Cyber Resilience: The Emerald City of the Security World

Small and midsize businesses and managed service providers must use their heart, brain, and courage as they follow the Yellow Brick Road to cyber resilience.

Ryan Weeks, Chief Information Security Officer at Datto

June 8, 2021

5 Min Read

The need for cyber resilience has reached critical levels. But cyber resilience isn't a destination; it's "not a place you can get to by boat or a train." It is the Emerald City of the security world — somewhere you aspire to reach, only to get there and realize there is so much more to learn and do. And, just like Dorothy and Toto, managed service providers (MSPs) and small and midsized businesses (SMBs) need to start at the beginning: educate their people, evolve their processes, and revisit their security infrastructure. Only then they can achieve a gold standard of cyber resilience.

With cyberattacks on the rise, up 400% compared with before COVID, it is no longer a matter of if an attack will occur, but when. In fact, 95% of MSPs state that their businesses are increasingly targeted by attacks, and 78% of MSPs reported attacks against SMBs they served in the last two years. Among those attacks, ransomware (flying monkeys) deployed by threat actors (wicked witches) remains the most common cyber threat to SMBs today.

Follow the Yellow Brick Road
As the threat landscape continues to evolve, it is critical that MSPs and SMBs follow the Yellow Brick Road on their journey to cyber resilience. Cyber resilience is a measure of business strength in the preparation for, operations during, and recovery from the eventuality of a cyberattack. It relies on the ability to protect, detect, respond, and recover quickly from an adverse event and combines cybersecurity, business continuity, and incident response.

To attain and maintain cyber resilience, organizations must look at foundational frameworks and concepts. Only with a combination of capabilities within cybersecurity, business continuity, and incident response can organizations build maturity and reduce overall cyber-risk. Like the Tin Man, Scarecrow, and Cowardly Lion, each organization is at a different stage on the Yellow Brick Road, with different gaps to fill.

Here are three ways MSPs and SMBs can address gaps within their organization to build and strengthen cyber resilience:

1. Talent Is the Heart of Every Organization
Just as the Tin Man wants a heart, MSPs and SMBs need proper talent to be complete. They must equip their teams with the skills needed to fend off attackers and prepare for the eventuality of an incident. There are two strategies to consider, and both involve bringing in proper talent to help make informed security decisions.

The first approach starts with the hiring process. MSPs should update their job descriptions and requirements to reflect the need for a basic level of understanding about security and security-related tasks. For instance, for a help-desk engineer role, 70% of the job description could reflect tech-related work while 30% is designated for security-related assignments.

SMBs should consider a co-managed approach where organizations outsource talent to add cyber maturity to the team. Co-managed IT blends the convenience and strategic framework of an internal IT department with the support and comprehensive knowledge of an outsourced MSP. This can serve as a cost-effective approach to addressing the security talent gap that often lies within smaller organizations that lack the proper resources and talent to navigate the increasingly complex IT landscape.


Credit: bbsferrari via Adobe Stock

2. The Brains of Any Operation Starts With Process
Like the Scarecrow without a brain, an organization without the right processes in place can't make intelligent cyber-related decisions. Organizations must identify what is working and what isn't within their current security strategy to determine what actions are and are not repeatable and what is or is not measurable.

Several frameworks are available to help companies construct their cybersecurity strategies. The most common are the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Cybersecurity Framework and CIS Controls. The NIST Cybersecurity Framework is not a prescriptive framework, but it does help companies identify the outcomes to achieve cyber resilience. From there, organizations can determine what they need to do to reach those outcomes.

The CIS Controls are prescriptive and tell organizations what to do to achieve cyber resilience. They focus heavily on technology that primarily maps back to identity, protection, and detection. To be cyber resilient, organizations also need to focus on the "right of boom," the activities necessary to respond and recover after a successful attack.

The solution? Combine the NIST Cybersecurity Framework and CIS Controls, as this gives organizations the brains to reach the gold standard of cyber resilience.

3. Confidence Comes Naturally With a Strong Technology Infrastructure
Organizations like the Cowardly Lion — which lack the proper technology to identify, protect, detect, respond to, and recover from an attack — can't confidentiality operate with an "assume-breach" mentality.

Once their heart and brains are intact, SMBs and MSPs can gain courage by putting the technology in place to ensure they can operate to their full potential and address technology gaps. This could include adding remote monitoring and management capabilities and a business continuity and disaster recovery solution. With downtime costs nearly 50 times greater than the average ransom requested in 2020, the ability to recover quickly from an attack is imperative. By preparing, organizations can rest assured that when an attack occurs, they are equipped with the "legion of courage" to detect, respond, and recover in a timely manner.

Unlike Dorothy's bad dream, threat actors (wicked witches) and ransomware attacks (flying monkeys) aren't just in our nightmares. They are real and will continue to exploit the vulnerable. MSPs and SMBs that prioritize people (the heart), process (the brain), and technology (the courage) will be equipped with the necessary cybersecurity and robust capabilities to achieve a gold standard of cyber resilience and enable optimal detection, response, and recovery when an incident occurs.

About the Author(s)

Ryan Weeks

Chief Information Security Officer at Datto

As Chief Information Security Officer (CISO), Ryan Weeks is responsible for directing and managing Datto's Information Security program. Ryan spent 11 years securing enterprise applications, systems, and sensitive customer financial data at FactSet Research Systems, where he orchestrated all facets of the global information security program. Ryan holds a B.S. in Computer Information Systems from Ithaca College, a M.S. in Information Assurance from Northeastern University, and has industry security certifications including the Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) and the Certified Information Security Manager (CISM).

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