"You're Fired!" (now give me your password)

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Losing an employee is not usually a good experience. If they leave voluntarily, you lose a valuable asset. If they have to be fired, you have the arduous task of the progressive discipline process and the final termination meeting. But there are other concerns that arise when an employee leaves. Those concerns are security and their access to company data.

Here are some considerations regarding passwords and voluntary termination (A.K.A. resigned) or involuntary termination (A.K.A. fired.) It is important you have a process in place so that whenever a termination occurs, nothing slips through the cracks regarding corporate data security.

  1. When you dismiss an employee, you should immediately change out all passwords for anything the employee had access to. Because almost all terminations should be planned, you should also define the process for canceling access. It is unwise to cancel prior to the termination meeting. If you do that, you create the potential for a confrontation when they arrive at work and find their passwords have been disabled. Instead, plan ahead and assign someone to disable their passwords during the time you are having the termination meeting. Before the meeting, be sure you have a list of all access cards, keys, etc. prepared so they can be cancelled before the employee leaves the building.

  2. Voluntary terminations ­- Different firms have different policies handling resignations. Depending on the specific position, an employee will be permitted to continue working during their 2 week notice period. In that case, you need to consider if there is any possibility the employee might get up to no good during the final days. That is something only you can judge.

In some cases, firms will ask an employee to leave the facility immediately. In that case, you need to have a plan in place. You need to have a list available of all of the restricted systems to which they have access for when this situation arises. The employee should not leave the building until all of their access has been canceled.

This all may seem a bit harsh, but things have changed. 30 years ago, for a disgruntled employee to steal files, they'd be carrying out large boxes of file folders. Now, not only can they empty the building onto a thumb drive, they can take nefarious action that wasn't possible when data was stored on paper.

Is that Email a phishing scheme?

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Research has revealed that over half of all users end up opening fraudulent emails and often even fall for them. Phishing is done with the aim of gathering personal information about you, generally related to your finances. The most common reason for the large number of people falling for fraudulent emails is that the phishing attempts are often so well-disguised that they escape the eyes of a busy email reader. Here are a few tips that help you identify whether that email really came from your bank or is another attempt at defrauding you…

1. They are asking for personal information - Remember, no bank or financial institution asks you to share your key personal information via email, or even phone. So, if you get an email where they ask for your ATM PIN or your e-banking password, something’s amiss.

2. The links seem to be fake - Phishing emails always contain links that you are asked to click on. You should verify if the links are genuine. Here are a few things to look for when doing that:

  • Spelling - Check for the misspellings in the URL. For example, if your bank’s web address is www.bankofamerica.com, a phishing scheme email could misspell it as www.bankofamarica.com or www.bankofamerica-verification.com
  • Disguised URLs - Sometimes, URLs can be disguised…meaning, while they look genuine, they ultimately redirect you to some fraudulent site. You can recognize the actual URL upon a mouseover, or by right clicking on the URL, and selecting the ‘copy hyperlink’ option and pasting the hyperlink on a notepad file. But, NEVER ever, paste the hyperlink directly into your web browser.
  • URLs with ‘@’ signs - If you find a URL that has an ‘@’ sign, steer clear of it even if it seems genuine. Browsers ignore URL information that precedes @ sign. That means, the URL www.bankofamerica.com@mysite.net will take you to mysite.net and not to any Bank of America page.

3. Other tell-tale signs - Apart from identifying fake URLs, there are other tell-tale signs that help you identify fraudulent emails. Some of these include:

  • Emails where the main message is in the form of an image, which, upon opening, takes you to the malicious URL.
  • Another sign is an attachment. Never open attachments from unknown sources as they may contain viruses that can harm your computer and network.
  • The message seems to urge you to do something immediately. Scammers often induce a sense of urgency in their emails and threaten you with consequences if you don’t respond. For example, threat of bank account closure if you don’t verify your ATM PIN or e-banking password.

Finally, get a good anti virus/email protection program installed. It can help you by automatically directing spam and junk mail into spam folders and deactivating malicious attachments.

Click, Click, BOOM – You're in Business But Is Your Technology Ready?

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It's a fast business world. Brilliant business ideas can be conjured up at some hipster-filled vegan coffeehouse, a website is thrown together, and poof... in no time at all there is a living, breathing, small business venture accessible from anywhere in the world.

But as your head hits the pillow at night, with visions of becoming the next Mark Zuckerberg dancing in your head, understand that many obstacles will greet you on your road to entrepreneurial success. A fresh innovative idea is merely a start. For every successful startup like Groupon, there are even more that have faltered. Some great, even revolutionary, business concepts that just faded into obscurity; leaving behind nothing but tales of what could've been and insurmountable debt.

