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VersaTrust has been serving the Texas area since 1997 , providing IT Support such as technical helpdesk support, computer support and consulting to small and medium-sized businesses.

WannaCry: A historic cyberattack

No one can escape the news of WannaCry. The IT industry has been covering this type of malware for years, but never has one campaign spread so far or infected so many computers. Read on to gain a greater understanding of what happened and how to prepare yourself for the inevitable copy cats.

Ransomware review

Ransomware is a specific type of malware program that either encrypts or steals valuable data and threatens to erase it or release it publicly unless a ransom is paid. We’ve been writing about this terrifying threat for years, but the true genesis of ransomware dates all the way back to 1989.

This form of digital extortion has enjoyed peaks and troughs in popularity since then, but never has it been as dangerous as it is now. In 2015, the FBI reported a huge spike in the popularity of ransomware, and healthcare providers became common targets because of the private and time-sensitive nature of their hosted data.

The trend got even worse, and by the end of 2016 ransomware had become a $1 billion-a-year industry.

The WannaCry ransomware

Although the vast majority of ransomware programs rely on convincing users to click compromised links in emails, the WannaCry version seems to have spread via more technical security gaps. It’s still too early to be sure, but the security experts at Malwarebytes Labs believe that the reports of WannaCry being transmitted through phishing emails is simply a matter of confusion. Thousands of other ransomware versions are spread through spam email every day and distinguishing them can be difficult.

By combining a Windows vulnerability recently leaked from the National Security Agency’s cyber arsenal and some simple programming to hunt down servers that interact with public networks, WannaCry spread itself further than any malware campaign has in the last 15 years.

Despite infecting more than 200,000 computers in at least 150 countries, the cyberattackers have only made a fraction of what you would expect. Victims must pay the ransom in Bitcoins, a totally untraceable currency traded online. Inherent to the Bitcoin platform is a public ledger, meaning anyone can see that WannaCry’s coffers have collected a measly 1% of its victims payments.

How to protect yourself for what comes next

Part of the reason this ransomware failed to scare users into paying up is because it was so poorly made. Within a day of its release, the self-propagating portion of its programming was brought to a halt by an individual unsure of why it included a 42-character URL that led to an unregistered domain. Once he registered the web address for himself, WannaCry stopped spreading.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t help the thousands that were already infected. And it definitely doesn’t give you an excuse to ignore what cybersecurity experts are saying, “This is only the beginning.” WannaCry was so poorly written, it’s amazing it made it as far as it did. And considering it would’ve made hundreds of millions of dollars if it was created by more capable programmers, your organization needs to prepare for the next global cyberattack.

Every single day it should be your goal to complete the following:

  • Thorough reviews of reports from basic perimeter security solutions. Antivirus software, hardware firewalls, and intrusion prevention systems log hundreds of amateur attempts on your network security every day; critical vulnerabilities can be gleaned from these documents.
  • Check for updates and security patches for every single piece of software in your office, from accounting apps to operating systems. Computers with the latest updates from Microsoft were totally safe from WannaCry, which should be motivation to never again click “Remind me later.”
  • Social engineering and phishing may not have been factors this time around, but training employees to recognize suspicious links is a surefire strategy for avoiding the thousands of other malware strains that threaten your business.
Revisiting these strategies every single day may seem a bit much, but we’ve been in the industry long enough to know that it takes only one mistake to bring your operations to a halt. For daily monitoring and support, plus industry-leading cybersecurity advice, call us today.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

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What is virtual “sandboxing”?

Virtualization comes with several benefits for small- and medium-sized businesses. One of the most important is cybersecurity, but even within that subset are several strategies for protecting your organization. One of such strategy is referred to as sandboxing, and it’s worth learning about.

What is sandboxing?

Sandboxing is one of the rare concepts in virtualization that the average person can usually grasp in just a couple short sentences. Essentially, sandboxing is the practice of tricking an application or program into thinking it is running on a regular computer, and observing how it performs. This is especially useful for testing whether unknown applications are hiding malware.

Obviously, it gets far more complicated once you delve into the details of how you implement a sandboxing technique, but the short answer is that it almost always involves virtualized computers. The program you want to test thinks it’s been opened on a full-fledged workstation of server and can act normally, but it’s actually inside of a tightly controlled virtual space that forbids it from copying itself or deleting files outside of what is included in the sandbox.

An effective way to quarantine

Virtualization is no simple task, but the benefits of sandboxing definitely make the effort worth it. For example, virtualized workstations can essentially be created and destroyed with the flip of a switch. That means:
  1. You aren’t required to manage permanent resources to utilize a sandbox. Turn it on when you need it, and when you’re done the resources necessary to run it are reset and returned to your server’s available capacity.
  2. When malware is exposed inside a sandbox, removing it is as simple as destroying the virtual machine. Compare that to running a physical workstation dedicated solely to sandboxing. Formatting and reinstalling the machine would take several hours.
  3. Variables such as which operating system the sandbox runs, which permissions quarantined applications are granted, and minimum testing times can be employed and altered in extremely short periods of time.
This strategy has been around for nearly two decades, and some cybersecurity experts have spent their entire careers working toward the perfect virtual sandbox.

Containers: the next step in this evolution

Recently, the virtualization industry has been almost totally consumed by the topic of “containers.” Instead of creating entire virtual workstations to run suspicious applications in, containers are virtual spaces with exactly enough hardware and software resources to run whatever the container was designed to do.

