3 MSP Best Practices for Protecting Users

Cyberattacks are on the rise, with UK firms being hit, on average, by over 230,000 attacks in 2017. Managed service providers (MSPs) need to make security a priority in 2018, or they will risk souring their relationships with clients. By following 3 simple MSP best practices consisting of user education, backup and recovery, and patch management, your MSP can enhance security, mitigate overall client risk, and grow revenue.

User Education

An effective anti-virus is essential to keeping businesses safe; however, It isn’t enough anymore. Educating end users through security awareness training can reduce the cost and impact of user-generated infections and breaches, while also helping clients meet the EU’s new GDPR compliance requirements. Cybercriminals’ tactics are evolving and increasingly relying on user error to circumvent security protocols. Targeting businesses through end users via social engineering is a rising favorite among new methods of attack.

Common social engineering attacks include:

  • An email from a trusted friend, colleague or contact—whose account has been compromised—containing a compelling story with a malicious link/download is very popular. For example, a managing director’s email gets hacked and the finance department receives an email to pay an outstanding “invoice”.
  • A phishing email, comment, or text message that appears to come from a legitimate company or institution. The messages may ask you to donate to charity, ‘verify’ information, or notify you that you’re the winner in a competition you never entered.
  • A fraudster leaving a USB around a company’s premises hoping a curious employee will insert it into a computer providing access to company data.

Highly topical, relevant, and timely real-life educational content can minimize the impact of security breaches caused by user error. By training clients on social engineering and other topics including ransomware, email, passwords, and data protection, you can help foster a culture of security while adding serious value for your clients.

Backup and Disaster Recovery Plans

It’s important for your MSP to stress the importance of backups. If hit with ransomware without a secure backup, clients face the unsavory options of either paying up or losing important data. Offering clients automated, cloud-based backup makes it virtually impossible to infect backup data and provides additional benefits, like a simplified backup process, offsite data storage, and anytime/anywhere access. In the case of a disaster, there should be a recovery plan in place. Even the most secure systems can be infiltrated. Build your plan around business-critical data, a disaster recovery timeline, and protocol for disaster communications.

Things to consider for your disaster communications
  • Who declares the disaster?
  • How are employees informed?
  • How will you communicate with customers?

Once a plan is in place, it is important to monitor and test that it has been implemented effectively. A common failure with a company’s backup strategy occurs when companies fail to test their backups. Then, disaster strikes and only then do they discover they cannot restore their data. A disaster recovery plan should be tested regularly and updated as needed. Once a plan is developed, it doesn’t mean that it’s effective or set in stone.

Patch Management

Consider it an iron law; patch and update everything immediately following a release. As soon as patches/updates are released and tested, they should be applied for maximum protection. The vast majority of updates are security related and need to be kept up-to-date. Outdated technology–especially an operating system (OS)–is one of the most common weaknesses exploited in a cyberattack. Without updates, you leave browsers and other software open to ransomware and exploit kits. By staying on top of OS updates, you can prevent extremely costly cyberattacks. For example, in 2017 Windows 10 saw only 15% of total files deemed to be malware, while Windows 7 saw 63%. These figures and more can be found in Webroot’s 2018 Threat Report.

Patching Process

Patching is a never-ending cycle, and it’s good practice to audit your existing environment by creating a complete inventory of all production systems used. Remember to standardize systems to use the same operating systems and application software. This makes the patching process easier. Additionally, assess vulnerabilities against inventory/control lists by separating the vulnerabilities that affect your systems from those that don’t. This will make it easier for your business to classify and prioritize vulnerabilities, as each risk should be assessed by the likelihood of the threat occurring, the level of vulnerability, and the cost of recovery. Once it’s determined which vulnerabilities are of the highest importance, develop and test the patch. The patch should then deploy without disrupting uptime—an automated patch system can help with the process.

Follow these best practices and your MSP can go a lot further toward delivering the security that your customers increasingly need and demand. Not only you improve customer relationships, but you’ll also position your MSP as a higher-value player in the market, ultimately fueling growth. Security is truly an investment MSPs with an eye toward growth can’t afford to ignore.


