Small Businesses Are Attacked By Hackers Three Times More Often Than Larger Ones

Have you felt more secure from cyberattacks because you have a smaller business? Maybe you thought that you couldn’t possibly have anything that a hacker could want?

Didn’t think they even knew about your small business?

Well, a new report out by cyber-security firm Barracuda Networks debunks this myth. Their report analyzed millions of emails across thousands of organizations. It found that small companies have a lot to worry about when it comes to their IT security.

Barracuda Networks found something alarming. Employees at small companies saw 350% more social engineering attacks than those at larger ones. It defines a small company as one with less than 100 employees. This puts small businesses at a higher risk of falling victim to a cyberattack. We’ll explore why below.

Why Are Smaller Companies Targeted More?

There are many reasons why hackers see small businesses as low-hanging fruit and why they are becoming larger targets of hackers out to score a quick illicit buck.

Small Companies Tend to Spend Less on Cybersecurity

When you’re running a small business, it’s often a juggling act of where to prioritize your cash. You may know cybersecurity is important, but it may not be at the top of your list. So, at the end of the month, cash runs out, and it’s moved to the “next month” wish list of expenditures.

Small business leaders often don’t spend as much as they should on their IT security. They may buy an antivirus program and think that’s enough to cover them.

But with the expansion of technology to the cloud, that’s just one small layer. You need several more for adequate security.

Hackers know all this and see small businesses as an easier target. They can do much less work to get a payout than they would trying to hack into an enterprise corporation.

Every Business Has “Hack-Worthy” Resources

Every business, even a 1-person shop, has data that’s worth scoring for a hacker. Credit card numbers, SSNs, tax ID numbers, and email addresses are all valuable. Cyber-criminals can sell these on the Dark Web. From there, other criminals use them for identity theft.

Here are some of the data that hackers will go after:

  • Customer records
  • Employee records
  • Bank account information
  • Emails and passwords
  • Payment card details

Small Businesses Can Provide Entry Into Larger Ones

If a hacker can breach the network of a small business, they can often make a larger score. Many smaller companies provide services to larger companies, including digital marketing, website management, accounting, and more.

Vendors are often digitally connected to their client’s systems.

This type of relationship can enable a multi-company breach. While hackers don’t need that connection to hack you, it is a nice bonus.

Small Business Owners Are Often Unprepared for Ransomware

Ransomware has been one of the fastest-growing cyberattacks of the last decade. So far in 2022, over 71% of surveyed organizations experienced ransomware attacks.

The percentage of victims that pay the ransom to attackers has also been increasing. Now, an average of 63% of companies pay the attacker money in hopes of getting a key to decrypt the ransomware.

Who’s To Blame For A Cyber Security Breach?

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

We all know what a huge danger a cyber security breach can be for a business. And just how many businesses are being breached right now. You hear about it on the nightly news and read about it almost daily in the newspaper.

In truth, we hate having to write this. We don’t want to feel like we’re scaring you or sound all doom and gloom! But it’s really important that you’re fully aware of the risk to your business if you suffer a breach.

Last year, the number of reported data breaches rose 68% compared to 2020.

And while it’s a good idea to implement the right cyber security tools to help reduce the risk of an attack, it’s practically impossible (or definitely unworkable) to give your business 100% protection from attack by only using software tools. You also have to manage the human element of data protection. [Read more…]

Top 5 Cybersecurity Mistakes That Leave Your Data At Risk

The global damage of cybercrime has risen to an average of $11 million USD per minute, which is a cost of $190,000 each second.

Sixty percent of small and mid-sized companies that have a data breach end up closing their doors within six months because they can’t afford the costs.

The costs of falling victim to a cyberattack can include loss of business, downtime/productivity losses, reparation costs for customers that have had data stolen, and more.

Many of the most damaging breaches are due to common cybersecurity mistakes that companies and their employees make.

Here are several of the most common missteps when it comes to basic IT security best practices.

Not implementing multi-factor authentication (MFA)

Credential theft has become the top cause of data breaches around the world, according to IBM Security.

MFA reduces fraudulent sign-in attempts by a staggering 99.9%.

Ignoring the use of shadow IT

Shadow IT is the use of cloud applications by employees for business data that haven’t been approved and may not even be known about by a company.

Shadow IT use leaves companies at risk for several reasons:

  • Data may be used in a non-secure application
  • Data isn’t included in company backup strategies
  • If the employee leaves, the data could be lost
  • The app being used might not meet company compliance requirements

It’s important to have cloud use policies in place that spell out for employees the applications that can and cannot be used for work.

