggest denial-of-service attack yet—a staggering 398 million requests per second.
Faced with these risks, companies worry about keeping up with their security needs. More and more are relying on managed service providers (MSPs) and the $30 billion+ managed security service market to keep ahead of new threats.
“Anecdotally, managed security services are becoming the main way companies add or enhance security,” says Gerhard Swart, Chief Technology Officer at cybersecurity company, Performanta. “Some still think of MSPs as outsourcing security, but that’s the wrong approach. MSPs enhance your security and can help strengthen your internal security culture while keeping costs reasonable. And foremost, MSPs are the main avenue to get security advantages quickly yet without making capital investments.”
As AI-related security threats and advancements take centre stage, this dynamic between MSPs and their customers has become even more essential and valuable.
Why MSPs have an advantage
Managed Service Providers specialising in security (also called managed security service providers, or MSSPs) combine technologies, skills, and processes to deliver continual security coverage. The most common element of a security-centric MSP is their security operations centre (SOC). This monitoring hub integrates with different client environments and tracks and looks for strange activities that could indicate criminals attempting a system breach. Leading MSSPs also invest in services such as security information and event management (SIEM) and endpoint detection and response (EDR).
MSPs will leverage and tailor security solutions from different vendors and hire relevant, talented security professionals to design, deploy, and manage those systems. They typically also employ security consultants and business experts to align their MSP operations with clients.
Notably, all this is designed for scale. “The cost of the systems and staff is spread across multiple customers, thus making modern security much more affordable and accessible,” says Swart.
“Security is expensive for two reasons. Firstly, you must match the security systems to a business’ environment, and no two are alike. Secondly, security keeps evolving and innovating, so adopting the latest and best systems can come at a premium. Unfortunately, a business often has little choice because cybercriminals always push the envelope and develop new attacks. In the past, keeping up with security often became unsupportable and unreasonable. But the MSP model changed that,” says Swart.
AI is the latest example of security’s rapid technology evolution. Criminals are using AI to create convincing scams, fake voices and images, and launch massive, automated attacks. Cybersecurity services also use AI to look for suspicious behaviour, quickly analyse security notices, and take fast action against incursions.
“AI is helping cybercriminals, but it’s even more potent on the cybersecurity side. The types of AI-powered security tools available are very effective. MSPs are the best way to access these because the MSP business model makes it practical and profitable for them to keep investing in new security tech,” says Swart.
Select the best MSP
Using the right MSP is a subscription to the best in security. Customers get quick access as MSPs introduce new AI-powered security tools. Yet, not all MSPs are alike or offer the same scope and frequency of security tools. How can organisations select the best MSP partner?
“Start with your company’s size, risks, and security budget, then evaluate MSPs on those terms. You want an MSP that is willing to come in, discuss your business issues, and offer to evaluate your systems. Every good MSP will have services to map your systems and offer business-related security consultation. They aren’t doing a proper job if they just want to plug in a few security services and send you a bill,” says Swart.
The best MSPs listen and tailor services that suit your risks and budget. They work with your internal security staff and leaders, and they can present a solid track record for investing in security, preventing breaches, and negotiating damage from attacks.
A partnership with a security-focused MSP is the best way to stay abreast of security technology and ahead of cybercriminals—even if they use AI attacks.