How Computer Security Will Evolve for Businesses in 2019

 

As we’ve combed through news articles and our own recent experiences with protecting businesses against cyber attacks, our cybersecurity specialists have spotted three cybersecurity trends that are on the rise. The cyber attack landscape is beginning to deviate away from basic methods, to more advanced techniques. With computer security becoming more of a priority for Connecticut and Massachusetts businesses, it’s helpful to watch for trends in the attack landscape.

 

Here are three of the biggest computer security trends to be on the look for and how we see things will continue to evolve in 2019 and beyond:

 

1) Seeking and exploiting device vulnerabilities.

 

While this is already a popular and effective hacking strategy, cybercriminals are designing malicious attacks that purposefully circumvent the user’s interaction. Where a user might be lured into clicking a malicious link or attachment, there’s a chance of a successful attack… but there’s no guarantee. Thus, criminals are taking users completely out of the equation and are now seeking ways to exploit vulnerabilities caused by laziness.

In 2017, the WannaCry and NotPetya outbreaks were two perfect examples of attacks that bypassed end-user to capitalize on unsecured, shared connection points. For example, business remote desktop applications and Microsoft’s RDP ports had been left open for the WannaCry creators to exploit. EternalBlue and other types of ransomware tapped into these vulnerabilities as well, so we expect this trend to only continue.

Does this mean that attacks primarily preying on unknowing users will cease to exist? Absolutely not, but as businesses and their employees become more educated on common methods to exploit their limited cybersecurity knowledge, hackers will adapt.

In order to plan for these attacks, cybersecurity and IT companies should begin with the oldest and most basic advice in the industry; Keeping up with patches and updates for all business devices, especially enterprise-grade Wireless Access Points, servers, PCs, and firewalls. Through inspection and identification of open ports, as well as the implementation of security tools to spot malicious activity on both the network and the host, are highly suggested too.

 

2) Evading detection by hijacking legitimate programs.

 

This type of cybersecurity trend can be summed up in the common saying, “take their tactic and use it against them”. Hackers are hiding under the radar by leveraging helpful programs and using your own legitimate tools as a weapon.

NotPetya malware selected this method by using Windows Management tools to multiply the ransomware worm. Other types of malware are increasing their tactics to hijack PowerShell and Group Policy Object tools. These tools usually don’t raise red flags because they legitimate programs used to manage large networks and aren’t identified by malware and antivirus scanners.

As a consequence, these legitimate programs are the “in” hackers desire in order to infect and spread malware. And since large networks use them, it creates an environment deadly to businesses where malware and cyber attacks are able to move quickly and undetected.

Of course, this increases the complexity for IT security teams because the line is starting to blur between malicious tools and administrative tools. Cybersecurity experts ought to re-evaluate the management tools and permissions on tools that have always been trusted for businesses. By disabling unused tools and components, the risk of attacks can be mitigated.

 

3) Increasing “plug-and-play” worm attacks.

 

Cyber attack campaigns are continuing to leverage more and more worm capabilities to spread quickly and laterally, making them a serious cyber threat that can extend far beyond the original infected network. If you’re not familiar with the various types of cyber attack methods, read our post 10 Cybersecurity Threats Every CEO Must Thwart.

For example, WannaCry’s worm component spread its file-encrypting ransomware to thousands of external victims, racking up over 400,000 infected machines in 150 countries in a few days.

Removing worms can be extremely difficult due to their persistent capabilities. Not only do they leave behind back doors to be exploited at a later time, but also schedule computing tasks that reinstall themselves, disrupting businesses all over again. It’s a recurring cybersecurity nightmare for any company.

IT firms have to shift their tactics, looking beyond one single infected computer, to the entire network. Since a computer can be turned into a “zombie” or “slave” computer to spread itself instantly, entire networks can become crippled– both internally and externally. Investing in solid software that can block infections and detect ransomware is vital for any business. If you wait until you see evidence that a network has been compromised, it will be already too late.

 

The Underlying Point

The underlying point is this: As cybercriminals continue to shift their tactics, so too must computer and network protections for businesses. The best way to effectively defend against rapidly evolving malware campaigns is to utilize solutions that can identify common behaviors and elements that attackers use. Computer protections need to automatically stay up-to-date with new threats and provide real-time analysis.

It’s also important to proactively spot and plug device vulnerabilities that are often exploited in cyber attacks. Regular, in-depth Cybersecurity Risk Assessments for businesses can help to identify open ports, unsecured devices, weak network protections, and more.

 

If you’re looking for cybersecurity experts in Connecticut who understand business environments and what they need in order to stay protected, give Encompass IT Solutions a call at 860-785-6233 to schedule a free IT Assessment to find out where your business stands with its technology.

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Small Business Technology Threats on the Rise

 

Ever since computers hit the business scene and hackers began to emerge a few decades ago, there has always been one consistent cybersecurity truth — Hackers are constantly finding new targets and refining their weapons. Business everywhere, including small businesses in Connecticut and Massachusetts, need to be on the alert.

From large-scale data breaches to mining cryptocurrency, here are some of the biggest cybersecurity threats that are on the rise.

