Managed Service Providers

Shoring Up Your Network and Security Policies: Least Privilege Models

Why do so many businesses allow unfettered access to their networks? You’d be shocked by how often it happens. The truth is: your employees don’t need unrestricted access to all parts of our business. This is why the Principle of Least Privilege (POLP) is one of the...

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Thoughtful Design in the Age of Cybersecurity AI

AI and machine learning offer tremendous promise for humanity in terms of helping us make sense of Big Data. But, while the processing power of these tools is integral for understanding trends and predicting threats, it’s not sufficient on its own. Thoughtful design...

A Cybersecurity Guide for Digital Nomads

Technology has unlocked a new type of worker, unlike any we have seen before—the digital nomad. Digital nomads are people who use technologies like WiFi, smart devices, and cloud-based applications to work from wherever they please. For some digital nomads, this means...

Shoring Up Your Network and Security Policies: Least Privilege Models

Reading Time: ~ 3 min.

Why do so many businesses allow unfettered access to their networks? You’d be shocked by how often it happens. The truth is: your employees don’t need unrestricted access to all parts of our business. This is why the Principle of Least Privilege (POLP) is one of the most important, if overlooked, aspects of a data security plan. 

Appropriate privilege

When we say “least privilege”, what we actually mean is “appropriate privilege”, or need-to-know. Basically, this kind of approach assigns zero access by default, and then allows entry as needed. (This is pretty much the opposite of what many of us are taught about network access.) But by embracing this principle, you ensure that network access remains strictly controlled, even as people join the company, move into new roles, leave, etc. Obviously, you want employees to be able to do their jobs; but, by limiting initial access, you can minimize the risk of an internal breach.

If you haven’t already, now is the perfect time to take a look at your network access policies. After all, it’s about protecting your business and customers—not to mention your reputation.

Listen to the podcast: Episode 6 | Shoring Up Your Network Security with Strong Policies to learn more about implementing the Principle of Least Privilege and other network security best practices.

Navigating the difficult conversations around access control

It’s no surprise that employees enjoy taking liberties at the workplace. In fact, Microsoft reports that 67% of users utilize their own devices at work. Consequently, they may push back on POLP policies because it means giving up some freedom, like installing personal software on work computers, using their BYOD in an unauthorized fashion, or having unlimited usage of non-essential applications.

Ultimately, you need to prepare for hard conversations. For example, you’ll have to explain that the goal of Principle of Least Privilege is to provide a more secure workplace for everyone. It’s not a reflection on who your employees are or even their seniority; it’s about security. So, it’s essential for you, the MSP or IT leader, to initiate the dialogue around access control––often and early. And, at the end of the day, it’s your responsibility to implement POLP policies that protect your network.

Firewalls and antivirus aren’t enough 

There’s a common misconception in cybersecurity that the firewall and/or antivirus is all you need to stop all network threats. But they don’t protect against internal threats, such as phishing or data theft. This is where access policies are necessary to fill in the gaps.

Here’s a prime example: let’s say you have an employee whose job is data entry and they only need access to a few specific databases. If malware infects that employee’s computer or they click a phishing link, the attack is limited to those database entries. However, if that employee has root access privileges, the infection can quickly spread across all your systems.

Cyberattacks like phishingransomware, and botnets are all designed to circumvent firewalls. By following an appropriate privilege model, you can limit the number of people who can bypass your firewall and exploit security gaps in your network.

Tips to achieve least privilege

When it comes to implementing POLP in your business, here are some tips for getting started:

  • Conduct a privilege audit. Check all existing accounts, processes, and programs to ensure that they have only enough permissions to do the job.
  • Remove open access and start all accounts with low access. Only add specific higher-level access as needed.
  • Create separate admin accounts that limit access. 
    • Superuser accounts should be used for administration or specialized IT employees who need unlimited system access. 
    • Standard user accounts, sometimes called least privilege user accounts (LUA) or non-privileged accounts, should have a limited set of privileges and should be assigned to everyone else.
  • Implement expiring privileges and one-time-use credentials.
  • Create a guest network leveraging a VPN for employees and guests.
  • Develop and enforce access policies for BYOD or provide your own network-protected devices whenever possible.
  • Regularly review updated employee access controls, permissions, and privileges.
  • Upgrade your firewalls and ensure they are configured correctly.
  • Add other forms of network monitoring, like automated detection and response.

Why MSPs Should Expect No-Conflict Endpoint Security

Reading Time: ~ 3 min.

“Antivirus programs use techniques to stop viruses that are very “virus-like” in and of themselves, and in most cases if you try to run two antivirus programs, or full security suites, each believes the other is malicious and they then engage in a battle to the death (of system usability, anyway).”

“…running 2 AV’s will most likely cause conflicts and slowness as they will scan each other’s malware signature database. So it’s not recommended.”

The above quotes come from top answers on a popular computer help site and community forum in response to a question about “Running Two AVs” simultaneously.

Seattle Times tech columnist Patrick Marshall has similarly warned his readers about the dangers of antivirus products conflicting on his own computers.

Click here to see 9 top endpoint protection competitors go head to head to see who’s most efficient.

Historically, these comments were spot-on, 100% correct in describing how competing AV solutions interacted on endpoints. Here’s why.

The (Traditional) Issues with Running Side-by-Side AV Programs

In pursuit of battling it out on your machine for security supremacy, AV solutions have traditionally had a tendency to cause serious performance issues.

