The rise of new technologies—ranging from the internet of things (IoT) and Big Data to artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML)—has changed the way organizations operate, compete, and evolve. When deployed strategically, each of these emerging technologies can offer organizations a leg up in a fast-paced marketplace, greater insight into their operations, and more control over their business.
However, the changing nature of our digital environment is also providing cybercriminals and bad actors with a larger attack surface—and more dangerous tools—than ever. From IoT networks with thousands of vulnerable endpoints to AI/ML platforms capable of cracking employee credentials, the evolution of workplace technology has also increased the sophistication of cyberattacks.
Given this reality, it’s critical that managed services providers (MSPs) and their customers understand what cybersecurity issues and challenges they’re up against. As companies increasingly rely on connected technology, the stakes of data breaches are clearly growing. By better understanding the full range of threats you face and the regulatory obligations you need to meet, you’ll be better positioned to invest in the right tools to secure your customers’ IT infrastructure.
What are the most important security issues facing companies today?
As companies become more reliant on their digital environment, their vulnerabilities to cyberthreats increase in turn. While this certainly doesn’t mean that organizations should forego critical IT investments to reduce their potential attack surface, it does mean that stakeholders need to stay aware of the specific cybersecurity issues that are most pressing to their companies. From the unique nature of IoT networks to increased reliance on the cloud, these issues are intrinsically linked to the way companies do business today.
For example, IoT networks function by way of hundreds or even thousands of network-connected devices distributed across a workspace, office building, or entire supply chain. Each of these devices is connected to the wider network, meaning that cybercriminals who manage to compromise one of these assets have an easy way to breach the rest of an organization’s network.
Similarly, greater investment in the cloud means that an increasing number of companies are storing and processing proprietary data offsite. The expansion of cloud computing has enabled numerous benefits, including greater organizational flexibility and cost savings. However, relying on the cloud—whether public, private, or hybrid—requires careful cybersecurity protocol. While third-party providers may be responsible for the security of the cloud itself, customers are generally responsible for the security of the information they store and use in it.
IoT networks and cloud computing aren’t alone in presenting companies with a new range of cybersecurity issues. AI, ML, blockchain, DevOps, and other emerging organizational technologies are requiring companies to take a greater interest in the security of their digital environment than ever before. Accordingly, companies need to consider what investments they must make in order to reap the greatest possible benefits of new workplace technology while mitigating the associated cybersecurity issues.
What are the threats in cybersecurity?
With new platforms and capabilities opening companies up to new vulnerabilities, it’s critical MSPs understand what tactics cybercriminals might use to take advantage of unprepared and unprotected organizations. Botnets, DDoS attacks, and ransomware are just a few examples of the kind of digital weapons that bad actors will use to breach networks and compromise sensitive information. While these strategies existed before the latest wave of workplace innovation, the unique nature of IoT networks, cloud computing, and more makes these attacks easier to carry out and potentially more devastating.
For example, cybercriminals can use botnets to hack into and then compromise almost any network-connected assets. With the rise of the IoT, bad actors literally have billions of potential targets to leverage. Because botnets involve groups of hacked devices that are then used for nefarious activity—such as carrying out DDoS attacks or deploying ransomware—organizations that have invested in IoT technology without simultaneously updating their cybersecurity strategy are at risk for serious breaches.
The widespread adoption of cloud computing has also brought its own set of risks and potential threats. For instance, improperly secured application programming interfaces (APIs) can expose critical cloud infrastructure to bad actors. APIs are the primary means by which organizations interface with cloud computing assets and connect with critical information stored offsite. However, APIs are uniquely vulnerable within the cloud environment and require their own cybersecurity strategy. Companies that fail to account for potential API vulnerabilities might be leaving the door to their cloud computing infrastructure wide open for hackers.
