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April 11th, 2014

Security_Apr11_BThe Internet is an amazing thing, but being so big and accessed by so many people, it is never really 100% secure. There are always security issues being uncovered that could put your business and systems at risk. One of the latest flaws is possibly one of the biggest to be uncovered in years and could affect nearly every person and company on the Internet. Codenamed Heartbleed, this bug makes stealing data and viewing secure communication incredibly easy.

Background info about secure transmission of information on the Web

Most sites on the Internet rely on Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) technology to ensure that information is transmitted securely from a computer to server. SSL and the slightly older Transport Layer Security (TLS) are the main technology used to essentially verify that the site you are trying to access is indeed that site, and not a fake one which could contain malware or any other form of security threat. They essentially ensure that the keys needed to confirm that a site is legitimate and communication can be securely exchanged.

You can tell sites are using SSL/TLS by looking at the URL bar of your browser. If there is a padlock or HTTPS:// before the Web address, the site is likely using SSL or TLS verifications to help ensure that the site is legitimate and communication will be secure. These technologies work well and are an essential part of the modern Internet. The problem is not actually with this technology but with a software library called OpenSSL. This breach is called Heartbleed, and has apparently been open for a number of years now.

About Heartbleed

OpenSSL is an open-source version of SSL and TSL. This means that anyone can use it to gain SSL/TSL encryption for their site, and indeed a rather large percentage of sites on the Internet use this software library. The problem is, there was a small software glitch that can be exploited. This glitch is heartbleed.

Heartbleed is a bug/glitch that allows anyone on the Internet to access and read the memory of systems that are using certain versions of OpenSSL software. People who choose to exploit the bugs in the specific versions of OpenSSL can actually access or 'grab' bits of data that should be secured. This data is often related to the 'handshake' or key that is used to encrypt data which can then be observed and copied, allowing others to see what should be secure information.

The problem with Heartbleed

There are two major problems with this bug. The first being that if an attacker can uncover the SSL handshake used by your computer and the server that hosts the site when you login or transmit data they will be able to see this information. This information usually is made up of your login name, password, text messages, content and even your credit card numbers. In other words, anything that gets transmitted to the site using that version of SSL can be viewed.

Scary right? Well, the second problem is much, much bigger. The hacker won't only be able to see the data you transmit, but how the site receiving it employs the SSL code. If a hacker sees this, they can copy it and use it to create spoof sites that use the same handshake code, tricking your browser into thinking the site is legitimate. These sites could be made to look exactly same as the legitimate site, but may contain malware or even data capture software. It's kind of like a criminal getting the key to your house instead of breaking the window.

But wait, it gets worse. This bug has been present in certain versions of OpenSSL for almost two years which means the sites that have been using the version of OpenSSL may have led to exposure of your data and communication. And any attacks that were carried out can't usually be traced.

Am I affected by this?

What makes this so different from other security glitches is that OpenSSL is used by a large percentage of websites. What this means is that you are likely affected. In fact, a report published by Netcraft cited that 66% of active sites on the Internet used OpenSSL. This software is also used to secure chat systems, Virtual Private Networks, and even some email servers.

We have to make it clear here however: Just because OpenSSL is used by a vast percentage of the Internet, it doesn't mean every site is affected by the glitch.

The latest versions of OpenSSL have already patched this issue and any website using these versions will still be secure. The version with Heartbleed came out in 2011. The issue is while sites may not be using the 2011 version now, they likely did in the past meaning your data could have been at risk. On the other hand, there are still a wide number of sites using this version of OpenSSL.

What should I do?

This is a big issue, regardless of whether a website uses this version of OpenSSL or not. The absolute first thing you should do is go and change your passwords for everything. When we say everything, we mean everything. Make the passwords as different as possible from the old ones and ensure that they are strong.

