Cybersecurity Threats

Chris Swagler | November 26th, 2022


Managed Service Providers (MSPs) have become huge targets for cybercriminals. MSPs manage very sensitive data for numerous private companies. Threat actors are aware of this and will exploit various vectors with ransomware, social engineering, and DDoS to steal data and execute attacks. Cybercriminals will exploit any vulnerability to gain access to IT networks. If they’re unable to directly infiltrate companies, cybercriminals will look for a backdoor in a company’s supply chain.

MSPs work with numerous clients and manage enormous amounts of information and data. Gaining access to their systems increases the likelihood of obtaining access to thousands of companies’ systems. MSPs’ clients often rely on them to provide a comprehensive range of IT services, including security. If MSP cybersecurity threats become real, the implications can affect their whole client base, resulting in financial loss, legal ramifications, and severe reputational damage. Below are the top five MSP cybersecurity threats and digital risks companies need to be aware of as we head into 2023 and how MSPs can protect themselves and their clients.

Five Cybersecurity Threats MSPS Face in 2023

  1. Ransomware

Ransomware is constantly evolving. What began as a small crime has become a big problem for global companies. Previously, ransomware threat operators had to improvise their own payment methods or use retail shopping cards, prepaid cash cards, and cash payments delivered to PO boxes throughout the country. The effort vs. reward kept ransomware attacks under control.

Ransomware threats have recently become more common and more lucrative due to the rise of cryptocurrency. The new payment technique is virtually untraceable and appealing to cybercriminals since it allows ransomware threat operators to take advantage of the speed and anonymity of crypto transactions. The development has made things considerably more difficult for MSPs: 73% of companies identified ransomware as the top threat tactic used to compromise their systems. An MSP threat report shows that 60% of MSP client incidents were connected to ransomware.

According to the research, threat operators will continue to exploit MSPs’ lack of visibility and understanding across numerous cloud-based solutions and programs the MSPs use. Threat actors are likely to continue focusing on cloud-based attacks against MSPs in the future. With a technique called Big Game Hunting (BGH), ransomware threats have become more focused. This is a ransomware-based cyberattack that is targeted, complex, low-volume, and high-return. Once inside, threat operators move laterally across the networks to monitor them before exfiltrating files and deploying the ransomware.

Other ransomware threats that are anticipated to become common in the future include:

  • Crypto-Malware – Malware attacks that are almost impossible to undo without the malefactors’ decryption key.
  • Scareware – scaring users thinking a virus had infected their systems and asking users to pay money to “fix” it.
  • Lockers – preventing access to entire systems by “locking: users out completely
  • Doxware/Leakware – involving threats to release encrypted personal/sensitive data to the public.
  • RaaS (Ransomware as a Service) – people with no tools or knowledge can buy ransomware attacks on business/individual’ systems.
  1. Social Engineering

Social engineering refers to various malicious operations carried out through human interaction. Psychological manipulation is frequently used to deceive users into violating security measures and disclosing sensitive or personal data. Threat operators begin by researching the victims to obtain background information, including potential points of entry and weak security standards. Threat operators then attempt to acquire victims’ trust and entice them into taking action that violates security practices, including exposing sensitive information or granting access to vital resources. 98% of cyberattacks depend on social engineering: on the rapport and connection that develops as the attacks unfold. Additionally, social engineering exploits are effective approximately 80% of the time.

That’s how persuasive social engineers can be and there’s no sign of that changing anytime soon. MSPs must educate themselves and their clients on how MSP cybersecurity threats emerge, how to recognize them, and how to respond effectively. Online cybersecurity courses, awareness training, and seminars will help teams stay current on social engineering attacks and methods. The following are some examples of social engineering forms:

  • Baiting – exploiting victims’ desires or curiosities to steal personal information or infect their systems with malware by making false promises.
  • Pretexting – begins by creating trust with their victims by imitating coworkers or authority figures, then asking sensitive data-gathering questions.
  • Phishing – one the most common types of social engineering; usually email and text message campaigns designed to instil fear, interest, or urgency in victims.
  • Spear Phishing – a highly targeted phishing scam in which threat operators tailor their message to specific people or companies.
  1. Cloud Computing DDoS Attacks

Distributed Denial of Services (DDoS) attacks exploit network infrastructure limitations. Threat operators will send numerous requests to the attacked online resources to surpass the websites’ capacity and thus prevent websites from working properly. An average of 1,392 DDoS attacks are mitigated each day. Threat operators typically undertake coordinated DDoS attacks in cloud computing using numerous compromised devices, either through breaches or malware. This permits each machine to engage in criminal activities without the owners’ knowledge. The Equifax breach in 2017 and the TaskRabbit app attack in 2018 are two examples of MSP cybersecurity threats.

In February 2020, Amazon, a tech giant, stated that its AWS Shield service successfully mitigated a 2.3 Tbps DDoS attack. Additionally, DDoS-for-hire services have increased in number because of the pandemic and shelter-in-place setup and companies need to be on the lookout for new waves of attacks.

  1. Risks of Remote Working

Remote work has seen an unparalleled surge in recent years. Companies had no choice but to depend on digital services and online communication tools to stay connected, whether for work or for personal reasons, during the pandemic. Because of the remote work setup, work-from-home vulnerabilities have increased. Companies struggle to manage phones and other mobile devices used by remote workers. This causes major headaches when employees blur the lines between their professional and personal lives. Not only should the technological aspect of companies be closely managed. According to research:

  • While working from home, 35% of employees reported being tired or having little energy.
  • Even with the distractions, remote employees worked five hours per week more than those who worked in the office; they also worked six hours of unpaid overtime per week on average, compared to 3.6 hours for those who never worked from home.

