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Author: Keith Herstek

Netgate pfSense Router

Netgame pfSense® Security Appliances

Netgate’s pfSense security appliance solutions provide reliable, scalable systems that are unmatched in value and performance.

Because there are no required on-going maintenance or license fees, we provide the lowest total cost of ownership with the most security and connection features in the market today!

Affordable. pfSense firewall appliances come with the industry’s lowest total cost of ownership. Up-front cost is a fraction of traditional pricing, and there are no software maintenance or license fees.

Efficiently powerful. pfSense appliances combine efficient use of power with 1Gb upstream performance. From day one, you’re prepared for growing bandwidth needs.

Open source. pfSense is both affordable and flexible, with all the features expected of far more expensive enterprise-class firewalls. Our rich, versatile feature set is fully customizable with any combination of options you prefer.

pfSense Software Features

pfSense can be configured as a stateful packet filtering firewall, LAN or WAN
router, VPN appliance, DHCP server, DNS server, or for other applications and
special purposes. Next-generation pfSense security features available:

  • Stateful packet filtering or pure router
  • Routing policy per gateway and per rule for multiple WAN, failover, load balancing
  • Transparent Layer 2 firewall
  • Support for IPv6, NAT, BGP
  • Captive portal with MAC filtering, RADIUS support, etc.
  • VPN: IPSEC, OpenVPN, site-to-site, site-to-client, site-to-cloud and cloud-to-cloud, with support for Amazon AWS
  • Dynamic DNS Client
  • DHCP server and relay functions
  • PPPoE server
  • Reporting and monitoring features with real time information
  • Add-on optional packages such as Snort or Suricata for IDS/IPS and network security monitoring, Squid for optimized content delivery, and SquidGaurd for anti-spam/anti-phishing and URL filtering.
Unified Threat managment

Why Your Business Needs Unified Threat Management

Sounds scary doesn’t it? Almost like a swat team dressed in black is going to swing in and start yelling orders. While just as effective at disabling the bad guys, Unified Threat Management (UTM) is a special kind of IT solution focused on proactive protection. Consider it more like a team of virtual bodyguards that stand at the door between your business and the internet, keeping trouble out while your legitimate traffic can come and go normally.

With the increasing number of connected devices in your business network and the different ways your employees now connect, it’s more important than ever to set up dedicated security systems that give integrated protection. UTM is a series of solutions that work together, simultaneously layering your protection across the board. We’ll cover the four main inclusions here, and exactly what they can do for your business.

Robust Firewall

Put simply, a firewall keeps an eye on all the data coming in and out, looking for anything abnormal. While every home PC comes with a software firewall built in, those ones pale in comparison to what a UTM firewall can do. Remember the team of virtual bodyguards? Imagine the home firewall asking nicely if the data should be doing that, while the UTM slams the data to the ground and demands credentials. It exists to make sure the data entering your network is safe, that it’s not part of a cyber-attack, and that in the rare event your network becomes infected, your servers aren’t being used to attack another business.

Anti-virus Where it Matters

With so much new malware being released daily, it’s easy to fall behind in updates and discover you’ve been infected. Your employees are likely doing their best, but manually scanning each file can be exhausting and time-consuming. Your UTM anti-virus is built into the firewall, ensuring known or suspicious malware is stopped at the door. It doesn’t even make it through to your employees, so the risk is removed. Clearly that’s the best outcome possible and will allow your employees to work at maximum efficiency, while you can run your business with confidence.

Spam Blocking

Most cyber-attacks come via email these days, with either an attachment or a link. Once clicked, the malware is released into the network to wreak havoc. Obviously, your employees are smart enough not to open random attachments/links, so hackers use phishing emails. These are emails that look legitimate and may refer to vendors you use, financial services you have accounts with, or even seem to be from other employees. Your UTM isn’t falling for any of those disguises, it strips down each email and checks it against high-tech legitimacy markers. If it sees anything suspicious, the email is marked as spam and either held for review or bounced away.