Across the board, cybersecurity threats that organizations have been familiar with in the past have become even more dangerous. Phishing—the process through which cybercriminals attempt to lure employees to click on links or download files to extract sensitive information—has evolved and matured. And while new technology like blockchain is specifically designed to be secure, users still have private keys that they use to conduct transactions at their specific blockchain node. Successful phishing operations could put these keys in the hands of bad actors and jeopardize the reliability of the network and the applications that rely on it.
Once cybercriminals have access to an organization’s network, the threats they pose are immeasurable. Bad actors may set up a cryptojacking operation in which they harness the resources of computers across a company to mine cryptocurrency, leading to significantly decreased performance. They may steal proprietary information—trade secrets that have the potential to jeopardize a company’s performance—and extort executives for ransom in return for not releasing it. They may even launch integrity attacks, effectively overwriting information in critical databases and allowing cybercriminals to commit fraudulent acts.
The full range of cybersecurity threats that companies face goes on, but the common link among them is that greater network connectivity across companies heightens the potential damage of cyberthreats. This means attacks that may have crippled one area of an organization in the past now have the potential to devastate the whole organization.
What are the challenges of cybersecurity?
The cybersecurity challenges that organizations face range from the internal to the external. On the one hand, companies need to safeguard proprietary information, protect employees, and earn the trust of those they do business with. This requires a shift in organizational culture that puts cybersecurity front and center and educates employees. On the other hand, organizations increasingly need to comply with government regulations as consumers become more concerned about their personal information. This poses new cybersecurity challenges for companies who will have to go to greater lengths to stay compliant with new regulations.
Internally, organizations need to recognize the importance of cybersecurity. Stakeholders need to be prepared to invest in the type of technology and expertise needed to secure their IT infrastructure and maintain that security around the clock. While cybersecurity may have previously taken a back seat to other business areas, companies now need to take a proactive role in monitoring their network and considering potential attack vectors.
Additionally, organizations need to confront the challenge of educating their employees in the reality of cybersecurity. From phishing attacks to ransomware, today’s workers need to be trained to spot nefarious activity, avoid engaging with it, and alert appropriate stakeholders as soon as possible. By educating employees on what threats the organization faces and what form they may come in, it’s more likely that massive breaches can be avoided and damage can be minimized.
Externally, companies face a challenging new regulatory environment. For example, GDPR amounts to a significant update to the European Union’s data privacy laws. The law puts strict requirements in place related to personal data, how companies can collect it, what they can do with it, and how they protect it. GDPR also requires that companies be transparent with national governing bodies in the event of a data breach, allowing citizens to take the appropriate steps to protect their personal information. While this specific example regards the EU, it will still affect any company around the world that processes the data of EU citizens.
How can MSPs support organizational cybersecurity?
Given the full range of threats your customers face today, it’s up to you as an MSP to secure their IT infrastructure and help protect their business. MSPs should consider how they can best deter cybercriminals, detect illicit activity, and defend customers’ networks.
The key here is having multiple layers of defense. Start by deploying a good Remote Monitoring and Management (RMM) solution as this will give you the visibility across the networks that you need to be able to monitor for suspicious activity. SolarWinds RMM also integrates a number of other key defences, that will help you defend in other areas:
- Patch management—Patching helps you ensure that all operating systems and third-party software is kept up to date with the latest security patches.
- Endpoint detection and response (EDR)—EDR helps you identify potential threats at endpoint level and then respond effectively through automation.
- Email protection—Since email is still the main vector cybercriminals use to get a foothold in an organization through phishing, being able to filter out potentially dangerous messages and attachments, can help reduce your attack surface.
- Web protection—The use of malicious websites to get people to inadvertently download malware into their network is prevalent. Being able to stop staff from going onto known malicious sites by blocking access to them is and important layer of defense.
On top of this, SolarWinds RMM gives you the ability to set up your own checks in the system to look for suspicious behavior. Having clear visibility across your customers’ networks in one spot gives you a better chance of preventing attacks. You can’t over look the fundamentals.
Interested in learning if these cybersecurity issues are impacting your organization? Explore our product suite to see how you can monitor and prepare for potential threats.