An MSP’s Guide to Proactive Incident Response Planning

Umbrella and rain binary code. Data protection and security and privacy concept

The only thing worse than a cyberattack? Mishandling one.

Every second counts following a cyberattack. Smart and fast decisions enable cybersecurity teams to contain an attack and reduce its impact. However, if teams are slow to respond, a minor incident can quickly snowball into something much worse, like a data breach.

Scott Barlow, global VP of MSP and cloud alliances, Sophos
Scott Barlow, global VP of MSP and cloud alliances, Sophos

Given the severity and frequency of cyberattacks, it’s no longer a matter of if an organization will fall victim to cybercrime — it’s a matter of when. That’s why a majority of organizations plan to increase cybersecurity spending in 2023. In particular, many decision-makers are investing in third-party security services like managed detection and response (MDR), which has been made available through the rise of cybersecurity-as-a-service (CSaaS).

MDR and other proactive security measures can go a long way toward preventing cyberattacks, but no defense is invincible. Organizations also require a comprehensive incident response plan for an added layer of protection. With MDR experts and managed service providers (MSPs) on their side, internal security teams can create a well-rounded cybersecurity strategy that balances prevention and response.

The High Cost of Mishandling a Cyberattack

As threat actors continue honing their tools, tactics and procedures (TTPs), many have discovered sophisticated ways of circumventing an organization’s cyber defenses — like leveraging stolen credentials and exploiting legitimate IT tools. In addition, the “as-a-service” model has made nearly every element of cybercrime available for purchase on the dark web, placing the most sophisticated TTPs in the hands of every cybercriminal. These advancements have only increased the risk of successful attacks, underscoring the importance of proactive incident response planning.

An active attack creates chaos in the organization — and without a plan in place, chaos can easily turn into disaster. Internal misalignment leads to confusion about post-attack procedures, including which steps to take and ownership of specific tasks. Similarly, undefined roles and responsibilities prevent organizations from responding to incidents in a timely and effective manner. This can magnify the impact of a cyberattack, opening the door to more serious consequences — like data breaches that could cost organizations up to $5 million in 2023. And while it’s not always measurable, the legal ramifications and reputational damage following a data breach can devastate an organization.

The good news is that proactive incident response planning enables internal teams to test various technologies and response protocols through mock scenarios and tabletop exercises. By documenting tried-and-true processes, organizations can create a guide they can rely on in the event of an attack. Additionally, internal alignment makes it much easier to integrate third-party security solutions like MDR.

As an MSP, you play a crucial role in helping your customers implement proactive cybersecurity measures and develop an incident response plan. A cybersecurity strategy that focuses on both prevention and response will enable your customers to navigate a high-threat landscape.

3 Ways MSPs Can Help Customers Develop a Tight Security Posture

A good cybersecurity strategy includes proactive measures that reduce the likelihood of an attack. A great cybersecurity strategy also includes incident response planning in addition to proactive measures — because no defense is bulletproof.

Empower your customers to safeguard their sensitive data with a multi-layered approach to security. By leveraging your expertise, you can guide customers in implementing the right cyber defenses across their IT infrastructures and fill in gaps with third-party services. Here’s how:

1.) Collaborate with MDR specialists. Even the most experienced MSPs and internal security teams benefit from third-party services. A high-threat landscape means customers require round-the-clock threat monitoring, which few internal teams or MSPs are equipped to handle on their own. But with assistance from MDR specialists, you can complement your offerings and provide customers a comprehensive line of defense.

MDR experts can help you identify and neutralize attacks before they occur by leveraging 24/7/365 threat hunting, detection and response capabilities. Additionally, MDR specialists with industry-specific knowledge and incident response experience can intervene in the event of a successful attack.

2.) Create an incident response plan. The development of a comprehensive incident response plan is not negotiable. As you work with customers to create or revamp their incident response plans, prioritize cross-functional collaboration to ensure every team in the organization knows what to do before, during and after an attack.

The plan should include:

  • Key roles and responsibilities
  • A plan for reporting and documenting incidents
  • Procedures for restoring affected systems

Encourage customers to keep hard copies of incident response plans since they may lose access to digital files during an attack. Additionally, work with customers to review and update their protocols on a regular basis to ensure they reflect changes in their IT environments, evolving threats and best incident response practices.

3.) Maintain good IT environment hygiene. In addition to prioritizing MDR and incident response planning, maintaining good IT environment hygiene plays a key role in securing customer environments. Leverage your expertise to determine which security tools and services are best suited for customers based on factors like industry and complexity of the IT environment.

Additionally, encourage customers to follow best practices like the use of strong passwords and password managers, multi-factor or cryptographic authentication and virtual private networks. Help them stay the course by completing routine security control checks and leveraging patch management systems for proactive patching.

Sophisticated cyberattacks pose a risk to organizations of all sizes and industries. But by adhering to best cybersecurity practices, developing a comprehensive incident response plan and integrating MDR services, you can help customers create a robust cyber defense that prioritizes proactivity and responsiveness. Most importantly, don’t wait until a customer is under siege to take action.

Scott Barlow is VP, Global MSP & Cloud Alliances, at Sophos. Read more Sophos guest blogs here. Regularly contributed guest blogs are part of MSSP Alert’s sponsorship program.