Your employees never see the attack, so they can’t accidentally fall for it. While the UTM is monitoring for phishing/fake emails, it’s also culling out the general spam that clogs up inboxes. Employees will no longer have to spend precious minutes each day wading through the junk, and the likelihood of missing an important customer email has greatly dropped.

Content Filtering

In a perfect world, your employees would only access work-related sites and do work-related things online. Content filtering can help you limit the risk they’re bringing into your business via these websites. Your UTM can be set to restrict sites that infect computers, such as adult content, gambling or illegal downloads. It can also be used to restrict access to productivity vampires like Facebook or Pinterest, either during work hours or completely. It’s up to your policies how much you’d like to filter and whether to add any flexibility. Some businesses allow social media during lunch breaks or have special reward hours each week. Simple tweaks like this can increase productivity overnight and give you the security you’re looking for.

You can see how a layered security solution like UTM provides a space for your business to thrive, where systems are secure, employees are able to maintain efficiency, and cyber problems stay outside the doors. The way the layers work together is more effective than a patchwork of separate systems, and a UTM is much easier to configure and maintain.

We can find the right UTM solution for your business. Call us today at 570-779-4018!

Why Periodic Security Assessments Should Be Your New Normal

By now you know that building up your cyber security is just as important as building up your cash flow. Both are essential to your success, but while most businesses keep an eye on the financials, they tend to think cybersecurity is something they can set and forget. Unfortunately, cybercriminals are constantly coming up with new methods of attack and the security you had in place yesterday may not be sufficient today.

Instead of reacting to breaches and taking on the costs of downtime, lost files and destroyed trust, a periodic security assessment can identify blind spots that place you at risk. Once you know about these problems, you’re able to proactively setup adequate protection before cybercriminals strike. It’s best to use independent IT experts who can audit your security from an outside perspective, often seeing risks that would otherwise be missed.

Regulations change – Are you affected?

Many businesses are kept to strict government regulations around the way they store, process and protect data. Their operating license depends on staying as secure as possible. All regulations require regular security assessments but they vary in scope and timeframe. As regulations change, so do the security assessment requirements. You can imagine how much stricter they are now compared to just 5 years ago. Our team can ensure your business is meeting the relevant regulations, diving deep to be certain you’re safe.

Security patches and updates are vital

It’s so easy to fall behind on your security patches, after all, it seems like there’s a new update every week and each one takes precious time to apply. What we’re seeing though, is that cybercriminals are targeting any business running late, and it’s basically easy pickings for them. If you’re unpatched where it counts, it’s like inviting them in. When we conduct your security assessment, we take a look at your history and see if your business has a robust patch plan in place and make sure you’re up to date. If there’s an issue that’s placing you at risk now, impacted you in the past, or will in the future, we’ll find it.

Viruses are always evolving

Just like the human variety, computer viruses are nothing to welcome into your workplace. They’re constantly evolving to skip past anti-virus scans and do damage in new and interesting ways. Cybercriminals know people are more aware of the traditional infection methods like downloading an attachment or inserting an infected USB, so they’re getting more and more creative. Your security assessment doesn’t just include ticking that you have the latest anti-virus, it includes identifying where you’ve had the most breach attempts and where your biggest vulnerabilities are. This type of precise awareness has a lasting impact on reducing your risks.

Your business may have changed

As your business has grown over the years (or shorter if you’ve experienced a recent surge), your entire setup has changed. More employees, expanded remote access, additional vendors, supplementary locations…the list really is endless. With each change has come a new risk, particularly if your security has been growing around you. It might be that your password policies haven’t been updated since you began, or that you still have the old voicemail system even though phones are within easy reach of customers. This is perhaps one of the most useful areas a security assessment can help with, as you and your employees are accustomed to the business working in a certain way, whether that way leads to risk or not. Our experts will be able to see things from a different perspective, particularly as we make sure to think the same way a cybercriminal would.

What to do with your assessment results

While many experts might present you with a long list of problems and leave you feeling overwhelmed, our team ensures you have a benchmark for progress. You’ll know exactly what you need to do, how we can help, and perhaps most importantly, which actions take priority. Moving ahead, future security investments will be smarter as you focus on the high-payoff areas. You’ll also know exactly what you’ve done well and where your security strengths lie. Employees will see how much you value security, which helps to create a stable culture, and you’ll be able to report your commitment to customers, confirming they’re making the right choice by staying with you.

