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You have client or customer data in your possession. It is part of running your business in a digital marketplace. If that data is breached, it could permanently damage your reputation. We talked in an earlier blog about types of malware. There are many steps that you can take to protect your systems and data. Here are a few suggestions to protect your business from malware.

Consider a Managed Service Provider – Cybercriminals are very sophisticated and every day are releasing new, cutting-edge tools to attack businesses and individuals. Small- and medium-sized businesses do not have the resources to staff an IT department sufficiently to be aware of all the newest tools and technologies needed to protect a business. For example, a business owner cannot possibly keep up with the changes and details of tax laws. Doing it themselves, they would likely overlook important tax advantages or inadvertently break some IRS rule. As a result, tax preparation and accounting above the level of basic bookkeeping is outsourced to an outside accounting firm. You should consider looking at IT in the same way.

Updates – Always update your software. There will always be vulnerabilities in every bit of software that you use. Creators of software are constantly upgrading to close holes that could be exploited. Being attacked by malware because you are behind in upgrades is an avoidable error. That said, given the sheer volume of software applications accessing your network, you should consider outsourcing the administration and enforcement of this process.

Multi-factor authentication – Everyone is increasingly encountering MFA. This tool requires a second level of authentication in order to access an account or use a program. Generally, it involves entering a password then following up with a token you might be sent via text or email, or using a biometric measure, such as a fingerprint. An MSP can provide applications that can set up MFA to protect your data.
Access Control – You don’t give out keys to your house to everyone you know. Why allow all employees or vendors to access all of your databases or programs? Instead, follow the Principle of Least Privilege. That is, each individual only has the access to accounts, databases etc. that are absolutely necessary for them to do their assigned tasks.

Backups – Everyone knows they need to do backups, but handling these is more than just downloading data to a hard drive every evening. An MSP can provide you with the tools needed to handle backups appropriate to the needs of a business operation.

Employee education-This one cannot be emphasized enough. The individuals in your organization are your first and most critical line of defense against malware. As mentioned above, many types of malware need user action to get into your systems.

Here are some areas where training can help.

Phishing emails. These are mails that appear to come from legitimate sources, but are faked. Because the reader trusts the sender, they naively open a link that might be attacked which then downloads some forms of malware.

“Lost” USB. – Too often, individuals will find a USB drive left near a desk or dropped somewhere. The temptation to insert it into their computer to see what’s on it can be very hard to resist. ( This was part of what caused the Target data breach)

Password etiquette – Define standards within your organization about acceptable passwords. An MSP can help you set up programs that require employees to create passwords that meet your defined criteria. Also, consider fostering a culture that makes the sharing of passwords a performance issue that will be addressed by an individual’s supervisor.

Endpoint Detection and Response ( EDR): This is a solution an MSP can provide you with. At its basic level, EDR is a proactive approach to anti-malware software. EDR constantly looks at all of the endpoints in your network, tracks behaviors and identifies anything out of the ordinary. For an individual, anti-malware software may be sufficient. For a business that has multiple endpoints, this is not sufficient. ( Think dozens of employees connecting remotely via their own computer or smartphone). In a sophisticated business’s IT infrastructure, there are many endpoints which need to be evaluated.

In summary, there are many ways that an SMB can approach defending itself against malware. Some of these, such as employee training, can easily be done in-house. Others require a depth of experience that only your MSP can offer.

In today’s digital age, businesses face an ever-increasing threat from cybercriminals, and one of the most prevalent and damaging forms of cyberattack is ransomware. Ransomware attacks can cripple an organization, leading to data breaches, financial losses, and reputational damage. However, by implementing robust cybersecurity measures and adopting best practices, businesses can significantly reduce the risk of falling victim to ransomware attacks. In this blog post, we will explore effective strategies to safeguard your business against ransomware and ensure business continuity.

