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MDR vs. MSSP: What is the difference?

June 14, 2022
clock 4 MIN READ

Cybersecurity protection is not a luxury; it is a necessity for every single business, no matter the number of employees or the products and services it provides. If the business is connected to the internet in some way, it must secure its data and that of its clients. 

It requires both cybersecurity tools and human expertise to customize security specifically to an organization. Not every company can afford in-house cybersecurity systems and people, and even those organizations that have a security team could use additional help. So, it makes sense to work with an outside provider who offers a variety of security tools and services.

While looking through the many flavors of managed security offerings, it is important to learn the difference between Managed Detection & Response (MDR) and Managed Security Services Provider (MSSP).


What is MSSP security?

MSSPs offer outsourced security management and monitoring. The services can include a variety of security tools like firewalls, VPNs, anti-virus and anti-malware software, and vulnerability scanning. Monitoring services search for any anomalies found within the network environment and send alerts to the customer for action. MSSPs fill security-staffing holes within organizations, while allowing them to meet high security standards.


What is an MDR cybersecurity solution?

MDR cybersecurity solutions provide 24/7/365 monitoring of your network, searching for active threats using intelligence-based detection tools. Once found, the threats are either eliminated, investigated, or contained. MDR relies on both technology and human analysts to design a security operations center (SOC) based on the organization’s business processes and workflows. 

Threat detection and response are what sets MDR solutions apart from MSSPs. Traditional MSSP solutions relied on the client’s staff or analysts to handle threat hunting and mitigation, a job that requires a lot of labor, added to an already lengthy list of duties.


MDR vs. MSSP comparison

Both MDRs and MSSPs offer outsourced security solutions, but they provide different services and levels of outcome. MSSPs offer basic monitoring and alerts, but they also do very well in providing security to remote devices. MSSPs are geared to protecting networks with tools designed to keep threats and intruders out. However, their services are limited and MSSPs have minimal knowledge of their customers’ infrastructure. MSSPs are helpful at assisting an IT team, but their services are constrained in providing resolution when security situations arise.

While MSSPs offer defense against and detection of threats, MDRs go on offense once threats are detected within the environment. Typically, their complementary technology stack helps to create significantly greater visibility of the client environment. This facilitates an ability to mitigate threats, provide forensics, and offer response recommendations. MDRs are vital to organizations that need to meet regulatory compliances. Whereas MSSPs rely mostly on automation, MDRs rely on intelligence derived from  data generated by monitoring tools and human interaction.


How to choose an MSSP or MDR provider

Both security solutions could be right for your company.  Definitely go with an MSSP if your company doesn’t have a security team to manage tools in-house or if the current security set-up consists of free AV software or something similarly minimal. MSSPs can also be used to fill gaps in the current security system or to monitor remote devices, especially in hybrid work environments.

MDRs are helpful to any organization that follows strict compliance laws and needs to meet certain security standards. It is also a good solution for anyone who wants to improve their threat response, especially for those with minimal human resources. 


Whether choosing an MSSP, an MDR or both, some basic questions to investigate before signing a contract include:

  • What type of data protection and monitoring is offered?
  • What type of expertise is on staff and available to customers?
  • Do they offer 24/7 monitoring?
  • How do they manage your data? Who has access?
  • Can they offer a solution that works with your budget?
  • Do they work regularly with businesses within your industry?
  • What does their own in-house security look like and how will they prevent third-party risk?

Whatever provider or solution you choose, the protection of your data is always priority number one. Your MSSP or MDR provider’s goal is to augment what you are 

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