MSSP Examination Procedures


NOTE: This appendix includes all of the steps in Appendix A, plus unique ones for MSSP's.

EXAMINATION OBJECTIVE: Assess the effectiveness of the institution's risk management process as it relates to the outsourcing of information systems and technology and security services, and the heightened risks specific to the outsourcing of security services to a Managed Security Services Provider (MSSP).

Tier I and Tier II Objectives and Examination Procedures are intended to be a tool set examiners will use when selecting examination procedures for their particular examinations. Examiners should use these procedures as necessary to support examination objectives.

Tier I Objectives and Procedures relate to the institution's implementation of a process for identifying and managing risks related to outsourcing functions to an MSSP.

Tier II Objectives and Procedures provide additional validation and testing techniques, as warranted by risk, to verify the effectiveness of the institution's process on individual MSSP contracts.


Objective 1: Determine the appropriate scope for the examination.

1. Review past reports for weaknesses involving outsourcing. Consider:

  • Regulatory reports of examination of the institution and service provider(s); and

  • Internal and external audit reports of the institution and service provider(s).

2. Assess management's response to issues raised since the last


  • Resolution of root causes rather than just specific issues; and

  • Existence of any outstanding issues.

3. Interview management and review institution information to identify:

  • Current outsourcing relationships and changes to those relationships since the last examination. Also identify:Material service provider subcontractors,

Also identify:

o Material service provider subcontractors,

o Affiliated service providers,

o Foreign-based third party providers;

  • Current transaction volume for each function outsourced;

  • Material problems experienced with the service provided;

  • Service providers with significant financial or control-related weaknesses;
  • When applicable, whether the primary regulator has been notified of the outsourcing relationship as required by the Bank Service Company Act or Home Owners' Loan Act.

Objective 2: Evaluate the quantity of risk present from the institution's outsourcing arrangements.

1. Assess the level of risk present in outsourcing arrangements. Consider
risks pertaining to or associated with:

  • Functions outsourced;

  • Service providers, including where appropriate, unique risks inherent in foreign-based service provider arrangements;

  • Technologies used;

  • Staff qualifications;

  • The MSSP's risk assessment program and whether it includes business process, information security infrastructure, related risk assessments, etc.; and
  • The frequency of MSSP risk assessments

Objective 3: Evaluate the quality of risk management.

1. Evaluate the outsourcing process for appropriateness, given the size
and complexity of the institution. The following elements are particularly

  • Institution's evaluation of service providers consistent with scope;
  • Requirements for ongoing monitoring; and
  • Determination of whether the Request for Information (RFI) document outlines the security functions the financial institution (FI) intends to incorporate into the contract with an MSSP.

2. Evaluate the requirements definition process.

  • Ascertain that all stakeholders are involved; the requirements are developed to allow for subsequent use in Request For Proposals (RFPs), contracts, and monitoring; and actions are required to be documented; and
  • Ascertain that the requirements definition is sufficiently complete to support the future control efforts of service provider selection, contract preparation, and monitoring.

3. Evaluate the service provider selection process to determine if:

  • An RFI/RFP was completed;
  • The FI included RFI/RFP elements appropriate to level of risk;
  • The RFP adequately encapsulates the institution's requirements and that elements included in the requirements definition are complete and sufficiently detailed to support subsequent RFP development, contract formulation, and monitoring;
  • Any differences between the RFP and the submission of the selected service provider are appropriately evaluated, and that the institution takes appropriate actions to mitigate risks arising from requirements not being met; and
  • Due diligence requirements encompass all material aspects of the service provider relationship, such as the provider's financial condition, reputation (e.g., reference checks), controls, key personnel, disaster recovery plans and tests, insurance, communications capabilities and use of subcontractors.

4. Evaluate the process for entering into a contract with a service provider.

Consider whether:

  • The contract contains adequate and measurable service level agreements;

  • Allowed pricing methods adversely affect the institution's safety and soundness, including the reasonableness of future price changes;

  • The rights and responsibilities of both parties are sufficiently detailed;

  • Required contract clauses address significant issues, such as financial and control reporting, right to audit, ownership of data and programs, confidentiality, subcontractors, continuity of service, etc.;

  • Legal counsel reviewed the contract and legal issues were satisfactorily resolved;

  • Contract inducement concerns are adequately addressed; and

  • Contracts contain the following relative to MSSP engagements:

o Appropriate MIS reporting commensurate with risk;

o Agreed upon privileged access rights;

o Termination rights and appropriate renewal language;

o Timelines for service implementation and explicit responsibilities
of the MSSP and the FI;

o The right to modify existing services performed under the

o A security provision in accordance with the FI's security
program; and

o Ownership of data generated by proprietary security or third-
party monitoring tools owned by the MSSP;

  • Determine if the FI has a process to monitor that the MSSP is fulfilling their obligations outlined within the contract (e.g. Service Level Agreements (SLAs), Knowledge Performance Indicators (KPIs)/Knowledge Risk Indicators (KRIs)).

