Outsourcing Firewalls to MSSP

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To anyone that’s been around the security industry for a while, the outsourcing of firewall management to Managed Security Service Providers (MSSP) is a fact life. The main players in this industry, estimated by Forrester at $3 billion in 2008, are well known names: AT&T, Verizon Business, EDS, Verisign (now SecureWorks), and several others.

Like many other IT outsourcing trends, the underlying reasons are cost savings and operational efficiency, with clear economic advantages for the MSSP vs. internal IT resources. The top MSSP’s focus on security operations management, retain highly-skilled personnel, maintain best practices across their customer base, and manage a 24×7 NOC / SOC. In addition, due to the sheer size of their infrastructure (hundreds to thousands of firewalls), MSSP’s receive major discounts from manufacturers for the underlying firewalls / routers / switches / servers / etc. All of these factors enable MSSP’s to dramatically reduce operational cost, and pass on the cost savings to the customer.

There are various challenges in working with MSSP’s, mostly related to giving up control over a complex and sensitive IT process, with a fine line drawn between the internal IT team and its interface with the MSSP. Organizations that have a corporate security policy and are governed by regulations mandating operational control, need to be able to retain some control over security configuration changes, and to be able to effectively manage the potential risk inherent in the outsourcing of security operations.

Here’s the first article in a series on the issues around outsourcing Firewalls to MSSP’s.

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