Understanding MSP Cybersecurity: Importance and Best Practices

Have you ever gone to one of the big warehouse stores without a plan? I know I have. Sure, you probably got the things really needed on your mental list, but did you also get a large quantity of something you really didn’t need, repurchased something that your partner bought last week, or even worse, got completely sidetracked and bought a new TV? 

At this point the question you might be asking is, what do big box warehouse stores and cybersecurity have in common. The answer is not that much, but when approaching cybersecurity, the one thing you absolutely need is a documented and tested plan. Managed service providers (MSPs) enable customers of all sizes to be more productive and scale quickly. While focused primarily on IT services and infrastructure, MSPs play a vital role in protecting and securing their clients’ data. Along those lines, cyberattacks are becoming increasingly common and damaging. In a 2022 study by McKinsey, if the current growth rate continues, damage from cybercriminals could reach $10.5 trillion annually by 2025.  

2025 is closer than you think. As a result, companies require cybersecurity that complements their core data protection strategies. By adhering to best practices for both data protection and security, MSPs increase their resilience to common cyberthreats — and more importantly pass that resiliency on to their customers. Here, we explore some of the key threats, challenges, and best practices for MSPs in the cybersecurity industry.

The Significance of Cybersecurity for Managed Service Providers

As referenced in the 2024 Data Protection Trends Report, cyberattacks were the most common and most impactful causes of outages — up 22% from 2023. When infrastructure is targeted, customers cannot reach cloud hosted applications and workloads. It’s simple, as cyberattacks grow, the risk of organizations being targeted increases. MSPs offer accessibility to battle-hardened cybersecurity expertise and empower their customers. They assist with both the technical and the human elements of cybersecurity and data protection and handle critical data protection and security needs so the customer can sleep better at night. In the end, they sell peace of mind and offer a “plan” for their customers.

Making a Case for Managed Services Cybersecurity (aka Planning!)

Today, MSPs are faced with a variety of cybersecurity threats, including malware and ransomware, as well as insider threats and attacks.

Key Cybersecurity Threats to MSPs

Some common threats to MSPs include:

  • Active adversary attacks: Active adversaries infiltrate your systems, lying dormant until they exploit vulnerabilities to steal valuable data. These attacks are direct and can pose greater risks than passive ones.
  • Malware and ransomware: The cost is not just business interruption, but also the fallout of a data breach, lost revenues, and trust. It’s estimated that ransomware cost organizations over a billion dollars in 2023.
  • The human element: Knock knock! Are you prepared for phishing, social engineering, insider threats, and active adversaries? While less of threat than ransomware, it can “open the security door” to bigger threats. Careful monitoring of endpoints and proactive management of user credentials can mitigate this risk.
  • Supply chain attacks: Software supply chain attacks, such as the SolarWinds and Log4j incidents, represent a new generation of security threats by finding a vulnerability and spreading throughout the victim’s network essentially throwing gasoline onto an already hot fire — enabling advanced persistent threat groups to hijack legitimate software updates to infect users of that software with remote access threats, ransomware, cryptocurrency miners, or other malware regardless of the type of attack. The cost is high and includes direct financial losses, downtime, a tarnished reputation, and exposing regulatory violations not to mention the ability to wreak havoc across customers.

Regulatory Compliance for MSPs

Regulatory frameworks establish safeguards for data and physical systems. Physical compliance with these regulations helps ensure that businesses adhere to specific data handling, security protocols, and best practices to mitigate cyberthreats. Meeting these regulatory requirements often involves investing in incident response planning along with robust cybersecurity, encryption, and access control. Breaches for non-compliant companies result in legal consequences, financial penalties, and lost customers. Depending on the territories in which an MSP does business and the nature of their clients, they may be required to adhere to certain regulatory requirements and standards, including but not limited to:

  • GDPR: General Data Protection Regulations for businesses dealing with European users and personal data handling
  • PCI DSS: Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard to prevent data theft and fraudulent credit/debit card transactions
  • HIPAA: Health Insurance Portability and Accounting Act to maintain the privacy of Protected Health Information (PHI)
  • CCPA: The California Consumer Privacy Act

In addition to the above general regulations, there are often requirements for businesses that provide services to government or military organizations – often with unique nuances to the handing, storage and securing of data.