This is because:

  • Each is convinced the other is an imposter. Antivirus programs tend to look a lot like viruses to other antivirus programs. The behaviors they engage in, like scanning files or scripts and exporting information about those data objects, can look a little shady to a program that’s sole purpose is to be on the lookout for suspicious activity.
  • Each wants to be the anti-malware star. Ideally both AV programs installed on a machine would be up to the task of spotting a virus on a computer. And both would want to let the user know when they’d found something. So while one AV number one may isolate a threat, you can bet AV number two will still want to alert the user to its presence. This can lead to an endlessly annoying cycle of warnings, all-clears, and further warnings.
  • Both are hungry for your computer’s limited resources. Traditional antivirus products store static lists of known threats on each user’s machine so they can be checked against new data. This, plus the memory used for storing the endpoint agent, CPU for scheduled scans, on-demand scans, and even resource use during idling can add up to big demand. Multiply it by two and devices quickly become sluggish.

Putting the Problem Into Context

Those of you reading this may be thinking, But is all of this really a problem? Who wants to run duplicate endpoint security products anyway?

Consider a scenario, one in which you’re unhappy with your current AV solution. Maybe the management overhead is unreasonable and it’s keeping you from core business responsibilities. Then what?

“Rip and replace”—a phrase guaranteed to make many an MSP shudder—comes to mind. It suggests long evenings of after-hours work removing endpoint protection from device after device, exposing each of the machines under your care to a precarious period of no protection. For MSPs managing hundreds or thousands of endpoints, even significant performance issues can seem not worth the trouble.

Hence we’ve arrived at the problem with conflicting AV software. They lock MSPs into a no-win quagmire of poor performance on the one hand, and a potentially dangerous rip-and-replace operation on the other.

But by designing a no-conflict agent, these growing pains can be eased almost completely. MSPs unhappy with the performance of their current AV can install its replacement during working hours without breaking a sweat. A cloud-based malware prevention architecture and “next-gen” approach to mitigating attacks allows everyone to benefit from the ability to change and upgrade their endpoint security with minimal effort.

Simply wait for your new endpoint agent to be installed, uninstall its predecessor, and still be home in time for dinner.

Stop Wishing and Expect No-Conflict Endpoint Protection

Any modern endpoint protection worth its salt or designed with the user in mind has two key qualities that address this problem:

  1. It won’t conflict with other AV programs and
  2. It installs fast and painlessly.

After all, this is 2019 (and over 30 years since antivirus was invented) so you should expect as much. Considering the plethora of (often so-called) next-gen endpoint solutions out there, there’s just no reason to get locked into a bad relationship you can’t easily replace if something better comes along.

So when evaluating a new cybersecurity tool, ask whether it’s no conflict and how quickly it installs. You’ll be glad you did.

5 Must-Haves When Working Outside the Office

Reading Time: ~ 3 min.

When you’re running a business, it’s important to stay connected, whether you’re in the office or not. Modern technology has made this easier than ever, ensuring you can answer emails and stay on top of tasks in hotels, coffee shops, wherever. Social media influencer and serial entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk has even said, “The airplane is disproportionately the place where I get the most tangible amount of work done.” 

But if you’re going to get anything done outside the office or on the road, there are a few essentials to have on hand. Here are five must-haves to make sure you are prepared and productive.

#1 Protect Your Devices and Your Data

No, this is not at the top just because you’re reading this on a security blog. Anytime you’re accessing the internet in a hotel, coffee shop, or other public space, your data and devices are at risk. While security may not be at the top of your list of concerns, a whopping 58% of data breaches happen to SMBs, and 60% of those who are attacked fold within 6 months.

This is why security, at the very least endpoint security, should be your number one consideration when working on the go. But not all endpoint security solutions are created equal.

Explore fast and effective endpoint security designed for business.

Modern endpoint security is cloud-based, lightweight (won’t slow your device down), and is powered by 24/7 threat intelligence to make sure you are protected against all known threats. In fact, some do what is known as “journaling” when they encounter an unknown threat so if it is deemed malicious, every action the malware took can be rolled back, step by step.

It’s also worth considering implementing a VPN to secure your connection to your office software and data as well as secure your communications with colleagues. Public WiFi is a favorite target of malicious attacks, including man-in-the-middle attacks, so the more you can anonymize your activity, the better.

#2 Stay Connected

When you’re on the road, there’s no guarantee that you’ll have reliable WiFi. Coffee shop WiFi can vary depending on how many people are using it, and hotel WiFi often costs money. To make sure you can always stay connected to high-quality WiFi, you’ll want to invest in a mobile WiFi device, which will work much better than using your smartphone as a hotspot. Plus, using a mobile WiFi device will help save your phone battery and will free it up for any phone calls you need to make. 

In addition, by using your own WiFi hotspot, you will avoid some of the security risks that come from using public WiFi

#3 Stay Charged

The last thing you want when working on the go is for your devices to run out of battery. Of course, you must remember to bring your basic laptop and smartphone chargers. However, you might not always have convenient access to an outlet. In which case, you’re going to want to bring a portable charger. Smartphones and laptops have different battery needs so you might want to get a portable charger for each.

Here is a list of the top portable chargers for smartphones and another for the top power banks for your laptop.

#4 Stay in the Zone

If you’re out of the office, chances are it might be more difficult to find some peace and quiet. Because of this, you’ll want to make sure you have a good set of headphones to help you get in the zone. 

