You’re Never Too Small to Outsource

You’re Never Too Small to Outsource

​Small business owners are proud of getting everything done with few people. Every team member wears many hats. They are part of a family, devoted to the firm’s success. But that doesn’t make them qualified to handle IT. Really, you’re never too small to outsource your technology needs.

A small business may only have a few computers for its handful of employees. Having an in-house person dedicated to IT support would be overkill. But just because the technology is working fine today doesn’t mean your IT is performing at its best. That’s why it can be beneficial to outsource IT.

Having someone who knows technology working for your team can pay huge dividends. Your outsourcing partner will add value by:

  • helping you avoid bad tech purchases or buying software you don’t need;
  • identifying where you can be more efficient with tools you already have, which can save money;
  • providing knowledgeable support and IT help;
  • learning business needs and making recommendations about the best IT for your goals;
  • protecting your business technology and ensuring computers are up to date with security patches.

Small Business Breaches

Cybercriminals don’t care about business size. In fact, according to Accenture, 43% of cyberattacks were aimed at small businesses, and only 14% of the SMBs were prepared for defending their networks and sensitive data.

In fact, a small business can be a particularly appealing target. Hackers will exploit a small business as part of a campaign to attack a larger business. They know the SMB is less likely to have the same level of security as the bigger target in their sights.

Accenture’s 2019 study found that more than half of all small businesses had suffered a breach in the last year. These attacks can be crippling for SMBs. According to insurance carrier Hiscox, the average cyberattack costs a business $200,000. That figure can be a killer blow for a small business. Some 60% of SMBs hacked go out of business within six months of the attack. Even if they can survive the financial hit, damage to brand reputation and customer goodwill is devastating.

Advantages of Outsourcing

You may not have a clear picture of your cybersecurity status right now, but by working with a managed services provider (MSP) you’ll get one. Your partner will conduct an informal audit of your current technology and learn your short- and long-term goals.

Your small business, for instance, may not have a data protection procedure. You might be thinking you don’t have a lot to backup and store. But the quantity may not be the primary concern. Can you recover if your business loses an email chain it was keeping for legal or compliance reasons? What would happen if the computer holding your accounting database died? An MSP can identify where tech changes can better ensure business continuity.

When you outsource, your partner will also inventory all your tech assets. They’ll need to know everything about your infrastructure and your business’s technology capabilities. Your current team may recognize the importance of securing the business’s intellectual property, but are they also protecting customer data and employee records? Your business needs to be intentional about confidentiality, availability, and safety. An MSP can help.

The cost of outsourcing is often a stumbling block for the budget-conscious SMB. Managed IT services can often lower costs for clients by streamlining processes, managing vendor relationships, and ensuring that the business technology is best suited to current needs. And you’ll pay a fixed regular fee for a technology team member who will help you avoid big, costly tech surprises.

No business is too small to outsource IT. Having access to a full-time IT professional via a managed service provider can improve your operations, enhance productivity, and lower cybersecurity risk.

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7 Things You Need to Know About Ransomware

7 Things You Need to Know About Ransomware

​Ransomware is a well-named type of cyberattack. Cybercriminals taking this approach kidnap your data. After accessing your network, they encrypt files and demand payment for the passcode. Here are the top seven things you need to know about this business threat.

#1 It Can Happen to You

Cybercriminals rely on your false confidence. Don’t think “it won’t happen to me.” Attacks on government, education, healthcare, or financial institutions get publicity. Yet organizations of all types and sizes are targeted.

#2 Ransomware Spreads Fast

Ransomware is malware, malicious software that can reach throughout a network. So, if Jane from accounting opens a ransomware file, every single computer on your business network could be infected. The virus can spread between businesses, too. Consider the debilitating WannaCry ransomware attack of 2017. Within four days of its first detection in Europe, the strain had spread to 116 countries.

#3 Ransomware Targets People

A common method to send out phishing emails in the hope of having people enter their access credentials. Targeted business communication emails work, too. The attacker gets to know your business first. Then they send an email impersonating a colleague, supplier, or customer asking you to take action or update contact details by clicking on the link or downloading a file.

#4 Ransomware is Costly

Once the ransomware is installed on your system, it locks down your files. To regain access to the files, you need the password or decryption key the attacker supplies when you pay up; that’s if they keep their end of the bargain once you pay the ransom. These are crooks you’re dealing with after all!

