Cybersecurity risk management

Chris Swagler | November 5th, 2022


Cybersecurity risk management is an approach used by Managed Service Providers (MSPs) and other IT professionals to prioritize incoming and probable cyber threats. Implementing an effective cybersecurity risk management plan will ensure that threats are mitigated, lowering dwell time and the damage the threats can cause to clients’ systems. Your cybersecurity risk management plan’s purpose is not to eliminate all potential threats. The goal is to develop a precise approach to ensuring the most critical threats to clients’ digital assets are dealt with first.

MSPs can go through potential threats and their clients’ asset inventory, addressing them in order of importance. Numerous MSPs believe that if they’re addressing their threats, they’re doing their job. However, without cybersecurity risk management, MSPs will be managing their clients’ cybersecurity reactively rather than proactively. Responding to cyber threats can become easier and more organized if MSPs develop a clear repeatable plan their team can follow. Incoming threat operators’ attempts can be managed with a clear and calm mind, and MSPs won’t be left scattered, responding to every threat like a five-alarm emergency.

MSPs’ cybersecurity risk and management plans outline their strategies for prioritizing and dealing with clients’ risks to best preserves their systems’ health. Any malicious software or attack attempt targeting vulnerabilities or weaknesses in their clients’ network architectures is considered a threat. Most companies are facing several key threat categories.

Human Error – The most common source of cyber threats numerous companies deal with. A majority of these are social engineering attacks that take advantage of endpoint users’ emotional states within the networks’ infrastructure. Phishing is one example.

Unauthorized Access – Threat operators are continuously adopting the latest techniques, tactics, and procedures (TTPs) to access MSPs’ clients’ networks, whether they’re aware of it or not. If unauthorized individuals successfully bypass cybersecurity measures, they can wreak havoc on clients’ internal infrastructure. Endpoint user error can potentially allow unauthorized network access by clicking on malicious links or opening infected files.

Data Misused by Unauthorized Users – Threat actors, unscrupulous employees, or employees without proper knowledge of cybersecurity best practices may edit, remove, or exploit MSPs’ clients’ mission-critical data with proper approval or authorization once inside.

Data Leaks and Breaches – Data breaches or leaks can be caused by threat operators, faulty cloud configurations, or negligent endpoint users. If sensitive data, including personally identifiable information (PII), is released, the consequences for MSPs’ clients’ business can be disastrous. Breaches can land MSPs in legal trouble, with large sums of money owed in fines or sanctions. Investment In data loss protection is required to mitigate or avoid the consequences.

Corrupted or Lost Data – If threat operators successfully carry out data breaches or MSPs’ clients’ backups or disaster recovery (BDR) processes are inadequate, severe data loss or corruption can occur.

Disrupted Services – Time is money in business. Any downtime for MSPs’ clients’ systems can result in lost future business and current revenue. Service disruption can cost MSPs’ clients both money and reputation regardless of if the downtime was accidental or intentional.

System Failure – Rather than sending malicious files or links, digital threat actors may attempt to overwhelm and crash systems. Any system failure, like service disruption, can result in data loss or a costly halt in corporate operations.

Threat from Adversaries – Threats, including any outside actors who deliberately and intentionally attack MSPs’ clients’ systems. The attacks can be carried out by threat operators, unauthorized users, shady threat insiders, irresponsible endpoint users, and others.

There are numerous ways MSPs clients’ systems can be penetrated, and the list is unfortunately growing. Effective cybersecurity risk management requires adopting the mindset that it’s not an issue of if their clients’ networks are compromised, but when.

How Cybersecurity Risk Management is Utilized

Even though each client and MSP companies are unique, there are steps that can assist companies in aligning with cybersecurity and risk management best practices. Experts agree on four major stages of an effective cybersecurity risk management strategy:

  1. Identification – MSPs should assess their clients’ companies’ ability to detect current or future cyber threats. Inventory any loopholes or vulnerabilities to their digital infrastructure that impact daily business operations.
  2. Assessment – Once discovered, risks need to be assessed to determine the level of threat they pose to MSPs’ clients’ businesses. Their team needs to consider the potential impact of the identified threat.
  3. Control – MSPs should suggest methods, strategies, ideas, and technology that can be used to assist their clients and their team in reducing their companies’ cybersecurity risks.
  4. Review – MSPs should take the time to review, update, and improve the control they have in place to mitigate their clients’ cybersecurity risk. Adding, deleting, or recalibrating security protocols will help benefit their systems in the long run.