Best Practices for MSP Cybersecurity

When developing a security policy for an MSP, its critical to plan for the following:

Network Security – Starting with the Basics
With so much focus on cyber and ransomware threats, you cannot take network security for granted. It is vital in protecting both your data as well as customer data and information. It helps secure shared data, hardens the environment for virus detection and helps maintain network performance by reducing overhead expenses and costly losses from data breaches. With less downtime from viruses and malicious attacks, best practices in security can save businesses money both long and long-term.  

Best practices include ensuring all servers and virtual machines are secured-paying particular attention to cloud service administrative accounts. Schedule regular audits to identify compromised administrative accounts used to gain access via the cloud, and close doors to from would be attackers. Secure and protect all internet-facing services.  

Employee Training and Awareness

Humans are often the weakest link in any security policy. Even diligent and cybersecurity-savvy employees make mistakes sometimes.

Best practices include clearly published security policies and procedures that employees are expected to follow.

  • Advise employees of them during onboarding and offer regular retraining.
  • Augment them with awareness training sessions and occasional tests or audits to maintain an awareness of phishing and social engineering attacks,
  • Create a published incident response plans for accidental breaches.

Vendor Management

Trusted third-party vendors are often seen as a potential risk. Vet them carefully to confirm their compliance with relevant regulatory requirements and review their documented and tested data protection and security plan to ensure that they meet your standards.

  • Evaluate market reputation and financial stability
  • Incident Response: Establishing clear communication and incident response protocols for security incidents.
  • Ensuring that vendors adhere to data protection policies and regulations.
  • Assess historical performance, uptime, and reliability
  • Regularly monitor vendor activities for ongoing security compliance.
  • Check vendor location and regulatory requirements.
  • Implement continuous monitoring and update risk assessments regularly.

 By following these best practices, organizations can enhance their cybersecurity posture, minimize third-party breach risks, and foster a more secure business environment.

Data Backup and Recovery: The Best Offense is a Good Defense

Backup, recovery, and disaster recovery (DR) are integral to both continuity and cybersecurity planning. They form a crucial part of the overall security strategy, providing essential methodologies to safeguard data and ensure recovery in any situation. Rapid recovery from cyber incidents is key to forming a resilient defense against threats, contributing to a robust cybersecurity posture.

  • Follow the 3-2-1 rule for data backups
  • Maintain at least three copies of the data
  • On two different media
  • With one copy being off-site

Offsite might not be enough. Consider backup and DR as a service offering in addition to physical backups.

Leverage immutable backup standards to protect against ransomware attacks. In today’s cloud-focused environments, off-site backups may not suffice. Digital threats, including ransomware, require additional precautions. Choose a backup and recovery solution with immutable backups to guard against ransomware spreading to network drives.

Case Studies and Examples

Perhaps one of the most significant examples of a security incident affecting MSPs is the REvil ransomware attack. This attack allowed the ransomware to spread to nearly 60 MSPs that leveraged their security platform and affected close to 1,500 customers. The MSP responded quickly, providing customers with tools to identify whether they had been compromised along with a documented fix on how to patch vulnerabilities.

The previously mentioned SolarWinds attack compromised the SolarWinds network monitoring platform and affected 18,000 public and private organizations, as well as about 28% of MSPs.

Not all MSPs suffered catastrophic loss of data (or leaks) because of such attacks. Encryption has a major role in protecting both production databases and off-site backups. It also uses redundant, immutable backups to reduce the impact of ransomware attacks and allow for recovery in the event of infection.

The Future of MSP Cybersecurity

In addition to the volume of cyberattacks growing every year, malicious actors are now targeting a wider range of victims. According to research by McKinsey, there’s a growing number of attacks on small and midsize businesses. These attacks can be far more damaging proportionally, as the victims are unable to pay ransoms and may lack the resources to recover damaged data.

