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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Failure is Not an Option: Getting Rid of Single Points of Failure

Failure is Not an Option: Getting Rid of Single Points of Failure

You might think that your business is going to be OK even if a single device goes down. After all, there are other devices your people can use. It’s not as if the entire system is going to fall like dominoes. Or is it? Get rid of single points of failure to make one vulnerability doesn’t take down your network.

A single point of failure (SPOF) can be a design, implementation, or configuration weakness. Star Wars fans will already be thinking of the Death Star’s ill-designed thermal exhaust port. That was the SPOF Luke Skywalker exploited. 

Yet, cybercriminals don’t need the Force to target IT fatal weaknesses. SPOFs for technology include:

  • Having only one server that runs an essential application. Without that server, your employees can’t use that particular business tool.
    • Solution: Plan for the worst with built-in server redundancy. Have multiples of any hardware that is business critical. Migrate to the cloud so you can continue accessing applications, software, and storage.
  • Power outages can wreak havoc on computers and devices operating your network.
    • Solution: An Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) device can help prevent intermittent power interruptions to your computers, switches, and modems. Cloud solutions reduce the risk of this problem too. Employees can continue to access data and software working at different locations.
  • Your physical location could also be the SPOF. What if road closures, fire, floods, or a violent storm prevent you from being able to get to the office? Without a backup, you’ll struggle for business continuity.
    • Solution: Pool computer resources in the cloud (servers, storage, applications, and voice services). This provides continued access anywhere, anytime, and often from any device.
  • Sorry to say it, but your people could also be your fatal weakness. Perhaps you have one or even two in-house IT experts who know everything about your technology. But, what do you do if they both quit? Or one is sick and the other is on vacation when something goes wrong?
    • Solution: You can’t have every person become a subject matter expert on all aspects of IT. So consider outsourced IT.
  • You can’t get online without an internet connection. Yet you’re reliant on an external provider for that access. Planned downtime for maintenance is easier to plan around. Still, unexpected issues can cause the internet to go out.
    • Solution: Have a backup solution to pick up the slack if the main connection goes down. A router that supports having a 4G modem, for instance, could be a good failover.

 

Failure is Costly

Having one device out of commission is frustrating, but not necessarily the end of the world. But, when the damage wrought by a single weakness spreads business-wide, you could face serious consequences. 

Downtime for systems failure or data breaches can be:

  • Expensive — In addition to potential overtime for IT staff remedying the situation and possible revenue losses, your company may also face fines.
  • Time consuming — your people must adapt to a new reality while IT resources are spent trying to get back to business as usual.
  • Reputation damaging — any disruption to business as usual could undermine customer trust and prompt churn.

 

IT professionals understand the danger of SPOF. Avoid weaknesses that can lead to systemwide failures or loss of business information. Partner with computer specialists who can identify and eliminate these vulnerabilities at your business. Contact us today at 504-323-7111!

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How to Destroy Data Properly

How to Destroy Data Properly

When we accidentally delete something, it feels like the end of the world. If a client file or new presentation is deleted, you may have to start again. Oh no! Yet deleting files is not as permanent as you may think. When it comes to destroying data properly, you’ll want to take a more thorough approach.

Deleting items, or “trashing” them, doesn’t permanently remove them from computer memory. While the data is still stored on your device’s hard disk, it’s possible someone could restore that deleted data.

Data does reach a point at which it’s no longer useful, and you are no longer required to maintain it. Nevertheless, it may still be valuable to cybercriminals. Bad actors can use names, addresses, credit card numbers, banking accounts, or health data. You need a policy to destroy paper records, magnetic media, hard drives, and any storage media.

Your obligation to protect customer and staff information extends to properly destroying all identifying data. Installing a new operating system isn’t going to do it. Encryption doesn’t do the job if the cybercriminal can figure out the password.

Some industries require you to prove you have correctly destroyed all data. Even if you have no compliance standards to meet, carefully dispose of any computer-related device. Whenever you are recycling, discarding, or donating an old computer, disk drive, USB stick, or mobile device, make sure the data is already properly deleted or destroyed. Otherwise, criminals could get their hands on confidential business information.

Fully, Safely Destroying Your Data

So, what do we mean by “properly” destroyed? You know about shredding paper documents. You can actually do the same with some devices. You might send the computer or device to a company with a mega-shredder. When compliance matters, keep a record of the chain of custody of the data throughout the process.

Overwriting the data, often called zeroing, is another solution. No data is properly deleted until it’s written over – that’s where the information is hidden under layers of nonsensical data and cannot be retrieved through disk or file recovery utilities. Think of this as writing three new books over the top of the pages of an erased book rather than just ripping the pages out.

