With Coronavirus IT Security Threats Rising, MSPs Must React Wisely

Acronis provides feedback from MSPs and customers about the increasing threats they are facing.

Todd R. Weiss

March 26, 2020

6 Min Read
Wise Owl

With a growing number of people working from home due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, companies have to be even more sure that their now-remote workers are well-protected from malware, ransomware, hackers and other IT security threats. To highlight those challenges, data backup and security vendor Acronis held a virtual conference Thursday to illustrate the problems and share insights from users and MSP channel partners.

Included during the two-hour event, “Backup is Dead – How MSPs can join their cybersecurity and backup solutions to win more business in 2020,” was a demo of the company’s latest beta product, Acronis Cyber Protect Cloud, which is designed as a pre-built stack of products that aims to accomplish those tasks. Cyber Protect Cloud offers a wide range of software tools for data backup and recovery, malware protection and endpoint protection, as well as security and management.


Acronis’ Patrick Hurley

“More people working from home today means you have to work harder to keep these workers safe,” Patrick Hurley, the company’s vice president and general manager for sales in the Americas, said, addressing MSPs who deliver the company’s products and services. “As an MSP, obviously you are deducing your success about security steps you can take for your customers.”

That’s where the latest product will fit in as the company continues to evolve from a vendor focused on data backup into a cyberprotection company, he said.

“We’re building the platform to allow MSPs to come in and build out what they need [for customers.] These hackers know that the big enterprises have the money to protect themselves and that smaller businesses don’t have the same resources, so we’re seeing more attacks against smaller businesses. At the end of the day, you need something that is complete.”

For SMBs and channel partners such as MSPs, the new tools will provide more help for fighting to keep smaller businesses and their workers safer, said Hurley.

“If [hackers] are going to innovate on the bad side, then we’ve got to innovate on the good side,” he said.

The combined tools in Acronis Cyber Protect Cloud will offer abilities for businesses and MSPs to be more proactive when it comes to security, including adding two-factor authentication, writing and implementing needed security policies, setting up security alerts and paying more attention to data breaches, especially in highly regulated industries where fines for non-compliance can be brutal, said Hurley.

“And don’t assume that your customers know that passwords shouldn’t be ‘password’ and that ‘12345’ isn’t a good password, either,” he said. “At the end of the day, I think it comes down to education, knowledge and awareness,” he said.

Panelist Dennis McKernan, director of security for Union Technology Cooperative, an MSP in Middleton, Wisconsin, said the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the quick moves to have employees working from home to stop the spread of the virus has been challenging.


Union Technology Cooperative’s Dennis McKernan

“Really, what we’ve seen from the crisis is this explosion of people working from home and we had no time to prepare for that,” said McKernan. “It puts us back at the first stage of the NIST Cybersecurity Framework,” referring to the National Institute of Standards and Technology, which works to promote U.S. innovation and industrial competitiveness through the use of science, standards and technology. The five stages of the NIST framework, in order, are identify, protect, detect, respond and recover.

Acronis’ flexible licensing model helps with these pressures today, said McKernan, because it focuses on letting his company serve customers right away, while not having to worry about how the licensing will be completed.

“The licensing model is simply that we have relationships with our distributor and it’s based on tiers,” so it can be quickly resolved, said McKernan. “We can help our customers get there now, instead of having to spend a lot of time on licensing issues.”

For MSPs like Union Technology Cooperative, the COVID-19 pandemic is adding new challenges due to …

… new malware and other attacks that are being created to hit victims at a time of crisis, said McKernan.

“The malware is getting better at evading the solutions,” he said. “So the idea of approaching security from the backup perspective allows us to plan better and be able to recover systems quickly when problems arise,” based on Acronis’ approach. “To be able to revert to the last known good backup can be a huge time saver and save time in coming back to operation.”

Brian Shield, vice president of IT for Major League Baseball’s Boston Red Sox, and another panel member, told Channel Futures that the team has been using Acronis products for IT security to protect its fans who do business with the Sox, as well as for staff members and players. The team has a large amount of private and personally identifiable information stored representing its fans and employees, and it works hard to protect it, he said.


Boston Red Sox’s Brian Shield

“What you do have with Major League Baseball clubs is that you have well-known people and well-known brands,” said Shield. “That can be attractive to attackers. We have 3 million people a year who will come to events at Fenway Park, so we want to make sure we are safeguarding their information as well as our own.”

For the Red Sox, the first rollout of Acronis security products was last year to better protect some 125 baseball scouts who work for the team in different countries across the globe, where ensuring security can be more difficult, said Shields.

“We wanted the ability to rapidly respond to any problems they had around the globe,” he noted.

That includes the ability to take images of computers used by the remote scouts so if an attack or other security issue arises, their computers and data can be rapidly recovered so they can get back to work quickly.

“That is really critical to their overall effectiveness,” said Shield.

The Red Sox also are creating a calendar in the next two months to provide more training for the team’s employees on how to identify and avoid malware, phishing, ransomware and other attacks in their work, said Shield. That’s becoming even more important as more workers are doing their work at home due to COVID-19.

“Some trends we are starting to see are what are concerning, with more people working from home and attackers taking advantage of that,” said Shield. “Security awareness training right now is really critical in this period.”

And with many workers at home conducting their tasks, the Red Sox believe they can use this time to help drive home these messages of awareness, caution and safety when it comes to cyberattacks on the team’s IT systems.

“The coronavirus is an opportunity to bring more awareness now,” he said. “Most organizations struggle with awareness training, especially when everyone is distracted by their jobs. This is an opportunity for companies to really use this time to better educate and inform their employee bases. Workers also have a little bit of quiet time where some greater awareness can be stressed.”

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About the Author(s)

Todd R. Weiss

Todd R. Weiss is an award-winning technology journalist who covers open source and Linux, cloud service providers, cloud computing, virtualization, containers and microservices, mobile devices, security, enterprise applications, enterprise IT, software development and QA, IoT and more. He has worked previously as a staff writer for Computerworld and eWEEK.com, covering a wide variety of IT beats. He spends his spare time working on a book about an unheralded member of the 1957 Milwaukee Braves, watching classic Humphrey Bogart movies and collecting toy taxis from around the world.

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