It can be hard to tell whether your data or communications were or are actually exposed or not, but it is safe to assume that at some time or another it was. Changing your passwords should be the first step to ensuring that you are secure and that the SSL/TSL transmissions are secure. Another thing you should be aware of is what sites are actually using this version of OpenSSL. According to articles on the Web some of the most popular sites have used the version with the bug, or are as of the writing of this article, using it. Here are some of the most popular:

  • Facebook
  • Google
  • Gmail
  • Yahoo
  • Yahoo Mail
  • Instagram
  • Pinterest
  • Amazon Web Services
  • GoDaddy
  • Intuit
It would be a good idea to visit the blogs of each service to see whether they have updated to a new version of OpenSSL. As of the writing of this article, most had actually done so but some were still looking into upgrading. For a full list of sites, check out this Mashable article.

If you have a website that uses SSL/TSL and OpenSSL you should update it to the latest version ASAP. This isn't a large update but it needs to be done properly, so it is best to contact an IT partner like us who can help ensure the upgrade goes smoothly and that all communication is infact secure.

Contact us today to see how we can help ensure that your company is secure.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
April 4th, 2014

Security_March31_BA malware infection is an attack that you do not want invading your business systems. Malicious software can often make its way on computers without your knowledge, causing various disturbances. What’s even worse, is that vital information saved on your computer or data that you access online could be stolen. Computers must have proper protection. In the event that malware infection is detected an immediate response is required.

Signs of a malware infection

Before proceeding with the steps on how to respond to malware infections, we first need to learn about the signs and symptoms of a malware infection. These include:
  • Several pop-ups appear even when not browsing the Web.
  • Unusual slowness of the computer and Internet connection.
  • System hangs or freezes.
  • Corrupted programs.
  • Antivirus is disabled.
  • E-mails sent to or from your account which you did not send.
  • High network activity, even when not using large programs or accessing huge data.
  • Redirected access to some sites.

How to respond to a malware infection

In case you experience any of these symptoms, the first thing to do is to ensure that your antivirus and antispyware program is updated. This is to make sure that they detect the latest known threats on their database. You should then run scans to see if an infection is detected. If it is, the programs usually have a way to remove the infection. You then need to follow the steps the program recommends.

If this doesn't work, disconnect the infected computer from the network to prevent the spread of the malware. Furthermore, avoid accessing the Web and using vital information such as bank account and credit card information. Let the technical department or your IT partner handle the concern since they are trained in determining and eradicating system malware infections.

Once the problem has been pinpointed, a tech specialist will go through the process of eliminating the infection. This includes backing up data on the computer and restoring the system to its original state. Depending on the extent of the infection, the computer may need to be wiped clean, or reformatted before restoring backed-up files.

After the whole process, the computer must be tested to ensure that the infection has been totally removed. Moreover, further investigation and studies must also be done to determine where the problem started, as well as to create a strategy as to how to prevent this from happening in the future.

How to prevent a malware attack

Prevention is better than a cure and this definitely applies to malware infections. It’s best to arm yourself with knowledge on how to avoid malware attacks and prevent your systems from being infected.
  1. Ensure that security protection is always updated and that you run system scans on a regular basis.
  2. Avoid downloading attachments or clicking links from unknown sites or senders.
  3. Enable firewall protection.
Malware can hugely affect business operations and the security of private information. One of the best ways to prevent this is to work with an IT partner, like us, who can help recommend and install protection systems. You might want to think about getting help in managing these solutions too, to ensure that your systems are secure at all times.

If you have questions or concerns with regards to malware prevention and resolution, feel free to call us. Our support team is always ready to help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
March 20th, 2014

Security_Mar17_BThe security of your computer, network and whole system is likely something that has caused moments of stress and even worry. In order to ensure that a business is secure, companies often adopt a security strategy. While these strategies are great, there is one common element that many businesses forget to carry out - the audit.

Auditing and the security security strategy

Auditing your company's security is important, the only problem business owners run across is where and what they should be auditing. The easiest way to do this is to first look at the common elements of developing security strategies.

These elements are: assess, assign, audit. When you develop a plan, or work with an IT partner to develop one, you follow the three steps above, and it may be obvious at the end. In truth however, you should be auditing at each stage of the plan. That means you first need to know what goes on in each stage.