With magnetic devices, you can neutralize the magnetism (degaussing) to break down the data. This scrambles up the data beyond recovery. A strong degausser will turn the device into a shiny metallic paper weight. An ultraviolet erase could be necessary for some erasable programmable memory. You might also need to perform a full chip erase.

If you’re really committed to destroying data, physically destroy the device. There’s the shredding solution, or you might actually pay to have the device smelted or pulverized.

Other Components to Destroy with Data

Don’t forget proper disposal of printers, too. Run several pages of unimportant information (maybe a font test) before destroying a laser p6rinter. With an impact printer (if you still have one!), you’d want to destroy all ribbons, too.

One last element you might think about? Business monitors. You’ve probably seen a computer screen with information burned onto it. Before donating or recycling a monitor, inspect the screen surface and destroy the cathode ray tube.

Now, that’s what we call being thorough about properly destroying data. Need help with proper disposal of computer data or equipment?

We can help. Contact our experts today at 504-323-7111

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Avoiding Growing Pains — Tech Tips for a Thriving Business

Avoiding Growing Pains — Tech Tips for a Thriving Business

Maybe you started your business in a basement or home office. It was just you at the beginning. Then, your service or product gained traction. The number of staff grew, and you moved into an office. It’s amazing how far you’ve come. Better still, your business continues to grow. It may be time to consider some of these tech tips to help your thriving business.

 

#1 Upgrade to Business-Grade Cloud Services

Perhaps you’ve been relying on free software from Gmail, Outlook, or Dropbox. Who can argue with free email, calendars, collaboration and file storage right? Well, it may be time to upgrade to the business versions of the software your team relies upon.

Move from Gmail to Google Apps, or Outlook to Office 365, or Dropbox to Dropbox Business. For a small monthly fee, you gain business-grade features.

The basic Google Apps offers business email, video and voice conferencing, secure team messaging, shared calendars, 30GB cloud storage and document, spreadsheet and presentation creation. Plus, you gain greater security and administration controls. Right now, a disgruntled employee could refuse to give up control of a business account.

You’d be out of luck. With Google Apps, your business would control all accounts and could simply reset the password.

Or Dropbox Business provides added storage space and user activity and sharing auditing. Unlimited file recovery and version history make recovery easier. A remote wipe feature protects files on a stolen device). 

#2 Revise your backup strategy

A consumer grade backup setup was enough when you were only dealing with one computer. Now that you have many computers, it’s worth enhancing your backup strategy.

With 3-2-1 backup, your business has a minimum of three backups. Two would be onsite (but separate from one another) and the other offsite. We recommend the cloud. Having your backups in a unified location helps efficient recovery if disaster strikes. With cloud backup, your data is encrypted for storage in the cloud. You can set parameters for how often data is backed up and confirm that it is backing up correctly. Then, if something does go wrong, you can access essential data from anywhere, anytime via the cloud.

#3 Consider Cloud-based Accounting Services

Traditional small business accounting software requires a large database on the desktop computer. As more people need access to the database, the problems start. With multiple people accessing the accounting software:

  • The network can slow when people try to access it remotely
  • Changes can’t be made while someone else is in database
  • Data can get mismatched depending on who has the “newest” version

Cloud-based accounting packages address these challenges. With online accounting software, it’s easy for your business to scale. Business owners can connect to the data from any device with an Internet connection. Plus, in the event of a disaster, productivity won’t suffer as the information is safe and secure on the cloud.

#4 Outsource your IT

Your expanding technology allows you and your staff to do more than ever before. Great. But it also takes extra resources to monitor, manage, and secure it all. By outsourcing IT, your business gains IT expertise. Meanwhile, your in-house IT team can focus its efforts on driving growth.

Outsourcing IT also provides long-term cost savings by reducing downtime, cutting infrastructure costs, and improving security to avoid costly cyber-attacks.

Keep your business growth in check with an eye out for value-adding initiatives.

Want to know more about the benefits of any of these tech tips? Give us a call at 504-323-7111.

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Has Your Email Been Hijacked?

Has Your Email Been Hijacked?

A common complaint by many users in recent months has been spam emails appearing to come from their own accounts. Despite not knowing why, reports of friends, family, and contacts receiving spam email that appears to come from them has worried many people.

Some have had their accounts suspended or shut down by their service providers as a result. For many, this experience can be highly disruptive. It’s a problem that can cause many issues in both your professional and personal life.

The key to defense is learning how these attacks happen, and figuring out what you can do to protect yourself and your contacts against them.

Hackers Using Your Email Against You

Scammers that send out spam messages are continually looking for ways to make the process faster, cheaper, and more efficient. It’s the best way in which they can make more money every day by scamming unsuspecting victims for even more cash.

One of the most efficient ways they do this is by hijacking ready-made, trusted email accounts like your own. Hackers have several tools at their disposal to attempt to hijack your accounts.

