business survey

AI-led security and threat intelligence services are poised to become the primary drivers of business growth in the next year for managed service providers (MSPs) and managed security service providers (MSSPs).

According to an OpenText survey of more than 1,500 MSPs and MSSPs, the vast majority (92.5%) of respondents said they see increasing AI investments and services, such as tools to track threats and vulnerabilities, as key to their expansion over the next 12 months.

More than 80% of these providers currently offer AI-related security services, and among those who do not, 62% plan to introduce these services within the next year.

More than three-quarters (83%) have seen increased business, driven by interest in AI security tools and expertise, with 34% stating that incorporating AI into security is now the biggest challenge they are helping customers solve.

The report found the top-ranked benefit of incorporating generative or other AI into customers’ security programs is to augment the skills of security talent and platforms, rather than replace people.

While the excitement around AI technologies is palpable, the survey indicated comprehensive security and flexible, on-demand expertise continue to be the main reasons enterprises and small to medium size businesses (SMBs) seek MSP and MSSP services.

The survey findings also revealed that priorities have shifted towards embedded AI and holistic security with single vendors.

The demand for comprehensive security has increased by more than 10% in 2024, with more than a quarter (27%) of customers now preferring to have one vendor for security solutions, a notable 10% increase from 2023.

Stephen Kowski, field CTO at SlashNext Email Security+, said over the next 12 months, AI will play an increasingly critical role in cybersecurity by enabling faster threat detection, more accurate risk assessment and automated response.

He pointed to AI-powered phishing detection, malware analysis, and user and entity behavior analytics (UEBA) as some of the key services driving the adoption of AI in security.

“These AI-driven capabilities allow organizations to stay ahead of evolving threats and respond more effectively to incidents,” he explained.

He said organizations are most interested in AI tools that can detect novel and sophisticated threats like targeted phishing campaigns, credential theft and fileless attacks.

“Advanced machine learning models trained on massive datasets are proving highly effective at identifying malicious patterns and anomalous behaviors that evade traditional security controls,” Kowski said.

Meanwhile, natural language processing (NLP) is also being leveraged to analyze and block social engineering attacks delivered over email, messaging apps and social media.

Darktrace recently released research that found nearly three-quarters (74%) of security professionals state AI-powered threats are now a significant issue, and 89% agreed that AI-powered threats will remain a major challenge into the foreseeable future.

Nicole Carignan, vice president of strategic cyber AI at Darktrace, said as adversaries double down on the use and optimization of autonomous agents for attacks, human defenders will become increasingly reliant on and trusting of autonomous agents for defense.

She noted specific types of AI can perform thousands of calculations in real time to detect suspicious behavior and perform the micro decision-making necessary to respond to and contain malicious behavior in seconds.

“Transparency and explainability in the AI outcomes are critical to foster a productive human-AI partnership,” she said.

Kowski said to successfully implement AI security solutions, MSPs/MSSPs should focus on selecting the right AI-powered tools that can seamlessly integrate with their existing security stack and processes.

“They should look for solutions that provide out-of-the-box accuracy and require minimal tuning, allowing them to quickly deploy and scale AI-driven security services across their customer base,” he said.

By leveraging AI security solutions that are easy to implement and manage, MSPs/MSSPs can improve their operational efficiency, onboard more clients, and drive revenue growth without adding significant overhead.

“Enterprise and SMB customers now expect their security services to heavily leverage AI and machine learning to provide more proactive, automated, and adaptive threat protection,” Kowski said.

As MSPs turn to AI, they’re facing their own challenges as they look to streamline cybersecurity partnerships during a persistent IT skills shortage.