The Internet Of Things Can Poke Holes In Your Network

Mark Funchion is a network technician at Tech Experts.

Some business owners spend a lot of time protecting their network. After putting a firewall in place, configuring security settings, and setting up users with complex passwords (and possibly even 2FA), it’s easy to think that’s secure enough.

Now, having that solid foundation and framework is great. If you’ve done that, you’re definitely on the right track. But you still might leave yourself open to exploitation without even knowing it.

How does that happen? IoT – the Internet of Things.

You’ve secured your business network, but what about the smart watches, fitness trackers, connected speakers, thermostats, and every other device with a battery and a tiny signal? Every single one of those devices is a potential inroad to your network.

For example, a user’s watch connects to their cell phone, which is connected to your business’s Wi-Fi network. With no firewall on the watch, that creates a potential path into your network.

All of these devices require an IP address. In the past, forty people only needed fifty IP addresses to allow everyone to connect their one device to the network, including wiggle room for guests.

Now, every person has a laptop, cell phone, and some sort of accessory – each with its own IP address.

Each of these devices are transmitting a tiny amount of data, but that data and usage grows exponentially.

Plus, if you don’t have that wiggle room for extra connections, you’re more susceptible to a denial of service (DoS) attack, which is when cybercriminals overwhelm your network with traffic and bring it to a halt.

Your network needs to be able to handle an increase in traffic while also securing all that extra information that you do not have control over.

It is scary and overwhelming, but you can take steps to secure yourself without going too far.

The easy way is withholding access to anything that is not corporate-owned and approved. However, limiting all these devices can have a negative impact on your business and its operation.

Instead, take a measured approach. Make sure your firewall is up-to-date, and monitor who is trying to access your network. Limit that access to the smallest “allow” list you can without making it impossible to work.

For all the smart things like watches and thermostats, keep these IoT devices on a separate virtual network. Encourage and educate users to keep their devices up-to-date – and to use them responsibly while on the network.

Cyberattacks are always increasing and changing, and a strong defense makes a considerable impact when it comes to preventing huge losses in productivity, data, business reputation and funds.

Developers know this too, and that’s why it’s important that your devices – all of them, from servers and PCs to security cameras and thermostats – are all kept up-to-date. These updates help patch up holes in the firmware and software that can otherwise be exploited.

We’re big proponents of the “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” philosophy. If you need help closing up any gaps in your network security, Tech Experts can assist.

We can conduct a network survey, set policies and passwords, segment and restrict access to/from your network, and ensure the right people have the right access.

As cyberattacks against small businesses mount, the time to fortify your first line of defense is now, before it’s too late.

Your Business Is Already Under Attack

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

Ransomware is big business. It’s one of the fastest growing online crimes. Cyber criminals are targeting small and medium sized companies as well as non-profits and government agencies.

It’s the computer crime where your data is encrypted so you can’t access it unless you pay the ransom fee.

The really scary part is that it’s unlikely you’d realize you were under attack from ransomware until it was too late.

Cyber criminals hide in your network for between 60 to 100 days before they strike. During that time they’re checking out your network, identifying vulnerabilities, and preparing what they need to hit you with the attack.

[Read more…]

Human Error: The Reason Why Cybercriminals Love Email

Mark Funchion is a network technician at Tech Experts.

Defending your data network against viruses, malware, ransomware, and other threats is a never-ending battle. Some attacks can be very sophisticated, using extremely complex techniques to try and exploit even the most secure networks. However, the vast majority of threats to your network – over 80% – are delivered through a very basic method: email.

Email is a common tool that many of us use constantly at work. Oftentimes, we use it without giving much thought to what we’re doing or what we’re opening.

It’s normal for co-workers, clients, or new prospects to communicate and share files with us via email. The file can be a document, spreadsheet, PDF, etc., but the fact is that it’s common and repetitive to us.

Like anything we do frequently, we can develop muscle memory. Think about the program guide on your TV – you probably navigate the menus without thinking. After an update or a provider switch, those menus can change and you might click the wrong buttons out of habit. No harm there.

But consider making the same mistake when a document is sent to you. The message arrives, and you briefly glance at who it’s from. Maybe you recognize them, maybe you don’t. You see an attachment, and you open it out of habit. The file is infected, and in less than a second, the damage has begun.

Like it or not, the people who are attacking your systems are running a business. Like any business, they are concerned with the return on their investment. Developing high-end, sophisticated attacks takes time and skill, which is expensive to do.

However, minimal skill is required to send an email – and that process can be replicated to hundreds of thousands of users with a simple click of a button. And almost everyone working today might accidentally open an email with little to no thought.