 

More Large-Scale Data Breaches

The Equifax credit agency cyberattack in 2017, which led to the theft of social security numbers, birth dates, and other PII (Personally Identifiable Information) data of almost half of U.S. citizens, was a bleak reminder that hackers can tackle both the big and small targets. It’d be more than safe to assume that other, smaller companies that handle lots of PII data will be targeted even more so in the next few years. Ponemon Institute’s 2017 Endpoint Risk Report states, “54% of companies experienced one or more successful attacks that compromised data and/or IT infrastructure”.

 

Ransomware Infecting the Cloud

Last year, we saw an epidemic of ransomware attacks, targeting vital organizations like Britain’s National Health Service, San Francisco’s light-rail network, and even FedEx. As destructive as it is, ransomware is actually a relatively simple form of malware that gets past most antivirus and anti-malware software, locking down computer files with strong encryption. The hackers then demand money or hard-to-trace cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin in exchange for the digital encryption key to unlock the data. Victims of ransomware will often pay, especially if the encrypted material hasn’t been backed up off the infected network. Some particularly monstrous strains of ransomware, such as WannaCry, have compromised over 250,000 computers across the world.

As a result, ransomware has only grown in popularity and to make matters worse, cybersecurity experts believe hackers will target cloud computing businesses in the years ahead. These cloud data storage providers house oceans of data for smaller companies in a cheaper, more secure server room environment. Some also run vital services, such as email and photo libraries. The biggest cloud computing companies, including Google, Amazon, and IBM, have hired some of the best cyber security experts, so they won’t be easy to attack. However, smaller companies and likely to be more vulnerable, and even a small data breach would prove profitable for the hackers involved. In fact, Verizon’s Data Breach Investigations Report found that “58% of malware attack victims are categorized as small businesses.”

 

Colossal Cyber-physical Attacks

We believe that more attacks targeting transportation systems, electrical grids, and other critical, global infrastructure will take place in the upcoming years. A portion could be designed to cause instant disruption, while others will probably involve more ransomware campaigns to hijack vital systems unless the victims pay quickly to recover control. With the Internet-of-Things and more older planes, trains, and ships with outdated technology defenses, vulnerabilities will be ripe for exploitation.

 

Rampant Cryptocurrency Mining

 

Another target for hackers around the world has been holders of Bitcoin and other digital currencies. But the theft of cryptocurrency isn’t the biggest threat to worry about in 2018; instead, it’s the theft of computer processing power. Feel free to check out our post with an in-depth explanation of crypto jacking and cryptocurrencies. 

In short, mining these currencies demands vast amounts of computing power to solve complex mathematical problems. Hackers hijack hundreds of computers in order to do such work. From the hacking of public Wi-Fi in an Argentine Starbucks to computers at a Russian oil company, crypto jacking is becoming more popular. And as currency mining grows, so will the temptation to breach many more computer networks.

 

The Good News

Blocking cybersecurity threats and keeping your business protected is possible by being proactive. Ensuring that business data backups are being protected in the cloud, your IT infrastructure is highly secure, and regular business technology checks are just a few ways to move your business in a secure IT environment.

 

If you don’t have an IT company to rely on to button down your security, feel free to give us a call at (860) 785-6233. We provide in-depth Cybersecurity Risk Assessments to ensure that your business technology security is up to par.

 

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Why Do Crypto Viruses Slow Down Computers?

 

When you catch a cryptovirus on your computer, one of the first noticeable symptoms is the computer being slow. So why is that?

 

Crypto Mining

While there are multiple causes for this delay in system response time, one of the main reasons is due to something called “crypto mining”.

You’ve might have heard about something called “bitcoin” in the news. Bitcoin is an untraceable cryptocurrency used mostly by hackers, but is quickly becoming more mainstream. Although there are multiple ways to obtain bitcoin, serious cryptocurrency enthusiasts “mine” their own bitcoin by using computers to run bitcoin algorithms. Despite the extensive CPU resources required to run these algorithms, it’s often worth it with the price of one bitcoin being $6,535.70 as of July 7, 2018.

As a result, cryptocurrency miners need significant computer processing output to generate money. Some miners might use servers they own, but others turn to a more lucrative source; everyone else’s computers. And the more computers mining for bitcoin, the better.

 

How Crypto Viruses Are Born

A hacker will create a malicious computer program that will infect a computer, take over the CPU, and run cryptocurrency algorithms in the background.

The CPU (Central Processing Unit) is where the computer processes requests. Think of it as the brain of the computer. It’s just like when you have too much on your mind that you can’t handle another question from your 6-year old. Attention is divided.

When your computer has a virus, its attention is focused on the heavy burden of crypto mining. With only a couple lines of code, or delivered via browser, cybercriminals harness stolen processing power and cloud CPU usage to mine cryptocurrency. Coin mining slows devices and overheats batteries. For enterprises, coin miners put corporate networks at risk of shutdown and inflate cloud CPU usage, adding cost.

When it comes to computers with a virus, most people will only notice a huge increase in how long programs take to load, or just a general slowness. Meanwhile, that CPU bandwidth you could be utilizing, is going to the malicious software.

A swift cryptocurrency market triggered a gold rush for cybercriminals. Symantec released in their “2018 Internet Security Threat Report” that “detections of coin miners on endpoint computers increased by 8,500% in 2017”.

 

That’s where you come in.

