Outsourced service-response capabilities help organisations bridge security, operations gap

Corporate information-security teams have often found themselves navigating the world of cloud services blindly due to a lack of visibility into those services, ServiceNow's local head has warned as the company repackages its internal service-management capabilities into a managed security services (MSS) offering for use by the general public.

That offering, launched this month as ServiceNow Security Operations (SSO) and due to be demonstrated at the RSA Conference this week, grew out of the company's experiences with companies that were frustrated by the complexity of the transition to the cloud.

Even those with established service-management environments often struggled to integrate the new environment, ANZ managing director David Oakley told CSO Australia, and their desire to improve the situation often led them to engage third-party service-management providers to bridge the gap.

“Traditionally our engagements with security teams have been more of a rite of passage in going to the cloud,” Oakley explained. “They're typically suffering from a lot of spreadsheets and a lack of insight. It's often one of the first forays they've had in going to the cloud, and there can be vulnerabilities because they are sensitive around configurations and data from their data centre.”

Service-based engagements were often conducted with business organisations but “in the last couple of years we have started to interact more with security teams as a potential set of customers in their own right,” Oakley added.

“They've seen what we have done around getting better insight into what's really going on – automating things and providing a better level of service back to the business.”

An Enterprise Strategy Group research survey of more than 180 security executives found that lack of automation was limiting incident response effectiveness in 9 out of 10 cases, while 75 percent of respondents said incident response tends to be managed informally. The biggest challenge cited by respondents was the co-ordination between security and IT teams.

“Although organisations have invested heavily in identifying security vulnerabilities, they’ve neglected a critical step in remediation: formalising their teams’ incident response workflows,” ESG senior principal analyst and report author Jon Oltsik said in a statement. “This is especially the case when it comes to collaboration between cybersecurity and IT operations groups.”

As an established service provider in its own right, ServiceNow's decision to productise the SSO offering – which incorporates two cloud-baed applications, Security Incident Response and Vulnerability Response – came as it became clear many businesses wanted to retain security expertise internally as a bridge to the business, rather than shifting responsibility for security outside the organisation on a wholesale basis.

After what Oakley called “a pretty quick journey” to test the market and bring its solution to the market, the offering has already drawn “a surprisingly strong” response from businesses eager to tap into its established capabilities around monitoring, analysis, governance and regulatory compliance.

“Because of the profile of security incidents and the ability to respond, many are already using core capabilities such as incident reporting,” he said. “The challenge is that they don't really have a coherent view across all those environment.”

Read more: Without discipline, the open-source dream can become a security nightmare

“Now it's just about making that available to parts of the organisation that typically run in a silo, and doing this without breaching the separation that organisations have. This lets them respond in a much more coherent and repeatable fashion.”

The embracing of selective outsourcing to gain security capabilities has rapidly grown in stature as increasingly complex security offerings demand skills and tools that many organisations simply cannot secure. The result is hybrid environments in which internal capabilities are complemented by service-based offerings like ServiceNow's SSO.

Finding the right balance is crucial, according to RSM Australia risk advisory partner Michael Shatter, who noted the growing use of cloud and managed services but warned that this “also means that organisations may be less involved in managing their own security risks and also are taking less direct responsibility for the security of the information they are outsourcing.”

Managing this risk requires extensive due diligence about outsourcing partners, Shatter warned, and regular reviews that ensure “they are familiar and aware of the level of security being maintained by their service partners. When RSM Australian undertakes risk management reviews for organisations it is often clear from the outset that even basic elements are lacking” including patches and vulnerability protection.

“The question remains whether organisations are giving security sufficient attention from a holistic perspective or simply spectating from the sidelines because they don't have sufficient resources to make it a focus.”

CenturyLink ANZ regional director Stuart Mills has also seen the outsourcing trend taking off: with “the burgeoning number of providers willing to provide outsourced solutions,” he says, “organisations are increasingly able to maintain a competitive IT posture without having to hire additional personnel or tap into big capex budgets.”

“If organisations engage the right trusted managed services partner, they would get an additional avenue to learn best practices and a platform to brainstorm with the service providers’ global and local experts in new technologies Thanks to the rise of hybrid IT, companies can pick and choose which services to outsource and what to keep in-house.”

Read more: CSO Insights: 2016 IT Security Strategies Survey – prize terms and conditions Join us at the CSO Perspectives Roadshow in March.

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Tags Vulnerabilitiesbridge the gapServiceNowServiceNow Security Operations (SSO)David Braueinformation-securityOutsourced service-responseDavid OakleyCSO AustraliaRSA Conference

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