During the assessment phase you or your IT partner will need to look at the existing security you have in place. This includes on every computer and server and also focuses on who has access to what, and what programs are being used. Doing an assessment should give you an overview of how secure your business currently is, along with any weak points that need to be improved.

The assignment phase looks at actually carrying out the changes you identified in the assessment phase. This could include adding improved security measures, deleting unused programs or even updating systems for improved security. The main goal in this phase is to ensure that your systems and networks are secure.

Auditing happens after the changes have been made and aims to ensure that your systems are actually secure and have been implemented properly. Throughout the process you will actually need to continually audit and adjust your strategy.

What exactly should be audited?

When conducting an audit, there are three factors you should focus on:
  1. The state of your security - Changing or introducing a security plan usually begins with an audit of sorts. In order to do this however, you need to know about how your security has changed in between audits. Tracking this state and how it changed in between audits allows you to more efficiently audit how your system is working now and to also implement changes easier. If you don't know how the state of your security has changed in between audits, you could risk implementing ineffective security measures or leaving older solutions open to risk.
  2. The changes made - Auditing the state of your security is important, but you should also be auditing the changes made to your systems. For example, if a new program is installed, or a new firewall is implemented, you will need to audit how well it is working before you can deem your security plan to be fully implemented. Basically, you are looking for any changes made to your system that could influence security while you are implementing a new system. If by auditing at this point, you find that security has been compromised, you will need to go back to the first step and assess why before moving forward.
  3. Who has access to what - There is a good chance that every system you have will not need to be accessed by every employee. It would be a good idea that once a security solution is in place, that you audit who has access to what systems and how often they use them. This stage of the process needs to be proactive and constantly carried out. if you find that access changes or system access needs change, it would be a good idea to adapt your the security strategy; starting with the first stage.
If you are looking for help developing a security strategy for your business, contact us today to see how our managed solutions can help.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
March 6th, 2014

Security_May03_BEnsuring the security of your systems and computers can sometimes seem like a full time job and an uphill battle, especially with the increasing number of security issues being discovered. From bugs in software to malware, there is almost always some attack challenging the system security and potentially leading to a security breach. The other week a number of articles highlighted a bug in Apple's systems that poses a potential security flaw.

About the bug

News broke on many security websites mid-February about a potentially critical security flaw in Apple's systems following the company releasing an update to their mobile operating system, iOS.

The update notes released by Apple noted that the patch "provides a fix for SSL connection verification." This is a fairly common update as it is aimed at improving the security of communications between websites and the device. However, security experts found out that without the update attackers who can connect to a network are able to capture sensitive information being sent in banking sessions, email messages, and even chat messages using what's called an SSL/TSL session.

What exactly is SSL/TSL?

Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) and Transport Layer Security (TSL) are used in networks to essentially establish an encrypted link between a server and your computer. They are most commonly used to secure websites and the transmission of data. Take a look at some websites and you may see a padlock on the URL bar, or https:// in the URL. This indicates that the website is using SSL or TSL encryption to protect the data that is being transmitted e.g., your bank account information on a website.

In other words, SSL and TSL are used to ensure that information is exchanged securely over the Internet.

What was the problem and what software was affected?

It was found that there was a bug in the code Apple's software uses to establish a SSL connection which causes the whole SSL system to fail, potentially exposing data that should have been encrypted to anyone connected to the network with the right tools.

According to security experts, this bug has been found to affect devices running older versions of iOS 7, OS X 10.8 and newer, Apple TV, and possibly iOS 6. It is important to note that the bug is only found in Apple's SSL technology. Any app that uses Apple's version of SSL could be affected.

Has Apple solved this?

Luckily, Apple has released updates to all of their devices that should solve this security exploit. If you have not updated your device or computer since the middle of February you could be at risk.

How do I prevent my systems from being affected?

The first thing you should do is to update all Apple related apps and devices, including all mobile devices. If you are unsure about whether your apps are secure enough, try using another app, especially another browser. The reason for this is because browsers like Chrome and Firefox all use a different SSL technology and are unaffected by this bug.

You should also remain vigilant and not connect to any open or public Wi-Fi connections or even secured Internet connections that could be easy to break through. Basically, as long as you update you should be fine. However, it may be worthwhile using another browser if you are really worried about whether you have a secure connection.

