A Managed Service Provider (MSP) has a large responsibility to protect small business data from ransomware and data breaches. It’s one of the largest responsibilities and overhead for an MSP, but a good provider brings strategies and cybersecurity systems to their customers to ensure their success. MSPs must defend against numerous attacks, but here are four primary concerns in 2021.
After the introduction of COVID-19, the world issued orders for every person to stay home to reduce the spread of infection. Businesses needed a way to stay afloat, so they allowed users to work from home. The mandate accelerated a move from office work to an at-home workforce, and IT staff were forced to find quick ways to give users access to important productivity tools. This move led to a greater reliance on cloud services.
The move to cloud services made it convenient for users to work from home, but it also introduced vulnerabilities in access controls. If administrators did not configure cloud services correctly, they opened exploit potential and vulnerabilities to data breaches. Access controls, data encryption, and monitoring are three strategies that should be implemented in an at-home work environment.
With an at-home workforce, users typically use at least one of their personal devices to access the network. Users might use a mobile phone, tablet, or another resource to access the business network and cloud services. These endpoints are where attackers target for installation of malware and other eavesdropping tools.
BYOD policies help users determine legitimate business use for their devices, and the anti-malware systems necessary to protect from malicious software. These policies help, but it’s difficult to control devices used for personal reasons. An MSP must ensure that these devices have the right anti-malware installed and any access is monitored for suspicious activity.
Any endpoint access location should be monitored. Although monitoring does not stop attacks, it gives administrators notifications when suspicious network traffic is detected. For example, if a file containing intellectual property is rarely opened, consistent access attempts to the file could indicate that an automated program or attacker is scanning for important data.
All employees must be educated in the many ways attackers compromise a network. Phishing and ransomware are two of the most prominent attacks, but users should know the signs of a malicious email, executable file, document macro, and website. They should know not to run email attachments, macros included in documents, and software from websites offering cheap or free software from an unapproved vendor.
An even better method of protecting from malicious email messages is filters that detect and quarantine these messages. When email cybersecurity quarantines suspicious messages, they no longer reach the intended recipient’s inbox. Email cybersecurity eliminates human error and provides a better way to block phishing emails, malicious attachments, and messages with links to attacker-controlled websites.
Weak passwords are why brute-force attacks are effective strategies to gain unauthorized access to cloud services. Any system that requires authorization should force users to create passwords that are cryptographically secure. A cryptographically secure password is at least eight characters and includes lowercase and uppercase letters, numbers, and special characters.
For critical systems, passwords should be at least twelve characters. The complexity in passwords stops brute-force attacks from being successful. A good password requires decades to crack with today’s computing power, but users have habits of using words and phrases familiar to them. They also use birthdates and common pet and family member names. This makes these passwords easily guessed.
Users should be required to make complex and long passwords, but they must also rotate them. Most corporate systems require users to change their passwords every 30 days, and they cannot use the same password repeatedly. MSPs responsible for network credentials and configuring cloud services should ensure that password policies control the way users create passwords. Any weak passwords should be rejected, and should the user attempt to use the same password, the system should reject it.
Take a look at the 2021 systems administrators' toolbox in dealing with and preventing cyberattacks. View Systems Administrators Toolbox.
MSPs responsible for small business cybersecurity must take every step to protect their customers from cyber-threats. Email security is the first step and the most proactive against malware, ransomware, and phishing. User education is the next step, and policies will help these users understand the cybersecurity landscape. With both these strategies, an MSP can fully protect the network and ensure that users understand the consequences of a data breach.
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