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3 Vulnerabilities All MSSPs Need to Shore Up Before a Breach

As frontline defenders it's key to plan so there is dedicated virtual access for all stakeholders.

Steve Curtis

August 16, 2023

5 Min Read
Vulnerability, 3 vulnerabilities
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Steve Curtis

As trusted partners to both large and small organizations, managed security service providers (MSSPs) often become the first line of defense against data breaches and cyber incidents. Organizations choose MSSPs for their security, risk, and compliance expertise and rely on them to shoulder the burden of navigating the complex cybersecurity landscape.

Despite their critical role, MSSPs face vulnerabilities that — if ignored — can hinder their ability to effectively protect their customers and restore business operations after a cyber incident.

It’s not uncommon for MSSPs to deal with 10,000 cyber threats per day for a single customer. Managing the sheer volume of threats alone can lead to oversight of important security measures. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from my career in the cybersecurity business, it’s that sometimes our adversaries are not only hackers — but ourselves.

3 Key Vulnerabilities to Strengthen

Here are three key vulnerabilities MSSPs need to shore up to strengthen their capabilities and deliver ironclad cybersecurity services to their clients.

Gaps in communication: Slowing down response to cyber incidents.

In my work with MSSPs, I’ve heard that maintaining effective communication channels with customers can be the biggest barrier to ensuring timely and efficient responses to cyber threats. These communication gaps often arise due to the nature of the MSSP’s role as a subcontractor, which may limit their access to certain communication systems their customers use. As a result, critical information can be delayed or miscommunicated, inviting more room for error and significantly affecting the ability to contain a threat or minimize the damage of an attack. What’s troubling: whether it’s warranted or not, customers are likely to place the onus on their MSSP for the lack of coordination among all parties involved.

To ensure seamless collaboration with customers during and after a cyber incident, implementing a centralized platform is necessary. The capabilities of centralized platforms allow MSSPs to field all incident-related information, facilitate real-time updates, and provide a comprehensive view of the incident status to all relevant stakeholders, including external third parties. Leveraging a multitenant model provides external parties access to the server through a single pane of glass. From an MSSP perspective, these multitenant platforms create seamless staff assignments during shift changes and ensure critical information isn’t lost or overlooked.

Inconsistent practices: The need for one source of truth.

When a breach occurs, incident-response efforts will always extend beyond the IT team. MSSPs must be prepared to work alongside other stakeholders such as legal and compliance. Third-party stakeholders commonly have their own incident-response plan separate from an MSSP, but without a single source of truth, response actions may conflict, and confidential details could be leaked. It’s not enough to create an incident-response plan and store it away. The plan can only be effective if it’s universally used and practiced by all parties involved.

To address this proactively, MSSPs should ensure all parties follow one common playbook. For example, I recently worked with an MSSP team to create a comprehensive program that provided their customers with incident-response planning and maintenance. Through the program, they facilitated regular tabletop exercises involving executives and third-party stakeholders, fostering collaborative incident-response preparedness. Additionally, they conducted regular audits to identify and resolve access-control gaps, significantly improving access management protocols. To fortify their customer’s security posture, they implemented a robust authentication and authorization mechanism to ensure the people who are critical to crisis response have controlled and secure access. This proactive and unifying approach to coordination will make all the difference to bolster an organization’s resilience in the face of a cyber incident.

Stakeholder management: Outdated information hinders response.

Effectively managing both external and internal stakeholders on the incident-response team presents two complexities that demand careful attention. Failure to address these two challenges could lead to confusion during an emergency, where time is of the essence. Firstly, frequent personnel changeovers — common in any organization and particularly now given widespread layoffs — pose difficulties in keeping up-to-date contact information. Additionally, reassigning those decision-making responsibilities may be missed. Overall, leveraging a digital crisis-response platform to house third-party contact information and their roles will confirm that all parties can contribute to the maintenance process before an attack occurs.

The second obstacle arises when communication is severed as a result of a cyberattack. MSSPs may not have direct access to certain stakeholders, such as the legal team, public relations representatives, or forensic experts, halting the ability to execute the incident-response plan until contact is made. Establishing a “war room,” or dedicated virtual space, can assemble everyone quickly in a safe, secure environment separate from internal channels. Within as little as 20 minutes, all necessary stakeholders can join the room and share sensitive information to securely execute their cyber-response plan.

In the ever-evolving digital landscape, MSSPs are highly regarded as the frontline defenders against cyberattacks. Organizations increasingly rely on their standard of expertise and knowledge to drive cybersecurity innovation. For an MSSP, recognizing and addressing vulnerabilities within their working scope will serve as a differentiator among competitors and solidify their position as indispensable partners for their customers.

Steve Curtis is chief cyber business officer at Cygnvs, where he applies his experience in DevSecOps, cloud and solving large-scale cyber problems. You may follow him on LinkedIn or @CygnvsInc on X.

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