If you are looking to learn more about this security flaw, or how you can secure your business from threats like this, contact us today. We can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
February 20th, 2014

Security_Feb17_BComputer and network security is an important issue to many business owners and managers. One of the most common security threats companies come across is phishing. Because phishing has become so prevalent, most people are aware of these underhand methods. This has led to hackers having to come up with new phishing methods, one of which is spear phishing.

What is spear phishing?

Spear phishing is a specialized type of phishing that instead of targeting a mass number of users, as normal phishing attempts, targets specific individuals or groups of individuals with a commonality e.g., an office.

Generally a hacker will first pick a target and then try to learn more about the related people. This could include visiting a website to see what a company does, who they work with, and even the staff. Or they could try hacking a server in order to get information.

Once they have some sort of information, usually a name, position, address, and even information on subscriptions, the hacker will develop an email that looks similar to one that another organization might send e.g., a bank. Some hackers have been known to create fake email accounts and pose as a victim's friend, sending emails from a fake account.

These emails are often similar to official correspondence and will always use personal information such as addressing the email to you directly instead of the usual 'dear sir or madam'. The majority of these emails will request some sort of information or talk about an urgent problem.

Somewhere in the email will be a link to the sender's website which will look almost exactly like the real thing. The site will usually ask you to input personal information e.g., an account number, name, address, or even passwords. If you went ahead and followed this request then this information would be captured by the hacker.

What happens if you are speared?

From previous attack cases and reports, the majority of spear phishing attacks are finance related, in that the hacker wants to gain access to a bank account or credit card. Other cases include hackers posing as help desk agents looking to gain access to business systems.

Should someone fall for this tactic, they will often see personal information captured and accounts drained or even their whole identity stolen. Some spear phishing attacks aren't after your identity or money, instead clicking on the link in the email will install malicious software onto a user's system.

We are actually seeing spear phishing being used increasingly by hackers as a method to gain access to business systems. In other words, spear phishing has become a great way for people to steal trade secrets or sensitive business data.

How do I avoid phishing?

Like most other types of phishing related emails, spear phishing attempts can be easy to block. Here are five tips on how you can avoid falling victim to them.
  • Know the basic rule of business communication - There are many basic rules of communication, but the most important one you should be aware of is that the majority of large organizations, like banks, social media platforms, etc., will not send you emails requesting personal information. If you receive an email from say PayPal asking you to click a link to verify your personal information and password, it's fake and you should delete it.
  • Look carefully at all emails - Many spear phishing emails originate in countries where English is not the main language. There will likely be a spelling mistake or odd wording in the emails, or even the sender's email address. You should look out for this, and if you spot errors then delete the email immediately.
  • Verify before you click - Some emails do have links in them, you can't avoid this. That being said, it is never a good idea to click on these without being sure. If you are unsure, phone the sender and ask. Should the email have a phone number, don't call it. Instead look for a number on a website or previous physical correspondence.
  • Never give personal information out over email - To many this is just plain common sense - you wouldn't give your personal information out to anyone on the street, so why give it out to anyone online? If the sender requires personal information try calling them or even going into their business to provide it.
  • Share only essential information - When signing up for new accounts online, there are fields that are required and others that are optional. Only share required information. This limits how much a hacker can get access to, and could actually tip you off. e.g., they send you an email addressed to Betty D, when your last name is Doe.
  • Keep your eyes out for the latest scams - Pay attention to security websites like those run by the major antivirus providers, or contact us. These sites all have blogs where they post the latest in security threats and more, and keeping up-to-date can go a long way in helping you to spot threats.
If you are looking to learn more about spear phishing or any other type of malware and security threat, get in touch.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
February 14th, 2014

Security_Feb11_BEven the most reliable business network security and sophisticated user credentials can be vulnerable to cyber attacks to some extent. The concept of a comprehensive layered security, called defense in depth, is based on a strategy which has been around since the time of the Romans. A multiple-layered defense is created to prevent the advancement of attack. This strategy has been proven to be an effective IT security method these days.

