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attack surface management for MSPs

Do You Know Enough to Reduce Your Clients’ Attack Surface?

ConnectSecure  |   Aug 16, 2023

The importance of identifying and remediating vulnerabilities is receiving growing attention. SAP, the world’s leading enterprise resource planning (ERP) software vendor, is the latest corporate powerhouse to recognize the threat that vulnerabilities pose. 

This year, SAP disclosed a notable shift in its cybersecurity strategy; addressing system vulnerabilities is now the highest priority, sidelining malware and ransomware as the main focus. Research from SAPinsider, the largest membership group, showed three trends that prompted the change: regulatory compliance requirements, hybridization of environments, and economic pressures. 

When members were asked to rank the top cybersecurity threats, unpatched systems also came out on top alongside credentials compromise and ransomware attacks. As SAPinsider notes, these threats are closely linked — hackers use compromised credentials to infiltrate systems to plant malware or ransomware, while failed patch management exposes vulnerabilities that open the door to company networks. 

Risk Aware Businesses Turn to MSPs for Help

This trend has not gone unnoticed among the customers of Managed Service Providers (MSPs). Businesses of all sizes are quickly becoming increasingly aware of cyber threats and turning to their MSPs for guidance. (“The message of cybersecurity really resonates,” says one leading MSP). 

For MSPs who are just starting to get acquainted with the world of cybersecurity, there’s one aspect, in particular, that deserves close attention. As stewards of complex enterprise ecosystems, MSPs need to understand the nuances of attack surface management (ASM).  This comprehensive approach is essential for safeguarding not only the data and networks under your management but also the very trust your clients place in you.

Consider the following an introduction to some of the points you need to understand to ultimately reduce your attack surface, tackle all vulnerabilities, and strengthen both your own and your clients’ cybersecurity posture:

Reducing Attack Surface Requires Firm Grasp of Scope

Grasping the True Value of Data

Any discussion about cybersecurity must begin with a granular understanding of what exactly we're trying to protect. It's not merely about knowing that you have customer records or proprietary algorithms but understanding the nuanced ways in which this data interacts with your systems and your clients' operations. Different types of data have different vulnerabilities and different potential impacts if compromised. Consider classifying the data based on criticality and sensitivity to understand the level of protection each type needs. This is a cornerstone for any cybersecurity strategy you put in place.

(Reading tip: EPSS Scoring: A Quick Guide for MSPs on Vulnerability Prioritization)

The Multifaceted Nature of the Attack Surface

For most businesses, the digital ecosystem has expanded to include not only in-house servers and workstations but also cloud storage, mobile devices, and even Internet of Things (IoT) devices. This extensive diversification significantly complicates the attack surface. Creating Data Flow Diagrams (DFDs) can be an invaluable way to understand the complex interplay between various system components. With these diagrams, you can pinpoint high-risk data flows, identify system vulnerabilities, and prioritize security measures based on actual business logic rather than hypothetical scenarios.

Making Cybersecurity a Cross-Departmental Responsibility

The scope of cybersecurity extends far beyond the realm of the IT department. All departments within an organization have roles that intersect with cybersecurity. For instance, Human Resources must be attuned to the risks associated with social engineering attacks, while the legal department should be well-versed in compliance requirements concerning data protection. Involve key stakeholders from these departments in cybersecurity planning to cover all your bases. By making it a cross-departmental responsibility, you increase the layers of scrutiny and perspectives that can identify and shore up vulnerabilities.

Balancing Cloud and SaaS Advantages with Risks

Cloud services and Software as a Service (SaaS) platforms have brought immense value to businesses. However, these advantages come with new sets of vulnerabilities. Understanding that your data may be housed on third-party servers subject to different security protocols is crucial. Managing access rights and permissions on these platforms with the same rigor as your internal systems is not just good practice—it's imperative. Assess the security protocols of your service providers and ensure they meet the same stringent criteria you set for your own systems.

The Indispensable Principle of Least Privilege

Within cybersecurity, the principle of "Least Privileged Access" is a useful model. This doctrine dictates that system access should be provisioned based on the minimum set of permissions necessary for each role within the organization. Enforcing this practice can significantly minimize the risk of unauthorized data access or system manipulation, effectively reducing the attack surface by limiting the number of potential entry points for attackers.

Addressing Third-Party and Supply Chain Risks

In an interconnected business world, your organization's cybersecurity is closely linked to the security of your vendors, partners, and even customers. Implementing a vendor risk management program allows you to assess the security standards of your third-party relationships. You can identify potential weak links in your cybersecurity chain and take proactive measures to mitigate risks.

The Underestimated Role of Open Source Intelligence (OSINT)

Publicly available data can be a treasure trove for would-be attackers. Details about system configurations, organizational structures, and even key personnel can often be found with a simple web search. Understanding what information about your organization is readily available can give you a unique perspective on potential vulnerabilities that you may not have considered.

Summary and Next Steps

With cybersecurity threats gaining in number and sophistication, comprehensive attack surface management is non-negotiable for MSPs. By taking a holistic approach that incorporates data valuation, a detailed understanding of your technological landscape, cross-departmental engagement, and external risks, you are far better positioned to protect the assets under your stewardship. As we've discussed, focusing on these areas allows MSPs to:

  • Categorize and prioritize data based on its business value and risk.
  • Generate detailed Data Flow Diagrams to understand complex system interdependencies.
  • Enlist various departments in the fight against cyber threats.
  • Meticulously manage cloud and SaaS vulnerabilities.
  • Apply the principle of least privilege across all system accesses.
  • Rigorously assess and monitor third-party risk.
  • Remain vigilant about publicly accessible information.

By implementing these strategies, you can build a resilient cybersecurity posture that adapts to the evolving nature of threats while safeguarding the invaluable trust your clients place in your services.

Contact ConnectSecure

Made by MSPs for MSPs, the ConnectSecure all-in-one cybersecurity platform features everything you need to harden the attack surface of your clients (and your own business) and take the lead on an issue that will only grow in importance. 

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