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…]

Please Don’t Give Everyone Access To Everything

With so many potential vulnerabilities in every business IT system, there is no “silver bullet” – no single safety measure that will let you sit back and relax, knowing your IT is safe and data is secure.

Most of the risks are ongoing and constantly changing. They need an active approach to stop your business falling victim to a data breach or malicious cyber-attack.

It would take a lot more space than is available in this newsletter to talk about all the risks you face.

So instead, we can talk about two of the most important things you can do to stay safe.

Make sure your team only has access to the data it needs

Keep an eye on who has access to what and whether they need it.

The more people have access to sensitive data, the more potential routes there are for the wrong people to get access to it.
If you give everybody access to everything, all it will take is for one account to become compromised.

And before you know it, criminals armed with malware will have access to your systems.

Just as important as this is how you manage the IT accounts of people who leave the business or change jobs internally.

For example, if an employee switches from accounting to a management job in a completely different part of the business, they probably won’t need to keep access to all the data they needed for their last role. Failing to adjust permissions only adds to your level of risk. When people leave your business, you must immediately restrict their access to your systems and data. Implement appropriate policies and processes to reduce the risk of something slipping through.

Keep your devices secure

Another important thing to watch out for is how frequently you’re installing updates on devices. This includes tablets and phones as well as computers. They must all be kept updated with the latest security patches. All it takes is one weak link for your whole business to potentially be compromised.

Make sure that you replace old devices that are no longer getting updates, or can’t support the latest versions of software. And of course, it’s also important to make sure that all devices are backed up in real time.

Consider computer and mobile device encryption. It turns the data into unreadable garbage if the wrong person gets hold of your device.

Would Your Business Survive The 4 Beer Test This Christmas?

So, it’s unlikely you’ll be having a traditional office Christmas party this year. Thank COVID, you party-pooper.

But I’m sure at least some of your team will find a way to celebrate together over a few beers after work one day.

And that’s why it’s worth asking if your business can pass the four beer test.

What’s that? Four beers is about the stage where people start to “relax” so much, they start to forget the important stuff. Like picking up their laptop bag when they leave the bar or restaurant.

Laptops and mobile devices get left in bars and restaurants all the time, especially on dark winter nights like these.

Thing is – depending on your IT setup, a lost laptop can either be a minor inconvenience. Or a complete disaster.

How can you tell which? By asking these 3 questions:

• Is it encrypted?
• Is it password protected?
• Can the data be wiped remotely?

If it’s a “yes” to all three, you can relax. It’s annoying you’ve lost your device… but your business’s data is safe. No one can access it.

And if you can’t positively answer all three, there’s a problem. These days, the loss of data is a much bigger deal than the loss of a device.

If you’re not 100% sure you can answer all 3 questions with a big fat YES… then give us a call. We can check for you.

How To Set Up And Maintain A Secure, Remote Work Environment To Overcome The COVID19 Pandemic

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

“We are in this together.” We can’t say that enough. It’s not you, and I, but US.

Information technology and communications providers are considered essential services in this unprecedented time, and we take our role seriously. We are here to help, and we ask you (no, implore you) to reach out with any technology-related questions as you work to transition from a central office to a remote employee environment.

As you prepare (or maybe you already have transitioned) for remote work environments, many of which will need to be done by the individual who will be working there, we developed this list of 10 things to keep in mind to secure a remote work environment on the fly.

Invest in antivirus software for all employee devices
Yes, technically it is your employee’s devices and these are usually outside of the typical IT circle. But with these circumstances coming about quickly, there may not have been time to follow your normal procurement cycle to get the specific equipment your employees need to remain productive while working from home. That means they will be working from their own device, and they may or may not be as cognizant of your security measures.

So a good rule of thumb is to work to ensure that all employees utilize antivirus software. Many ISPs (Internet service providers) also offer free antivirus software with their service, and we would encourage you to take full advantage. There are several ways you can handle this and we invite you to give us a call to see what will work best for your organization. [Read more…]

Working From Home? Probably The “New Normal”

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

I hope that you and your family (and pets) are safe and sound and doing as well as can be expected. This is an extraordinary time for all of us, and the very embodiment of the ancient Chinese aphorism “may you live in interesting times.” We surely do.

Our team is mixed between working in the office and working from home, and everyone is doing a great job. We initially saw a huge increase in our ticket volume as our client’s teams prepared to work from home but that’s tapered off in the last week to a pretty normal level of activity.

If you had to wait for help, please accept my personal apology for the inconvenience – while we have plans to handle client disasters, I never anticipated something as far-reaching as the current pandemic.

The “new normal”

If the politicians and experts are to be believed, many of the changes we’ve had to make to slow the spread of this virus are going to be around for quite a while, at least until we have an effective vaccine for COVID-19. From an IT perspective, that means more of your team will probably be working remotely. And that presents a new kind and new level of security exposure for your company. [Read more…]

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.

Most Small Business Breaches Could Be Prevented

The majority of breaches that affect small and medium businesses like yours could have been prevented through the use of today’s technology. Here are 14 ways you can protect your business:

Security assessment
Establish a baseline and determine when your last security assessment was.

Spam email
Most attacks occur from infected emails. Be sure you secure your accounts. We can help you determine the right level of protection for your business.

Passwords
Set company policies surrounding passwords and external devices in your business. Examples include restricting USB drive access, screen timeout limits, enhanced password policies, and limiting user access to certain files.

Security awareness
Educate, educate,and then educate some more. Employees are the single greatest risk to an organization of a cyber breach by employees inadvertently clicking on a link in an email or downloading a file that contains the virus or ransomware.

Advanced endpoint detection and response (EDR)
Technology advancements have enhanced the traditional methods of virus protection, adding protections for fileless and script-based attacks and can even roll back systems after an attack. Give us a call at (734) 457-5000 (or email at info@mytechexperts.com) to learn more about these features and how they can replace your current virus protection software.

Multi-factor authentication
Multi-Factor Authentication is the process of requiring two modes of identity checks when logging into accounts with sensitive and personal information, such as bank accounts or social media.

This additional layer of protection can be critical in ensuring your data does not become lost.

Computer updates
Automate key software, such as Microsoft Office and OS, Adobe, and Java, to protect your network from the latest attacks. We can provide “critical update” services to your business and help you keep your business protected from these malicious sources.

Dark web research
A little known secret is the reality that many users’ login credentials have been placed for sale on Dark Web sites. Continuously monitor these sites and update credentials as needed if you find your corporate credentials up for sale to the highest bidder.

SIEM/log management
SIEM, or Security Incident & Event Management, uses data engines to review all logs from all covered devices, protecting your systems from unauthorized access.

Web gateway security
New cloud-based security products can detect web and email threats and block them – before they reach your network and users.

Mobile device security
Don’t neglect to secure your employees’ mobile devices and tablets. Many attackers target these devices, believing them to be forgotten by most businesses.

Firewall
Advanced firewall technology today enables intrusion detection and intrusion protection features. Ensure these are enabled on your corporate firewalls, and if you don’t know how, call us today.

Encryption
Encrypt files both at rest and in motion, especially on mobile devices, laptops and tablets. Cell phones are an unexpected attack vector.

Backup
Utilize multiple forms of backup, from cloud backup to on-premise and offline, further reducing the risks of a ransomware attack preventing access to your data.