For small businesses, having a firewall, an email filter, and anti-virus software is a must. We can help install and maintain that infrastructure. Unfortunately, the methods that attackers use to slip under your defenses are always changing.

It is important that you and your staff – the end users who do the clicking – still do your part and remain vigilant. Attackers send such a high percentage of attacks through email because of that human element. It works.

It’s essential that you fight your muscle memory and treat email like physical mail. Look at what is being sent, who it is from, and if there is anything attached. If anything seems off, do not open it. Always err on the side of caution.

Also, if you do open something you shouldn’t, it’s better to notify your IT department or provider of a potential issue so they can look at what you were sent.

Often, I have observed someone get a suspicious message, open it, notice something is not right, then forward it to a co-worker for help. By sending the message on, there is a potential to increase the scope of damage done.

Those looking to do harm and steal information will always try the path of least resistance. All the security in the world can’t stop an intruder if you open the door for them.

The same caution you take at home when an unexpected knock is heard should be how you handle all email. Consider the source and content, and if you have doubts, don’t open the message. Delete it.

Malware will never be fully eradicated – cybercriminals will make sure of that – but you can do your part to make sure you do not infect your PC or business.

Handle Your Email With Care (Even With A SPAM Filter)

Mark Funchion is a network technician at Tech Experts.

A lot of the communication we do today is by email. Naturally, that makes it a favorite avenue for malicious individuals to attack your system. A SPAM filter can help considerably, however nothing is 100% effective – and there is a fine line between “too aggressive” and “not aggressive enough.”

Turning up the aggressiveness of the filter may stop the bad mail while at the same time improperly labeling legitimate messages as SPAM. Even with a SPAM filter, you should handle your email with care.

Here are a few tips to potentially save you from opening a message or attachment that is nefarious in nature.

The first rule is “just don’t do it.” It is tempting to just click that link or open that attachment.

You may even do it without a second thought. Scam emails can be very sophisticated, and they will often look like they are real.

Before you do anything, take a moment and consider a few things. If you are sent an attachment from someone you don’t know, never open it. If the fishy attachment or email is from someone you do know but it was not expected, reach out the sender to make sure they actually sent it.

Next, don’t jump the gun on clicking links that are sent to you. Links are easy to manipulate; they can be made to look legitimate, but they’ll actually take you to a different site or start downloading a program or virus.

With links, there are two things you can do.

First, you can open a browser and go directly to the site to bypass all links. This is the safest option, especially when you get an “urgent alert” about your account that “requires immediate action.”

If you can’t go to the page directly through the website, you can hover your cursor over the link. A box will pop up previewing the destination you’re actually being sent to.

If a link looks strange and doesn’t match the company website, don’t click on it. Also, look closely at the link as it may look just like a real one at first glance. Unless you are 100% sure the link is legitimate, do not click on it.

Another giveaway is that the message is poorly written with a lot of grammatical errors. If the message sounds like whoever wrote it doesn’t use English as their first language (and it is not from a foreign company you do business with), delete the message. Do not open or click on anything in the message.

The last point is that it’s usually not a good idea to unsubscribe from scam emails.

This may seem counterintuitive, but when you unsubscribe, you usually put your email address in to confirm you no longer want these messages.

Unfortunately, that lets the scammer know your email address is active. They will continue to send emails to this account or may sell it off as an active email.

Rather than unsubscribe from the email, block the sender. They will not know your email is active, and if they do send another message to you, it will not be received.

SPAM filters are great and they are essential. Still, remember that they are not 100% effective. Even with protection in place, it is wise to proceed with caution.

Take a moment to look for signs that the message is not from who it seems. These few seconds can save you a lot of time and money by avoiding disaster.

Heads Up: Hackers Are Exploiting Email Forwarding Rules

Mark Funchion is a network technician at Tech Experts.

The ways in which hackers attack accounts are endless, and a lot goes into keeping your accounts both safe and usable.

A newer attack style that is being used (and one we have personal experience with resolving) is the manipulation of email forwarding rules.

Email forwarding rules are rules that are set up in your inbox to forward a message to another mailbox as soon as it arrives.

The danger for the email owner is that these rules can also clean up after themselves by deleting the message, preventing a copy of the forward from showing in the “Sent Items” folder, and deleting the message from the “Deleted Items” folder.

If a hacker takes advantage of this, then all your email will be sent to and read by someone you do not even know.

Think about the items in your inbox, especially the ones that are sensitive and/or confidential. Can you risk there being a period of time where your messages are being forwarded without your knowledge?

Also, as the hackers are good at cleaning up and hiding their tracks, you need someone with the experience and expertise to resolve this for you if it does occur.