Failed business technology is often a big reason for this. Many startups think big but tend to operate small-minded to keep overhead and costs down. They then find themselves completely unprepared to meet the demands of growth, particularly when it comes to their IT infrastructure. There is no one-size fit all approach to how to manage technology for optimal efficiency, uptime, and profitability. Especially given the challenges of limited budgets and the need to keep overhead down.

So exactly how do SMBs make sound decisions regarding their technology infrastructure? Choices that are cost-effective enough to get their business off the ground and running without screwing them over once it truly takes off?

Combine On-Site and Off-Site Support for the Best of Both Worlds

Over 45% of SMBs have no dedicated in-house IT staff and no contracted IT consultant regularly monitoring and managing their technology. Roughly only 7 percent of SMBs have a full-time onsite IT technician on payroll. The rest rely on third-party on-call IT companies who appear only when technology goes haywire and disrupts business. These on-call companies can sometimes take a day or two to even show up, which means issues aren't resolved in a timely and efficient manner. And did we mention they're expensive?

Most SMBs say they simply can't afford full-time in-house support. Even those who do budget for it face overwhelming challenges. They often experience a revolving door of on-site help who leave for a larger company and better salary once they've beefed up their resume. And those hires that do remain loyal often feel as if they have no reliable help and become overworked and frazzled as the business and their responsibilities grow. Discontent may even set in if wages aren't raised proportionately to the added responsibilities, or if they grow bored of doing the same mundane repetitive work everyday.

But today's SMB has access to technology that won't drain resources. In particular, the evolution of cloud computing and managed services can either automate or re-assign a lot of the day-to-day caretaking of technology to remote employees, leaving onsite support available for more meaningful and potentially profitable projects.

Better yet, it saves money on equipment costs.

Whenever possible, a mix of on-premise and off-premise IT support is the best way to make your technology scalable and prepared for growth.

Password Basics

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You can have all the locks on your data center and have all the network security available, but nothing will keep your data safe if your employees are sloppy with passwords.

There are many ways data can be breached, and opening some link they shouldn't is one of the most serious security sins employees can commit, but today we’ll just talk about passwords.

Here are some basic practices that you should require your employees to follow. These are basic tips. System administrators should implement other policies, such as those that forbid using passwords previously used and locking accounts after a few failed attempts to login. But just for you as a manager, here are a few tips.

  1. Change Passwords - Most security experts recommend that companies change out all passwords every 30 to 90 days.
  2. Password Requirements - Should include a of mix upper and lowercase, number, and a symbol.
  3. Teach employees NOT to use standard dictionary words (any language), or personal data that can be known, or could be stolen: addresses, tel numbers, SSN, etc.
  4. Emphasize that employees should not access anything using another employee's login. To save time or for convenience, employees may leave systems open and let others access them. This is usually done so one person doesn't take the time to logout and the next has to log back in. Make a policy regarding this and enforce it.

These are just a few basic password tips, but they can make a big difference in keeping your business's sensitive data safe.

Keep Your IT Guy and Outsource IT Services, Too

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Everyone in the office loves Eric. Sporting a different ironic t-shirt everyday, Eric is the one we call when technology spits in our face. Whether it's a slow system, a bug that needs to be squashed, a website issue, or a crash that results in unexpected downtime and data loss, Eric is right there. Not only does he get to the bottom of any issue but he also rights the ship like he's some sort of miracle-working captain who just happens to have a pretty wickedly funny Peter Griffin from Family Guy impersonation.

But business is growing and Eric is overworked. Eric has certain skills that you'd love to use to develop innovative applications and revenue-generating projects-- but he's too busy running around fixing things that break. Or he's performing the most mundane and routine tasks day-in-and-day-out just to keep things secure and running smoothly.

You get a sense that Eric's overburdened and he's saddled with too many responsibilities. His demeanor has changed from pleasant to moody. He's listening to angrier metal and punk music and you're noticing cracks in his work. You fear Eric is being pulled in too many directions and the reliability of your server, network, and applications, as well as the integrity of your data, are all at risk.

Someone who has watched a bit too much of Donald Trump on The Apprentice might think Eric should be fired. We're not going to fire Eric. But we're also not going to hire a full-time salaried Robin to his Batman or Cheech to his Chong. We're going to help Eric by exploiting IT automation and managed services to handle many of the monotonous tasks making Eric hate his job right now.

Let's help Eric.....

  • Focus Primarily on Cost-Cutting and Revenue Increasing Projects: First things first, Eric has to realize that he can't do everything himself. Where are his skills best used? Whether it's processes that help drive down costs or ones with the potential to raise revenue, evaluate the projects in the queue and rank them by what impacts the bottom line the most.

