7 Critical Ransomware and Cybersecurity Strategies for MSPs (And Their Clients)

JANUARY 11TH, 2021

Ransomware is already rampant. In fact, there were 145.2 million ransomware attacks in Q3 2020, a 139% year-over-year increase. It will only get worse as cybercriminals try new attack strategies to overcome digital (and human) defenses. And ransomware can be very costly. But for MSPs, a successful ransomware attack can cost more than money. It can destroy their reputation—and possibly their business—as customers race for the door following a breach. And, because MSPs offer cybercriminals potential access to multiple customer networks, their ROI from a successful attack can be high. That puts MSPs even more squarely in the crosshairs of targeted ransomware attacks.


Despite the constant threats, it’s also a great time to be an MSP—if you have the right security expertise on your team. That’s because there’s a shortage of more than three million cybersecurity professionals in today’s workforce, according to Infosecurity Magazine. That means more businesses will likely look to MSPs to fill that gap and help secure their networks and data. So, what are the best strategies that MSPs should put in place to protect themselves? The following list is a good starting point for MSPs—and their clients.

1. Start with Employee Education

Social engineering schemes and ransomware ploys have gotten so sophisticated that even cybersecurity professionals may not be able to immediately identify them. MSPs need to train their employees so they don’t click on potentially dangerous links and don’t download infected attachments. MSPs should also strongly recommend cybersecurity training for their clients’ employees, too. It’s also a good idea to test training effectiveness and keep your people sharp by sending simulated threats, then sharing the results so everyone benefits from each learning experience.

2. Invest In Proven Security Solutions

MSPs are no different than any other business. When it comes to security solutions, sometimes it’s easier to keep the status quo. But for MSPs, the risks are much higher. That’s because it’s not just your own data that’s at stake. Your clients’ networks may also be compromised by a security breach. The first step toward bolstering your defenses is a thorough assessment of your current security systems. It may be worth hiring a third-party firm to do a security audit. You may also want to consider conducting a penetration test to confirm just how safe you are. Then put the firewalls, hardware, and software in place to make sure your networks—and your data—are well-protected.

3. Keep Software Up to Date

With so much on every MSP’s plate, software patches are often forgotten. Those patches are frequently developed to thwart cyberattacks that target specific vulnerabilities. Unpatched software is like leaving the door unlocked so cybercriminals can walk right in. That’s why you need to make software patch management a core element of your security plans (or hire a third-party provider to do so) while ensuring the same holds true for your clients.

4. Isolate and Monitor Your Network

With so much ransomware targeting MSPs, you need to know what’s happening on your network at all times. That means investing in a solution that continuously monitors and logs your network. These solutions alert you to unusual network behavior and other anomalies—typical symptoms of an attack—so you can identify the malicious activity as quickly as possible and take action. Every MSP should already know that best practices are to segment networks. That limits the amount of damage to an MSP that can result from a breach. Segmenting also helps ensure that your client networks aren’t at risk, too, should a successful breach occur.   

5. Tighten Account Access and Management

Successful breaches can frequently be traced back to stolen credentials, often acquired via phishing. If an MSP’s systems are compromised, its clients are equally at risk. The first step to preventing stolen credentials is implementing sound password and permissions management that limits complete access only to those who absolutely need it. Additionally, limit access by others to required systems only. As always, make sure your clients do the same.

6. Implement Multi-Factor Authentication

Continuing on the subject of stolen credentials, multi-factor authentication (MFA) lets you add another layer of security to prevent unauthorized access. There are a number of MFA options available to MSPs—from texts and emails to specialized security applications—that can be coupled with usernames and passwords to keep the bad actors out.

7. Take Regular Backups

If all else fails and your data is ransomed or your network is compromised, you may only have one way out—restoring your data from a backup. So put a solid backup and disaster recovery plan in place—you’ll find a planning checklist here. That will help you know with confidence that, should your worst fears come to pass, you’ll be able to get back on solid ground and meet your recovery point objective (RPO) and recovery time objective (RTO).

What’s Good for the Goose…

Every MSP should do its best to help its clients maintain awareness of cybersecurity and ransomware threats. Better yet, each of the strategies we’ve outlined offers the potential for selling new client services and solutions that increase your revenue. Your business grows and your clients are more secure. That’s a win-win for everyone—except the cybercriminals.

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