One of the big dangers with this attack style is that changing your password or adding two-factor authentication will not stop the current breach once the rule is in place.

Forwards will continue to be sent because the rule is not password dependent. It’s the same with two-factor authentication; if you enable this after the rule is in place, it will not do you any good.

There are steps that can be taken to prevent these types of attacks, however most of them are not settings that an end user would be familiar with.

It’s important to not allow forwarding to occur to email addresses outside of your domain, and relatedly, it’s a good idea to allow the full sync of settings between the web client and the local desktop client.

For example, Office 365 by default will not sync these settings, so if someone gains access to your email and creates a forward on the web page, you and your IT department will not see it if they look in your Outlook client on your local computer.

These rules can be hidden if the hacker knows what they are doing. This means a quick open-and-check-if-a-rule-exists is not sufficient. Steps need to be taken to make sure there are no rules, not just a lack of visible rules.

Checking for these rules if there is a suspected breach is critical because of another potential problem: if you do a password reset on another account that you are concerned about (for example, your bank because you use the same password), that email with details gets forwarded to the hacker and they may be able to gain access to that account.

Hackers will continue to evolve as they need to. As this exploit is discovered and procedures are put in place to mitigate their effect, the next exploit will be used and the cycle will start again. Having a partner to help you navigate through all these potential issues is essential.

Being aware of these exploits, watching for new ones, and making necessary changes to keep your business safe is a big part of what Tech Experts does.

Handling these concerns is part of our core business, giving you the peace of mind to handle your core business.

Everyone On Your Team Needs Cyber Security Training. Including You!

Every good business leader knows that training is essential for a highly productive team.

But have you ever considered giving your staff cyber security training? You really should.

What is it?

It’s about increasing their awareness of the ways that criminals try to break into your IT system, and the devastating consequences if they do.

So, they’d learn:
• How to spot the different types of fake emails and messages, and what to do with them
• The risk of social engineering by email, phone, or text message
• Why we use basic security tools such as password managers and multi factor authentication (where you generate a code on another device)

By holding regular cyber security training sessions, you can keep everyone up to date. And develop a great culture of security awareness. It’s another layer of protection to help ensure that your business doesn’t become part of a scary statistic (one small business is hacked every 19 seconds).

As the company owner, it’s critical you do the training, too.

You’ll be one of the most targeted people in the business, as you probably have access to all the systems, including the bank account.

If you don’t already have cyber security training in place, we’d love to help. Give us a call at (734) 457-5000, or an email to info@mytechexperts.com.

Could One Well-intended Click Take Down Your Business… From The Inside?

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

Not many owners and managers realize this… but the biggest data security risk to your business is actually your team.

We’re not talking malicious damage. But rather, them being caught out by cyber criminals.

It only takes one click on one bad website, and your business can be compromised. It really can be that simple.

Hackers target staff to try to install malware on your devices. Then they can try to extort money, corrupt files, or steal your sensitive business data.

In some cases, this can cause such extreme damage to your business that it makes genuine recovery very hard. Trust us when we say you want to avoid it at all costs.

Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to help protect your business from this kind of attack. And you’re probably already doing some of them. [Read more…]

Are You Using Multi-factor Authentication Yet?

Robust security is key for storing data. Cyber-criminals are targeting all businesses all the time, using clever automated tools to sniff out weaknesses they can exploit. Don’t make it easy for them.

Multi-factor authentication gives you another level of security when logging into apps.

What is it? You’ve probably used it when you log into your bank account. You enter your password, then on the next screen, you click to have a code texted to your phone, which you enter as a second, single-use password.

The thing is, it’s not just for your bank. You can use it to access many applications.

It’s simple to set up, and you can use it for any account that holds data you’d rather not fall into the wrong hands.

There are lots of different ways to do multi-factor authentication to protect your business’s data:

• The text message approach: That’s lots better than nothing, but is the least secure multi-factor authentication
• Generate a code on your cell phone: This is better
• Have a special small USB device that must be plugged into your laptop

If you’re unsure how to set this up, please give us a call at (734) 457-5000. We’d love to help.

Buyer Beware: New Phishing Scams Appearing On Craigslist

Craigslist email scams come in many shapes and forms, but in general, a Craigslist email scammer is known to do at least one of the following things:

● Ask for your real email address for any reason at all.
● Insist on communicating by email only (using either your Craigslist email or your real email).
● Send you fake purchase protection emails that appear to be from Craigslist itself.

Asking for your real email address
Scammers might ask you for your real email address for any of the following reasons:

The scammer claims they want to send payment via PayPal. Scammers posing as buyers might try to talk you into accepting online payments, such as those via PayPal.