This article was provided by our service partner : Webroot

disaster recovery plan

How to build a disaster recovery plan with Veeam

Here’s a true story from one of our customers. A gas explosion resulted in a major power failure downtown, which in turn left the company’s primary data center offline for a week. This is a classic example of an IT Disaster – unexpected and unpredictable, disrupting business continuity and affecting Always-On operations. We can only imagine how much it could cost that company to stay offline for a week (as much as losing their business, I’d say), if they didn’t have a reliable disaster recovery plan and an Availability solution to execute this plan.

A solid disaster recovery plan makes your company resilient to IT disruptions and able to restore your services in case of disaster with minimal to no impact on users and business operations. It’s not just making regular backups, but a complex IT infrastructure assessment and documenting (including hardware, software, networks, power and facilities), business impact analysis of applications and workloads and planning on staff, roles and risk assessment. And above all, there’s an essential testing and exercising of your disaster recovery plan. If you don’t test, how would you know that it works as expected?

Unlike physical infrastructures with all their complexity, virtualization gives more flexibility in management and processes allowing you to do more with less. For virtualized data centers, Veeam delivers joint capabilities of enabling data Availability and infrastructure management. By using Veeam Availability Suite, you cover multiple points in your DR plan at once and get:

  • Offsite replication with traffic optimization and advanced capabilities
  • Easier disaster recovery orchestration and recovery testing
  • Infrastructure assessment and documentation
  • Capacity planning and “What if” modelling
  • Backup and virtual infrastructures monitoring and reporting

These also address compliance audit needs by providing you with up-to-date information on backed-up workloads, backups reliability and actual data recovery time versus your SLAs. If staying compliant and ready for audits is important for you, I recommend you read the new white paper by Hannes Kasparick, Mastering compliance, audits and disaster recovery planning with Veeam.

Replication as a core disaster recovery technology

DR planning includes defining the lowest possible RTO to minimize the disruption of business operations. In terms of ability to restore failed operations in minutes, replication mechanism wins the game allowing you to instantly switch the failed workload to its ready-to-use “clone” to get the lowest-possible RTO. For DR purposes, standby replicas of production VMs are stored on a remote secondary site or in the cloud. Even if the production site goes down, like in my example with a major power failure, a remote site remains unaffected by the disaster and can take the load.

Test your disaster recovery plan!

All data security and management standards (ISO family is not an exception) imply DR plan testing as a mandatory exercise. You can never know if everything will work as expected in cases of real disasters until you try it and run the planned procedures in advance. DR simulation will also allow you to ensure that your personnel are well-prepared for extreme IT situations and everyone mentioned in your DR plan is aware of the activities they need to perform. If you discover any drawbacks during DR testing – either human or software-related – you’ll have a good chance to fix your DR plan accordingly and thus potentially avoid serious disruptions in your business continuity.

Automated recovery verification for backups and replica restore points built in Veeam Backup & Replication (for no additional fees!) will save you much time and additional resources for testing. SureReplica allows to boot replicated VMs (VMware only for v9) to the necessary restore point in an isolated Virtual Lab and automatically perform heartbeat, ping and application tests against them. Also, you have an option to run your own customized tests – all without any impact on your production.

Final word

Disaster recovery planning is not just another bureaucracy, but a set of measures to maintain an organization’s business continuity. Built in compliance with international regulations and standards, a DR plan gives your customers a high level of confidence in your non-stop services, data security and Availability. Veeam helps you to stay compliant with both internal and external IT regulations, be ready for audit and be able to restore any system or data in minutes.


This article was provided by our service partner : veeam.com

Technology Teams

Defining the Value of Technology Teams

Technology Teams are made up of a lot more than just the service technicians working with your customers. Every Technology Team is made up of a combination of people that account for every step of the Customer Journey. Sales, finance, even marketing…they’re all a part of your Technology Teams and enable you to reach your clients, making their jobs and lives a little easier and helping you stay ahead of technology.

Technology Teams are formed to deliver a unique set of solutions and services. Within one company, multiple Technology Teams can combine to form a resilient Technology Organization. ConnectWise provides a tailored experience to fit the customer journey by turning the ConnectWise suite into a platform of microservices. Building on the foundation of the Solutions Menu, we will focus on Technology Workers.

Building Value

As a business with your sights set on current and future success, you have to find ways to build resiliency into your business. A key way to do this is by building out multiple Technology Teams to continuously increase and diversify the value you offer to your clients. The more you can do to cover their needs, now and into the future, the more you’ll be able to serve the needs of your current customers and attract new ones.

