The Internet Of Things Can Poke Holes In Your Network

Mark Funchion is a network technician at Tech Experts.

Some business owners spend a lot of time protecting their network. After putting a firewall in place, configuring security settings, and setting up users with complex passwords (and possibly even 2FA), it’s easy to think that’s secure enough.

Now, having that solid foundation and framework is great. If you’ve done that, you’re definitely on the right track. But you still might leave yourself open to exploitation without even knowing it.

How does that happen? IoT – the Internet of Things.

You’ve secured your business network, but what about the smart watches, fitness trackers, connected speakers, thermostats, and every other device with a battery and a tiny signal? Every single one of those devices is a potential inroad to your network.

For example, a user’s watch connects to their cell phone, which is connected to your business’s Wi-Fi network. With no firewall on the watch, that creates a potential path into your network.

All of these devices require an IP address. In the past, forty people only needed fifty IP addresses to allow everyone to connect their one device to the network, including wiggle room for guests.

Now, every person has a laptop, cell phone, and some sort of accessory – each with its own IP address.

Each of these devices are transmitting a tiny amount of data, but that data and usage grows exponentially.

Plus, if you don’t have that wiggle room for extra connections, you’re more susceptible to a denial of service (DoS) attack, which is when cybercriminals overwhelm your network with traffic and bring it to a halt.

Your network needs to be able to handle an increase in traffic while also securing all that extra information that you do not have control over.

It is scary and overwhelming, but you can take steps to secure yourself without going too far.

The easy way is withholding access to anything that is not corporate-owned and approved. However, limiting all these devices can have a negative impact on your business and its operation.

Instead, take a measured approach. Make sure your firewall is up-to-date, and monitor who is trying to access your network. Limit that access to the smallest “allow” list you can without making it impossible to work.

For all the smart things like watches and thermostats, keep these IoT devices on a separate virtual network. Encourage and educate users to keep their devices up-to-date – and to use them responsibly while on the network.

Cyberattacks are always increasing and changing, and a strong defense makes a considerable impact when it comes to preventing huge losses in productivity, data, business reputation and funds.

Developers know this too, and that’s why it’s important that your devices – all of them, from servers and PCs to security cameras and thermostats – are all kept up-to-date. These updates help patch up holes in the firmware and software that can otherwise be exploited.

We’re big proponents of the “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” philosophy. If you need help closing up any gaps in your network security, Tech Experts can assist.

We can conduct a network survey, set policies and passwords, segment and restrict access to/from your network, and ensure the right people have the right access.

As cyberattacks against small businesses mount, the time to fortify your first line of defense is now, before it’s too late.

Top 5 Cybersecurity Predictions For 2019

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

Cyber threats are a genuine danger for businesses, no matter their size or industry. Companies that face data breaches are likely to fail within months after the attack, according to the National Cyber Security Alliance. Security issues can ruin your reputation and cause expensive damage to your company.

In 2019, we are already predicting increased cyber crimes to steal more data and resources. The FBI reported that over $1.4 billion in losses were experienced by companies and individuals in 2017.

These expenses come from increasing security, losing information, losing physical resources, ransomware payouts, scams and more. The most significant sources of cybercrime included: [Read more…]

Wi-Fi 6: The Next-Generation Wireless Standard

Frank DeLuca is a field technician for Tech Experts.

Wi-Fi 6 (also known as 802.11ax) is the next-generation wireless standard that is faster than the current king, 802.11ac.

More than speed, it will provide better performance in congested areas, from stadiums to your own device-packed home. Fortunately, it’s coming soon, slotted for a 2019 release.

Wi-Fi will now have version numbers as well. Doing away with those confusing Wi-Fi standard names like “802.11ac,” Wi-Fi names will be replaced with user-friendly names like “Wi-Fi 5” and “Wi-Fi 6.”

Faster Wi-Fi
As usual, the latest Wi-Fi standard offers faster data transfer speeds. If you’re using a Wi-Fi router with a single device, maximum potential speeds should be up to 40% higher with Wi-Fi 6 compared to Wi-Fi 5.

Wi-Fi 6 accomplishes this through more efficient data encoding, resulting in higher throughput. Mainly, more data is packed into the same radio waves. The chips that encode and decode these signals keep getting more powerful and can handle the extra work.

This new standard even increases speeds on 2.4GHz networks. While the industry has shifted to 5GHz for less interference, 2.4GHz is still better at penetrating solid objects. And there shouldn’t be as much interference for 2.4GHz as old cordless telephones and wireless baby monitors are retired.

Longer Battery Life
A new “target wake time” (TWT) feature means your smartphone, laptop, and other Wi-Fi-enabled devices should have longer battery life, too.

When the access point is talking to a device (like your smartphone), it can tell the device exactly when to put its Wi-Fi radio to sleep and exactly when to wake it up to receive the next transmission.

This will conserve power, as it means the Wi-Fi radio can spend more time in sleep mode. And that means longer battery life.

This will also help with low-power “Internet of Things” devices that connect via Wi-Fi.

Better Performance in Crowded Areas
Wi-Fi tends to get bogged down when you are in a crowded place with many Wi-Fi enabled devices fighting to receive and send data. Picture a busy stadium, airport, hotel, mall, or even a crowded office with everyone connected to Wi-Fi.

The new Wi-Fi 6, also known as 802.11ax, incorporates many new technologies to help with this.

Wi-Fi 6 can now divide a wireless channel into a large number of subchannels. Each of these subchannels can carry data intended for a different device.

This is achieved through something called Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiple Access, or OFDMA. The Wi-Fi access point can talk to more devices at once.

The new standard also has improved MIMO, or Multiple In/Multiple Out.

This involves multiple antennas, which let the access point talk to multiple devices at once.

With Wi-Fi 5, the access point could talk to devices at the same time, but those devices couldn’t respond at the same time. Wi-Fi 6 has an improved version of multi-user, or MU-MIMO, that lets devices respond to the wireless access point at the same time.

This wouldn’t just apply to busy public places, but also at home if you have many devices connected to Wi-Fi or if you live in a dense apartment complex.

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…]

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.

How The “Internet of Things” Will Affect Small Business

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

Just when you thought you had the Internet mastered, something new crops up on the horizon.

One of the newest advances that will likely revolutionize the world is the Internet of Things (IoT).

If you haven’t heard of this, you’re not alone, but this idea is fast becoming a realization. Simply put, the IoT refers to how it is possible to remotely control and monitor just about anything via sensors and, of course, your Internet connection – from opening your home’s garage door from your office to the level of dog food remaining in your pooch’s bowl.

This concept recently gained definition at Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference when the company unveiled two applications for iOS8.

The first was the HealthKit app, which lets users keep up with health and fitness data without wearing an actual tracker. The other was the HomeKit that can remotely control electronic devices like lights and cameras at home. [Read more…]