The #1 best way to prevent malware is to have strong antivirus and anti-malware software with ransomware protection. It’s also a good idea to stay away from unsafe websites, website ads, and emails from people you don’t know. If you aren’t sure how to tell the differences between a “safe” website and an “unsafe” one, consider our Employee Cybersecurity Training or call 860-785-6233 to ask us about our favorite antivirus and malware software that we install and support for our clients at Encompass IT Solutions in Manchester, CT.

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Are Hackers Actually Targeting Small Businesses?

 

In the news, it seems like every month we learn about hackers trying to take down larger companies like Target, Sony, or Walmart, but are cybercriminals actually targeting small and medium-sized businesses with 1-100 employees in Connecticut? Is small business technology usually safe?

 

IT Safety in Numbers, Right?

As kids, we were taught the phrase “safety in numbers” by our parents, and small business owners often like to use that type of mindset when it comes to cybersecurity and data breaches. I’m just one tiny fish in a huge ocean. Why would my small business be targeted out of thousands in Connecticut or Massachusetts? Wouldn’t it make more sense for hackers to chase after the large corporations with more data and more money? Yes and no.

Small businesses are a much easier target for hackers due to their insufficient resources, insufficient cybersecurity awareness, and a large number of technical vulnerabilities to exploit. Hackers look for the easiest way to prey on the uneducated, since the risk of being caught is a lot lower.

 

The Facts about Small Business Data Loss

Symantec, one of the world’s leading cybersecurity technology companies, released their 2018 Internet Security Threat Report, stating “43% of cyber attacks targeted small business with less than 100 employees in 2017.” That’s a drastic increase compared to the mere 18% of attacks focused on small businesses just a few years back in 2011. In 2018, Verizon reported that “58% of malware attack victims are categorized as small businesses.” (Verizon’s 2018 Data Breach Investigations Report)

Unfortunately, data breaches hold devastating effects for businesses. Not only do they carry bad publicity and your clients won’t want to touch you with a 10-foot pole, but businesses that have taken a beating from a data breach often don’t survive. FEMA’s 2017 Report released that “more than 40% of businesses never reopen after a data breach disaster, and for those that do, only 29% were still operating after two years.”

But what about just temporary data loss? FEMA states that “those [small businesses with under 100 employees] that lost their information technology for 9 days or more after a disaster filed for bankruptcy within a year.”

Unfortunately, many CEOs don’t recognize the value of their QuickBooks files, client databases, and documents until it’s too late. That’s why making sure your data backups and cybersecurity protections are in place to prevent data disasters.

 

Sophisticated Cyber Attack Methods

Cybersecurity threats are everywhere, and it’s hard to stay up-to-date with them because are designed to attack in various combinations. It’s not just the common “Prince of Nigeria” or IRS scams anymore. For an overview of the common types of threats out there, see our post on 10 Cybersecurity Threats Every CEO Must Thwart.

Targeted phishing attacks, called “spear phishing”, are proving to be a serious cybersecurity issue for small business owners throughout Connecticut. In these attacks, hackers impersonate an employee with the company they are trying to attack. They’ll ask another employee or even a client to send them account credentials or money. We’ve witnessed a few financial companies in Manchester and Hartford becoming victims of spear phishing and requiring a professional’s help to tighten their network security in just this year alone.

Even worse is that spear phishing just one data breach tactic, and hackers are constantly coming up with new tactics to stay ahead of the game. For example, tricky cybercriminals are mimicking auto-response emails from online sites like Amazon, Walmart, or Verizon. Instead of a link to view your “most recent purchase” or “reset your password”, they place a link to malicious websites that automatically download spyware or ransomware to your computer. Sophisticated hackers may even set up a website that looks like the homepage of Amazon or Verizon with a customer login portal that collects your email and password credentials.

With the rising number of targeted attacks against businesses, small and large alike, it’s vital to understand how to keep your computers, servers, and network safe and secure.

 

Education is Key

One of the best ways to be proactive about cybersecurity is by training your employees to adhere to basic cybersecurity protection policies. Understanding the differences between the legitimate emails and the fake phishing ones, how to keep a clean desk and clear screen, as well as being able to identify the various types of cyber attacks are just a few topics to cover. According to IBM’s 2014 Security Report, “95% of data breaches are caused by employee mistakes.” And most mistakes are preventable.

 

If you’re uncertain that your employees could correctly identify a malicious attack, contact us here at Encompass IT Solutions in Manchester, CT for our Cybersecurity Employee Training. Find out how well your employees handle your essential business data, as well as give them access to educational videos on cybersecurity awareness. Give us a call at (860) 785-6233 if you have any questions.

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Exposing the Dark Web & Keeping Your Business Protected

 

The dark web is a popular topic at the moment, especially with the rise in speculation amongst cybersecurity specialists about the future of the dark marketplaces. Nevertheless, it’s also important to remember that criminal activity isn’t limited to just the dark web; it’s an internet-wide problem. As the years continue, cybercrime analysts are expecting upticks in malicious activity on the open web too. But before we get into details, let’s take a quick topographical view of the internet.

 

What is the “Dark Web”?

Most of us think of the “surface” or “open” web when discussing the internet. This is the layer of the internet that is indexed by search engine browsers (i.e. Google, Firefox, Internet Explorer). However, this portion of the web accounts for only a microscopic amount of the activity online.