Book your security assessment today. Call us at 570-779-4018

The True and Unexpected Costs of Being Hacked

There are the normal costs everyone associates with a breach, like getting your own server and computers fixed up, with maybe a little downtime. But really, most businesses view the possibility of getting hacked as more of an inconvenience than a bottom-line cost. For those who’ve come out the other side though, it’s a very different story. They know the hidden and ongoing costs of a data breach can be crippling, and that IT security exists to protect your business on multiple levels. All those surprise costs that spiral out of control are why most businesses close after a cyber-attack. Here are a few of the hard, but common realities of life after a hack.

Raiding the budget to reduce downtime

From the moment a cyber-attack gets into your system, things get expensive, and the longer the attack goes, the more it costs. Latest stats reveal most breaches aren’t identified for around 191 days, then it can take on average another 66 days to contain the damage. During this time you’re cleaning PCs, mobile devices, laptops, servers and even entire networks. Add to this the fee for experts to fix everything up, all the new tools and software they insist you have, and all the hours/days/weeks when your business is struggling with downtime, you’ll exhaust your emergency funds very quickly.

The long arm of the law

Depending on what data was stolen and how you handled the situation, you could be liable for fines into the millions. Having any medical data or legal files leak is a particularly messy scenario with fines coming from multiple sources. In any case, new privacy laws mean businesses are liable for massive fines if they don’t disclose a data breach, even if only email addresses were stolen. Where this gets even trickier is that the burden is on your business to know exactly what data has been stolen/illegally accessed, so you can report it before the fines stack up. This means that even if you were able to fix up the systems yourself, you still need to hire an expert who can identify exactly what the hackers took, from where and when.

Customer retention measures

In a double-down crush to your bottom line, not only does your business have to bear the cost of the hack, your future income takes a hit as customers lose trust and leave. To offset this, many businesses need to engage PR experts, spend more on advertising, and go all out to ensure they survive to fight another day. Even so, your breach disclosure will still come up in search results for many years. The more negative publicity your breach attracts, the more you’ll need to spend on customer retention.

All your secrets exposed

While you may not have Pentagon level secrets to protect, your business does have information that you’d like to keep to yourself. Hackers love going after those juicy tidbits, and the more closely you guard them, the more attractive they are. Think Coca Cola recipe, Big Mac Secret Sauce or 11 Herbs & Spices…While those corporations would be big enough to keep their competitive edge after the breach, your business success relies on at least some information staying secret. It may not be a secret recipe, but your proprietary methods and databases have a black-market value all of their own.

But simply avoiding a breach doesn’t cost much at all…

The thing is, it’s not expensive to stay on top of it all and keep your business protected. For a low monthly fee, we can reverse the entire scenario and secure your systems against the unknown. That means no need to raid other department budgets in a panic, pay crippling fines, make embarrassing public announcements, or fight to retain your competitive edge.

We can help with making sure your systems have the latest security patches and your anti-virus knows the latest tricks to watch for. Our technicians can build a virtual fortress around your business that keeps the bad guys out while letting you thrive, and even monitor security with early warning systems. Whatever your needs are, both now and moving ahead, we’re here to help keep you safe while keeping your IT costs low.

Ready to secure your business against breaches? Give us a call today on 570-779-4018.

Fake Invoice

Fake Invoice Attacks Are on the Rise – Here’s How to Spot (and Beat) Them

Businesses around the world are being struck with a cyber-attack that sends victims a fake invoice that looks real enough to fool to most employees. It’s an old scam that used to see bills faxed or mailed in, but it’s made its way into the digital world and instances are on the rise.