Think of the metaphor literally: Older sandboxes came in a uniform size, which was almost always significantly larger than whatever you were placing into them. Containers let you design the size and shape of the sandbox based on your exact specifications.

Quarantined virtual spaces fit nicely into the sandbox metaphor, but actually implementing them is impossible without trained help. Whether you’re looking for enhanced security protocols or increased efficiency with your hardware resources, our virtualization services can help. Call us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

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Microsoft Word bug: What you need to know

Software developers and hackers are in a constant game of cat and mouse. When cybercriminals find new security bugs to exploit, tech companies have to quickly release a solution that secures those vulnerabilities. Just this month, Microsoft released a patch to eliminate a Word exploit designed to steal user information. If you’re an avid Microsoft Word user, here’s what you need to know about the bug.

The attackOn April 10, cybersecurity firm Proofpoint discovered scammers running email campaigns to trick people into clicking malware-ridden Word attachments. The fraudulent emails, simply titled “Scan Data,” included attached documents that were named “Scan,” followed by randomized digits.

Although the emails seem harmless, clicking on the documents triggers a download for Dridex malware, a Trojan virus designed to give hackers direct access to your banking information. From there, they can simply log in to your online account and make unauthorized transactions under your name.

In 2015, the distribution of Dridex allowed cybercriminals to steal approximately $25 million from European accounts. And if your business fell victim to this malware, there’s a possibility your company might not be able to recover from the loss.

The solutionFortunately, two days after the discovery of the bug, Microsoft released a security update to disable the dangerous documents, urging users to install the patch as soon as possible. But even though Dridex was inoculated relatively quickly, employees continue to be the biggest problem.

Like most malware attacks, Dridex was distributed via phishing campaigns that preyed on a victim’s trust and curiosity. Hackers added barely any text to the email, yet people were still fooled into clicking on dangerous links.

To make sure Dridex never reaches your company, you must provide comprehensive security awareness training. In your sessions, encourage employees to practice safe computing habits, which include being cautious of online links, setting strong passwords, and avoiding downloads from untrusted and unknown sources.

Much like updating your software, keeping your staff’s security knowledge up to date on the latest threats is also imperative. Ultimately, your goal is to have employees with a security-focused mindset when browsing the web.

Of course, if security training and cybersecurity solutions are not your company’s specialties, you can always rely on a trusted managed services provider like us to protect your business. We can update and secure your systems regularly, and make sure your staff are actively doing their part to reduce security risks. Contact us today!

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

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The phishing craze that’s blindsiding users

Most phishing attacks involve hiding malicious hyperlinks hidden behind enticing ad images or false-front URLs. Whatever the strategy is, phishing almost always relies on users clicking a link before checking where it really leads. But even the most cautious users may get caught up in the most recent scam. Take a look at our advice for how to avoid the newest trend in phishing.

What are homographs?

There are a lot of ways to disguise a hyperlink, but one strategy has survived for decades -- and it’s enjoying a spike in popularity. Referred to as “homographs” by cybersecurity professionals, this phishing strategy revolves around how browsers interpret URLs written in other languages.

Take Russian for example, even though several Cyrillic letters look identical to English characters, computers see them as totally different. Browsers use basic translation tools to account for this so users can type in non-English URLs and arrive at legitimate websites. In practice, that means anyone can enter a 10-letter Cyrillic web address into their browser and the translation tools will convert that address into a series of English letters and numbers.

How does this lead to phishing attacks?

Malicious homographs utilize letters that look identical to their English counterparts to trick users into clicking on them. It’s an old trick, and most browsers have built-in fail-safes to prevent the issue. However, a security professional recently proved that the fail-safes in Chrome, Firefox, Opera and a few other less popular browsers can be easily tricked.

Without protection from your browser, there’s basically no way to know that you’re clicking on a Cyrillic URL. It looks like English, and no matter how skeptical you are, there’s no way to “ask” your browser what language it is. So you may think you’re clicking on apple.com, but you’re actually clicking on the Russian spelling of apple.com -- which gets redirected to xn—80ak6aa92e.com. If that translated URL contains malware, you’re in trouble the second you click the link.

The solution

Avoiding any kind of cybersecurity attack begins with awareness, and when it comes to phishing, that means treating every link you want to click with skepticism. If you receive an email from someone you don’t know, or a suspicious message from someone you do, always check where it leads. Sometimes that’s as simple as hovering your mouse over hyperlink text to see what the address is, but when it comes to homographs that’s not enough.

In the case of homographs, the solution is unbelievably simple: Manually type in the web address. If you get an email from someone you haven’t heard from in 20 years that says “Have you checked out youtube.com??”, until your browser announces a fix, typing that URL into your browser’s address bar is the only way to be totally sure you’re safe.

For most, this trend feels like yet another development that justifies giving up on cybersecurity altogether. But for small- and medium-sized businesses that have outsourced their technology support and management to a competent and trustworthy IT provider, it’s just another reason to be thankful they decided against going it alone. If you’re ready to make the same decision, call us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

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Why you need to back up your mobile devices

There was a time when mobile phones were used exclusively for calling and texting. Now, they can do so much more. Regardless of your level of tolerance or skill for managing documents in such a small gadget, mobile devices allow you to send and receive email, download and upload media files, store data, and even close business deals. As mobile devices became indispensable in everyone’s personal and professional life, the security risks have also increased -- and backing up became more critical than ever.

Malware on mobile

More than 50% of the world’s adult population use a mobile phone with internet connection, so dangers in these handy devices are to be expected. Scarier than the thought of being offline is being online and exposed to malware.

