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Invest Well in Your IT Security

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” is a common and useful rule for many business owners. It serves to protect your business against unnecessary costs and unneeded downtime. While protecting your business against many types of danger, it poses an outright threat when it comes to IT security.

Security threats to your firm move so fast that your IT should be working twice as hard as your company just to keep up. Every day, hundreds of thousands of new malware threats are released. Falling even hours behind means any one of these attacks can threaten your business.

The single most dangerous thing IT security can do is stand still. Keeping up with the latest advice, technology, and updates the security industry offers is vital to keep your business safe. This makes up much of the unseen job of IT professionals. Hackers never stop looking for new ways into your system, which means your security can’t stop looking for ways to keep them out.

Modern Systems for Modern Business

One of the most common security threats a business opens itself to is using an outdated operating system or software package. Many firms are scared to upgrade, update, or renew their IT over fears of breaking legacy systems. Many rely heavily on old software and are afraid to make a large change themselves. Some businesses today still run machines on Windows XP, an operating system first released back in 2001.

Old operating systems stop receiving security updates and patches that protect against newly released attacks. These systems become very vulnerable, presenting a large target for knowledgeable hackers. This happens many years after newer versions have been released, giving knowing IT firms a chance to migrate safely.

Hackers are always on the lookout for businesses that run IT equipment outside of its suggested service life. A server, desktop computer, or peripheral is a golden opportunity for criminals to enter and threaten a business.

Hackers purchase their attacks on the dark web, safe in the knowledge that old systems won’t be patched. These attacks can then be used to attack unguarded firms to steal or compromise vital company data.

An unpatched old machine is like a valuable security door left propped open overnight, a golden opportunity for thieves.

Smart Budgets

Budgeting for business is a difficult task. We aim to make the most of everything we spend and reduce spending as much as we can. IT security can easily fall very far down the list of priorities.

IT can seem like an easy way to cut costs. It’s a department that the customer doesn’t always benefit from directly, and when it’s working well, it might not be on the radar at all. Despite working largely behind the scenes, successful IT is one of the critical components of every highly successful firm. Good IT can be the binding glue that holds the company together.

Even businesses far removed from the IT world typically uses payment machines, ordering systems, and inventory. Even restaurants and retail stores rely on computers to operate. Downtime for any critical system can be a complete disaster. A business can be unable to trade, and costs can mount up fast.

When vital IT components are used by the customer, a sales website, or an automated booking system for example, the problem can multiply tenfold.

Keep On Top Of The Essentials

Good IT isn’t built on high peaks and deep troughs in the yearly budget. The kind of IT that makes your business and helps it to grow is built by smart financing and careful planning. Great technicians are what makes excellent IT.

Maintaining steady updates, keeping pace with the latest security, and building your IT as you build your business keeps you in the driving seat when it matters most.

When IT is planned and issues are solved before they appear, security becomes cheaper, easier, and many times more effective. System upgrades can be planned out months, if not years in advance so you are never caught unaware.

Don’t let your IT be broken before you take steps to fix it. Move ahead of the curve and give us a call at 570-779-4018 so you don’t have to find out what your business looks like without IT.

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.

If you are still running Windows XP on your business PC, it is time to upgrade!

I just read an article that says there are still 181 million US-based PC running Windows XP. I have to think some of these PCs are in good old Wilkes-Barre, PA. Why do I think that? Becuase here in NEPA we seem to like to wring out every last penny.

I don’t understand. I suppose that I can see the reasons from a cost saving perspective. From a technology and security perspective, it does not make any sense. What software are they using on these old PCs? Don’t they have issues running websites? Are they using just using old software and hardware? What if the printer breaks. There are no new printers that will work with windows 98.

I have said it before, if you get a new desktop computer, you will be wondering why you spend all that time on that little tablet. I can’t imagine a PC from 2001 is anywhere close to fast. Even if you only have 5mbps internet line (slow for today), the PC will be the bottleneck.

And forget about the security.  Not only have there be no security updates in 2 years, and your antivirus is also expired and probably two years old at best. Even firefox and chrome are dropping support. What tools will you use to clean your PC if you get a virus? Most are no longer supporting XP.

I shudder to imagine the router and networking equipment that is being used.

You are right. Windows XP was a great operating system. Was. You have to let go. It is time to upgrade!

Windows XP upgrade
A decommissioned Windows XP unit.