5. Evaluate the overall governance of the MSSP program.

  • Appraise senior management support of the use of MSSPs;
  • Review reports related to MSSP compliance with FI information security program;

  • Assess changes to the information security program arising from the use of MSSPs; and

  • Evaluate MIS reports provided to FI from MSSPs.

6. Evaluate the institution's process for monitoring the risk presented by the
service provider relationship. Ascertain that monitoring addresses:

  • Key service level agreements and contract provisions;

  • Financial condition of the service provider;

  • General control environment of the service provider through the receipt and review of appropriate audit and regulatory reports;

  • Service provider's disaster recovery program and testing;

  • Information security;

  • Insurance coverage;

  • Subcontractor relationships including any changes or control concerns;

  • Foreign third party relationships; and

  • Potential changes due to the external environment (i.e., competition and industry trends).

7. Review policies regarding periodic ranking of service providers by risk.
The decision process should:

  • Include objective criteria;
  • Support consistent application;
  • Consider the degree of service provider support for the institution's strategic and critical business needs; and
  • Specify subsequent actions when rankings change.

8. Evaluate the financial institution's use of user groups and other
mechanisms to monitor and influence the service provider.

Objective 4: Discuss corrective action and communicate findings.

1. Determine the need to complete Tier II Procedures for additional
validation to support conclusions related to any of the Tier I

2. Review preliminary conclusions with the EIC regarding:

  • Violations of law, rulings, regulations;
  • Significant issues warranting inclusion in the Report as matters requiring attention or recommendations; and
  • Potential impact of your conclusions on the institution's risk profile and composite or component IT ratings.

3. Discuss findings with management, and obtain proposed corrective
action for significant deficiencies.

4. Document conclusions in a memo to the EIC that provides report ready
comments for the Report of Examination and guidance to future

5. Organize work papers to ensure clear support for significant findings by
examination objective.



1. Review documentation supporting the requirements definition process
to ascertain that it appropriately addresses:

  • Scope and nature;

  • Standards for controls;

  • Minimum acceptable service provider characteristics;

  • Monitoring and reporting;

  • Transition requirements;

  • Contract duration, termination, and assignment; and
  • Contractual protections against liability.


1. Assess the extent to which the institution reviews the financial stability
of the service provider:

  • Analyzes the service provider's audited financial statements and annual reports;

  • Assesses the provider's length of operation and market share;

  • Considers the size of the institution's contract in relation to the size of the company;

  • Reviews the service provider's level of technological expenditures to ensure on-going support; and

  • Assesses the impact of economic, political, or environmental risk on the service provider's financial stability.

2. Evaluate whether the institution's due diligence considers the following:

  • References from current users or user groups about a particular vendor's reputation and performance;

  • The service provider's:

o Experience and ability in the industry;

o Experience and ability in handling situations similar to the
Institution's environment and operations;

o Shortcomings in the service provider's expertise that the
institution may need to supplement in order to fully mitigate risks;

o Proposed use of third parties, subcontractors, or partners to
support the outsourced activities;

o A ability to respond to service disruptions;

o Assigning of Key personnel that would support the institution;

o Ability to comply with appropriate federal and state laws.
In particular, ensure management has assessed the providers'
ability to comply with federal laws (including GLBA and the USA

  • The cost for additional system and data conversions or interfaces presented by the various vendors; and

  • Country, state, or locale risk.

3. Evaluate how the FI determines whether the MSSP meets its risk

Consider whether the FI:

  • Performed an onsite visitation of the MSSP;Considered business changes at the MSSP;

  • Assessed the extent of MSSP use of subcontractors and if any will be performed by an offshore entity; and
  • Evaluated controls over sensitive data where offshore subcontracting is performed.


1. Verify that legal counsel reviewed the contract prior to signing. Ensure

  • Legal counsel is qualified to review the contract particularly if it is based on the laws of a foreign country or other state; and

  • Legal review includes an assessment of the enforceability of local contract provisions and laws in foreign or out-of-state jurisdictions.