The next layer of activity happens on the huge level called the “deep web”, where databases of “secure” information like financial records, medical records, and government resources are accessible through client portals or gateways. It’s these accounts that are all too often breached, and there’s plenty of material to access, with the deep web existing as an estimated 40-500 times larger than the surface-level web we so commonly use.

The final section of the internet is called the “dark web”. These are the websites that are purposefully concealed from the rest of the internet, and are usually only accessible through particular web browsers like Tor. This is where most of the heavy-duty criminal activity happens, amongst a large underground economy consisting of illegal goods, compromised data, malicious software and cybercrime tools, as well as information for executing successful cyber attacks.

 

Why Can’t We Just Delete the Dark Web?

So why not just wipe out the dark web completely, you ask? Well, it’s important to realize there are legitimate reasons for using the dark web as well. For instance, citizens under oppressive regimes use the dark web to access information that is freely available to others, and journalists and whistleblowers are able to communicate privately with anonymous sources.

Even though the dark web isn’t the only spot for illegal, online trade, it’s valuable to understand how cybercriminals do what they do. Law enforcement uses this intelligence to successfully bring down the dark web markets and create a rippling effect of fear and mistrust. Unfortunately, cybercriminals are utilizing alternative methods to conduct business as a result. Many of them are mainstream communication paths like Jabber and Skype, along with forums dedicated to hacking and code repositories.

 

How to Plan for Cybercrime as a Business

Although it may be tempting for business owners to take it upon themselves to determine the extent of their information exposed and seek retribution, engaging in such activity can be more of a risk. It’s better to plan for data breaches using threat modeling, and leave the rest up to cybersecurity professionals.

Cybersecurity Threat Modeling is an iterative process that needs to be updated whenever there are substantial changes to either assets or threats. Typically, the process consists of:

 

1. Define your business assets – Critical business processes, high-value systems, intellectual property, etc.

2. Identify which systems hold the assets – Databases, servers, email, calendars, network, CRMs (Custom Relationship Management software), and more.

3. Create a security list for each system – Includes which security controls are currently used to protect those systems in step #2 (i.e. enterprise-grade firewalls, solid endpoint detection and response systems, or the best antivirus). List any known vulnerabilities that are present as well.

4. Identify any potential threats – Hacktivists, cybercriminals, the competition, disgruntled employees, customer theft, etc.

5. Prioritize the potential threats and take proactive action to lower the risks – Consider any past data breaches, as well as internal risk concerns, and attempt to foresee what the organizational impact of particular threats could be. How would you react to a breach with each potential threat? What would be the best way to mitigate these risks right now?

With a threat model in place, you can match the highest severity risks to appropriate tactics, techniques, and procedures. By establishing these threat profiles in your business, it helps CEOs to understand where their computer security is lacking and how the improvements need to be made. As a result, threats are mitigated with a stronger defense.

 

If you’re a business owner who is concerned about the state of your technology’s security and how your business would survive a devastating cyber attack, contact us at (860) 785-6233. Encompass IT Solutions provides in-depth Cybersecurity Risk Assessments that identify and mitigate cybersecurity threats for your computers and network infrastructure.

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Connecticut’s Liberty Bank Customers Targeted in Phishing Attack

 

Liberty Bank, the third largest bank in Connecticut with 55 branch offices located throughout the central and southern parts of the state, sent out a fraud alert Monday morning.

A phishing email was successfully sent to their customers, stating that a bill of over $2,000 had been paid to a fictitious name and contained a link to supposedly log into the bank’s online portal to dispute the fund transaction. The link most likely redirected to a fake webpage that looked like the bank’s portal, but collected the customer’s banking credentials to be used for later.

While it is unknown how many of Liberty Bank’s clients fell victim to the cybersecurity scam, this isn’t the bank’s first phishing scare.

Back in October of 2009, Liberty Bank’s Vice President, Jill Hitchman, stated that the FBI was investigating an automated phone-call phishing scam referencing the Connecticut-based bank. Hitchman reported that Liberty Bank customer information had not been compromised, and quickly implemented preventative measures, as well as made customers aware of the scam.

 

What Can We Learn?

With this local attack being so close to home, it only confirms the fact that email phishing scams are on the rise. Wombat Security’s “State of the Phish 2018 Report” found that phishing attempts have grown 65% in the last year, and 95% of all attacks on enterprise networks are the result of successful spear phishing, according to the SANS Institute.

Unfortunately, it only takes one wrong click to leak vital business data and online banking credentials that can either be sold on the dark web or used to process money transfers directly.

Thankfully, Liberty Bank quickly educated their clients on the malicious email and has procedures in place when phishing scams do happen. However, it’s important to ask yourself if you have the same protections in place as a small business? What if one of your employees had opened the email or what if it had a malicious email attachment? If not, we highly suggest Employee Cybersecurity Training that educates your employees on the difference between legitimate emails and targeted phishing attacks like this one.

 

Were You Affected by This Phishing Scam?

The bank is suggesting that the safest way for customers to log in to their online banking services is to go to the Liberty Bank website and use the login box in the upper right corner.

Customers who believe they may have fallen victim to the scam should call Liberty Bank immediately at 888-570-0773.

