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Tech New Year 2019

Preparing Your Business Tech to Start the New Year

The start of a new year is a challenging time for businesses. It can be a good time to reflect on the wins and losses of the previous twelve months. It’s also an excellent time to take stock and evaluate what your business needs to go forward.

IT demands move at a staggering speed, meaning last year’s tech may not fit next year’s needs.

The new year can bring major change to both the business and the environment it operates in. Regulations, contract terms, and seasonal spending habits mean that adaptations have to be made for continued growth.

A smart business knows how and where to incorporate flexibility to win more business and adapt to a new environment. As we move into the new year, there are fundamental questions we should ask about our IT to ensure we are ready to tackle the next twelve months too.

Is Your Hardware Still Up to The Task?

Businesses are often challenged by their client’s demand for files that seem to continually increase in size and resolution. The storage needed to handle, use, and archive these enormous files appears to grow at a near exponential rate.

Every device today is capable of capturing more data at a higher resolution than ever before. Huge data needs have become the new standard.

The expectation of bigger and bigger data is only set to continue as we progress into another new year. Many clients expect, or demand, exceptional quality from professional services and with a fast turnaround time too.

These competing demands put as much strain on network hardware and computing power as they do physical storage. One of the most important things a business can do when reviewing IT demands is to ensure there are no bottlenecks in the productivity pipeline.

Is Your Backup Reliable and Ready?

Almost every business in the modern day has learned enough to put a backup in place. Whether simply transferring files manually to USB storage, copying documents over to a local server, or saving media to the cloud. However, not every business is testing their backups. Fewer still are testing them reliably.

A backup is only as good as what we know can be reliably restored from it. Cases have emerged where big-name firms had famously believed they were backing up successfully for months or years, only to find out their backup was failing when they really needed it.

Whether impacted by missing assets, unable to transfer files, or affected by corrupt data, an untested backup may be as useful as not having any backup at all. A critical goal for the safety and reliability of any business should be to have dependable backups that are tested at regular intervals.

Is Your Compliance Still Up to Date?

Nearly every business in the world has compliance and regulations standards it must adhere to if it is to keep its position in the marketplace. These may be industry specific such as medical or automotive certifications, or regional protections such as data protection regulations.

Requirements for each of these areas change regularly. It is up to each firm to keep on top of both changes to rules and changes to the firm which may impact them.

Changing IT can often impact certifications in a big way. Many feature rules which affect storage, processing, or altering the way in which data is used; it’s essential to check your usage against strict requirements relevant to your business.

While time-consuming and difficult, these checks require a strong knowledge of both the rules and your IT system. The penalties for failure can be severe and crippling. It is a critical area of the firm you can’t afford to get wrong.

If you are looking to boost your business in the new year, check up on your systems and technology, or dust up your certifications to the latest standard: there’s never a better time than now.

Give us a call at 570-779-4018 to get your new year off to a flying start.

Why Do People Create Viruses?

You’d be right in thinking it’s hard to program a computer virus that can spread across the world in a flash – we’re talking days of constant desk-jockey nerd-work. So why do they bother? Well, it generally comes down to 3 reasons: Money, showing off their skill, or to simply being a jerk. While showing off or being a jerk is pretty self-explanatory, the money side is fascinating.

Here’s how people are making money with computer viruses:

Bank account theft: Virus creators are more than happy to help themselves to your bank details, sneaking in to grab your login details or credit card info. They can either transfer your funds away or use your credit card details to go on a shopping spree. Sometimes they’ll leave the fun to another person though, and simply sell your details to the highest bidder.

Ransomware: Rather than a financial snatch and grab, sometimes a virus will encrypt your files and demand money for the unlock code. Without a true backup plan in place beforehand, you’re at their mercy. You’ll be given very helpful information on how to pay, plus a firm deadline before your files are destroyed permanently.

Ad swappers: A cheeky technique, this is when they create a virus that either puts annoying ads on websites you visit, or places affiliate codes on pages so that when you buy something legitimately – eg, from Amazon – they get a percentage as a ‘referral fee’. Their kickback doesn’t make your purchase cost more and you may not even know you’re supporting their activities.

Bitcoin mining: You might have heard of digital currencies being used for payment, but did you know you can also earn them with your computer processing power? Unfortunately, ‘renting’ out your computer’s processing power means paying more in running costs than you’d make – unless you were very clever and sneaky, and used a virus to rent out other people’s computers.