    • Employee Education and Awareness:
  • A well-informed and security-conscious workforce is the first line of defense against ransomware attacks. Regularly educate your employees about cybersecurity best practices, such as recognizing phishing emails, avoiding suspicious downloads, and practicing strong password hygiene. Conduct training sessions, share informative resources, and encourage employees to report any potential security threats promptly.
    • Implement a Multi-Layered Security Approach:
  • Having a comprehensive cybersecurity strategy is crucial to protect your business against ransomware. Adopt a multi-layered security approach that includes the following elements:
    1. Endpoint Protection: Install reliable and up-to-date antivirus and anti-malware software on all devices within your network. Enable real-time scanning and automatic updates to detect and block potential threats.
    2. Firewall and Intrusion Detection Systems: Deploy robust firewalls and intrusion detection systems (IDS) to monitor network traffic and prevent unauthorized access. Regularly update and patch these systems to address any vulnerabilities.
    3. Secure Backup and Disaster Recovery: Regularly back up your critical data and ensure backups are stored securely, preferably offline or in a separate, isolated network. Test data restoration processes periodically to ensure backups are viable.
    4. Network Segmentation: Divide your network into smaller segments to limit the spread of ransomware. Implement strict access controls and ensure sensitive data is only accessible to authorized individuals.
    • Keep Software and Systems Updated:
  • Outdated software and operating systems are common entry points for ransomware attacks. Regularly update all software applications, including web browsers, email clients, and operating systems. Enable automatic updates whenever possible to ensure prompt installation of security patches and bug fixes.
    • Email Security Measures:
  • Email remains one of the primary vectors for ransomware distribution. Implement robust email security measures, including:
    1. Spam Filters: Utilize advanced spam filters to block suspicious emails and prevent phishing attempts from reaching employee inboxes.
    2. Email Authentication: Implement email authentication protocols like Sender Policy Framework (SPF), DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM), and Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance (DMARC) to prevent email spoofing.
    3. User Awareness: Educate employees about email security best practices, including verifying sender addresses, avoiding clicking on suspicious links or downloading attachments from unknown sources, and reporting any suspicious emails promptly.
    • Regular Data Backups and Testing:
  • Frequent data backups are essential to mitigate the impact of a ransomware attack. Implement a robust backup strategy that includes automated backups and periodic testing of data restoration processes. Ensure backups are stored securely and kept separate from the main network to prevent ransomware from infecting them.
    • Incident Response and Business Continuity Plan:
  • Develop a comprehensive incident response plan that outlines the steps to be taken in the event of a ransomware attack. The plan should include procedures for isolating affected systems, notifying stakeholders, engaging law enforcement, and restoring operations. Regularly review and update the plan to reflect changes in technology and emerging threats.
    • Regular Security Audits and Penetration Testing:
  • Periodically conduct security audits and penetration testing to identify vulnerabilities in your network infrastructure and applications. Engage with ethical hackers to simulate real-world attack scenarios and identify potential weaknesses.

In today’s digital age, businesses face an ever-increasing threat from cybercriminals, and one of the most prevalent and damaging forms of cyberattack is ransomware. Ransomware attacks can cripple an organization, leading to data breaches, financial losses, and reputational damage. However, by implementing robust cybersecurity measures and adopting best practices, businesses can significantly reduce the risk of falling victim to ransomware attacks. In this blog post, we will explore effective strategies to safeguard your business against ransomware and ensure business continuity.

    • Employee Education and Awareness:
  • A well-informed and security-conscious workforce is the first line of defense against ransomware attacks. Regularly educate your employees about cybersecurity best practices, such as recognizing phishing emails, avoiding suspicious downloads, and practicing strong password hygiene. Conduct training sessions, share informative resources, and encourage employees to report any potential security threats promptly.
    • Implement a Multi-Layered Security Approach:
  • Having a comprehensive cybersecurity strategy is crucial to protect your business against ransomware. Adopt a multi-layered security approach that includes the following elements:
    1. Endpoint Protection: Install reliable and up-to-date antivirus and anti-malware software on all devices within your network. Enable real-time scanning and automatic updates to detect and block potential threats.
    2. Firewall and Intrusion Detection Systems: Deploy robust firewalls and intrusion detection systems (IDS) to monitor network traffic and prevent unauthorized access. Regularly update and patch these systems to address any vulnerabilities.
    3. Secure Backup and Disaster Recovery: Regularly back up your critical data and ensure backups are stored securely, preferably offline or in a separate, isolated network. Test data restoration processes periodically to ensure backups are viable.
    4. Network Segmentation: Divide your network into smaller segments to limit the spread of ransomware. Implement strict access controls and ensure sensitive data is only accessible to authorized individuals.
    • Keep Software and Systems Updated:
  • Outdated software and operating systems are common entry points for ransomware attacks. Regularly update all software applications, including web browsers, email clients, and operating systems. Enable automatic updates whenever possible to ensure prompt installation of security patches and bug fixes.
    • Email Security Measures:
  • Email remains one of the primary vectors for ransomware distribution. Implement robust email security measures, including:
    1. Spam Filters: Utilize advanced spam filters to block suspicious emails and prevent phishing attempts from reaching employee inboxes.
    2. Email Authentication: Implement email authentication protocols like Sender Policy Framework (SPF), DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM), and Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance (DMARC) to prevent email spoofing.
    3. User Awareness: Educate employees about email security best practices, including verifying sender addresses, avoiding clicking on suspicious links or downloading attachments from unknown sources, and reporting any suspicious emails promptly.
    • Regular Data Backups and Testing:
  • Frequent data backups are essential to mitigate the impact of a ransomware attack. Implement a robust backup strategy that includes automated backups and periodic testing of data restoration processes. Ensure backups are stored securely and kept separate from the main network to prevent ransomware from infecting them.
    • Incident Response and Business Continuity Plan:
  • Develop a comprehensive incident response plan that outlines the steps to be taken in the event of a ransomware attack. The plan should include procedures for isolating affected systems, notifying stakeholders, engaging law enforcement, and restoring operations. Regularly review and update the plan to reflect changes in technology and emerging threats.
    • Regular Security Audits and Penetration Testing:
  • Periodically conduct security audits and penetration testing to identify vulnerabilities in your network infrastructure and applications. Engage with ethical hackers to simulate real-world attack scenarios and identify potential weaknesses.