 

How to Protect Your Business

If you’re constantly being sent phishing emails like this one, or have employees that aren’t exactly discerning when it comes to emails, attachments, or websites, feel free to call us for a free quote on our affordable, online Employee Cybersecurity Training program at (860) 785-6233. We also provide in-depth Cybersecurity Risk Assessments for businesses to determine their IT infrastructure protection and security. Gain a peace-of-mind while navigating today’s treacherous cybersecurity landscape.

 

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Mobile Malware: The Forgotten Cybersecurity Gap

 

With the growing reliance on computers and technology, businesses establish Computer Use Policies to standardize cybersecurity measures and decrease the likelihood of data breaches. However, they tend to forget about other types of devices, such as smartphones and tablets.

Almost everyone has a smartphone, yet businesses have little to no cybersecurity standards on them.

Unfortunately, some business owners tend to forget that the smartphones in our hands are basically mini computers and haven’t stopped to consider the disadvantages of mobile use. With more and more employees relying on their tablets and cellphones to sneak in a few emails here or work remotely there, the risk of mobile malware only increases.

 

Mobile Malware Continues to Surge

According to Symantec’s 2018 Report, new mobile malware variants have increased 54% since 2017. Even though user error is a huge issue with mobile cybersecurity, there are ways to be proactive against hackers and malware.

 

Here are a few tips on how to combat mobile malware and keep your devices secure:

 

1. Get Antivirus and Malware Apps for Your Device.

Avira is a great option since it automatically scans other apps for malicious activity as you download them. Malwarebytes Security is another great option. You should definitely have both on your phone, if possible.

 

2. Run the Updates on Your Phone iOS or Android OS Versions.

Even though smartphones and computers are often thought of as two different types of technology, they are very similar when you take them apart. Both pieces of technology use an OS (operating system) and require updates that install new security patches of code to block cyber attacks. Updating to the latest operating system is good cybersecurity hygiene. However, Symantec’s 2018 study found that only 20% of Android users are running the newest version of the Android OS, and only 2.3% are on the latest minor release. Minor releases in any OS contain security patches which help plug the security holes that developers find over time. That’s why it’s essential to make sure you’re installing the newest updates whenever you can.

 

3. Only Download Apps from the Google Play Store or iTunes App Store.

These popular apps stores have specific regulations and tests that apps have to pass in order to be listed and distributed on the store. These tests usually include a malware test, but they don’t always pick up everything. However, it’s still better than downloading an app directly off a website or “software” store.

 

4. Choose Apps That Have High Ratings, Download Numbers, and are Trusted Companies.

It’s very rare that an application with tons of high ratings and download numbers have malware. Chrome, Gmail, Yelp… These are larger companies that maintain their app’s security to protect both their users and themselves.

 

5. Pay Attention to Those Permissions.

If a PDF viewing app is asking for permission to access your microphone/phone calls, it might be good uninstall it. The application could contain malicious software created to “spy” or record data to use for blackmail. Mobile users also face privacy risks from “grayware” or “bloatware” apps that aren’t malicious, but can be troublesome. These apps devour CPU usage, storage, and RAM on your phone.

 

6. Delete Any Accounts and Apps that You Don’t Use.

Not only does this help keep your phone tidy, but it saves space and reduces the likelihood of stolen data. Your forgotten accounts and apps that you don’t update or use can become cybersecurity vulnerabilities. If you use similar passwords for your accounts, it would only take one gaming app to leak the password and be used on all of your other financial accounts.

 

7. Listen to Your Instincts.

Immediately delete apps that ask for personal information, such as social security numbers or bank account information. If the application is glitchy or won’t provide the functionality you downloaded it for, delete it. Be wary of apps that immediately take you to a fishy, specific URL in your internet browsing app.

 

When was the last time you considered the cybersecurity of your smartphone or mobile device? If you need help locking down your cybersecurity or creating a new Computer Use Policy that includes mobile devices, feel free to call Encompass IT Solutions at (860) 785-6233 for a Cybersecurity Risk Assessment for businesses.

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Why Your Employees are Your Top Cybersecurity Vulnerability

 

#1: Undereducated in Cybersecurity/Human Error

Even though employees are the greatest asset for any business, undereducated workers can exist as a company’s top cybersecurity vulnerability.

With the widening gap of tech-savvy and tech-illiterate workers, it’s difficult to assess every employee’s understanding of cybersecurity. Employees who are comfortable with Microsoft Office and Google are often thought of as “tech savvy”, but they are usually unaware of the cyber attack tactics hackers use today.

One of the most devastating cyber attacks is spreading ransomware via a computer worm. This attack can easily be introduced by a loyal employee by one wrong click in an email or to a website with malicious software. Worms can infect every device on your entire network, including phones, tablets, computers, and servers. Side effects include encryption, lock you out from everything on your hard drive and rendering your computer system unusable. The scary thing is ransomware and worms can even infect your data backups, depending on how it’s setup.

Since a disaster is just one click away, it makes it even more important to train employees on topics like phishing emails, malicious websites, and company Computer Use Policies. Communication and training are often the best forms of cybercrime prevention.

After all, a system is only secure as its weakest link.

 

#2: Questionable Ethics

When money gets tight and the bills begin to stack up, people can become desperate. Think about how often people get their credit card stolen at a restaurant. A trusted waiter at a restaurant can easily collect credit card information and use it fraudulently– It’s the same thing with employees are your business.