How to Run Cybersecurity Risk Assessments

Cybersecurity risk assessments are an essential component of MSPs’ clients’ overall risk management plan. Both MSPs’ and clients’ teams need to meet to discuss their major business goals and what digital assets they consider critical. The meeting should provide MSPs with a better understanding of what infrastructure their clients will require to keep the business functioning properly. MSPs can design and develop a larger picture of their clients’ total IT infrastructure, inventory and identify all network components, and analyze how potential threats can impact their clients’ objectives. The assessments will provide all security teams and stakeholders with the information needed to develop security measures to mitigate all current and potential cyber risks.

Cybersecurity Risk Management Frameworks

Several government agencies and cybersecurity companies have implemented their own cybersecurity risk management frameworks to protect the safety of sensitive data across critical industries. The processes outline the key areas MSPs need to focus on when developing cybersecurity risk management protocols for their clients.

Cybersecurity Framework (CSF) from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)

The NIST Cybersecurity Framework provides IT professionals with a set of best practices and guidelines for reducing MSPs’ clients’ cybersecurity risks. The framework focuses on standardizing the core functions and critical areas of risk management, including protecting, detecting, identifying, responding, and recovering.

The Cybersecurity Capability Maturity Model (C2M2)

C2M2 isn’t a cybersecurity risk management plan within itself, however, it’s often referenced with NIST CSF and deserves to be included when it comes to cybersecurity. The tool is a cybersecurity maturity model that assists managed service providers (MSPs) in determining the security capabilities of their clients’ present digital frameworks. C2M2 assists MSPs in optimizing and securing investments for their clients and improving overall protection protocols.

Risk Management Framework (RMF) by the Department of Defense

This framework for cybersecurity risk management establishes recommendations for all DoD agencies and companies. Categorize, select, implement, assess, authorize, and monitor are the six keys areas that focus on the DoD procedures.

ISO 27001

The ISO/IEC 27001 framework is managed by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). The method was developed in collaboration with the International Electrochemical Commission and focuses entirely on IT asset risks. Larger companies go to the ISO 31000 framework, which is specifically designed for enterprise risk management.

FAIR Framework

The factor analysis of information risk, or FAIR, educates companies on how to comprehend, measure, and examine their information risks. The process is intended to assist businesses in making more informed decisions when developing their overall cybersecurity plan and best practices.

The Importance of MSPs Having Cybersecurity Risk Management

It’s essential for MSPs to be proactive in maintaining an effective cybersecurity center. Setting clear ground rules for the process that flows, works, and assists MSPs in staying ahead of their clients’ cybersecurity threats. Additionally, a tried-and-true cybersecurity risk management system assists MSPs in scaling their companies. MSPs require standardized processes to support growth. Adding employees to their team can help MSPs remain consistent with their cybersecurity management protocols and eliminate the possibility of mishandling clients’ accounts and human error.

Cybersecurity Risk Management Best Practices

MSPs are aware of how critical managing their clients’ cybersecurity risks to companies’ overall health. Here are some best practices for MSPs to follow when establishing risk management protocols with their clients.

Prioritize Your Focus

MSPs need to inventory and assess their clients’ entire IT estate. They should consider which equipment would be the most expensive to replace and where the most valuable data is stored. Then list all digital assets in order of importance. If assets or hardware costs more than it’s worth to companies, it wouldn’t make sense to make it a high priority. Losing the assets or information contained inside would be the only exception that would have a severe impact on MSPs’ clients’ reputations.

Running Risk Assessments

Risk assessments and maturity models, including C2M2, serve as indicators of how cybersecurity risk management practices are evolving. Running the assessments on a regular basis and incorporating MSPs’ findings is an efficient strategy to improve their risk management services for their clients.

Incorporate Cybersecurity into the Overall Risk Management Framework

MSPs should talk to their clients about incorporating cybersecurity risk management into the companies’ culture. Their clients are likely to take the process seriously and make it more effective if it’s placed at the forefront of their overall risk management plan. It requires buy-in throughout their companies and a belief that digital assets are equally vital along with other assets or components of the business.

Choosing the right cybersecurity partner is one the simplest ways to start the cybersecurity risk management process. SpearTip can assist MSPs with growing the services for their clients. MSPs can upsell their security offerings by incorporating SpearTip’s pre-breach risk services into their current catalog. Our extensive experience responding to thousands of security incidents allows our certified engineers to improve MSPs’ clients’ operational, procedural, and technical control gaps based on security standards. By partnering with SpearTip, MSPs will gain expertise in conducting comprehensive security assessments and risk assessments that go beyond simple compliance checks. SpearTip’s security architecture review allows our engineers to review current people, policies, and technology to obtain a solid understanding of the security stack and architecture.

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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