SDN Journal Authors: Daniel Gordon, John Walsh, Elizabeth White, Liz McMillan, Sven Olav Lund

Related Topics: @CloudExpo, Microservices Expo, Agile Computing, Cloud Security, @DXWorldExpo, SDN Journal

@CloudExpo: Article

MSPs Must Practice What They Preach – Especially with Security

Precautions to safeguard client data & infrastructure is an MSPs responsibility

A man walks into the doctor’s office. He hasn’t been feeling well. A virus has been floating around the office and the man feels he’s caught it.

Doctor walks in, smiles and picks up the chart. He starts examining the man and as he writes a prescription advises he keeps sanitary and wash his hands several times a day.

Do you trust this doctor.especially after he prescribes vigorous hand-washing, but forgot to wash his own before poking and prodding during the exam.

Obviously this doctor loses credibility. This moral is a lesson that MSPs (managed service providers) must heed. MSPs frequently tell their clients to treat data in a secure fashion lest it compromised-by hack, by carelessness or by lax standards. It is only natural to expect your MSP to abide by certain security practices to prevent client data from becoming exposed.

Now don’t read this as an indictment of any MSP. The great majority are quite vigilant and do practice what they preach. In fact many are excellent proponents of security best practices. However, MSPs have a lot of responsibility for the IT assets of their clients. It is expected that MSPs will take certain precautions to safeguard client data and infrastructure. In this case, it’s not just the client and their sphere of access that touch the data, but oftentimes the employees/consultants/techs of the MSP themselves – and if their back door is open, the risk can be transferred to the client.

If you currently use an MSP, in the market for one, or are one yourself, there is a quick hit list you review to ensure assets are properly secure on both sides of the server.

Some of the following items may help you begin to think about what security protocols you should have in your managed services practice: Of the six, four of them are validated by the MSP Alliance (in fact there is a very good document titled Universal Best Practices for Managed Services by Charles Weaver) that includes a security section. The other line items I cover come from 30 years of security and most recently cloud-based options. They are:

  • Real time monitoring
  • Human Resource safeguards (i.e., appropriate corporate computer use, provisioning, etc.)
  • Strong authentication
  • Unique User IDs
  • Encryption of data, particularly data that is stored
  • Unification

Real time monitoring: Just because you are running back-up tapes, running compliance reports or simply sitting on a calm Saturday afternoon watching a ballgame, your network is active. It’s being pinged, accessed, surveilled, and penetrated—some innocuous, some business related and, many to many, suspicious. It’s obvious the last one we care about. Many companies use a log management or archiving solution which captures all the suspect activity. Problem is…when is the designated person going to review the reams of machine code? Days, weeks later? By then, the issue has festered; the former employee has made a copy of your sales database, the hacker has left a nasty Trojan gift or the customer’s sensitive data has flown the coup. However, if you apply the best practice of having SIEM or another intrusion detection protocol working in conjunction with your log, in real time, then any suspicious activity is immediately alerted and the risk can be cut at the knees before it has a chance to do any damage.

Human Resource safeguards: The ability to provision and de-provision users immediately not only saves time, but regulates access to only those who need to see certain files and/or applications. When a company (or a client if managed by a MSP) hires a new employee, there must be a simple way to add them to the network and automatically provide them with necessary access based on that employee’s role. Conversely, when an employee leaves the company, there must be an equally simple way to retire the account and prevent anyone from using that account to access corporate information. It also prevents usage of unsanctioned applications from a corporately controlled computer. These functions are typically handled by an Identity Management solution.

Strong authentication: This is more than telling clients they can’t use “password” or “12345” as passwords. Credentialing is the core of security. And multi-factor authentication is the best practice needed to apply that core. Yes there are passwords, and Multi-factor authentication can mean multiple passwords, however, attackers and would-be impersonators wouldn’t have to know just one shared secret, but two! (Or three, or four!) However, multiple passwords suffer the same frailties as traditional passwords — we’re awash in passwords already, adding more won’t help. So multi-factor authentication methods usually rely on something you have (like a device)in addition to something you know.  For instance you log in to a single sign on application centrally controlled in the cloud. You successfully enter in your password. The system then sends verification to another device which can then be used to gain permitted access.

Unique User IDs: This is simple…no shared admin accounts!

