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?
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?