What’s Your Pocket-Sized Security Threat?

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

You guessed it. I’m talking about phones.

How many people in your business have a company-issued phone, or use their own to access company data like emails, client information, or documents? It’s probably a high number, right?

And your phone is a big risk to your data security. Smishing attacks (that’s the text message equivalent of a phishing email) increased 328% in 2020 and will probably significantly rise again this year.

That’s because it’s a goldmine for cyber criminals. 98% of text messages are read and 45% are responded to. So a smishing text is likely to yield good results for criminals.

Once your phone is infected, malware can monitor your calls and messages, download and delete your data, and if a phone is connected to your business network, the infection might even spread. [Read more…]

Companies Must Address Employees’ Lax Cybersecurity Habits

A third of employees picked up bad cyber security behaviors while working from home, according to Tessian’s Back to Work Security Behaviors report.

Despite the remote workers’ bad security practices, 9 out of 10 organizations prefer the hybrid workplace as COVID-19 restrictions eased. Similarly, 89% of employees want to work remotely during the week.

The firm advises business owners to consider the bad employee behaviors as organizations transition to hybrid workplace models.

As employees go back to the office, businesses need to address changes to employees’ security behaviors since they have been working remotely.

Most employers are wary that the post-pandemic hybrid workforce would bring bad cybersecurity behaviors.

More than half (56%) of employers believed that employees had picked bad security practices while working remotely.

Similarly, nearly two-fifths (39%) of employees also admitted that their employee behaviors differed significantly while working from home compared to the office.

Additionally, nearly a third (36%) admitted discovering ‘workarounds’ since they started working remotely.

Close to half of workers adopted the risky behavior because they felt that they weren’t being watched by IT departments. Nearly a third (30%) said they felt that they could get away with the risky employee behaviors while working away from the office.

However, small businesses placed more confidence in their employees while transitioning to the hybrid workplace.

Over two-thirds of business owners believed that their staff would observe their company’s cybersecurity policies.

Many employees are unlikely to admit cutting corners

The fear or failure to report cybersecurity mistakes was a huge cybersecurity risk for organizations. A quarter of employees refused to report such mistakes believing that nobody would ever discover them.

Similarly, more than a quarter feared reporting cybersecurity mistakes to avoid potential disciplinary actions or being forced to take additional security training.

However, younger employees are more likely to admit cutting corners, according to the Tessian report.

More than half (51%) of employees between 16-24 years old and 46% of those between 25-34 years old were more likely to admit circumventing the company’s security protocols.

“Create a security culture that encourages people to come forward about their mistakes, and support them when they do,” the authors suggested.

Personal devices will undermine the network perimeter in the hybrid workplace

Some of the security threats and challenges experienced when people work fully remotely would be imported into the new hybrid workplace.

While many employees used infected devices for remote access during the pandemic, some would bring them to the hybrid office. Company leaders now have to shift to a new security architecture for good – one that involves zero-trust network access, endpoint security, and multi-factor authentication.

Phishing and ransomware attacks are major challenges in the hybrid workplace

Ransomware attacks were also a major concern for more than two-thirds (69%) of companies who believed that the hybrid work environment would be a target for ransomware attacks. These attacks posed a business continuity threat to targeted companies.

Similarly, phishing attacks concerned over three-quarters of IT decision-makers who believed that credential phishing would only exacerbate in a hybrid workplace.

They believed that employees were more likely to expose company data in public or fall for phishing scams impersonating airlines, booking companies, hotels, or senior executives on a business trip. In fact, “back to work” phishing emails were a concern for 67% of IT leaders.

Phishing was the gateway to ransomware attacks. Consequently, successfully blocking phishing exploits reduces the chances of a ransomware attack.

“Stop phishing, business email compromise, account takeover attacks, and social engineering scams, and you significantly reduce the risk of ransomware,” the report authors noted.

However, bad employee behaviors, such as failing to report clicking phishing links, made it harder to stop these attacks.