Botnets: Certain infected computers can be remotely controlled to do whatever the virus creator wants. In this case, they’ll usually set the infected bot computers to overwhelm a target web server, like an e-commerce store. Sometimes it’s done as revenge, but more often it’s blackmail. The ‘Botmaster’ says “pay me thousands of dollars or I’ll crash your site during the biggest shopping day of the year.”

Account stealing: Subscription accounts like Netflix and Hulu are often hijacked, leaving you to pay the bill for someone else’s entertainment. But sometimes, virus creators go one step further with online gaming accounts. All those digital items that you fought so hard for (special clothing, weapons etc.) can carry real world value and be stolen from your account and sold on a black market. Yes, that’s cheating!

Give us a call at 570-779-4018 to make sure your computer is secure and protected.

You can afford security in your business!

I hear it all the time. We are only 5 users. I can’t afford security. Why would someone try to hack into our firm? What we have works just fine.

Hopefully, you have never had to rely on your home or car insurance but there is a reason for it. Think of taking steps protect yourself from cyber criminals as insurance. It is MUCH more expensive to recover from an attack. Beyond the time spent for a professional to help you or paying the ransom, you may be liable for your employees and customers data.

You need security

You need security to protect you, your clients and your business.

The trend of malware being directly targeted at small business continues to grow. 2016 was the year of ransomware and 2017 is shaping up to be worse. Small business has the most to loose. You are the most likely to pay. You are becoming their favorite target.

You can do something about it!

Here is a sample quote for a five user single location office with a local file server. This assumes that there is a basic network, PCs and a server in place.

Some of the items in the list could be optional depending on your current office configuration.

pfSense® Security Appliance $225.00
Wireless Access Port AC $130.00
8 port “smart” switch $70.00
Miscelanous patch cables and parts $50.00
Install and security configuration $500.00
Total $975.00

Opt in for our Gold level service for $50 a month per workstation and $150 a month per server and receive:

  • 24/7 Network Monitoring
  • Daily Backup Monitoring
  • Patch Managment (Your systems, router, and programs always up to date)
  • Year-End Technology Review
  • Monthly Audit and Tune Up
  • Endpoint Software Included (Anti-virus and Anti-malware)
  • Cloud File Backup up to 250 GB
  • 4 hour Guaranteed Response
  • Next Business Day Guaranteed On-site
  • Hourly rate reduced 20%

 

This configuration would last years and you gain the following:

  • High-speed secure wireless with expandable coverage and a secure guest wireless and captive portal option
  • High-speed VOIP (Voice over IP) friendly router and firewall that is much faster, flexible and expandable than a consumer class option
  • Snort IPS/IDS (Intrusion Protection/Intrusion Detection) that can be custom configured
  • Multi-level malicious website protection and website content control
  • Endpoint Security from Avast and AVG
  • Easy to configure site-to-site and remote VPN configuration so you can access your files from home

This is just an example. Depending on your demands and how secure you want to be, we may need to modify this to fit your requirements.

Give us a call at 570-779-4018 to discuss your options!

 

Ransomware: It is not just a scare tactic

It is not just a scare tactic, and it is not going away

Ransomware activity continues to rise, and it doesn’t appear to be slowing down for 2017. In 2016 it spiked by 6000%, and it is on track to be a 1 billion dollar a year “business.” IBM study.

Software teams are building ransomware kits to sell on the Dark Web. RaaS (Ransomware as a service!) is a thing. This means there are illegal companies making money from designing kits to build ransomware. So, not only are criminals making money from ransomware, the distributors don’t even have to be good at programming or hacking to do it. There is enough of a demand that a small team of programmers is making money from selling the software to commit the crime. It is also making it extremely hard for old fashion virus scanners to catch the activity because each criminal is adding their own twist.

How it happens

  • Phishing email
  • user clicks on link or attachment
  • ransomware makes contact
  • C&C server generates & retrieves an encryption key
  • ransomware scans infected a machine, looking for files
  • ransom demand
  • connects to other machines and infects them
  • ransomware builds an inventory of encrypted files
  • scan other machines over the network

Business Targeting

It used to be consumers or simplistic shotgunning techniques. Now there is more and more direct targeting. Business targets make sense to the bad guys. Consumers or individuals might just start from scratch, but businesses are more likely to pay a ransom. It is much more lucrative form them to target small business.