Consistently putting in extra hours can impact employees’ job quality and introduce remote work risks. The worst-case scenario is employees unintentionally expose sensitive information, jeopardizing companies’ security.

  1. Threats and Vulnerabilities to IoT

Internet of Things (IoT) cyberattacks more than doubled in the last year. From January to June, 1.51 billion IoT breaches were reported compared to 639 million attacks the year before. 58% of these cyberattacks utilized the telnet protocol. The MSP cybersecurity threats range from crypto mining to DDoS to data theft. The following are the most visible IoT threats and vulnerabilities:

  • Weak Password Protection – Threat operators find hard-coded, guessable credentials a blessing.
  • Lacking Regular Patches/Updates – Security updates for embedded software and firmware are always provided by responsible manufacturers; however, it’s not always the case. IoT devices become vulnerable to breaching over time if security patches and updates are not applied on a consistent and regular basis.
  • Unsecured Interfaces – Because of insufficient device authentication and authorization along with weak or non-existent encryption, the interfaces that IoT devices use can become vulnerable points. Threat actors can connect to exposed interfaces without reliable device authentication protocol and digital certificates.
  • Inadequate Data Protection – Having secured data storage and networks can’t be understated. In the event of data theft or unauthorized access, data encryption can assist in resolving this. Simple cryptography systems can protect users from eavesdropping or “man-in-the-middle” attacks.
  • IoT Skills Gap – Hiring new talent and employees is not always possible. The only choice is to provide training and upskilling to current employees. Train team members to be ready and capable of managing IoT devices, and they’ll be more effective as a result.

More than 51% of IT teams are unaware of the types of devices connected to their network. However, more troubling is that half often rely on guesswork or a piecemeal solution in providing visibility into their network security:

  • 15% of devices are unauthorized or unknown
  • 75% of the deployed services violate VLAN protocols
  • 5-19% are using unsupported legacy systems.

How MSPs Can Defend Themselves Against Cybersecurity Threats

MSPs need to be motivated to improve their overall network maturity. Aside from training employees about social engineering exploits and other cybersecurity threats and patching and updating software and firmware, here are some additional methods to establish more secure systems.

  • Multi-Layered, In-Depth Security Systems to Protect – This security system needs to not only protect against ransomware attacks, but social engineering, DDoS attacks, and system vulnerabilities.
  • Extended Threat Detection and Response Solutions – This allows MSPs to identify potential risks that threat actors can exploit.
  • Security Tabletop Exercises – Exercises in which team members discuss their duties and responses during emergencies are useful for keeping staff prepared to respond to breaches or cybersecurity attacks. Additionally, the security tabletop exercises will help identify potential security gaps and vulnerabilities, not just in systems, but also in policies and protocols.
  • Regularly Backup Data – This is critical advice for MSPs. The risks of losing data are reduced by deploying automated backup systems and securing reliable backups.

Technology is continuously evolving, and digital cybersecurity threats will continue to respond to these evolutions. The five MSP cybersecurity threats mentioned above may not be the only ones MSPs will face in the future. Companies can effectively counter by being proactive in protecting their data and preparing for the worst-case scenario. Additionally, MSPs and their clients need to always remain vigilant of the current threat landscape and regularly update their security tools to protect data networks. At SpearTip, MSPs can upsell their security offerings by incorporating our pre-breach risk services into their current catalog. We offer our cutting-edge integrable cybersecurity solution that allows MSPs to focus on their clients’ core IT objectives while providing industry-leading protection against malicious cyber threats, especially those mentioned above. MSPs that partner with SpearTip will receive a turnkey SOC and a team of experts dedicated to their account on a 24/7/365 basis allowing their current team to focus on client interactions.

If your company is experiencing a breach, call our Security Operations Centers at 833.997.7327 to speak directly with an engineer.


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Frequently Asked Questions

What specific steps can managed service providers (MSPs) take to protect themselves and their clients from the identified cybersecurity threats in 2023?

Specific steps that MSPs can take to protect themselves and their clients from cybersecurity threats in 2023 depend on the nature of the threat. For example, to protect against ransomware attacks, MSPs can implement robust data backups, regularly update software and security patches, and educate their clients about email phishing scams. To mitigate supply chain attacks, MSPs can conduct regular vulnerability assessments and penetration testing, implement multi-factor authentication, and monitor third-party vendors' security practices closely.

Are there any industry standards or best practices that MSPs should follow to mitigate these cybersecurity threats?

There are several industry standards and best practices that MSPs can follow to mitigate cybersecurity threats. For instance, MSPs can adopt the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Cybersecurity Framework to identify, protect, detect, respond to, and recover from cyber incidents. MSPs can also comply with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) and ISO 27001 to ensure secure processing, storage, and transmission of sensitive data.

How can MSPs ensure they have the necessary resources and expertise to effectively respond to emerging cyber threats, considering the rapidly evolving nature of the cybersecurity landscape?

MSPs can ensure they have the necessary resources and expertise to respond to emerging cyber threats by investing in cybersecurity training and certifications for their staff, partnering with specialized security vendors and consultants, and leveraging advanced security technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, and behavioral analytics. MSPs can also establish a robust incident response plan that outlines roles, responsibilities, and communication protocols in the event of a cyber incident.

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