How To Set Up And Maintain A Secure, Remote Work Environment To Overcome The COVID19 Pandemic

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

“We are in this together.” We can’t say that enough. It’s not you, and I, but US.

Information technology and communications providers are considered essential services in this unprecedented time, and we take our role seriously. We are here to help, and we ask you (no, implore you) to reach out with any technology-related questions as you work to transition from a central office to a remote employee environment.

As you prepare (or maybe you already have transitioned) for remote work environments, many of which will need to be done by the individual who will be working there, we developed this list of 10 things to keep in mind to secure a remote work environment on the fly.

Invest in antivirus software for all employee devices
Yes, technically it is your employee’s devices and these are usually outside of the typical IT circle. But with these circumstances coming about quickly, there may not have been time to follow your normal procurement cycle to get the specific equipment your employees need to remain productive while working from home. That means they will be working from their own device, and they may or may not be as cognizant of your security measures.

So a good rule of thumb is to work to ensure that all employees utilize antivirus software. Many ISPs (Internet service providers) also offer free antivirus software with their service, and we would encourage you to take full advantage. There are several ways you can handle this and we invite you to give us a call to see what will work best for your organization. [Read more…]

Working From Home? Probably The “New Normal”

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

I hope that you and your family (and pets) are safe and sound and doing as well as can be expected. This is an extraordinary time for all of us, and the very embodiment of the ancient Chinese aphorism “may you live in interesting times.” We surely do.

Our team is mixed between working in the office and working from home, and everyone is doing a great job. We initially saw a huge increase in our ticket volume as our client’s teams prepared to work from home but that’s tapered off in the last week to a pretty normal level of activity.

If you had to wait for help, please accept my personal apology for the inconvenience – while we have plans to handle client disasters, I never anticipated something as far-reaching as the current pandemic.

The “new normal”

If the politicians and experts are to be believed, many of the changes we’ve had to make to slow the spread of this virus are going to be around for quite a while, at least until we have an effective vaccine for COVID-19. From an IT perspective, that means more of your team will probably be working remotely. And that presents a new kind and new level of security exposure for your company. [Read more…]

Designing A Comprehensive Security Plan For Your Company

After years of being in the industry and watching the evolution of cyberattacks, we feel that there are 13 critical pieces to any cybersecurity plan that we, as your managed service provider, should implement. They are:

Two-factor/Multi-factor authentication

Two-factor authentication is probably the most widely misunderstood security solution, but a critical and effective part of every cybersecurity strategy.

Two-factor authentication is just how it sounds: two separate layers of security. The first is a typical username and password log-in with the addition of a secondary level that looks for something you know, something you have, or something on your body (e.g., fingerprint).

Here are some stats you should know that describe the critical need for two-factor authentication:

  • 90% of passwords can be cracked in less than six hours.
  • Two-thirds of people use the same password everywhere.
  • Sophisticated cyberattackers have the power to test billions of passwords every second.

This sobering reality is why we require two-factor or multi-factor authentication for all of our employees and users of our system, and we highly recommend that you do too.

Password management

The main reason people use the same password everywhere is because it’s impossible to keep track of hundreds of usernames and passwords across various devices and systems.

A secure password is a unique, hard-to-guess one, so it’s understandable why users resort to the use of the same password for each site. This is why we have a password management program built into our procedures. The password manager program generates unique, complex passwords for each site or program then securely stores them in the management program.

When one of our staff needs credentials, they use the master password to open their database of passwords and obtain the login information they need, making it easy to “remember” a complex password and significantly reduce the risk of a breach.

Security risk assessment

A security risk assessment involves reviewing your technology and how you use it, followed by the implementation of security improvements and preventive measures.

The assessment should be performed at a minimum of one time per year, if not more. A full security assessment includes the following pieces:

Identification – When performing a security risk assessment, we first need to take inventory of all of your critical information technology equipment, then determine what sensitive data is created, stored, or transmitted through these devices and create a risk profile for each.

Assessment – This step takes identification to the next level. To complete the assessment step, we need to identify the security risks to each critical asset and determine the most effective and efficient way to allocate time and resources to mitigation.

Mitigation – This is where we solve problems. We have specifically defined a mitigation approach for each potential risk in our network and what security controls will be initiated in case of a breach.

Prevention – We have specific tools and processes to minimize the risk of threats against us and our network in order to help keep you safe.

