How Can Managed Service Providers Handle GDPR Regulations?

GDPR featured

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has fundamentally transformed the data protection landscape for organizations operating within the European Union. Managed Service Providers, essential partners for many businesses, must also carefully navigate GDPR compliance to protect their clients’ data and maintain trust. Understanding the implications of GDPR on MSPs and their services is vital for ensuring a compliant and secure environment.

This article provides a comprehensive guide for MSPs to understand their roles and responsibilities under GDPR. We will delve into the distinctions between MSPs as data processors or data controllers, explore the concept of shared responsibility with their clients, and outline key GDPR obligations for MSPs. In addition, we will discuss best practices for achieving compliance, overcoming common challenges, and the benefits of adhering to GDPR requirements.

Managed Service Categories and GDPR

Managed Service Providers can play different roles under the GDPR as data processors or data controllers.

  • Data processors process personal data on behalf of data controllers, typically third-party service providers like MSPs. Data processors have specific obligations, such as following the data controller’s instructions and implementing appropriate security measures to protect personal data. 
  • Data controllers determine the purposes and means of processing personal data, which usually refers to the organization or company that collects the data from individuals. Data controllers are responsible for ensuring compliance with GDPR principles and fulfilling the rights of data subjects.


What Responsibilities Do Managed Service Providers Share with Customers?

Inventory and Manage Security Infrastructure with Continuum GRC

It is important to note that GDPR compliance is a shared responsibility between MSPs and their clients. While GDPR does not explicitly mention managed service providers (MSPs) as a separate category, they are typically considered data processors or, in some cases, data controllers. MSPs are third-party companies that remotely manage IT infrastructure and end-user systems, often involving the processing of personal data.

Additionally, MSPs must recognize which services are subject to GDPR, particularly those that involve processing personal data belonging to individuals within the EU, regardless of the MSP’s location. Such services include cloud services, data storage and backup, infrastructure and application management. 

Under GDPR, MSPs have specific responsibilities and obligations, including:

  • Data Processing Agreement: MSPs acting as data processors must have a Data Processing Agreement (DPA) with the data controller (their client). The DPA should outline the purpose and duration of the data processing, the types of data processed, and the rights of the controller and processor.
  • Data Protection Measures: MSPs must implement appropriate technical and organizational measures for the security of their personal data. This includes encryption, access control, data backup, and data breach detection and response systems.
  • Subprocessors: If an MSP engages subprocessors to assist in processing personal data, they must have a written agreement with the subprocessor to ensure the same data protection level as the DPA between the MSP and the data controller.
  • Data Breach Notification: In case of a personal data breach, GDPR requires MSPs to notify the data controller promptly without undue delay. The data controller is responsible for notifying the affected individuals and the relevant supervisory authority within 72 hours.
  • Data Subject Rights: MSPs must assist data controllers in facilitating data subjects’ rights, such as the right to access, rectify, erase, restrict processing, or data portability.
  • Record Keeping: MSPs must maintain records of their data processing activities, including the categories of processing, the purpose, the data subjects, and any data transfers to third countries or international organizations.
  • Data Protection Impact Assessments: MSPs should assist data controllers in conducting DPIAs when required, particularly when the processing may result in a high risk to the freedoms of users.
  • Data Protection Officer (DPO): MSPs may need to appoint a DPO if their business involves processing sensitive data or systematic monitoring of individuals.
  • Compliance Audits: MSPs should be prepared to demonstrate their GDPR compliance to their clients and be ready for audits by data protection authorities.

Open communication and collaboration between MSPs and clients are crucial for ensuring GDPR compliance. Both parties must be aware of their responsibilities and work together to achieve compliance. They should also regularly review and update their processes and agreements to ensure continued adherence to GDPR requirements.

Managed Service Providers and GDPR-Compliance Security

Managed Service Providers (MSPs) must ensure their internal infrastructure is secure to protect their clients’ data and maintain trust. Here are some steps MSPs can take to secure their internal infrastructure:

  • Security Policies: MSPs should have a well-defined security policy that outlines roles, responsibilities, and guidelines for protecting their internal infrastructure. This policy should regularly be updated to address new threats and vulnerabilities.
  • Updates and Patches: MSPs must ensure that all software, hardware, and operating systems are up to date and have the latest security patches installed. This helps to mitigate the risks associated with known vulnerabilities.
  • Access Controls: Access to MSPs’ internal infrastructure should be restricted based on the principle of least privilege. These controls allow employees access only to the resources necessary for their job functions. Access should be regularly reviewed and revoked when no longer needed.
  • Multi-Factor Authentication: MSPs should implement MFA to strengthen the access control to their systems, applications, and data. MFA requires users to provide multiple forms of identification (e.g., password, token, biometrics) to access resources, reducing the risk of unauthorized access.
  • Network Security: MSPs should implement network security tools like firewalls, network monitors, and virtual private networks (VPNs) to protect their infrastructure from external threats.
  • Cryptography: Data encryption, both at rest and in transit, is essential to protect sensitive information from unauthorized access and data breaches.
  • Backups and System Recovery: MSPs should perform regular backups of their systems and data and establish a disaster recovery plan for business continuity during a security incident or system failure.
  • Security Audits: MSPs should perform routine security audits and vulnerability assessments to identify potential weaknesses in their internal infrastructure and address them promptly.
  • Monitoring: MSPs should have an incident response plan to promptly detect, contain, and remediate security incidents. This includes ongoing monitoring of their internal infrastructure for potential threats and establishing a straightforward process for responding to incidents.
  • Training: Regular security training and awareness programs should be conducted to educate employees about security best practices, policies, and procedures. This helps to create a security-conscious work culture.

By following these steps, MSPs can create a more secure environment for their internal infrastructure, ultimately benefiting both the MSP and their clients.

Inventory and Manage Security Infrastructure with Continuum GRC

A core part of GDPR compliance is maintaining a high-level view of controls, documentation, and risk. For large organizations, this can prove insanely tricky without the right tools. That’s why Continuum GRC provides cloud-based risk and compliance management that helps our clients track their IT security in real time. 

Continuum GRC is a cloud platform that can take something as routine and necessary as regular vulnerability scanning and reporting under FedRAMP and make it an easy and timely part of business in the public sector. We provide risk management and compliance support for every major regulation and compliance framework on the market, including:

  • FedRAMP
  • StateRAMP
  • NIST 800-53
  • FARS NIST 800-171
  • CMMC
  • SOC 1, SOC 2
  • PCI DSS 4.0
  • IRS 1075
  • ISO 27000 Series
  • ISO 9000 Series

And more. We are the only FedRAMP and StateRAMP Authorized compliance and risk management solution worldwide.

Continuum GRC is a proactive cyber security® and the only FedRAMP and StateRAMP Authorized cybersecurity audit platform worldwide. Call 1-888-896-6207 to discuss your organization’s cybersecurity needs and find out how we can help your organization protect its systems and ensure compliance.

Continuum GRC