Cybersecurity: The Role of Software Outsourcing

Cybersecurity is no longer a fringe issue. Recent large-scale breaches mean that 34% of the US population has experienced a personal data violation in the last year alone. And security concerns are growing more pressing thanks to increasing reliance on the Internet of Things (IoT). With phones, computers, tablets, home appliances, and countless business functions utilizing computer systems, the complex cybersecurity discussion is now a matter of urgency. Staying on top of developing cybersecurity needs, places a huge strain on a business, which is why many companies choose a software outsourcing model for this vital task.

Computer security, otherwise known as cybersecurity, encompasses the protection of any computer system from theft or damage to its hardware, software or electronic data, as well as from disruption of the services it provides. This protection needs to be total, and as hackers are constantly creating new threats, cybersecurity must too be ever-evolving.


The Rise in Cybersecurity Threats

Individuals’ and business’ growing fear of cyber attacks are anything but unfounded. The numbers speak for themselves.

  • As of 2017, there were over 130 large-scale, targeted data breaches in the US annually, and that number is growing by 27% per year.
  • 31% of organizations have experienced cyber attacks on operational technology infrastructure.
  • There are 24,000 malicious mobile apps blocked every day.
  • The US is the target of the highest number of ransomware attacks, accounting for 18.2% of the global total.

Crime costs and cybercrime is no exception. Companies that experience a breach suffer both financially and reputationally, and these costs are crippling.

  • In 2017, organizations spent on average $11.7 million on cybersecurity – nearly 23% more than in 2016.
  • The average cost of a malware attack on a company is $2.4 million and 50 days in lost time.
  • Damage related to cybercrime is projected to hit $6 trillion annually by 2021.
  • The most expensive component of a cyber attack is information loss, which accounts for 43% of costs.
  • The average cost per lost or stolen record per individual is $225 in the US.
  • Accounting for all factors (including customer turnover, reputation losses, and diminished goodwill) the cost of lost business for US companies in 2017 was $4.13 million per company – the highest in the world.

What’s at Risk: Types of Threat

Any robust approach to cybersecurity includes layers of protection across all of the networks, devices, and programs it covers. The sheer volume and variety of possible threats is part of the challenge of effective cybersecurity, and few companies have the internal employees with the requisite knowledge to defend against them all. There are 10 primary categories that a cybersecurity threat can fall into:

  • Backdoor
  • Denial-of-service attacks
  • Direct-access attacks
  • Eavesdropping
  • Multivector, polymorphic attacks
  • Phishing
  • Privilege escalation
  • Social engineering
  • Spoofing
  • Tampering

Since businesses must protect themselves from each of these threats, finding expertise in each one of them is a challenge. The solution for many is to outsource cybersecurity to a firm that has talented software engineers that understand each threat.


The Elements of Cybersecurity

Cybersecurity is a catch-all term for a range of security measures aimed at protecting a system. These measures come in three primary forms, any of which companies can outsource.

  1. Application Security

Application security implements steps throughout an application’s lifecycle to thwart attempts to violate authorization limits set by the underlying system’s security. These protocols amend exceptions in the systems, commonly caused by design, development, deployment or maintenance flaws. A third-party outsourcing firm is ideal for assessing and rectifying these flaws, as they can more effectively stress test a system than the developers who created it.

The methodology behind tackling threats to application security also requires in-depth knowledge of potential risks and typical application weaknesses, across a wide range of disciplines. A particular benefit of outsourcing security functions is having access to a wealth of institutional knowledge regarding best practices, regardless of system type.

  1. Information Security

Information security requires the safeguarding of sensitive information from illegitimate access and use – including disruption, alteration, inspection, broadcast, damage or recording. Disruption can come from both malevolent sources and as a result of more natural causes. Information systems are a conglomerate of hardware, software and communications, and security must be implemented at all three levels to be successful.

It is in this last area, communications, that outsourcing is of particular use. Even among those companies that have their own in-house cybersecurity team, few remember that adequate training for all staff using the system is just as important as the system itself. Flawed practices inherent to a business are hard to tackle from within. Security providers can provide realistic assessments of staff’s current practices, and train users on how to maintain system integrity.

  1. Network Security

Network security refers to comprehensive security provisions made adaptively and proactively by the network administrator, with the aim of monitoring and thwarting attacks. These attacks can come in the form of unauthorized access, deliberate misuse, alteration, or denial of service. Network security requires checking the privilege rights of users to validate their legitimacy before granting them access.

This type of security extends coverage over diverse networks, encompassing private and public systems used for communicating among organizations. The breadth of a network can present a challenge for those monitoring it, and the need for constant proactive amendments is significant. Few companies have the resources to dedicate staff time to this single aspect of cybersecurity on an ongoing basis, which is why this is a fast-growing area for outsourcing.


GDPR and Cybersecurity

The General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR, has thrown a wrench into the cybersecurity debate. This EU-based legislation ensures data protection for all residents of the EU and EEA, and addresses the export of personal data outside of this area.

Many US businesses with clients or bases in Europe are scrambling to comply with GDPR. Simultaneously, the impetus for similar legislation closer to home is growing. The US government, not the private sector, leads in cybersecurity innovation, mainly due to its substantial investment in the defense sector. But private businesses are expected to follow suit, either as their international arms work to comply with EU laws, or as their US customers demand more data protection, and this is going to place an even greater strain on vulnerable businesses.


