MSPs improve security posture and channel challenges legacy tools

Research from Kaspersky and Vectra lifts the lid on how the managed service community has responded to supply chain attacks, and how the status quo is no longer enough for many users

Managed service providers (MSPs) appear to have understood that they are firmly in the sights of cyber criminals, and have taken steps to protect themselves.

There have been high-profile attacks on vendors that operate in the MSP world, and as a result, some service providers were directly impacted. However, according to a Kaspersky channel survey, many of those that were not involved also recognised the need for improved defences and stepped things up.

Kaspersky found that 28% of MSPs had been impacted by the SolarWinds attack this time last year, but overall, 72% decided that they had to improve their defences because it was clear that the attacks were getting closer to home and they faced the prospect of being the next victims. Those fears were confirmed when Kaseya was targeted this summer, and underlined how the supply chain was an area where criminals were looking for vulnerabilities.

The survey found that MSPs had decided to increase their investment in security protection tools and some had hired extra staff with skills in this area. Some 20% stepped up training to raise awareness and expertise.

The silver lining for most MSPs was that customers have made it clear they are looking to work with a partner that has decent security, so those investments would have helped bolster their position with users.

“Cyber security challenges for MSPs also imply business opportunities,” said Mikhail Kolchin, head of MSP business at Kaspersky.

“Building a security service practice can be complex, but improving their own cyber posture should help MSPs develop frameworks to deploy security services for their customers,” he said. “The measures they have already taken in response to recent incidents can be a good start in developing internal cyber security expertise.”

Strengthened proposition

Robin Ody, senior analyst from Canalys, said that making investments in security could strengthen the proposition that an MSP could put in front of a customer.

“Differentiation is always an issue for partners,” he said. “The growth of demand for security managed services driven by the fragmentation of workforces during the pandemic has created more opportunities, but also more competition for MSPs. To stand out from the crowd, partners can add more technology, more services or more skills. What customers need today is a sense of security and trust that their partners will deliver those things properly. When you know a hack is just around the corner, the way an MSP handles these incidents is a mark of quality.”

Elsewhere, there was also some positive signs for those in the security channel that are trying to pitch a fresh solution. Customers should be open to a different message around security, with many expressing doubts that the status quo is the right approach going forward.

That conclusion emerged from Vectra’s Security leaders research report, which found that 89% of respondents thought traditional approaches did not give the levels of protection needed against the latest threats.

The vendor found that it was not just a question of legacy tools being a problem, but also outmoded thinking, with many boards having failed to keep up with latest threats.

“Digital transformation is driving change at an ever-increasing pace, yet companies are not the only ones innovating. Cyber criminals are too,” said Garry Veale, UK & Ireland regional director at Vectra. “As the threat landscape evolves, traditional defences are increasingly ineffectual.

“Organisations need modern tools that shine a light into blind spots to deliver visibility from cloud to on-premise,” he said. “They need security leaders who can speak the language of business risk. Boards that are prepared to listen and a technology strategy based around an understanding that it’s ‘not if, but when’ they are breached.”

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