Just like the human body, a computer system can also be attacked by many viruses that can infect and disrupt computer operations. And what's worse is it doesn’t just disrupt the operations of your computer, but these viruses and other malware can gather sensitive information or even gain access to other private and secured computer systems on the same network.

Although computer viruses aren't deadly, they can spread at an unimaginable rate across your entire computer system, affecting your database, networks and other IT-related sources. You can get these viruses by opening bogus email messages, downloading unknown file attachments, and accidentally clicking ads that pop up your screen. This is why there is a need for a strong and effective security system to protect your network.

One of the tested and proven security strategies used today is defense in depth. This concept focuses on the coordinated and organized use of multiple security countermeasures to keep your database safe from intrusive attackers. Basically, this concept is based on the military principle that a multi-layered and complex defense is more difficult to defeat than a single-barrier protection system.

The defense in depth strategy assures network administrators by working on the basis of the following guiding principles:

Defenses in multiple places

The fact that many viruses can attack the network system from multiple points means that you need to deploy strong defense mechanisms at multiple locations that can endure all types of attacks.

Defense in depth focuses on areas by deploying firewalls and intrusion detection to endure active network attacks and also by providing access control on servers and host machines, to resist distribution attacks from the insiders. This multi-layered defense also protects local and area-wide communication networks from denial of service attacks.

Multiple layered defense

Defense in depth is an extremely effective countermeasure strategy, because it deploys multiple layered defense mechanisms between the attacker and its target. Each layer of the defense has a unique mechanism to withstand the virus attacks. Furthermore, you need to make sure that each layer has both detective and protective measures to ensure the security of the network.

The reason for wrapping the network with multiple layers of defense is because a single line of defense may be flawed. And the most certain way to protect your system from any attacks is to employ a series of different defenses that can be deployed to cover the gaps in the other defenses. Malware scanners, firewalls, intrusion detection systems, biometric verification and local storage encryption tools can individually serve to protect your IT resources in a way others cannot.

Perhaps the final layer of defense should be educating your employees not to compromise the integrity of the computer systems with potentially unhealthy computer practices. As much as possible, teach them the dos and don’ts of using the computer, as well as how they can prevent viruses and other computer malware coming in and destroying your system.

If you’re looking to give your computer systems better protection against the harmful elements that the internet can bring, then give us a call now and we’ll have one of our associates take care of you and help defend your business.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
February 11th, 2014

Security_Feb10_BThe Olympics is one of the most popular and well known sporting events in the world, and the 2014 Olympic Winter Games are well underway. This round, they are in Sochi, Russia and like every other event, there have been various organizational issues to deal with. Unlike the last Olympics however, one of those issues is the risk of hacking of mobile devices and computers.

Hacking at the Winter Olympics 2014

Well before the Olympics even started in Russia, the Russian government said that they will be surveilling phone and computer communications. Many scoffed at this, writing off the government as being overly ambitious and boasting about a nearly impossible task. The thing is, the Internet in Russia may not be as secure as many believe, being full of hackers. At least according to a report aired on NBC shortly before the games started.

In the report, reporter Richard Engel took new, never opened laptops and mobile devices to Russia and used them. He found that within 24 hours all of the devices had been hacked, exposing the data stored within.

In part of the segment, Engel and a security expert go to a local coffee shop in Moscow and search for Sochi on a mobile device. Almost immediately the device is hacked and malicious software downloaded. Engel notes that the hackers have access to data on the phone along with the ability to record phone calls.

In a follow-up segment, Engel explains a bit more about the laptop issues. When he boots one up and connects to the Internet, hackers are almost immediately snooping around the information, transferring from the machine to the networks. Within a couple of hours, he received a personalized email from a hacker welcoming him to Russia and providing him with some links to interesting websites. Clicking on the link allowed the hackers to access his machine.

One issue is that it hasn't been stated in any reports whether the Russian government is behind this, or if it's hackers out to steal information. While you can be sure that the Russians are monitoring communication during the Winter Olympics, it is highly likely that they are not the ones installing malware on phones, rather it's probably organized crime rings or individual hackers.