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.

Over $1 Trillion Lost To Cyber-crime Every Year

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

$1 trillion! That’s a lot of money. And it’s a figure that’s increased by more than 50% since 2018.

In 2019, two-thirds of all organizations reported some type of incident relating to cyber-crime.

You could make a sure bet this figure rose significantly last year, thanks to criminals taking advantage of the pandemic.

It’s easy to look at big figures like these and not relate them back to your own business. But here’s the thing. The average cost of a data breach to a business is estimated to be around $500,000.

[Read more…]

Phishers Lure Targets In With COVID-19 Schemes

Mark Funchion is a network technician at Tech Experts.

You may have noticed that we talk about phishing a lot. Unfortunately, phishing is an issue that will never go away and the tactics change constantly. That constant change makes it difficult, if not impossible, to eliminate as a threat.

Fortunately, there are red flags that end users can keep an eye out for.

If you get an email that answers a common demand, treat it with a high level of skepticism.

For example, a few years ago when the Nintendo Wii was hard to find and a lot of people wanted them, a lot of “Click here to buy a Wii now!” emails went out. I think you can guess how many people actually got a Wii through those schemes.

Well, it’s not Christmas, but the ongoing hot topic in the world is COVID-19 and its vaccine.

As we strive to return to normalcy, there are people who want the vaccine who do not qualify yet, are on a waiting list, or want to get it in a quick and easy way.

Attackers know this. In fact, they count on it. Phishers rely on human nature, and that is what makes it hard for the end user: you have to go against your basic human emotions.

All emails should be evaluated as if they are a phishing email. Look for the standard warning signs such as an offer that’s too good to be true, misspelled words, or if the wording of the message is a little off. Some are very obvious. Some are more subtle.

The attackers may also appear as though they are from a reputable company like a national pharmacy chain, a local doctor, or a large hospital system.

However, the typical format legitimate providers follow is that they’ll send you information on the vaccine and remind you to contact your health care professional to schedule an appointment.

Another example of the phishers’ methods is that they’ll send a link asking you to verify your information to determine eligibility (or even a link to buy the vaccine from a supplier).

Again, red flags. Take a moment to ask yourself why – when the vaccine distribution is so controlled – would a random person have a surplus of product?

These are all pretty basic ideas, but it is easy to get lax in proceeding with caution. It’s even more of a challenge to stay alert when the attacks are using current events to their advantage.

The days of free money from a “Nigerian Prince” are mostly over, but almost everything we do right now is influenced by COVID.

If and when you get the message asking you to “click here to verify your vaccine eligibility,” don’t do it. Next month, when you are hit with messages for updates on your taxes or missing money, don’t click on those either. Later this year at Christmas, don’t click on the link for the discounted, hot item everyone wants. And in 2022… rinse and repeat.

Phishing will always find a way to be relevant, and you can never let your guard down.

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.

Would You Know If You Were Being Smished?

Ooof… you’d hope so, right? Sounds uncomfortable.

But push away whatever image that word has put in your head, and turn your attention to your mobile phone.

Smishing is the text message version of phishing.

What’s phishing again? It’s where criminals send you an email, pretending to be someone else (like your bank), to try to get sensitive information from you.

Yes, these cyber criminals really are resourceful. And the more ways there are to try and infiltrate your data, the more they’ll use different platforms.

Just like with phishing, smishing attempts are not always as easy to spot as you might think.

Most of them pretend to be sent from a recognized business – like your network provider, for example – rather than just a random number. Some look like they’ve come from someone you know personally.

They’ll ask you to click a link to take an action like checking your monthly bill, updating your account information, or maybe to pay a bill. It’s usually the kind of message you would expect to see from that business.

But if you click that link… you’ve potentially given them access to your device. And that means they may have access to your data, passwords, and any other information stored on your phone.

Terrifying.

