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:

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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.

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…]

2017 Will See Worst Cyber Attacks To Date


Jared Stemeye is a Help Desk Technician at Tech Experts.

At least, according to cybersecurity experts.

There were around 500 million people with personal information leaked and over $2 billion stolen or lost in damages between 2015 and 2016 alone – and, chances are, you heard of at least one of the many high-profile data breaches during this time. Experian, Target and Yahoo all experienced massive data breaches within the past two years.

Beyond the private sector, government agencies such as the Office of Personnel Management (the bureau in charge of background checks on all government employees) were hit with cyberattacks, causing data leaks of over 22 million individuals who had undergone federal screening.

These numbers are quite alarming as top cybersecurity firms and analysts agree 2017 will see even more data breaches through the creation of ever-evolving and sophisticated malware.

Size Doesn’t Matter
In the cyber world, there are few things being bought and sold faster than data. Personal records, financial information, and even intellectual property are being distributed and exchanged for money or other data – and business is booming.

Organizations of all sizes were not fully aware of how this deeply embedded malware could potentially be infecting their systems without their knowledge until just recently.

The prevalence of zero-day attacks was not fully understood either. This has allowed attackers to prepare and disseminate virtually undetectable software to perform data dragnets across many networks, big and small.

It would be naïve to assume that all the data breaches occurring are currently exposed and being corrected. This is even truer for smaller, community-driven businesses that may have little to no persistent network security monitoring.

The Cost
Per the non-profit online security analysts Online Trust Alliance (OTA), approximately 82,000 cybersecurity incidents impacting more than 225 organizations worldwide were reported in 2016.

“As the majority of incidents are never reported to executives, law enforcement or regulators, the actual number of incidents causing harm combining all vectors including DDoS attacks could exceed 250,000,” OTA said.

Given this, it is well known by those affected that data breaches are expensive – and the longer the breach takes to discover, the more these costs can compound.

“If a breach took a long time to be found, then something about the existing infrastructure made it hard to discover the weakness sooner. That calls for rearchitecting the infrastructure, typically an expensive and time-consuming project. But that imperative is not always heeded,” says OTA. However, the cost of notifying victims and hiring security consultants to investigate, identify, and fix the problem can cost a company a lot more.

This is only the beginning as the costs of such an attack continue to rise when downtime, lost productivity, and the resulting lost revenue are considered.

Today’s Need For Cyber Defense
The scale of small business networks is becoming more complex as even basic technologies evolve.

Cloud deployment, fluid transfer of data across multiple devices, and the incorporation of all things Internet have made it increasingly difficult for your everyday office worker to navigate and detect threats.

For the attackers, though, nothing has changed. Malware will keep infecting these new systems and attackers will keep hunting for data to steal. “Cyber-attacks and cyber-defense is not a battle of attrition, it’s an arms race,” Ray Rothrock, CEO of Red Seal Security Analytics, says.

It is important to always be ahead in this race and, for businesses, it is becoming increasingly evident that having a full-time cybersecurity team at the ready is necessary for a fluent and successful operation.

To Firewall, Or Not To Firewall, That Is The Question

When operating a small business, there are many things to consider regarding your communication. Whether it’s within the office or to the outside world, efficient and secure communication is a key component to running a business effectively.

There’s also the issue of transferring data, which can be considered the biggest aspect concerning the communication needs of your business. Internet and network security is a big topic these days, with all the changes inherent with technology, and all the vulnerabilities popping up all over the place.

Just last year, it was figured that roughly a million new viruses, spyware, and other malware created each day. Yes, a MILLION PER DAY. After that sinks in, consider this: it only takes roughly 82 seconds for sensitive data to be hacked, duplicated, and dispersed to the world at large.

Last year, 5 out of 6 companies were targeted by some piece of malicious software. Most of the new threats are things like digital extortion, sophisticated breaching attacks, and social media hacks.

A firewall is a good way to protect yourself and your company against an attack. A firewall is either a physical box or a piece of software that provides protection. They update on a regular basis to combat against the biggest and baddest hacker software out there. Even if they can’t update quite fast enough, it’s much better than just leaving your network unprotected.

The first, and simplest method, is to make use of the firewall that comes with your operating system. This is typically the built-in Windows Firewall.

