8 Cybersecurity Skills for Modern MSPs

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As an MSP, you play a critical role in ensuring the cybersecurity of your clients' businesses. With the ever-evolving cyberthreat landscape, MSPs need a security team with a wide range of skills.

Every MSP has different organizational structures, customer needs, and security teams, with varying skill requirements for different roles. There is no one-size-fits-all set of skills in this field.

A.N. Ananth, Chief Strategy Officer, Netsurion
A.N. Ananth, Chief Strategy Officer, Netsurion

However, considering the increasing complexity and sophistication of cyberthreats, the ongoing shortage of cybersecurity talent, and the expanding scope of cybersecurity domains, these diverse skills have become more valuable than ever for MSPs. Whether partnering with a security provider such as Netsurion to help offset skill gaps or acquiring/ developing them all in-house they are non-negotiable.

Here are eight essential cybersecurity skills that modern MSPs should possess:

  1. Fundamental technological skills: A solid understanding of fundamental concepts and principles of information technology forms the bedrock of cybersecurity professionals' expertise. This encompasses a range of essential competencies, such as network configuration and management, firewall installation and configuration, administration of various operating systems, encryption, antivirus, VPN, and more. These skills can help them understand how systems work and how to secure them. They can also acquire these skills through certifications or courses.
  2. Programming and scripting languages: Proficiency in various programming and scripting languages, such as JavaScript, Python, C++, and SQL will be required for most cybersecurity roles. These languages enable professionals to write, test, and deploy secure code, automate tasks, analyze data, and create solutions. Depending on the purpose and scenario, different languages can offer different advantages and functionalities. For example: JavaScript for web development and security; Python for data analysis and automation; C++ for low-level programming and reverse engineering; SQL for database management and injection attacks.
  3. Verbal and written communication: Verbal and written communication are crucial skills for cybersecurity professionals. Explaining technical concepts to non-technical audiences, writing clear reports and documentation, and collaborating with others are key tasks in most security roles, from analyst to C-suite. By having excellent communication skills, professionals can present their ideas and insights effectively and persuasively. This is essential when considering timely communication in the event of an incident. By having excellent communication skills, professionals can build trust with clients and stakeholders, proliferate knowledge among users and employees, and positively influence senior management and decision makers when reviewing cybersecurity solutions.
  4. Logical thinking and troubleshooting: Cybersecurity professionals need to have strong analytical and problem-solving skills. They need to be able to analyze problems, find root causes, apply solutions, and troubleshoot technical issues to improve their security performance. By using logical thinking and troubleshooting skills, professionals can solve complex and challenging problems in a systematic and efficient manner. They can also use various examples of the common problems or challenges they face and how they solve them. For example: using the OSI model to troubleshoot network issues; using debugging tools to fix code errors; using root cause analysis to identify the source of a security breach; etc.
  5. Risk identification and management: Risk identification and management is a crucial skill for cybersecurity professionals. It involves assessing vulnerabilities, creating solutions, and implementing security policies and practices. By identifying potential threats and risks posed by internal and external sources, professionals can devise appropriate countermeasures to protect their assets and operations. Moreover, by monitoring and evaluating the effectiveness of their security systems and processes, they can ensure continuous improvement and compliance. Cybersecurity professionals can also use various frameworks or methodologies to perform risk identification and management effectively, such as NIST 800-171, ISO 27001, ARS v3.1.
  6. Threat intelligence: Remain knowledgeable of the latest threats, attack vectors, and techniques used by threat actors. The ability to collect, analyze, and disseminate threat intelligence from various sources and apply threat intelligence to their security operations and strategies is key. This includes, but is not limited to, tasks such as threat hunting, vulnerability management, and incident response. By having threat intelligence skills, professionals can improve their situational awareness and visibility, enhance their detection and prevention capabilities, reduce their response time and costs, and support their strategic planning and decision making. They can also use various tools, platforms, or frameworks to collect and analyze threat intelligence data, such as threat intelligence feeds, threat intelligence frameworks like MITRE ATT&CK, and threat intelligence services.
  7. Incident response and forensics mindset: Cybersecurity professionals need to be capable of effectively responding to and investigating security incidents by collecting and analyzing digital evidence, identifying the root causes, and recommending appropriate remediation actions. They need to be able to use various tools and methods, such as network forensics, malware analysis, memory forensics, and log analysis. By having an incident response and forensics mindset, professionals can handle complex and sophisticated security incidents, such as advanced persistent threats (APTs), ransomware attacks, or data breaches. They can also follow some of the best practices or standards to handle security incidents effectively, such as NIST 800-171.
  8. Desire continuous learning and adaptability: Last, but certainly not least, cybersecurity professionals need to have a growth mindset and a passion for learning new technology. They need to stay updated on the latest trends and developments in cybersecurity, learn new tools and techniques, and adapt to changing environments. By having a passion for learning, professionals can enhance their knowledge and skills, and keep up with the fast-paced and dynamic nature of cybersecurity. They can also use various sources or channels to stay informed and updated on new technological developments, such as blogs, podcasts, newsletters, webinars and pursue professional development opportunities, such as certifications, courses, or conferences throughout their career.

Additional Skills that are helpful for cybersecurity:

  • Information security standards. Cybersecurity professionals and MSPs should be familiar with various information security standards, such as ISO 27001, NIST Cybersecurity Framework, and PCI DSS. These standards provide guidelines and best practices for cybersecurity management and compliance. They also help them align their security objectives with their customer's goals and requirements.
  • Security control assessments and audits. Cybersecurity professionals should be able to perform security audits, test controls, and evaluate compliance. They need to be able to measure the performance and effectiveness of their security systems and identify areas for improvement. They also need to be able to provide recommendations and feedback based on their findings.
  • Governance, regulatory structures, and strategy. Cybersecurity professionals need to understand the legal and ethical aspects of cybersecurity, such as data protection laws, privacy regulations, and cybercrime legislation. They also need to be able to develop security strategies that align with their organizations and customers vision, mission, values, and objectives. They also need to be able to communicate and collaborate with senior management, stakeholders, customers, and partners.

These are some of the top skills for modern cybersecurity professionals that can help MSPs succeed in this dynamic field. By hiring professionals with the right prior experience, helping their team develop these essential skills, and/or partnering with a security service provider to help offset skill gaps MSPs can not only protect their clients' data and grow their business but also advance their teams professionally and personally.

Author A.N. Ananth is Chief Strategy Officer for Netsurion. Read more Netsurion guest blogs here. Regularly contributed guest blogs are part of MSSP Alert’s sponsorship program.