If you use your mobile devices as an extension of your work computers, backing up is a must. Mobile phones have become as vulnerable to malware as laptops and desktops have, especially if you consider the fact that many professionals and business owners use them for emailing confidential documents and storing business-critical files.

Device disasters

Other than malware, other types of disasters can happen on your device. Because you carry it wherever your go, your device can easily be stolen, misplaced, or damaged. They may be easily replaceable, but the data contained in them may not. Having completely backed up data on your devices helps prevent a minor inconvenience from turning into a disastrous situation.

Backup options

Performing backups in iPhone and Android devices is a seamless process. Their operating systems require only minimal effort from users, and backing up entails nothing more than logging into their Apple or Google account. However, other users have different devices with different operating systems, slightly complicating the process.

Mobile devices’ safety is essential to business continuity plans. So whether your office users are tied to a single operating system or prefer different devices, there are options to back up all your organization’s mobile devices. There are cloud backup services that enable syncing of all devices and that back up files, contacts, photos, videos, and other critical files in one neat backup system. These mobile backup tools are offered on monthly or lifetime subscription schemes, which provides small businesses with enough flexibility to ensure protection.

Mobile phones have become so ubiquitous to how people function that many feel the need to have two or more phones, mostly to have one for personal use and another for business. With all these options on hand, there’s no excuse for not backing up data on your mobile devices.

Our experts can provide practical advice on security for your business’s computers and mobile devices. Call us for mobile backup and other security solutions today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

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Some ransomware strains are free to decrypt

Ransomware is everywhere. Over the last couple years, dozens of unique versions of the malware have sprung up with a singular purpose: Extorting money from your business. Before you even consider paying for the release of your data, the first thing you must always check is whether your ransomware infection already has a free cure.

The state of ransomware in 2017

It’s been almost 30 years since malware was first created that could encrypt locally-stored data and demand money in exchange for its safe return. Known as ransomware, this type of malware has gone through multiple periods of popularity. 2006 and 2013 saw brief spikes in infections, but they’ve never been as bad as they are now.

In 2015, the FBI estimated that ransomware attacks cost victims $24 million, but in the first three months of 2016 it had already racked up more than $209 million. At the beginning of 2017, more than 10% of all malware infections were some version of ransomware.

Zombie ransomware is easy to defeat

Not every type of infection is targeted to individual organizations. Some infections may happen as a result of self-propagating ransomware strains, while others might come from cyber attackers who are hoping targets are so scared that they pay up before doing any research on how dated the strain is.

No matter what the circumstances of your infection are, always check the following lists to see whether free decryption tools have been released to save you a world of hurt:

Prevention

But even when you can get your data back for free, getting hit with malware is no walk in the park. There are essentially three basic approaches to preventing ransomware. First, train your employees about what they should and shouldn’t be opening when browsing the web and checking email.

Second, back up your data as often as possible to quarantined storage. As long as access to your backed-up data is extremely limited and not directly connected to your network, you should be able to restore everything in case of an infection.

Finally, regularly update all your software solutions (operating systems, productivity software, and antivirus). Most big-name vendors are quick to patch vulnerabilities, and you’ll prevent a large portion of infections just by staying up to date.

Whether it’s dealing with an infection or preventing one, the best option is to always seek professional advice from seasoned IT technicians. It’s possible that you could decrypt your data with the tools listed above, but most ransomware strains destroy your data after a set time limit, and you may not be able to beat the clock. If you do, you probably won’t have the expertise to discern where your security was penetrated.

Don’t waste time fighting against a never-ending stream of cyber attacks -- hand it over to us and be done with it. Call today to find out more.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

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Is fileless malware a threat to you?

There have been some truly horrifying cyber-security headlines popping up over the last month. If you’ve been reading about “fileless” malware attacking banks and other big-name institutions around the world, we’re here to set the record straight: Your business isn’t in direct danger. But even if you’re not, staying abreast of all the details is still worthwhile.

What is this new threat?

To oversimplify the matter, fileless malware is stored somewhere other than a hard drive. For example, with some incredibly talented programming, a piece of malware could be stored in your Random Access Memory (RAM).

RAM is a type of temporary memory used only by applications that are running, which means antivirus software never scans it on account of its temporary nature. This makes fileless malware incredibly hard to detect.

This isn’t the first time it’s been detected

Industry-leading cyber security firm Kaspersky Lab first discovered a type of fileless malware on its very own network almost two years ago. The final verdict was that it originated from the Stuxnet strain of state-sponsored cyber warfare. The high level of sophistication and government funding meant fileless malware was virtually nonexistent until the beginning of 2017.

Where is it now?

Apparently being infected by this strain of malware makes you an expert because Kaspersky Lab was the group that uncovered over 140 infections across 40 different countries. Almost every instance of the fileless malware was found in financial institutions and worked towards obtaining login credentials. In the worst cases, infections had already gleaned enough information to allow cyber attackers to withdraw undisclosed sums of cash from ATMs.

Am I at risk?

It is extremely unlikely your business would have been targeted in the earliest stages of this particular strain of malware. Whoever created this program is after cold hard cash. Not ransoms, not valuable data, and not destruction. Unless your network directly handles the transfer of cash assets, you’re fine.

If you want to be extra careful, employ solutions that analyze trends in behavior. When hackers acquire login information, they usually test it out at odd hours and any intrusion prevention system should be able to recognize the attempt as dubious.

