Anyone concerned with IT security will, by now, have heard the news about the Meltdown and Spectre bugs affecting computer processing chips produced by Intel, AMD, and ARM. When it comes to MSP security, this pair of severe vulnerabilities has leaped to the top of the pile when it comes to 2018’s big security trends.
In reality, Meltdown and Spectre are not even close to being the biggest cybersecurity threats for users of desktop PCs. This is partly because, so far, no hackers have been seen to be exploiting these vulnerabilities. They are critical flaws, so there was a big rush in recent days to patch all systems that are afflicted by them.
For MSP security, Meltdown and Spectre are a painful double whammy. This is because the bugs can be exploited to gain access to areas of shared systems. With multiple clients being hosted on shared computing resources, whether real servers or virtual servers, such a systems’ weakness is extremely dangerous.
The double whammy comes from the fact that cloud hosting providers have found that the operating system patches are needed to close these security holes, as they have a notable hit on processing power.
Fortunately, as service providers become more experienced with implementing the Meltdown and Spectre patches, the real-world penalty for enterprise servers and hosting is mostly turning out to be less than expected. However, you need to be ready to work with clients in order to help them mitigate the performance penalties of the patches.
There are some key steps you can and should take to reduce some of the pain associated with events like the announcement of Meltdown and Spectre. These are:
It is vitally important for you to test their services with the patches implemented. Everything from your cost for providing services to how your clients experience performance and functionality with patches in place needs to be tested, monitored, and managed.
One thing the Meltdown and Spectre event has underlined is the need to ensure an effective backup regime in place. Make sure that your clients have solid backup and disaster recovery strategies.
You need to maintain the confidence of your clients. They need to understand how an event such as the announcement of Meltdown and Spectre affects them and their use of your services. Above all else, they need to have confidence that you are maintaining the security of your platforms and services. The best way to achieve this is to be proactive.
If your clients first heard about Meltdown and Spectre via your Twitter account, email newsletter (or even better, personalized email), and other forms of online communication, then bravo! If you managed to explain in simple and understandable terms what Meltdown and Spectre are and the steps you have taken to mitigate the threat, then you have probably achieved the goal of keeping your clients confident.
Nobody’s perfect and no matter how much planning and effort you put into taking care of your clients, there will be some areas that could have been handled better. Create a structured review of steps taken ahead of during and after an event, such as this one. You can strengthen both your day-to-day operations and your ability to cope with the next big security scare.
The Meltdown and Spectre bugs represent an event in cybersecurity history that will probably be seen as a watershed moment. So deep do the effects of these bugs run, and so wide-ranging are the potential damages (not to mention the time it will take before those damages are really known) that the lessons for MSP security will probably be unfolding for many years. Taking steps, such as those outlined above, can help you make great progress.