Chances are you’ve already seen some of the less effective attempts, like an email advising your domain is expiring, except it’s not from your host and your domain is nowhere near expiration. These new attacks are more advanced, in that they look completely legitimate and are often from contractors/suppliers you actually use. Logos are correct, spelling and grammar are spot on, and they might even refer to actual work or invoice numbers. The sender name may also be the normal contact you’d associate with that business, or even a co-worker, as cybercriminals are able to effectively ‘spoof’ real accounts and real people. While it’s worrying that they know enough about your business to wear that disguise so well, a successful attack relies on you not knowing what to look for, or even that fakes are a possibility. With that in mind, here are two types of invoice attacks you might receive:

The Payment Redirect

This style of fake invoice either explicitly states payment should be made to a certain account, perhaps with a friendly note about the new details, or includes a payment link direct to the new account. Your accounts payable person believes they’re doing the right thing by resolving the invoice and unwittingly sends company money offshore. The problem usually isn’t discovered until the real invoice from the real supplier comes in or the transaction is flagged in an audit. Due to the nature of international cybercrime, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to recover the funds even if you catch it quickly.

The Malware Click – Rather than go for the immediate cash grab, this style of attack asks your employee to click a link to download the invoice. The email may even look like the ones normally generated by popular accounting tools like Quickbooks or Xero, making the click seem safe. Once your employee has clicked the link, malware is downloaded that can trigger ransomware or data breaches. While an up-to-date anti-virus should block the attack at that stage, it’s not always guaranteed, especially with new and undiscovered malware. If it does get through, the malware quickly embeds itself deep into your systems, often silently lurking until detected or activated.

How to Stay Safe

Awareness is key to ensuring these types of attacks have no impact on your business. As always, keep your anti-virus and spam filters up to date to minimize the risk of the emails getting through in the first place. Then, consider implementing a simple set of procedures regarding payments. These could include verifying account changes with a phone call (to the number you have on record, not the one in the email), double checking invoices against work orders, appointing a single administrator to restrict access to accounts, or even two-factor authorization for payments. Simple pre-emptive checks like hovering the mouse over any links before clicking and quickly making sure it looks right can also help. Like your own business, your contractors and suppliers are extra careful with their invoicing, so if anything looks off – even in the slightest – hold back on payment/clicking until it’s been reviewed. Fake invoices attacks may be increasing, but that doesn’t mean your business will become a statistic, especially now that you know what’s going on and how you can stop them.

We can help increase your security, talk to us today. Call us at 570-779-4018

Fire Employee

3 Essential Steps Before You Fire an Employee

Your employees need access to your various business accounts so they can do their job, but what happens to those passwords when you fire them? Nobody likes to think of firing their employees, or why you’d need to, but nonetheless, it’s a responsibility every business owner must face at some point. While your accounts team will no doubt be on top of stopping their paychecks, it’s important to take the same proactive stance to strip their system access.

Most of the time, the former employee leaves under good terms and you’ll wish them well. If you’re lucky, they’ll even manage hand-over to their replacement so your productivity losses are minimal. Other employees may leave your business reluctantly or in a storm of anger and suspicion. While you’ll have very different feelings about the two scenarios, the risk to your business remains high until action is taken. Here are 3 steps you can take to protect your business from retaliation and other password-related disasters.

Limit access to a need-to-know basis

You might be surprised how often a new employee is presented the entire business on a platter when their actual job requires little more than a computer login. Accounts, strategy, customer details, industry secrets…all those sensitive aspects of your business that have made it a success – exposed. A better policy is to limit access to only what the employee needs to do their job. Rather than view it as a lack of trust, your employees will appreciate the care you’ve taken to protect your business (and their job). It also helps keeps them from being overwhelmed, confused or tempted if the situation ever turns sour. Likewise, take a few moments to delete old or temporary accounts that are no longer required, as you never know when a hacker or disgruntled employee will squeeze through the gaps.

Change passwords fast

On average, it takes at least a week before passwords are changed after an employee is fired, if at all. Unfortunately, this is the one type of delay your business can’t afford. In 2017, an ex-employee from the American College of Education held their entire email system to ransom for $200,000 after an unhappy exit. Stories of others stealing client databases are also common, especially as they leave to start their own business or work for a competitor. It’s not just full-time employees either, contract and part-time employees such as social media managers and customer support email specialists often have access to more of your business than you might imagine. Recent rulings make it easier for business owners to prosecute former employees who access their systems, however as we know, it only takes seconds to login and wreak absolute havoc. Knowing you can force those bad eggs into a lengthy court case is poor comfort considering the extent of damage you’ll likely endure. The best option is to change passwords fast – even before your employee knows they’re fired. This lessens the chance of revenge attacks and opportunistic access.

