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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

Hackers, Ransomware, and Malware. Oh, My!

Is your company protected?

These attacks continue to rise. They are targeting more and more small businesses. 1 in 5 small businesses will suffer a cyber breach this year. 97% of breaches are preventable. There are affordable solutions to protect yourself.

These are some things that you and your IT company should talk about implementing:

  • Backup — Backup. Backup. Backup. You should have onsite and offsite backups. Consider full operating system disaster recovery and testing. These should be monitored and tested frequently.
  • Updates — Update everything! Software, firmware, and operating systems. If you are running on unsupported or outdated systems you are asking for trouble.
  • Spam email prevention — This is one of the main sources of attacks. You need to train your employees and have a spam filter in place. Even if you are using a service like Gsuite or Office 365, you should consider using additional protection.
  • Passwords — Everyone hates passwords but they are a necessary evil. At the very least you should make sure they are long and not easy to guess. We recommend changing your passwords every 90 days. And please don’t use the same passwords everywhere! All it would take is one breach to loose all your data. There are tools available to help keep track if you are like me and have 300 of them.
  • Multi-factor Authentication — Consider using this everywhere you can. If your password is stolen, this adds another layer of protection to your data. Avoid SMS/Text if possible as these can be intercepted.
  • Advanced endpoint security — Simple definition based anti-virus is not enough anymore.
  • Firewall — Make sure built protection systems are enabled and the log files are being monitored.
  • Encryption — This protects hackers from accessing your data via stolen hardware. Mobile devices (phone, laptop, tablet) should always be encrypted. Consider encrypting at rest data and devices as well.
Ransomware

How Much Could A Ransomware Attack Cost You?

Have you ever thought about how much your data is worth? Information is possibly the most valuable part of your business – there’s your client database, accounting software and inventory management, and of course, any intellectual property you may own. When the ransomware, WannaCry, tore through the world recently, many businesses were suddenly forced to re-assess the value of their data: was it worth saving, and what would be the deeper cost of the attack?

Most ransomware attacks cost $150-$600 to get your files released, but that’s only IF the cyber-criminals honor the payment and actually give you the decryption key. Meanwhile, new client calls are still coming in and you may find yourself unable to operate with your systems down. Paying the ransom or restoring from an unaffected backup seems like a quick fix, but it doesn’t end there. There’s still the downtime involved to restore all your data – possibly days – and that’s a lot of lost productivity. Plus, if word gets out that your data has been compromised, you may find confidence in your business plummets and your existing clients head elsewhere. That $150 ransom may end up costing well over $150,000!

Prevent Ransomware Attacks on your Business

Keep your systems up to date: WannaCry took advantage of a flaw in older versions of Windows, one that was since patched by Microsoft. But to be protected, businesses had to be up to date with their patches AND be running a supported version of Windows. Delaying patches and updates puts your business at risk – we can help you update automatically.

Lock down employee computers: Very few staff will require full administrator access to your business network. The higher their level of permissions, the more damage a person can do – either accidentally with a whoopsie click, or by inadvertently installing malware. By locking down your employee computers, you have a better chance of containing a malware attack to non-vital systems. Our experts can design an access management plan that gives you best of both worlds: flexibility PLUS security.

Educate your workplace: Most employees believe they’re being cyber-safe but the reality is quite different. Many malicious links and embedded malware have become hard to spot in an instant – which is all it takes to click and regret. We can work with your staff to establish procedures around checking links for authenticity before clicking, awareness around verifying the source of attachments, and the importance of anti-virus scanning. We’ll help get the message through!

Have a solid backup plan: When ransomware hits, a connected backup = infected backup. Unfortunately, synced options such as Dropbox immediately clone the infected files, rendering them useless. The only safe backups will be the ones both physically and electronically disconnected, with systems designed to protect against attacks like this. Our experts can set you up with a backup system that makes recovery a breeze.

Be proactive: The best way to avoid the financial cost of a ransomware attack is to prevent it from happening in the first place. Remember, many businesses were able to watch WannaCry from the sidelines, completely unaffected and seizing opportunities while their competitors were down.

Our managed services can help protect your business against the next cyber-attack.

Call us today!

Windows Updates

Why Your Windows Updates Are More Important Than Ever

Stories about hackers and virus attacks seem to be making the news almost every day, and many of these news stories include tips on how you can avoid becoming a victim. One common theme among these tips is making sure your Windows operating system up to date.

Every day hackers are trying to figure out new ways to break into Microsoft Windows and once they do find a weakness, they try and find a way to spread it. This could be through a malicious email attachment or even something that spreads without your involvement.

Updates Explained

Whenever Microsoft discovers a potential flaw, they push out a small piece of software to all Windows computers running a supported version. If set correctly, your computer will check if there’s any updates or patches and install them automatically. In new versions, this usually happens when you’re shutting down or starting up, and doesn’t impact your experience at all. Unfortunately, some users will manually disable or delay their updates, creating a risky situation.

The update may include security patches, drivers or a simple tweak to address bugs or issues with Windows. Sometimes, they even include new features or applications to improve the stability of your operating system. They’re a good thing!

Not All Versions Get Updates

Some older operating systems are no longer supported, which means unless there are extenuating circumstances, Microsoft won’t issue any new updates. Not a single one – generally, if cyber criminals discover a flaw after support ends, they’re free to exploit it. For example, Windows XP support ended in 2014, and Windows Vista just ended in April this year. The moment an operating system is retired it becomes a playground for cyber-criminals.

It’s not just Microsoft walking away from these old versions either. Third party software like the Google Chrome browser will still work, but they’ve also stopped supporting old versions with crucial updates and patches. It might seem like everything is working fine because your anti-virus isn’t pinging in alarm, but it just becomes a case of risk, upon risk, upon risk.

