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News & Articles

February 28, 2020 |

Catch Security Profits If You Can, Advises ASCII Group at First 2020 Event

Frank Abagnale, of “Catch Me If You Can” fame, was one of many speakers at the IT membership group’s conference yesterday in Long Beach, Calif., to discuss challenges and opportunities in cybersecurity.

Frank Abagnale has bad news for you, channel pros. Remember the identify theft he performed as a teenage runaway 50 years ago, which was later immortalized in Steven Spielberg’s film Catch Me If You Can?†

“Technology has made it very, very easy to do,” he says.

Abagnale, now a cybersecurity expert and the featured keynote speaker at The ASCII Group‘s SMB IT Success Summit events for 2020, spoke at the first stop on this year’s tour in Long Beach, Calif., yesterday. Back in the 1960s, he told his audience, he had to physically visit, or at least call, the victims of his exploits. These days anyone with a laptop and internet access can collect reams of information about total strangers from the comfort of their kitchen—even if that kitchen is in Russia.

“All of this information is a matter of public record,” he notes. As a result, he continued, citing statistics from the World Economic Forum, cybercrime will cost the global economy an estimated $2.9 million every minute this year.

That presents channel pros with both an enormous opportunity and an enormous challenge, according to ASCII Group President Jerry Koutavas. The opportunity, of course, is to pocket a piece of the billions organizations globally will spend on managed security services this year and beyond. The challenge is learning how to provide managed security services. That will be the hardest evolutionary shift most IT providers have ever gone through, Koutavas predicts.

“There are so many nuances and layers to fully understanding how to best run a security practice,” he says. “It’s a tough road. It really is.”

Guiding members down that road is one of the ASCII Group’s top priorities for the year, at its live conferences and in everything else it does. “The MSPs basically know that they have to step up their game in terms of security services, and some are going down the path, but I think the majority are not,” Koutavas says. “That’s where we’re stepping in.”

Abagnale, who spoke at ASCII’s 2017 events too in a presentation that focused heavily on his personal story, spent all of his time in this year’s keynote sharing the same kind of lessons he’s been teaching recruits at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Va., for 44 years.†

For example, while most channel pros know to erase or destroy the hard drive on an old PC before disposing of it, almost none are aware that modern printers contain HDDs laden with sensitive information too. In fact, Abagnale noted, when CBS News randomly purchased several used printers, it discovered that they contained data belonging to the Boston Police Department’s sex crimes unit, the California Department of Motor Vehicles, and one of the largest insurance providers in the Northeast.

“Make sure you remove the hard drives from those devices,” Abagnale said.

Other habits worth adopting, he added, include shredding everything of value on paper when you’re through with it, taking advantage of free credit freezing services to keep illegitimate investigators from viewing your financial history, and buying everything you don’t pay for in cash with credit cards, which unlike ATM cards have no direct connection to the funds in your checking account.

Other topics on the agenda at this year’s ASCII Group events include co-managed IT, an increasingly popular model in which MSPs work collaboratively with a company’s in-house technology team. Koutavas views it as a potentially lucrative way for channel pros to grow their top line and land bigger clients.

“[It’s] another opportunity for MSPs to broaden their reach and make recurring revenue,” he says.

That’s contingent, though, on knowing the most and least effective ways of delivering co-managed IT. ASCII recruited Bob Coppedge, CEO of Simplex-IT, an MSP in Stowe, Ohio, to provide concrete advice on that topic at this year’s events. Since 2018, he told attendees, co-managed IT has produced about half of his firm’s growth.

“There’s tremendous opportunity right here,” said Coppedge, who discussed co-managed IT in a ChannelPro column last year as well. “Very few MSPs are doing it, and most of the MSPs that are doing it don’t actually formally market or state it.”

The key to success, he advised, is forging a strong, mutually respectful relationship with your customer’s full-time IT professionals. “They know the company better than you ever will, assuming they’re good,” he noted. “You know the business, you know the technology, you know what’s coming around better than they ever will. It’s the best of both worlds.”

As usual, speakers at this year’s ASCII conferences include many of the channel’s leading vendors in addition to thought leaders like Abagnale and Coppedge. At the conclusion of yesterday’s show, Koutavas and Shannon Mayer, ASCII’s vice president of channel development, honored the winners of the show’s audience awards. For day one of the conference, those were:

Best Education—RocketCyber
Best Partner Incentives—ID Agent
Best Overall Presentation—Solutions Granted

For day two, the winners were:

Best Rapid Pitch—SyncroMSP
Best Keynote—Huntress Labs
Most Innovative Solution—Zomentum
Best Market Opportunity—CaaB
Best Partner Support—Datto
Best Channel Program—Pax8
Best Revenue Generator—Nerdio
Top Distributor—Pax8
Best Partner Involvement—ConnectMeVoice, Datto, Pax8
Best of Show—Pax8

Long Beach was the first of nine cities the ASCII Group’s event series will visit this year. Future events will take place in Houston, Washington D.C., Chicago, Cincinnati, Toronto, Atlantic City, Boston, and Orlando.

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