Get Specialized

So why not just have one big team in your company, with every resource managing all of the information they need for each customer’s needs? Every Technology Team is going to have a unique approach to solving customer problems, whether in sales, services or billing, and you’ll want to have people dedicated to making sure those unique approaches are supported. Instead of overwhelming your team with the heavy load of understanding everything about every one of your customers.

No one can be a master of everything, so allow your Technology Teams to focus only on expertise in their specific area. By dividing your business efforts to focus on each specific Technology Team, you’ll be more efficient, your team will feel more in control, and your customers will feel like you really understand their needs.

Take the Lead

Once your Technology Teams are leading the way in meeting your customers’ varied—and growing—needs, they’ll be responsible for guiding your customers through every part of the customer journey.

Mastering each step of the customer journey for each Technology Team enables them to provide excellent customer service, laying the groundwork for long-term relationships that keep your customers happy and loyal.

Where to Start

Fortunately, you’re probably already doing this without realizing it. Do you have a list of services you offer? Those probably line up pretty nicely to some of the Technology Teams already. Now you’ll just need to conduct a gap analysis to find out what you’ve got covered and what still needs to have resources put toward it.

A gap analysis looks at your current performance to help you pinpoint the difference between your current and ideal states of business. Get started by answering these three deceptively simple questions with input from your team:

  • Where are we now?
  • Where do we want to be?
  • How do we get there (close the gap)?

Keep working toward full coverage for every Technology Team your customers are looking for, and seeing every client through the steps of the customer journey and before long, you’ll be meeting and exceeding your business goals.


This article was provided by our service partner : Connectwise

Employee Onboarding

Automating Employee Onboarding in Active Directory

Employee onboarding is a task that is ripe for automation. Spend any time in the tech industry and you know that Active Directory (AD) helps improve workflow and operational services. In other words, it’s critical to an IT organization. When hired, every employee should be given an Active Directory user account, an email mailbox, access to various operating systems, a home folder with specific permissions available only to them, and so on.

However, AD is a big part of employee onboarding that many organizations are still doing manually. In many companies, the helpdesk is still manually opening Active Directory Users & Computers, creating a new user, and adding that user to a specific set of groups. This ultimately increases the risk of messing up that person’s other responsibilities within their account. Again, this is something automation can alleviate!

Because staff onboarding is one of those tasks that’s performed hundreds of times and rarely changes, it’s a perfect candidate for automation.

So, how do you go about automating onboarding in AD?

One of the easiest ways to automate AD tasks is with PowerShell – an automating management structure. By using a freely available PowerShell module, you can create scripts to do just about anything with AD.

For our purposes, we need to create a script to make a new user account for an employee and potentially add it to a few common groups. To do this, download a copy of Remote Server Administration Tools (RSAT) which will give you the Active Directory PowerShell module. Once you do this, ensure you’re on a company domain-joined computer and that you have the appropriate rights to create new users.

In the Active Directory PowerShell module, there is a command called “New-AdUser.” There are lots of ways to use this command but below is one of the most common ways. In this PowerShell code, we’ll generate a random password and then use it along with a first name, last name and username to create a new AD user.

Here’s an example of what this code looks like:


$password = [System.Web.Security.Membership]::GeneratePassword((Get-Random -Minimum 20 -Maximum 32), 3)

$secPw = ConvertTo-SecureString -String $password -AsPlainText -Force

$NewUserParameters = @{

GivenName = 'Adam'

Surname = 'Bertram'

Name = 'abertram'

Name = 'abertram'

}

New-AdUser @NewUserParameters

That’s it! No mouse clicking involved.

Once the above actions have been completed, we can move on to another useful AD onboarding command called “Add-AdGroupMember.” This will add the user that was just created to a few groups in a single line:

Add-AdGroupMember -Identity 'Accounting','Access to App1' -Members 'abertram'

One of the great things about automating employee onboarding with PowerShell is that once the code is built, it can be used for one – or even one hundred – employees with no extra effort.
For example, perhaps you have a ton of new employees you need provision for in AD. By using the “Import-CSV” command, you can read each row in that CSV file and run the code we just went over.

This example assumes you have a CSV with the columns “FirstName” and “LastName.”