Protecting yourself is really similar to the way you’d deal with a phishing attempt on your email:

• Never click on any links unless you’re certain the sender is who they say they are

• If you’re unsure, contact the company (or person) on their usual number to check

• And if an offer seems too good to be true, it usually is (sorry, you didn’t really win that competition you never even entered)

Consider this our number one most important golden rule: Never click a link if you’re not expecting it. Wait to verify it with the sender first.

Happy Holidays: The Season Of Cyberattacks

The year 2020 has, in many ways, been the year of COVID. Whether or not you have had COVID-19, it is a safe bet that your life has in some way been impacted by the pandemic.

As is usually the case, cybercriminals are at the forefront of exploiting every opportunity they can.

A look at Google trends for coronavirus (https://trends.google.com/trends/story/US_cu_4Rjdh3ABAABMHM_en) shows how prevalent the topic is and continues to be.

This desire for information has led to a third of the cyberattacks in the United States (and a quarter of the attacks in the UK) being coronavirus-related. Like most cybersecurity attacks, these are often of the ransomware variety.

These attacks are increasingly targeting heath care facilities, but anyone can be a target. Since these medical facilities are overwhelmed and COVID leads most of the news today, people are on data overload while trying to manage their immediate concerns – and can become complacent when dealing with potential threats.

As we must remain vigilant in keeping ourselves medically safe, we must do the same to keep ourselves technologically safe. A few best practices are:

• Don’t open an attachment unless you know who it is from and you are expecting it.

• Use the same level of caution with email messages that instruct you to enable macros before downloading Word or Excel attachments as you would with a live cobra. Don’t touch it!

• Use anti-virus software on your machine, and make sure it’s kept up-to-date with the latest virus definitions.

• If you receive an attachment from someone you don’t know, don’t open it. Delete it immediately.

• Learn how to recognize phishing:

– Messages that contain threats to shut your account down

– Requests for personal information such as passwords or Social Security numbers

– Words like “Urgent” – a false sense of urgency will encourage you to act

– Forged email addresses

– Poor writing or bad grammar

• Hover your mouse over links before you click on them to see if the URL looks legitimate.

• Instead of clicking on links, open a new browser session and manually type in the address.

• Don’t click the “Unsubscribe” link in a spam email. It would only let the spammer know your address is legitimate, which could lead to you receiving more spam.

• Understand that reputable businesses will never ask for personal information via email.

• Don’t send personal information in an email message.

Tech Experts can assist with keeping you safe by providing support, running backups, and ensuring that your devices and software are up-to-date.

However, even with these safeguards in place, it is important that you do your part and do your best to act responsibly and thoughtfully when dealing with technology.

Messages that ask you to click for COVID news, updates, cures, etc. that you are not expecting should be treated as a potential threat. Obtain news from trusted sites.

While our interest in COVID is high, that is what makes it such an effective method of lowering people’s guards. Relatedly, as we head into the holiday season, watch out for “There is a problem with your delivery – click here” emails and other similar traps.

If cybercriminals, hackers, and spammers can find an opportunity, they’ll take advantage of it regardless of a global pandemic or the holidays. You’ve got enough on your plate; staying vigilant will go a long way in preventing the headaches of cyberattacks or identity theft.

The Eleven Types Of Phishing Attacks You Need To Know To Stay Safe

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

Like Darwin’s finches, phishing has evolved from a single technique into many specialized tactics, each adapted to specific targets and technology. First described in 1987, phishing is now carried out via text, phone, advertising and, of course, email.

Boiled down, all of these tactics exist for the same purpose – to steal confidential information from an unsuspecting target in order to extract something of value.

Knowing about the hugely diverse set of today’s phishing tactics can help you be more prepared for the inevitable instance when you become the target.

Standard phishing – casting a wide net
At its most basic, standard phishing is the attempt to steal confidential information by pretending to be an authorized person or organization. It is not a targeted attack and can be conducted en mas. [Read more…]

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.