The Benefits of Outsourcing Your Security Team

A Rundown of the Benefits of Outsourcing Your Security Team

The Benefits of Outsourcing Your Security Team

In this age of complicated IT corporate infrastructures, one of the primary decisions that a security-aware IT executive has to make is whether to build and train an in-house security team, or leverage the abilities and expertise of an outsourced security group. This all-important decision has several implications as to the budget, project time constraints, and efficiency of corporate workflows. That said, there are several advantages for using an outsourced team as opposed to building and maintaining an internal team.

In the general sense, internal security teams are often comprised of only a few, or a single member, that acts to analyze, advise, and test systems – while not really specializing in any particular area of cybersecurity. This person usually acts as “jack-of-all-trades” technician, which results in their inability to effectively carry out all necessary tasks due to being overstretched. In addition to this, such in-house technicians often need to be trained extensively, and often lack experience dealing with the large variety of security issues that often arise in technical systems. Internal teams often incur much greater overhead and costs for training, maintenance, and tooling to be effectively leveraged.

In contrast, outsourced teams will often be composed of experienced specialists that have thorough knowledge on a variety of security issues and a great deal of experience. Such teams are usually composed of a greater number of members that don’t require training or additional overhead. They generally have their own tools and skill sets that far outweigh traditional internal security specialists. Outsourcing security to external teams and monitoring work is thus more advantageous and cost effective than building and utilizing an in-house team of security experts.

Tuned Secure Source Code Scanner

One of the primary security assessment tasks that an outsourced team can more effectively carry out is the use of professional Static Application Security Testing (SAST) tools. SAST scanners (static analysis tools) are used to ensure that secure coding best practices are carried out, which typically entails statically scanning the source code to determine if any vulnerabilities exist in the source code due to using insecure coding practices.

To effectively use such a scanner, proper configuration and tuning is paramount. The SAST rules and configurations must be finely tuned to ensure the scanner is operating at peak efficiency. In addition to this, robust security frameworks often support the use of custom scanning scripts, which need to be engineered by experienced security professionals that are used to SAST operations, and also are experienced in identifying both typical and atypical source code based security vulnerabilities.

More than Just a Piece of Software

Security software and security tools do not act as replacements for security technicians, but amplify their existing skill sets. As noted above, security tools require an experienced cybersecurity specialist for calibration, customization and configuration. Without this, the tool may produce high numbers of false positives, frustrating developers and security professionals alike. One should not purchase a security tool or suite of tools thinking that this will suffice in producing an effective security solution. Such tools require skilled engineers, and outsourcing security tasks to an external team of experienced professionals – such as a Managed Security Service Provider (MSSP) – can meet all of these security needs.

Dynamic Assessments by Professionally Trained Engineers

In addition to conducting static source code analysis, Dynamic Application Security Testing (DAST) assessments during run-time are essential for ensuring application and data security. Dynamic security tests also require experienced professional cybersecurity engineers to deal with the various security requirements of different frameworks, platforms, and systems. While an in-house security expert with a broad skill set may be able to conduct such an assessment, an outsourced, dedicated security team will have specialized skill sets that will enable them to identify more security issues than non-dedicated experts.

When dynamic tests are carried out separately over long periods of time, experienced engineers learn to recognize patterns and trends. They can also more quickly identify critical security issues that a non-expert would probably miss. That said, an outsourced team of engineers has both the knowledge and experience to recognize trends that an in-house engineer would require a significant amount  of training and experience to similarly identify.

An External Party That Assesses Risk

When it comes to thorough risk assessments, obtaining an outside opinion on a corporate infrastructure’s security posture is a best practice that all firms should follow. Though all of the benefits for such a practice are too numerous to mention, one of the more obvious benefits is having an experienced team look at security risks from a perspective that your company may not have considered. This can reveal more information on attack surfaces, possible attack vectors, and how to implement security controls in a more efficient manner.

Diversification of Skills is Greater with an External Team

One of the most important reasons for utilizing an external team of security specialists is the presence of security engineers with a diverse skill set. While an in-house security specialist is forced to assume the duties of multiple experts, an external team is typically composed of network engineers, ethical hackers, penetration testers, secure coding specialists, software engineers, cryptanalysts, cybersecurity engineers, etc. Such a team will bring more to the table than general, in-house security specialists, which results in more productive security assessments, and more efficient monitoring of corporate systems, along with more effective incident response handling.