Here it is exemplified below:


Import-Csv -Path C:\Employees.csv | foreach {

$password = [System.Web.Security.Membership]::GeneratePassword((Get-Random -Minimum 20 -Maximum 32), 3)

$secPw = ConvertTo-SecureString -String $password -AsPlainText -Force

$userName = '{0}{1}' -f $_.FirstName.Substring(0,1),$_.LastName

$NewUserParameters = @{

GivenName = $_.FirstName

Surname = $_.LastName

Name = $userName

AccountPassword = $secPw

}

New-AdUser @NewUserParameters

Add-AdGroupMember -Identity 'Accounting','Access to App1' -Members $userName

}

These are only a few of the many user onboarding tools available when you automate employee onboarding in Active Directory. If your organization has a predefined process with specific rules that must be followed, this could be just the beginning of a much larger employee onboarding process that can be 100% automated.

This article was provided by our service partner Connectwise.

GDPR

GDPR

As the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) edges closer, we’re looking back on the five most significant stories during the lead up to its implementation. Read about GDPR’s impact on data security and find out how to get prepared with five steps to compliance.

What aspect of GDPR will have the biggest impact on you or your business? Let us know in the comments below!

GDPR Myths

On April 14, 2016, the EU received its final legislative approval for GDPR, making the changes official as of May 25, 2018. Many myths surround the legislation, stirring confusion among those affected. One major myth is that GDPR compliance is focused on a fixed point in time, similar to the Y2K bug. However, GDPR will be an ongoing journey that requires a complete change to many company procedures. The regulation will begin in May 2018, so businesses may not be pleased to discover they are currently in the “grace period,” and there will not be another one after the implementation date.

Data Breached

We discovered in 2017 that many corporations are far too negligent when it comes to securely storing sensitive consumer data. It seemed like hardly a week passed without another major data breach making headlines. The year saw Equifax fall victim to the largest data breach in corporate history, Uber conceal a breach affecting 57 million users for over a year, and more than a million patients’ records stolen from the NHS’s database, to name just a few high profile cases. GDPR will not stop data breaches entirely, but the introduction of fines as high as €20 million, or 4% of annual turnover, for noncompliance should force companies to take their data responsibilities more serious.

Brexit

Britain’s decision to exit the European Union has added confusion concerning GDPR compliance for companies within the UK. In September, however, the UK updated their data protection legislation, which brings GDPR wholesale into UK law. This confirms that the UK also recognises the importance of data protection and suggests UK companies will need to be at least as careful as their EU peers. Also, any company dealing with EU citizen data (even those located outside of the EU), will be expected to comply with these standards.

Google and the Right to be Forgotten

Google received 2.4 million takedown requests under the EU’s updated ‘right to be forgotten’ laws, which have been in place for search engines since 2014. GDPR will now expand on this right to certain data subjects- giving people more control over deletion of their data once it’s no longer necessary for a company to have. Data subject rights have been enhanced, so companies that process personal data will be expected to have procedures in place to act on requests in the proscribed timeframes.

Facebook

Facebook have been in the news a lot over data rights, most recently for allegedly allowing Cambridge Analytica to harvest the data of more than 50 million Facebook users. Previously, the ICO had gotten WhatsApp to sign an undertaking in which it committed publicly to not share personal data with its parent company Facebook until the two services could do it in a GDPR-compliant way. GDPR is clearly bearing down on big companies that have been negligent with customer data previously.

How to get prepared

Are you prepared for GDPR? A company can take the following steps to help become GDPR-ready:

  1. Know the facts: GDPR is coming, so make sure everyone in your company is aware of the important components and are fully trained to comply. Examine what data your company has and who you share it with. Auditing your data will help you to understand how you can meet the terms.
  2. Privacy Information:  Revisit the procedures governing how you inform individuals about personal data your company may be holding. Make amendments to those procedures as necessary to meet GDPR requirements.
  3. Individuals Rights: Verify your procedures cover the rights of individuals, including your processes for deleting or responding to a subject access request.
  4. Enforcement and Sanctions: It should be noted that GDPR will simplify enforcement for supervisory authorities and significantly increase fines.
  5. Consent: Data must be processed lawfully. There are many legitimate bases for processing personal data. However, most companies will use consent, contractual necessity, or legitimate interest as a basis for doing so.