In Coveware’s analysis of Q3 2019, the average ransom payment increased by 13% to $41,198 as compared to $36,295 in Q2 of 2019. And that’s just the cost of the ransom. Indirect costs include the cost of downtime, lost revenue, and long-term brand damage. There’s also the expense of removing the ransomware, forensic analysis, and rebuilding systems.

The average ransomware attack in Q3 2019 resulted in 12.1 days of downtime. — Coveware

#5 Ransom Requires Cryptocurrency

Ransom payment is usually made by bitcoin or another cryptocurrency. Your business needs to buy cryptocurrency with actual cash, then transmit the ransom. They choose cryptocurrency because it’s very difficult to trace. It doesn’t help you that bitcoin is not something you can charge back like a credit card.

#6 A Recovery Plan Helps

Planning in advance can help you respond more reasonably. Document plans to disconnect infected computers from the network as soon as possible. Also, power down any machines that could be vulnerable to avoid spreading contagion.

You should also discuss in advance whether or not your business will pay a ransom. Weighing the costs and benefits without a deadline on the decision can help you react more strategically.

#7 You Can Take Action

You don’t have to sit around worrying and waiting for a ransomware attack. There are many things you can do to help prevent this type of attack:

  • Filter traffic, preventing it from coming into your network in the first place.
  • Scan inbound emails for known threats, and block certain attachment types.
  • Use antivirus and anti-spam solutions and regularly upgrade and patch vulnerable software.
  • Educate all users about social engineering.
  • Allow remote access to your network only from secure virtual private networks.
  • Back up your data to more than one location so that you can restore any impacted files from a known source.

Ransomware is a lucrative, relatively easy mode of attack for cybercriminals. They could target your business. Contact us today for help implementing the best protection practices to keep your data safe. Call us at 323-7111.

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Do You Copy? What Can Go Wrong with BCC

Do You Copy? What Can Go Wrong with BCC

​Try to find someone who has not “replied all” when meaning to send to only one individual. It’s embarrassing and can aggravate those people with more emails flooding their box. Another common email gaffe is misusing the CC and BCC fields in outgoing messages. This mistake can prove costly for business.

You’ll have noticed those extra fields below the “To” field in your email client. CC stands for carbon copy, and BCC for blind carbon copy.

When you use CC, it’s like you’ve imprinted your message on an old blue sheet of carbon paper. The email copy sends to your To recipients as well as anyone you have CC’d. All recipients can see who else you sent your message to. This is a great way to encourage collaboration and accountability.

When you use BCC, your To recipient and anyone else you BCC’d gets the email, but you’re not showing where you sent the message. This is for when you’re addressing a large group of contacts that may not know each other, or when you are sending a group message but you want to respect the privacy of all your recipients.

The Blind Carbon Copy Nightmare

A big problem is using To or CC when meaning to use BCC. You inadvertently expose all your contacts’ email addresses. Personal contact information needs protection, and people’s privacy demands respect. You don’t want to make this mistake with a single or a few emails, or worse still hundreds or thousands of emails.

There are many examples of BCC blunders. West Ham United Football Club faces the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office fines for confirming all season ticket holders with email addresses in the CC field. In another example, the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse was fined US$260,000 for exposing possible victims of child abuse in the same way.

Scotland’s National Health Service messaged transgender patients with their addresses in the To field. Instead of using BCC, the sender used an open distribution list. This shared 86 Glasgow patient email addresses and, perhaps, patient names and dates of birth when the addresses incorporated those details. You can bet there were some heated replies to that message, although the reports didn’t share whether they were “reply all” or not.

Also, the Sydney Morning Herald reported on a real estate company employee mistakenly CC’ing 300 customer emails. A customer complained. The error resulted in a six-figure aftermath. Lawyers, a consulting firm, and eight full-time employees worked on a data breach response plan for weeks.

What’s Better Than BCC

Any CC or BCC blunder could be a data breach. Take care. Don’t risk the loss of customer trust and possible compliance issues.

When you need to send out an email to a large group of people when you’re not necessarily expecting a response, use mailing software such as Mailchimp. Email marketing platforms send an individual copy of your message to every person on your mailing list, so there’s no risk of your contact list being exposed.

Need help setting up your email client or getting up to speed on an email marketing platform? We can help. Contact us today at 323-7111!

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What is a Firewall, and Why Does It Matter?

What is a Firewall, and Why Does It Matter?