Your employees often have access to databases, CRMs, billing, email accounts, or servers, and it’d be very easy for them to export data to a USB flash drive to sell or exploit later. Businesses that handle PII (Personal Identification Information), like social security numbers or birth dates, know this all too well. Medical records and social security numbers fetch a pretty penny on the dark web, the digital version of the black market.

However, it’s not just credit card information or bank records that a desperate employee can exploit. Sharing company trade secrets and intellectual property outlined in an NDA can also be detrimental to a business.

 

#3: Disgruntled Employees or Ex-Employees

It’s surprisingly popular. An employee will leave a company for whatever reason, and decide to delete vital company records for whatever reason. We’ve witnessed many companies that had to deal with data loss due to this scenario, and some business owners have taken the ex-employee to court over it.

Unfortunately, many business owners don’t give a second thought to how much information they share with their employees and provide individual user login accounts with separate passwords to track their online activity. Universal passwords entrusted to a disgruntled employee can easily be remembered or written down for off-site use when it’s harder to prove who did what and when.

 

Education is the Best Defense

If you’re concerned about your employees and how educated they are in the ways of hackers and cybersecurity, feel free to contact us at 860-785-6233 to learn about our in-depth Cybersecurity Employee Training program and Cybersecurity Risk Assessments to see how you’d fend against a malicious cyber attack.

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3 Reasons Why Hackers Target Law Firms

A lot of law practices think they are immune to cyber attacks and data breaches because they’re so small, compared to huge corporations that have more data to hack. However, the truth is that your Connecticut or Massachusetts law firm is at risk just as much as Target, Sony, or Walmart.

It’s important to take cybersecurity measures to keep your law practice data safe, otherwise, you risk losing your valuable business data to a hacker and destroying your business reputation or client confidentiality in the process. Chances are that your office will be targeted if you don’t take preventative actions.

 

Here are three reasons why law firms are at the top of a hacker’s hit list:

 

Legal Practices Have Tons of Sensitive Data

Law firms have copious amounts of sensitive data ripe for the picking. Huge surprise! From employment contracts to medical files, attorneys and their paralegals work with sensitive information on a daily basis, which attracts hackers to the business.

According to the John Sweeney, President of LogicForce, “Law firms are the subject of targeted attacks for one simple reason. Their servers hold incredibly valuable information. That includes businesses’ IP, medical records, bank information, even government secrets. For hackers looking for information they can monetize, there is no better place to start.”

The typical law firm has employee records with social security numbers, financial records like credit card numbers, and some even have health records on file that fetch a handsome price. Hackers take this information and sell it on the black market, which makes it a lucrative source of revenue for cybercriminals.

 

Law Firms Have Limited Cybersecurity Knowledge

While large corporations have the funds and personnel available to enact strict security protocol and regulations, the small and medium-sized law practices don’t. Instead, attorneys rely on their staff’s limited knowledge of cybersecurity to protect their data.

According to the Verizon Data Breach Investigation Report, 61% of breaches hit smaller businesses last year, up from the previous year’s 53%. Given the attention directed towards the recent high-profile hacks, like Target and Equifax, you probably wouldn’t have guessed how vulnerable small businesses really are.

 

Law Offices Are Vulnerable to Phishing Attacks

Hackers are pretty methodical and don’t like to take unnecessary risks. Law firms are often targeted by pinpoint phishing tactics, where a hacker attempts to steal credentials by posing as someone with authority in your firm. They might steal the identity of your IT technician or a vendor in order to obtain credentials for internal access or specific documents. Another way they target firms is by sending an email impersonating someone you trust and asking you to download/open an email attachment that gives them access to your data. Worse yet, this type of activity makes it extremely difficult to trace the cybercriminals, making it a safer way to hack computers.

 

Even though law firms are prime real estate for hackers, it actually doesn’t take that much to proactively secure your computers, servers, and network. Proactive monitoring, updated antivirus, data breach response plans, updating operating systems, employee training, data encryption, email spam filtering, enterprise-grade firewalls, and two-factor authentication are just a few ways to dramatically decrease the potential of a hack affecting your law practice.

If you don’t have an IT firm to help you with all of these services and lock down your law firm’s IT security, give us a call at (860) 785-6233 to learn how we can help.

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10 Benefits of Managed IT Services for Law Firms

All law firms rely on computers and other technology in order to maintain effective day-to-day business operations. Unfortunately, most law practices cannot afford to have a designated in-house IT department to take care of immediate issues that arise, answer support questions for employees, and perform general maintenance on the hardware and software that keeps operations running smoothly. Managed IT services solves these issues by keeping costs low and technology running smoothly.

When a problem arises, an attorney will typically reach out to a technical support company, local IT guy, or IT firm.

 

What Are “Managed IT Services”?

There are two ways most IT firms provide service: the “Break-Fix” route OR the “Managed IT Service” route:

1) The “Break-Fix” route is when something is broken, a technician arrives on-site to fix it. They track their time and materials during the repair process. Often, a close business relationship between the two parties is never established — the technician may not be familiar with all of the intricacies and scope of the law firm’s IT needs, resulting in misguided support, data security compliance failures, and even more billable time to resolve it. All the while the legal practice is suffering a loss in productivity, as the staff members affected by the outage experience downtime and cannot perform their jobs as effectively without their working equipment.