Encryption of data: For MSPs and clients for are beholden to regulatory compliance and data governance, this is not only a “should have,” but a “must have.” It covers  data that is sent via email (in transit) but also the millions a Terabytes sitting behind a firewall. Encryption isn't the only method that can protect your data. Tokenization is an up-and-coming technique to remove sensitive data from applications and storage and replace it with placeholder characters called tokens. The benefit of tokens is that they are completely random and there is no algorithm that can turn them back into the real data they represent. As many companies have cloud-based applications there are additional considerations each company must make based on their specific business needs. But remember, in the end, the client/end user is the one responsible (read that SLA!!!) for the data.

Unification: You can all the best tools across the Net. You might have excellent processes. BUT, if the left hand doesn’t know what the right is doing, you’re operating at a disadvantage. By unifying the solutions as a centralized and layered initiative you enhance your network visibility and better understand the context of certain activities. For instance…after three failed attempts, an account is accessed. Is this a problem? Well, that depends. Identity management says it is a legitimate user—they used the right credential (eventually). Log Management says this access happened at 3:00 a.m. On it’s own, that’s feasible. SIEM picks up that the IP address is traced back to a site in China. All three independently and without context, could be a legitimate user. But unified and analyzed from a central station in real time tells a much different story.

These six best practices require a variety of technologies (and processes). Some MSPs have the leverage to have them all in house or partnered through various developers. For others, it is not as affordable---until you investigate that all these functions, capabilities and power can be deployed, managed and controlled from the cloud. And this makes it a very affordable proposition for any managed service provider AND any of their clients who realize enterprise-class security might be out of their grasp. Cloud-based security is one of the fastest growing

There are many other security measures you can implement; including technologies you can employ to help you safeguard your practice. Whichever path you take, make sure you at least consider all the ways you need to protect yourself, both from internal and external threats. If you protect yourself it is a lot easier to protect your clients.

Kevin Nikkhoo
Who's cloud-based security solution company DOES practice what it preaches

More Stories By Kevin Nikkhoo

With more than 32 years of experience in information technology, and an extensive and successful entrepreneurial background, Kevin Nikkhoo is the CEO of the dynamic security-as-a-service startup Cloud Access. CloudAccess is at the forefront of the latest evolution of IT asset protection--the cloud.

Kevin holds a Bachelor of Science in Computer Engineering from McGill University, Master of Computer Engineering at California State University, Los Angeles, and an MBA from the University of Southern California with emphasis in entrepreneurial studies.