Hearing “firewall” in the context of computing can be confusing. How does a tall, blazing fire separating rescue teams from people trapped apply to computers?

Well, imagine the rescue team using heavy blasts of water to save the day. A hacker is as motivated to get at your data. They will try everything to bypass your security. They want to get inside your network perimeter. In a business office, computers and printers are often networked together. This lets Jane in accounting and Kevin in graphic design access the same business tools.

In computing, a firewall sits between that internal network and the internet outside. It’s kind of like a nightclub bouncer. You definitely want it to be as burly and intimidating as possible to keep the riff-raff out. The firewall helps reduce or prevent unwanted traffic from getting through.

The Packet Filtering Firewall Approach

Your firewall can be hardware, software, or both. A packet-filter firewall monitors and controls network traffic. It filters data entering the network according to predetermined rules. IT experts set up a firewall to examine small amounts of data (called “packets”) to see if they contain threats. It checks packet data against criteria such as allowed IP addresses and packet type. If the data is suspect, the firewall stops those packets. If not, the data will continue on to its destination.

Firewalls stop certain software from sending and receiving data to and from the internet. This reduces the number of entry points for viruses or illegitimate traffic. After all, a club wouldn’t want to hire the bouncers to cover seven different doors.

A firewall also monitors outgoing traffic. Why’s that? Because an infected computer in your network could be sending out malicious information. If your company has fallen victim to a malware attack that turns a computer into a bot, it might be “phoning home.”

Unlike E.T. trying to get back to the safety of his home planet, the malware is checking in with its Zombie master. It’s helping to strengthen the bad guy’s ability to attack victims.

Firewalls can help prevent denial-of-service (DoS) attacks. In a DoS incident, thousands of computers are used to send an overwhelming amount of traffic to a network. It’s like putting 10,000 people in an elevator with an occupancy limit of 20 – expect a crash.

One famous 2016 attack seriously disrupted Amazon, Visa, PayPal, Netflix, AirBnB, and more.

Other Types of Firewall

Packet-filtering firewalls aren’t your only option. Stateful inspection is helping to make firewalls even smarter. These check where the packet came from, where it is going, and what application requested it. This end-to-end examination is more rigorous. All the parameters must match trusted information for the packet to pass through. This approach offers a smart, fast way to inspect for unauthorized traffic.

When setting up any firewall, it is important to avoid any unintentional openings. A hole in a chainlink fence renders perimeter security useless. A hole in a firewall leaves your network vulnerable.

Need help deciding on the right type of firewall for your business? Want to be sure your firewalls are going to withstand attack?

Our experts can help set up and test your firewalls. Contact us today at 504-323-7111!

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Why Your Business Needs Managed Services Security

Why Your Business Needs Managed Services Security

Locking your front door after a burglar has already ransacked your house doesn’t do much, and the same is true of cybersecurity. With the help of a managed service provider, you can stay ahead of security threats with well-tested, leading-edge technologies.

Ransomware, Trojans, crypto mining, and more make the news regularly these days. Businesses and consumers are both aware of the threats. Yet there is no single vaccine that can keep you safe. The volume of threats is growing. Cybercriminals are mixing up their tactics to outwit their targets, and the result is increasingly sophisticated cyberattacks.

Password theft and password-based breaches remain a daily occurrence in 2019. But that’s only one area of concern. Cybersecurity experts warn that, “the worst is yet to come.”

Managed services help you to stay on top of evolving threats. For a small, fixed monthly cost, you add a team of experts to your arsenal. Instead of reacting after the fact, they work to identify any vulnerabilities. Instead of reacting, they work to identify vulnerabilities and prevent attacks.

When security is internal, a single person or small, overworked team tries to stay current. Working with a managed service provider (MSP), in-house IT teams focus instead on business tasks. They can trust the MSP to know the latest, greatest technologies. The MSP’s experts do the necessary training and attend the security conferences, and your business benefits without having to spend finite resources.

Managed Services Make a Security Difference

An early order of business for your MSP is learning your system, network, and applications. These IT experts get to know your business and its workflow needs. Then, they recommend the best tools for you to use. They make suggestions that prioritize productivity, ease of use, cost, and security. You don’t have to deal directly with a vendor salesperson. You gain an objective perspective on what technology truly suits your needs.

Regrettably, your technology users remain a weak link, but you can boost your employee cyber education and awareness (and you should). A managed services provider partner adds levels of precaution. They will test and track staff cyber behavior on-site and off-premises.

