Security: A Look Back and a Look Ahead for MSSPs

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As 2017 draws to a close and 2018 looms large, it’s a good time to take a look at lessons learned in the past year and turn an eye on how those lessons and discoveries will impact the coming year.


Even as the year comes to a close, ransomware is back in the headlines. We saw a one-two punch of ransomware attacks in May and June with WannaCry and Petya respectively. WannaCry is back in the news as the U.S. accuses North Korea of instituting the attack, which affected hundreds of thousands of computers across 150 countries worldwide. Meanwhile Petya cost the economy an estimated $300m in damages. And while these were the two news-making attacks, IT firms report that some 92% of their clients experience some sort of ransomware attack.

Human error – falling prey to the incredibly well-designed psychologically manipulative format ransomware attacks use – remains the biggest challenge for IT professionals. How do you keep your users safe when these attacks are crafted to trick even the savviest of users?

The trend has become to get ahead of the game with proactive security like Intercept X from Sophos. Educating your staff about malicious software or phishing schemes is also a solid, proactive strategy to make them aware of the threats that come through as socially engineered schemes.

Proactive security

This leads into another 2017 trend we hope to see continue into the new year: taking a more proactive approach to security. Historically, cybersecurity has been reactive – creating patches and fixes for new viruses as they’re created; problem-solving rather than problem prevention.

But with millions of types of new malware created every day, this is a fight we can’t win – especially given that there’s a brutal shortage of IT professionals. In fact, 57% of businesses say they can’t find enough IT pros to meet their needs.

Rather than relying on reactive methods, MSSPs and other cybersecurity professionals are seeking out solutions that can help them get ahead of the fight against internet threats. Solutions like Intercept X that look at the exploits hackers use to stop malicious behavior rather than blocking named viruses is a huge step forward in proactive security. And protection like Sophos Synchronized Security, which allows your network and endpoint protection to communicate and share threat intelligence, can help alleviate some of the pressure on overburdened IT staff.

If you can catch an attack at the endpoint and quarantine it before it spreads, you’re winning the fight before it starts.

Machine learning

And speaking of proactive: machine learning had a big year in 2017, and we’ll likely see even more advancement in using machine learning in IT security in 2018.

Machine learning is, at its core, the ability for a program to become more and more accurate at predicting outcomes – that is, to learn. Supervised machine learning requires human input, sometimes called “training,” to help the program to learn and advance, moving the artificial intelligence toward a desired outcome using data or algorithms.

Deep learning is unsupervised machine learning. The programs review data on their own and reach their own conclusions. Deep learning can be used in such key IT areas as security threat detection, fraud detection, and spam filtering (as well as less ominous tasks like predicting consumer shopping patterns). Deep learning can learn from its mistakes to improve outcomes without human input.

Intercept X will begin using deep learning to identify and protect against malicious behavior and online threats, taking an already advanced solution and making it even more proactive and automatic.

Regulatory compliance

We’ve been looking forward at threats and how to prepare for and defend against them, but we’re not the only ones with an eye to the future. Regulatory agencies also have big years planned for 2018. The regulatory topic most top of mind for IT professionals as we enter the new year is the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) set to become enforced as of May 25, 2018. Any organization that holds personal data on EU citizens – even if they’re not based in the EU – will be impacted by this regulation with, with huge fines for non-compliance.

The GDPR’s pending implementation kicks all of our other proactive considerations into high gear, as organizations will need to secure their data and devices, prevent human error, and be prepared to block ransomware and other malware attacks. This is not a fight you can fall behind on – a proactive approach will be pivotal to getting in front of GDPR compliance.

What are your biggest concerns going into the New Year? What did you consider the biggest challenge – or advancement – in 2017? And where do you hope to see our industry in 2018?

Guest blog courtesy of Sophos. Read more Sophos blogs here.