Thinking you’re fine with only an antivirus

No matter how small your business is, a simple antivirus application is not enough to keep you protected. In fact, many of today’s threats don’t use a malicious file at all.

Phishing emails will contain commands sent to legitimate PC systems that aren’t flagged as a virus or malware.

Phishing also overwhelmingly uses links these days rather than file attachments to send users to malicious sites. Those links won’t get caught by simple antivirus solutions.

You need to have a multi-layered strategy in place that includes things like:

  • Next-gen anti-malware (uses AI and machine learning)
  • Next-gen firewall
  • Email filtering
  • DNS filtering
  • Automated application and cloud security policies
  • Cloud access monitoring

Not having device management in place

A majority of companies around the world have had employees working remotely from home since the pandemic. However, device management for those remote employee devices as well as smartphones used for business hasn’t always been put in place.

A device management application in place, like Intune in Microsoft 365 can help manage this.

Not providing adequate training to employees

An astonishing 95% of cybersecurity breaches are caused by human error.

Employee IT security awareness training should be done throughout the year, not just annually or during an onboarding process.

Some ways to infuse cybersecurity training into your company culture include:

  • Short training videos
  • IT security posters
  • Webinars
  • Team training sessions
  • Cybersecurity tips in company newsletters

Why Protecting Your Printers From Cybercrime Is A Must (And Eight Tips For Improving Printer Security)

Printing devices are often overlooked when it comes to security. But the reality is, cybercriminals can hack your printer to get confidential information. Your printer is probably the last piece of computer equipment you thought needed protection from cybercriminals. But the truth is very different.

Attackers actively try to locate the weakest links in security to gain access to and exploit valuable data. And among the weakest links is the printer.

Printers have access to your devices, network, and the Internet. This new open-access functionality makes them an ideal target for cyberattacks.

Unfortunately, many business owners overlook the importance of securing their printers and mainly focus on computers and mobile phones.

Most people still perceive printers as internal devices that serve basic functions. For this very reason, they are an easy target for cybercriminals.

Other than performing unauthorized print jobs, hackers can access confidential information as well as all connected computers and networks all through a printer.

You may also not be aware of the amount of valuable data your printer can store about you – tax files, bank details, financial records, employee information, personal information, etc. All a hacker needs to do is get into the operating system of your printer, and they can collect this sensitive data.

If you’ve just realized the importance of securing your printer, keep reading. This article shares eight tips to help you do just that.

Tip #1. Make Sure Your Printers Are Configured Correctly
Many things can make a printer vulnerable to cyber threats and security breaches. So, you want to get the basics right to ensure the attacks don’t happen to you. To start with, make sure to change the default password on your printer. Since anyone can access a printer remotely, a simple “123456” code won’t suffice.

Second, make sure you’re using your own router to print files remotely. Never connect to “Guest” networks.

Tip #2. Inspect Print Trays Regularly
This one is a no-brainer, but everyone could use it as a reminder. Make sure to check your print trays and get rid of unused pages carrying sensitive information. There’s no easier way to prevent data leaks than this.

Alternatively, you can get a shredder for your office and shred the papers you don’t want anyone to see.

Tip #3. Install Malware and Firmware Updates
Invest time and effort to ensure that your malware and firmware protection are up to date and can handle all types of hacks.

The good news is that many printers come with pre-built malware protection.

HP, for example, installs the HP “SureStart” software in their printers that monitors approaching targets when the printer is on. The software can shut down the device if an attack comes its way. This is a great way to prevent attacks from spreading further within the network.

Tip #4. Limit Access to the Network
Unprotected printers in a network are an extremely easy target for cybercriminals. Sure, businesses and offices require printers to access networks to perform remote prints. But if you can do the job by disabling the network access, make sure you do that.

If not, tweak the printer and network settings to only allow the device to take print jobs from the network you trust. This will help avoid outside interference and security breaches.

Tip #5. Update Your Printers
Updating a printer is equally as important as updating your phone to the latest software. Much in the way iOS developers look for bugs and fix them in a new update, printer manufacturers work toward known device vulnerabilities and update the software for added protection.

Look for printer updates so you can easily overcome known threats to the printer. Ideally, update your printers every quarter to get the most out of the security benefits.

Tip #6. Install a Firewall
If you run an office, chances are you already have a firewall. But in case you missed this requirement, now’s the time to do it.

Using a reliable firewall helps keep printers safe from cybercriminals. Your computers most likely come with pre-built firewalls, and all you need to do is keep them enabled. But there are also specialized firewalls for homes and offices that offer advanced security and make it virtually impossible for anyone to break in.

