Top Concern For Small Businesses? Cybersecurity

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

While some might assume that fear of an economic recession would be at the top of the list of key issues small business owners concern themselves with, a recent survey found that another issue is of much greater concern: Cybersecurity.

This is no surprise.

For the past several years, cybercrimes and data breaches among companies large and small, governments, and even individual citizens have risen drastically.

While it’s true that many business owners still assume a data breach at their own company is highly unlikely, with the ultimate price tag of such attacks ramping up to the millions of dollars (and recovery being hardly successful), it makes sense that companies are taking notice.
[Read more…]

Zoom Zero-Day Bug: Webcam Hijacking And Other Intrusive Exploits

Jason Cooley is Support Services Manager for Tech Experts.

Internet safety is always a concern and there are a large number of tools available to assist with that. Depending on how much security you need, you may need to run multiple pieces of software. Antivirus, antimalware, firewalls, and even 2-factor authentication are security measures all doing different things.

Even with all of these types of security layers in place, there is no such thing as guaranteed safety. You can be as careful as possible and avoid anything seemingly questionable, but one thing you can’t avoid are security exploits.

An exploit could be used to track a user’s history, and possibly even every keystroke. This could potentially send passwords for anything you enter on the computer.

Recently, Zoom, a video conferencing application, was discovered to have a severe vulnerability on the Mac platform. This exploit was a very simple one: a person attempting to access your webcam could send a legitimate Zoom meeting invite, but set with certain settings on a certain server.

When the link is clicked, even without accepting the invite, the client is silently launched, turning on the end user’s webcam. Even if the Mac user had uninstalled Zoom, the client would silently reinstall and launch.

Back in 2017, a much larger user base was at severe risk of an exploit that would allow hackers to silently install malware to take remote control of the user’s computer. The CVE-2017-11882 exploit was a flaw in Microsoft Office software.

If Office was installed, a Visa paylink email was sent, and when the user opened the word document attached, it launched a PowerShell command installing Cobalt Strike, granting remote control to whoever deployed it.

It was not long before Microsoft had a security fix rolled out, but if the software was installed prior to installing the security update, the remote control software would persist and have free reign on not only one computer, but also be able to travel through the network.

These vulnerabilities are discovered in normal software and have been found in Windows’ core system more times than you probably realize. Microsoft is typically quick to roll out updates when they have the power to fix the flaw, even if it isn’t their software. This illustrates the great importance of keeping Windows up to date.

Sure, if you are at work and have an IT team like the staff at Tech Experts, your updates are managed and prioritized. While some updates are optional or just good for a more user-friendly experience, important security updates should always be installed as soon as possible.

As Windows 7 updates come to an end this year, any of these types of exploits will remain unfixed. Switching to Windows 10 or replacing your computer is the only way to keep getting the latest patches for these intrusive exploits.

If you are already on Windows 10, make sure you have antivirus installed. As always, check your system regularly for updates and get help if you need it – your safety depends on it.

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.

Is Your Smart TV Spying On You? (Hint: It Is.)

Frank DeLuca is a field technician for Tech Experts.

There’s a good chance your smart TV is spying on you. Smart TVs often analyze the videos you’re watching and report back, whether you’re watching live TV, streaming videos on a service like Netflix, or playing local video files. Worse yet, this can be a security problem.

Smart TVs not only usually have bad interfaces, but they spy on what you’re watching even when you aren’t using their “smarts.”

Modern smart TVs often have “features” that inspect what you’re watching and report it back to some company’s servers.

This data can be sold to marketers or it could be tied to you somehow to create a better ad-targeting profile.

In reality, you are not getting anything out of this as the TV manufacturer just makes some more money on the side by collecting and selling this data.

Smart TVs also have questionable security protections.

For instance, Vizio TVs were discovered to be transmitting tracking data without any encryption, so other people could possibly snoop on the snoopers. They also connect to a server without checking if it’s a legitimate server, so a man-in-the-middle attack could send commands back to the TV.

Vizio says it has fixed this problem and TVs will automatically update to a new firmware.

But are those smart TVs even checking to ensure they’re downloading legitimate firmware files with correct digital signatures?

Based on TV manufacturers’ cavalier attitude towards security in general, I wouldn’t bet on it.

To make matters worse, many smart TVs have built-in cameras and microphones. If the security is so shoddy in general, it would theoretically be possible for an attacker to spy on you through your TV.

What can you do to stop your TV from spying on you?

Just don’t connect your smart TV to your home network and you’ll be protected from whatever built-in analysis features it has and any security vulnerabilities that could be exploited.

If the TV is not connected to the Internet, then it cannot transmit data out.

If you have connected it to the network, go into your smart TV’s settings and disconnect it from the Wi-Fi. Don’t connect it to the network with an Ethernet cable either.