IT seems it is virtually impossible to avoid hearing about Artificial Intelligence (AI). Ever since ChatGPT hit the market, AI has become a never ending source of news, articles, advertisements, and lots of gloom. Artificial intelligence isn’t exactly new–the term goes back to the mid-1950s. Artificial Intelligence is a broad term and encompasses a few different subsets of processes. Generally, it refers to machines or computers doing things that we consider a skill limited to human intelligence. What has caught the public eye is what is labeled “generative AI”. Generative AI (e.g ChatGPT) refers to the AI tools that can create content, music, images, code and voice. One of the reasons generative AI is so widespread in its applications is that it doesn’t require coding skills for a layperson to use it, instead the user can instruct the tool to create content by using natural language.

Questions about generative AI – The media has certainly been filled with concern about AI and has raised many questions about areas where we potentially interact with it. How do we know the content we are reading is accurate and can be trusted to have come from reliable sources that have been vetted for accuracy? Can it be used to create misleading information that could misdirect our understanding of social, political, cultural, legal and other issues that affect the well-being of society? Others worry it could displace whole sectors of human labor. These are heavy questions best left to another venue of discussion.

Where is the average person interacting with AI?

We interact with artificial intelligence everyday in places we probably never give much thought. Those recommendations for purchases that you see on every shopping website you visit? That is done by a form of AI known as machine learning. Your thermostat that turns the heat up and down by learning when you usually leave the house? The refrigerator that makes your shopping list? Those are both examples of machine learning as well.

If you use a Managed Service Provider or a Managed Security Services Provider, AI is a new line of higher quality defense against cybercrime that they may be using to protect you. One of the greatest risks a business faces is a breach of its data by cybercriminals: malware, ransomware, et.al. and the tricks being used keep increasing in sophistication. Ransomware is particularly insidious. It can seize your data and hold it hostage for a ransom of currency, crypto or traditional. Once attacked there are very few alternatives to submitting to the ransom request. AI can help MSPs respond faster to specific threats and concerns, and assist in diagnosis and troubleshooting. Also, as every SMB knows, 24/7 monitoring and support is a critical service that an MSP can provide far more efficiently than a company can do in-house. (This has to do with the benefits of economies of scale.) AI can improve 24/7 monitoring because AI can evaluate an enormous amount of data, far faster than humans, and likely identify problems before they affect your business.

Even the simplest business possesses data that is proprietary and confidential. Customer and prospects lists, sales data, and personal data about customers such as their credit cards, names, addresses, birth dates. Maybe even medical information or social security numbers. If any of this data is compromised, you could face legal and reputational consequences. It is important you stay vigilant in making sure this data is as safe as it can be from cybercriminals.

If you have extremely confidential data, it may be important to use methods to address physical access. Should your server rooms be key-coded or require biometric access? Access codes for physical entry to a room are relatively simple to install. However, passcodes are pretty easy to steal or they can be shared by employees. In addition to limiting access they can also identify when and who accessed a secure location. One step beyond passcode entry is biometric authentication. Examples of biometric tools are fingerprint, iris or facial recognition. The advantages to these are clear. They cannot be easily stolen and for the user, there is no passcode to remember or a keycard to lose. An MSP can provide guidance about how to go about installing a biometric authentication system to secure specific locations.