Tip #7. Encrypt Your Storage
Printers with shared networks can perform distance printing. And when a print job is in transit and travels from a computer to a printer, hackers can intercept the data and exploit it.

To keep this from happening, encrypt your print jobs. Also, make sure the sensitive data on your printer’s hard or internal drive is encrypted as well.

Keep in mind that when you print a document, that file is often stored as an image within the printer and makes it an easy target for hackers. It’s why you should use an encryption tool to protect your data. Luckily, many modern printers have this tool pre-built.

Tip #8. Educate Your Employees
If you work in an office, chances are you aren’t the only person using the printer. Everyone that has access to it needs to be aware of the responsibilities that come with its usage. Make sure to talk to your employees about ways to ensure both the physical and virtual safety of the printers.

Your staff should also be careful when using their mobile devices to print, as smartphones are easier to hack than standard computers. Explain to them what phishing scams are and how they can avoid being the victim.

Finally, make sure it’s clear to them how they can use confidential information in your company.

Whether you use printers in your office or at home, take a moment to see how you can enhance its security before your next printing job.

Which Type of Hacker Is Endangering Your Business Data?

Your data is pivotal to running a successful company. If you don’t have proper security measures in place, hackers can easily steal your data and take you out of business. Cybercriminals might be the biggest threat facing your company. Besides gaining access to your money and accounts, they can also take over critical software, preventing you from collaborating with clients.

Any organization can fall victim to hacking. However, small and medium businesses are particularly at risk. Why?

Too often, their owners don’t always address cybersecurity when launching their company. Sometimes, they even just hire the first IT service provider they see. They also don’t know how to shield themselves from online attackers, making them low-risk targets.

As a result, these organizations often go under due to the loss of sensitive data. It isn’t a risk you can take.

The 5 types of hackers to watch out for

Here’s a quick list of potential hackers, depending on what they’re after:

#1. Hackers Who Are After Personal Information. Many hackers are dying to get their hands on the personal information of your clients and employees. It includes birth dates, financial data, and social security numbers.

Social security numbers might be the most valuable asset they want to get ahold of since cybercriminals can use them for various purposes. For instance, they can perform tax fraud, open credit accounts, and make other significant identity breaches. In addition, financial data can be utilized for fraudulent activities and purchases, especially if it lacks robust digital security systems.

#2. Hackers Who Want to Get Into the Digital Infrastructure. Storage and data servers are expensive – and hackers know that.

In order for them to cut costs, hackers may aim to store their applications and data on your infrastructure instead. The better your infrastructure, the more likely cybercriminals are to target it. This can strain your network to the limits and have devastating effects on your business.

Unsurprisingly, tech companies are some of the most common victims of this type of hacking.

The common indicators that a hacker has tapped into your digital infrastructure include:

  • Running out of storage faster than usual
  • Your network suffers slowdowns
  • You may have unknown devices on your network.

#3. Hackers Who Are After Confidential Information. Few business aspects are as important as your intellectual property (IP). Your products and services enable you to stand out from the competition and strike a chord with the target audience.

A huge problem arises if hackers steal the design of your upcoming product before you launch it or submit your patent. A competitor may obtain the information, allowing them to hit the market first and undercut your sales.

#4. Hackers Who Want to Get Account Data. Sure, you and your IT service provider might have done enough so that hackers might not be able to obtain financial data. But are your employees’ accounts secure?

If hackers compromise them, they may let them run scams and gain information to disrupt your operations.

For example, losing CEO login credentials can be devastating. Besides granting hackers access to sensitive information, it also helps them impersonate the CEO. In return, they can solicit information from employees or clients and halt your operations. This data breach can lead to widespread confusion, tarnishing your reputation.

#5. Hackers Who Aim to Have Network Control. In some cases, hackers aren’t after data. Instead, they want to gain control of the entire network. And to make it happen, they launch ransomware attacks.

These activities enable them to lock you out of the system and make data inaccessible until you pay a ransom. They’re typically initiated through spam, phishing emails, and online ads.

The average ransom amount stands at approximately $30,000, but the loss caused by business disruption is much more significant.

2021 Cyber Attacks – Lessons To Apply For A More Secure 2022

Hackers have hit a wide variety of industries this year, from computer manufacturers to insurance companies, schools to the NBA. A review of prominent 2021 cyber attacks reveals a few common themes. And organizations that apply the lessons learned from these attacks can look forward to a more secure 2022.