Use a password manager

If you have good password manager like LastPass, reducing your risk becomes mostly automated. You’ll be able to keep your logins in a central vault that only you can see, and share based on business roles/need. There’s even an option to share passwords without letting employees see them in plain-text. Instead of writing passwords down somewhere and manually entering them each time, they’ll be able to connect securely with a click. Plus, you can revoke the share at any time. If their role changes or they’re fired, you can use the dashboard to see who is having access to what and add/revoke at will. If you’re not sure what that employee has been up to, you can also generate reports of their history.

We can help you set up password management and lock down your network. Call us at 570-779-4018!

backup right way

Are You Backing Up the Right Way?

The 31st of March is World Backup day and it’s a great time to put a backup in place. Businesses are losing huge amounts of data every day, purely because ‘backing up’ is stuck at the bottom of their to-do list. So this is your reminder, that even if you only do this once a year when the calendar tells you to, it’s time to flip that to-do list and make it happen! But how? What’s the easiest, most effective way for your business to backup?

You’ve probably heard of file backup by a number of names: Cloud Sync, Cloud Backup or Cloud Storage. They’re all similar enough to be confusing and meaningless enough to be anything. Here’s what they mean and which one you need today.

Cloud Sync

Google Drive, Dropbox, iCloud, etc are services that sync up with a single folder on your computer. They mirror it. When a file changes in one, the sync service rushes to change it on your computer too, so they are always the same. Cloud Sync services are hugely flexible for remote employees, or even those squeezing in a few quick tasks while riding the train to work. They’re ridiculously easy to use, require no training, and the free tiers are enough for most individuals. This all sounds amazing, right? Except…when things go wrong, they go wrong big time. Accidentally deleting a file means it disappears from the Cloud Sync drive – almost immediately. Overwriting a file does the same thing, and if an employee makes edits to the wrong file, then those edits are there to stay. If disaster strikes and your local copy becomes corrupted (or ransomed), well you guessed it, the corruption is uploaded too. While some Cloud Sync services now offer a 30 day backup option, you may not notice the file was missing within this time.

Cloud Sync services are fantastic for productivity and accessing files on the go, but they simply can’t be relied on as your backup tech.

Cloud Storage

Amazon S3, Microsoft Azure, etc are massive buildings full of storage drives that work just like your local hard drive, except you access them securely via the internet. In fact, when you use a cloud sync app like Dropbox, they’re actually sending your data to one of these locations. While the sync services have a constant back and forth connection between the storage center and your folder, and as explained above aren’t good for backup, you have another option. You can access cloud storage on a per/GB basis yourself and upload your entire backup as desired. It won’t update with changes on your local network, but it will be safe from disaster. When you need to retrieve a file, you simply login and download it.

Your backed up data is secure, protected against disaster, and always available to you. However, because it relies on you/your employee to handle the backup plan and manually take care of the uploads, this is a high-risk solution. Unless your employee is scouring your network each day/week/month for changes to files and uploading them with fervent dedication, chances are this plan won’t work. We recommend an automated or outsourced solution so you can get on with business AND be protected.

Cloud Backup

Carbonite, Backblaze backup, Crashplan, etc might not be names you’ve heard before, but they work in the background to monitor changes to files on your computer or network and make sure you’re backed up. You can roll back individual files or whole drives, and even select from earlier backups, not just one. Like sync services, they use cloud storage centers with extra-high security and redundancy so that your data is always there when you need it. Even better, neither you nor your employees need to worry about when it was last done.