On the other end of the spectrum, there is one excellent tool out there that can protect against one of the most common tricks criminals use to get into your data banks. That tool is employee training about phishing emails and fake websites. Phishing emails, the emails that trick you into opening a link that has been corrupted, remain a tried and true method for cybercriminals. What is the best defense? Employee training on how to avoid falling into the trap. The simplest maxim to remember? If in ANY doubt, don’t open a link. If there is any reason for suspicion, delete the email and forget about it. Also, look at the email address of the sender. Is it legitimate or is it misspelled or have a few extra characters or numbers that aren’t familiar.

What about the usage of passwords? Passwords can be hacked and stolen. there is another tool available to make passwords safer. You can make passwords more secure using multi factor authentication(MFA). MFA is pretty simple. It requires a second level of verification to prove that the password is being used by the individual authorized to use it. Examples of MFA are ATM machines that require a card AND a password. MFA very commonly requires the user to submit a code that is sent to another platform. (You’ve probably encountered this one if you use online banking )
Also, update your software. Immediately. Whenever you get an alert to update anything. Do it then. Don’t put it off until tomorrow because this update may have been released to address a recently discovered threat. This is a very simple thing to do and will offer significant protection. Additionally, your Managed Service provider may offer clients a subscription to day zero alerts. These are texts or emails that are sent out whenever a new virus or vulnerability has been discovered.

Among those firms who take risk management seriously, there is a growing awareness of the need to consider some manner of insurance to protect against the costs of cybercrime. When all else fails, and your data has been breached, how can you protect your business financially? Standard commercial property insurance policies do not generally include provisions for the damages from cybercrime. In a growing number of commercial policies, they are specifically excluded. As a result, executives who recognize the catastrophic damage that a cyberattack can inflict on their business are looking at cyber insurance to transfer the financial losses to a third party. However, there are some pretty deep weeds to get into when looking for a cyber insurance policy. Just for one example, some policies may create requirements and security standards you must meet before an event will be considered a covered loss. A Managed Service Provider can offer guidance into whether this is an avenue to explore.

In conclusion, there are several tools that you can use to protect your data from cybercriminals. They range from the very simple to the highly sophisticated. Your MSP can be of help in adopting any or all of these tools. From providing employee training all the way to biometric solutions.

When you visit a site, probably for the first time or from a new device or browser, you will see an alert that mentions the site uses Cookies to offer you a more personalized experience and asks you if you are okay with it. Let’s admit it. A lot of us don’t even bother to read what the notification says before we click “Accept” and move on with our browsing.

Cookies are tiny information packets that store data related to your interaction and behavior on websites. It is like walking into your favorite local diner and having them serve up the “usual” instantly. Cookies, track your digital footprint on a website and allow the site to offer you a more personalized browsing experience. For example, let’s say you visited Amazon.com and looked at some cameras, perhaps you put one into your cart as well, but never checked out, or added one to your wishlist on the site. The next time the camera is on a sale, Amazon app sends you a notification about the price reduction. That happens with the help of cookies. And, that’s just one example. Cookies are not necessarily limited to shopping sites.You know how sometimes you can save your password for some sites, so you don’t have to type it or log in every time you visit the website? You are able to do that because of cookies. Any site can have cookies, though shopping and banking sites can’t function without them. These are known as session cookies and are absolutely indispensable, while some like persistent cookies make your web browsing experience more pleasant and the third party cookies, while not very pleasant, are used basically to facilitate online advertising. How do cookies become a security threat, then?

Cookies become a security threat when hackers get access to them. If hackers hijack your cookies, they can get access to your session, your passwords and other related online activities. Hackers sometimes create “Super Cookies” and “Zombie cookies” to steal information from authentic cookies. Such cookies are difficult to identify and delete and sometimes work like worms replicating themselves, thus making it more difficult to get rid of them. Hackers can also steal your cookies if they get access to your network or to the server of the website you are visiting. For example, if your bank’s or shopping website’s server was hacked into, chances are, the hacker has access to your cookies and thereby all your account details.

If you liked what you read, then check out our whitepaper, The cookie monster is coming for you, for a more detailed account of the threats posed by cookies and how you can manage them better.

