MSP Cybersecurity Liabilities: Real Concerns or Hype?

Understanding the motives of cybercriminals and what tools they typically deploy to access business systems and data will remove some of the mystery.

Cybersecurity Liability

No business owner needs more burdens today. The hits keep coming from concerns over the shifting economic conditions and a lack of available workers to rapidly rising expenses. For MSPs, that pressure is constant and, in many cases, continues to climb with new business threats, from financial limitations and tightening credit markets to ever-escalating cybercrime. As the saying goes, “there is no rest for the weary.”

On top of the known risks associated with ransomware, phishing attacks and a thriving hacker community, MSPs and other IT services firms are under tremendous pressure to eliminate threats. Providers may feel that their very livelihoods depend on 100% success. The stress is real, whether securing their clients’ IT assets or protecting the proverbial “keys to the kingdom,” otherwise known as access to their collective technology ecosystem.

What could happen to their business or clients if a hacker gets lucky or a cybercriminal gets an end-user to slip up and kick off a ransomware attack? How much financial or reputational damage would just one of those incidents have on an MSP? Those are reasonable concerns for any IT services business owner today.

The Risks are Real

With all the ambiguity and inflated commentary around cyberattacks, it is easy to see why so many business owners and decision-makers are worried about the threats. Understanding the motives of cybercriminals and what tools they typically deploy to access business systems and data will remove some of the mystery. However, the rapid evolution of tactics, ransomware and other attack mechanisms make it harder for anyone to maintain 100% effective defenses.

Those reasons help explain why the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), the FBI and several other global organizations issued an advisory for MSPs and their clients on securing sensitive data. Recommendations listed in that directive include implementing mitigation resources, enabling monitoring and logging solutions, and applying endpoint detection and network defense applications.

The reasoning behind that warning is solid. According to a recent report by N-able, 90% of MSPs have been the targets of successful cyber-attacks in the past 18 months. More significantly, nearly half of those firms experienced a financial loss (46%) and disruption of their business (45%) following an attack. The negative carry-through effect on clients can be just as substantial, if not worse, considering tech-naïve end-users’ propensity to take security shortcuts. Based on all those threat vectors, the escalating concerns of the global law enforcement community agencies are more than appropriate.

Minimize MSPs’ Risks

Though the risks are seemingly everywhere, MSPs do have the power to lessen the liabilities for themselves and their clients. IT services professionals can tighten down their collective defenses with the latest technologies and policies and through consultation with legal and cyber-insurance experts. Working collaboratively with a variety of cybersecurity-focused specialists can limit the potential financial exposure for MSPs in the event of an attack and expand their remediation and recovery resources.

IT services-focused attorneys and cyber-insurance experts support the best interests of their partners and customers to prevent bad events from getting worse. Consulting with those skilled at minimizing liability for MSPs and the SMB lessens the stress and potential headaches for the collective community. Clients will be better protected. IT services providers know someone has their back if cybercriminals manage to get through their defenses – with access to insight and proactive guidance to reduce the potential of those occurrences.

With liability concerns on the rise, MSPs need attorneys experienced in developing, evaluating and improving services contracts and master agreements. Comprehension of general IT services business processes and policies is critical. A skilled cyber attorney will identify and resolve potential liability issues and limit the financial and legal exposure for MSPs and the organizations they support.

Cyber-insurance professionals are equally important. Regardless of the threat landscape, they can help MSPs navigate their clients through the maze of regulatory compliance requirements and identify critical vulnerabilities they must address to be insurable. Those collaboration opportunities can help strengthen their collective defenses and minimize liability when cybercriminals are successful.

Focus on the Shields

MSPs must constantly assess and address the potential liabilities associated with delivering IT services. Since they essentially have the “keys to the kingdom” regarding their access to multiple networks and scores of client data, providers are directly in the crosshairs of cybercriminals today. The escalating attacks on SMBs are cause for concern, especially as the complexity and intensity of ransomware and phishing attacks continue to grow.

The cost of failure is too big to ignore. Securing every system, performing regular backups and locking down all the important data is essential for MSPs and the organizations they support – no shortcuts or skimping on the expenses. The only sure way to minimize cybersecurity-related liabilities is by investing in effective tools, policies and partnerships.

That last point is an important piece of the puzzle. No matter how skilled an MSP may be, without the support of legal and insurance experts who understand the cybersecurity risks inside the IT services community, minimizing liability will be much more difficult. That added exposure should be a real concern for IT services firms. If cybercriminals gain access to clients’ networks and data through their systems, they can expect other clients and prospects to scrutinize their security and business practices.

From a public and legal perspective, that exposure can have a catastrophic effect. Cybersecurity is true responsibility, and MSPs must ensure they’re providing quality (industry standard) protection to each client and adopting the same best practices in their own organizations. By leveraging effective tools, policies and partnerships, IT services firms can limit their liabilities and provide the best protection for the companies they support.