Steer Clear of Coronavirus Scams

Steer Clear of Coronavirus Scams

Steer Clear of Coronavirus Scams

With the world grappling with a health pandemic, scams are shocking. Regrettably, bad actors are everywhere, always looking for opportunities, and they’re seeing one in the coronavirus. This article outlines what you need to watch out for and how to stay cyber safe.

The last thing you want to read right now is that there’s another threat out there – sorry, but it’s true. Cybercriminals take advantage of fear. They take timely concerns and use them to target victims. Using the anxiety and upheaval around coronavirus is their mission.

So far, several coronavirus-related attempts to cyberscam people have been reported. There are examples of:

  • emails that appear to come from government health departments;
  • offering a tax refund to get people to click on malicious links;
  • memos to staff that appear to come from large employers;
  • COVID-19 test offerings from private companies;
  • fake websites promising to sell face masks or hand sanitizer;
  • soliciting donations to help fund a vaccine.

What to Watch Out For

Another concern is the number of bogus websites registered with names relating to COVID-19. The site can look legit but is set up to steal information or infect the victim’s computer with malware.

You may get an email promising the attached information offers coronavirus safety measures, or information shared by the World Health Organization (WHO) if you click on the link, or a similar email pretending to be from a reputable news source, such as the Wall Street Journal (WSJ).

In another example, an email impersonating a healthcare company’s IT team asked people to register for a seminar “about this deadly virus.” Anyone who didn’t question why IT was organizing the meeting clicked to register. By filling out the form, they gave their details to hackers.

What to Do

Be cautious. It’s understandable that you’re anxious, but don’t let that stop you from taking cyber precautions. You should still:

  • be wary of anything that tries to play on your emotions and urges immediate action;
  • question where emails are coming from – remain vigilant even if the communication appears to come from a reliable source;
  • hover over links before clicking them to see where they will take you – for example, in the WSJ example, the Web address was for the “worldstreetjournal”;
  • avoid downloading anything you didn’t ask for;
  • doubt any deals that sound too good to be true (“a mask that stops the virus 99.7% of the time!”);
  • ignore any communications requesting your personal information;
  • don’t be suckered by fraudulent pleas for charity.

Global health organizations generally do not send out emails with advice. Instead, navigate directly to that reputable health institution for real news.

If you’re still not sure about the validity of the communication, check it out. Do so by calling or using another medium to get in touch with the “source” of the received message.

While there is not yet a vaccine for COVID-19, you can put anti-virus protection on your computer. Also, make sure that you’ve applied all available security updates to keep your software safe.

We hope you’ll take care and stay healthy both physically and online in these tough times.

Need help installing security software and keeping your technology safe? Our cybersecurity experts can give your home a tech immunization. Contact us today at 323-7111!

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How to Stay Focused Working from Home

How to Stay Focused Working from Home

How to Stay Focused Working from Home

​COVID-19 is forcing many businesses to embrace remote work. The technology needed to enable people to work from home has existed for years, but working from home may be new for you and your employees. Here are some essentials you need to address to empower your remote workers.

What technology do you have or need? Your people may have business laptops and phones, or perhaps you already allowed employees to bring their own devices (BYOD) to work. So, remote work isn’t going to be as much of a change. Your people already have the tools they need.

However, a business that wasn’t doing any of this before might need new hardware. You can’t expect your employees to lug heavy desktop computers home.

You may need to ask employees to use their own personal computers and phones. That’s going to require some ground rules. For one, no Windows 7: that operating system is out of date and no longer supported by Microsoft, which means employees could be putting corporate data at risk of cyberattack.

You can also take the following precautions to secure off-site online activity:

  • Establish strict policies for securing devices accessing business networks.
  • Communicate reporting procedures for the loss/theft of a device.
  • Enable mobile monitoring management of all devices that give IT access.
  • Encourage regular backup of mobile devices.
  • Educate employees to regularly update firewall and anti-virus software.
  • Prohibit third-party apps.
  • Set devices to make users aware that they may be connecting to unsafe networks.

Challenges of the Remote Work Environment

In the office environment, there is business technology consistency. Now, you’re supporting various hardware and networking solutions of different quality. This can be a headache to get up and running, yet you need to support your remote employees. What kind of IT desk help will you offer? People are now working wherever they are, whenever they want.