Once you give your PayPal email address to the scammer, however, they can easily send you a fake PayPal confirmation email to make you think that they paid when they really didn’t.

The scammer claims they use a third-party to securely handle the payment. Similar to the PayPal scenario above, a scammer (posing as either a buyer or a seller) might ask for your real address so that they can send a fake email that appears to come from an official third party.

These types of emails typically are cleverly designed to look like they offer a guarantee on your transaction, certify the seller, or inform you that the payment will be securely handled by the third party.

The scammer intends to send you multiple scam and spam messages. A scammer who asks for your real email address might be creating a list of victims they’re targeting to hack their personal information.

They could be planning to send you phishing scams, money or lottery scams, survey scams or even social network scams.

Insisting on communicating entirely by email
Scammers might insist on talking exclusively by email for any of the following reasons:

The scammer can’t speak to you by phone or meet up in person. Many Craigslist scammers operate overseas and don’t speak English as their first language, which is why they prefer to do everything via email. If they’re posing as a seller, they almost definitely don’t have the item you’re trying to buy and are just trying to get your money.

The scammer is following a script and has an elaborate personal story to share. Scammers use scripts so that they can scam multiple people. If they’re posing as a buyer, they might refer to “the item” instead of saying what the item actually is.

Since English is typically not most scammers’ first language and they operate around the world, it’s very common for them to misspell words or use improper grammar. And finally, to back up why they can’t meet up or need payment immediately, they’ll describe in detail all the problems they’re currently facing/have faced in order to get you to sympathize with them.

The scammer is looking to pressure you to make a payment, or wants to send a cashier’s check. Using their elaborate story, the scammer who’s posing as a seller might ask you to make a deposit via a third party such as PayPal, Western Union, MoneyGram, an escrow service, or something else.

They might even convince you to make multiple payments over a period of time, looking to extract as much money from you as possible before you realize you’re not getting what you’re paying for.

On the other hand, the scammer who’s posing as a buyer might offer to send a cashier’s check, which will likely be discovered as fraudulent days or weeks later.

Beware of anyone who tells you they’re in the military. This is a strong sign of a scam.

Sending fake purchase protection emails
Scammers have been known to send protection plan emails that appear to be from Craigslist. Of course, Craigslist doesn’t back any transactions that occur through its site, so any emails you receive claiming to verify or protect your purchases via Craigslist are completely fake.

The most important thing you can do to avoid getting involved in a Craigslist email scam is to never give away your real email address to anyone you’re speaking to from Craigslist.

The Latest Small Business Security SNAFU? Zoom

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

With everyone now working from home and finding new ways to collaborate and get things done, Zoom has become one of the most popular video conferencing applications, reporting growth of 378% over just one year ago.

As its popularity has grown, so has the allure for hackers. The FBI in Boston reported that two online high school classes had been interrupted by individuals who began yelling obscenities and the address of the teacher to another which displayed swastika tattoos. So how does this happen?

To start, most recurring meetings use the same meeting IDs. Someone, in an effort to make sure other attendees were aware of the event, would share it in an unsecured way, such as on Facebook or other social media.

Hackers can pick up this information, and even after the event was over, they could use the same information to gain access to the next meeting. Fortune Magazine has reported that dark web dedicated forums have popped up on popular sites like Reddit, and all a hacker would need to do on Facebook is search for “zoom.us” to find any public post containing the targeted words.

So what is a business to do to secure their meetings and avoid the potential sharing of sensitive corporate information during this time of extensive virtual meetings? First, and foremost, set your meeting to private. This means that there is a password required for each participant to enter. Although Zoom has now changed this setting to be the default setting, some users are still opting to make the meeting public for the sake of convenience.

As inconvenient as it is to have invitees enter a password to get into their meeting, it’s even more inconvenient to have sensitive corporate information released. Also… and this might seem to be stating the obvious but do not share your meeting invite over social media.

No matter our security settings on social media profiles, it’s best to assume that nothing you say on there will stay private. Another way to ensure the security of your zoom meeting is to use the feature of the waiting room. This means that each invitee who logs in will first be placed into a room where the meeting host then has to approve their entry and allowing the host to assess each attendee before they enter the room.

Also, never use your personal ID. Each zoom user has a personal virtual meeting room assigned when they create an account. Defaulting to using your assigned virtual meeting room can make it easier for hackers to enter in from old meeting announcements.

You know the phrase, what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas? Yeah. When it comes to Zoom (and any virtual meeting for that matter) assume what happens in Zoom does not stay in Zoom. If the information that is going to be shared is of such critical nature, you should find another medium where you have no chance of being overheard.