Robert Ungemach|August 24, 2023

Securing the Protectors: Why ZTNA is a Robust Cybersecurity Solution for Managed Service Providers

Managed service providers play a doubly important cybersecurity role as guardians of their clients' networks as well as their own. Given this critical directive, many MSPs are rapidly adding Zero Trust Network Access to their toolset to shore up their defenses and ensure they are not the weak link when it comes to protecting client data and systems.

Given their critical role in managing and securing IT infrastructure for many clients, managed service providers (MSPs) face increasing cyberthreats. Case in point? Research issued last year reports that 90% of MSPs were hit with a successful cyberattack during the previous 18 months. And a joint advisory issued last year to MSPs by the “Five Eyes” intelligence alliance—comprising CISA, NSA and the FBI plus cybersecurity authorities of the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and New Zealand—shared guidance on securing networks and sensitive data against rising supply chain attacks.

Bad actors target MSPs on the frontlines for several reasons: 

  1. They have privileged access to multiple client IT systems and sensitive data. 
  2. They simultaneously manage multiple IT environments with different systems, network configurations and security protocols that can create risky gaps. 
  3. They often use remote monitoring and management (RMM) tools, which have become a favorite of threat actors seeking to infiltrate not just one, but many networks at once.
  4. The shift to hybrid workforces and hybrid infrastructure has expanded attack surfaces, adding complexity to an MSP’s job of monitoring and securing all endpoints effectively.

For these reasons and more, MSPs are turning to the proven security and operational benefits of universal Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA).

Securing the MSP 

At its core, ZTNA is about the principle of least privilege and gaining trust through validation using contextual, attribute-based policies that are much more granular than the implicit trust approach of legacy solutions like VPNs and NACs. It’s all about knowing who's doing what, when, where, why and how on the entire enterprise network backed by wide-ranging monitoring and visibility analytics. 

ZTNA offers MSPs an advanced security model to protect their networks, and by extension, their clients' networks. Because conventional network boundaries no longer exist, outmoded “trust then verify” VPNs are quickly being replaced with the much more secure “verify then trust” ZTNA approach that mandates authentication, authorization and continuous validation of all users and devices—whether connecting from “inside” or “outside” an organization's network. 

With ZTNA, all user connections pass through a policy enforcement point (PEP) or Gateway before they can connect to what they are authorized to access, no matter where an organization’s resources or applications are housed ... on-premises, in a data center, in the cloud or somewhere in between. All requests for access are highly scrutinized using role-based access controls and the principle of least privilege to ensure each connection is authorized and has the correct security conditions. By enforcing strict access controls and continuously monitoring network activity, ZTNA greatly reduces the attack surface and limits the potential for breaches and lateral movement even if a breach were to occur. The benefits of adopting ZTNA for MSPs are therefore numerous, ranging from enhanced cybersecurity to improved compliance and client confidence.

For example, Vancouver, B.C.-based Nucleus Networks, which manages over 200 customer environments across Canada, turned to Appgate SDP, the industry’s most comprehensive ZTNA solution, to reduce the attack surface of its toolset. This migitaged the need for Interact web logins, increasing the security, functionality and speed to access this MSP’s most critical resources. Now Nucleus Networks is applying the secure access benefits of Appgate SDP to customer environments, as discussed in this video case study featuring CTO Karl Fulljames and hosted by Andrew Morgan, founder of The Cyber Nation

Securing the MSP Toolset with Appgate SDP

Ultimately, it’s all about securely controlling access for all users ... even third parties ... to all resources regardless of location with a single unified policy engine. That’s why Appgate SDP universal ZTNA is rapidly being applied to a multitude of sophisticated MSP use cases across their multifaceted networks and those of their clients.

Looking ahead, ZTNA is rapidly becoming the norm for MSPs that are truly frontline defenders for tens of thousands of client organizations of all sizes representing all industries around the world. The implementation of ZTNA not only demonstrates an MSP's commitment to advanced cybersecurity strategies but also reinforces its position as the guardian of its clients’ data and networks.

You can learn more about Appgate’s global MSP Zero Trust program here.

Additional ZTNA for MSPs resources

Video: How ZTNA Drives Successful Outcomes for MSPs and MSSPs
Comparison Guide: Cloud-routed vs. Direct-routed ZTNA: What’s the Difference?
Data sheet: Zero Trust Network Access for MSPs
Solution brief: Appgate SDP Overview

Receive News and Updates From Appgate