How to Protect Your MSP From Ransomware

We often talk about protecting client data from cybercriminals, but when it comes to cyberattacks, no organization is immune — not even managed service providers (MSPs). In fact, MSPs make a great target for ransomware attacks because of the multitude of SMB businesses they service. The United States Secret Service has even raised the alarm about the increased attacks on MSPs.

A ransomware attack on an MSP would not only be devastating to its business but also its clients. While protecting client data is an MSP’s top priority, MSPs must also realize that they are, in fact, the gateway that cybercriminals use to gain access to their clients’ data. With cyberthreats creeping up out of every corner, MSPs need a multi-layered approach to ensure both their business as well as their clients’ data are protected against ransomware attacks.

What Is Ransomware?

Ransomware is a type of malicious software designed to lock or encrypt a victim’s files, applications or systems, thereby making them inaccessible. The idea behind a ransomware attack is simple — block access to the victim’s data and extort money in order to restore access. Ransomware is a lucrative business for cybercriminals. Malware increased by an astounding 358% from 2019 to 2020 and isn’t showing any signs of slowing down.

Ransomware is one of the most destructive cyberthreats that businesses and individuals across the globe face. These types of attacks are sophisticated, well-organized and constantly evolving. Among the different variants of ransomware that exist today, encryption ransomware is the most dangerous since the data is often impossible to decrypt once taken hostage. The harsh reality about ransomware is that there is no guarantee the data will be returned in full once the ransom is paid. In fact, recent studies reveal that more than 90% of organizations don’t get most or all of their data back.

How Does a Ransomware Attack Work?

There are different types of techniques through which ransomware attacks can be launched such as phishing emails, malicious email attachments, malvertising, infected applications, drive-by infections, etc.  

Email is one of the oldest and most common means through which hackers deliver ransomware. They trick the user into clicking a malicious link or downloading an infected attachment. According to Statista’s recent survey, 54% of MSPs indicated that phishing scams were the most common cause of ransomware infection.

A ransomware attack is hard to detect. It usually works in the background and by the time an organization notices its presence, the damage is already done. Once the malware completes its job, the victim is notified and specific instructions are sent to pay the ransom in order to receive the key to decrypt the files. Payments are then made through untraceable modes, of which Bitcoin is usually the preferred choice.

Why Are Cybercriminals Actively Targeting MSPs?

Managed service providers support a myriad of clients globally who rely on them to manage and protect their critical workloads, IT infrastructure, networks and systems. Given the number and different types of clients MSPs serve, it’s only natural that they are a hot target for cybercriminals to launch ransomware attacks at.

Cybercriminals are aware of the fact that a successful attack on an MSP will open the doors to a large number of its clients and their valuable data. They use compromised MSPs to orchestrate malicious attacks, including point-of-sale intrusions, business email compromise and ransomware attacks in particular.

How MSPs Can Minimize the Risk of a Ransomware Attack

A comprehensive ransomware protection strategy must not only help reduce the risk of an attack but also minimize the impact if and when it does happen. Here are a few ways MSPs can combat ransomware attacks:

  1. Implement Multifactor Authentication: Implementing two-factor/multifactor authentication on all systems, MSP software platforms, administrator systems, end-user systems, etc., is the single most important action MSPs can take to reduce the risk of a cyberattack.

Multifactor authentication facilitates and empowers secure access for authorized users while preventing unauthorized users from accessing confidential data. Once MFA is configured, users must provide not only user credentials (username and password) but also submit an authorization code to access company resources.

  1. Deploy a BCDR Solution: A cold, hard fact about ransomware attacks is that no business is safe or protected well enough. The one question that MSPs and their clients should focus on is how quickly they can get their business up and running when disaster strikes.

By having a business continuity and disaster recovery (BCDR) solution in place, such as Unitrends MSP Unified BCDR, MSPs can protect their clients’ mission-critical workloads no matter where they are stored — whether on-premises, in remote workers’ machines, in private clouds, in public clouds (Azure/AWS) or in cloud-based SaaS applications like Microsoft 365, Google Workspace and Salesforce. And even when disruptive events do occur, the securely backed up data can be quickly restored to ensure business continuity.

  1. Leverage an MSP Documentation Platform: Preparation is key when combating ransomware attacks. As an MSP, it’s important to document data protection and cybersecurity processes, disaster recovery plans and best practices so appropriate action can be taken during a crisis. That said, the process of designing and building a comprehensive BCDR plan can be tedious and time-consuming. Here’s a free tool from Unitrends MSP that MSPs can use to build and/or update their BCDR plan — all without any hassle or wasting precious time.
  2. Build a Long-Term Plan: Battling ransomware attacks is not a one-time affair. MSPs have to be constantly on guard to ensure there are no security gaps that could potentially compromise their business and expose client data.

Our Ransomware Checklist is designed to help MSPs and their SMB customers stay prepared for unforeseen disruptive events, respond to threats better and minimize the impact on their business.

  1. Conduct Cybersecurity Awareness Programs: A staggering 90% of cyberattacks are successful due to human errors. MSPs must conduct cybersecurity awareness programs regularly and ensure their customers do the same.

It is essential that both MSP employees and their clients understand what cybersecurity threats are, what their impact on business is, and what steps need to be taken to minimize risk and prevent cybersecurity incidents from occurring.

  1. Integrate Wisely: MSPs must check with their vendors to see if their solutions can be integrated together so they can work in tandem to thwart cyberthreats, mitigate risks and successfully recover data if threat actors manage to evade their cyber defenses.

Alternatively, MSPs can eliminate the hassle of managing multiple vendors and choose a partner that does it all. Unitrends MSP’s Unified BCDR is a powerful, all-in-one platform that combines enterprise-class backup, ransomware detection and cloud-based business continuity. Our all-inclusive, single platform provides a holistic view of all client backups so IT technicians can manage everything from one place instead of swapping between disparate solutions.

Be Ransomware-Ready With Unitrends MSP Unified BCDR

Unitrends MSP Unified BCDR is air-gapped for complete protection from threat actors and rampant ransomware 2.0 infections. Military-grade local encryption adds an additional layer of security and helps MSPs maintain compliance with complex regulations.

Our ransomware detection systems use AI and machine learning to effectively identify ransomware-like conditions and sends alerts if a system has been compromised. Hardened Linux kernel with built-in ransomware evasion ensures backups are safe and secure.

To find out how Unitrends MSP can help protect your MSP business and your clients’ data against ransomware, sign up for a free demo.


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