If you’re choosing headphones, you’ll need to consider whether you want to go with over-the-ear or in-ear models. Over-the-ear models tend to have higher sound quality and better noise canceling features, but there are a variety of high-quality earbuds these days that may be easier to travel with. Whichever you go with, they’ll be useless without productivity-enhancing music to go along with them.

study published on the psychology of music found that those who listened to music completed their tasks more quickly and experienced better creativity. If you want to make your own playlist, it’s largely accepted that classical and other instrumental types of music work best for productivity. However, there are a variety of curated work playlists already in existence that you could use.

#5 Travel with the Right Bag

Now that you have your laptop, smartphone, chargers, portable batteries, headphones, and WiFi hotspot, you’ll need a way to carry it all around. But not just any bag will do. Since you’re traveling, you’ll want something that is compact, organized, and comfortable to carry, even if it’s heavy.

While the briefcase is a classic, it is not very efficient and can be cumbersome when also trying to carry coffee or talk on the phone. Backpacks are definitely the way to go if you want to carry everything comfortably while keeping your hands free. Just make sure to choose a bag made of durable materials with adequately wide and cushioned straps. The last thing you want in a bag is one you wince at the thought of carrying again after a long day.

Webroot DNS Protection: Now Leveraging the Google Cloud Platform

Reading Time: ~ 2 min.

We are  excited to announce Webroot® DNS Protection now runs on Google Cloud Platform (GCP). Leveraging GCP in this way will provide Webroot customers with security, performance, and reliability. 

Security

Preventing denial of service (DoS) attacks is a core benefit of Webroot DNS Protection. Now, the solution benefits from Google Cloud load balancers with built-in DoS protection and mitigation, enabling the prevention of attack traffic before it ever hits the agent core. 

“The big thing about Google Cloud is that it dynamically manages denial of service (DoS) attacks,” said Webroot Sales Engineer Jonathan Barnett. “That happens automatically, and we know Google has that figured out.”

Click here to learn why businesses need DNS protection.

Performance

With this release, Webroot DNS Protection now runs on the Google Cloud’s high-redundancy, low-latency networks in 16 regions worldwide. That means there’s no need for a Webroot customer in Australia to have a DNS request resolved in Los Angeles, when more convenient infrastructure exists close by.  

“Google Cloud provides the ability to scale by adding new regions or new servers whenever necessary as load or need determines, nationally or internationally,” said Barnett. “This allows us to provide geolocation-appropriate answers for our customers, maximizing performance.”

Reliability

Because of GCP’s global infrastructure footprint, Webroot can quickly and easily provision more of Google’s servers in any region to ensure latency times remain low. 

And because those regional deployments can be programmed to auto-scale with spikes in traffic, even drastically increasing loads won’t increase wait times for requests.

According to Barnett, “Even if Webroot were to take on a large number of customers in a short time period, say with the closing of a deal to offer DNS solutions to an enterprise-level client with a number of subsidiaries, our environments would automatically scale with the additional load.”

One more note on the release 

Another key feature of the April DNS agent update regards switching communications from port 53, which is typically associated with DNS requests, to port 443, which is more commonly associated with SSL certificates.

The reason for this change is that, given port 443’s relevance to routine requests like banking sites and those accepting payment information, it is rarely constrained, modified, or controlled. This will reduce the need to configure firewalls or make other admin adjustments in order for Webroot DNS Protection to function as intended. 

It’s good to be in good company

With Webroot DNS Protection now leveraging the GCP will power your network-level protection. Fewer outages, latency, and bottlenecks. Ready to experience Webroot DNS Protection for yourself? Try it free for 30-days here. 

The Importance of the MSP Sales Process

Reading Time: ~ 3 min.

I’ve been in this business a long time, and I can honestly say that many MSPs lack a concrete sales process structure. That’s pretty worrisome because, let’s face it, you have to have a plan in order to succeed at just about anything. Imagine you’re an engineer working on server maintenance or a network infrastructure build—you wouldn’t do that without a plan, would you? Your sales strategy should be handled no differently. 

Dos and Don’ts for your Sales Process

First, let’s talk about some don’ts. Avoid taking a call and immediately giving a quote over the phone, as well as going straight to the customer site to conduct ad hoc assessments and sales presentations in the same breath. To build value, you need to stretch this into multiple touches, by which I mean multiple meetings. Sure, that’s more work for you up front, but it’s crucial for establishing trust with the client. You need to open and sustain a dialog about their needs so you can tailor a unique solution for them, without diving right into a pitch. By leading with careful consideration and attention to their needs, you can begin building a lasting relationship and, eventually, bring them a better offering.

Here’s how I recommend you structure your process.

Schedule an on-site strategy session with your client.

Meeting with a prospect face-to-face will demonstrate your investment in a trust relationship. Now, you have to listen to them. Don’t lead with a pitch. Let them tell you what their problems are, pay close attention to them as they express their needs, and take note of all their pain points.

This is also the ideal opportunity to truly grasp of whether the demands are excessive or unreasonable for your capabilities. Each relationship you enter into with clients is a partnership that comes with shared responsibilities. Be more than a fulfull/deliver shop. 

Perform an in-depth assessment and discovery.

You need to discover everything that’s on the client’s network and assess exactly where they stand. Don’t do this on the same day as that initial meet; schedule a second one. Take the extra time between the meetings to prepare more specific questions that will delve more deeply into the needs your prospect expressed. This will help show the client that you’re invested in their unique challenges.

