In 2017, we here at Bennett/Porter took a year off from hosting our annual Connections conference to focus on expanding our software and service offerings. This year we return with and we invite you and your colleagues to join us.
It's been just over one week since Microsoft, Apple, and numerous software vendors released updates to patch their operating systems and applications with the goal of mitigating the impacts of Meltdown and Spectre. As those efforts were getting underway, we reported on what these threats are, things you might need to know, and what Bennett/Porter was focusing on to keep our data center secure. So where are we now? Here's a rundown.
Today we notified our customers about important security updates available for computers and servers using Intel processors; as well as for the VIPRE antivirus program. As you may be aware, the recently announced security vulnerabilities, known as Meltdown and Spectre, can be found in virtually all modern CPUs, and they represent possible information leakage based on unauthorized access to shared memory space. For those who haven't heard about this new type of network security threat, we thought it would be helpful to get the word out more broadly via this brief post so that people have at least the basic information about Meltdown and Spectre.
Using a Managed Services Provider (MSP) to assist your company’s Information Technology needs has several advantages. If your business is like most, you have technology that is in constant need of updating, maintenance, and even replacement. Many companies will hire an IT person to handle these tasks, and in many cases that company will either outgrow that person or - on the opposite end of the spectrum - not have enough for the hire to do.
Topics: Information Technology
No one likes talking about backups. No one is going to bring up the topic of “off-site replication” at the next bonfire. Small businesses often don’t see the need to spend money to ensure that their vital data is backed up. After all, you just bought new hardware last year. Why would it fail? Sending data off-site? Why would I pay for that when it is perfectly secure here?
Unfortunately, bad things sometimes happen to good people. Whenever a fire, flood, user error, hardware failure, crime, or anything else occurs, it can absolutely cripple your day-to-day business functions. It’s the same reason why most of us carry insurance, and investing in a rock-solid backup solution is no different. Having a reliable restoration solution can save you time, money, and Advil when the worst happens.
You might've heard about the most recent Ransomware attack. Not surprisingly, cyber-crime has been continually on the rise since the inception of the Internet. Estimates on the cost of damage done to businesses range from $400-500 billion yearly. Even IBM’s own CEO believes that “cyber-crime is the greatest threat to every company in the world." Even though cyber-crime is increasingly common, human error represents 58% of downtime in the business world, while natural disaster represents 10% of downtime. Beyond that, 93% of companies that lost their data center for 10 days or more filed for bankruptcy. Of those, 51% close within two years, and 43% never reopen. The average cost of downtime per hour will vary, but 98% of organizations say a single hour of downtime will cost them over $100,000.
When server hardware fails, it does not take long for people to notice. As soon as the emails stop sending and arriving, panic mode sets in. Thanks to sound backups, we’re able to revive the server; sometimes within an hour. If the server can’t be revived physically, we can use another server to run the (dead) server virtually using the last backup taken. So downtime is kept to a minimum, and the flow of business can continue.
Recently, we've had small businesses reach out to us in need of assistance because of their servers being CryptoLocker’d. Often, they didn’t have a backup solution in place, and unless there’s a publicly available key to remove the lock, there isn’t anything that can be done besides paying the ransom. With a backup solution in place, the server can be restored to an earlier point in time (before it was infected), and business can continue. Viruses can also infect other servers on the network, so the machine it originated from is often not the only machine it infects. This is why off-site replication is very important. If the folder that stores the backups becomes infected, your only hope to restore your server is gone. We send all backups to our secure off-site server, so there are at least two copies of the data. We might have to drive/send the data over to restore, but that’s better than losing everything (or paying through the nose for it, which isn’t even guaranteed to work).
We have used Storagecraft products for years now and have become very comfortable with them. They are fast, reliable, and they offer peace of mind for our customers and us. We have been able to restore lost folders, restore Exchange databases, and restore complete servers at a surprisingly quick pace using Storagecraft’s products.
New web leaks are being reported regularly. In the last month Google uncovered what is likely the most troubling leak in 2017. So far. And we're just past halfway through March. The CloudBleed bug may have exposed passwords and other sensitive data from a multitude of sites, including major services like FitBit, Uber, and 1Password. We recommend clients change their passwords at least every six months, and immediately after discovering any vulnerabilities to your accounts.
When changing their passwords, clients often ask what the requirements are. I respond with the common minimum requirements: it must include at least two numbers, two upper case characters, and it must be a minimum of 12 characters long. Unfortunately, that question often indicates an intention to meet the minimum and no more. Although meeting those basic requirements is a good practice, the best practice is having a unique password that exceeds the minimum, that is also personal enough to remember, and that only you will know.
Undoubtedly, you’ve seen news reports about scams where someone cold calls phone numbers, claiming to be from Microsoft or the IRS, and dupes their victims out of money or their identity. What most people don’t realize, however, is that it’s just as easy for scammers to pretend to be someone else over email.
Using compromised or poorly secured email servers anywhere in the world, scammers can make an email appear as if it came from a recognized contact or company VIP. In many cases, these emails will take the form of a request for a wire transfer.
Email has become the primary channel of communication in most business offices, which makes it a prime target for malware distribution since users tend to function on autopilot when they use it. If you receive dozens - or even hundreds - of invoices or shipment notifications a day, you may not notice that one of these isn’t from a familiar source before you open it to find out what it is. Sometimes simply opening a file is all it takes to let malware in, leading to all of the files on your shared drive becoming encrypted and inaccessible.
The most common question we hear following a malware infection or security breach is this: “How did this happen!?” In most cases, it’s difficult to find an answer to this question without hours of analysis. However, the vast majority of cases can be attributed to end-users being tricked into doing something by someone with malicious intent.The standard protective measures consisting of anti-virus, spam filtering, and a firewall are critical components to keeping your network safe, and they will prevent a massive number of potential threats, infections, and breaches. Still, they will never be 100% foolproof. I often use the image of a bulletproof vest to describe the effect of these security layers: they’ll protect you from most shots, but they won't make you invincible. Malware authors will always find new techniques and exploits. Malware is an arms race in which security vendors constantly patch exploits and close loopholes only for another new threat to pop up right around the corner. Users will be fooled into believing something is legitimate. They’ll click through a half-dozen warnings from your security measures because they’re convinced these are false-positives; only to find out hours later that they’ve been hit by Cryptolocker.
For the past year or two, a new type of malware, commonly known as CryptoLocker, has been in the wild. Rather than make it appear like you have a dozen viruses and demand money to remove them, the mischief-makers have escalated to permanently damaging/corrupting your files unless you pay to decrypt them. If this occurs, there are only two ways to get your files back: restore from an isolated back-up or pay them, and paying them generally doesn’t work.
In most cases, if you’re a Bennett/Porter IT client, you have a backup system in place. However, please note that it is typically only the servers being backed up. In the event that a user is storing critical files locally, they may be lost if that person's workstation is infected. So, beyond standard anti-virus protection, how can you defend your network from this threat and minimize the damage if it gets through?