Your website needs security. Your software needs security. In fact, your organization’s entire online presence needs security—and not just any type of security, but comprehensive, round-the-clock security that you can rely on to protect your assets, your operations, and your reputation.
Which approach to security will best allow you to meet these security needs? Traditionally, organizations have tended to rely on in-house IT staff as the backbone of their security strategy—more so than they have with other types of processes that have been moved to the cloud.
For an increasing number of companies that do business online, however, the in-house security model no longer works well. They’re switching to a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) model for security. The result is Security-as-a-Service (SECaaS). (I know, these acronyms can be a bit much, but this is the jargon that is common in the industry, so I’ll use it here.) In this post, we’ll take a look at what is behind the move towards outsourcing security as a comprehensive service.
Security-as-a-Service: The Basics
First, however, we need to answer a much more basic question: What is Security-as-a-Service?
SECaaS is actually a set of services. The specific services offered depend on the provider, but for the most part, those services will fall into the following general areas:
Network and Internet Traffic
Security for network and Internet traffic includes security for e-mail, websites, cloud-based applications and services, and for networks. Services typically include such things as monitoring e-mail and other user traffic, managing and controlling access to network and website resources, and protection from spam, malicious intrusion, and other forms of unwanted access or traffic.
User Account and Access Control
Services such as Identity and Access Management (IAM) take care of authentication, user privilege levels, verification of identity, and overall access administration. For both data traffic and user access, intrusion management services provide added layers of protection by monitoring traffic to detect unusual patterns of activity, and managing frontline automated response to suspected intrusions or other incidents.
Data security services include encryption, and prevention of loss of or damage to both stored files and data that is being transmitted, transferred, or processed by other services or applications.
Recovery from Incidents or Outages
Services under this heading include prompt resumption of business functions and services, and recovery of lost or damaged data. The basic goal of recovery services is to provide full continuity for your business’ online presence and operations.
Monitoring, Scanning, and Analytics
These services assess your system’s vulnerabilities, monitor the system continuously, and provide full security-oriented analytics based on data from logs and other sources. They provide necessary background support for traffic, user accounts, and data security, as well as incident recovery.
Security-as-a-Service: The Reasons
Why are so many businesses switching to SECaaS?
For many businesses with a strong online presence, the number one reason for outsourcing security services is cost. With SECaaS, you do not need to invest in on-premises hardware or security staff. In fact, because many elements of SECaaS are typically cloud-based, it easily and naturally integrates into cloud deployment, leading to the cost-saving synergy of a fully cloud-based solution.
And first-rate security requires specialized expertise. As with any other area of specialized knowledge, hiring or contracting with individual experts is expensive. Contracting with a SECaaS provider, however, gives you access to the services of a large pool of security specialists, typically at a cost (either subscription-based, or per service) that is much less than the cost of maintaining even a minimal security staff on your payroll.
The level of expertise, practical experience, and resources available with Security-as-a-Service are generally far beyond that which you could expect from hiring in-house security staff. It is not merely a question of individual expertise, either—A typical SECaaS provider also brings into play the knowledge it has accumulated as an organization, the technical and physical resources it maintains, and the combined abilities of multiple experts all working together in a highly coordinated process.
More Resources and Depth of Coverage
Many of the apps available for on-premises security are best suited for the kind of small, local server-based IT operations that were much more common only a few years ago, and which generally had only light security needs. For today’s Internet/cloud-based applications and services, in-house security reliance on on-premises apps is all too likely to mean that available security resources are very thin on the ground in those areas where you need the greatest coverage.
SECaaS vendors, on the other hand, can bring in a full range of resources specifically designed for Internet and cloud environments. An in-house mail server, for example, is intrinsically a point of vulnerability, which is why it has always been a key focus of on-premises security. By switching to one of the major online mail providers (such as Google), you can make full use of that service’s resources, which are likely to be much greater in power, range, and depth than the equivalent collection of in-house apps by several orders of magnitude.
Services such as Rollbar Compliant SaaS bring into play a full range of security and monitoring resources, including encryption, access control, data retention, filtering and removal, security testing, and auditing. In the case of Rollbar Compliant SaaS, these resources are also fully compliant with such industry standards as HIPAA, ISO 27001, AICPA SOC 2, Privacy Shield, and CSA STAR—a level of compliance which would, needless to say, place a major strain on the resources of an in-house security team.
Centralized Configuration and Updates
SECaaS providers can coordinate and manage security configuration for the various elements of your system, and provide centralized management for ongoing security services. Security-as-a-Service is also more likely to result in quick updates in response to such things as major system-wide outages, new and highly dangerous threats, and large-scale, coordinated attacks. In addition, updates to security resources, such as malware databases, are also rapid and often fully automated, eliminating the need to rely on individual users or departments to manage virus updates.
Built for the Cloud
SECaaS is a cloud-based solution for the security problems which arise from operating in a cloud environment. This means, among other things, that the services it provides form a forward defense, operating at the point where your business’ services and resources interface with both the public and with potential intruders. This forward defense means that potential attacks are more likely to be stopped before they penetrate the outer layers of your system, rather than after they have gotten in and begun to cause damage.
From a technical point of view, the key advantages of Security-as-a-Service are the centralization and standardization of security provisioning, the speed, uniformity, and reliability of updates to malware databases, rapid access to industry-wide security alerts, and the ability to meet attacks and intrusions with a highly coordinated, unified response, followed by a rapid and well-coordinated recovery.
Taken together, these basic features of SECaaS provide a high degree of insurance against prolonged outages, damage to vital elements of the system, and most of the other major consequences of a security incident. This in turn allows the in-house development and operations staff to focus on its core mission—the development, improvement, deployment, and day-to-day maintenance of your organization’s software and web-based services.
A Reliable Base
Security-as-a-Service gives your organization a well-protected and reliable base from which to operate. It allows you to concentrate on developing and expanding your software and web services, fully serving your clients and customers, and advancing with confidence into new markets and areas of service.
In today’s world, no organization can afford to treat security as an afterthought, and very few organizations can spare the resources required to give security the attention that it needs when handling it on an in-house basis. Security-as-a-Service is not merely a good compromise. It is, for many organizations, the best and often only truly viable solution to the challenges of modern-day software security.