Should I worry about the future?

The answer is a bit of a mixed bag. Cybersecurity requires constant attention and education, but it’s not something you can just jump into. What you should do is hire a managed services provider that promises 24/7 network monitoring and up-to-the-minute patches and software updates -- like us. Call today to get started.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

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Cyber security and managed services

Cyber security is something you hear about a lot these days. Sometimes it’s thrown around to scare business owners, other times it has proven to be a cautionary tale, one that small businesses can learn from to fend themselves from online threats that can leave devastating impact. What’s certain is statistics don’t lie, and as much as you’d like to believe your business is safe, the worst could happen at any time. Because antivirus software alone can only do so much to protect your business, managed services has become the solution. To make our case, here are several statistics that prove you need managed services from a technology provider.

The numbers

Small businesses are not at risk of being attacked, but worse, they’ve already fallen victim to cyber threats. According to Small Business Trends, 55 percent of survey respondents say their companies have experienced cyber attack sometime between 2015 and 2016. Not only that, 50 percent reported they have experienced data breaches with customer and employee information during that time, too. The aftermath of these incidents? These companies spent an average of $879,582 to fix the damages done to their IT assets and recover their data. To make matters worse, disruption to their daily operations cost an average of $955,429.

The attacks

So what types of attack did these businesses experience? The order from most to least common are as follows: Web-based attacks, phishing, general malware, SQL injection, stolen devices, denial of services, advanced malware, malicious insider, cross-site scripting, ransomware and others.

Why managed services?

Managed services is the most effective prevention and protection from these malicious threats. They include a full range of proactive IT support that focuses on advanced security such as around the clock monitoring, data encryption and backup, real-time threat prevention and elimination, network and firewall protection and more.

Not only that, but because managed services are designed to identify weak spots in your IT infrastructure and fix them, you’ll enjoy other benefits including faster network performance, business continuity and disaster recovery as well as minimal downtime. One of the best things about managed services is the fact that you get a dedicated team of IT professionals ready to assist with any technology problems you might have. This is much more effective and budget-friendly than having an in-house personnel handling all your IT issues.

Being proactive when it comes to cyber security is the only way to protect what you’ve worked hard to built. If you’d like to know more about how managed services can benefit your business, just give us a call, we’re sure we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

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Ransomware demands more victims for freedom

Popcorn Time is taking ransomware to a new level of devilish trickery by asking victims to give up two of their friends for a chance to rid their own computers of the virus. In cyber security this level of diabolical blackmail represents a new and scary trend for hackers. For more information on how Popcorn Time works and what you can do to keep it off your system, keep reading.

Ransomware is nothing new. Cybersecurity miscreants have been taking advantage of online users for years by requiring payment to "unlock" a victim's computer. What Popcorn Time does differently is give users the option to spread the virus to two other victims in the hopes that they will pay the ransom -- a tactic that promises to double their money at the expense of your sense of morality (and at the expense of your friendships as well).

The Cost of Popcorn

When you inadvertently download this ransomware, you will be met with a screen that explains that your files have been hijacked/encrypted, and that to get them back you will need to pay one Bitcoin for a decryption key that they keep stored remotely. The Bitcoin fee is usually more than $700, a hefty price to pay during any season but particularly difficult for those infected during the holiday season.

Spread the "Holiday Cheer" and Hope they Bite

What makes Popcorn Time unique is the option victims have to take their cost away by allowing the ransomware to affect two of their friends for a chance to get a free decryption code. Of course, it works only if both friends pay the ransom, which leaves you looking (and feeling) like the Grinch.

Avoiding Popcorn Time this Season

The easiest way to avoid downloading ransomware is to stay off of sites that might contain questionable files. However, this is nearly impossible for modern users, and many hackers are getting good at making their files look legitimate. Limit your exposure to potential ransomware by keeping your software up-to-date and your computer protected with a security program from a reputable company (for example Norton or Symantec). If you need to learn more about how to avoid running into ransomware while you're online, give our professional cybersecurity consultants a call. We'll keep you away from the popcorn this season.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

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How web monitoring increases productivity

The internet is undoubtedly one of the most powerful tools for improving business productivity. But it’s also a magnet for procrastination. With unfettered access to the internet, it’s easy to stray away from your important work responsibilities. If done in moderation, five-to-ten minute breaks on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are harmless, but if employees spend several hours a day there, the internet is impeding office productivity. Fortunately, web monitoring can ensure your employees don’t overuse these sites.

Time-saving measuresAt times, the internet can be very addictive. Internet monitoring software saves employees from the temptation of online videos and games by restricting access to time-wasting sites that you deem unnecessary for business. But internet monitoring software doesn’t even have to be as extreme as denying permission to harmless social media websites. Just letting your employees know that you’ll be randomly monitoring their internet activity discourages them from taking prolonged visits to their Instagram page.

Avoiding harmful websitesThe internet hosts plenty of unsavory links and websites. Employees who haphazardly click phishing links or access malware-ridden pornography sites can put your business at risk. Working with infected machines can slow down the entire system and, in some cases, completely halt operations. But by using internet monitoring tools you can restrict access to dangerous websites, and identify reckless employees to remove their internet privileges, if necessary.

Controlling bandwidth usageEven while using the internet for the right purposes, bandwidth can be used up quickly. Internet monitoring gives you up-to-the-minute reports on your bandwidth usage. Once you have a clear understanding of your company’s overall bandwidth usage, you can then control its expenditure. This feature allows you to prioritize bandwidth for critical business applications and reduce bandwidth for less necessary websites.