An MSP partner understands your entire technology ecosystem. They determine how your business solutions operate together to keep your business protected.

The MSP’s proactive approach can save you data breach devastation. Financial damages can be large. In a 2018 Cisco study, 54% of all cyberattacks resulted in damages of more than $500,000 USD.

Those costs aren’t the only risk of a data breach, though. Your business also risks:

  • theft of international property;
  • loss of competitive advantage;
  • damage to brand reputation;
  • customer churn;
  • regulatory fines.

No matter your business size or industry, you are at risk. It’s that simple. Cisco found 40% of companies with 250-499 employees had experienced a severe security breach in 2018. Larger organizations were similarly impacted but tended to be more resilient. Meanwhile, when a small business is breached the damage is usually even greater. Their core systems are likely interconnected, which sees the attack spread easily.

Key Takeaway

The threat landscape is always shifting. You might be at risk from targeted attacks against your employees (e.g. faked business email communications), ransomware (holding your data hostage), or other advanced threats.

Managed services ensure you have the people, processes, and technology to prevent attack. Plus, if the worst happens, they have the skills to mitigate the damage and get you back up and running quickly.

Managed services provide the best security, proactively, and on an ongoing basis. Want to learn more? Give us a call today at 504-323-7111!

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The Dark Web and Its Impact on Your Business

The Dark Web and Its Impact on Your Business

Business owners today know the internet is not only a force for good. Some people exploit the Web for ill intent. They congregate on the Dark Web, and small businesses need to understand the risks.

What is the Dark Web?

You and your employees spend time daily on the Web. They’re researching clients, checking out competitors, and searching for information. They are not accessing the Dark Web. The Dark Web houses dangerous, often illegal activity. This includes black-market drug sales, illegal firearm sales, and illicit pornography.

The Dark Web’s collection of websites is inaccessible using standard search engines or browsers. Users employ a Tor or I2P encryption tool to hide their identity and activity, and they spoof IP addresses.

To go into the Dark Web, you also need to be using the Tor or I2P service. Plus, you’d need to know where to find the site you are looking for. There are Dark Web directories, but they are unreliable. The people on the Dark Web don’t want their victims to find them. Ultimately, it’s not somewhere you or your employees need to be.

So, why do you need to know about it? Because Dark Web users can buy:

  • usernames and passwords
  • counterfeit money
  • stolen credit card numbers or subscription credentials
  • software to break into people’s computers
  • operational, financial, or customer data
  • intellectual property or trade secrets

The Dark Web is also where someone can hire a hacker to attack your computers.

The Dark Web business risk

The Dark Web itself isn’t illegal, and not all its traffic is criminal. It is also visited by journalists and law enforcement agencies, and it’s used in countries prohibiting open communication.

Yet the number of Dark Web listings that could harm your business is growing. A 2019 research study found that 60% of all listings could harm enterprises, and the number of those Dark Web listings has risen by 20% since 2016.

Business risks from these Dark Web listings include:

  • undermining brand reputation
  • loss of competitive advantage
  • denial-of-service attack or malware disruption
  • IP theft
  • fraudulent activity

With media attention on data breaches impacting millions, it’s easy to think a small business is not at risk. However, bad actors don’t target a business for its size – they look for ease of access.

Dark Web information is up to twenty times more likely to come from an unreported breach. Privacy specialists told a Federal Trade Commission Conference victims included medical practices, retailers, school districts, restaurant chains, and other small businesses.

Reduce your risk

If your information ends up on the Dark Web, there’s little you can do about it. The bright side, at least, is that you would know that your business security has been compromised. Be proactive instead. Keep your security protections current, and install security patches regularly.

Consider a unified threat management (UTM) device, or UTM appliance. The UTM plugs into your network to serve as a gateway and protect your business from malware, illicit access, and other security risks.

Your UTM security appliance can provide:

  • application control
  • anti-malware scanning
  • URL and content filtering
  • data loss prevention
  • email security
  • wireless and remote access management

Or let a managed services provider (MSP) take care of all aspects of protecting your business. Pay a consistent monthly fee for an MSP to handle all your technology, patching, monitoring, and assessment needs.

Stay on top of the latest cybersecurity threats with an MSP, or learn more about installing a UTM. We can help protect you from the dangers of the Dark Web. Call us today at 504-323-7111!

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