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One of the biggest cybersecurity dangers of the past year hasn’t been necessarily lurking in a bad attachment. It’s another type of attachment that is causing problems: the lack of attachment.

“Before the pandemic, I’d have lunch once a month with others in the local IT business community, and you’d be surprised how much I’d learn from others,” Tony Barker, a cybersecurity specialist in Winnipeg Manitoba, says. He adds their informal network lunches fizzled out when the pandemic hit and still haven’t restarted.

Barker notes at those lunches he’d learn about what malware is most pervasive, which new software was getting the most buzz, and what worked and what didn’t from peers.

“You’d be surprised how just talking, networking, and being in the presence of other IT folks allows you to gather information,” Barker says. A survey by Blind shows that half of workers feel lonely during this work from home time, loneliness marked by the lack of interaction at the office.

But this isolation is also a cybersecurity problem experts like Barker tell us.

“The lack of networking, the lack of conversations, and of comparing notes can leave everyone – both businesses and MSPs, much more exposed. That watercooler chatter, business breakfasts and the like helped people know what is going on,” Barker says.

And with many employees electing to continue working from home, the danger stemming from this disconnect will continue. While there are no perfect substitutes for the organic, spontaneous interchange of office chatter, there are still ways to stay “connected” during the pandemic.

The following are several things you can do to decrease MSP isolation, which in turn will lead to increased client security.

MSP cybersecurity associations

If you haven’t joined a formal MSP association, now is a good time. Many of these trade groups have virtual events, publications, forums, and plenty of online resources where MSPs can network.

Some of the top ones are:

Internal communication maintains cybersecurity

You’d be surprised, especially during the pandemic, how many MSP techs don’t talk to one another much and they work for the same company, Barker says.

“That’s worse than not networking,” he adds.

Barker advises that techs need to talk to one another, especially if working for the same employer. This allows notes to be compared and threats to be sized up. He points out that to foster communications, you can organize company gatherings outdoors while the weather is still warm, or use the dreaded Zoom to stay connected.

Social media

MSPs need to try harder than ever to connect during the COVID era. Not doing so can leave you isolated. The more an MSP is connected, the more you hear about threats, needs, and as a bonus, potential customers. For MSPs that have ignored social media, now is the time to establish a presence and use it.

Preferred IT, for instance, an MSP in Fort Wayne, Indiana, posts pictures of Sully, their “tech dog” that joins the staff in-office visits from time to time.

These types of posts engage readers and customers and humanize the MSP. By staying connected and engaged, you’ll be better able to keep on top of emerging threats. So bring your dog or hamster to the office and start a social media presence!

Chamber of Commerce

Yes, this is an old tool, one of the oldest, but it’s also one of the most effective.

“While it is important to network with other IT folks, it can be equally important to network with other businesses. Not only might you find new customers, but you’ll also hear about what is going on, what the changing tech needs are out there. It is good for your MSP business to stay connected – with humans,” Barker says.

Barker gives an example of some banks that were members of his Chamber. At a Chamber breakfast, overhearing the banks talking about some fake invoices from spammers was a great way to get a heads up and warn clients of his who were in the finance sector. This Chamber now holds virtual breakfasts and meetings that allow members to interact and engage.

“It’s not the same, it’s not perfect, but it’s better than nothing,” Barker asserts.

And, lastly, don’t let social isolation lead to tunnel vision. During normal times you are engaging, connecting, and interacting with others of all professions and stripes. That engagement leads to information and action which can keep clients safe.

Don’t assume that just because you don’t hear anything anymore, that nothing is happening. The pandemic is the time to stay extra alert and ensure all clients are protected from the growing cybersecurity threats.

Photo: mavo / Shutterstock


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Posted by Kevin Williams

Kevin Williams is a journalist based in Ohio. Williams has written for a variety of publications including the Washington Post, New York Times, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, National Geographic and others. He first wrote about the online world in its nascent stages for the now defunct “Online Access” Magazine in the mid-90s.

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