How Often Do You Need To Train Employees On Cybersecurity Awareness?

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

You’ve just completed your annual phishing training where you teach employees how to spot phishing emails. You’re feeling good about it, until about 5-6 months later when your company suffers a costly ransomware infection because someone clicked on a phishing link.

You wonder why you seem to need to train on the same information every year yet still suffer from security incidents.

The problem is that you’re not training your employees often enough.

People can’t change behaviors if training isn’t reinforced regularly. They can also easily forget what they’ve learned after several months go by.

So, how often is often enough to improve your team’s cybersecurity awareness and cyber hygiene? It turns out that training every four months is the “sweet spot” when it comes to seeing consistent results in your IT security. [Read more…]

The SLAM Method Can Improve Phishing Detection

Why has phishing remained such a large threat for so long? Because it continues to work. Scammers evolve their methods as technology progresses, employing AI-based tactics to make targeted phishing more efficient.

If phishing didn’t continue returning benefits, then scammers would move on to another type of attack. But that hasn’t been the case. People continue to get tricked.

In May of 2021, phishing attacks increased by 281%. Then in June, they spiked another 284% higher.

Studies show that as soon as 6 months after a person has been trained on phishing identification, their detection skills can begin waning as they forget things.

Give employees a “hook” they can use for memory retention by introducing the SLAM method of phishing identification.

What is the SLAM Method for Phishing Identification?

One of the mnemonic devices known to help people remember information they are taught is the use of an acronym. SLAM is an acronym for four key areas of an email message that should be checked before trusting it. These are:

S = Sender
L = Links
A = Attachments
M = Message text

By giving people the term “SLAM” to remember, it’s quicker for them to do a check on any suspicious or unexpected email without missing something important.

All they need to do is run down the cues in the acronym.

S = Check the Sender

It’s important to check the sender of an email thoroughly. Often scammers will either spoof an email address or use a look-alike address that people easily mistake for the real thing.

You can double-click on the sender’s name to ensure the email address is legitimate.

L = Hover Over Links Without Clicking

Hyperlinks are popular to use in emails because they can often get past antivirus/anti-malware filters.

You should always hover over links without clicking on them to reveal the true URL. This often can immediately call out a fake email scam due to them pointing to a strangely named or misspelled website.

A = Never Open Unexpected or Strange File Attachments

Never open strange or unexpected file attachments, and make sure all attachments are scanned by an antivirus/anti-malware application before opening.

M = Read the Message Carefully

If you rush through a phishing email, you can easily miss some telltale signs that it’s a fake, such as spelling or grammatical errors.

Look for words or phrases not normally used by the person who’s emailing you. Words like “kindly” and “revert” are tell-tale clues the email come from someone who’s not your normal sender.

Also, be on the lookout for pressure to act quickly or unexpected banking change requests. While it happens, it is rare for a company to change banks without months of advance notice.

Get Help Combatting Phishing Attacks

Both awareness training and security software can improve your defenses against phishing attacks. Contact us today to discuss your email security needs.

Watch Out For Reply-chain Phishing Attacks

Phishing. It seems you can’t read an article on cybersecurity without it coming up. That’s because phishing is still the number one delivery vehicle for cyberattacks.

80% of surveyed security professionals say that phishing campaigns have significantly increased post-pandemic.

Phishing not only continues to work, but it’s also increasing in volume due to the move to remote teams.

Many employees are now working from home. They don’t have the same network protections they had when working at the office.

One of the newest tactics is particularly hard to detect. It is the reply-chain phishing attack.

What is a Reply-Chain Phishing Attack?

You don’t expect a phishing email tucked inside an ongoing email conversation between colleagues.

Most people are expecting phishing to come in as a new message, not a message included in an existing reply chain.

The reply-chain phishing attack is particularly insidious because it does exactly that. It inserts a convincing phishing email in the ongoing thread of an email reply chain.

How does a hacker gain access to the reply chain conversation? By hacking the email account of one of those people copied on the email chain. Often, the target isn’t even aware.