The “wherever they are” part can raise some issues. Employees could log in from public parks, coffee shops (if any are open), or while at home with the kids. This means fresh threats. Laptops can get stolen. People out in the world could look over your employee’s shoulder and read what’s on the screen. Kids can spill juice in a split second! Install remote management software to enable a complete wipe of lost or stolen laptops. Also, implement encryption, data backup, and screen-locking features to help keep data secure.

Saying people can work “whenever they want” also has its challenges. With everyone stuck at home, a 9–5 schedule for office productivity may be impossible. Toddlers don’t really understand that “Mommy’s working,” do they?

It’s a good idea to establish clear expectations from the outset:

  • How will progress be demonstrated?
  • How can employees check-in with managers?
  • What are the expectations for team collaboration?
  • What software will be used for group chat, video, or conference calling?
  • What is acceptable business-hour flexibility?
  • If you’re going to allow people to set their own hours, IT support needs to be flexible, too.

Supporting Remote Work

The good news is that remote work can be productive, too. In fact, a Stanford University study found remote employees did an extra day’s work per person per week.

We can help you set up your technology to support your remote staff. We’ll make sure your hardware is up to scratch, secure those mobile devices, and be your remote IT help desk at odd hours. Contact us today at 323-7111!

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Is Your Business’s IT Ready for the Coronavirus?

Is Your Business’s IT Ready for the Coronavirus?

Is Your Business’s IT Ready for the Coronavirus?

Is Your Business’s IT Ready for the Coronavirus?

The Coronavirus is spreading as fast as feared. Business must be ready for the worst. One priority? Protecting the health of employees. Preparing the way for remote working is one top recommendation.

News of the virus, which the WHO is now calling COVID-19, has prompted urgent interest in remote work. Business collaboration software, virtual desktops, and private networks can all help. This tech helps business continue as usual, even with quarantined employees.

It’s difficult to imagine you aren’t aware of the looming health pandemic. Trying to limit the contagion, we’ve already seen big business take major measures. These include:

  • Nike temporarily closed its European headquarters when an employee was diagnosed with the virus. After the first death in Washington state in the U.S., the company also closed its world headquarters for a deep clean of its campus.
  • Twitter told its roughly 4,900 employees to stay home to work.

Other businesses are weighing up the options. Furloughs? Changes to sick leave? Or encouraging work from home. The last option appeals, but how do employees work remotely? How can they continue collaborating with people they used to sit beside, meet in the office, or travel to see? Technological solutions.

The Right Technology for Remote Work

Remote workers want a centralized platform with a simplified (yet secure) login process. Business collaboration software is a great enabler of mobile, flexible work. Replace in-person meetings with voice or video conferencing. Streamline chat, voice, and video in one software platform. Tools such as Microsoft Teams, Google’s G-suite, or Slack, allow business to create team channels.

Business collaboration tools also simplify access to email, calendars, documents, and file sharing. Employees can use a single sign-on to access business tools and data. This supports improved efficiency and increased transparency.

Providing a virtual desktop can provide access to important business applications, as well. Virtual desktops in the cloud allow users to work separately from their personal computers. The software virtualizes the user’s unique desktop environment at any workstation. All the data and applications are stored on a central server. Users access apps, folders, and toolbars from anywhere, with a consistent, secure experience.

Using a cloud-based solution also provides peace of mind. While remote workers access the corporate network, the sensitive data isn’t stored locally. So, the business needn’t worry about the loss or theft of sensitive data. Plus, cloud-based virtual desktops are easy to rapidly install outside a quarantined area.

Worried about securing those remote connections? Another option is a virtual private network (VPN). A VPN connects computers, smartphones, or tablets to a shared or public network as if connecting to a private network. These encrypted connections to the internet secure data and protect employees’ mobile activities.

Mobile Work Helps Every Day

You can hope that your employees stay healthy and your business remains unaffected, but why take that risk? Empowering remote work benefits business, even without the threat of a fatal flu.

Remote teams enjoy greater work-life balance. The workers spend less time commuting and are more productive. Empowered, they also feel trusted and more engaged.

Meanwhile, business can save money on physical space and hardware investments. Additionally, the hiring pool of qualified personnel expands with remote work, and the business can offer its services more globally and flexibly. All that’s true whether the coronavirus becomes an issue for your business or not.

Enabling a remote workforce takes technology. Need help installing and connecting your employees? We can help. Contact us today at 323-7111.

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You’re Never Too Small to Outsource

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.

Find out more about what we can do for you! Call us at 323-7111

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7 Things You Need to Know About Ransomware

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

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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