@CloudExpo Stories
DX World EXPO, LLC, a Lighthouse Point, Florida-based startup trade show producer and the creator of "DXWorldEXPO® - Digital Transformation Conference & Expo" has announced its executive management team. The team is headed by Levent Selamoglu, who has been named CEO. "Now is the time for a truly global DX event, to bring together the leading minds from the technology world in a conversation about Digital Transformation," he said in making the announcement.
"Space Monkey by Vivent Smart Home is a product that is a distributed cloud-based edge storage network. Vivent Smart Home, our parent company, is a smart home provider that places a lot of hard drives across homes in North America," explained JT Olds, Director of Engineering, and Brandon Crowfeather, Product Manager, at Vivint Smart Home, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Conference Guru has been named “Media Sponsor” of the 22nd International Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 5-7, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York, NY. A valuable conference experience generates new contacts, sales leads, potential strategic partners and potential investors; helps gather competitive intelligence and even provides inspiration for new products and services. Conference Guru works with conference organizers to pass great deals to gre...
DevOps is under attack because developers don’t want to mess with infrastructure. They will happily own their code into production, but want to use platforms instead of raw automation. That’s changing the landscape that we understand as DevOps with both architecture concepts (CloudNative) and process redefinition (SRE). Rob Hirschfeld’s recent work in Kubernetes operations has led to the conclusion that containers and related platforms have changed the way we should be thinking about DevOps and...
In his Opening Keynote at 21st Cloud Expo, John Considine, General Manager of IBM Cloud Infrastructure, led attendees through the exciting evolution of the cloud. He looked at this major disruption from the perspective of technology, business models, and what this means for enterprises of all sizes. John Considine is General Manager of Cloud Infrastructure Services at IBM. In that role he is responsible for leading IBM’s public cloud infrastructure including strategy, development, and offering m...
The next XaaS is CICDaaS. Why? Because CICD saves developers a huge amount of time. CD is an especially great option for projects that require multiple and frequent contributions to be integrated. But… securing CICD best practices is an emerging, essential, yet little understood practice for DevOps teams and their Cloud Service Providers. The only way to get CICD to work in a highly secure environment takes collaboration, patience and persistence. Building CICD in the cloud requires rigorous ar...
Companies are harnessing data in ways we once associated with science fiction. Analysts have access to a plethora of visualization and reporting tools, but considering the vast amount of data businesses collect and limitations of CPUs, end users are forced to design their structures and systems with limitations. Until now. As the cloud toolkit to analyze data has evolved, GPUs have stepped in to massively parallel SQL, visualization and machine learning.
"Evatronix provides design services to companies that need to integrate the IoT technology in their products but they don't necessarily have the expertise, knowledge and design team to do so," explained Adam Morawiec, VP of Business Development at Evatronix, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
To get the most out of their data, successful companies are not focusing on queries and data lakes, they are actively integrating analytics into their operations with a data-first application development approach. Real-time adjustments to improve revenues, reduce costs, or mitigate risk rely on applications that minimize latency on a variety of data sources. In his session at @BigDataExpo, Jack Norris, Senior Vice President, Data and Applications at MapR Technologies, reviewed best practices to ...
"ZeroStack is a startup in Silicon Valley. We're solving a very interesting problem around bringing public cloud convenience with private cloud control for enterprises and mid-size companies," explained Kamesh Pemmaraju, VP of Product Management at ZeroStack, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Large industrial manufacturing organizations are adopting the agile principles of cloud software companies. The industrial manufacturing development process has not scaled over time. Now that design CAD teams are geographically distributed, centralizing their work is key. With large multi-gigabyte projects, outdated tools have stifled industrial team agility, time-to-market milestones, and impacted P&L stakeholders.
Enterprises are adopting Kubernetes to accelerate the development and the delivery of cloud-native applications. However, sharing a Kubernetes cluster between members of the same team can be challenging. And, sharing clusters across multiple teams is even harder. Kubernetes offers several constructs to help implement segmentation and isolation. However, these primitives can be complex to understand and apply. As a result, it’s becoming common for enterprises to end up with several clusters. Thi...
"Infoblox does DNS, DHCP and IP address management for not only enterprise networks but cloud networks as well. Customers are looking for a single platform that can extend not only in their private enterprise environment but private cloud, public cloud, tracking all the IP space and everything that is going on in that environment," explained Steve Salo, Principal Systems Engineer at Infoblox, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Conventio...
In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, James Henry, Co-CEO/CTO of Calgary Scientific Inc., introduced you to the challenges, solutions and benefits of training AI systems to solve visual problems with an emphasis on improving AIs with continuous training in the field. He explored applications in several industries and discussed technologies that allow the deployment of advanced visualization solutions to the cloud.
The question before companies today is not whether to become intelligent, it’s a question of how and how fast. The key is to adopt and deploy an intelligent application strategy while simultaneously preparing to scale that intelligence. In her session at 21st Cloud Expo, Sangeeta Chakraborty, Chief Customer Officer at Ayasdi, provided a tactical framework to become a truly intelligent enterprise, including how to identify the right applications for AI, how to build a Center of Excellence to oper...
"IBM is really all in on blockchain. We take a look at sort of the history of blockchain ledger technologies. It started out with bitcoin, Ethereum, and IBM evaluated these particular blockchain technologies and found they were anonymous and permissionless and that many companies were looking for permissioned blockchain," stated René Bostic, Technical VP of the IBM Cloud Unit in North America, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Conventi...
In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Carl J. Levine, Senior Technical Evangelist for NS1, will objectively discuss how DNS is used to solve Digital Transformation challenges in large SaaS applications, CDNs, AdTech platforms, and other demanding use cases. Carl J. Levine is the Senior Technical Evangelist for NS1. A veteran of the Internet Infrastructure space, he has over a decade of experience with startups, networking protocols and Internet infrastructure, combined with the unique ability to it...
22nd International Cloud Expo, taking place June 5-7, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and co-located with the 1st DXWorld Expo will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. Cloud computing is now being embraced by a majority of enterprises of all sizes. Yesterday's debate about public vs. private has transformed into the reality of hybrid cloud: a recent survey shows that 74% of enterprises have a hybrid cloud ...
"Cloud Academy is an enterprise training platform for the cloud, specifically public clouds. We offer guided learning experiences on AWS, Azure, Google Cloud and all the surrounding methodologies and technologies that you need to know and your teams need to know in order to leverage the full benefits of the cloud," explained Alex Brower, VP of Marketing at Cloud Academy, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clar...
Gemini is Yahoo’s native and search advertising platform. To ensure the quality of a complex distributed system that spans multiple products and components and across various desktop websites and mobile app and web experiences – both Yahoo owned and operated and third-party syndication (supply), with complex interaction with more than a billion users and numerous advertisers globally (demand) – it becomes imperative to automate a set of end-to-end tests 24x7 to detect bugs and regression. In th...