2. Verify that the contract appropriately addresses:

  • Scope of services;

  • Performance standards;

  • Pricing;

  • Controls;

  • Financial and control reporting;

  • FIs right to audit;

  • Ownership of data and programs;

  • Confidentiality and security;

  • Regulatory compliance;

  • Indemnification;

  • Limitation of liability;

  • Dispute resolution;

  • Contract duration;

  • Restrictions on, or prior approval for, subcontractors;

  • Termination and assignment, including timely return of data in a machine-readable format;

  • Insurance coverage;

  • Prevailing jurisdiction (where applicable);

  • Choice of law (foreign outsourcing arrangements);

  • Regulatory access to data and information necessary for supervision; and

  • Business Continuity Planning.

3. Review service level agreements to ensure they are adequate and
measurable. Consider whether:

  • Significant elements of the service are identified and based on the institution's requirements;

  • Objective measurements for each significant element are defined;

  • Reporting of measurements is required;

  • Measurements specify what constitutes inadequate performance; and

  • Inadequate performance is met with appropriate sanctions, such as reduction in contract fees or contract termination.

4. Review the institution's process for verifying billing accuracy and
monitoring any contract savings through bundling.


1. Evaluate the institution's periodic monitoring of the service provider
relationship(s), including:

  • Timeliness of review, given the risk from the relationship;

  • Changes in the risk due to the function outsourced;

  • Changing circumstances at the service provider, including financial and control environment changes;

  • Conformance with the contract, including the service level agreement; and

  • Audit reports and other required reporting addressing business continuity, security, and other facets of the outsourcing relationship.

2. Determine if adequate in house expertise exists to manage an MSSP
relationship by evaluating:

  • FI management's understanding of the MSSP's process, procedures, and protocols;

  • Whether the FI has a thorough understanding of the data the MSSP is collecting and whom has access to the data; and

  • The training, education, and awareness provided by the MSSP to the FI.

3. Relative to contingency and event planning between the FI and an
MSSP. Evaluate:

  • The most recent business continuity test with the MSSP; review the results, lessons learned and issues to be addressed;

  • How the FI monitors the MSSP's BCP plan and testing results;

  • The process to develop and maintain incident response processes that include the MSSP;

  • How the MSSP roles and responsibilities have been established; and

  • Provisions in the FI's contingency plan for continuance of processing activities, either in-house or with another vendor, in the event that the vendor is no longer able to provide the contracted services or the arrangement is otherwise terminated unexpectedly.

4. Relative to ongoing monitoring of an MSSP relationship, the
following should be considered:

  • Event notification procedures, response time expected, and actions the MSSP will take to protect the FI;

  • Clearly defined support to be provided during and after "events," (e.g., incident response, forensics, etc.);

  • How the MSSP provides continuous monitoring of the FI;

  • The quality of the management information reports the MSSP provides to the FI; and

o Determine if reports include status of security,
incidents, business continuity plans, and financial

  • How management at the FI is periodically updated regarding MSSP activities. Assess the scope of reporting including risk assessments, information security, significant incidents, business continuity, and financial condition.

5. Review risk rankings of service providers to ascertain:

  • Objectivity;

  • Consistency; and

  • Compliance with policy.


6. Review actions taken by management when risk rankings change,
to ensure policy conformance when rankings reflect increased risk.


7. Review any material subcontractor relationships identified by
the service provider or in the outsourcing contracts. Ensure:

  • Management has reviewed the control environment of all relevant subcontractors for compliance with the institution's requirements definitions and security guidelines; and

  • The institution monitors and documents relevant service provider subcontracting relationships including any changes in the relationships or control concerns.

8. Determine if there is adequate coordination between the FI's
security policies and the policies/practices of the MSSP.
Consider whether:

  • There is clear understanding of responsibility and accountability during a security event (i.e., incident response);

  • The FI has considered access controls surrounding the systems, devices and data that the MSSP can access;

  • Effective change control processes and communication exist between the FI and MSSP;

  • The quality of the log collection of the MSSP and related Security Information and Event Management tools;

  • The quality of the physical security around devices that are owned and/or maintained by the MSSP on the FI's premises;

  • The FI's data is maintained in separate client logs at the MSSP; and
  • Monitoring for security events/incidents is being conducted by the MSSP on a real-time system (e.g., security console)


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MSSP Engagement Criteria