Watch Out For This Overlooked Threat In Your Business

Thomas Fox is president of Tech Experts, southeast Michigan’s leading small business computer support company.

With the risk of being hit by hacking, malware, and other forms of cyber-crime so high, most organizations go to great lengths (and expense) to protect their networks and infrastructure.

However, one major security risk that’s being overlooked is the printer!

All too often, print falls beyond IT teams’ field of view and is left hanging in an abyss ready and waiting for hackers to take advantage.

Here are some interesting statistics: According to research that was conducted by the Ponemon Institute, 64 percent of IT managers are suspicious that their printers have been infected with some form of malware; however, just 54% of organizations include printers in their security strategy.

With organizations placing all eyes firmly on network security, the major threats that are posed by printing devices that are directly connected to these networks are all too often completely overlooked.

So, what actions can you take to reduce the risk of print-related breaches? [Read more…]

Five Ways To Prepare For, Respond To, And Recover From A Cyberattack

Thomas Fox is president of Tech Experts, southeast Michigan’s leading small business computer support company.

When we asked businesses about cybersecurity threats, breach points, policies, company readiness, and recovery, we were surprised at the responses that we received.

The most frightening response of all was the following: “We have no formal process for assessing readiness to deal with a cyberattack of any sort.”

Hindsight is always 20/20 – how many times has something happened that you could have and should have prevented?

Here are five ways to prepare every company for a cyberattack:

[Read more…]

The Best Ways To Deal With Security Threats

Jason Cooley is Support Services Manager for Tech Experts.

Only several weeks into 2018 and computer security has been a huge topic of discussion.

The Meltdown and Spectre discovery at the beginning of the year put people on notice. Any device with a modern processor could have potentially been affected.

While wide-scale vulnerabilities like Meltdown and Spectre are not common, it has brought some much needed attention to the potential of an attack.

Security vulnerabilities happen in many different ways, through different methods. There have been both hardware and software related issues that could have left a person open to an attack. Designed to steal data or infect your system, neither are hassles that anyone wants to spend time dealing with.

Hardware vulnerabilities are fewer and farther between when compared to software issues.

Software always has updates and upgrades or new programs for new uses. Because of the nature of software in a traditional Windows setting, many programs have access to file systems and other sensitive system information.

Have you ever installed software of some sort? Do you recall being prompted to allow the software to make changes to your computer? These privileges, while necessary to run the software, give the software the right to access and make changes to your system.

Typically, this is fine, especially with a trusted software company behind what you are using.

It would be nearly impossible to examine all potential areas of a program to see if there was any possible flaw or vulnerability that could be exploited.

Coding for software can get very in-depth and there are millions of characters involved.

As with all technology, it is constantly changing. A message telling you “software updates are available” is almost certainly something you have seen before. These changes can add functionality, but a lot of times, they are doing so much more.

Take Windows, for example. With millions of devices running on some version of Microsoft’s operating system, finding Windows security vulnerabilities are a priority for developers and the people behind the malicious attacks alike.

Microsoft is a tech mainstay, and one of the biggest players in business, and they are definitely not immune to having flaws that could leave you at risk.

There is good news, however.

Microsoft is constantly updating and patching their operating systems to close any potential flaws that are discovered. Those “annoying” Window’s updates? They are potentially protecting you from data theft.

Does waiting on updates when turning on your computer leave you feeling frustrated? That update may save your computer from malicious software.

Hackers and others behind malicious activities and data theft often find new ways in on existing systems, making updates necessary to fix the newly discovered flaws.

When it comes to security, the best thing for you and your computer is to stay up-to-date on those security updates and patches.

This creates a problem for older operating systems. When Microsoft stops updating an operating system, any discovered flaws remain unfixed. This has recently happened with Windows XP and Windows 7 will soon join the list.

Also keep in mind that out-of-date web browsers, such as Google Chrome and Microsoft Edge, can leave you at risk. Productivity software, like Microsoft Office, because of the way it operates and accesses both the system and network, has great attack potential when not properly updated and patched.

So, outside of the operating system, what other software should you keep up-to-date?

All of it. It is definitely better to be safe than sorry when it comes to your computer and personal data, so play it safe and keep it up-to-date.

Windows Updates: Allow Them, Don’t Block Them

Ron Cochran is Help Desk supervisor for Tech Experts.

One of the first things you should do when purchasing a new computer (or rehabilitating an older computer) is to make sure the operating system is up-to-date with the latest security patches. In some cases, people disable the automatic updates and this can cause a whole host of issues.