I'm not at Sochi so why do I care?

As a business owner half the world away you may be wondering why this news is so important to you, or why you should care. Take a look at any tech-oriented blog or news channel and you will quickly see that the number of attacks on devices, including malware, phishing, spam, etc. is on the rise. It's now likely a matter of when you will be hacked, not if.

Combine this with the fact that many businesses are going global, or doing business with other companies at a big distance. This has caused many people to go mobile and the tools that have allowed this are laptops and smart devices. Because so many people are now working on a laptop, phone or tablet, these devices have become big targets. The main reason for this is that many people simply don't take the same safety precautions they take while on the office or even the home computer.

Hackers know this, so logically they have started going after the easier targets. The news reports concerning Russia highlight this issue and is a warning business owners around the world should be aware of, especially if they are going to be traveling with computers or phones that have sensitive information stored within.

That being said, there are a number of tips you can employ to ensure your data is secure when you go mobile. Here are six:

1. Use cloud services wherever possible

Cloud storage services can be incredibly helpful when traveling. They often require a password to access and are usually more secure than most personal and even some business devices. If you are traveling to an area where you are unsure of the security of the Internet or your devices, you could put your most important data in a trusted cloud storage solution.

This is also a good idea because if your device gets stolen, the data is in the cloud and is recoverable. If you have data just stored locally on your hard drive, and your device is stolen, there is a good chance it's gone forever. For enhanced security, be sure to use a different password for every service.

2. Back up your data before leaving

Speaking of losing data, it is advisable to do a full system backup of all the devices you are taking with you before you leave. This will ensure that if something does happen while you are away, you have a backup of recent data that is recoverable.

3. Secure and update all of your devices

One of the best ways to ensure that your data is secure is to update all of your devices. This means ensuring that the operating systems are up-to-date and any security updates are also installed.

Also, ensure that the programs installed on the devices are updated. This includes the apps on your phone, including the ones that you don't use.

You should also secure your devices by not only having an antivirus and malware scanner but also requiring a password to access your device.

4. Watch where you connect

These days Internet connections are almost everywhere. In many public spaces like airports, coffee shops, restaurants, etc. many of the connections are open, or free to connect to, and don't require a password.

While this may seem great, hackers are known to watch these networks and even hack them, gaining access to every bit of information that goes in and out of the network. When you are traveling, try avoiding connecting to these networks if you can. If you really have to, then be sure not to download anything or log into any accounts that hold private data.

5. Know the risks of where you are going

Before you leave, do a quick search for known Internet security issues in the area you will be visiting. If you find any news or posts about threats you can then take the appropriate steps to secure your system ahead of time.

6. If in doubt, leave it at home

In the NBC report, Engle finishes by telling viewers that if they are at all unsure about the security of their devices, or are worried about their data, they should leave the device at home, or delete the data before going. This is a good piece of advice and maybe instead of deleting data completely, you could move it to a storage device like an external hard drive that you leave behind.

If you are looking to learn more about ensuring the security of your devices while you are away from the office contact us today. We have solutions to help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
January 23rd, 2014

Security_Jan20_BBusiness technology is becoming increasingly complex to manage. In fact, many business owners and even IT departments often don't have the time to oversee every business function. One area where help is often needed is with regard to security, and more specifically antivirus based solutions. There are so many different options available that it can be tough to pick and manage even one. This is where an IT partner can come in useful, as many offer managed antivirus services.

What exactly is managed antivirus?

By now, most people are familiar with the term 'antivirus'. They know that the majority of solutions are a monthly or yearly subscription that they pay for. By subscribing, the company that created the program will update virus databases, allowing scanners to identify viruses during a computer scan. This type of antivirus software is often referred to as unmanaged, largely because the end-user has the ability to deny updates, turn off the scanner, or uninstall it.

A managed antivirus solution is provided by IT partners. These tech experts take care of installing the software on computers and other devices, and will then manage the solution. They will also ensure that scanners are up-to-date and scans are scheduled for a convenient time, thus protecting computers. The best way to think of these solutions is that they are specifically provided by a company to look after your computers and protect them from viruses.