Information security plan

There is a significant need to safeguard any information that is collected, transmitted, used, and stored within information systems, so the development of an information security plan is crucial. We take this very seriously. We have taken steps to document a plan and designed systems to secure our and our clients’ sensitive business data.

A security program is essentially about risk management, including identifying, quantifying and mitigating risks to computers and data. There are some essential basic steps to risk management:

Identify the Assets – Beyond generating a list of all the hardware and software within the infrastructure, assets also include any data that is processed and stored on these devices.

Assign value – Every asset, including data, has a value and there are two approaches that can be taken to develop the value: qualitative and quantitative. “Quantitative” assigns a financial value to each asset and compares it to the cost of the counter-measure.  “Qualitative” places the threats and security measures of the assets and sets a rank by use of a scoring system.

Identify risks and threats to each asset – Threats to the system go beyond malicious actors attempting to access your data and extend to any event that has the potential to harm the asset. Events like lightning strikes, tornados, hurricanes, floods, human error, or terrorist attacks should also be examined as potential risks.

Estimate potential loss and frequency of attack of those assets – This step depends on the location of the asset. For those operating in the Midwest, the risk of a hurricane causing damage is extremely low while the risk of a tornado would be high.

Recommend countermeasures or other remedial activities – By the end of the above steps, the items that need improvement should become fairly obvious. At this point, you can develop security policies and procedures.

Policies and procedures (internal & external) – A crucial part of an effective cybersecurity plan is the policies and procedures, both for internal assets and external assets. You can’t have one without the other. A general description can be thought of as this: a policy is the “rule” and a procedure is the “how.” With this in mind, a policy would be to effectively secure corporate data with strong passwords. The procedure would be to use multi-factor authentication.

Cybersecurity insurance and data breach financial liability – CyberInsureOne defines cybersecurity insurance as “a product that is offered to individuals and businesses in order to protect them from the effects and consequences of online attacks.”

Cybersecurity insurance can help your business recover in the event of a cyberattack, providing such services as public relations support and funds to draw against to cover any financial losses. It’s something that your MSP should carry as well as your own business.

And just like business liability and auto liability insurance, it is paramount that your business (as well as your MSP) covers themselves with data breach financial liability insurance to cover any event that may be attributed to their activities causing a breach.

Data access management – Access management is determining who is and who isn’t allowed access to certain assets and information, such as administrative accounts.

This is critical for your business as it enables control over who has access to your corporate data, especially during times of employee turnover. Other benefits include increased regulatory compliance, reduced operating costs, and reduced information security risks.

Security awareness training (with phishing training) – Phishing is the number one attack vector today with over 90,000 new attacks launched every month. If your provider is not actively participating in security and phishing awareness training, they will be unable to keep you up on the latest trends in how these malicious actors are attempting to gain access to your businesses data.

Data encryption – At its basic level, data encryption translates data into a different form, making it readable only by the starting and ending points and only with the appropriate password. Encryption is currently considered one of the most effective security measures in use as it is nearly impossible for an outside force to crack.

Next Gen antivirus and firewall – Antivirus is software designed to detect and neutralize any infection that does attempt to access the device and should be on every endpoint.

Many providers are marketing their software as “next generation,” but true next generation antivirus includes features such as exploit techniques (blocking a process that is exploiting or using a typical method of bypassing a normal operation), application whitelisting (a process for validating and controlling everything a program is allowed to do), micro-virtualization (blocks direct execution of a process, essentially operating the program in its own virtual operating system), artificial intelligence (blocking or detecting viruses the same way as a human user could), and EDR/Forensics (using a large data set from endpoint logs, packets, and processes to find out what happened after the fact).

Next generation firewalls also include additional capabilities above the traditional firewall, including intrusion protection, deep packet inspection, SSL-Encrypted traffic termination, and sandboxing.

Business continuity plan – This is a process surrounding the development of a system to manage prevention and recovery from potential threats to a business. A solid business continuity plan includes the following:

  • Policy, purpose, and scope
  • Goals
  • Assumptions
  • Key roles responsibilities
  • A business impact analysis
  • Plans for risk mitigation
  • Data and storage requirements that are offsite
  • Business recovery strategies
  • Alternate operating plans
  • Evaluation of outside vendors’ readiness
  • Response and plan activation
  • Communication plan
  • Drills and practice sessions
  • Regular re-evaluation of the current plan

Your MSP should be able to provide you with a copy of what is included in their plan and how it will affect your business if they do encounter a business continuity event, as well as their backup plan to maintain your critical business infrastructure.