The hacker can email from an email address that the other recipients recognize and trust. The attacker also gains the benefit of reading down through the chain of replies. This enables them to craft a response that looks like it fits.

They may see that everyone has been weighing in on a new idea for a product called Superbug. So, they send a reply that says, “I’ve drafted up some thoughts on the new Superbug product, here’s a link to see them.”

The reply won’t seem like a phishing email at all. It will be convincing because:

  1. It comes from an email address of a colleague. This address has already been participating in the email conversation.
  2. It may sound natural and reference items in the discussion.
  3. It may use personalization. The email can call others by the names the hacker has seen in the reply chain.

Business Email Compromise is Increasing

Business email compromise (BEC) is so common that it now has its own acronym. Weak and unsecured passwords lead to email breaches. So do data breaches that reveal databases full of user logins.

Tips for Addressing Reply-Chain Phishing

Here are some ways that you can lessen the risk of reply-chain phishing in your organization:

• Use a business password manager
• Put multi-factor controls on email accounts
• Teach employees to be aware

How To Protect Your Online Accounts From Being Breached

Stolen login credentials are a hot commodity on the Dark Web. There’s a price for every type of account from online banking to social media. For example, hacked social media accounts will go for between $30 to $80 each.

The rise in reliance on cloud services has caused a big increase in breached cloud accounts. Compromised login credentials are now the #1 cause of data breaches globally, according to IBM Security’s latest Cost of a Data Breach Report.

Having either a personal or business cloud account compromised can be very costly. It can lead to a ransomware infection, compliance breach, identity theft, and more.

To make matters more challenging, users are still adopting bad password habits that make it all too easy for criminals. For example:

  • 34% of people admit to sharing passwords with colleagues
  • 44% of people reuse passwords across work and personal accounts
  • 49% of people store passwords in unprotected plain text documents

Cloud accounts are more at risk of a breach than ever, but there are several things you can do to reduce the chance of having your online accounts compromised.

Use multi-factor authentication (MFA)

Multi-factor authentication (MFA) is the best method there is to protect cloud accounts. While not a failsafe, it is proven to prevent approximately 99.9% of fraudulent sign-in attempts, according to a study cited by Microsoft.

When you add the second requirement to a login, which is generally to input a code that is sent to your phone, you significantly increase account security. In most cases, a hacker is not going to have access to your phone or another device that receives the MFA code, thus they won’t be able to get past this step.

The brief inconvenience of using that additional step when you log into your accounts is more than worth it for the bump in security.

Use a password manager for secure storage

One way that criminals get their hands on user passwords easily is when users store them in unsecured ways, such as in an unprotected Word or Excel document or the contact application on their PC or phone.

Using a password manager provides you with a convenient place to store all your passwords that is also encrypted and secured. Plus, you only need to remember one strong master password to access all the others.

Password managers can also autofill all your passwords in many different types of browsers, making it a convenient way to access your passwords securely across devices.

Review your privacy settings

Have you taken time to look at the security settings in your cloud tools? One of the common causes of cloud account breaches is misconfiguration. This is when security settings are not properly set to protect an account.

You don’t want to just leave SaaS security settings at defaults, as these may not be protective enough. Review and adjust cloud application security settings to ensure your account is properly safeguarded.

Don’t enter passwords when on public Wi-Fi

Whenever you’re on public Wi-Fi, you should assume that your traffic is being monitored. Hackers like to hang out on public hot spots in airports, restaurants, coffee shops, and other places so they can gather sensitive data, such as login passwords.

You should never enter a password, credit card number, or other sensitive information when you are connected to public Wi-Fi. You should either switch off Wi-Fi and use your phone’s wireless carrier connection or use a virtual private network (VPN) app, which encrypts the connection.

Use good device security

If an attacker manages to breach your device using malware, they can often breach your accounts without a password needed. Just think about how many apps on your devices you can open and already be logged in to.