Microsoft regularly puts out security patches, as well as other patches for their software. These patches are applied through the automatic update process. When that process is disabled, this means your computer hasn’t received the latest updates from Microsoft. Because your updates are halted, the system vulnerabilities that Microsoft engineers have found have not been repaired on your system.

You may remember the WannaCry Ransomware attack or, by now, heard of the most recent news of the Intel CPU flaw with Meltdown and Spectre. These two vulnerabilities, if exploited, can wreak havoc on an affected computer.

An affected system could suffer circuit issues, data corruption, system instability, and even data theft. There are always going to be people doing nefarious things when it comes to computers and the Internet, but the engineers behind your operating system and your antivirus company will always be on top of a fix for the vulnerability as soon as it is discovered.

Did you know that Microsoft releases most Windows Update patches on “Patch Tuesday” – the second Tuesday of each month? This keeps automatic system reboots to a minimum and also assists managed service providers like Tech Experts in ensuring that all of their clients’ servers and workstations have the latest software and security patches installed.

At home, you can set your Windows Updates to the “Automatic” option. That way, your system will automatically check for Windows Updates every 24 hours or so if the computer is connected to the Internet.

If you’re thinking to yourself, “I just use my home computer for browsing DIY pages, listening to music, and sending emails. Why would anyone want to get into my computer?,” reconsider how much personal information is actually stored.

It may seem as though your computer wouldn’t hold much useful information, but a hacker only needs a few passwords, an email address, phone number, and address to potentially gain access to cell phone accounts, shopping site accounts, tax information, and even banking and credit card accounts.

Even if the hacker isn’t looking for personal information like that listed above, they could still use your computer to send spam emails to other computers all over the world, slowing down your computer and Internet and causing a whole slew of issues for other computer owners.

Keeping your operating system up-to-date with the latest updates and security patches, keeping your anti-malware and anti-virus software updated and running on a regular basis, and adding robust security settings to your router and firewall will help keep all of these vulnerabilities behind closed doors. At least, until the software engineers can create and deploy the patches and updates to block access to them.

Important Aspects of Cybersecurity

Evan Schendel is a help desk specialist for Tech Experts.

In this age where dangers lie around every digital corner on your computer, what could possibly keep everyone safe and secure?

Cybersecurity experts are the first line of defense and are quite good at holding that line. These experts protect many fields ranging from hardware and software to sensitive data and financial information, even users themselves.

Hardware and Software

The maliciousness of viruses can cripple whole systems and a countless number of links or applications can deliver dangerous viruses or malware. These viruses and dangers evolve every day.

Hardware can be manipulated by vulnerabilities and exploitations as well. Without intention of frightening you, each part of your computer could be of interest to the right person, as the recent Meltdown and Spectre issues have shown. It isn’t simply your operating system or data that can be affected.

This constant cycle of attacker-and-defender leaves thousands of unfilled jobs for cybersecurity and the protection of devices. If these jobs were not filled or properly trained, computer systems across the world would fall prey to hackers. However, your device itself is not the only thing that can be harmed.

Sensitive Data and Users

When unauthorized hands gain access to personal information, it can lead to disaster. A person’s financial and personal data is important and the people who protect that data are far fewer than those seeking it out.

Anti-virus programs are made by people who know viruses well, often those who had created viruses or malware prior to their more noble ventures.

These should always stay updated and definitions for these pieces of software tend to be updated with frightening frequency. Staying up-to-date on malicious software and code is the only real method of stopping it, after all.

Systems administrators also have the need for people who can spot discrepancies or potentially malicious actions in their networks and keep standards up to snuff. Passwords and safety precautions must be set to a standard that is important to follow and uphold.

Information over the phone can also be an issue, as many users have trouble distinguishing a scammer from a legitimate caller. This is where education and prevention come in.

Educating people about how potential scammers may work is one of the most important aspects in preventing unsuspecting folks from giving their credit card information away, or worse.

Preventing these scammers from calling thousands of people a day is also of utmost importance, but requires experts and trained technicians (even the government, in some cases) to crack down on these cyber criminals.

Lastly, the most vulnerable aspect of a computer’s security is, unfortunately, the user. Tricky emails and legitimate-looking sites can be incredibly tough to distinguish from the original product. Most wouldn’t even suspect such an uncanny replication.