Outsourcing Cybersecurity by Service

Simple processes that can adapt from one business to another are primary areas for software outsourcing. According to a recent study, the breakdown of outsourcing by security service is as follows.

  • 41% – security monitoring
  • 52% – vulnerability assessments
  • 21% – IT security help desk
  • 21% – self-phishing exercises
  • 56% – company-specific security activities
  • 33% – development of information security management systems.

The need for cybersecurity experts is clear, so businesses tend to wonder if they can hire internally or if they should find an outsourcing partner.


Hiring vs. Outsourcing Cybersecurity

As cybersecurity grows more critical for every business, large or small, the gap between available cybersecurity experts and roles to fill grows. Current research shows a 2.9 million person differential between needed hires and available personnel. 63% of companies report a shortage of cybersecurity experts. 59% of companies fear they are at moderate or high risk of cyber attack. However, the majority simply do not have the resources or ability to hire the help they need. Shortages mean that cybersecurity professionals command high wages and are often attracted to large corporations.

Outsourcing as a Solution

Unfortunately, those vulnerable to attack are not just large companies with excessive amounts of data and large IT teams. Many small businesses are seen as better targets by hackers as they are considered weaker. 61% of small businesses experienced at least one cyber attack in 2017, with the proportion of ransomware attacks skyrocketing from 2% in 2016 to 52% in 2017. And all businesses, regardless of size, must comply with GDPR if any of their data touches the European Union.

With so many open to cyber risk and so few experts to assist, companies are turning to outsourcing as a practical solution. Few businesses have the internal IT capacity necessary to implement and maintain a comprehensive cybersecurity program properly. Even those that have large IT teams often lack the expertise needed to stay constantly abreast of cybersecurity developments. Cybersecurity experts working in properly vetted, reliable third-party companies are an effective answer to both the staff shortage and limited resource problem.


Further Benefits of Outsourcing Cybersecurity

There are many tangible benefits to outsourcing security needs without compromising quality or opening the door to risk.

  1. Time and Cost

A full cybersecurity team is a considerable expense, both in time and money. It requires setting up the physical infrastructure and hardware, researching and procuring security technologies, recruiting, training, and managing qualified security analysts. Any business is looking at a minimum of six months of set up time. This is in addition to the ongoing tasks of training and staff retention. Therefore a dedicated team, prepared and managed by someone else, can provide the needed resources at a fraction of the outlay. And dedicated service providers are able to scale security operations quickly and smoothly, depending on a business’ changing needs.

  1. Expertise

Security is just as diverse as any other IT job. An excellent, well-qualified and experienced IT expert may not be versed in cybersecurity as thoroughly as an impenetrable system requires. Gaps in knowledge lead to gaps in security. And even if a company has a cybersecurity expert, they may not always be available. Everyone has to take vacations and sick days, but security is a 24/7 concern. Only with a team of experts can any system be truly, continuously protected.

  1. Business Acumen

Cybersecurity outsourcing companies are not only versed in specific security protocols and threats but can also be an asset to forward business planning. A good security provider should provide high-level suggestions on where the risk is, and how to reduce it.

  1. Better Security

Dedicated security service providers have in-depth experience in solving threats of all kinds, as well as the ability to stay up-to-date with the latest hacker trends. As these teams service across industries and verticals, they can compare and cross-reference threats to stay as well informed as possible. Team members work on specific disciplines, so they have the time to evaluate and leverage methodologies fully to ensure the best outcome. Outsourcing cybersecurity, quite simply, provides better detection and response.

  1. Layered Protection

It does not matter how advanced security systems are; if the people using them are security-lax or unaware of the proper protocols, errors will occur. Users who regularly interact with the system must be able to understand comprehensive security policies, procedures, and protocols. Security providers significantly ameliorate the element of human risk as they offer layered protection, with extensive security checks and procedures. This is far more likely to prevent the types of internal employee mistakes that cause massive data breaches.

  1. Quicker Response

A good risk management strategy is essential to staying ahead of the game. A smart provider will be able to evaluate all areas of risk, and design and implement a plan in the event of a breach. This reduces downtime and can contain the damage.


Choosing the Right Partner

Outsourcing cybersecurity is a very serious decision, as security providers will have access to the entire network and sensitive data. Choosing a legitimate and trustworthy partner requires following some simple guidelines.

  • If something seems off, it probably is. Avoid anyone who can’t provide complete, verifiable contact details and a professional business approach.
  • Get references no matter how large or reputable the security provider seems.
  • Ensure the provider is equipped to handle all compliance requirements and has appropriate experience in this area.
  • Ask the provider about their audit and compliance processes, and ensure they are size-appropriate.


The Future of Software Outsourcing in Cybersecurity

There is no doubt that the cybersecurity conversation is growing in urgency as the scale of threats escalates. As seen above, no one is immune, from individuals to small businesses, to large corporations. There is currently no end in sight for the shortage of cybersecurity experts needed to protect every business from in-house properly, and few can afford to risk staying vulnerable. So whether through outsourcing, co-sourcing, or spending the resources necessary to build an in-house team, a decision must be made, and fast. Every second without robust, comprehensive security is one more second an organization is open to attack.

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About author

Thao Nguyen

I am working as a Marketer at S3Corp. I am a fan of photography, technology, and design. I’m also interested in entrepreneurship and writing.