When you come back, bring an engineer or assistant with you. You need someone with you who can interview different staff members and find out about the specific issues they face. Ask basic questions to understand how the employees feel about where the company’s IT stands, like: What kind of issues are you having?; What do you see wrong with your computer network?; How could your network be improved?; and What things would you like to see change? 

As you’re doing your assessment and discovery, make sure to bring cybersecurity into the discussion. Managed cybersecurity is often a poor experience, so this is your chance to feel out how else you can alleviate their pains (and set yourself apart from their current provider.) 

And, finally, book the third meeting. 

Make the pitch.

Ideally, your third meeting would be at your location. If there’s some reason you can’t do it in your own shop, take the prospect off-site for lunch at a restaurant that has private meeting rooms. Essentially, you want to avoid doing the presentation in their office, where they can easily get interrupted.

In this case, it will pay to be overly prepared. Again, if you listened closely, the prospect would’ve already told you what to focus on to help them succeed. Use that knowledge to craft the right message to deliver during this meeting. 

Start by walking through the pain points they and their employees revealed. Talk over anything else you found in your discovery/assessment that could be improved. Have an itemized list, and then ask them if they agree with all the issues you’ve found.

Once you get agreement, then you can go into your sales pitch and present them with a well-tailored offering that can actually solve their challenges and help them grow. 

Ultimately, by listening to your prospect, exhibiting an understanding of their needs, and demonstrating your level of commitment to providing value and nurturing the relationship itself, you’ll be well on your way to building a meaningful, successful business partnership.

Download my Multi-Million Dollar MSP Sales Process that will guide you through the above steps like a pro. The last few pages of the document include links to helpful templates as well as worksheets for you to hit the ground running on this process.   

Keep crushing it!

Why Simplified Security Awareness Training Matters for MSPs and SMBs

Reading Time: ~ 3 min.

In a recent report by the firm 451 Research, 62 percent of SMBs reported having a security awareness training program in place for their employees, with half being “homegrown” training courses. The report also found that most complained their programs were difficult to implement, track, and manage.

Like those weights in the garage you’ve been meaning to lift or the foreign language textbook you’ve been meaning to study, even our most well-intentioned efforts flounder if we’re not willing to put to use the tools that can help us achieve our goals.

So it goes with cybersecurity training. If it’s cumbersome to deploy and manage, or isn’t able to clearly display its benefits, it will be cast aside like so many barbells and Spanish-language dictionaries. But unfortunately, until now, centralized management and streamlined workflows across client sites have eluded the security awareness training industry.

The Importance of Effective Security Awareness Training

The effectiveness of end user cybersecurity training in preventing data breaches and downtime has been demonstrated repeatedly. Webroot’s own research found security awareness training cut clicks on phishing links by 70 percent, when delivered with regularity. And according to the 2018 Data Breach Investigation Report by Verizon, 93 percent of all breaches were the result of social engineering attacks like phishing.

With the average cost of a breach at around $3.62 million, low-overhead and effective solutions should be in high demand. But while 76 percent of MSPs reported using some type of security awareness tool, many still rely on in-house solutions that are siloed from the rest of their cybersecurity monitoring and reporting.

“MSPs should consider security awareness training from vendors with cybersecurity focus and expertise, and who have deep visibility and insights into the changing threat landscape,” says 451 Research Senior Analyst Aaron Sherrill.

“Ideally, training should be integrated into the overall security services delivery platform to provide a unified and cohesive approach for greater efficacy.”

Simple Security Training is Effective Security Training

Security awareness training that integrates with other cybersecurity solutions—like DNS and endpoint protection—is a good first step in making sure the material isn’t brushed aside like other implements of our best intentions.

Global management of security awareness training—the ability to initiate, monitor, and report on the effectiveness of these programs from a single pane of glass across all of your customers —is the next.

When MSPs can save time by say, rolling out a simulated phishing campaign or training course to one, many or allclient’s sites across the globe with only a few clicks, they both save time and money in management overhead, and are more likely to offer it as a service to their clients. Everyone wins.

With a console that delivers intuitive monitoring of click-through rates for phishing campaigns or completion rates for courses like compliance training, across all client sites, management is simplified. And easily exportable phishing and campaign reports help drive home a client’s progress.

“Automation and orchestration are the force multipliers MSPs need to keep up with today’s threats and provide the best service possible to their clients,” says Webroot SVP of Product Strategy and Technology Alliances Chad Bacher.”

So as a growing number of MSPs begin to offer security awareness training as a part of their bundled services, and more small and medium-sized businesses are convinced of its necessity, choosing a product that’s easy to implement and manage becomes key.

Otherwise, the tool that could save a business from a breach becomes just another cob-webbed weight bench waiting for its day.

To learn about security training that’s effective, efficient, and easy to use, read about our new Webroot® Security Awareness Training release.

MSPs: Your Security Vendor Should Integrate with More Than Just Your RMM and PSA

Reading Time: ~ 2 min.

For many MSPs, integrating their security solution with their remote monitoring and management (RMM) and professional service automation (PSA) platforms is essential for doing business. Together, these platforms help lower the cost of keeping up with each client, ensuring profitable margins for a healthy, growing business.

For true providers of IT services—MSPs that sell services rather than licenses and take a holistic approach to client IT health—RMM and PSA integrations are critical for keeping track of hundreds or even thousands of unique endpoints and automating recurring operations for numerous clients.