Increasing productivity on the internetInternet monitoring software may be a powerful tool, but it should be used responsibly. As a business owner, you need to walk a fine line between over-surveillance and under-surveillance. What you should do is establish a clear internet policy. Then, explicitly define the disciplinary measures to be dispensed on anybody who goes against the requirements of the internet policy. And deal with time-wasting employees on a case-by-case basis. It’s unreasonable to remove everyone’s Facebook privileges because one or two abused theirs.

Employee productivity can be difficult to achieve, especially with the proliferation of what we would like to call, “procrastination software.” But with web monitoring software, you can truly get your business -- and your employees -- back on track. Looking for more ways to increase business productivity with technology? Give us a call. We’ll be happy to make suggestions.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

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9 essential cybersecurity phrases

As with all technology, trendy phrases come and go with the passing of every IT conference and newly released virus. And when dealing with cybersecurity, keeping up with them all can mean the survival -- or demise -- of a business. If you’re looking for a list of the industry’s most relevant terms, you’ve come to the right place.

Malware

For a long time, the phrase ‘computer virus’ was misappropriated as a term to define every type of attack that intended to harm or hurt your computers and networks. A virus is actually a specific type of attack, or malware. Whereas a virus is designed to replicate itself, any software created for the purpose of destroying or unfairly accessing networks and data should be referred to as a type of malware.

Ransomware

Don’t let all the other words ending in ‘ware’ confuse you; they are all just subcategories of malware. Currently, one of the most popular of these is ‘ransomware,’ which encrypts valuable data until a ransom is paid for its return.

Intrusion Protection System

There are several ways to safeguard your network from malware, but intrusion protection systems (IPSs) are quickly becoming one of the non-negotiables. IPSs sit inside of your company’s firewall and look for suspicious and malicious activity that can be halted before it can deploy an exploit or take advantage of a known vulnerability.

Social Engineering

Not all types of malware rely solely on fancy computer programming. While the exact statistics are quite difficult to pin down, experts agree that the majority of attacks require some form of what is called ‘social engineering’ to be successful. Social engineering is the act of tricking people, rather than computers, into revealing sensitive or guarded information. Complicated software is totally unnecessary if you can just convince potential victims that you’re a security professional who needs their password to secure their account.

Phishing

Despite often relying on face-to-face interactions, social engineering does occasionally employ more technical methods. Phishing is the act of creating an application or website that impersonates a trustworthy, and often well-known business in an attempt to elicit confidential information. Just because you received an email that says it’s from the IRS doesn’t mean it should be taken at face value -- always verify the source of any service requesting your sensitive data.

Anti-virus

Anti-virus software is often misunderstood as a way to comprehensively secure your computers and workstations. These applications are just one piece of the cybersecurity puzzle and can only scan the drives on which they are installed for signs of well known malware variants.

Zero-day attacks

Malware is most dangerous when it has been released but not yet discovered by cybersecurity experts. When a vulnerability is found within a piece of software, vendors will release an update to amend the gap in security. However, if cyber attackers release a piece of malware that has never been seen before, and if that malware exploits one of these holes before the vulnerability is addressed, it is called a zero-day attack.

Patch

When software developers discover a security vulnerability in their programming, they usually release a small file to update and ‘patch’ this gap. Patches are essential to keeping your network secure from the vultures lurking on the internet. By checking for and installing patches as often as possible, you keep your software protected from the latest advances in malware.

Redundant data

When anti-virus software, patches, and intrusion detection fail to keep your information secure, there’s only one thing that will: quarantined off-site storage. Duplicating your data offline and storing it somewhere other than your business’s workspace ensures that if there is a malware infection, you’re equipped with backups.

We aren’t just creating a glossary of cyber security terms; every day, we’re writing a new chapter to the history of this ever-evolving industry. And no matter what you might think, we are available to impart that knowledge on anyone who comes knocking. Get in touch with us today and find out for yourself.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

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How is BYOD a security risk?

Bring your own device (BYOD) strategy is when an employee uses their personal mobile device to work with your company from anywhere. This strategy can bring about many advantages to your business such as increased efficiency and convenience. However, this can also bring a number of security risks for your IT infrastructure and data. If you’re thinking of incorporating BYOD in your office, consider some of the risks involved before making a decision.

Data leakage

The biggest reason why businesses are weary of implementing a BYOD strategy is because it can potentially leave the company’s system vulnerable to data breaches. Personal devices are not part of your business’s IT infrastructure, which means that these devices are not protected by company firewalls and systems. There is also a chance that an employee will take work with them, where they are not using the same encrypted servers that your company is using, leaving your system vulnerable to inherent security risks.

Lost devices

Another risk your company has to deal with, is the possibility of your employees losing their personal devices. When devices with sensitive business information are lost, there is a chance that this could end up falling into the wrong hands. Additionally, if an employee forgets to use a four digit PIN code to lock their smartphone or tablet, anyone can gain unauthorized access to valuable company data stored on that particular device. Therefore, your company should consider countermeasures for lost devices like completely wiping the device of information as soon as an employee reports a missing or stolen phone.

Hackers can infiltrate your system

Personal devices tend to lack adequate data encryption to keep people from snooping. This along with the fact that your employees might not have updated their devices can allow hackers to infiltrate your IT infrastructure.