Some of the principles which make email fast and easy to use means that details, such as those in the ‘from’ field, are easy to fake. A hacker might change the information supplied to make it appear as if the email comes from anyone.

There’s not much you can do to defend your email against such an attack. However, you can work to verify that an email, even one you expect to receive, does come from the person you believe it to. If your email provider flags up an incoming email as ‘suspicious’, or ‘untrustworthy’, it may well be.

Stolen Credentials

Hackers often buy large bundles of email addresses and passwords from the dark web. Leaked emails are often put up for sale following hacks of major companies and service providers.

The value of these details comes from passwords being unlikely to have been changed, the details attached to them are trusted, and often get hackers access to additional services too.

How To Detect an Email Intrusion

It can take a long time before you’re aware that malicious hackers are using your details. You might even be the last person in your contacts to know.

The first sign to look out for is a large number of unexpected emails in your inbox. These are likely to be replies to emails you never sent in the first place. Out of office, automatic responses, people complaining about spam, and people responding to the email as if it were genuine may all come to you first.

Keep a close eye on unexpected emails appearing suddenly in either your inbox or outbox. A hacker may be spear-phishing someone that you do business with or trust. By acting as you, using your address and details, they may be able to divert payments or confidential information to their accounts instead.

Protecting Yourself Against Hackers, Attackers, And Hijackers

Sometimes your computer might have been compromised to give hackers access to your services. Malicious software may have infected your machine to steal data and infect your contacts.

Take extra care to change your passwords if you believe your email has been accessed by hacker. Use a different, more secure password for your email than you do for every other service. Your email account is often the key to accessing many of the services you use most.

Run a virus scan and maintain security updates if you think your computer could have been infected. Have your machine and services looked at by a professional if you believe there is a risk your data is being used.

If you think your email could have been hijacked, or your details used elsewhere, give us a call at 504-323-7111 to clean up today.

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What Hackers Target In Small Businesses

What Hackers Target In Small Businesses

Hackers today have many ways to attack small businesses and business owners. Many attempt to use technology to send malware, viruses, or phishing attacks; or use information to con owners and employees into handing over more information than they should.

One or more of these techniques can be combined with gaining physical access to steal from vulnerable firms. Identifying precisely how criminals target businesses and what they deem most valuable can help to protect from the most devastating attacks out there.

Remaining vigilant and informed is one of the most vital things you can do as a business owner to protect your assets and reputation.

Extortion

Different types of attacks tend to rise and fall in popularity. Fifteen years ago, computer worms were the most common attack that businesses faced. Security software wasn’t as advanced or as widely used at it is today. Computer worms were, at the time, an exceptionally low-cost and efficient way to inflict the maximum amount of damage for minimum cost.

Today ransomware has seen an unfortunate boom in popularity. This technology aims to encrypt the target’s files on their personal computer. This technique denies the victim access and charges a large fee in exchange for the key to retrieve the victim’s own data.

The attack has worked so often because it requires minimal effort and can be used again and again. Many businesses have no option but to pay because the data is worth far more than the ransom demand the hackers have made.

The best defense against ransomware attacks, in addition to strong online security, is an up-to-date offsite backup — one that is tested to work reliably.

Targeting Customer Records

One of the most important things for your firm to take care of is your customer data records. Records which include names, dates of birth, and other personally identifying details. These details are extremely valuable to hackers or criminals who, either use them personally or sell them on to someone who will.

Many regions have strict laws and guidelines about how this information must be stored, accessed and protected. Failing to follow these can result in severe penalties that could devastate any company.

Targeting Financial Information

Like personal information, a small business must take extreme care when storing customer financial information. Sensitive details such as credit card or banking information are a key target for hackers looking to steal money fast.

The impact on your business reputation following a breach of financial data will be severe and devastating. Even a simple mistake can require years of advertising and great PR to repair. Many firms have failed to recover after losing the trust of their customers.

Social Engineering

Most firms today run good IT security packages to protect against online attacks and other forms of malware. Attackers often know to take their methods offline to achieve the best results.

Whether posing as a supplier, customer, or interested party; attackers can seek to gain information that you may be less than willing to hand over to a stranger. Small businesses can often be used to gather information on vendors and suppliers they do business with in order to attack them too.

Be particularly cautious of the information you provide when discussing business with individuals you haven’t spoken to before.

Keeping Small Business Safe

Each of these targets and attacks are just some of the most popular and hard-hitting attacks out there now. The list is forever changing, and the methods we use to protect against them always needs to change too.

Some can be defended against with great security, backups, and software. Others, such as social engineering, need you and your staff to stay up-to-date and remain vigilant about the major attacks affecting small business today.

If you need help tightening your businesses security, give us a call at 504-323-7111.

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