A Robust Cybersecurity Posture Begins Inside Your MSP Business

The daily onslaught of cyber attacks is nothing new. We’ve all heard about ransomware variants, the millions of dollars that breaches have cost organizations of all sizes, and the irreparable reputational damage from breaches. Despite those occurrences, we don’t seem to be spending enough time discussing the incidents that could cause the most turmoil to businesses — cyber attacks against MSPs.

We’ve all heard the adage that MSPs hold the ‘keys to the kingdom’. After all, their infrastructure is designed to allow easy access to client’s networks for maintenance, troubleshooting, and software implementation, among other things. With that single point of entry, it’s no wonder that cybercriminals are increasingly targeting MSPs. Since security is a substantial part of their businesses, some providers will succumb to extortion and pay a ransom to restore their customer’s networks and protect their reputation.

Unlike other companies that experience a breach, MSPs have much more at stake ,  not only their standing in the community but the stability of each client’s business. A major cyber attack could erode most, if not all, of an IT services firm’s clientele.

When the stakes and potential penalties are so high, providers have to do a better job of practicing what they preach. Failure to adhere to industry cybersecurity standards can have a devastating effect on any MSP. With that in mind, providers must continually evaluate their data and network protection practices, make needed adjustments, and implement new technologies that can keep their operations (as well as their clients’ businesses) well defended.

The Right Solutions

A great place to start is with encryption — not just a ‘should have’ but a ‘must-have.’ While most industry and government regulations require these technologies, MSPs must adopt similar standards to protect data both at rest and in transit. Information that is being stored, emailed, or shared through collaboration software and other communications tools must be properly safeguarded.

Your clients are not the only ones with sensitive information. MSPs must worry about protecting the data that they share with customers, vendors and partners, and others in the supply chain. Email encryption can give your customers (and your team members) an effective way to safeguard information they transmit outside their company.

Another key protection technology is email security. Cybercriminals frequently target electronic communications. MSPs should be utilizing an inbound filter for spam, viruses, and malware, as well as screen outbound messages based on self-defined policies. From the constant influx of email threats to the accidental release of sensitive information to the wrong recipient, MSPs should be using these types of tools to secure communications for every person they support (internal and external).

Other suggestions for boosting protection include implementing advanced firewall protection. MSPs should also regularly scan and test for vulnerabilities inside their own businesses, and adopt intrusion detection to neutralize threats as soon as they appear. Of course, technology is just one part of the security equation.

The Human Factor

People are the biggest cybersecurity risk. One of the fundamentals of ensuring a compliant and secure business is through user awareness. After all, not every employee of an IT services firm wants to be a security expert. Educate your team members the same way that you train your client’s workforce. Focus on the latest threats, show them how to spot phishing attacks and vulnerabilities, and emphasize all the security policies they must follow. Repetition is key.

While you may have complete trust in your employees, continual review of electronic policies and procedures helps ensure a secure workplace (and well-protected customer environment). A great place to start is by restricting network access. A tiered approach to data privilege limits employees only to the information and systems they need to complete their jobs ‒ no more, no less.

A strong login/ authentication process is another necessity. For example, MSPs (like your clients) should always prevent workers from sharing logins and require everyone to use a password manager to ensure their credentials are properly secured. Multi-factor authentication (MFA) is becoming a security industry standard — so be sure to utilize this process whenever possible.

Another important step is designating a skilled cybersecurity professional to be a CSO for your MSP. This person’s primary responsibilities should be managing your internal security and constantly monitoring and updating the network. While you may need to assign other tasks to that individual to justify the expense, your security operations should always be their top priority.

Of course, everyone is responsible for protecting the systems in some way and should report potential issues and follow the company’s response plan if problems occur. No one is immune to cyberattacks and the best recourse is to act quickly if an incident occurs. Establish team roles and responsibilities, and steps for communicating with lawyers, insurance companies, clients, and the proper authorities in the wake of an attack. Of course, no one can truly know the effectiveness of these strategies unless they periodically test and revise their plans. That last step is essential.

Trust is Everything

Cybersecurity is not easy or a one-and-done activity, or something to be taken lightly, especially for MSPs. Your organization’s protection posture must be equivalent to, if not greater than, that of your clients if you wish to succeed long-term.

When you adopt strong cybersecurity solutions, policies, and best practices in your operations, your customers will have a greater appreciation for your services and recommendations. It’s a matter of trust and good business.