The One You Need

Let’s take a moment to talk planning. We recommend starting with the 3-2-1 strategy. This means having 3 copies in total, 2 of them locally such as on your computer and an external drive, and another offsite in the cloud. Using this strategy keeps your business operating when data disasters occur and is an investment in your uptime. We can help get you set up with the 3-2-1 method, including selecting the best cloud service for your needs. If you’re looking for a more scalable, cost-effective solution that gives the utmost peace of mind, ask about our managed backups service.

Need help with your backup? 3-2-1… Call us at 570-779-4018!

outsourcing your IT

Outsourcing your IT

Why outsource your IT?  As a Small – Medium Business (SMB), the question of outsourcing your Information Technology (IT) may have frequently crossed your mind, especially with the surging security breaches that the media outlets seem to broadcast weekly.  Whether your business does not already have a dedicated IT Department or if you are seeking complementary services to your already established IT infrastructure, outsourcing your IT technology can provide tremendous benefits to your business.  Using the 3 R’s (Reasons, Risks & Rewards) can provide a base to examine if outsourcing your IT may be beneficial and effective for your business.     

 

REASONS to outsource your Managed IT Services

  • Outsourcing is Budget Friendly – Cost Effective – Reduce & Control Operating Costs.
  • Would your business like to improve your and Your Employees’ Focus and Resources?
  • Would your business like to Reduce Labor Costs?  
  • Is your business finding it difficult to keep up to date with Routine Maintenance on Workstations and Servers?
  • Is your business finding it difficult to start or manage IT Projects?
  • Make capital available for other means in your business.
  • Reduce Security Risks.

 

RISKS involved with outsourcing Managed IT Services

Any time you hand over responsibilities for any aspect of your business you are inviting risk. Whether hiring a staff member or outsourced service, you may have lingering hesitations, such as, What are they supposed to do? Or Will they fit in with the company culture? Or Did I hire the right person?  

 

Some other risks that you may consider when outsourcing your Managed IT Services:

 

  • Loss of Control – Oversight
  • Confidentiality of DATA – entrusting someone to your company’s intimate practices may seem like a risk, but an Outsourced IT Service provider can also help protect your DATA from ending up in the wrong hands
  • Disaster Recovery – much like confidentiality, an Outsourced IT Service provider can mitigate and help to make a plan for Disaster Recovery
  • Some IT functions are not easily converted
  • Employee Morale
  • Your business may get locked into a contract

 

REWARDS of outsourcing your Managed IT Services

  • Acquire a Valuable Partner –  a committed Expert of Outsourced Managed IT that provides professional, objective and best practice advice along with keeping up with the most current technology trends.
  • Add to your In-House capabilities.
  • Little to no Human Resource (HR) Investment.  Hiring an employee hosts a staple of expenses from the hiring process, background checks and supplying a space to work to account for benefits, vacation, sick days, worker’s compensation, continued training, employee performance reviews, human resources, and of course, employee turnover.
  • Cost Savings.
  • Flexible to your Company’s changes in size, volume, and strategy.
  • Security – Keeping your Systems updated, leveraging Virus protection and proactively monitoring.
  • Predictable Monthly Budget.
  • Prevent Burnout of Yourself and Employees.

 

BONUS – Tips to Working with your Outsourced Managed IT

  • Clearly formulate and communicate goals and objectives of the business relationship
  • Have a Strategic Vision
  • Keep Open Communication

 

Managed IT Outsourcing companies have a lot of experience with different types of businesses and thus – a better understanding of a client’s expectations. This is the main reason why outsourced companies are able to be flexible with your requests and visions. They can even propose new ideas that can change your perspectives. Outsourcing companies see your existing infrastructure from a different vantage point and can customize a solution for your individual business needs.  

 

About Herstek & Associates, LLC

Herstek & Associates, LLC is a professional outsourced computer service company serving small to medium businesses in Luzerne and Lackawanna Counties in Northeast Pennsylvania (NEPA). Our specialties are network planning (network consulting), network projects, and ongoing network/computer maintenance. We pride ourselves in not only delivering the results you expect but also being knowledgeable, systematic, accountable, trustworthy and easy to work with. To speak with a Support Advisor about the the computer support provided by Herstek & Associates, LLC please call us at (570)779-4018 or contact us.