Connecting to open Wifi spots makes your company more susceptible to hackers. Open wireless points in public places can put device owners at risk because there is a chance that hackers may have created that hotspot to trick people into connecting. Once the device owner has connected, attackers can simply surveil web activity and gain access to your company’s accounts.

Vulnerable to malware

Viruses are also a big problem when implementing BYOD strategies into your business. Using personal devices means your employees can access whatever sites or download any mobile apps that your business would normally restrict to protect your system.

Jailbreaking or rooting a device also puts your systems at risk because it removes limitations imposed by the manufacturer to keep the mobile software updated and protected against external threats. It’s best to understand that as your employees have the freedom to choose whatever device they want to work with, the process of keeping track of vulnerabilities and updates is considerably harder. So if you’re thinking about implementing BYOD strategies to your business, prepare your IT department for an array of potential malware attacks on different devices.

So you might be thinking that it would probably be best to just avoid implementing a BYOD strategy in the first place. However, BYOD will help your business grow and adapt to the modern workplace, and should not be dismissed as a legitimate IT solution. It’s just important to educate your company about these risks so that problems won’t occur for your business down the line.

If you need some help implementing IT security solutions for your company, or if you have any concerns regarding IT, give us a call.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

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How to find out if your computer has a virus

Your computer has been acting up a lot lately. It keeps crashing, it’s slow and, to top it off, you keep getting pop-ups you don’t want to see. If these problems keep occurring then your computer may have a virus. So is there a way to prevent things like this from happening again? While there are various antivirus solutions you can take, it’s best to know how malware affects your computer first so you can quickly recognize and deal with the problem. These are a few ways to find out if your computer has a virus before it’s too late.

Slow computer

The most common symptom of a malware infection is a slow running computer. Are your operating systems and programs taking a while to start up? Is your data bandwidth suspiciously slow? If so, your computer may potentially have a virus.

However, before you immediately assume your computer has a virus, you should check if there are other causes to your computer slowing down. Check if you’re running out of RAM. For Windows, open task manager (Ctrl + Shift + Esc) and go to the Performance tab and check how many gigabytes of RAM you are using under the Memory section. For Mac OS users, you can open the Activity Monitor app and under System Memory you should be able to find out your RAM usage.

Other causes of a slow system include a lack of space on your hard drive and damaged hardware. Once you’ve ruled out the other potential causes, then a virus may have infected your device.

Blue screen of death (BSOD)

If your PC crashes regularly, it’s usually either a technical problem with your system or a malware infection. You might not have installed the latest drivers for your device or the programs you’re running could possibly be incompatible with your hardware. If none of these problems are apparent in your PC then the virus could be conflicting with other programs causing your crashes.
To check what caused your last BSOD go to Control Panel> System and Security> Administrative Tools> Event Viewer and select Windows Logs. Those marked with an “error” are your recorded crashes. For troubleshooting solutions, consult forums or your IT department to figure out what to do next.

Programs opening and closing automatically

Malware can also be present when your programs are opening and closing automatically. However, do check if some programs are meant to behave this way or if they are simply incompatible to run with your hardware first before coming to the conclusion that your computer has a virus.

Lack of storage space

There are several types of malware that can manipulate the files saved on your computer. Most tend to fill up your hard drive with suspicious files. If you find any unknown programs that you have never installed before, don’t open the application, search up the program’s name over the Internet and use antivirus protections once you’re certain that it’s malware.

Suspicious modem and hard drive activity

Combined with the other warning signs, if your hard disk is working excessively while no programs are currently running or if you notice that your external modem is always lit then you should scan your computer for viruses.

Pop-ups, websites, toolbars and other unwanted programs

These are irritating signs that your computer has a virus. Pop-ups come from clicking on suspicious pages, answering survey questions to access a website’s service or installing free applications. Don’t click on ads where Jane says she earned $8000 a month staying at home. When you get pop-ups appearing out of the blue, refrain from clicking anywhere on the pop-up page and just close out of the window and use your anti-malware tool immediately.

Equally, free applications allow you to download their service for free but the installation process can be riddled with malware. When you’re installing a program from the Internet it’s easy to just skim over the terms and conditions page and repeatedly press next. This is where they get you. In the process of skipping over certain installation steps, you might have agreed to accepting a new default browser, opening unwanted websites and other programs filled with viruses. Just be cautious the next time you download something for free. It’s best to try avoiding any of these practices when you can in order to protect your computer.

You’re sending out spam

If your friends are telling you that you’ve been offering them suspicious messages and links over social media or email, you might be a victim of spyware. These may be caused from setting weak passwords to your accounts or forgetting to logout of them.

In the end, it’s best to know how malicious software affects your computer so you can take steps to rectify the situation as soon as possible. Regardless of whether or not your system has experienced these symptoms, it’s always smart to perform regular malware scans to ensure your business is safe. To find out more about malware and IT security, contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

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The curse of Chimera ransomware

There are numerous strains of malware out there, but one particularly unpleasant one is ransomware. While this malicious software has been around for some time, recently a newer, nastier upgrade was discovered. Posing a threat to businesses of all sizes, the program, called Chimera, has upped the ante when it comes to scaring its victims out of their hard-earned cash. But what exactly is this malware, and what do you need to look out for?

Business is booming in the world of cyber crime, and scammers, extortionists, phishers and hackers are constantly on the lookout for new ways to exploit our fears and naivety in order to boost their bank accounts, steal our data, or simply cause us mayhem for their own twisted pleasure. One of worst types of malware for playing with our emotions - and therefore increasing the likelihood of us capitulating to its demands - is ransomware. If you don’t know how this program works, read on for an introduction.