What to do with older Windows

As much as you’re comfortable with your older version of Windows, each time you boot up you’re exposing your system, important files and entire network. It only takes one weak entry point in the chain to allow malware into all connected devices. That could mean your photo storage, media center or even smart appliances. It’s not worth it – if you’re running Windows XP or Vista (or older), you need to update to a more modern operating system ASAP. Give us a call to upgrade your computer.

We can also monitor your system remotely and apply your Windows updates with our Managed Services packages, ensuring you are always up to date and protected. Give us a call Today!

WannaCry Ransomware Explained: Is Your Business At Risk?

You’d be hard-pressed to miss last week’s biggest headline, the WannaCry cyber-attack sent shockwaves around the globe. Businesses of all sizes and even police departments found themselves crippled without warning.

Among the most prominent victims were many NHS hospitals in the UK, affecting up to 70,000 individual devices such as essential MRI scanners and blood-storage refrigerators. But by the time it hit the news, it was too late – either your system was protected, or it was infected. Here’s how it all went so wrong.

What is WannaCry?

The WannaCry cyber-attack was a type of malware (the collective name for computer viruses & bad juju) called ‘ransomware’. Just like the name suggests, it’s actually a demand for money. Like all ransomware attacks, WannaCry encrypts your files and holds them hostage until you pay. In this case, the price was set at $300, payable with internet currency Bitcoin, and you had 3 days to pay before it doubled. If you didn’t pay, the ransomware threatened to delete your files permanently. It’s yet unknown how much money the WannaCry hackers have earned with their latest attack, but you can be sure plenty of people have paid the ransom. Even the FBI recommends paying the ransom, especially if the ransomed files are of a sensitive nature or weren’t backed up.

How It Spread So Fast

It seems WannaCry may be a ‘computer worm’ that self-replicates and spreads, rather than a phishing attack that needs to be activated with a click. So far, no common trigger has been identified, as is normally the case with phishing links. WannaCry moved rapidly from system to system, spreading out through the entire network, including all connected backups and storage devices. At the same time, it spread out to infect other networks, who then spread it further, and so on. Given the nature of the internet, it was everywhere within hours.

Why Some Businesses Were Safe

WannaCry could ONLY infect systems that have fallen 2 months behind in their Windows updates. This is because it was created to take advantage of a specific vulnerability in Windows, one which Microsoft patched months ago. Without that patch, the ransomware could waltz right past the firewall, past the anti-virus and directly into the system (the NHS were reportedly running Windows XP – no longer supported). Those running Windows 10 or a fully patched, recent version of Windows were completely unaffected – the virus literally had no way in

It just goes to show the importance of staying up to date. We haven’t seen a second spike in WannaCry attacks yet, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be one. A quick update could protect your business from weeks of downtime and lost revenue, making attacks like this a non-issue.

With our managed services, we can make sure you stay up to date – and protected. Give us a call today at 570-779-4018.

How to Make Computer Issues A Thing of the Past

We repair many computers and laptops each week, but unfortunately this is often ‘closing the barn door after the horse has bolted’. Computers have a habit of dying at the worst possible time – like when an important project is due tomorrow, or before you copy family photos to a backup. We’ve combined our repair services with preventative measures to ensure this doesn’t happen to you. Our managed IT services can remotely take care of all the computers in your house, protecting you against both threats and system failure.

Anti-virus always up-to-date: While many homes have anti-virus software installed, they don’t often have the latest virus and threat definitions. These systems are at risk every minute they spend online, as the anti-virus simply will not pick up and stop an unknown threat.

New viruses and hacking threats arise every day, and there are entire companies dedicated to creating anti-virus updates to catch them. We can make sure your anti-virus definitions are always up-to-date, keeping your computer secure against even the newest viruses.

Software patches: Hackers like to spend their time figuring out new ways to break into computer systems. Software companies like Microsoft and Apple release regular patches to close these security holes. The patches are supposed to be applied automatically, but we often find that isn’t the case – patches didn’t download, were canceled or produced an error. Our services involve remotely checking that each patch has been applied successfully, and troubleshooting if required. As an added advantage, any time new features are packaged into an update, you’ll find them already installed for you.

Early failure detection: Some parts in your computer send out alarm bells when they’re about to die. Unfortunately, they’re not literal alarm bells (that would be too convenient), but information in the background that needs to be interpreted or manually checked. We can monitor these and advise repairs as required.

Data protection: Hard drives which store your information do eventually wear out, but they’re one of the parts that send out early failure warnings. We can monitor this and give you ample warning so that you have time to back up your important files. When it’s time, we’ll work with you to arrange drive replacement, making sure to either clone or re-install your operating system, whichever suits your needs best.

Tune-ups: Even the most cared for computer will slow down over time. Hard drives become cluttered, operating systems corrupt and ghosts of uninstalled programs still remain. We can remotely schedule and run a regular maintenance routine that will keep your system running in top condition and lightning speeds.

Our managed IT service happens entirely behind the scenes, so there is no disruption to your experience. You simply enjoy the benefits of having your own IT specialist team at one flat, low cost. You and your family continue to use your computer/s as normal, the only difference is problems are fixed BEFORE they happen and your system has the very best security against threats.

Start with managed IT services today. Call us at 570-779-4018

Ransomeware and Security Breaches, Oh My!

Is your data backed up?  Are you sure?  There is a new wave of ransomeware on the loose.    Some of the new strains don’t even fix the issue after you pay the ransom so you risk loosing documents and pictures completely.  This can be devastating in both a personal and corporate environment.   It is a good time to review virus/malware protection, review your backups and check on any possible security holes.  Let us help!  We live for this stuff.  Contact us here…