Like many of the other features of our security solutions, our RMM and PSA integrations are custom-built with the needs of MSPs in mind. They’re designed to help MSPs create the most efficient, well-oiled versions of their businesses possible so that service is prompt, solutions are effective, and profit is preserved.   

Here’s what you should expect from your RMM and PSA security integrations:

  1. Faster rollouts- One of the core benefits of RMM-assisted deployments, expect rollouts to new endpoints to be fast and hassle-free with well-designed integrations. New endpoints should be easy to set up with protection turned on in just a few clicks.
  2. Simplified management- Efficiency is key to profitability. So a centralized dashboard displaying what’s running, what’s broken and how, infection statuses, endpoints requiring attention, and more helps increase the number of endpoints a single technician can manage, boosting efficiency and, ultimately, profitability. 
  3. The data you need- The best RMM and PSA integrations make it possible to get the data you need to run a successful business. Whether it’s per-client data for calculating a client’s cost to you, information on policy settings for sites and endpoints, or additional reporting delivered to clients to promote peace-of-mind, having access to allof your data empowers decision-making. 

Integrations don’t have to end there

Integrating disparate products can be a laborious, time-intensive process. For that reason, many security vendors are reluctant to coordinate too closely with customers to automate functions unique to their businesses. But it doesn’t have to be that way. 

Advanced plugins and tools allow for complete customization of dashboards, reporting, and data tracking. Each can be customized to track the metrics most useful to the organization. Critical processes, like issuing periodic reports, can be fully automated. This can be extremely beneficial when it comes to communicating with customers. Weekly or monthly reports demonstrate that, despite a lack of any major security incidents, it wasn’t for lack of trying on the part of cybercriminals. 

More than simply allowing different business platforms to talk to one another, integration plugins can be used for running commands and performing actions. This includes creating, modifying, or deleting licenses, removing duplicate endpoints, or quickly creating new console sites. 

Insist on better integrations

So when considering which cybersecurity vendor offers the most for your MSP, consider not only whether the solution allows you to communicate with your RMM and PSA platforms, but also how deeply. Does the vendor have a dedicated integrations team? Do they offer tools for the customization of business-specific reporting? Can essential, recurring business processes be automated?

The answers to the questions above will help you determine how much value RMM and PSA integrations add for your business. In a market where margins can be razor thin and built-in efficiencies can make or break the bottom line, the answers may make all the difference.

Responding to Risk in an Evolving Threat Landscape

Reading Time: ~ 3 min.There’s a reason major industry players have been discussing cybersecurity more and more: the stakes are at an all-time high for virtually every business today. Cybersecurity is not a matter businesses can afford to push off or misunderstand—especially small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), which have emerged as prime targets for cyberattacks. The risk level for this group in particular has increased exponentially, with 57% of SMBs reporting an increase in attack volume over the past 12 months, and the current reality—while serious—is actually quite straightforward for managed service providers (MSPs):

  • Your SMB clients will be attacked.
  • Basic security will not stop an attack.
  • The MSP will be held accountable.

While MSPs may have historically set up clients with “effective” security measures, the threat landscape is changing and the evolution of risk needs to be properly, and immediately, addressed. This means redefining how your clients think about risk and encouraging them to respond to the significant increase in attack volume with security measures that will actually prove effective in today’s threat environment.

Even if the security tools you’ve been leveraging are 99.99% effective, risk has evolved from minimal to material due simply to the fact that there are far more security events per year than ever before.

Again, the state of cybersecurity today is pretty straightforward: with advanced threats like rapidly evolving and hyper-targeted malware, ransomware, and user-enabled breaches, foundational security tools aren’t enough to keep SMB clients secure. Their data is valuable, and there is real risk of a breach if they remain vulnerable.Additional layers of security need to be added to the equation to provide holistic protection. Otherwise, your opportunity to fulfill the role as your clients’ managed security services providerwill be missed, and your SMB clients could be exposed to existential risk.

Steps for Responding to Heightened Risk as an MSP

Step 1: Understand Risk

Start by discussing “acceptable risk.” Your client should understand that there will always be some level of risk in today’s cyber landscape. Working together to define a businesses’ acceptable risk, and to determine what it will take to maintain an acceptable risk level, will solidify your partnership. Keep in mind that security needs to be both proactive and reactive in its capabilities for risk levels to remain in check.

Step 2: Establish Your Security Strategy

Once you’ve identified where the gaps in your client’s protection lie, map them to the type of security services that will keep those risks constantly managed. Providing regular visibility into security gaps, offering cybersecurity training,and leveraging more advanced and comprehensive security tools will ultimately get the client to their desired state of protection—and that should be clearly communicated upfront.

Step 3: Prepare for the Worst

At this point, it’s not a question of ifSMBs will experience a cyberattack, but when. That’s why it’s important to establish ongoing, communicative relationships with all clients. Assure clients that your security services will improve their risk level over time, and that you will maintain acceptable risk levels by consistently identifying, prioritizing, and mitigating gaps in coverage. This essentially justifies additional costs and opens you to upsell opportunities over the course of your relationship.

Step 4: Live up to Your Promises Through People, Processes, and Technology

Keeping your security solutions well-defined and client communication clear will help validate your offering. Through a combination of advanced software and services, you can build a framework that maps to your clients’ specific security needs so you’re providing the technologies that are now essential for securing their business from modern attacks.

Once you understand how to effectively respond to new and shifting risks, you’ll be in the best possible position to keep your clients secure and avoid potentially debilitating breaches.