If your computer has been infected by ransomware, the first sign that something is wrong is normally discovering that you are unable to open one or more of your files. That’s because the malware encrypts them, rendering them completely inaccessible. The next thing you see will be a ‘ransom note’, either in the form of an email or a notice that appears directly on your screen. You will be told that if you want to see your files again you will need to pay a sum of money. After making payment you will (allegedly) be sent a code that will allow you to decrypt your files.

Some types of ransomware up the fear factor even further by pretending that the FBI, CIA or other national law enforcement or government agency is behind the ‘kidnapping’. You will be told that your files are being held hostage because you have downloaded pirated software or files, or visited an illegal or illicit website - such as those depicting extreme pornography or threatening national security. Regardless of whether or not you are guilty of any of the above - be it a visit to an x-rated website, or downloading a pirated copy of the latest episode of The Walking Dead, your first instinct is probably to panic. The thought of no longer having access to any of our information, files or data is enough to make most of us break out into a cold sweat. If you haven’t backed up, everything from your vacation pictures to your company’s data could be lost for good.

The problem for ransomware creators, however, is that many users have wisened up to their tactics, and are refusing to pay, instead calling in an IT specialist to try and restore their encrypted files. This has left cyber criminals needing to find a way to boost ‘trade’. And that is where Chimera comes in. Christened by the Anti-Botnet Advisory Centre - a part of Germany’s Association of the Internet Industry - unlike previous forms of ransomware, which were indiscriminate when choosing their victims, this latest threat primarily targets businesses.

An employee will receive an email, purporting to be an application for a job within your firm, or some kind of corporate deal. This email will include a link ostensibly to the applicant’s resume or to details of the offer, but will in fact go to an infected file stored in Dropbox. Chimera then infects the user’s computer and encrypts any local files. Once the PC has been rebooted, the ransom note will be displayed on the desktop. Payment is usually set at around $680 USD, which must be paid in Bitcoins. And in order to further scare the victim into paying, the note will also state that failure to make payment will result in the user’s files being published online.

If there is a slight silver lining to the Chimera cloud, it is that the Anti-Botnet Advisory Centre has not found any proof that files have been published - at least not yet. In fact, it is still unknown whether the ransomware does actually take the encrypted files or if it is just an empty threat. Regardless, it is still a threat which could easily convince many users to pay the ransom. And should Chimera make good on its threats, the ramifications for a business are huge - and that’s without taking into consideration the nightmare of having your files encrypted in the first place. With Chimera targeting businesses of all sizes, and random employees within the business at that, isn’t it time you took another good look at your organization’s security posture?

Contact us today and talk to one of our security experts. We’ll be more than happy to help ensure that your small or medium-sized business isn’t taken hostage by Chimera or any other type of ransomware.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

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Security rules for SMBs to follow

While small businesses lack the big budgets of their enterprise counterparts, that doesn’t make security any less of an issue for SMBs. In fact, small and medium businesses are more and more often the target of cyber criminals precisely because they generally have fewer security measures in place. So to ensure your business has enough security to stay protected, here are a number of rules every SMB should follow to keep themselves secure.

Recognize where your most critical data lies

Is it in the cloud? Hard drives? Backup disks? Mobile devices? Whether or not you have the budget and resources to adequately secure all of your data, the critical data that your business relies on must be sufficiently secure. If you’re unsure of what that is, ask yourself which data you would need to access within 24 hours of your business suffering a major disaster, in order to ensure your operations remained up and running. Once you’ve answered this question, talk with your IT managers to determine the security measures that need to be implemented to protect your most vital data.

Learn the basics

After you’ve bulletproofed your critical data, it’s time to arm your network with the basics. If you haven’t already done so, ensure that you have anti-malware protection on servers and endpoints, and firewalls for both wireless and wired access points.

If you have the budget, it’s worth seeking outside counsel from an IT expert fluent in today’s security best practices. They’ll ensure your business is protected from the latest cyber threats. However, if you don’t have the budget, then it’s time to take matters into your own hands. Read up on security trends, join technology networking groups, and ask your fellow business owners about their own IT security policies.

Cash a reality check

Bad things happen to nice people. Tornadoes, fires, thieves, and faulty technology couldn’t care less about how your business donates to local charities and supports your community’s youth sports clubs. What’s more, hundreds of small businesses across the country suffer severe data loss each year. Ignorance and turning a blind eye will not protect you, so make a wise decision and automate your data to be backed up daily. This allows your business to remain in operation if you’re hit by a security breach.

Dispose of old technology properly

Whether it’s a computer, server or tablet, any device that stores data on it must be properly disposed of when it conks out. Specifically, the hard disk must be destroyed completely. And remember, proper data disposal is not only limited to technology, as critical information is also revealed on paper files. So if you’re migrating the content of physical documents to the cloud, make sure to shred the paper versions too.

Mind your mobiles

The mobile age is here, and along with it come employees who may access your business’s critical information via their smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices. Recognize that many of these devices have different operating systems that require varying security measures. You and your IT manager should be aware of this, which leads to our last point...

Think policy

Have a policy for all your company’s devices. If you don’t inform your employees they shouldn’t access company information via their phones or tablets, then they’ll likely assume it’s okay to do so. But thinking policy doesn’t pertain only to mobiles. You should also determine acceptable online behavior for your employees, as well as how data should be shared and restricted. Put this in writing, and then have your employees read and sign it.