No one gets a free pass
It would be difficult to describe the profile of a typical data breach victim in 2021. Large corporations like Volkswagen and Experian got hit. At the same time, even small, low-profile businesses suffered in the Microsoft Exchange and Kaseya attacks. Ransomware crippled hospitals, manufacturers, municipalities, retail and more.

No matter how big or how small, any organization with Internet connections can become a target of attack. Hackers continually hone their skills and add to their toolsets. Consequently, businesses cannot afford to relax their security stance. Get started early on your New Year’s resolutions by committing to invest in cybersecurity.

Apply security patches quickly
When hackers exploited vulnerabilities in the Microsoft Exchange server, they disrupted 60,000 companies and government agencies in the US. Microsoft released security patches quickly. However, many organizations delayed applying the patches. The attack group Hafnium then ran Internet scans to find and exploit unpatched servers.

Take the time to apply software and firmware updates quickly. Take it a step further and turn on automatic updates where possible. This applies not just to servers but to all devices with access to the system.

Step up endpoint security
The rapid switch to remote work completely changed the security perimeter for many organizations, and hackers took advantage. For instance, when insurance giant CNA sustained a ransomware attack, 15,000 devices were encrypted, including those used by remote employees.

When remote work takes center stage, organizations need to strengthen endpoint security. Begin by creating and updating an inventory of all devices connecting to the system.

Enforce strong authentication policies and keep endpoints encrypted. Additionally, monitor the endpoints for unusual activity when connected to the network.

Monitor those business partners
In April, the REvil gang attacked Quanta, a supplier for Apple. REvil used the attack to pressure Apple, claiming to have obtained secret blueprints for yet-to-be-released Apple products. Similarly, parking app Park Mobile suffered a breach because of a vulnerability in a third-party software app.

While strengthening inhouse security, organizations cannot forget about their business partners. Be sure to vet third parties, building security policies into vendor contracts. Then continue to monitor those relationships, including performing regular audits.

Automate the backup process
Fortunately, the list of 2021 cyber attacks includes some positive notes. Attackers hit Polish video game development firm CD Projekt, encrypting devices and accessing source code. However, because the company had quality backups in place, they were able to restore the lost data without paying the ransom.

For decades, security experts have emphasized the importance of performing regular backups. Automating the process takes the burden off IT and delivers peace of mind.

Strengthen authentication and identity management
In April, attackers used a compromised password to access the networks of Colonial Pipeline, disrupting gas supplies and causing panic.

As government officials investigated, they concluded that stronger protections, such as multi-factor authentication, could have prevented the attack.

Identity and access management form a critical component of securing valuable digital assets. Companies should assess and strengthen authentication methods and tighten access controls.

Take protective steps against phishing
According to a recent report on cybersecurity breaches, phishing remains the most common type of cyber attack. For instance, in an attack on Nebraska Medicine, hackers gained entrance to the system and planted malware, eventually exposing over 200,000 patient records.

To protect against phishing and other social engineering attacks, organizations should implement email filtering and continuous network monitoring.

But the most important safety measure remains addressing the human factor with regular, targeted security awareness training.

Treat 2021 cyber attacks as a wakeup call
Reflecting on the high-profile cyber attacks of the past year can provide both the motivation and a blueprint for addressing cybersecurity. And the cybersecurity experts at Tech Experts bring the expertise and tools you need to keep your data and networks safe.

Lessons Learned From The Colonial Oil Pipeline Attack

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

May 6, 2021 will be a day that goes down in history. This is the day the Colonial Oil Pipeline went down, causing a nationwide disruption. Even though the pipeline only services a portion of the east coast, the effects of the shutdown was felt across the country.

Gas prices skyrocketed, lines at gas stations were so long it took hours to get through, and gas stations were pumped dry as people bought gas and put it in whatever container they could gather just to assure themselves they would have enough to get through the closure.

If you think about it, this type of ripple effect is not confined to energy and utility providers. While the scale of the effect would not be at the level of the pipeline, the devastation it could leave in its wake for your business and your customers is just as likely. [Read more…]

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…]

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.

Is There A Hidden Intruder Lurking In Your Business?

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

If you’re like us, you believe you have the best, most trustworthy people working for you.

But have you ever considered the possibility you may have someone unknown hidden within your business, trying to cause a lot of damage and make a lot of money at the same time?

This might sound a little far-fetched. Perhaps something that’s more likely to happen in a film than in your business.

But actually, you’d be surprised. Cyber criminals are targeting businesses exactly like yours all the time.

Because often, small and medium sized businesses don’t spend big bucks on their cyber security. Hackers know this. And will put a lot of effort in to try to exploit that. [Read more…]