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…]

Your Business Is Already Under Attack

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

Ransomware is big business. It’s one of the fastest growing online crimes. Cyber criminals are targeting small and medium sized companies as well as non-profits and government agencies.

It’s the computer crime where your data is encrypted so you can’t access it unless you pay the ransom fee.

The really scary part is that it’s unlikely you’d realize you were under attack from ransomware until it was too late.

Cyber criminals hide in your network for between 60 to 100 days before they strike. During that time they’re checking out your network, identifying vulnerabilities, and preparing what they need to hit you with the attack.

[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…]

Targeted Attacks On Small Businesses Are On The Rise

Mark Funchion is a network technician at Tech Experts.

Many of us have heard of ransomware. This is an attack where someone gains access to a system and encrypts all of the data until a ransom is paid. Once they get their money, they either unencrypt the data… or not. There is no guarantee that paying the ransom will actually work.

Most attacks in the past, both viruses and ransomware, were the “spray and pray” variety. Basically, the attackers would send out thousands (or hundreds of thousands) of emails and hope that a small percentage of them were successful. This procedure worked, but the success rate was low and the attackers had to have a large volume to make it successful.

The more profitable attacks that are on the rise are targeted attacks. These attacks rely on quality rather than quantity. Research goes into the attacks that then target a single or very few companies. These attackers will even go as far to check a company or institution’s financial information to see how much of a ransom they can expect to get.

In addition to demanding a ransom for the data to be decrypted, there is often a threat that the data will be released if the ransom is not paid. The threat of data being released can lead to the ransom being paid even if the target has a way to recover from the attack.

While many home users would hate to have their data released, it would not be completely devastating in most cases. If you are a financial, medical, or education institution, it could end your business or severely harm it. These institutions all contain sensitive information of their employees and clients.

For this reason, a recent spike has been seen in the UK involving their schools. Attackers are seeing schools as an easier target in today’s environment with the increase in remote learning. Banks and hospitals have been targeted numerous times before, and their main goal is to be as secure as possible, spending large amounts of money on it.

Schools and universities, on the other hand, are concerned with security, but they’re in a position today with COVID where they need to have fairly open access.

As colleges are pivoting to a distance learning model on a scale never envisioned, they have to allow more and more access in. This means more and more devices the schools have no direct control over, creating potential entry points into the network.

Although most of you reading this are not educational institutions, there is no industry or business (regardless of size) that is safe from a potential attack. Having a good network security system in place with effective backups is critical.

Don’t rely only on a day or a few days’ worth of backups either; some attacks will infect a system, then remain dormant for a while, hoping to outlive the backups you have available.

Having a technology partner who understands the dangers and how to recover is essential. You cannot just plug in a firewall and use an antivirus software and consider yourself protected.

Your business should have an incident response plan that includes backups and restore procedures, as well as testing. You also need to make sure you have a procedure to keep all of your systems up-to-date with the most current patches. Making sure any remote sessions are secure and using 2FA whenever possible is another area often overlooked too.

The list of vulnerabilities is endless, but we are here to assist. Let us provide you the security and comfort that your business is protecting not only your data, but your users from a potential breach.

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.

10 Most Important CyberAttacks Of The Last Decade

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

The only way to keep history from repeating itself is to learn from the mistakes of the past. The following is a list of the most significant cyberyattacks from the last decade, as compiled by TechTarget:

Yahoo – 2013
With the unfortunate legacy of being the largest breach in the history of the internet, all three billion Yahoo accounts were compromised. The organization took 3 years to notify the public of the breach and that every account’s name, email address, password, birthdate, phone numbers, and security answers had been sold on the dark web.

Equifax – 2017
Probably the most damaging attack occurred just 3 years ago with the hack of Equifax. The hackers were successful in gaining access to 143 million Equifax customers and information vital to the lives of all. [Read more…]

Data Breaches Cost Healthcare $6.5M Or $429 Per Patient Record

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

Data breach costs are on the rise, with breach-related spending in the healthcare sector reaching $6.5 million on average, an IBM-sponsored report shows.

Data breaches cost the healthcare sector an average of $6.5 million per breach, over 60 percent more than all other business sectors, according to a Ponemon Institute report, sponsored by IBM. Other sectors spend about $3.9 million, on average.

Researchers interviewed 500 global organizations that experienced a data breach in the last year. The researchers found for the ninth consecutive year the healthcare sector is still the hardest hit financially by data breaches.

The costs are directly related to legal, technical, and regulatory functions, including patient notifications, breach detection and response, and lost business caused by reputational damage, loss of consumer trust, and downtime. [Read more…]

Why Antivirus Software Is So Important

Workplaces across the world are constantly under fire from security threats stemming from computer viruses.

As businesses have updated their technology throughout the years, the implicit security that stemmed from the use of typewriters and handwritten documents has diminished.

Now, everyone is connected to their neighbor, making businesses as vulnerable as ever to fraud and theft of sensitive information. To combat it, every workplace should be well-equipped with a proven and trusted antivirus software.

A virus is a malevolent program meant to do any number of things. They can hijack your PC through phishing scams, careless downloads, and even by accidentally clicking on an online advertisement.

Overall, viruses can slow down your PC, steal sensitive data stored on your machine, prevent computers from booting up, and send out messages under your alias. Much like real life, viruses can essentially be “contagious” and spread across a network, making them a business’s worst nightmare. One infection could create a site-wide virus epidemic if it spreads across the network – and some are designed to do just that.

In addition, not all viruses are the same. The term “virus” is really an umbrella for many different types of malware.

For example, there are worms, which make an indefinite amount of copies of themselves to take over your CPU.

Trojans are seemingly good-natured programs, but in reality, they secretly perform some sort of malicious attack whether that is stealing your information or slowing down your PC.

Another example of a virus is spyware, which does not stop your PC from running smoothly, but just as the name states, it spies on your activity and collects sensitive information without your knowledge or consent.

All users need antivirus to keep themselves and their fellow coworkers safe. Antivirus acts as the security guard defending your computer. Its primary task is that of a gatekeeper. It stops viruses from attaching themselves to your workstation before they even become a threat.

Although antiviruses do a stellar job at the gate, some viruses can still slip through the cracks. In these cases, antivirus software can find and remove threatening programs from your device. Most antivirus software notifies you of the removal as well or asks for permission before fully removing the program from your machine.

In order for an antivirus software to be successful and functioning, the developers must be dedicated to updating the antivirus’ database consistently with new information on new threats, so be sure to keep your program up-to-date.

Just as the field of computer science and technology is rapidly changing and improving, so are the viruses and malware that attack your computer. Many antiviruses are consistently updating their databases and rules to account for this growing and changing threat.

Lacking antivirus software for your business is like leaving the door unlocked for hackers and malicious programs to do what they please with your costly computers and sensitive information. The best way to fight a cyberattack is to prevent it from happening in the first place, and antivirus software does just that.