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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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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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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Making Technology Another Target for Continuous Improvement

Making Technology Another Target for Continuous Improvement

Your business likely talks a lot about continuous improvement. It’s everyone’s goal, right? Yet “set it and forget it” is a common approach to handling business technology. Here’s why IT needs your ongoing attention too.

Your competition is increasing, and it can feel as if it is doing so exponentially. Why? There are lower barriers to entry in many businesses. The marketplace has gone global. Transaction costs are declining. Technological advances, automation, and AI are making processes more efficient and increasing productivity.

Your business can’t stand still. Don’t leave your IT sitting unattended either. Sure, the very term “continuous improvement” may have you twitching with discomfort. Not that buzzword again! Yet taking an “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” approach to IT could be hurting your business. Settling for “alright” or relying on “the way we’ve always done it” could leave you lagging behind competitors.

Your business may not have a CIO lobbying for the latest tech, but every business can benefit from asking itself: “can we be doing this better?”. Of course, you don’t know what you don’t know. You are focusing on your industry, not all the new technology, automation, artificial intelligence, or machine learning to:

  • Innovate process
  • Automate routine, repetitive tasks
  • Increase productivity
  • Enable global collaboration
  • Streamline workflow
  • Integrate existing applications
  • Support informed decisions
  • Optimize information access
  • Enhance document, data exchange
  • Advance analysis-based action

The Value of a Strategic MSP Partnership

A managed services provider (MSP) can answer the technology questions you don’t even know to ask. Don’t rely on the old way of doing things. You don’t need to suffer through long, drawn-out processes and the inefficiency of manual work. Your business can partner with an MSP to embrace the power of digital transformation.

Protecting your business from cyber bad guys isn’t the only thing an MSP can do. An MSP can help you improve processes, exceed customer expectations, and reduce costs, all while minimizing your risk.

The MSP will get to know the ways in which you do business and your vision for the future. The MSP can help your business work smarter and reach its goals faster. Understanding available improvements, the MSP can make recommendations to fit your budget and help you become better, faster, and more agile.

Of course, incorporating continuous improvement in your technology can mean making changes to the way you work. Your employees may shudder. That’s why it’s important to work with a partner that can help you clearly articulate the value of digital transformation.

Your people will want to know “what’s in it for me,” and the MSP can help you provide the answer. Explaining how innovation will help employees do their job better or drive business outcomes is key. Working with an MSP means intentional strategy drives your technology improvements. That’s the foundation for successful implementation and adoption.

Don’t settle for a one-size-fits-all, set-and-sit approach to information technology. Your competition will be happy if you do. Instead, work with an MSP that doesn’t just keep your technology running and your systems secure. Join forces with a service provider who is your strategic partner – they’ll ensure your technology is continuously improving.

You’re not alone. Adapt with us.

Technology’s rapid pace of change was a top threat for business leaders, according to a 2017 survey of business school grads. Digital advances surpassed economic, political, and environmental changes. But you’re not alone in your struggle to continuously improve.

Turn to the experts who can answer your questions and plan strategic improvement. No matter what your industry or business size, you can enjoy our technology expertise. Talk to us about a technology assessment. Our experts will suggest options that suit your needs and help you beat the competition. Reach to us 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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Locking Up Cybersecurity with a Managed Services Provider

Locking Up Cybersecurity with a Managed Services Provider

Cybercrime is not the most costly of illegal activities. That dubious distinction goes to government corruption, followed by drug trafficking. Cybercrime comes in third. Yet cybercrime does take the top spot when it comes to numbers of victims. A managed services provider can help.

Cybercrime has hundreds of millions of victims. Two-thirds of people online have experienced personal information theft or compromise. A 2018 McAfee Security study suggested that represents more than 2 billion individuals!

If any of those people works at your business, it could mean trouble for your security, too. Why? People tend to think they have too many passwords to remember. So, they use the same login information again and again. That means a criminal could leverage employee data to access business systems, too.

Cybercrime is a global problem for both individuals and businesses. The bad actors, after all, can make big bucks from their crime with low risk of discovery. The global cost of cybercrime is an estimated $600 billion a year. And no one and no business is immune.

More people are going online. Businesses are becoming more reliant on digital transactions. Cybercriminals are quickly adapting. They’re motivated, but are you?

Securing Your Business with an MSP

It’s safe to say your Information Technology team has a lot to do. Everyone at your office is working hard, but is cybersecurity getting the attention it deserves? Ultimately, there is no better way to keep your systems secure than with managed services.

A managed services provider (MSP) helps your business stay ahead of security threats. Finding out about risks or vulnerabilities after the fact is no good. That’s like closing the barn door after the prize stallion has already bolted.

An in-house cybersecurity team providing 24/7 protection isn’t workable for most businesses. It’s cost prohibitive for most small and mid-sized businesses.

Working with an MSP is a more affordable alternative. You avoid investing in the latest technology and building up an on-premises infrastructure. Instead, you pay a consistent fee for the MSP to handle technology patching, monitoring, and assessments.

The MSP uses well-tested, leading-edge tech to stay on top of cybersecurity threats. This strategic partner can:

  • set up security on your infrastructure;
  • oversee your company’s security systems;
  • ensure regulatory compliance;
  • track threats 24/7;
  • maintain strong data protection.

An internal IT team oversees many areas, but the MSP focuses on continuous monitoring. It keeps up to date on the global threat landscape and any industry vulnerabilities.

Still not convinced that paying an MSP is worth it? The average cost of a lost or stolen record was $148 per record in 2018. You might view working with an MSP as paying for insurance. With ongoing monitoring an MSP helps your business avoid security breaches. And their devastating costs (including to productivity, compliance, revenues, and brand reputation).

This extension of your security staff helps maximize resource efficiency. And their day-to-day focus is on reducing risk and minimizing damage from cyberthreats. With an MSP you add dedicated security experts to your team. Secure your technology while gaining advanced threat intelligence and customized security strategies.

A managed services provider identifies vulnerabilities and secures your business environment. Stay ahead of cybersecurity threats with an MSP. Find out more today!

Call us at 504-323-7111

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