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.

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…]

Is Your Business Secure? Top Three Ways To Protect Your Company

Effective cybersecurity is not a “one size fits all” solution but needs to take into account the unique needs of your particular business.

That said, however, there are three key things you can do to immediately safeguard your business at a basic level.

Automate software updates

Let’s be real. We all forget things sometimes. Even something as important as updating the software on our devices. And sometimes it’s not even a “forget” but an “I don’t have time right now for my device to be down.” But automating updates and setting them to process during off-hours can be the difference between a successful and unsuccessful breach.

Educate your employees

Employees are the number one point of failure in any cybersecurity event. A recent report from Kaspersky Labs found that 90% of corporate data breaches occur as a result of social engineering attacks on employees – not the providers.

Use the Cloud

Many of us used to say that it was “too risky” to be in the cloud. That our data was “safer” here on-site where I can control access to every bit of the network. However, over the years, we have learned that using cloud solutions is actually more secure than on-site solutions and here’s why: cloud providers have a higher level of certification needed in order to prove the level of protection required of a cloud solution.

Cloud providers know it is imperative that their solution be the most secure solution available and any blemish can be a make or break problem for the longevity of their business. As such, they make it their business to know and keep up with the ever-changing cybersecurity world and work to implement the latest protections across their entire networks.

Last year was a record-breaking year for cyberattacks, with Colonial Oil, JBS, and even Buffalo Public Schools. The time to update your security protocols is now before you fall victim. Schedule your audit today and keep your business safe.

Companies Must Address Employees’ Lax Cybersecurity Habits

A third of employees picked up bad cyber security behaviors while working from home, according to Tessian’s Back to Work Security Behaviors report.

Despite the remote workers’ bad security practices, 9 out of 10 organizations prefer the hybrid workplace as COVID-19 restrictions eased. Similarly, 89% of employees want to work remotely during the week.

The firm advises business owners to consider the bad employee behaviors as organizations transition to hybrid workplace models.

As employees go back to the office, businesses need to address changes to employees’ security behaviors since they have been working remotely.

Most employers are wary that the post-pandemic hybrid workforce would bring bad cybersecurity behaviors.

More than half (56%) of employers believed that employees had picked bad security practices while working remotely.

Similarly, nearly two-fifths (39%) of employees also admitted that their employee behaviors differed significantly while working from home compared to the office.

Additionally, nearly a third (36%) admitted discovering ‘workarounds’ since they started working remotely.

Close to half of workers adopted the risky behavior because they felt that they weren’t being watched by IT departments. Nearly a third (30%) said they felt that they could get away with the risky employee behaviors while working away from the office.

However, small businesses placed more confidence in their employees while transitioning to the hybrid workplace.

Over two-thirds of business owners believed that their staff would observe their company’s cybersecurity policies.

Many employees are unlikely to admit cutting corners

The fear or failure to report cybersecurity mistakes was a huge cybersecurity risk for organizations. A quarter of employees refused to report such mistakes believing that nobody would ever discover them.

Similarly, more than a quarter feared reporting cybersecurity mistakes to avoid potential disciplinary actions or being forced to take additional security training.

However, younger employees are more likely to admit cutting corners, according to the Tessian report.

More than half (51%) of employees between 16-24 years old and 46% of those between 25-34 years old were more likely to admit circumventing the company’s security protocols.

“Create a security culture that encourages people to come forward about their mistakes, and support them when they do,” the authors suggested.

Personal devices will undermine the network perimeter in the hybrid workplace

Some of the security threats and challenges experienced when people work fully remotely would be imported into the new hybrid workplace.

While many employees used infected devices for remote access during the pandemic, some would bring them to the hybrid office. Company leaders now have to shift to a new security architecture for good – one that involves zero-trust network access, endpoint security, and multi-factor authentication.

Phishing and ransomware attacks are major challenges in the hybrid workplace

Ransomware attacks were also a major concern for more than two-thirds (69%) of companies who believed that the hybrid work environment would be a target for ransomware attacks. These attacks posed a business continuity threat to targeted companies.

Similarly, phishing attacks concerned over three-quarters of IT decision-makers who believed that credential phishing would only exacerbate in a hybrid workplace.

They believed that employees were more likely to expose company data in public or fall for phishing scams impersonating airlines, booking companies, hotels, or senior executives on a business trip. In fact, “back to work” phishing emails were a concern for 67% of IT leaders.

Phishing was the gateway to ransomware attacks. Consequently, successfully blocking phishing exploits reduces the chances of a ransomware attack.

“Stop phishing, business email compromise, account takeover attacks, and social engineering scams, and you significantly reduce the risk of ransomware,” the report authors noted.

However, bad employee behaviors, such as failing to report clicking phishing links, made it harder to stop these attacks.

Three Scary Questions To Ask About Your Data On Your Staff’s Phones

More and more businesses encourage staff to use their own personal cell to access company data.

It’s very convenient and cost effective for everyone. Isn’t that the point of having all your data and apps in the cloud? You can access anything anywhere on any device.

