Are you In or Out-sourcing?

Cyber criminals are relentlessly hacking websites to attack unsuspecting visitors, breaking into databases to steal customer information and trade secrets. The first thing that comes to mind — Mr. Robot.

Mr. Robot is a story about Elliot Alderson, a cyber security engineer and hacker who suffers from social anxiety disorder and clinical depression. He is part of a hacktivist group named fsociety. They successfully launched an ambitious hack on E Corp. that threw the world’s economy into chaos and erasing thousands of people’s debts to the conglomerate.

For the thousands of people whose debts were erased, it was amazing. For E Corp. though, it was a disaster.

For every failed venture however, there are also success stories. This is why more and more companies, even SMEs are considering outsourcing IT security services. Why?

  1. Reduce and control operating costs. When you outsource, you eliminate the costs associated with hiring an employee, such as management oversight, training, health insurance, employment taxes, retirement plans etc.
  2. Improve company focus. It is neither practical, nor possible to be a jack of all trades. Outsourcing lets you focus on your core competencies while another company focuses on theirs.
  3. Free internal resources for other purposes. You may have someone in your office that is pretty good with computers or accounting, but most likely these were not the jobs he or she was hired to do. If they are spending time taking care of these things, who is doing what they were hired to do? Outsourcing allows you to retain employees for their highest and best use, rather than wasting their time on things that may take them longer than someone who is trained in these specific areas.
  4. Reduce Risk. Keeping up with technology required to run your business is expensive and time consuming. Because professional outsourced IT providers work with multiple clients and need to keep up on industry best practices, they typically know what is right and what is not. This kind of knowledge and experience dramatically reduces your risk of implementing a costly wrong decision.

Why not? Simple answer, Mr. Robot.

  1. Some IT functions are not easily outsourced. IT affects an entire organization; from the simple tasks employees do everyday to the complex automated aspects. Be sure the outside vendor are qualified to take care of your greatest needs.
  2. Control may be lost. Critics argue that an outside vendor will never be as effective as a full-time employee who is under the same management as other employees. Other concerns include confidentiality of data and disaster recovery. However, a supervisor that is knowledgeable in managing an IT staff member will usually be required.
  3. Employee morale may be affected. This is particularly true if you will be laying off employees to replace their job functions with an outsourced firm. Other employees may wonder if their job is at risk, too.
  4. You may get “locked in.” If the vendor does not document their work on your network and system, or if you’ve had to purchase their proprietary software, you may feel like you can’t go anywhere else or take back your network. Many outsourced companies require you to sign a year to year contract which limits flexibility.

In the end, outsourcing IT security services come with a lot of pros, as they take a lot of work out of your hands without requiring you to make such a big investment. There are risks but nothing that can’t be managed.

To protect yourself from the said data breach, there are certain things you must understand regarding outsourcing these tasks—and more importantly, how to manage the risks.

First, know that you’re giving away a measure of control. You’ll be providing administrative rights to your computers, which means they’ll have access to data stored on those drives and networks. To assuage the potential of your data being stolen, employ an in-house IT auditor who’ll monitor these movements.

Understandably, IT security experts need access to some of your data, so that they’ll know how to best protect it. But, never forget to ask them this: “What exactly are you doing with my data?” You need to be informed of the reasons for needing that information and how they’re going to use it to perform their functions.

You have to be vigilant in keeping an eye on your outsourced IT security staff. Though they may be contract-bound to keep your data private, in reality, they’ll have little to lose as opposed to your company—in case your data falls into the wrong hands.

For them to work effectively, you’ll need to show a little trust, then again, trust your instincts as well. If something feels off, don’t be afraid to run a security check. Remind your in-house employees to stay vigilant as well.

Ensure that you have the proper security controls and the legal paperwork and insurance in place so that you can enjoy its benefits while minimizing the risks.

In a survey of U.S. senior executives, 91% of respondents were ‘somewhat’ or ‘very concerned’ about data theft or misuse in outsourced operations. The survey also states that information security is one of the top three most important factors in selecting an outsourcing partner – higher in ranking than either business stability or reputation.

Furthermore, 85% of executives stated that they may be willing to pay an additional 10% – 15% for extra security.

This tells me that IT security is a priority for businesses today. Because business are already adapting the digital age, they should also apply appropriate controls in order for them to compete. IT Security is a necessity, but if a company is able to reduce operating costs, improve company focus and free up internal resources while getting the security they need, It’s a win-win. Let’s just hope there’s no Mr. Robot in your outsourcing partner.



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