What Is a Managed Security Service Provider (MSSP)?


A Managed Security Service Provider (MSSP) is a third-party organization that provides cybersecurity services to other organizations. MSSP services range from simple network monitoring to full-service security management including advising, implementation, and operation via security operation centers (SOCs). MSSPs are generally used as an alternative to hiring an internal cybersecurity expert or team for companies that lack the resources or expertise to build an in-house cybersecurity team.

What is a Managed Security Service Provider (MSSP)?


Managed Service Providers (MSP) and Managed Security Service Providers (MSSP) are similar in nature but vary greatly in responsibility. MSPs are also third-party companies that provide services to companies such as telecom, SaaS, cloud network, IT administration, and more. For example, a company may hire an MSP to install a building-wide Wi-Fi system or host their organization’s cloud infrastructure.

On the other hand, MSSPs specialize in security-specific services. MSSPs consist of highly specialized cybersecurity experts and practitioners who can be used to supplement or fully augment an organization’s cybersecurity team. MSSP can provide services and tools for auditing, monitoring, maintaining, and upholding an organization’s cybersecurity.

MSSPs differ from MSPs by:

  • Offering more exclusive security measures
  • Prioritizing security over administration
  • Using specific tools for threat mitigation

Common Offerings From MSSPs

Like many service providers, MSSPs provide a wide array of services. Most MSSPs can provide general cybersecurity consulting and many offer highly specific, complex services that fully depend on the organization’s size, budget, and specific needs. Here are common services provided by MSSPs:

Vulnerability Assessments

The first step to understanding your organization’s security needs is to understand how your company may be vulnerable to attack. MSSPs provide vulnerability assessments — often a part of the service selling cycle — to help their clients understand how they need to bolster their existing cybersecurity systems.

One of the greatest challenges of cybersecurity is that bad actors’ intelligence is constantly growing, and potential threats are constantly evolving. Organizations must evolve as well. The solutions they have in place today may not be robust tomorrow. MSSPs often provide regular security scans and assessments to identify security risks throughout an organization’s IT infrastructure, allowing for proactive remediation to prevent exploitation or threat.

Network Security Monitoring

MSSPs can provide continual surveillance of network traffic to detect suspicious activity or potential security breaches, which can also be thought of as a managed firewall service. High-tier MSSPs provide 24/7 active monitoring and alerts, fine-tuned for an organization’s specific needs, potentially including dedicated resources in the MSSP’s security operation centers.

Depending on the level of complexity of an organization’s network configuration, MSSPs may provide highly complex and intelligent threat detection technology. For example, if a large multinational banking corporation with a complex hybrid-cloud network infrastructure were to fully outsource its cybersecurity needs to an MSSP, that MSSP would need to be highly qualified to operate those types of systems. The MSSP’s expertise should include a vast array of different threat detection technologies and network monitoring tools.

Incident Response

Top-tier MSSP companies also often provide incident response services. Once they detect a threat, they also take several measures to eradicate it. Given their level of experience, MSSP incident response measures may depend greatly on the level of engagement, but they often provide services unmatched by internal threat response teams of even the most seasoned IT departments.

For example, if the financial company in the previous example received an alert about an unusual amount of outbound data, the MSSP incident response team would quickly analyze the threat to determine the validity, severity, and scope of the threat. If the threat proved to be legitimate, the MSSP incident response team would immediately take action to contain the threat, investigate how the attacker gained access, and reverse any damage.

Again, depending on the level of engagement, the MSSP may also provide vulnerability patching, malicious file identification, antiviral measures, and other measures to prevent future attacks of a similar nature. MSSPs may also suggest policy updates and other associated security assessments to mitigate future risk.

Compliance Support

MSSPs provide organizations with comprehensive security compliance support services — particularly helpful for organizations that host highly sensitive consumer data such as financial and healthcare companies. Compliance support can take many forms, including compliance assessments, gap analysis, policy development and implementation, employee training, continuous monitoring, reporting and documentation, and incident response planning.

For example, a regional healthcare provider that handles sensitive patient data may hire an MSSP for a variety of compliance management services to ensure they meet regulations like HIPAA. They may provide general HIPAA compliance auditing, protect their cloud network against ransomware attacks, and implement endpoint protection to ensure employee hardware is not subject to breaching.

What Is the Difference Between MSSP and MDR?

Managed Security Service Providers (MSSPs) and Managed Detection and Response (MDR) providers are similar in their goals but provide different scopes of services. MSSPs provide a broad range of cybersecurity services, from basic network security management to advanced threat intelligence to compliance support.

MDRs provide a focused subset of services provided by MSSPs, such as threat detection, investigation, response, and reporting. An MDR provider tends to include human-based proactive threat hunting, user monitoring and behavioral analysis, and fast-acting incident response. MDR providers typically operate in a hybrid engagement with an organization’s existing security team (or other MSSPs) to supplement their threat mitigation resources.

Engaging With an MSSP

When you work with an MSSP, the relationship is likely to take one of these three forms:

Cybersecurity Auditing

The simplest engagement of an MSSP is for an audit and review of a company’s security vulnerabilities. At the end of the engagement, the MSSP provides a summary of their findings and recommended actions. In many cases, the findings of this audit are actions the MSSP can help the organization take or the MSSP can provide entirely.

Hybrid Engagement

Many companies may employ an MSSP to help support their existing cybersecurity team and infrastructure, supplementing their security measures. For example, a company may have existing security resources that are experts at maintaining parts of an organization’s security. They hire an MSSP to help fill gaps in the cybersecurity needs not filled by the existing resources.

Full Outsourcing of Cybersecurity Services

Highly specialized companies, most often in the healthcare space, may have minimal interest or need for hosting their internal security resources. As such, they may use an MSSP to provide their company with a top-to-bottom audit of their cybersecurity. The MSSP may propose and implement a full security strategy and act as a full-time service provider for all security-related services.


SentinelOne’s Partner Program for MSSPs provides a platform for MSSPS to enhance their existing security offerings to better serve their customers. SentinelOne’s technology is an API-first, multitenant platform that allows MSSPs to provide a unified response and remediation strategy, increasing value internally and externally.

To learn more about MSSPs, understand SentinelOne’s Partner Program, or learn more about SentinelOne’s MSSP partners, request a demo to speak to our experts.

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