6 Steps to Build an Incident Response Plan

Reading Time: ~ 4 min.According to the Identity Theft Research Center, 2017 saw 1,579 data breaches—a record high, and an almost 45 percent increase from the previous year. Like many IT service providers, you’re probably getting desensitized to statistics like this. But you still have to face facts: organizations will experience a security incident sooner or later. What’s important is that you are prepared so that the impact doesn’t harm your customers or disrupt their business.

Although, there’s a new element that organizations—both large and small—have to worry about: the “what.” What will happen when I get hacked? What information will be stolen or exposed? What will the consequences look like?

While definitive answers to these questions are tough to pin down, the best way to survive a data breach is to preemptively build and implement an incident response plan. An incident response plan is a detailed document that helps organizations respond to and recover from potential—and, in some cases, inevitable—security incidents. As small- and medium-sized businesses turn to managed services providers (MSPs) like you for protection and guidance, use these six steps to build a solid incident response plan to ensure your clients can handle a breach quickly, efficiently, and with minimal damage.

Step 1: Prepare

The first phase of building an incident response plan is to define, analyze, identify, and prepare. How will your client define a security incident? For example, is an attempted attack an incident, or does the attacker need to be successful to warrant response? Next, analyze the company’s IT environment and determine which system components, services, and applications are the most critical to maintaining operations in the event of the incident you’ve defined. Similarly, identify what essential data will need to be protected in the event of an incident. What data exists and where is it stored? What’s its value, both to the business and to a potential intruder? When you understand the various layers and nuances of importance to your client’s IT systems, you will be better suited to prepare a templatized response plan so that data can be quickly recovered.

Treat the preparation phase as a risk assessment. Be realistic about the potential weak points within the client’s systems; any component that has the potential for failure needs to be addressed. By performing this assessment early on, you’ll ensure these systems are maintained and protected, and be able to allocate the necessary resources for response, both staff and equipment—which brings us to our next step.

Step 2: Build a Response Team

Now it’s time to assemble a response team—a group of specialists within your and/or your clients’ business. This team comprises the key people who will work to mitigate the immediate issues concerning a data breach, protecting the elements you’ve identified in step one, and responding to any consequences that spiral out of such an incident.

As an MSP, one of your key functions will sit between the technical aspects of incident resolution and communication between other partners. In an effort to be the virtual CISO (vCISO) for your clients’ businesses, you’ll likely play the role of Incident Response Manager who will oversee and coordinate the response from a technical and procedural perspective.

Pro Tip: For a list of internal and external members needed on a client’s incident response team, check out this in-depth guide.

Step 3: Outline Response Requirements and Resolution Times

From the team you assembled in step two, each member will play a role in detecting, responding, mitigating damage, and resolving the incident within a set time frame. These response and resolution times may vary depending on the type of incident and its level of severity. Regardless, you’ll want to establish these time frames up front to ensure everyone is on the same page.

Ask your clients: “What will we need to contain a breach in the short term and long term? How long can you afford to be out of commission?” The answers to these questions will help you outline the specific requirements and time frame required to respond to and resolve a security incident.

If you want to take this a step further, you can create quick response guides that outline the team’s required actions and associated response times. Document what steps need to be taken to correct the damage and to restore your clients’ systems to full operation in a timely manner. If you choose to provide these guides, we suggest printing them out for your clients in case of a complete network or systems failure.

Step 4: Establish a Disaster Recovery Strategy

When all else fails, you need a plan for disaster recovery. This is the process of restoring and returning affected systems, devices, and data back onto your client’s business environment.

A reliable backup and disaster recovery (BDR) solution can help maximize your clients’ chances of surviving a breach by enabling frequent backups and recovery processes to mitigate data loss and future damage. Planning for disaster recovery in an incident response plan can ensure a quick and optimal recovery point, while allowing you to troubleshoot issues and prevent them from occurring again. Not every security incident will lead to a disaster recovery scenario, but it’s certainly a good idea to have a BDR solution in place if it’s needed.

Step 5: Run a Fire Drill

Once you’ve completed these first four steps of building an incident response plan, it’s vital that you test it. Put your team through a practice “fire drill.” When your drill (or incident) kicks off, your communications tree should go into effect, starting with notifying the PR, legal, executive leadership, and other teams that there is an incident in play. As it progresses, the incident response manager will make periodic reports to the entire group of stakeholders to establish how you will notify your customers, regulators, partners, and law enforcement, if necessary. Remember that, depending on the client’s industry, notifying the authorities and/or forensics activities may be a legal requirement. It’s important that the response team takes this seriously, because it will help you identify what works and which areas need improvement to optimize your plan for a real scenario.

Step 6: Plan for Debriefing

Lastly, you should come full circle with a debriefing. During a real security incident, this step should focus on dealing with the aftermath and identifying areas for continuous improvement. Take is this opportunity for your team to tackle items such as filling out an incident report, completing a gap analysis with the full team,  and keeping tabs on post-incident activity.

No company wants to go through a data breach, but it’s essential to plan for one. With these six steps, you and your clients will be well-equipped to face disaster, handle it when it happens, and learn all that you can to adapt for the future.

Parsing the Distinction Between AI & Machine Learning

Reading Time: ~ 4 min.I had the privilege of giving a keynote on one of my favorite topics, busting myths around artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), during DattoCon 2018 this week.

