Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) is seemingly being implemented into every facet of IT and managed services. As the technology develops, so do the myriad uses and applications of it for managed service providers (MSPs) and their small to medium-sized business (SMB) clients. Of course, bad actors also have taken notice of the potential of A.I. and have increasingly used it to deepen the impact of their attacks, increasing calls for A.I. security to protect against such threats.
Some hackers and threat actors are using chatbots like ChatGPT to write code and are accessing data at record times through A.I.-powered tools, all amounting to the possibility of a world where attacks happen quicker, more frequently, and at an increasingly high impact on the affected organizations. The pace of development in emerging technologies is so rapid that it can feel overwhelming for MSPs trying to keep up their expertise to protect themselves and their clients from threats.
But instead of panicking that A.I. will bring cybersecurity threats to a new level, MSPs should remain focused on the building blocks of a strong security practice. A.I. will continue to grow as a current and future threat, but there are a variety of threats today that are already putting providers and businesses at risk.
MSPs should start with the basics
Every MSP is different, especially when it comes to security training, resources, and expertise. Consider a security practice in the way someone would guard their home — any combination of high-end technology won’t matter much if the front door is unlocked and ready for anyone to walk through it. Those basic, daily actions, like locking the front door, are the foundations of security. Ensuring you and your clients are up to date on these foundational elements will protect both parties from many of today’s top threats.
One of the most basic elements of cybersecurity that every business needs to keep in mind is the awareness and ability of employees to keep the company safe from threats. Technical solutions such as multi-factor authentication (MFA) and password management tools add layers of protection designed to keep accounts secure and in the right hands. The purpose of these tools, in combination with a wide range of other solutions dedicated to email and web security, is to protect businesses from threats targeting their employees, and to ensure that employees are set up for security success.
MSPs should lead the way for their clients in building a culture of security amongst employees. Service providers can offer expertise beyond just offering cybersecurity solutions, but rather also approaching all aspects of business with a security-first mindset. The most structured, advanced solution stack will protect a business only to a certain extent; the business needs to also take a hands-on, proactive approach to their own security.
All organizations need to make sure their teams are prepared
Even the most well-thought-out plans can fall apart if the people executing them aren’t prepared. This applies both to MSPs and the SMBs they serve. Teams on both sides of the partnership need to be equipped with resources such as incident response plans and documented procedures to know what should happen before, during, and after a potential attack. Then, teams need to test and practice those plans and procedures repeatedly and often.
Many MSPs find success with activities such as tabletop exercises, in which individuals involved with incident response are tasked with playing out a threat scenario in real time with the resources they have available. Stress testing people and procedures with “real-life” examples shows flaws and gaps while also highlighting strengths, leaving teams more confident in their ability to respond to security issues as they arise. Along with adequate stress testing, MSPs and businesses both need to have backup and recovery plans in place and well-tested. Ensuring important data is protected and recoverable is a critical component of any comprehensive security practice.
As MSPs grow more familiar with testing, they can and should encourage the SMBs they work with to enact similar processes. Security is a two-way street, and simply purchasing and implementing a tech stack is not enough for SMBs to be secure from today’s threats. Proper training, testing, and awareness are just as important as having the right tools in place. There is no way to promise absolute safety from cyber risks, but practice amongst team members can at least prepare teams for the worst-case scenario and allow time to improve plans before they are needed. Everything an MSP does to protect their own business should be encouraged at the proper scale for their clients and vice versa. Providers have an opportunity to lead by example with the SMBs they serve to ensure all parts of the business partnership are following best practices.
Looking ahead to future threats
Although the first priority should be to build a solid cybersecurity foundation, that’s not to say there is no reason to sound the alarm bells over the threats posed by A.I. Maturing threats can and will hit businesses of all shapes and sizes, even if some organizations think they are “too insignificant” a target to be valuable to bad actors. Already hackers are building A.I. models to infiltrate networks that can potentially write viable code to gain access to an organization’s data. The speed at which threats can wreak havoc is likely to increase as hackers and others gain access to tools that automate tasks and processes used in carrying out attacks.
A.I. will surely create different kinds of attacks, but new ways for criminals to carry out malicious activity are unfolding every day, with or without the involvement of A.I. Innovation in technology has always come with an increase in security risks, and machine learning tools are no different. At the same time, the power of A.I. will also be harnessed by professionals looking to prevent and defend against cyberattacks. Already some of the biggest names in cybersecurity are leveraging A.I. and other machine learning functions to detect threats and provide real-time alerts. A.I. and machine learning are now found in solutions targeting malware and other threats and are automating tasks needed to respond to an incident.
Artificial intelligence technology, like many others, has the potential to create positive and negative changes in the way cybersecurity is managed. While staying on top of current trends and new solutions and approaches will keep MSPs and SMBs alike prepared for anything that might be lurking, building a solid cybersecurity foundation is the best way to prepare for the threats you’ll face today.
Pax8 is leading the charge when it comes to cybersecurity and offers solutions to secure business data for organizations of all sizes. Get in touch to discuss your cybersecurity posture, how to best protect your clients, and explore the Pax8 Marketplace to see all our cybersecurity offerings.