This is where user error molds with a criminal’s savvy nature. If this sounds unrealistic to fall for, then it’s even better, but more times than not, someone will fall for it – even the experts can be fooled by sophisticated trickery or maybe a simple lack of awareness. Luckily, if this is the first issue, the other sections can come into play and protect your systems and yourself from being subject to data loss or cyber-thievery.

Five Keys For Small Business Preventive Security Measures

Thomas Fox is president of Tech Experts, southeast Michigan’s leading small business computer support company.

We continually mention the importance of network and password security for small businesses for good reason. The increasing security threats and cases of security breaches in both large and small enterprises show that we are more at risk than ever before of suffering a security violation.

Regulated entities such as medical offices (HIPAA) and financial institutions (FINRA) are especially susceptible to breachs and security incidents.

Prevention is always better than cure. To this end, here are five security measures you should start putting in place today.

Limit lateral data transfers
One of the biggest contributors to internal data breaches is a lack of employee knowledge of security issues. It’s important to protect strategically important information and data by limiting who has access to it.

Furthermore, you can employ network segmentation to reduce any unnecessary communication between internal and external networks.

Ensure machines and devices are updated
Internal breaches can result from the use of unprotected machines. Without being aware, employees may download malware or ransomware.

However, this may not be a problem if the software and operating systems on the machines are up to date.

Keeping all devices and the accompanying software and security structures up to date will make a significant contribution to protecting your systems.

Monitor activity to identify suspicious activity
Sometimes, a security breach may not involve any employees. Network administrators should ensure the latest monitoring software is in use to monitor behaviors and immediately detect anything that looks amiss.

Cyber criminals are aware of these types of activities and often conceal themselves deep in the network to exploit the system over a prolonged period of time.

Even if you miss the threat the first time, the monitoring system will provide meaningful insights that will help you recognize foul play.

Ensure robust passwords are in place
When it comes to system passwords and login procedures, you can always improve. In addition to the more traditional text-based password access, you should also ensure you have more up-to-date security mechanisms in place such as fingerprint access and smartcards. These are much more challenging for cyber criminals to replicate.

Embrace cyber insurance policies
No system can be completely safe from a cyber attack. Criminals are getting smarter and smarter, and what appears to be an impenetrable system one day can be infiltrated the next.

For this reason, you may wish to take out cyber insurance to cover any costs you incur if things do go seriously wrong.

Do I Really Need A Firewall For My Business?

Ron Cochran is a senior help desk technician for Tech Experts.

Before we answer that, let’s look at what a firewall actually is. No, no actual flames of any kind are involved whatsoever.

A firewall is a barrier or “shield” intended to protect your PC, tablet, or phone from the data-based malware dangers that exist on the Internet. Data is exchanged between your computer and servers and routers in cyberspace, and firewalls monitor this data (sent in packets) to check whether they’re safe or not.

This is done by establishing whether the packets meet the rules that have been set up. Based on these rules, packets of data are accepted or rejected.

While most operating systems (desktop and mobile) feature a basic built-in firewall, the best results can usually be gained from using a dedicated firewall application, unless you know how to set up the built-in firewall properly and have the time to do so.

Firewall applications in security suites feature a host of automated tools that use whitelisting to check which of your applications should accept and reject data from the Internet — something that most users might find far too time consuming to do manually.

So it makes sense, now that it’s clear what a firewall is for, to have one installed and active. But just in case you’re still doubtful of the benefits…

Everyone who accesses the Internet needs a firewall of some kind. Without one, your computer will allow access to anyone who requests it and will open up your data to hackers more easily. The good news is that both Windows and Apple computers now come with built-in software firewalls (although the Mac’s firewall is turned off by default).

But businesses, especially those with multiple users or those that keep sensitive data, typically need firewalls that are more robust, more customizable, and offer better reporting than these consumer-grade alternatives.

Even a relatively small business engages in exponentially more interactions than an individual, with multiple users and workstations, and customers and suppliers. These days, most of those interactions are online and pose risks.

Not only are businesses exposed to riskier online interactions, the potential damage from each interaction is also greater. Businesses frequently keep everything from competitive bids and marketing plans to sensitive banking and customer data on their computers. When unprotected, the exposure is enormous.

Firewalls also allow computers outside of your network to securely connect to the servers that are inside your network. This is critical for employees who work remotely. It gives you the control to let the “good” connections in and keep the “bad” connections out.

Hardware firewalls must be compatible with your system and must be able to handle the throughput your business requires. They must be configured properly or they won’t work and can even stop your network from functioning entirely. You can use multiple hardware firewalls to take advantage of differing strengths and weaknesses.

