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A New Security Perch: MSP Superstar David Powell Takes On ‘Number One Problem’ Facing Partners

“Most MSPs don’t do security very well themselves, which makes it hard for them to do it for their clients,” says Perch Security Vice President of Sales David Powell. “We need MSPs to increase their security adoption to protect all their downstream clients. If MSPs don’t get this together there is a combined risk across their client base. The bad guys are becoming more sophisticated at breaking into MSP networks to get to MSP clients.”

David Powell, a longtime MSP superstar and thought-leader, is tackling the “number one issue” facing partners: the growing number of MSP breaches that are wreaking havoc on the channel.

Powell, who was chief revenue officer of MSP and MSSP high-flyer Corsica Technologies, has taken a new role as senior vice president of sales for up-and-coming MSP security provider Perch Security.

“The number one problem for partners is security,” said Powell, who was one of the progenitors of the MSP recurring revenue revolution as the dot-com bust led to the new strategic service provider era. “Most MSPs don’t do security very well themselves, which makes it hard for them to do it for their clients. We need MSPs to increase their security adoption to protect all their downstream clients. If MSPs don’t get this together there is a combined risk across their client base. The bad guys are becoming more sophisticated at breaking into MSP networks to get to MSP clients.”

[RELATED: The 10 Biggest Data Breaches of 2020 (So Far)]

Powell compared MSPs to the security chief with a master key for a 500 unit luxury apartment building. “The question is: is it easier for cyber-criminals to break into 500 individual apartments or is it easier to break into the supervisor’s apartment and get the master key so you can unlock all 500 apartments?” he said. “The MSP is that supervisor with all the downstream clients that are being impacted by a breach. What you really want is the MSP to improve what they are doing from a security standpoint and then extend it out to their clients.”

Powell’s appointment comes amid a rash of ransomware attacks via MSP software tools that have led to many MSP customers being breached, suffering the consequences of their own trusted IT provider’s shortcomings.

The latest case came just several weeks ago when multiple Connectwise partners had their customers hit with ransomware as a result of a software flaw with Connectwise Automate.

Also recently hit hard by a ransomware breach that hit its own customers: Cognizant, No. 6 on the 2020 CRN SP500, which disclosed in April that ransomware locked up its internal systems and hit some of its clients.

The wave of attacks hitting the channel is a “wake up” call and a “challenge” that Powell says demands partners secure themselves and their customers with strong partnerships with companies like Perch Security.

Michael Goldstein, CEO of LAN Infotech, a Fort Lauderdale, Fla., solution provider, said he will definitely check out Perch Security now that Powell- a well recognized MSP advocate- has joined the company.

“David Powell is MSP thought leader and one of the smartest guys in the channel who we will definitely look to in his new role at Perch to help us,” said Goldstein. “He has been in the MSP community for a long time and knows the MSP community better than anyone. It’s good to have someone that has been on both sides of the fence – as an MSP and selling to MSPs- to help with the growing ransomware threats and the security issues facing MSPs.”

Goldstein said security – along with the coronavirus pandemic – are big issues for every partner. “We are concerned about securing our own and our client’s data,” he said. “We see the growing number of ransomware attacks via MSPs and know we need to protect ourselves. We have made a big effort over the last year to change our policies and procedures. We’ll definitely look at what Perch is doing.”

Perch Security sees the trend of bad actors hacking MSPs to breach customers - referred to as Buffalo Jumping – as the new norm. In fact, Perch sees ransomware on the rise.

Many MSPs, said Powell, are “afraid” to talk to their current crop of customers about security shortcomings, fearing that clients will respond: ‘I thought you were already providing me with a managed security service.’

There is a “perception gap” that is holding back the MSP community with regard to the security problem, Powell said. “The client thinks the MSP is doing security for them and the MSP is doing some of it like firewalls, patching and anti-virus, but there is a wide range of other security offerings that clients could benefit from,” he said. “MSPs, however, are nervous about going to talk to clients about those additional security offerings because there is an expectation gap about what they are doing and what the client thinks they are doing.”

Powell, for his part, says Tampa Fla. headquartered Perch Security – which includes both a 24/7 co-managed threat detection and response backed by its own Security Operations Center and a next generation SIEM (security information and event management platform) – should be a critical part of a security stack for every MSP.

“There hasn’t been a defined security stack for security services for MSPs,” he said. “There’s a massive set of security providers. MSPs need to build that security stack to provide full coverage security for their customers. Perch is a component of that stack. Perch is looking for anomalous activity.”

Perch- with its team of security analysts acting as gatekeepers - is sending only “actionable alerts” to MSPs, cutting through the security noise that sometimes prevents partners from acting to protect both themselves and their customers, said Powell.

Powell, who has spent two decades as an MSP and two years as as general manager of service providers for infrastructure monitoring standout LogicMonitor, says the time is right for MSPs to step up to the security challenge.

Unlike Corsica- which has a growing nationwide footprint and two robust SOCs- most MSPs don’t have the capital to build out their own SOC and high priced security talent, said Powell.

“Perch is providing SIEM and SOC, software plus human response, so MSPs don’t have to parse all the security alerts to know what action to take,” he said. “That’s what Perch does. There is a huge opportunity for Perch to help solve this security problem for MSPs. Every MSP has to address this security issue or they are going become a victim of this security crises. This is the next logical step for MSPs who need to layer security into their offerings to protect themselves and their customers.”

Powell said he sees his role at Perch at least in part as “sounding the bell” that MSPs need to pay attention to the increasing security crises.

“There is story after story of MSPs being breached and their clients being breached,” he said. “This is not something MSPs can ignore. They can’t sit this one out. They have to do something. They have to respond. Their clients are counting on them. If MSPs don’t get this right both they and their clients could be out of business.”

The fact is most bad actors, said Powell, see a small risk and big return by breaking into MSP networks.”If they get into an MSP network via an MSP tool they now have access to all of that MSP’s clients,” he said.

Powell said he is looking forward to connecting with the literally hundreds and hundreds of MSPs he has met over the years to help them play a role in solving the security crises plaguing the channel.

“This is a chance for me to put myself back in a leadership position to help address this really serious MSP problem,” he said. “It’s a chance to really help MSPs figure out their security go to market strategy. I see myself helping MSPs advance their security strategy with Perch as a component so everyone in the channel can get better quicker.”

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