Email security layers – In short, layers limit risk. Email security layers include tactics such as two-factor authentication and spam filters at the basic level (which give your employees time to evaluate a potential threat by removing the words “urgent” or “do right now” from internal subject lines).

As your managed service provider, we are dedicated to helping you maintain effective cybersecurity through these advanced tactics, as well as through a consultative, trusted advisor relationship. You are more than just a number to us and we will do everything in our power to help keep your business safe and running smoothly.

Most Small Business Breaches Could Be Prevented

The majority of breaches that affect small and medium businesses like yours could have been prevented through the use of today’s technology. Here are 14 ways you can protect your business:

Security assessment
Establish a baseline and determine when your last security assessment was.

Spam email
Most attacks occur from infected emails. Be sure you secure your accounts. We can help you determine the right level of protection for your business.

Passwords
Set company policies surrounding passwords and external devices in your business. Examples include restricting USB drive access, screen timeout limits, enhanced password policies, and limiting user access to certain files.

Security awareness
Educate, educate,and then educate some more. Employees are the single greatest risk to an organization of a cyber breach by employees inadvertently clicking on a link in an email or downloading a file that contains the virus or ransomware.

Advanced endpoint detection and response (EDR)
Technology advancements have enhanced the traditional methods of virus protection, adding protections for fileless and script-based attacks and can even roll back systems after an attack. Give us a call at (734) 457-5000 (or email at info@mytechexperts.com) to learn more about these features and how they can replace your current virus protection software.

Multi-factor authentication
Multi-Factor Authentication is the process of requiring two modes of identity checks when logging into accounts with sensitive and personal information, such as bank accounts or social media.

This additional layer of protection can be critical in ensuring your data does not become lost.

Computer updates
Automate key software, such as Microsoft Office and OS, Adobe, and Java, to protect your network from the latest attacks. We can provide “critical update” services to your business and help you keep your business protected from these malicious sources.

Dark web research
A little known secret is the reality that many users’ login credentials have been placed for sale on Dark Web sites. Continuously monitor these sites and update credentials as needed if you find your corporate credentials up for sale to the highest bidder.

SIEM/log management
SIEM, or Security Incident & Event Management, uses data engines to review all logs from all covered devices, protecting your systems from unauthorized access.

Web gateway security
New cloud-based security products can detect web and email threats and block them – before they reach your network and users.

Mobile device security
Don’t neglect to secure your employees’ mobile devices and tablets. Many attackers target these devices, believing them to be forgotten by most businesses.

Firewall
Advanced firewall technology today enables intrusion detection and intrusion protection features. Ensure these are enabled on your corporate firewalls, and if you don’t know how, call us today.

Encryption
Encrypt files both at rest and in motion, especially on mobile devices, laptops and tablets. Cell phones are an unexpected attack vector.

Backup
Utilize multiple forms of backup, from cloud backup to on-premise and offline, further reducing the risks of a ransomware attack preventing access to your data.

Three Reasons To Regularly Test Business Systems

Protecting your business requires more time, effort and energy from your technology team than ever before.

Business systems are increasingly complex, requiring staff members to continually learn and adapt to changing conditions and new threats as they emerge.

It’s not unusual for a single ransomware incident to wreak havoc on carefully balanced systems, and this type of attack can be particularly damaging if you do not have the backup and disaster recovery procedures in place to regain critical operations quickly.

From checking for system vulnerabilities to identifying weak points in your processes, here are some reasons why it is so important to regularly test your business systems.

Business System Testing Helps Find Vulnerabilities
The seismic shift in the way business systems work is still settling, making it especially challenging to find the ever-changing vulnerabilities in your systems. Cloud-based applications connect in a variety of different ways, causing additional steps for infrastructure teams as they review the data connectors and storage locations.

Each of these connections is a potential point of failure and could represent a weakness where a cybercriminal could take advantage of to infiltrate your sensitive business and financial data. Regular business system testing allows your technology teams to determine where your defenses may need to be shored up.

As the business continues to evolve through digital transformation, this regular testing and documentation of the results allow your teams to grow their comfort level with the interconnected nature of today’s systems — which is extremely valuable knowledge to share within the organization in the event of a system outage or failure.