Webroot has been doing machine learning for more than a decade and consider this aspect one of our key differentiators for our solutions. However, for many small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), that might not matter. They may have heard the terms AI or ML but aren’t sure how these advancements can help keep their company safe. Additionally, the managed service providers (MSPs) who provide millions of SMBs with security protection, might not know how this technology can help their customers either.

AI and ML are not the same thing. Marketing campaigns and news articles oftentimes confuse people into thinking that they are—and my insistence on clarifying their nuance might be overkill—but I think it’s important to know the difference so you can understand how each can help make cybersecurity stronger.

What is artificial intelligence?

Artificial intelligence interacts with people, whether emulating a human (think about chat bots) or pets. The AI component is that interactive component—the thing you can touch, feel, and see. AI technology is very nascent, and I expect great things to come in the near future.

What is machine learning?

Machine learning is artificial intelligence’s nerdy cousin. ML models are designed to analyze all of the data collected, behind the sciences, with no human interface. ML is the heavy science where all the data crunching takes place. This is the part of technology that a few companies, like Webroot, have been working in for a long time.

To dig in further, I decided to take to the streets (or aisles) of DattoCon 2018 in Austin, TX, and see what MSPs were hearing and thinking about in relation to AI and ML. I kicked things off by getting a grasp on what MSPs are being asked by their customers.

“Absolutely nothing,” said Steven Gomes, kloudfyre. “They don’t bring it up; it’s nothing I even talk about. I know AI is the future of processing speed and power — so it’s important to me because it means accuracy and intelligence. But my customers don’t ask.”

That’s the response I got across the board. MSPs know it is something key for the future of security, but their customers don’t ask about it at all. I’m heartened to learn MSPs understand the importance, but can they tell marketing hype from reality? I want to make sure they understand what’s important or key differentiators for AI and ML.

Identifying the problem, data and consumability are key.

First, you need to know what problem you’re trying to solve before you can engage ML models. Next is having substantial data to feed the models. Webroot analyzes 500 billion data elements a day that we link and push through our models to enhance our analysis. We have a lot of access to information that new players in the space simply do not. Data is key to training up a model. Finally, consumability is getting the ML models into the hands of the customer so that the solution can be actionable. It’s pretty easy to tune new models, but it’s not easy to get the models deployed and allow customers to get meaningful, actionable data from it.

What do MSPs hear from customers around what’s key with ML?

The general sentiment was that it’s a checkbox in that they know the words, and it’s a must, but there is no real data or understanding of the why. SMBs don’t know what it means or how it applies to their business other than making security generally better.Going one-step further, I get concerned people are enamored with the idea of the tech but not clear on the value it can provide.

AI and ML should help in three areas for customers.

First, it should help create new capabilities for the security stack while at the same time decreasing their costs and reducing their cycle time to detect and remediate threats. Second, it should help detect emergent, unexpected threat behaviors quickly enabling the security team or an orchestration solution to take action. Third, it should deliver value around people augmentation. It could be automation of remedial tasks or simply working around the clock while your human employees go home and sleep.

“MSPs are technologists. They have to take complex stuff for their clients and their clients have blind faith. So MSPs focus on effectiveness.” -Cameron Stone, sales, Webroot

When I dug in more about benefits, a recent MSP owner chimed in, “Almost all decisions are based on whether it reduces headaches and is an innovative tool for my customers; so if machine learning does that, I’m all for learning more. I’d be happy to read up on it, but my customers don’t have time to read or care about it.”

As a passionate fan of ML, I realized there is a lot more we in the industry need to do to help educate and make this technology easy to consume.

Machine learning’s super power is that the amount of data it can take it has no limits. Think about it the context of healthcare: what if the best doctors in the world could work on your issue, around the clock? ML can provide that value to cybersecurity.

I appreciate Datto letting me talk on my soapbox for a few minutes and hope to continue this conversation with more MSP partners.

3 MSP Best Practices for Protecting Users

Reading Time: ~ 3 min.Cyberattacks are on the rise, with UK firms being hit, on average, by over 230,000 attacksin 2017. Managed service providers (MSPs) need to make security a priority in 2018, or they will risk souring their relationships with clients. By following 3 simple MSP best practices consisting of user education, backup and recovery, and patch management, your MSP can enhance security, mitigate overall client risk, and grow revenue.

User Education

An effective anti-virus is essential to keeping businesses safe; however, It isn’t enough anymore. Educating end users through security awareness training can reduce the cost and impact of user-generated infections and breaches, while also helping clients meet the EU’s new GDPR compliance requirements. Cybercriminals’ tactics are evolving and increasingly relying on user error to circumvent security protocols. Targeting businesses through end users via social engineering is a rising favorite among new methods of attack.

Common social engineering attacks include:

  • An email from a trusted friend, colleague or contact—whose account has been compromised—containing a compelling story with a malicious link/download is very popular. For example, a managing director’s email gets hacked and the finance department receives an email to pay an outstanding “invoice”.
  • A phishing email, comment, or text message that appears to come from a legitimate company or institution. The messages may ask you to donate to charity, ‘verify’ information, or notify you that you’re the winner in a competition you never entered.
  • A fraudster leaving a USB around a company’s premises hoping a curious employee will insert it into a computer providing access to company data.

Highly topical, relevant, and timely real-life educational content can minimize the impact of security breaches caused by user error. By training clients on social engineering and other topics including ransomware, email, passwords, and data protection, you can help foster a culture of security while adding serious value for your clients.