Spearphishing

Spearphishing is direct targeting your personal account using techniques to fool you into trusting the source. The criminal could use social media sites to gather information. The email may be crafted specifically for you and may even look like it comes from a person you know. One click is all it takes. And it isn’t just email anymore. Messaging, texting, and other apps can lead to infection.

 

 

What do you do about it?

Backup! Backup! Backup!

Step number one should be making sure your backup is up to date and ready to be restored. One “newer” option is DRaaS (disaster recovery as a service) but even a simple disk backup is better than nothing. Regardless, you need to spend time analyzing your current setup and determining if you need to take further steps to protect your data. If you have multiple, granular, safe and secure backups and can restore your data, you don’t have to pay the ransom.

Updates!

Keep your devices and systems on the latest version and patches. This should include firmware. Less exploitable software and devices mean that if you do get infected, it is less likely to spread.

Endpoint Protection!

Yes, you still need endpoint protection. While signature based isn’t what it used to be, companies are making strides and it is still worthwhile. You should look for something with anti-malware, anti-ransomware, and anti-exploit features. And you should protect all your devices: Mobile, desktops, laptops, physical and virtual servers.

Network/Gateway Security 

This should include some type of email protection even if you are using an outside source (Gmail, Office 365, Hosted solution) to host your email. You should also have a firewall with a strong IPS/IDS (intrusion protection system/intrusion detection system). Use VPNs whenever possible. This includes cloud and virtual. Do not make the mistake of assuming that these technologies make your network safer.

Also, please do not use a consumer class gateway/firewall. And if you insist on using one, change the default password!

Establish a Security Policy

This one may sound simple but it is possibly the most important and hardest to implement. You need to train your users. You need to train yourself. You need to have plans in place in case something does happen.

Ransomware: It's is not just a scare tactic
Ransomware: It is not just a scare tactic

Removing Viruses and Malware

Best offense is a strong defense

Stop using free antivirus software! You need to have a strong defensive system in place. If one of these bugs creeps into your system, it can cause all types of havoc. If you are a residential user, your personal data (documents, photos, etc.) is at risk. Even if you store most of your data in cloud applications, it is not safe.

Malware removal

Malware removalMalware removal can be a tricky thing. Sure you may be able to fix it yourself but how long will it take you? And at what cost to your sanity? We have years of experience removing all type of bugs from all different systems.  Let us take on the headache for you.

The definition of malware is very broad. It includes scareware, adware, trojans, spyware, viruses, ransomware. Some of these things are mostly harmless and just slow down your computer with ads and popups. Others are downright nasty and no matter what you try, they keep coming back. Some of the newer strains of malware lock down your important files (pictures, documents, databases, and more) and the only way to recover them is if you have a backup or pay the ransom.

Even well set up protection can still let some bugs in the system.  If you have some malware and need it gone, we can get rid of it for you and attempt to recover any lost data if possible.

backups

Make multiple backups to protect yourself from ransomware

Ransomware is running rampant in the news. It isn’t just some scare tactic to get you to buy more papers or watch more clips. In this particular case, I don’t think they are reporting on it enough or making the public aware of how much of an issue it really is. Ransomware is here and it isn’t going away anytime soon.

If you didn’t read it yet, you might want to look at my last post about ransomware.

 

Backups! Backups! Backups!

Maybe we aren’t saying it enough. Backing up your data, pictures, and documents is a very important step in protecting yourself from ransomware. It may not have helped these hospitals in the news but it WILL help your small business. We have helped a number of businesses recover and thankfully they had a backup system in place.

  • Have more than one backup
  • Check your backup reports frequently
  • Make sure you verify the data in the backup to make sure there are not any issues

If you would rather DIY, a general rule of thumb is to have one off-site and one on-site backup. There are a number of online backup services and external backup drives are relatively inexpensive. If you have more than one machine, this process can get compilated and expensive quickly. We can help you figure out the best way and save you some money in the process.

Contact us to setup your backup system and monitoring services so that you know that you are always protected.

backups
A good start for your external nightly backups.

 

Cryptowall

We had a customer infected with cryptowall this week.  Thankfully the server was backed up well so most of his files were recoverable.  He had a few personal files that were stored on his local drive that were not.  These new ones are very nasty.  There is no decrypt tool.  You need a backup or to pay the ransom or you are not getting your files back.   The new ones also scan shared directories so your server files are not safe.  Update your pcs.  Get ride of windows XP.  Make sure you have up to date virus protection.  Backup.  Do not not ignore the virus protection warnings.  Be safe out there.

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…