Experts note that system testing is being “shifted left”, or pushed earlier in the development cycle. This helps ensure that vulnerabilities are addressed before systems are fully launched, helping to protect business systems and data.

Business System Testing Provides Valuable Insight Into Process Improvement Needs
Business process improvement and automation are never-ending goals, as there are always new tools available that can help optimize the digital and physical operations of your business.

Reviewing business systems in depth allows you to gain a higher-level understanding of the various processes that surround your business systems, allowing you to identify inefficiencies as well as processes that could leave holes in your cybersecurity net.

Prioritizing these process improvements helps identify any crucial needs that can bring significant business value, too. This process of continuous improvement solidifies your business systems and hardens security over time by tightening security and allowing you to review user permissions and individual levels of authority within your business infrastructure and systems.

Business System Testing Allows You to Affirm Your Disaster Recovery Strategy
Your backup and disaster recovery strategy is an integral part of your business.

Although you hope you never have to use it, no business is fully protected without a detailed disaster recovery plan of attack — complete with assigned accountabilities and deliverables. It’s no longer a matter of “if” your business is attacked but “when”, and your technology team must be prepared for that eventuality.

Business testing allows you to review your backup and disaster recovery strategy with the parties that will be engaged to execute it, providing an opportunity for any necessary revisions or adjustments to the plans.

Whether a business system outage comes from a user who is careless with a device or password, a cybercriminal manages to infiltrate your systems or your business systems are damaged in fire or flood, your IT team will be ready to bring your business back online quickly.

Regularly testing your business policies and procedures and validating your disaster recovery plan puts your organization in a safer space when it comes to overcoming an incident that impacts your ability to conduct business.

The complexity of dealing with multi-cloud environments can stymie even the most hardened technology teams, and the added comfort level that is gained by regular testing helps promote ongoing learning and system familiarity for your teams. No one wants to have to rebuild your infrastructure or business systems from the ground up, but running testing procedures over time can help promote a higher level of comfort within teams and vendor partners if the unthinkable does occur.

What Are The Newest Phishing Attacks?

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

Phishing is a term adapted from the word “fishing.” When we go fishing, we put a line in the water with bait on it, and we sit back and wait for the fish to come along and take the bait. Maybe the fish was hungry. Perhaps it just wasn’t paying attention. At any rate, eventually a fish will bite, and you’ll have something delicious for dinner.

How Does Phishing Work?
This is essentially how cyber phishing works. Cybercriminals create an interesting email, maybe saying that you’ve won a $100 gift certificate from Amazon. Sound too good to be true? Find out! All you have to do is click the link and take a short survey.

Once you click the link, a virus is downloaded onto your system. Sometimes it’s malware, and sometimes it’s ransomware. Malware includes Trojans, worms, spyware, and adware. These malicious programs each have different goals, but all are destructive and aimed at harming your computers. [Read more…]

Using Wireless Printers? Here’s How to Secure Them

With some reports estimating over seven million incidents of cybercrime and online fraud occurring in 2018, it would be a mistake to discount the risks associated with using a wireless printer.

After all, any time data is transmitted wirelessly, there is a chance it could be intercepted. When you think about all the sensitive information that is printed in your company, this threat may then seem quite real.

Try the following tips to minimize the risk of a security vulnerability associated with wireless printing:

Use WPA2
This security certification program essentially password protects your print job capabilities just as you would require login credentials to access wireless internet.

By controlling access to your wireless printers, you can also monitor who is printing what and detect when someone attempts to gain unauthorized access to your systems.

Keep Security Software Updated
Many printers come with some form of built-in security, but the installed version can only be effective for so long.

Regularly check for more updated versions of your printers’ security software and install them as they become available to be protected from the latest threats.

Use Data Encryption
Just as your emails and other document sharing methods are encrypted during transmission, you should make sure your printer data is encrypted as well.

This ensures that, if the information is intercepted by a nefarious third-party, they will not be able to decode the stolen data. This is especially important for printers you use to print checks.

Train Your Staff in Printer Protocol
No matter what measures you take to secure your wireless printers, they won’t be as effective if your staff doesn’t know how to properly use equipment or keep protection programs up to date.

Provide training to your employees about safe printing practices.

These tips don’t just apply to large businesses; the threat of a security breach through wireless printing systems can affect small businesses and even individuals just as easily.

With a little forethought and effort however, you can greatly decrease these risks to be able to print without fear.

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.