    Once that's done, look at the day-to-day processes designed to keep things running securely and efficiently. What can be off-loaded from Eric? Determine which of those tasks can be automated either through the cloud or managed services.
     
  • Take to the Cloud: Some IT people fear the cloud spells the end to their job security. Meanwhile, the cloud can actually help them take on a more prominent contributing role in the company's success.
    The cloud should be seen as another tool that further eliminates the mundane yet necessary daily drudgery from their workday. Those who work WITH the cloud will find that they have more available time to take on more meaningful cost cutting or revenue generating projects. 
     
  • Use a Managed Service Provider: Using outsourced managed services not only alleviates much of Eric's pressure and stress, but also boosts productivity and gives the company a much improved ROI (Return-on-Investment) on their technology investment.

    While technology has gotten easier for the end user, it has become more complex on the backend with the advent of virtualization, cloud computing, and advanced infrastructure.

    Using an MSP gives Eric access to a trusted adviser, a 24/7 help desk, remote monitoring and management tools, and much better disaster recovery and business continuity solutions. All without the overhead that comes with hiring more help for Eric. MSPs offer a consistency to not just your end-user but also your main IT guy who will certainly appreciate the help.

2018 SonicWall Cyber Threat Report

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Make no mistake, we are in a global cyber arms race. But it can’t be won alone: we are in this together.

That is why our trusted partner,SonicWall, is passing along findings, intelligence, analysis and research from their SonicWall Capture Labs to you today in their 2018 SonicWall Cyber Threat Report. By sharing actionable intelligence, we can help level the playing field against today’s most malicious cyber criminals.

Together, we face many battlefronts: some subsiding, some ongoing, others still on the horizon. Our latest Cyber Threat Report shows us where we — and our common cyber enemies — have advanced. Plus, it offers strategic insight on how, together, we can keep the upper hand.

Security Industry Advances

Ransomware attacks are down
The Cyber Threat Report looks at why expectations of increased numbers of ransomware attacks never materialized in 2017, even with WannaCry, NotPetya and Bad Rabbit stealing the headlines. At the same time, however, data from our cloud-based, multi-engine Capture Advanced Threat Protection (ATP) sandbox noted a spike in unique ransomware variants. While the volume was lower, the attacks were more targeted, unique and difficult to stop.

SSL, TLS encryption are up
The report documents a rapid increase of HTTPS in comparison to unencrypted HTTP sessions, which is critical for the security of cloud environments/applications and websites. However, this shift has given more opportunity for cyber criminals to hide malicious payloads in encrypted sessions. Unfortunately, while effective protection exists using deep packet inspection (DPI), there is still a widespread fear of complexity and lack of awareness around the need to inspect SSL and TLS sessions to stop hidden cyber attacks.

Exploit kits are shifting targets
Since browser vendors have largely phased out Adobe Flash, new Flash Player exploits have dropped off. But the Cyber Threat Report reveals some unexpected applications that are taking its place. Organizations should continually redefine and broaden the scope of applications and related files that could present a risk. In analyzing application volume, machine-learning technology can help protect against newer attack vectors.

Law enforcement disrupting cyber crime
Arrests of key malware and exploit kit authors are making a significant dent in the scale, volume and success of cyber attacks. In response, cyber criminals are being more careful with how they conduct business. Our latest report considers shifting trends in payment methods — particularly bitcoin — as well as other forces driving shifting trends in ransomware.

Cyber Criminal Advances

Ransomware variants increase
Despite a plunge in ransomware payouts, and a significant drop in total volume of ransomware attacks year over year, SonicWall Capture Labs identified a new malware variant for every 250 unknown hits. These new variants proved to be fairly effective when utilized. The Cyber Threat Report examines whether 2017 was an outlier, or if 2018 will signify a true shift in the threat landscape.

Encryption hiding cyber attacks
While encrypting traffic is a necessary practice, it can also cloak illegal or malicious traffic. For the first time ever, the 2018 SonicWall Cyber Threat Report offers real-world data from SonicWall Capture Labs that unmasks the volume of malware and other exploits hidden in encrypted sessions. These Capture Labs findings are our first empirical data available on SSL- and TLS-based attacks.

Malware cocktails shaking things up
Cyber criminals are creating “malware cocktails” that mainly rely on preexisting code with a few minor variants. These can spread quickly and more dangerously, while avoiding detection. While no single exploit rose to the level of Angler or Neutrino in 2016, there were plenty of malware writers leveraging one another’s code and mixing them to form new malware, thus putting a strain on signature-only security controls. The Cyber Threat Report looks at trending exploit kits and how they have repurposed old code for new gains.