Some industries (like medical and financial services) have specific regulatory requirements, so it’s important to consult your IT professional before choosing a firewall to make sure you’re not exposing your business to unnecessary liability.

It’s also important for you, or your IT service company, to constantly monitor the firewall to ensure it is up and working, as well as to ensure that it is regularly updated with security patches and virus definitions.

If you currently are not protected by a firewall or would like to inquire about an upgrade to your network infrastructure, please feel free to email (info@mytechexperts.com) or call (734-457-5000).

Windows 10 Creator’s Fall Update to Bring Hardened Ransomware Protection

jared-stemeye

Jared Stemeye is a Help Desk Technician at Tech Experts.

2017 has seen some of the most high-profile ransomware and cryptoware attacks to date. These incidents have demonstrated that these types of attacks can have catastrophic effects that reach far beyond the ransom demands paid to these attackers.

The cost of downtime and damage control multiplies quickly. Even more damaging is being impacted because critical infrastructure or health care services are unexpectedly unavailable for extended periods of time, consequently costing much more than any monetary value.

Microsoft has stated that they recognize the threat that these cybercrimes represent and have since invested significant yet simple strategies that are proving to be extremely effective as new attacks emerge. These new security features are now coming to all businesses and consumers using Windows 10 with the Creators Fall Update.

These advanced security features are focusing on three primary objectives:

  1. Protecting your Windows 10 system by strengthening both software and hardware jointly, improving hardware-based security and mitigating vulnerabilities to significantly raise the cost of an attack on Windows 10 systems. Meaning hackers will need to spend a lot of time and money to keep up with these security features.
  2. Recognizing that history has revealed vastly capable and well-funded attackers can find unexpected routes to their objectives. These latest security updates detect and help prevent against these threats with new advances in protection services like Windows Defender Antivirus and Windows Defender Advanced Threat Protection.
  3. Enabling customers and security experts to respond to threats that may have impacted them with newly updated tools like Windows Defender ATP. This will provide security operations personnel the tools to act swiftly with completeness of information to remediate an attack that may have impacted them.

Microsoft states this is a proven strategy that has remained 100% successful on Windows 10 S, the new secure version of Microsoft’s flagship operating system. Albeit, this version of the operating system does not allow any software from outside the Microsoft App Store to be installed.

Further, Microsoft states that even prior to the fall security updates rolling out, no Windows 10 customers were known to be compromised by the recent WannaCry global cyberattack. Despite this, Microsoft knows that there will always be unforeseeable exploits within their systems.

This is why the Windows 10 Creator’s Fall Update benefits from new security investments to stop malicious code via features like Kernel Control Flow Guard (kCFG) and Arbitrary Code Guard (ACG) for Microsoft Edge. These kinds of investments allow Windows 10 to mitigate potential attacks by targeting the techniques hackers use, instead of reacting to specific threats after they emerge.

Most importantly, Windows Defender security updates coming in this Fall will begin to leverage the power of the cloud and artificial intelligence built on top of the Microsoft Intelligent Security Graph (ISG) to promptly identify new threats, including ransomware, as they are first seen anywhere around the globe.

Though no exact date is set in stone, all of the amazing security updates detailed above will be available this Fall 2017 for free. For more information about the Creator’s Fall update beyond the security features, visit https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/upcoming-features.

Is Your Network Due For A Security Audit?

Thomas Fox is president of Tech Experts, southeast Michigan’s leading small business computer support company.

Businesses always face security risks from a variety of different sources.

Performing a security audit can help you to identify where you have exposures, develop a better understanding of the security policies and controls you have in place, and catalog your IT assets.

This article presents a quick and simple guide to performing a robust security audit that will help safeguard your organization against risks.

Define the physical scope of the audit
The first major task involves determining exactly what you will audit.

For example, you may wish to focus on business processes, such as financial reporting, or asset groups, such as a specific branch office. [Read more…]

Rules Of Thumb To Avoid An Infection

Anthony Glover is Tech Expert’s senior network engineer and service manager.

A virus can be an upsetting, expensive endeavor to deal with. A virus can wreak havoc on your personal files (like important spreadsheets or family photos) or the system files that keep your computer functioning.

These files can become corrupted, encrypted, or deleted, which makes recovery difficult or sometimes impossible.

Some less obvious viruses — the ones that might slow down your system instead of destroying it — can still affect you by stealing data and what you type on your keyboard, gaining access to your stored credit card information or important sites you use, like your bank. [Read more…]