To prevent an online account breach that happens through one of your devices, make sure you have strong device security. Best practices include:

  • Antivirus/anti-malware
  • Up-to-date software and OS
  • Phishing protection (like email filtering and DNS filtering)

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.

Should You Monitor Your Remote Workers?

At the end of last year, Microsoft announced it would be adding increased employee surveillance to Microsoft Edge.

The changes mean admins can access compliance monitoring through the browser, such as seeing which files have been printed or copied to USB devices.

Machine learning is being used to increase this visibility of what’s happening to sensitive files. But how will this impact employees? Will they feel that their privacy is being invaded? Will it cause trust issues? And do you think this is an appropriate level of monitoring when people have proved that remote work can be just as productive – if not more – than working from the office?

Our advice would be not to buy into this increased employee surveillance, unless you want to damage the delicate trust you’ve no doubt worked hard to build with your team.

There are other, more open ways to help your people get their work done. For example, there are plenty of tools that help limit distractions like notifications or temporarily block apps and websites to allow better focus. Your employees can choose to activate these to aid their productivity when they need a boost.

You’ll find some within your Microsoft 365 subscription – that means more tools at no extra cost.

If you want some suggestions personalized to your business, give us a call.

Five Things You Should Never Do On A Work Computer

Whether you work remotely or in an office, the line between personal and work tasks can become blurred when working on your company computer. If you’re in front of a computer for most of your time during work, then it’s not unusual to get attached to your desktop PC.

Over time, this can lead to doing personal things on a work computer. At first, it might just be checking personal email while on a lunch break. But as the line continues to get crossed, it can end up with someone using their work computer just as much for personal reasons as work tasks.

In a survey of over 900 employees, it was found that only 30% said they never used their work PC for personal activities. The other 70% admitted to using their work computer for various personal reasons.

Some of the non-work-related things that people do on a work computer include:

  • Reading and sending personal email
  • Scanning news headlines
  • Shopping online
  • Online banking
  • Checking social media
  • Streaming music
  • Streaming videos/movies

It’s a bad idea to mix work and personal, no matter how much more convenient it is to use your work PC for a personal task during the day. You can end up getting reprimanded, causing a data breach at your company, or possibly losing your job. Here are several things you should never do on your work PC.

Save personal passwords in the browser
Many people manage their passwords by allowing their browser to save and then auto-fill them. This can be convenient, but it’s not very secure should you lose access to that PC.

When the computer you use isn’t yours, it can be taken away at any time for a number of reasons, such as an upgrade, repair, or during an unexpected termination.

If someone else accesses that device and you never signed out of the browser, that means they can leverage your passwords to access your cloud accounts.

Store personal data
It’s easy to get in the habit of storing personal data on your work computer, especially if your home PC doesn’t have a lot of storage space. But this is a bad habit and leaves you wide open to a couple of major problems:

Loss of your files: If you lose access to the PC for any reason, your files can be lost forever.

Your personal files being company-accessible: Many companies have backups of employee devices to protect against data loss. So, those beach photos stored on your work PC that you’d rather not have anyone else see could be accessible company-wide because they’re captured in a backup process.

Visit sketchy websites
You should assume that any activity you are doing on a work device is being monitored and is accessible by your boss. Companies often have cybersecurity measures in place like DNS filtering that is designed to protect against phishing websites.

This same type of software can also send an alert should an employee be frequenting a sketchy website deemed dangerous to security (which many sketchy websites are).

You should never visit any website on your work computer that you wouldn’t be comfortable visiting with your boss looking over your shoulder.

Allow friends or family to use it
When you work remotely and your work computer is a permanent fixture in your home, it can be tempting to allow a friend or family member to use it if asked. Often, work PCs are more powerful than a typical home computer and may even have company-supplied software that someone wouldn’t purchase on their own.

But allowing anyone else to use your work computer could constitute a compliance breach of data protection regulations that your company needs to adhere to.