Benefits of managed antivirus solutions

Companies that choose to integrate a managed antivirus solution generally see five main benefits.
  1. All systems will have the same level of security - With a managed service, your IT partner will make sure to install software on all your systems. This means that there should be the same program installed on your systems, and that the antivirus will be updated to ensure that systems are protected from new security threats that come along.
  2. It is easier to manage - Managing your antivirus solution can be a tough task, especially in larger companies where different solutions may need to be employed. By working with an IT partner, your antivirus solutions are managed by tech experts. This is a great solution for business owners who aren't too familiar with technology, or an overworked IT department.
  3. The solutions can be low-cost - Most managed antivirus solutions are offered as a monthly package, where companies pay per user. For some companies, this solution is more affordable per user than a non-managed solution. This is especially true if you have a high number of users and need to purchase multiple licenses.
  4. Management is continual - With unmanaged solutions, many users turn the antivirus protection off because it can slow their computer down or because they believe their usage habits are not compromising security. Managed antivirus solutions usually can't be uninstalled or turned off, meaning your systems are continually protected.
  5. Your systems are truly protected - Regardless of how secure your systems are and the steps you take to ensure that malware doesn't get through, the chances are you will eventually be infected. When you are, it may be tricky to actually completely remove the virus. IT partners are trained in how to do this quickly and efficiently and can usually completely remove the virus, ensuring that your systems are truly secure.
If you are looking for a managed antivirus solution, contact us today as we may have a solution that will work with your business.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
January 9th, 2014

Security_Jan07_BWith each new year comes resolutions, goals and trends. One popular goal of many small businesses is to ensure that their systems are secure for the year to come. Often, the first step to take is to look at current trends, but when it comes to security, you should be looking at threats. If you know what potential threats may arise in the year to come, you can better set security plans in motion to limit these from adversely affecting your company.

Here are four security threats businesses should be aware of in 2014.

Increased attacks on cloud end-points

Cloud-based systems saw solid growth throughout 2013, with numerous systems being introduced and older systems reaching new levels or maturity. Small to medium businesses in particular were heavy adopters of these systems. Because of this, we expect to see an increase in attacks against cloud providers.

Providers know this and take steps to ensure security of systems on their end. Hackers know this too, so will be likely going after the weaker points – end users. It is expected that hackers will begin targeting users of cloud systems with various schemes that try to gain control of computers and mobile devices. Once access is gained, they will go after their main target: Corporate or personal clouds and the data stored within.

This could pose a problem for many companies, especially those who access cloud systems from their mobile devices. January and February would be a good time to look into the security of all of your systems, ensuring that your cloud-based systems are secure on all devices.

Mobile malware will continue to gain popularity

Take a step back for a minute next time you are in public and look at how many people have smartphones or tablets in their hands. Chances are, at least 60% or higher will. It is fairly obvious that the mobile device is the most popular trend in tech at the moment, and whatever is popular is also a target.

We predict there will be an increase in mobile malware attacks throughout 2014. This could see either an increase in the number of apps that have malware in their code, or websites that host malware. When you visit a site with this malware, you are informed that you need to update an app, and when you agree to this the malware is downloaded and installed.

This could prove to be a tough for companies to manage, especially since the number of mobile users will likely grow. If you haven’t started looking into how to secure mobile devices, now would be a good time to start.

Growth in social engineering scams targeting mobile users

Social engineering is the act of essentially tricking people to give away confidential information. Hackers have been using this for years – for example, emailing users telling them their bank account has been compromised, and that if they click on the link in the email and enter their account info, the account will be secured. In reality, the link is to a fake site that captures information which can then be used for any number of illegal activities.

As we mentioned above, the number of mobile users is steadily increasing. This means that it is highly likely that hackers will begin to target these users with mobile specific social engineering. This could be tricking them into downloading an app which then steals information stored on the phone, or simply targeting those who use just their tablet.

In order to prevent this from happening, you need to brush up on how most social engineering schemes work. You should also encourage your employees to look where the links in emails lead to and be aware that generally, most major businesses like banks don’t email customers asking for passwords or user names.