Of course, it’s not always wise to be overly restrictive. Rather the point is to have policies in place and make everyone in your organization aware of them because if you don’t each staff member will make up their own rules.

Are you concerned your business’s security isn’t up to par? Need the guidance of a seasoned IT provider who specializes in security? Talk to us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

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WhatsApp bug exposes users to hackers

Vulnerabilities in the web-based version of popular instant messaging app WhatsApp recently left up to 200 million users exposed to hackers and malware. The bug was picked up by an Israeli IT security firm, and WhatsApp put a fix in place before news of the potential threat spread. Nevertheless, it highlights the need to remain vigilant when using apps like WhatsApp, whether for business reasons or in a personal setting. Here’s what you need to know about the security incident and how to protect yourself going forward.

The web-based version of the WhatsApp app was only launched a few months back, initially for WhatsApp accounts on Android and Windows Phone devices and later for those on iPhones, but has already grown in popularity. The recent security vulnerability related to vCards, electronic business cards shared by WhatsApp users, and effectively amounted to a kind of phishing.

An error in the WhatsApp web client meant that less-than-innocuous vCard business cards created by hackers were not properly filtered out by the app. As a result, these phishing-style cards made it through to users who, if they clicked them, were at risk of the cards converting themselves to more harmful executable scripts once downloaded - and potentially accessing and playing foul with users’ personal data. There are even reports of a ransomware approach being taken by hackers in this case, with attempts being made to extort cash from WhatsApp users in exchange for restored access to their infected devices and hijacked data.

WhatsApp put a fix in place, by releasing an updated version of the app, prior to making public news of the security vulnerability. It’s worth making sure you have the latest version of WhatsApp installed on your phone, if you haven’t checked recently - WhatsApp’s phone and web versions are linked to one another, so ensuring you are up-to-date on your phone is the way to ensure you’re safe when using the web client too. The patch is also available directly through the web client, though this won’t update your phone’s version of the app at the same time.

The whole affair also serves as a timely reminder that it pays to be vigilant when it comes to using WhatsApp and other instant messaging platforms - including email. Avoid opening links or downloading files that you’re not expecting to receive, and proceed with caution even if you were anticipating them. It’s better to double check with the sender that they’re consciously passing a file to you, and that they’re fully aware of its contents, than to wait until your device has been infected and damage has potentially been inflicted on your vital data.

Want to learn how to keep your devices safe from phishing attempts and other potential security vulnerabilities? Give us a call and let us equip you with tamperproof solutions.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

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4 different types of malware: explained

Over the decades of the internet’s existence, cyber threats have evolved at a rapid pace. When once there were only viruses and malware to watch out for, now you have to protect your business from worms, trojans, ransomware and dozens of other online threats. But what’s the difference between all of them? Let's take a look. Here are four of today’s most common cyber threats and the tips you need to protect your business from them.

Malware

Malware is the short version of the word malicious software. And this is a general term that encompasses many types of online threats including spyware, viruses, worms, trojans, adware, ransomware and more. Though you likely already know this, the purpose of malware is to specifically infect and harm your computer and potentially steal your information.

But how do the different types of malware differ from one another? How can you protect your business from them? Let’s take a look at four of the most common forms of malware below.

Virus - like a virus that can infect a person, a computer virus is a contagious piece of code that infects software and then spreads from file to file on a system. When infected software or files are shared between computers, the virus then spreads to the new host.

The best way to protect yourself from viruses is with a reliable antivirus program that is kept updated. Additionally, you should be wary of any executable files you receive because viruses often come packaged in this form. For example, if you’re sent a video file, be aware that if the name includes an “exe” extension like .mov.exe, you’re almost certainly dealing with a virus.

Spyware - just like a spy, a hacker uses spyware to track your internet activities and steal your information without you being aware of it. What kind of information is likely to be stolen by Spyware? Credit card numbers and passwords are two common targets.

And if stealing your information isn’t bad enough, Spyware is also known to cause PC slowdown, especially when there is more than one program running on your system - which is usually the case with a system that’s infected.

A common mistake many people make is they assume their antivirus software automatically protects them from Spyware. This is not always true as some antivirus isn’t designed to catch spyware. If you’re unsure if your antivirus prevents Spyware, get verification from your vendor. And for those that are already suffering from Spyware infestation, two programs that work wonders to clean it out are Malwarebytes and SuperAntiSpyware.

Worms - similar to viruses, worms also replicate themselves and spread when they infect a computer. The difference, however, between a worm and a virus is that a worm doesn’t require the help of a human or host program to spread. Instead, they self-replicate and spread across networks without the guidance of a hacker or a file/program to latch onto.

In addition to a reliable antivirus software, to prevent worms from infecting your system you should ensure your firewall is activated and working properly.

Trojan - like the trojan horse from ancient greek mythology, this type of malware is disguised as a safe program designed to fool users, so that they unwittingly install it on their own system, and later are sabotaged by it. Generally, the hacker uses a trojan to steal both financial and personal information. It can do this by creating a “backdoor” to your computer that allows the hacker to remotely control it.

Similar to the other malware mentioned above, antivirus software is a dependable way to protect yourself against trojans. For further safety, it’s wise to not open up suspicious attachments, and also ensure that your staff members aren't downloading any programs or applications illegally at the office - as this is a favorite place hackers like to hide trojans.

Curious to learn about other common malware that can cause trouble for business owners? Want to upgrade your existing network security system? Give us a call today, we’re sure we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

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