Just the fact that the personal data of your customers or other employees could be accessed by someone not authorized to do so can mean a stiff penalty.

Additionally, a child or friend not well-versed in cybersecurity could end up visiting a phishing site and infecting your work device, which in turn infects your company cloud storage, leaving you responsible for a breach.

At least 20% of companies have experienced a data breach during the pandemic due to a remote worker.

Turn off company-installed apps like backups and antivirus
If you’re trying to get work done and a backup kicks in and slows your PC down to a crawl, it can be tempting to turn off the backup process. But this can leave the data on your computer unprotected and unrecoverable in the case of a hard drive crash or ransomware infection.

Company-installed apps are there for a reason and it’s usually for cybersecurity and business continuity. These should not be turned off unless given express permission by your supervisor or company’s IT team.

The Security Problem Of John’s “Other” Laptop

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

Love it or hate it, Working From Home is huge and here to stay.

As a nation, we’ve really embraced the changes forced upon us by the pandemic. Many businesses have become more flexible with a mixture of office-based workers, hybrid workers and fully remote workers.

We had no idea that we could change so much, so quickly, did we? Work just doesn’t look the same as it did in 2019.

And because of that, cyber security in 2022 doesn’t look the same either. When you have people working away from your office, you need to take additional security measures to keep your data safe.

Even before we’d heard the word “Coronavirus,” many of us were working from home now and then. Checking emails on the weekend. Finishing up a project in the evening. Getting a head start on your week.

Now, Working From Home has to be taken more seriously. If any of your staff works anywhere away from the office, there’s a chance they’re taking unnecessary risks with your data. [Read more…]

Online Shopping Tips From Stay Safe Online

The following tips have been taken from the Stay Safe Online group, which is dedicated to helping us all stay safe when using the Internet.

We thought they were very good tips to also keep in mind as you get back into the swing of things after the holiday break.

Think before you click

Beware of emails, texts or other promotions that seem “off” or encourage you to urgently click on links. If you receive an enticing offer, do not click on the link. Instead, go directly to the company’s website to verify the offer is legitimate. If you can’t find it on their website, report the scam to your email provider as a phishing attempt. Remember: if it seems to good to be true, it probably is.

Do your homework

Fraudsters are fond of setting up fake e-commerce sites. Prior to making a purchase, read reviews to hear what others say about the merchant. Check trusted sources, like the Better Business Bureau, as well.

In addition, look for a physical location and any customer service information. It’s also a good idea to call the merchant to confirm that they are legitimate.

Consider your payment options

Using a credit card is much better than using a debit card; there are more consumer protections for credit cards if something goes awry. Or, you can use a third party payment service instead of your credit card. There are many services you can use to pay for purchases – like Google Pay – without giving the merchant your credit card information directly.

Watch what you give away

Be alert to the kinds of information being collected to complete your transaction. If the merchant is requesting more data than you feel comfortable sharing, cancel the transaction.

You only need to fill out required fields at checkout and you should not save your payment information in your profile. If the account autosaves it, go in and delete the stored payment details after the purchase.

Keep tabs on your bank and credit card statements

Be sure to continuously check your accounts for any unauthorized activity. Good recordkeeping goes hand-in-hand with managing your cybersecurity.

Another tip for monitoring activity is to set up alerts so that if your credit card is used, you will receive an email or text message with the transaction details.

If You’ve Ever Reused A Password To Sign Up For Something New, You Have A Problem…

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

It’s something many people admit to doing: they reuse the same password across a few different services.

Not judging you if you’ve done it. It’s easy to see why thousands of people do this every day. It feels like an easy way to get signed up to something.

If you reuse a password, you won’t have to go through the hassle of trying to remember it and needing to reset the password in the future. However, you only have to do this once, and you’re at big risk of something called credential stuffing.

This is where hackers get hold of millions of real usernames and passwords. These typically come from the big leaks we hear about in the news.

Once leaked, information from databases from major companies like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn can be bought on the dark web for pennies each. [Read more…]