Windows XP will become a big target

Microsoft will stop support for Windows XP and Office 2003 in April of this year. What this means is that they will no longer be offering security updates, software updates or support for these products. It is a sure thing that these programs are about to become a big target, and that new security loopholes and exploits will be found on a regular basis after the cessation of support.

For businesses that are using a newer version of Windows like 7 or 8, you should be secure from these exploits. If you are using XP on the other hand, you might want to upgrade as soon as possible. Contact us, we can help with that.

From the overall looks of things, we think this year will see a drastic increase in mobile based security threats, along with attacks on older versions of software. Now is a good time to review your strategies regarding both mobile and the software/hardware you use, to ensure that it is secure. If you would like help with this, please contact us today for a chat.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
December 27th, 2013

Security_Dec23_BAs the number of Internet users and systems we use rise, we continue to see a subsequent increase in security breaches and concerns. Many companies make an effort to minimize the chances of these risks by implementing antivirus scanners and more. The problem is, they are still at risk - the biggest being from weak passwords.

Many of the major security threats that harm a business have one factor in common - a hacker gaining access to systems by cracking a user's password. The one reason hackers are able to get into systems again and again is largely because users often don't pick strong enough passwords.

Even what we might perceive to be a strong password may not actually be as secure as we think. Sure, when you enter a new password many websites have a bar that indicates how strong your password is, but the issue is, these so called strong passwords are becoming easier to guess as more websites utilize the same requirements.

Think about the last time you changed your password. You were likely told to key in a password longer than 6-8 characters, with at least one capital letter, one number, and a special character like '!' or '$'. Many major systems have these exact, or at least very similar, requirements for password setting. However, If this is the norm, and you use a password like this too often then your passwords likely aren't as secure as you might believe them to be.

The reason for this is because of the way hackers usually capture passwords. The most common method adopted is brute force - getting a username then trying every password combination until the hacker finds one that works. There are programs you can download from the Internet that try thousands or more passwords a second, and many now include special characters, numbers, and capital letters, which makes finding passwords even easier.

How do I know if my password is secure?

In an effort to showcase how unsecure some passwords are, Microsoft's Research (MSR) Center and an intern from Carnegie Mellon University developed a password guesser called Telepathwords.

The way it works is you enter the first few letters of your password and the system guesses the next. It uses common letters and combinations to help gauge the effectiveness of a password. For example, if your password begins with the letter 'v', it will tell you that 'I', 'S' and 'A' are the most common letters to follow. If the next letter of your password isn't one of these three, there is a good chance it is more secure. If the second letter is one of these three, then your password is less secure. This may sound a little complicated, but you should check out the system here.

It is eerie at how accurate the next letters and characters often match, and this is a good tool to determine whether to create a more robust password. You don't have to worry about testing your password out either as Microsoft has noted that they don't track the keystrokes, so you password should remain secure.

How do I create a stronger password?

Ask 10 experts and you will likely get 10 different answers as to what makes a strong password. Here are three different ways to create secure passwords:
  1. Use an algorithm - The easiest way to do this is take the first letter of a saying and add a number before or after. You can also create a saying and take the first letter of each word, then add the first letter of the website, followed by the last, and then a number. This method is best for when you have a large number of websites you access on a regular basis, it can help you remember your passwords for each without you having to write these down.
  2. Use a sentence or saying - For systems that allow you to have spaces in your password, try using a random saying like, 'Dogs like pudding cups'. Sayings like this are harder to crack. This is largely because they include the space and are longer than usual.
  3. Use an acronym - Come up with a saying that describes you e.g., 'I've worked at a gas station for 20 years', and take the first letter/number of each word to create: 'Iwaagsf2y'. This gives you an easy to remember password that can be adapted for other sites.
Regardless of what type of password you develop, you should be aware that even strong passwords can still be cracked with enough persistence. So, you should be sure to change passwords on a regular basis and also not to use the same one twice. This will limit the chances of hackers being able to access your other accounts.

If you are looking for more ways to secure your systems, we can help, so get in touch with us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security