When it comes to smaller and medium sized businesses, anything that distracts from the day to day concerns about bringing in revenue tends to fall by the wayside. With that in mind, we have put together a list of seven things that a small business needs to prioritize if you want to keep your business up and running. Remember, a cyber attack on your data security could be the biggest threat to your revenues that you face, even more serious than a recession or a pandemic

Software

Everything you have uses software programs, all of which can be vulnerable to hacking. Make sure all of your software programs are up-to-date. Software companies release program updates, security patches and critical updates for their applications. In addition to providing new features or fixing bugs in the program, these updates and patches prevent cybercriminals from exploiting the vulnerabilities that exist in the program to gain access to your network and data. So, you need to take the time to make sure that all of your software applications, including operating systems, and browsers are up-to-date. And do not forget your smartphone. It is important not to leave out your smartphone applications and mobile devices as well, because cybercriminals can find a way to invade your network and data from your smartphone For example, you have your work email configured on your phone. Hacking into your phone can give them access to your work email and consequently to work data.

Backups

There are things we all know we should do that are good for us, but that doesn’t mean we do them. Eat your vegetables, exercise every day… and back up your data. So here is a reminder of what you should do. Make sure you have clean and up-to-date backups. Backups come in extremely handy, especially in the case of ransomware attacks. Ransomware attacks are where cybercriminals gain control of your network or data and lock you out of your own system preventing you from accessing crucial business data. Sometimes your data is encrypted, which means it won’t be “legible.” They then demand a ransom to unlock or decrypt your data. Unless you pay up, you won’t have access to your data or your data won’t make any sense to you as it is encrypted. Having up-to-date, quality backups ensures you don’t have to worry about losing access to your data or paying the ransom, as you would have a most recent copy of your business data readily accessible. You can make backups on external hard disks, servers located at a place different from your place of business or even on the cloud (think Google Drive or One Drive or cloud servers). That said, contact an MSP to design workable backup procedures that don’t include copies of the ransomware. Just routine backups may not be enough to protect you.

Train everyone in your organization

Never forget the human factor in how cybercriminals get through your defenses. Training your employees to identify and respond correctly to cyberthreats plays a big role in any organization’s cybersecurity initiative. Regular cybersecurity training sessions along with mandated assessments should be conducted for all employees. Based on the assessment results, you may conduct follow-up training or refresher sessions for those who need it. You should also create an IT security policy document or handbook and share it with everyone in your company. This handbook or policy document must be updated on a routine basis to keep up with the latest in cybersecurity protocols.

Cybersecurity might seem like a lot of work, especially when you have a business to run and clients to focus on. However, it is certainly not an element that you can afford to ignore. The price you may have to pay if your business becomes a target of a cybercriminal is too high to take cybersecurity lightly. Consider bringing an experienced Managed Services Provider (MSP) on board to help manage the cybersecurity aspect of your business, while you can focus on your clients.

Questions? Contact Direct One for suggestions on improving your data security. Your business depends on it.

As a business, there is no doubt today that you need to make your presence felt on major social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn. But social media also exposes you to cybercriminals. In this post we talk about the steps you can take to ensure your social media account doesn’t become a gateway for cybercriminals to access your data.

Make someone accountable
The first step to a successful and safe social media experience as a company is to make someone in your organization accountable for it. Designate a social media manager who is responsible for maintaining your company’s social media accounts. This person should oversee everything–from the posts and pictures in your company account to approving/disapproving ‘Friend’/’Follow’ requests.

Train your employees
Of course you should train your employees who handle your official social media accounts about the security threats and how they need to steer clear of them, but you also need to train other employees who are not on your social media team as they could be a weak link that a cybercriminal could exploit to reach your business. Seems far fetched? Not really. A lot of people trust their ‘friends’ on social media and also unwittingly share a lot of information, which can be used to hack their personal accounts and devices, which in turn, may act as a gateway to your business. Teach your employees about general social media best practices in terms of security and also educate them about the privacy settings they can use to ensure there data is shared with trusted individuals only.

Take the necessary security measures
Make sure the devices you use to access your social media accounts are protected with firewalls and anti-malware tools and all security updates and patches are up-to-date.

Password hygiene
Practice good password hygiene and encourage your teams to do the same. That means no password sharing, no sequential letters/numerals, no obvious words or numbers as your social media account password.

Frame a social media policy
You should also frame a social media policy that spells out the dos and don’ts of social media that everyone in your organization should follow. This is important from various perspectives as employee’s statements on social media may be perceived as a reflection of your business’s values, whether you like it or not. This can make your business a target of cybercriminals and lawsuits.

Putting your business out there on the social networking sites gives your brand a lot of exposure, presents paid advertising opportunities and even helps you build and manage customer relationships, but as discussed, it can be tricky to navigate in terms of security. Businesses may find it overwhelming to manage their social media security strategy all by themselves can reach out to a managed services provider. An MSP with experience in social media security can be a valuable asset in helping you build a strong social media security strategy.