MSPs must consider how they can protect customer data against increasingly sophisticated and persistent attackers while complying with stringent regulatory requirements.

How Veeam Can Help

Have a plan or trust the experts! The list to prepare for cyberthreats is not easy to remember. Just like that trip to the warehouse store, if you wing it, you are bound to miss something or buy the wrong thing. A thorough and systematic approach to data security is essential. By following best practices, including the use of firewalls, IDS, and network monitoring solutions, and raising awareness of security policies among employees, some of the risks of cyberattacks can be mitigated. However, even with the best of precautions, data breaches and malware infections can occur, making data protection and recovery plans essential.  

The Veeam Cloud & Service Provider (VCSP) program offers MSPs a comprehensive suite of data protection and disaster recovery solutions designed to safeguard your critical data in cloud environments. Let’s explore some key aspects of Veeam Cloud:

  • Cloud Backup and Disaster Recovery: Veeam Backup & Replication provides robust cloud backup and DR capabilities. Whether you’re just starting your cloud journey or already well-versed in cloud adoption, Veeam helps economically protect, recover, and migrate data seamlessly.  

Veeam has taken the headaches out of building a comprehensive data protection practice by offering:

  • Accelerated cloud adoption: Easily back up, recover, and migrate data to and from the cloud. Ensure native protection and security against attacks.
  • Cost savings: Proactively manage consumption to avoid overspending while achieving recovery and compliance goals.
  • Disaster recovery readiness: Securely back up and replicate data to the cloud for long-term retention and disaster preparedness.

Veeam also offers VCSP partners the opportunity to focus on specific competencies that offer the highest level of qualification for providing Veeam-powered “as-a-service” solutions, either as a packaged channel offering for resale, or directly to their end customers. These competencies recognize VCSP partners who offer best-in-class Veeam-powered services for backup recovery and disaster recovery services.

The Veeam BaaS & DRaaS solutions automate the backup process and verify the integrity of the backup for peace of mind. We offer a number of backup solutions for service providers, supporting you as you grow your business while fulfilling your data protection responsibilities.

MSP Cybersecurity is an Arms Race

There are many tools and technologies MSPs can use to protect themselves against threat actors, including:

  • Antivirus and antimalware solutions as a last line of defense against infection
  • Endpoint detection and response tools to protect against endpoint attacks
  • SIEM solutions to alert IT teams to unusual activity within a network
  • Security patch management tools to automate the deployment of critical updates
  • Multifactor Authentication solutions as an additional layer of security on user/employee accounts

Explore the following guides and e-books to learn more about our backup-as-a-service solutions for MSPs:

Collectively, these tools offer protection against common attack vectors, adding to the security of your network.

Discover how Veeam and its partners can assist your organization with a multilayered approach to data security. Contact us today to book a demonstration and see how our modern data protection tools help improve cyber resilience.

FAQs

What Is the Difference Between MSP and MSSP?

A Managed Services Provider (MSP) provides a broad range of IT operations and infrastructure management services. In contrast, Managed Security Service Providers (MSSPs) focus exclusively on cybersecurity-related services.

How Do I Choose a Cloud Service Provider?

Evaluate prospective cloud service providers carefully, taking into account the SLAs they offer, their expertise, and their track record in the cloud services market. See Veeam’s guide to choosing a cloud services provider for more information.

What Are Some Security Frameworks for MSPs?

The NIST Cybersecurity Framework (NIST CSF), MITRE ATT&CK Framework (MITRE), and ISO 27001 are all frameworks MSPs can use as the foundation of their cybersecurity procedures and policies.

What Are Some Emerging Cybersecurity Threats for MSPs?

Evasive malware, DDoS attacks on cloud software, and social engineering attacks are becoming increasingly popular. MSPs must also be aware of supply chain attacks and attacks via IoT devices.

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