Limitations of a Single Person’s Possible Skill Set

As opposed to leveraging the services of an external security team, the alternative is to hire a single security specialist to make up an internal security team. Having a single security specialist necessitates him or her having a broad range of skills and experience in dealing with a variety of security issues. Yet even with a broad range of skills, a single security specialist cannot have all of the skills and experiences needed to effectively operate in any given IT firm. That said, such a singular specialist would likely result in him or her being overstretched in their work load, which can minimize the ability of the specialist to complete their given tasks effectively. Such a specialist would likely require greater costs to train as well, which adds to the problem of overhead associated with using internal security specialists; quality security specialists have an average yearly salary of $120,000 to $250,000 or more. Yet, as noted above – since a single specialist cannot fulfill all of the demands and roles associated with specialized security administration – you would need multiple specialists for full coverage. This can lead to a much larger budget requirement compared to using the cheaper, more effective option of outsourced security teams.

You Need Multiple Skill Sets Covered That Just Aren’t Possible for One Person

Though trained and educated cybersecurity specialists have a general knowledge in a variety of IT fields, a single person cannot be an expert in every field that is required for full security coverage. For instance, a specialist with Security+, CEH, and CISSP certifications will have a broad range of security skills, but cannot be an expert in every field such as network engineering, penetration testing, secure coding, software engineering, cryptanalysis, etc. While it is difficult and expensive to build an internal team with such a diverse skill set, external teams exist with members that offer the exact diverse skill set needed to best assess the security posture of your company.

Static Review Specialists

Individual specialists that have a skill set associated with carrying out effective static source code reviews and analyses must have knowledge and experience working with a myriad of individual coding languages, platforms, and packages and must be familiar with the typical security vulnerabilities associated with each. They must also have experience working with individual frameworks, and with the usage of specific tools and platforms.

Dynamic Review Specialists

Due to the fact that there are hundreds of dynamic security assessment tools available, it is impossible for a single specialist to have experience working with all or even most of them. An outsourced team of engineers likely has experience with many of them, and an efficient team of dynamic security assessment specialists has experience working with individual tools, suites and frameworks that are commonly used in Dynamic Application Security Testing (DAST) assessments. Such a team will also have a comprehensive understanding of specific coding language differences and weaknesses and will be able to analyze and test them at run-time.

Design and Architecture

An important part of conducting thorough application security testing is understanding how the design and architecture of the software affects application security. This requires software engineering and secure coding experience, which most internal security specialists do not have. Having an intimate understanding of how an application is designed from the ground up, and understanding the architectural blueprint of the software and best practices for these designs allows for a specialist to conduct a more thorough risk assessment, and allows for a quicker identification of weak points in the application’s architecture.

Secure Coding Practices

Software engineers that have learned how to incorporate security in their code typically use secure coding best practices. This usually means the utilization of coding methodologies to include the following:

  • Error and exception handling – determining what data is revealed by the server when technical issues arise resulting in an error
  • Input validation – determining if user inputs are valid before such data is parsed by the server
  • Session management – correct management of user sessions to mitigate the occurrence of session/cookie hijacking
  • Authorization/Authentication – the use of protocols to allow only correct users to access certain sections of the system/application

Only an experienced engineer with a thorough understanding of secure coding practices and principles in the target languages and frameworks can provide the kind of in-depth analysis and identification of vulnerabilities required, which is often not part of the skill set of one individual security specialist.

When you Outsource to an External Provider You Get All of These Specialties

While it is virtually impossible for a single in-house security specialist to have all of the skills and experience necessary to fulfill all duties of security administration, using an outsourced, external team results in obtaining a group of security engineers with all of the skills and specialities needed for comprehensive security and risk management.

Your Outside Provider Also Includes a ‘Quarterback’

When utilizing an outsourced security team, this arrangement includes a specialist that operates in the capacity of a liaison. This specialist is familiar with the entire security team and has a comprehensive understanding of the problems at hand. This person is also capable of directing resources where and when it is needed for the purpose of optimizing workflows and increasing both productivity and efficiency. This helps to ensure that the team is benefiting your company while operating as optimally as possible. In the end, even the best coders in the world need help with security.

About The Author

Steve Kosten

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