This firewall is commonly used and is usually a good idea for a very small company. It’s perfect for an organization with low traffic and not much sensitive data (such as credit card data, social security numbers, addresses, and other personal data).

A physical firewall is a better choice for bigger, more established business with a need for robust and reliable security. Don’t get me wrong; even if you have a smaller business with little data transfer and communication, a physical firewall is always a good way to go. But you should really use a cost-benefit analysis to determine whether it’s really worth going through the extra steps and money it would take to implement a solution like this.

Physical firewalls can be looked at like something that separates the outside world from your internal network.

They are robust, they provide an added layer of security, and you get what you pay for. It is always recommended that you use a physical firewall.

The downside of this, however, is two-fold. First, and most obvious, you have to splurge a little to get a decent solution. Secondly, someone has to know how to install, configure, and maintain it. This is where Tech Experts comes in.

Once it’s all said and done, if your security measures are in place, you can rest assured that your days will be less stressful. You’ll be able to sleep at night knowing your data and other forms of communication are protected from the outside world.

Drawbacks To The “Smart” World

We have mentioned ransomware and viruses many times. It’s something that can be seen daily without much effort. Everywhere you look, a computer is hacked and held for ransom. The user ends up losing everything in most scenarios.

However, in today’s world, we have more than just laptops and desktops. What if someone hacked your fancy new “smart” device? If someone took over or locked you out of your phone, then what would be your next move? What if they locked your home devices like your thermostat or refrigerator? The technological world can sometimes cause quite a panic.

The first question to address is a pretty big concern: How in the world does this even happen? With poor security standards, it’s not the most difficult job for those with malicious intent. In the most recent scenario released, a thermostat was hacked by adding files remotely and setting them to run in the background.

The operating system on the device did not check the security or contents of any files processed and ran the ransomware, which then requested money. In this case, if the victim did not pay, the temperature would be locked at 99F degrees.

Sadly, this is just one example. While not all malware attacks on smart devices may cause this type of concern, others are no better. Some other attacks will actually store data on the infected devices, then perform DDOS attacks against unsuspecting victims.

Small apps and programs that can be used for phishing can also find their way onto devices and be completely unknown to the user.

Fixes have rolled out over time for some of the bigger concerns, but there always seems to be something new. With these on your network, it’s not a big step to get to your actual files and programs on your PC either.
Currently, not everyone has a smart appliance in their home. That said, smart phones have obviously worked their way to the larger majority. We all download apps for one reason or another to make the phone better serve us. A wave of people will flock to the latest craze and download the most popular apps. In these scenarios, there are often “fakes” as well. These will offer some form of related service or product but will also bundle in malicious code. This code has all sorts of capabilities. Some may send texts without the owner’s knowledge. Other times, it’s possible to have information stolen. The possibilities are sometimes frightening.

So what can be done in the world of smart devices encroaching on all sides of life? In terms of larger devices and appliances, there isn’t room for removal and clean-up on the user side.

Developers are both the ones at fault and the ones that will find solutions ahead of time for the worst infections and hacks. Phones can have anti-malware programs run to help prevent data breaches, however. Most will come with a manufacturer version, but it’s always best to explore options to ensure you are protected.

Even if your smart devices don’t store information vital to you, they can still act as a gateway to anything else on your network.

As such, your office area or business workstation may fall victim soon after. Since these are the real powerhouses that hold your programs, data, and backups of other devices, it’s imperative to keep these clean and functional. Luckily, there are teams such as the one at Tech Experts that are able to identify and neutralize a threat. That alone adds peace of mind in a sometimes uncertain “smart” world.

Why It’s Important To Change Your Router’s Default Log-in

Mike Simonelli is a network technician for Tech Experts.

It’s a pretty common scenario: a small business wishes to add Wi-Fi to its existing network infrastructure. A quick trip to the nearest big-box store reveals several Wi-Fi capable routers or access points to choose from. Grabbing up the mid-priced model, the business owner heads back to the shop and uses the included Ethernet cable to plug the new device into an existing switch and, just like that, instant Wi-Fi.

There are a couple of concerns regarding the above scenario that the savvy business owner should be having. The first and most obvious: “I plugged it in and now everyone with a laptop has unrestricted access to my network.” How do you control who can connect to your Wi-Fi?

