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Managed service providers (MSPs) have become key to improving operations and reducing enterprise costs. Companies outsource services like IT and data workloads to MSPs regardless of the scale to offset their operational burden. However, such outsourcing has its perils. Often, companies ignore how MSPs affect their security posture.
The attacks on MSPs have recently surged as they offer cybercriminals new entry points to company resources. According to Cybersecurity Ventures, by 2025, cybercrimes will cost businesses around US$ 10.5 trillion annually. This article highlights why cybercriminals are targeting MSPs and what companies should do to avoid such threats.
What are MSPs?
MSPs are third-party companies that manage various IT infrastructures, data workloads, end-user services, and corporate systems for small and medium-scale businesses (SMBs). Even governments and non-profit organizations outsource their day-to-day management services to the MSPs. Companies can focus on their core business operations by outsourcing work to MSPs. According to Markets and Markets research reports, the MSP market will touch a US$ 354.8 billion valuation by 2026.
Why are hackers targeting MSPs?
One MSP may service multiple SMBs at a time. For cybercriminals, breaching one MSP can give access to the corporate resources of several companies in one go.
As most MSPs deliver services remotely, cyber criminals can easily find flaws in their systems and exploit them remotely. According to N-Able's new
Threat Landscape Report, 90% of MSPs suffered at least one successful cyberattack in the past 18 months.
Serving multiple clients opens several endpoints. Often, MSPs do not invest in robust security, making them susceptible to cyberattacks. Unsecured endpoints provide attackers with easy targets.
Since one exploit can help target the MSP’s entire clientele, cybercriminals can leverage the MSPs' distributed networks to deploy a widespread attack on multiple businesses.
What are the potential consequences of a breach in MSP?
A successful cyberattack in an MSP network can have severe business ramifications:
Lengthy clean-up operation
Preventive measures MSPs can take
MSPs must take proactive measures to prevent their businesses from cyber threats. CISA Director Jen Easterly said, "We know that MSPs are vulnerable to exploitation significantly and increase downstream risks to the businesses & organizations they support. Securing MSPs is critical to our collective cyber defence, and CISA and our interagency and international partners are committed to hardening their security and improving the resilience of our global supply chain."
Here are some security measures MSPs can leverage to protect their IT infrastructure:
Setup Multi-factor authentication (MFA): Implementing MFA on digital services will enable MSPs to strengthen their security. MFAs add an extra security layer through OTPs, biometric authentication, hardware token-based login, etc., apart from traditional usernames and passwords.
Disable accounts during off-boarding or unused accounts: Often, attackers try to compromise unused accounts to preserve persistence because they are unmonitored, allowing criminals to perform malicious actions freely. Identifying and disabling accounts of off-boarded employees or unused accounts reduces the attack surface.
Backup data and system configurations: Backing up valuable data and system configurations provides a failsafe option in the case of a malware attack. A proper client data and IT configurations backup also helps survive ransomware attacks with minimal loss.
Security audits on time: MSPs must regularly audit their security systems. Reputable MSPs usually hire a third-party auditing team to detect flaws, secure their IT infrastructure, and update policies.
Develop an incident response plan: Despite the best security measures, attacks can happen. A robust incident response team with an easy-to-act plan can help mitigate the harms of an attack. According to some reports, only 4% of MSP clients have incident response plans.
Monitoring Logs and network activities: Continuous monitoring of different logs and network activities helps IT administrators and security professionals identify potential glitches and threat patterns. Security professionals can deploy cybersecurity tools to scan for these glitches and fix them to prevent cyberattacks.
Patch software and apps regularly: Attackers target unpatched and vulnerable software. MSPs should periodically check whether the software they use is patched or updated. Security patches play a significant role in protecting MSP's IT infrastructure and software from cyber threats. It is a good practice to configure all the apps to auto-update/auto-patching.
Contact cybersecurity experts: MSPs can also contact security experts and cybersecurity consultancy companies like Packetlabs to seek valuable guidance to protect their infrastructure.
With MSPs emerging as a cost-effective option to manage day-to-day activities, enterprises must ensure their service providers incorporate the best security practices. MSPs, for their part, must train employees and keep themselves up to date with the latest security trends to tackle cyberattacks more effectively.
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