A day doesn’t go by without reading about another failed cybersecurity audit or successful cyberattack at a government agency or department. With budget constraints, lack of skilled resources, and limited ability to attract and retain experienced cyberdefenders, should the government just outsource its cybersecurity operations altogether? I have had the opportunity to explore this question recently with a number of CISOs across the public sector market, including state, local, and federal entities. The results were interesting.
Managed security services is a maturing market with a large range and variety of providers. Several industry analysts define MSS as "the remote monitoring or management of IT security functions delivered via shared services from remote security operations centers (SOCs), not through personnel on-site.” Typical services do not include staff augmentation, consulting, development, or integration services.
MSS outsourcing for government sounds like a promising alternative, but those who have been in this market for a while will recall there have been several attempts at this over the last 15+ years, with limited success. Several complex logistical challenges remain, not the least of which is secure access to government networks or data sovereignty for sensitive information. Still, government and industry have made tremendous progress in the last few years leveraging and adopting cloud services and cloud security models such as FedRAMP. Is there a new model of Cybersecurity-as-a-Service on the horizon that could enable the government to acquire cybersecurity operations as a turnkey service?
Every CISO acknowledged they have too few experienced cyberdefenders, are dealing with more threat volume than ever, and have too many tools and consoles to manage. Most of their resources are consumed in day-to-day firefighting, leaving little if any time for proactive defenses. Other significant challenges include accurately measuring how well they are protecting the organization and justifying the expenses required to do so more effectively.
The common theme across the CISO conversations is that hybrid models instead of total outsourcing of cyberoperations would help their cause. Outsourcing via remote monitoring SOCs is not enough. CISOs want hybrid models that include remote SOCs and on-premises SOC management. They prefer to have personnel on-site that includes staff augmentation, consulting, development, and integration services from a single vendor that can be held to mutually agreed upon SLAs and incident-response metrics. All that said, the CISOs strongly believe many of these services can be offered via new cloud services models such as SaaS and unique services contracts that focus on “outcomes as a service,” with pricing based on performance SLAs.
So should the government outsource its cybersecurity operations? In summary, the answer is yes. Government customers are looking for creative ways to outsource security operations. In the ideal scenario, they should be able to select and provision from a variety of cybersecurity services and capabilities to improve their overall effectiveness and efficiency, allowing their teams to focus on being more proactive and supporting their organizations’ mission. Look for a new class of cybersecurity service providers making its way into the market soon.