Think Like A Hacker: Understanding the 3 biggest digital risks for MSPs

Think Like A Hacker: Understanding the 3 biggest digital risks for MSPs

As the way we all work moves increasingly online, identifying cyber threats among the millions of daily interactions between your clients, corporate networks and business systems has never been more challenging. With increased regulatory scrutiny around data protection, managing the cyber security of your clients is now critical for everyone working for an MSP, whether you’re a security analyst actively working to keep information safe or an account manager trying to add value to your offerings.
So, what are the major digital risks that MSPs need to be aware of? And how can you prevent these threats from negatively impacting your clients?

Stolen credentials

MSPs are often an irresistible target to cybercriminals as their client base provides an easy way to infiltrate multiple organisations at once. Although MSPs’ access to database servers and encryption keys can be a significant vulnerability, it is often remote access tools that present the biggest digital risk. Of course, remote access is essential for many MSPs providing proactive support to their clients, but if connections to the client environment are not secure and encrypted, it’s easy for malicious actors to steal the admin credentials that make remote access possible and install ransomware across the client base.

Credentials that have been exposed in historic breaches also present a challenge to MSPs, as criminals launch ‘credential stuffing’ attacks to test stolen account credentials to gain unauthorised access to other sites and services. With vast amounts of valid credentials still available from previous breaches such as the LinkedIn and Dropbox incidents, it can be straightforward for attackers to pose as either MSP admins or clients if passwords have been reused.

If you can reduce your attack surface when it comes to credentials, you’ll significantly reduce the risk to your clients. It’s best practice to regularly revisit the access privileges and admin credentials that have been allocated – are all of them necessary to maintain business as usual? What would be the business impact if they are stolen?

Of course, your life will be much easier if access credentials are never stolen in the first place. Any investment in regular cyber awareness training is a great place to start and will help both your colleagues and clients to avoid falling victim to spear phishing attacks and social engineering trends as they evolve over time. It’s also worth maintaining visibility of any domain permutations similar to your core websites that have associated mail servers but no website or IP address. Being proactive in identifying suspicious domains and blacklisting them before they can be used in phishing attacks is still the best way to keep your clients safe.

Unauthorised data leakage

Normally the data breaches that make headlines are focused on large enterprises such as Target or Marriott. Unfortunately, both the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre and the US’ Department of Homeland Security have issued recent warnings that MSPs are increasingly under cyberattack even if it’s not as visible.

Although attackers do frequently target MSP-specific software such as remote monitoring and management tools, unauthorised data leakage is not always due to malicious intent or insider threats. Human error is often the catalyst for data breaches, particularly as all businesses increase the number of third-party connections with suppliers, partners and contractors. It can be increasingly difficult for an MSP to say with certainty exactly how many devices and people have access to sensitive client data at any one time.

So how can you prevent unauthorised data leakage? Once again, credentials are key. Once login details with a high level of access privileges have been exposed, it’s simple for attackers to breach client systems and steal sensitive data.

Unfortunately, for most MSPs operating today, data breaches are a matter of ‘not if, but when’. With that in mind, regularly monitoring the dark web for leaked data is vital. After all, timing is everything when it comes to protecting client operations and reducing the impact of a breach. Being able to demonstrate a proactive breach monitoring process and taking down credentials before they can be resold multiple times on the dark web will go a long way towards maintaining client trust and avoiding regulatory fines.

Configuration errors

Technology purchases can often lag behind cybersecurity trends. The majority of SMEs still heavily rely on a cybersecurity strategy that focuses on the firewall, but this approach does not reflect the changing tactics of cybercriminals who may be targeting configuration errors in your clients. Even in the largest companies, it’s easy for staff to overlook a DNS error or lapsed SSL certificate, or perhaps rely on default configuration settings. Unfortunately, cybercriminals are constantly monitoring for these sorts of mistakes and even a small error can quickly turn into critical cyber vulnerabilities that enable malicious attacks to infiltrate a client.

Of course, monitoring and maintaining security architecture can be a resource-intensive task as new devices are constantly added to the network and more and more business processes move online. Many MSPs are now turning to automated monitoring tools to create consistent visibility of their client’s cyber exposure and cyber posture. By embracing automation, you can save time spent compiling vulnerability reports and get instant visibility that helps you to disrupt cyberattacks before they can impact BAU.

How we can help

At the end of the day, it’s impossible to protect your clients from digital risks and cyber vulnerabilities if you don’t know what needs to be prioritised. At Darkbeam, we know that cyberattacks are a part of doing business today, so it’s essential for MSPs to put the tools in place to help clients stay secure and maintain business as usual. That’s why we’re helping MSPs to rapidly identify and document your clients’ critical cyber threats, giving you the intelligence you need to remediate security gaps faster and enhance your defences where it matters most.

Our automation-based digital risk solutions replicate the reconnaissance phase of a cyberattack cycle, giving you a hacker’s eye view of your clients in seconds. Want to know more? Contact us at to set up your free trial.

Ruby Pope

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