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Blog | Jul 31, 2020

Security service is not room service

As part of my role with eSentire, I have travelled the globe spreading the word about how organizations in a myriad of industries can protect themselves from cybercrime. Prior to Covid-19, I used to joke that I travel so often, I live by airport codes not zip codes.

I have called numerous hotels my second home. And many times over breakfast, I have cheekily eavesdropped on tourists talking about their planned adventures or a once-in-a-lifetime dining experience in the big city. Invariably, those conversations typically end with “let’s stop at the concierge’s desk, I’m sure they can recommend something.”

While I have never used concierge services myself (I have found that Uber, Maps and Google provide all the guidance I need to navigate a foreign city), many tourists and hotel guests look to the concierge for “insider” advice on making a trip memorable. However, I usually just jump on OpenTable to make a reservation at a supposed booked-out restaurant where the food is usually good, but sometimes overpriced. Or, as opposed to using a concierge to arrange pricey tickets for a theatre show or sports event, I have found that Stubhub on even the MLB app offers affordable seats, often in exclusive areas of the stadium (like behind home plate).

I used to snicker to myself (the wise, worldly traveller): “those tourists are being ripped off by the travel industry machine.” But then it hit me. Unlike me, they were there for an experience. Returning home, they could regale friends and family with tales of the concierge “who knew a person” and got them the last table at a flashy restaurant. The concierge service is an illusion to make hotel guests feel elite and special and to give them an experience.

Now let’s apply this cybersecurity. I recently read an analyst report about Managed Detection and Response (MDR). It highlighted a growing trend of vendors offering “concierge services” as a way to differentiate their wares. And I thought … wait a minute--concierge security?

To be fair, the security industry is full of marketing gimmicks. In fact, many security providers who claim to be MDR vendors are really just rebranded legacy MSSPs offering the same old snake oil. And in this particular instance, if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck … I promise you, IT’S NOT A DUCK! It’s likely a dodo. It’s the old service in a new package. So buyer beware on that front.

Frankly, using the term “concierge” elicits a visceral reaction in me. A concierge is someone you ask to make dinner reservations, arrange theatre tickets or offer advice on sightseeing packages. It’s a commodity expertise replaced by online app services available on your smartphone. The concierge is not someone you call when you feel gravely ill or realize your laptop has been stolen. A concierge is not a doctor nor police officer.

Most guests that use concierges go to the same short list of overpriced restaurants and they sure as heck didn’t fly in on a Gulfstream and putter about in a Bentley. It’s a game. It’s an illusion. You aren’t elite and being treated like the top 0.01 percent of the population. In cybersecurity, you risk being treated as just another MSSP client, monitored by the same personnel as the next legacy MSSP firm. And you’re being taken by the illusion of elite service. Worse, you are being lulled into a false sense of security.

Why would you trust your cybersecurity to a concierge? There is too much at stake. Read some of our recent blogs and alerts on sophisticated threats, zero days, and gray zone nation states to get the idea of what real MDR service includes. When you dial 9-1-1, you don’t get the front desk, bell hop or room service. You get trained, experienced, emergency personnel who know how to respond in critical circumstances.

If you want an exhilarating experience, stick to the amusement parks and rollercoasters recommended by your MSSP concierge. I can tell you from experience, the adrenaline-pumping experiences real MDR security experts refer to are the heart-in-your-throat, hand-to-hand battles with nation state attackers, or navigating the landmines of a public data breach. Stand in a boardroom and recommend that a company shut down their business. Or help them draft a customer statement to explain a massive cyberattack. That’s what is at stake. And our MDR experts stop these events before they come to those dire consequences.

We’ve stopped nation state attacks like FIN4 on finance, APT20 on law firms, and sabotage in a 5G supply chain vendor. And perhaps we ordered pizza for our MDR SOC experts to keep them fueled during these attacks. But that’s as close to being a concierge as we get.

Next time you want dinner at that new place, or tickets to that show you want to see, call your MSSP concierge. I’m sure they can help. When you want advice about keeping the bad guys from ruining your business, call proven MDR security professionals. We know what’s at stake.

The other guys know where to get a good steak.

Additional guidance on how to spot the difference between real threat RESPONSE and legacy security approaches disguised as MDR can be found here

Mark Sangster

Mark Sangster

Vice President and Industry Security Strategist

Mark is a cybersecurity evangelist who has spent significant time researching and speaking to peripheral factors influencing the way that legal firms integrate cybersecurity into their day-to-day operations.