The answer is to enable a wireless security protocol on the router or access point. WEP is an acronym for Wired Equivalent Privacy (or Wireless Encryption Protocol) and it was designed to provide the same level of security as that of a hard-wired Ethernet connection.

Because wireless networks broadcast messages using radio waves, they are subject to eavesdropping. WEP provides security by encrypting the data to protect it as it is transmitted from one point to another. Almost all wireless devices will support WEP and instructions for enabling it on a particular device should be readily found in the documentation.

Enabling WEP will keep people without the correct password off your Wi-Fi and also prevent unauthorized eavesdropping of network traffic.

Another often overlooked concern is changing the default credentials that are needed to login and administer the new wireless device.

I can’t tell you how many times that I’ve connected to a wireless network and browsed to the default gateway I was assigned (normally something like and typed in “admin” and “password” on the login form that is presented and gained access to the router’s configuration.

The username “Admin” and the password “password” are typically the default credentials as they come pre-configured on Linksys routers, as well as some other brands.

If these credentials work, then potentially anyone can have unrestricted access to your router’s configuration. At this point, no wireless security protocol such as WEP will protect you since it can simply be turned off in the router’s administration interface.

Worse yet, an intruder can set his/her own password and change the admin password to something else. Once this happens, usually the only way to regain access to your own Wi-Fi network is to factory reset the device, which removes all of your configurations.

The bottom line – never leave a wireless device at its default settings when you connect it to your network. By taking the time to follow these simple guidelines, you will make your wireless device a worthwhile addition to your infrastructure, as well as making your network that much more secure.

If you have any questions during your router set-up or if you’d like to find out how to increase your office’s security using your current router, give Tech Experts a call at (734) 457-5000, or email We’d be happy to help.

How An End User Might Accidentally Undermine Your Security

Michael Menor is Vice President of Support Services for Tech Experts.

If you’re like every other small business out there, you know that the more employees you hire, the more technology that you have to procure. However, when you have more end-users, you provide more avenues for threats to slip into your network infrastructure unnoticed.

When all it takes is one simple mistake from a single end-user, how can you minimize the chances of falling victim to an untimely hacking attack? We’ve put together a list of honest mistakes that any end-user can make – and how they can be prevented.

Clicking on malicious links
With so much information on the Internet, it’s easy for an employee to search through countless pages without any regard to the sites and links that they’re clicking on.

You need to emphasize the importance of safe browsing, including double-checking the destination of a link before clicking on it. You can do so by hovering over the link and looking in the bottom-left corner of your browser.

Using weak passwords
Employees frequently use passwords that aren’t strong enough to keep hackers out. Often times, they’ll simply use something of personal significance, like the name of their pet or a specific date.

This isn’t the right way to approach password security. Instead, users should attempt to put together passwords that are private, randomized strings of numbers, letters, and symbols.

Losing unencrypted devices
It’s not unheard of for an employee to use company devices in public places. If they accidentally leave their smartphone on the bus or their tablet on a park bench, there’s always the risk that it can be stolen.

Unless you practice proper encryption protocol, any information available on the device can be accessed by the person who finds it, be it a good Samaritan or a tech-savvy thief.

Implementing unapproved solutions
Some employees simply prefer to use solutions that aren’t provided by the company to get their work done. The problem here is that the employee is moving forward without consulting IT about it and that your data is being used in a solution that you can’t control.

Plus, if the employee is using free or open-source software, these often come bundled with unwanted malware that can put your data in even greater peril.

Personal email use
It’s one thing to check your personal email account while at work, but another entirely to use your personal email account to perform work purposes.

As the recent debacle with Hillary Clinton shows, people don’t take kindly to sensitive information being leaked via an unsecured email server that their organization has no control over.

Add in the fact that personal email accounts are often not as secure as those in a professional productivity suite and you have a recipe for disaster. You need to reinforce that your team should keep their work and personal email separate.

Leaving workstations unattended
Besides the fact that some tech-savvy employees are practical jokers, it’s a security risk to leave a workstation unlocked and unattended for long periods of time.

Imagine if someone from outside of your organization walked into your office and accessed confidential files without authorization; that’s on the employee who got up and left the device unattended.

Encourage your employees to always log off of their workstations, or at least lock them, before stepping away from it. User error is a primary cause for concern among businesses, but it can be mostly avoided by providing your staff with the proper training. For more information on IT best practices, give us a call at (734) 457-5000.