Guest Column | June 13, 2022

Cybersecurity Certification Will Be Crucial For MSPs As New Funding Opportunities Arise

By John Zanni, Acronis SCS


The emergence of new cyber threats has fundamentally altered the geopolitical landscape, creating a sense of urgency for governments to develop stronger IT infrastructure, network management, security, and monitoring. And with the evolving state of global affairs, America is more at risk of the threat of data breaches than ever before. 

The types of cyberattacks that government agencies are seeing today have become much more sophisticated, and the threat is constantly evolving. The Biden administration has urged the U.S. private sector to develop new solutions while underscoring the importance of cybersecurity practices and resistance. This current state of affairs has reinforced the value of working with an MSP, a third-party company that manages an agency’s security networks, IT infrastructure, and data protection. 

MSPs are proving to be essential and strategic IT partners and can provide more secure and higher quality services than public sector organizations can accomplish on their own. Agencies working with an MSP can more easily keep its backend technology up to date. Having the right certifications is also critical and shows that an MSP has the skills, expertise, and experience required to properly manage and protect IT infrastructure. 

For the end customer, it is imperative that any product or solution that an MSP offers be fully certified and compliant. Certifications ensure that MSPs can be trusted and are not selling themselves on marketing fluff. Being CJIS (Criminal Justice Information Services), HIPAA or NIST 800-171 compliant or FedRamp/StateRamp certified is a significant investment, which does not have to be fully taken on by the MSP. With the right partnerships, and some modifications to how they do business, MSPs can offer these compliant services with minimal investment. 

The Current State Of U.S. Cybersecurity

Because working with an MSP is more common among companies and public sector agencies, service providers are now becoming a more strategic target of attack. This is evidenced by events like the massive MSP ransomware attack from last year, where bad actors targeted over 200 businesses while gaining access to computer networks and infiltrating sensitive customer data. 

The massive increase in cyberattacks from nation-states and organized crime has led cyber insurance rates to skyrocket. According to recent data, nearly 70 percent of local government agencies are seeing their cyber insurance premiums jump significantly. In conjunction, there’s also been a broad increase in cybersecurity spending within state and local governments, healthcare, education, nonprofit and financial services, which was highlighted by California’s recent push to provide new cyber funding for the state’s community colleges. These trends have all come on the heels of the government’s renewed emphasis on cybersecurity innovation, as well as the Biden administration’s ongoing warnings to the private sector about bolstering cyberinfrastructure. This has led to more organizations outsourcing cybersecurity efforts through working with MSPs.

How MSPs Can Offer A Broader Range Of Certified Services

Cyber compliance standards didn’t just come out of thin air, and with certifications, MSPs have an opportunity to develop critical blueprints and knowledge bases for program principals, transformational flows, and related governance matters. Certifications are increasingly vital for MSPs looking to build trustworthy relationships with their end users, while also validating their skills, experience, and reputation. Among the more prominent MSP certifications are those that focus on possession of advanced technical skills or adherence to certain security standards, data privacy requirements, or IT service management methodologies.

When it comes to adhering to compliance standards, HIPAA is a good example, as HIPAA-required entities must adhere to stringent standards. With HIPAA, organizations run the risk of costly fines if they don’t conduct accurate and thorough assessments of the potential risks and data vulnerabilities associated with the confidentiality and integrity of electronic protected health information. CJIS is another example of established and agreed-upon standards around data security and encryption for criminal justice systems and law enforcement at all levels of government. 

Ultimately, an MSP should be viewed as a gatekeeper, and organizations must be able to rely on them to maintain proper certification and proof of standards while also having easy access to all types of sensitive documents. 

What Do Certifications Matter To MSPs And Their Customers?

In the cybersecurity space, there tends to be a lot of marketing jargon and hyperbolic language around what service providers can actually provide. Certifications demonstrate that an MSP is not only experienced and well qualified but also can handle the specific tasks they are hired for. And if an MSP doesn't meet these standards and a security breach arises, they could be liable to be audited and potentially create unneeded headaches for the organization. Having the right certifications in place is absolutely the first step toward understanding whether a cybersecurity MSP vendor is trustworthy. 

Managed service provider certifications are verifiable, standardized, and widely accepted credentials awarded by objective third-party organizations. There are both companywide MSP certifications (those that are earned by the MSP as a whole), as well as individual MSP certifications (those that are earned by the MSP’s employees). Certifications ensure the end user that the MSP is qualified and reliable, and that an organization’s data is in good hands, which allows the end user to improve IT services with minimal upkeep. 

Looking Ahead

It’s abundantly clear that the world of tomorrow will see an increase in cyberattacks, especially in the government and private sectors. Considering the growing risks, there is a need to ensure that IT infrastructure and networks have strong security protocols and can minimize vulnerabilities as much as possible. Thankfully the U.S. government has started making bigger strides toward being postured for the cyber threats of the future

Organizations today deserve the best protection amidst an emerging hostile foreign environment. Certifications ensure that the MSP is qualified and capable of handling tasks at hand, and having MSP certification, ensures that data will be properly protected and equipped with a strong level of cyber resilience. To keep ahead of increasingly sophisticated bad actors, MSPs should also look to the benefits of new cloud-based solutions and offerings that can allow them to meet U.S. government requirements and strategically mitigate future threats.

About The Author

John Zanni is the CEO of Acronis SCS.