But there are downsides. Any time someone accesses business data on a device that you don’t control, it opens windows of opportunity for cyber criminals.

Here are 3 scary questions to ask yourself.

What happens if someone’s phone is lost or stolen?

What’s a pain for them could be a nightmare for you. Would you be able to encrypt your business’s data or delete it remotely? Would it be easy for a stranger to unlock the device and access the apps installed?

What happens if someone taps a bad link?

Lots of people read their email on their phone. If they tap on a bad link in a phishing email (a fake email that looks like it’s from a real company), is your business’s data safe?

Despite what many people think, phones can be hacked in a similar way to your computer.

What happens when someone leaves?

Do you have a plan to block their ongoing access to your business’s apps and data? It’s the thing many business owners and managers forget when staff change.

If you haven’t already, create a cell phone security plan to go with your general IT security plan. Make sure everyone in your business knows what it is and what to do if they suspect anything is wrong.

If you need a hand, don’t forget that a trusted IT security partner (like us) can give you the right guidance.

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…]

When Was Your Last Permissions Review?

When was the last time you reviewed who in your business has access to which documents?

Do you know who has access to your documents? Or can everyone access everything?

You may need to make some changes. You see, the more people that have access to your business documents, the less secure they are.

Let’s imagine for a moment that one of your people opens a very convincing email, supposedly from a supplier.

The email contains a document to download, which they do, because it’s from a supplier, right? They can trust it.

What your employee didn’t notice was that the email signature was missing or that the email address wasn’t the same as it usually is.

And the document they downloaded has now installed malware on their device.

They don’t notice the malware because it all looked legit and nothing obvious has happened. They continue their working day unaware.

While they’re working, the malware is working too, in the background. It’s accessing and copying all of the data that your employee has access to.

You might get lucky and stop this malware before it enters your network and takes everything, but if your employee already has access to everything, well, it’s gone. Although this isn’t a malicious act on behalf of the employee, they’ve essentially caused a huge data breach that could kill your business.

And this scenario doesn’t even need the malware to become a reality. One day, a member of your team might decide they’d like to make a little money by stealing your valuable data.

By giving everyone access to everything, you’re making it too easy – and too tempting – for them.

So, if you haven’t already done this, I suggest that this week you make it a priority to sit down and work out who needs access to which files and documents and restrict access to absolutely everything.

Keep your own document detailing who has access to what. And update it whenever anyone joins the business or changes roles.

This is also a great way of protecting your data when somebody leaves, because you can see exactly what you need to revoke access to.

If you already restrict access, when was the last time you reviewed it?

Are people able to access files they no longer need? And are there people who could benefit from access to more documents to complete their role?

Yes, that’s a lot to think about. But once you have a detailed document to work from, regular reviews are pretty simple and definitely worth your time.

Please give us a call if you’d like to go over the shares and permissions on your network.

Lately, Ransomware Has Added Blackmail To Its Arsenal

Mark Funchion is a network technician at Tech Experts.

At this point, ransomware is practically a lifeform – it’s constantly growing and adapting.

Originally, if you were hit with ransomware, your data was encrypted and you could pay to (hopefully) get the data restored.

If you had an effective backup solution, you could restore your data without paying and adjust your security to prevent this from happening again.

Now, many of these attackers using ransomware have upped their game. They realize that more businesses are using backups, so the chances of getting paid are lessening. To combat that, the attackers added an additional feature to their attacks: blackmail / extortion.

Not only do they encrypt your data, but they take it as well. Now, the payment is to decrypt the data AND keep it from being posted online for all to see.

If you are a business with sensitive files, this can be a real issue. Having a backup is not enough in this case; even if you don’t pay the ransom and you’re back up and running in a few hours, all your data could be shared. Worse than the hassle of recreating all your files, the lasting effects from customer data, financials, and personal information being leaked could be devastating.

This is why it’s crucial to partner with an IT provider who understands network security.

An effective and tested backup solution is important, but there’s more that you need to have in order to be protected. Your network needs to be secured with a firewall, and all your devices need to be patched regularly to limit your exposure when exploits are discovered.

Are you using 2FA? Do you know what 2FA is? Are your passwords changed regularly and are they complex? Do all users in your office use the same password? Do they share accounts?

We know it seems more efficient to have easy passwords and shared log-ins, but it’s a huge security risk.

Businesses often find it easier to give users full administrative access to their local machine and network shares too. However, in that scenario, one compromised password that has full access to everything means the attackers do not need to look any further and can “walk” right in.

Another item that too many people turn off or find annoying is User Account Control. Yes, it can be frustrating to verify your user identity when you want to make changes.

That is, until a malicious program is launched without your knowledge and the User Account Control prompt stops your network and data from being attacked. What’s worse – a few seconds’ worth of verification or a costly business disaster?

These cyberthreats will always continue to grow and evolve. They have been since we started using the Internet. If you are not in the business of technology, it is very difficult for you to adapt efficiently enough to stay secure.

That is why the right technology partner who does adapt and evolve is very important to the success of your business.

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…]