Education is a powerful sales tool. The news and articles we read increase awareness on a multitude of topics and, over time, help forge our opinions and long-term plans. Your clients are no different, especially around subject matter that is extremely important to their business.

When decision makers have little or no experience dealing in certain areas, they pay close attention to those topics in online forums, read the latest news, and look to respected industry experts for opinions and best practices ideas. That’s why MSPs must leverage multiple communications platforms to spread the word.

Cybersecurity provides the perfect example. Many providers share news and articles on the latest breaches, ransomware attacks, and other incidents with clients and prospects through their social media sites and email newsletters. The goal of some is to scare SMBs to take action (signing a long-term contract or completing security-related projects).

Other MSP simply like to inform their clients about the latest threats and vulnerabilities in more of a soft-sales approach to cybersecurity. With the escalating number of business-related news stories on this topic, it would be extremely difficult for SMB owners to ignore the inevitable ‒ that they are, in fact, in the cross-hairs of cybercriminals.

As we enter 2019, it’s a great time to reflect on some of the top stories that affected the channel over the past twelve months. MSPs take note: the lessons learned in 2018 will have traction for the months (if not years) to come, including:

1. Never Too Small to Be Cybercrime Targets. While a recent National Cyber Security Alliance survey found up to 60% of hacked SMBs go belly up within six months of an incident, confirmed stories are extremely rare. One of those tales emerged in September when a Denver area printing company sent an announcement to customers and suppliers saying it was immediately ceasing operations due to ransomware attacks. MSPs can readily assure their clients that, yes, cybercriminals are targeting the SMB and share the news report as an example.

2. Ransomware Cuts into Holiday Profits. An attack the day before Thanksgiving closed more than half of the 21 locations of the Strack & Van Til supermarket chain. The security issue took their POS systems offline, forcing the grocer to shut down most of its stores and creating long check outlines in the remaining locations. Being one of the busiest grocery shopping days of the year, the timing of the attack will inevitably affect their 4th quarter margins and revenue.

3. Community Newspaper Hacked. Early in 2018, a cybercriminal hijacked two of the Sacramento Bee’s databases (including non-sensitive voter information) that were hosted on a third-party server. The anonymous hacker demanded a significant ransom in Bitcoin to restore the information, which the company ignored, choosing instead to rebuild their databases.

4. Wireless Network Vulnerability Alert. In May, Talos, a security division of Cisco, introduced the world to a new breed of malware in an article posted on its blog site. According to the company, VPNFilter infected at least half a million routers, including Linksys, MikroTik, NETGEAR and TP-Link networking devices. This malicious software allows users to steal website credentials and monitor Modbus SCADA protocols, not to mention render the devices unusable, potentially impacting the internet access of hundreds of thousands of individuals and scores of businesses worldwide.

5. Nation-State Takes Aim at US Colleges. An attack on 144 universities led the Department of Justice to file indictments against nine Iranian citizens as well as their federal government, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards and the Mabna Institute (an identified hacking network).

6. Starwood (Marriott) Breach. While the target of this attack is certainly not an SMB, the consequences for business travelers (and their employers) could be far-reaching. Travel is essential for many organizations and, with more than 500 million (yes, half a billion) customers’ data compromised, the extent of the damage may take years to uncover. MSPs must be diligent. At the very least, they should provide their clients with details of the incident, emphasizing the length of time involved (five or more years) and the information that was compromised, including travel details and passport and credit card numbers.

7. Department of Homeland Security Warns MSPs. In October, the DHS cautioned managed and cloud services providers that hackers may try to exploit their systems to access their clients’ networks, data, and business infrastructure.

Of course, the information you share with your clients is only as good as the follow-up. The key is bringing it home. Provide them with useful tips on how to avoid those types of situations and recommendations for making their businesses less vulnerable to the ill-intentioned cybercriminals.

How can you leverage the news to better protect your clients in 2019? With the right approach, your team can provide the thought-leadership SMB owners need while increasing your own bottom line.

Have a secure and profitable New Year!