Backup and Disaster Recovery Plans

It’s important for your MSP to stress the importance of backups. If hit with ransomware without a secure backup, clients face the unsavory options of either paying up or losing important data. Offering clients automated, cloud-based backup makes it virtually impossible to infect backup data and provides additional benefits, like a simplified backup process, offsite data storage, and anytime/anywhere access. In the case of a disaster, there should be a recovery plan in place. Even the most secure systems can be infiltrated. Build your plan around business-critical data, a disaster recovery timeline, and protocol for disaster communications.

Things to consider for your disaster communications

  • Who declares the disaster?
  • How are employees informed?
  • How will you communicate with customers?

Once a plan is in place, it is important to monitor and test that it has been implemented effectively. A common failure with a company’s backup strategy occurs when companies fail to test their backups. Then, disaster strikes and only then do they discover they cannot restore their data. A disaster recovery plan should be tested regularly and updated as needed. Once a plan is developed, it doesn’t mean that it’s effective or set in stone.

Patch Management

Consider it an iron law; patch and update everything immediately following a release. As soon as patches/updates are released and tested, they should be applied for maximum protection. The vast majority of updates are security related and need to be kept up-to-date. Outdated technology–especially an operating system (OS)–is one of the most common weaknesses exploited in a cyberattack. Without updates, you leave browsers and other software open to ransomware and exploit kits. By staying on top of OS updates, you can prevent extremely costly cyberattacks. For example, in 2017 Windows 10 saw only 15% of total files deemed to be malware, while Windows 7 saw 63%. These figures and more can be found in Webroot’s 2018 Threat Report.

Patching Process

Patching is a never-ending cycle, and it’s good practice to audit your existing environment by creating a complete inventory of all production systems used. Remember to standardize systems to use the same operating systems and application software. This makes the patching process easier. Additionally, assess vulnerabilities against inventory/control lists by separating the vulnerabilities that affect your systems from those that don’t. This will make it easier for your business to classify and prioritize vulnerabilities, as each risk should be assessed by the likelihood of the threat occurring, the level of vulnerability, and the cost of recovery. Once it’s determined which vulnerabilities are of the highest importance, develop and test the patch. The patch should then deploy without disrupting uptime—an automated patch system can help with the process.

Follow these best practices and your MSP can go a lot further toward delivering the security that your customers increasingly need and demand. Not only you improve customer relationships, but you’ll also position your MSP as a higher-value player in the market, ultimately fueling growth. Security is truly an investment MSPs with an eye toward growth can’t afford to ignore.

Re-Thinking ‘Patch and Pray’

Reading Time: ~ 3 min.

When WannaCry ransomware spread throughout the world last year by exploiting vulnerabilities for which there were patches, we security “pundits” stepped up the call to patch, as we always do. In a post on LinkedIn Greg Thompson, Vice President of Global Operational Risk & Governance at Scotiabank expressed his frustration with the status quo.

Greg isn’t wrong. Deploying patches in an enterprise department requires extensive testing prior to roll out. However, most of us can patch pretty quickly after an announced patch is made available. And we should do it!

There is a much larger issue here, though. A vulnerability can be known to attackers but not to the general public. Managing and controlling vulnerabilities means that we need to prevent the successful exploitation of a vulnerability from doing serious harm. We also need to prevent exploits from arriving at a victim’s machine as a layer of defense. We need a layered approach that does not include a single point of failure–patching.

A Layered Approach

First off, implementing a security awareness training program can help prevent successful phishing attacks from occurring in the first place. The 2017 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report indicated that 66% of data breaches started with a malicious attachment in an email—i.e. phishing. Properly trained employees are far less likely to open attachments or click on links from phishing email. I like to say that the most effective antimalware product is the one used by the best educated employees.

In order to help prevent malware from getting to the users to begin with, we use reputation systems. If almost everything coming from http://www.yyy.zzz is malicious, we can block the entire domain. If much of everything coming from an IP address in a legitimate domain is bad, then we can block the IP address. URLs can be blocked based upon a number of attributes, including the actual structure of the URL. Some malware will make it past any reputation system, and past users. This is where controlling and managing vulnerabilities comes into play.

The vulnerability itself does no damage. The exploit does no damage. It is the payload that causes all of the harm. If we can contain the effects of the payload then we are rethinking how we control and manage vulnerabilities. We no longer have to allow patches (still essential) to be a single point of failure.

Outside of offering detection and blocking of malicious files, it is important to stop execution of malware at runtime by monitoring what it’s trying to do. We also log each action the malware performs. When a piece of malware does get past runtime blocking, we can roll back all of the systems changes. This is important. Simply removing malware can result in system instability. Precision rollback can be the difference between business continuity and costly downtime.

Some malware will nevertheless make it onto a system and successfully execute. It’s at this point we observe what the payload is about to do. For example, malware that tries to steal usernames and passwords is identified by the Webroot ID shield. There are behaviors that virtually all keyloggers use, and Webroot ID Shield is able to intercept the request for credentials and returns no data at all. Webroot needn’t have seen the file previously to be able to protect against it. Even when the user is tricked into entering their credentials, the trojan will not receive them.

There is one essential final step. You need to have offline data backups. The damage ransomware does is no different than the damage done by a hard drive crash. Typically, cloud storage is the easiest way to automate and maintain secure backups of your data.

Greg is right. We can no longer allow patches to be a single point of failure. But patching is still a critical part of your defensive strategy. New technology augments patching, it does not replace it and will not for the foreseeable future.

What do you think about patch and pray? Join our discussion in the Webroot Community or in the comments below!