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Mar 13, 2024

Bridging the Talent Gap: MXDR Solves Top 3 Pain Points for IT Security

A recent study by the Information Systems Audit and Control Association (ISACA) found that 62% of cybersecurity teams were understaffed. That isn’t wholly surprising given that Cybersecurity Ventures tells us the industry will have 3.5 million cybersecurity job vacancies in 2025. While both are great ‘cocktail factoids’, information security decision-makers can’t easily convert them into something actionable. At Gradient Cyber, we happen to think these two facts lead directly to why every mid-market organization should be thinking long and hard about MXDR as a vital element of defense-in-depth.

Reality Bites: Real-World Security Budget Allocation

I’ll give you some rough math as a baseline (of course, YMMV). Imagine a mid-size organization with 500 employees - which is towards the low-end of mid-market, but the argument I’ll make easily extends to orgs of any headcount. Imagine their revenue is $50M a year. Let’s say they spend 8% of their revenue on IT. That’s $4 million a year. Let’s say they spend 15% of their IT budget on cybersecurity. That’s $600,000 a year. Now, let’s assume the budget allocation is as follows:

  • Security Prevention (20-30%): This includes investments in tools and technologies designed to prevent attacks, such as firewalls, endpoint protection platforms (EPP), email security, etc.
  • Detection and Response (20-30%): This category covers tools and services that identify and respond to threats, such as intrusion detection systems (IDS), threat intelligence feeds, and security information and event management (SIEM) solutions
  • Personnel (30-40%): Skilled cybersecurity personnel are crucial for managing and operating cybersecurity tools, analyzing threats, and responding to incidents. This includes salaries for in-house security analysts, CISO, and potentially outsourced or contracted specialists
  • Maintenance and Upgrades (10-15%): Ongoing costs associated with software updates, subscription renewals, and hardware maintenance are critical to ensure that security tools remain effective
  • Training and Awareness (5-10%): Cybersecurity awareness training for employees and specialized training for IT staff are essential to maintaining a secure posture
  • Emergency Fund/Incident Response (5-10%): Setting aside a portion of the budget for unforeseen security incidents or emergencies can be a prudent choice

Now let’s drill one level deeper - the specifics of detection and response. Why? Simple. Spend all you want on prevention, training and awareness. I will guarantee you the bad guys can - and will - still get in. Your attack surface is simply too vast and complex; the bad guys are too well-tooled, skilled and motivated; and your security staff is under enormous strain. So while you may be running a Snort or Suricata IDS, and you may have a log and event repository (often times more for compliance reasons), that tooling alone is really just the tip of the iceberg for true detection and response.


So, let’s hone in on your security staff. I’ll be generous and take the high side of 40% security budget allocation to personnel, or $240,000. Now let’s assume you get two crackerjack analysts for $120K a year, loaded labor rate - which means their salaries are about $100K a pop. That doesn’t compute. It’s hard to find skilled, experienced and credentialed security analysts for anything less than $150K a year, and even then, good luck with retention. Oh, and as a reminder, they will not be able to devote 100% of their time to detection and response. Go back and review those budget buckets above. Someone has to manage ALL of that - not just perform detection and response.


This is where our story really begins…


More often than not, mid-market IT organizations struggle with at least one of three specific cybersecurity personnel pains: limited visibility, limited expertise, or limited bandwidth. And it’s simply because the time, cost and effort required to create visibility, gain security expertise, and then actually have time to absorb gobs of telemetry, wade through false positives, and then convert the data that matters into actionable intelligence is just…overwhelming.


Managed Extended Detection and Response (MXDR) is purpose-built to attack these shortfalls. Whether grappling with one of these challenges or a combination thereof, MXDR acts as a force multiplier in any company’s security stack, enhancing defenses and empowering proactive protection.


Let’s look at each cybersecurity personnel pain point:

#1: We Don’t Have Visibility

In the digital fortifications of modern enterprises, clear visibility into network activities is not just advantageous — it's the bedrock of cybersecurity. Knowing what devices and users are on your network, what data they access, and where that data flows, lays the groundwork for robust cybersecurity.


This level of insight is critical because the network serves as ground truth. Every action, from data transfers to user commands, leaves its traces as it moves north-south from external to internal points, or east-west within the internal network. This digital footprint is vital to monitor, and is often the first indicator of suspicious or malicious activity.


Relying solely on Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR) will fall short. EDR tools are good, but they don’t have the reach to monitor what they aren’t installed on. It's impractical to think we can secure every endpoint — some remain beyond our control, or are simply unknown due to shadow IT practices. This clandestine use of unauthorized applications and devices can elude even the most vigilant IT teams, rendering a strategy that depends exclusively on EDR both incomplete and economically unfeasible.


The truth is, not everything can or will be covered by an EDR agent. Beyond control issues, the financial implications of striving for total endpoint coverage can be staggering and still won't guarantee visibility into all corners of your network. The reality of shadow IT compounds this issue, with employees using unsanctioned software and devices that could introduce new vulnerabilities or be exploited by adversaries, remaining undetected by EDR solutions.