This issue is a side-effect of even the most proficient technician under the “Break-Fix” model. Depending on the employee’s role in the law practice, this downtime could lead to missed opportunities, lower productivity, and necessary overtime in order to meet deadlines – all of which cost the attorney money. A seemingly simple IT outage can add up to be a large, unexpected expense very quickly.

 

2) The “Managed IT Service” route is when an IT firm manages basically all aspects of your current IT setup, including computers, servers, network, antivirus, backup solutions, firewalls, etc.

 

Some very simple tried and true best practices include:

  • Regular maintenance prolongs the usability and performance of computer systems.
  • Security patches and software updates protect the network from many threats and issues.
  • Remote technical support can reduce support costs by eliminating transportation for most issues.
  • Proactive monitoring and early detection can pinpoint issues for resolution before they cause downtime.
  • Thorough documentation and network maps give technicians a precise overview of a law firm’s IT needs even the event of special cases and intricacies and streamline support visits.
  • Reporting and tracking can segregate troublesome devices for replacement.

 

IT firms adopt the above managed IT service methods in order to provide much higher quality service for their customers. The relationship is much more of a partnership and although it creates a higher expectation for the IT firm to provide stellar service, these methods also enable them to do so. As a result, they are more focused on eliminating downtime, committing to best practices with a consulting role, and being proactive instead of reactive to detect and resolve issues before they cause downtime.

 

What is Downtime Currently Costing Your Law Firm?

Use these two formulas below for estimating the cost of your current downtime:

Productivity Loss Formula
P = (Number of users affected) x (% of Productivity Loss) x (Average salary per hour) x (Duration of downtime)

Revenue Loss Formula
R = (Number of users affected) x (% of Revenue Loss) x (Average profit per employee per hour) x (Duration)

Overall Loss Due to Downtime
P + R = $$$

 

 

10 Benefits of Managed IT Services for Law Firms

 

1) Think of Managed IT Services as Outsourcing Your Internal IT Department.

It’s not uncommon for law offices to treat their network and computers much like a household appliance; when it breaks, you pay someone to fix it. Some law offices hire internal computer technicians just to keep up with problems. Managed IT is the sensible middle ground; your trusted IT provider isn’t on payroll, but they are dedicated to making sure everyone is up and running. There are plenty of benefits to this alone that can greatly increase your legal practice’s productivity and expenses.

Many small and medium-sized law firms can’t afford to staff an internal IT department to keep up with the day-to-day maintenance, issues, and technical support, let alone with managing new implementations, upgrades, and expansion.

Your Managed IT provider takes the time to get to know and document your entire IT infrastructure, your specific needs, requirements, and overall goals that your technology is driving you towards. Instead of just fixing case-by-case issues, Managed IT providers such as Encompass IT partner with law offices in order to take over all aspects of technology, from infrastructure to vendor management, maintenance to upgrades, and consulting for solutions to continue to increase productivity so that your legal practice can focus on generating revenue and growing.

In other words, you get all of the benefits of having an in-house IT department without the costs of staffing one or more dedicated employees. You get full access to professional support, goal-oriented solutions, and downtime-preventing maintenance.

 

2) Early Issue Detection Leads to Fewer Problems That Actually Affect the End-User.

Often, day-to-day computer issues start out as barely noticeable. Much like that tiny rattle in your car, overtime they can go from being a no-big-deal status to an overnight-in-the-shop ordeal. Managed IT providers run reporting and monitoring tools that detect issues and report back whenever a potential problem is discovered. That way, it can be fixed before it causes frustration and downtime for your employee.

Many issues can be detected early and prevented before they escalate, including:

– Hard Drive Failure Warnings
– Hard Drive Fragmentation and Disk Space Warnings
– Malware, Spyware, and Rootkit Detection
– Antivirus Updates and Issues
– Outdated Windows Updates and Service Packs
– Windows Update Failures
– Windows Licensing issues
– Duplicate Network Addresses
– Unexpected Changes in System Hardware
– CPU and Memory Issues
– Event and Error Logging

 

3) Remote Technical Support Reduces Overall IT Expenses with Shorter Response Times.

Many workstation issues can be solved remotely without the need for an on-site visit. When that’s the case, utilizing remote access reduces the expenses of the IT provider which are then passed on to you. This also grants faster response times since the technician doesn’t need to physically drive to your legal practice

Not all issues can be solved remotely, such as hardware issues where the PC needs a component replaced or isn’t booting, but the majority of day-to-day issues that take up your employees’ valuable time, such as errors, application issues, and support questions don’t require an on-site visit and can be resolved quickly if remote access is readily available.

Remote access is secure, and usually included in the Managed IT provider’s monitoring and maintenance toolset, making it a simple, cost effective, no-brainer addition to any small business’s IT package.

 

4) With a Trusted Managed IT Consultant, Your Law Firm Won’t Need to Rely on Vendor Support.

When technology fails, your first inclination is to contact the vendor to try to get as much free support as possible (or at least agreed to in your warranty). This usually includes long, pointless phone calls where you or your employees get cycled around a call center. More often than not the issue doesn’t get fixed on the first call and you are back to square one. Managed IT providers can not only handle specific hardware and software support, but handle managing your IT vendors for you.

