Where do you sit in the Premier League table of MSPs? (with apologies to Delia Smith)


21st July 2020, von in Other

If Premier League football teams were MSPs, who would customers want to work with? Youth football coach and Wolves fanatic, Mike Barron, who also moonlights as MD of SYNAXON UK, says that MSPs must ensure that their own defences are in order before they rush out and attack the inefficiencies of their customers’ IT systems 

Before I start this blog, I must apologise to Delia Smith. I am about to give her football team a roasting. I should probably also apologise to MSPs. But honestly, I am not seriously comparing you to an under-13s football team – it’s just my way of making the point that, when it comes to defending your RMM systems, you can’t afford to take any chances. 

First of all, let’s turn to Norwich City. who are, as I write this, bottom of the Premier League and, after 30 games, have scored 25 and conceded 55; Liverpool, who are top and have scored 66 goals and conceded 21; (and just for the record, Wolves are sixth – scored 43, conceded 34, so not too shabby at all!).

Now, if Premier League Football teams were MSPs, who do you think customers would want to work with? Well, you know what I would say – but I am a bit biased, to be fair. 

Let’s suppose, for the sake of making my point, that goals for equates to quality of service and goals against equates to the strength and robustness of security. Well, the teams at the top will give you better performance and protection, but they are likely to be more expensive, so the chances are that you’d go for a decent balance between performance, cost and security – so maybe you would choose Wolves? 

But the real point here is that (sorry Delia!) you are certainly NOT going to choose Norwich City. Their defence is too leaky – and that’s potentially a real problem for customers. 

We’ve been discussing the issues around MSP security within the SynMSP community recently. One of the things we agreed on was that MSPs should probably be doing more to ensure their own systems and services are secure, so that they in turn are protecting their customers. 

The problem for a lot of MSPs is that they are so intent on trying to deliver a good service to their customers (in football terms, ‘scoring goals’) that they can unintentionally neglect their defence. In this respect, they are a bit like an under-13s football team, (being a youth football coach is my real job when I’m not trying to run SYNAXON UK). Unless they are properly organised, the whole team tends to follow the ball and get fixated on scoring. If the other team breaks away and goes the attack, there’s always headlong rush back to try and shore things up. 

That does not happen if a team is coached properly. They will leave at least a couple of players holding back, ready to defend any unexpected attack. These teams do better. They have a good balance of attack and defence, Similarly, MSPs need to strike a good balance between service delivery and security. One must not be neglected to the cost of the other. 

This is especially true now that many people are working at home. If a hacker can find a way into an MSP’s system, they can open up the door to every single one of that company’s clients – and what could be potentially fertile ground for ransomware and hybrid malware attacks.

I have been working at home myself in recent months, and recently took some time out from planning the next coaching session (and checking out the latest news on https://www.wolves.co.uk/) to do some research on this subject. And I’ve discovered that this is actually a huge issue. 

There is solid evidence that MSPs are being targeted by hackers much more. The most recent Beazley Breach Insights report found that 24% of ransomware incidents within small businesses came through a vendor or an MSP. It also noted the growing dependency that SMBs have on their MSPs, and the added bonus that this places on the latter to make certain their systems are secure. 

Well, SYNAXON UK is not about to stand by and let this go unnoticed. We are actively encouraging our MSP members to take action that will stiffen their defences and give their clients the high level protection they would expect. 

Here are seven things we believe MSPs can do to make certain that they – and their customers – are protected and that they stay on the ball and informed of key issues. 

Ensure you have a solid security policy, that staff are trained and understand it, and that it is enforced. You need strong processes and a definitive policy for password creation, modification, and use. Login credentials should never be shared, and employees need to know how to guard against social engineering. You should review policy and also carry out a separate risk assessment regularly.

Secure your remote workers. Now that WFH is part of the new normal, you must be certain that staff can carry out monitoring and make changes securely from home. You need strong VPN or point-to-point technology. Special care needs to be taken to safeguard against key-loggers and sustained ‘brute force’ attacks, where the hacker just keeps trying every password or combination under the sun until they are successful. 

Put effective perimeter and scanning defences in place. It sounds obvious and every business, let alone every MSP, should have good multi-layered protection. Even better, use AI-based intelligent monitoring and sandboxing to minimise the chances of zero day or unknown threats causing any issues. Close network ports you don’t use. All software should be kept up to date, firewall settings should be checked, and systems fully scanned on a regular basis. 

Containerize your RMM. Running your RMM in a secured area of your system will add an extra layer of protection. If this is not feasible, at least make sure that your control site is not openly visible and that you do not link to it from anywhere on your own website.

Apply strong two- or multi-factor authentication. It may slow down access for your technicians, but it will make clients much more secure if every account has a separate two-factor or multi-factor log-in. 

Get compliant with Cyber Essentials Plus. This will verify to your clients that are meeting the highest standards of protection. SYNAXON UK can help you do this through our partnership with cybersecurity compliance specialist, CyberSmart.

Become a SynMSP member. Being part of our community will help you stay informed and aware of the latest developments and share ideas, experiences, and best-practice with businesses you’re your own. You will also meet a lot of great people – and have a lot of fun too.

Security is an important issue and one that MSPs do need to make sure they address. Scoring goals is a lot of fun (just ask my under-13s), but scoring an own goal – in MSP terms seeing your clients hit by hackers or ransomware attacks that found their way to them through your RMM system, would be no fun at all. 

If you need any help or guidance in getting your security stance right, get in touch with the SYNAXON UK team. We can help you share best practice with other MSPs on this subject and many others. 

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