IoT, chips processors are emerging battlegrounds
Cyber criminals are pushing new attack techniques into advanced technology spaces, notably the Internet of Things (IoT) and chip processors. These potential vectors for cyber attack are grossly overlooked and unsecured.

The Cyber Threat Report explains how modern malware writers implement advanced techniques, including custom encryption, obfuscation and packing, as well as acting benign within sandbox environments, to allow malicious behavior to remain hidden in memory. These techniques often hide the most sophisticated weaponry, which is only exposed when run dynamically. In most cases, they’re impossible to analyze in real time using static detection techniques.

Inside the SonicWall Cyber Threat Report

You’ll find more detail on these advances by the security industry and cyber criminals in the latest 2018 SonicWall Cyber Threat Report. The report empowers you and your team with:

  • Proprietary empirical data that you will get nowhere else to help you confidently understand key cyber threat trends
  • Detailed predictions on trending threats and security solutions to help you plan and budget resources
  • Expert best practices and valuable resources to help successfully guide you forward

Series: Ransomware Part 1

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The daily reports of cyber-crime are important reminders about the need to protect your business from malicious behavior that could threaten the success of your business. There are so many different things that can attack your computer, steal your data, and wreck your day. One of the most troublesome has been the development of ransomware. (FYI. Ransomware isn’t actually all that new-- some version has been around for decades)  Ransomware is a type of computer virus that takes your data hostage and like any kidnapping scheme, demands money for the release of your data.

Why is ransomware so nasty? Because it steals the most important thing your business possesses. Data. Worse, once infected there isn’t generally a way out. No one can “disinfect” your machine. You aren't going to be able to call in IT support to solve the problem. Basically, you have three options.

  1. Pay the ransom. This payment is usually via credit card or bitcoin (a digital currency). Some ransomware viruses even provide help lines if you're having trouble. Of course there are no guarantees your will get access to your data–these are thieves you’re dealing with.
     
  2. Don’t pay and lose your data - This has its obvious downsides, unless…
     
  3. You have a safe, clean backup. In that case, you are stuck with the nuisance of restoring your data with the backup, but you aren’t out any money. However, this comes with a caveat: your backups have to be clean. The problem with ransomware viruses is that just making backups may not be sufficient to protect your data, as the backups can be infected also. In the next blog, we will address your need to add an additional layer of protection to handle ransomware attacks.

Four Key Components of a Robust Security Plan Every SMB Must Know

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Most businesses are now technology dependent. This means security concerns aren’t just worrisome to large corporate enterprises anymore, but also the neighborhood sandwich shop, the main street tax advisor, and the local non-profit. Regardless of size or type, practically any organization has valuable digital assets and data that should not be breached under any circumstances.

This makes it the responsibility of every business, especially those collecting and storing customer/client information, to implement a multipronged approach to safeguard such information.

Yes, we’re looking at you, Mr. Pizza Shop Owner who has our names, addresses, phone numbers, and credit card information stored to make future ordering easier and hassle free.

Today’s SMB Needs a Robust Security Plan
Protecting your business and its reputation comes down to developing, implementing, and monitoring a robust security plan that adequately addresses everything from physical access and theft to the threat of compromised technology security.  This involves defining and outlining acceptable uses of your network and business resources to deter inappropriate use.  Here are four key components to consider.

Network Security Policy: Limitations must be defined when it comes to acceptable use of the network.  Passwords should be strong, frequently updated, and never shared.  Policies regarding the installation and use of external software must be communicated.

Lastly, if personal devices such as laptops, tablets, or smartphones are accessing the network, they should be configured to do it safely, which can be done easily with a reliable Mobile Device Management (MDM) solution.

Communications Policy:  Use of company email and Internet resources must be outlined for legal and security reasons.  Restricting data transfers and setting requirements for the sharing or transfer of digital files within and outside of the network is recommended. Specific guidelines regarding personal Internet use, social media, and instant messaging should also be clearly outlined. If the company reserves the right to monitor all communication sent through the network, or any information stored on company-owed systems, it must be stated here

Privacy Policy: Restrictions should be set on the distribution of proprietary company information or the copying of data.

Inappropriate Use: Obviously, any use of the network or company-owned system or device to distribute viruses, hack systems, or engage in criminal activity must be prohibited with the consequences clearly noted. Any website that employees cannot visit should be identified if not altogether blocked and restricted. For instance, downloading an entire season of True Blood from a Bit Torrent site isn’t an acceptable use of company Internet resources.

Every employee must know these policies and understand the business and legal implications behind them.  Companies must also make sure these policies are clear and understood by all, and most importantly, strictly enforced.