When compared to the standard break-fix computer company, Managed IT firms deal with business-class vendors very often and often build relationships with vendors. This means things like warranty and support agreements can all be handled by your outsourced IT firm instead of by your employees, and support for specific hardware and software can be done right through your IT consultant instead of by multiple vendors. This gives you and your staff a single point of contact for all of your technical support needs.

On top of that, often Managed IT firms like Encompass IT Solutions deal with specific vendors and have access to special solutions and services that aren’t always offered to small law firms, such as bulk licensing and better support options.

 

5) The Break/Fix Practice Forces You to Pay When You Are Down & Already Losing Money.

IT issues can become expensive very quickly, especially when they aren’t taken care of promptly. Network and server outages can leave some or all of your employees stranded unable to do their jobs. You continue to pay them despite a huge hit to productivity and then you need to pay for the problem to get resolved.

The key element of a Managed IT Service is that you aren’t paying to have issues fixed; you are paying to have them prevented. With Managed IT, you pay to prevent downtime and maintain your expensive IT infrastructure. Regular maintenance plays a huge impact on stability, performance, security, and longevity of your network and the devices on it.

 

6) Flat-Rate IT Management is Easy to Budget and Reduces Hidden Costs & Promotes IT Expense Planning.

One major downfall of break-fix IT is the unexpected surprise costs that come when mission-critical technology fails and needs to be fixed. During downtime, you are already paying your employees despite a major loss of productivity, while also paying hourly fees for technical support to resolve the problem. Managed IT is based on a flat-rate payment model where you pay to prevent downtime, both greatly reducing downtime and minimizing unexpected costs.

When an expense varies greatly from month to month it can be difficult to
plan and budget accurately. With the flat-rate payment model you practically eliminate recovery costs since it is all covered under your agreement. Knowing that most issues are covered means you pay the same amount each month, and allows you to budget for new projects and expansion much easier.

Costs are also reduced because most maintenance tasks are standardized, proceduralized, and easily repeatable through automation.

 

7) You Get a Powerful Alignment of Your IT & Legal Practice Goals. Your Technology Works for You!

When your IT infrastructure works, it can greatly increase the productivity of your users, but what about goals specific to your law office? Your Managed IT provider serves the role of a consultant for your law firm’s development regarding how technology can drive your law firm forward. From new solutions to better internal practices, your goals can be achieved through professional management of your technology.

IT providers like Encompass IT can work with you, taking on the role of a CIO to help you establish long term implementations for your business through new solutions, security, training, and best practices that can improve your bottom line.

Your IT service provider should offer quarterly or bi-yearly reviews to provide consulting to ensure your IT solutions match your visions for your legal practice.

 

8) Law Firms That Manage & Outsource Their IT Properly Greatly Reduce Overall IT Expenses.

Simply put, when you take care of your IT, it breaks less. All of the benefits of managed IT services naturally leads to lower costs. Network and hardware integrity is constantly being monitored and proper maintenance is ensuring the health of your IT infrastructure, which eliminates surprise costs and faster-than-normal depreciation. Early detection contributes to fewer emergencies which result in fewer tech support calls.

You get access to knowledgeable, professional support without being nickeled and dimed for each call or issue. There aren’t hourly onsite charges either. Since your outsourced IT department is accountable for your uptime, issues and emergencies are typically covered under your clearly-defined agreement.

 

9) Your Law Office Can Take Advantage of Enterprise-Level Solutions for Small-Business Costs.

Running a law office doesn’t mean you need to suffer from the lowest-end solutions. Enterprise-level support and solutions can be made available to your organization to give you the cutting edge in communications or to help you sleep at night with bullet-proof backup and security. When partnering with a Managed IT provider, you can get access to technology solutions that are normally reserved for big corporate enterprises at costs geared towards your budget.

 

10) Managed IT Services Allow Law Firms to Free up Resources & Focus on Core Business Objectives.

Standard IT operations consist of many critical, yet repetitive technical tasks that take time and experience to perform. The traditional method had no place for many of these time-consuming critical tasks due to the hourly billing that most traditional IT providers charge. This means that these standard, day-to-day tasks, such as updating and running antivirus, applying and testing Windows security patches, and monitoring the health of data backup solutions, are the responsibility of the employee or not attended to at all.

Employees should perform the tasks they were paid to do, not general IT maintenance. Just as concerning, most of these critical tasks aren’t performed properly or at all, leading to additional issues, security breaches, and costly downtime.

A Managed IT provider can easily perform these repetitive maintenance tasks through automated tools and monitoring applications that report back any issues or missing updates. Through best practices and documented procedures, these routine tasks can be performed quickly and cost-effectively without needing to take an employee offline and tasks that require the workstation to be rebooted or need resources to run scans can be scheduled for after-hours.

With Managed IT services, your staff no longer `needs to focus on keeping their workstation up-to-date with Windows updates, run disk defrags or virus scans, or waste time on PC maintenance, effectively returning precious time to your organization and allowing employees to get more done during the course of the business day.

 

Are Managed IT Services Right for You?

If you’re tired of focusing on solving annoying technology issues, and not focusing on your law firm, call us at (860) 785-6233 to schedule a free Managed IT Services consultation with Encompass IT. We’ll provide an overview of your current technology and help you figure out if Managed IT Services would make sense for your law office.