If you’ve already connected to the Wi-Fi network, try to get your smart TV to forget the password. If you can’t, you may need to reset it to its factory default settings. When you set it up again, don’t give it the Wi-Fi password.

This will also prevent your smart TV from embedding extra advertisements into other things you watch — yes, some Samsung smart TVs actually do that!

The best, most secure way to get “smart features” on your TV is by plugging in a streaming box like an Apple TV, Roku, Chromecast, Fire TV, video game console, or one of the many other devices that works better and should be more secure than your smart TV. In which case, that box can be connected to the Internet.

This is part of a larger problem with the “Internet of Things” that society is beginning to grapple with, which envisions modern appliances like your toaster, blender, microware, and fridge becoming “smart” and connecting to the network.

Most devices’ manufacturers don’t seem capable of (or are apathetic toward) creating software and continually updating it so it remains secure.

Smart appliances are great, but the reality of spying and security holes will be a serious problem.

What Can Companies Do To Prevent Privacy Violations?

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

Whether it’s physical, virtual, or in the cloud, discovering and blocking sophisticated threats in the network is at the forefront of every company’s mind.

However, businesses are finding that more and more data violations are taking place when network security centers on the edge of the network are not giving equal protection to the network itself.

Security at the perimeter of the network has received most of the attention from data protection companies.

What many internet service providers and businesses have neglected is protecting what lies within the network. What can your company do to solidify your network and protect you from hackers on the inside? [Read more…]

Windows Fall Creator’s Update: Breaking More Than It’s Fixing

Jason Cooley is Support Services Manager for Tech Experts.

Microsoft dominates the world of operating systems. Windows has been a part of our lives for years and some of us can’t remember a world without it.

Each time Microsoft rolls out a new operating system, it is updated and patched for years for various reasons.

Over the lifespan of a Windows operating system, there are various security updates perhaps more than any other type of update.

There are fixes for issues, whether that’s problems with Windows itself or interaction with other hardware and software.

Then there are the outliers: Windows feature updates. These updates typically introduce new features or changes to the core function of the operating system. Feature updates can improve the user experience for many people.

Windows 10 launched in 2015 and, like all of its predecessors, did not launch with perfection. There have been numerous updates of all kinds since its launch. Those security patches, hotfixes, and even a handful of feature updates had rolled out by October of 2017.

That is when Microsoft released the Window’s Fall Creator update. This update was going to create a better user experience. Personal connections were going to be easier to make.

A new application allowing you to resume work or browsing started on a mobile device like a smartphone on your computer was introduced as well. There were a few security updates as well.

All in all, the Fall Creators Update was going to fix a few bugs and introduce some quality-of-life improvements.

In previous versions of Windows, the updates were able to be shut off and postponed.

Large scale feature updates are known to have some complications when rolled out.

That is why these updates are not “pushed” when initially launched, but available to download as an optional update at first.

Upon this introduction window, there were, as expected, reports of problems coming in. What was not expected was the range of issues and the severity of some.

The first issue arising from the release of Windows 1709, the Fall Creators Update, was the update failing to install.

Many people reported issues of an error when attempting to install the update. The initial portion would install, but the finalizing of the updates upon a restart would fail.

If that wasn’t frustrating enough, if the update did manage to install, it was reported that the applying updates portion could take two hours (and in some cases as many as ten hours).

Then, let’s assume you got that far. Maybe you want to use Microsoft Edge, the Microsoft browser of choice. With the 1709 update, many users found that Edge was essentially broken. It would crash repeatedly.

Then, bring in the numerous broken drivers. Imagine an update breaking your Ethernet adapter. It happened. Applications disappeared, began opening on their own, and in some cases just didn’t work. The problems continued to roll in.

Many of these issues were resolved in a timely fashion and some were not. In mid-January, Microsoft declared the Fall Creators Update ready for business. This means that the update would be pushed out to anyone that was not already using it.

After 3 months, many issues were still present and others would soon be discovered.

Many users of corporate software and other specialty software were surprised by software that no longer worked. In some cases, the suggested fix was to roll back the update, which will force itself to reinstall shortly after.

There have been some big patches to fix these issues since January and I’m hoping that in another three months Microsoft will have all of these issues resolved.

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.

Meltdown and Spectre: Protect Yourself With Updates

Jason Cooley is Support Services Manager for Tech Experts.

As I am writing this, it has been about a month since news broke of Meltdown and Spectre, two separate vulnerabilities affecting nearly every smartphone and PC in use today. It affects all modern processors – which encompasses a whole lot of users.

Meltdown and Spectre are different fundamentally, but they use a similar vulnerability to do different things. So what are the differences?

Meltdown breaks the isolation between user applications and the operating system. This allows a program to access the memory and, therefore, the processes and data of the software, even when it is not authorized to do so. [Read more…]

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.