Back to our team. Small or large in number, skilled or not, if your IT security personnel lack true visibility,  you will struggle to perform detection and response duties.


MXDR takes a holistic approach, transcending these limitations by integrating network, endpoint, user behavior, and cloud telemetry – providing complete visibility, and delivering actionable intelligence. By acknowledging that the network is the ultimate source of truth - and made contextually stronger by other telemetry signals - MXDR ensures that nothing is invisible, no matter where it lies or moves within your digital ecosystem.


#2: We Don’t Have Cybersecurity Expertise

In many mid-market organizations, the IT department is the backbone that keeps the business operational, ensuring that networks hum and applications run without a hitch. The teams in these departments are often small, sometimes only 2-5 people, and their days are consumed with maintaining business operations. They are experts in their own right, adept at troubleshooting, system maintenance, and keeping the digital wheels of the company turning smoothly.


However, when it comes to cybersecurity, the expertise required diverges significantly from routine IT maintenance. Cybersecurity is a field that demands specialized skills, continuous learning to keep up with the ever-evolving threat landscape, and an entirely different set of tools and methodologies. The likelihood that such a compact team will possess deep security expertise, experience, or credentials is low. And even if they do, the specialized work of threat detection and response is a full-time job on its own.


Enter MXDR: a perfect fit for organizations where IT teams are stretched thin between operational duties and the vast ocean of cybersecurity. MXDR provides these teams with the equivalent of having an entire department dedicated to security. It bridges the expertise gap with a team of seasoned cybersecurity professionals who are singularly focused on the complex, specialized tasks of threat detection and response, backed by industry-leading tools and processes.


#3: We Don’t Have Cybersecurity Bandwidth

Conversely, many organizations have invested in cybersecurity talent within their IT teams. These professionals bring valuable expertise to the table and are an asset to their companies. Yet, they often find themselves in a constant juggling act, trying to balance the demands of daily IT operations with the critical tasks of threat monitoring, detection, and response.


Despite having the expertise, the bandwidth to engage in thorough 24/7 threat detection and response is usually lacking. There's a monumental difference between having cybersecurity knowledge and having the time and tools to apply it effectively round the clock. This is where MXDR shines as an indispensable ally. By partnering with an MXDR provider, companies can offload the heavy lifting of constant vigilance.


MXDR offers more than just additional hands; it brings a sophisticated Security Operations Center (SOC) to the table, equipped with advanced analytics and playbooks fine-tuned for rapid alert investigation, log correlation, and indicator of compromise (IoC) analysis. This means faster, more efficient, and more accurate responses to threats, and remediation recommendations that are grounded in deep industry knowledge.


For IT security staff, this partnership is liberating. It allows them to ascend from the trenches of alert fatigue and shift their focus to higher-order work—proactive security measures, strategic planning, and advancing the company's overall security posture. With MXDR, organizations not only get a wholesale upgrade in cybersecurity but also empower their in-house talent to deliver more value by focusing on strategic initiatives that move the needle.


Integrating MXDR for a Proactive Cyber Defense

The integration of MXDR services into your cybersecurity strategy brings a proactive approach to cyber defense. It's not about waiting for alarms; it's about constantly monitoring, analyzing, and adjusting to the threat landscape—something that MXDR does round the clock.


Imagine a proactive cyber defense that not only identifies threats as they surface but also predicts and mitigates potential future threats. MXDR’s comprehensive analytics and threat intelligence capabilities make this proactive defense possible.


You Don’t Need to Suffer

Limited network visibility, limited cybersecurity expertise, and limited security bandwidth are personnel pain points that need not be taken as a given. MXDR offers an approach that addresses these needs while enhancing your organization's cyber resilience.


We encourage organizations to assess their cybersecurity infrastructure critically. Is your network visibility sufficient? Does your team have the expertise and time to manage complex cyber threat detection and response effectively?


If you find gaps, it's time to consider MXDR as an essential component of your cyber defense strategy. MXDR isn’t just a service; it's an investment in the security and continuity of your business. Learn more about how Gradient Cyber MXDR can help.

Neal Hartsell

Neal Hartsell is Chief Marketing Officer at Gradient Cyber. His career spans three decades where he has held senior leadership roles in product management, product marketing, and digital marketing in networking and cybersecurity companies. He has served in senior roles across industry giants such as Cisco, 3Com, and Northern Telecom. Neal held CMO, VP Marketing, and product management and marketing roles at startup, early-stage, and growth companies including ECI Telecom, Crossroads, TippingPoint, RGB Networks, NSS Labs, Netgate, NetSpeed (acquired by Cisco), Surgient Networks, RipCode (acquired by RGB Networks), and Click Security (acquired by Alert Logic). Neal has also served as a strategic marketing consultant to a number of cybersecurity startups.