More and more businesses and organizations are getting stung by ransomware demands. Hospitals, schools, social networks…some days it seems like an epidemic that leaps around arbitrarily, and hackers are raking in millions.
Tallied across the word…billions.
Ransomware attacks are devious in their simplicity. A user in the target business is tricked into opening a file, usually through a phishing email or download. The file contains malware which instantly encrypts your data and demands money in exchange for the password.
No payment = no password = no data.
All of the target businesses should have backups, which they could simply revert to without paying any money, but the FBI reports more than $209 million was sent to hackers in the first quarter of this year alone. Keep in mind, this was just payments within the US, and only counts those who came forward.
Last year it was only $25 million.
Aren’t backups helping?
Sometimes the backup solution fails and the data can’t be retrieved. This is particularly true in cases where the solution has been in use for years and something failed along the way.
In other instances, the target business has a backup that can be restored, but it doesn’t include everything they need for full recovery.
Finally, and the most common reason so many businesses are forced to pay the ransom: the ransomware attack affects the entire system – including attached and synchronized backups. If the backup is also caught in the ransomware encryption, it becomes useless as a recovery method and the only options are to pay or lose the data forever.
Each day spent trying to recover the data is a drain on valuable business resources and in many cases, results in massive revenue loss.
The only defense is to block the malware before it can infect the first workstation, and then continue the protection with a comprehensive backup strategy for all workstations and servers.
Give us a call to discuss how we can help secure your business against ransomware today. 262-515-9499
Your computer is down for the count. You’ve tried the perennial favorite – turning it off and back on again – but somehow, your tech magic has not worked this time! You need help, and you want it fast. The question is whether to take it to a local computer business or big-box store for repair.
Many big-box stores offer depot computer repair. Why are we calling it depot repair? Because just like at a bus or train depot, that store is only one stop on your computer’s repair journey. Typically, the store does not have the facilities to repair your laptop or desktop on-site. Also, their employees lack the skills to do the work right there.
Instead, that computer, along with all your important files, is shipped on to another location. This presents some problems:
That’s why we recommend getting your computers repaired at a local business with the skills and facilities to do the work on-site.
Benefits of Small Business RepairWhen you take your device to a locally owned small business, you know at all times who is handling your computer. You often hand over your laptop or desktop to the person fixing it, or at least to someone who is in direct contact with the person doing the repair.
Fewer people are going to have their hands on your device. You’re not dropping it off at one location to travel to another location via a major shipping company’s trucks, which means there’s greater accountability.
Another advantage is that should something come up while your computer is in for repair, you could actually get to your device, because it’s not on a loading dock or in some pile of laptops in a manufacturer’s centralized computer repair shop. You can simply take your thumb drive down the road and ask to power the computer on and retrieve what you need, assuming that the device still turns on, that is.
Selecting the Small Business for Your Repair When selecting a local computer business to do the repair, do your research first. It’s a good idea to ask about the following:
Some local computer experts will be able to fix your problems without you needing to go to them. Depending on the issue, they may be able to resolve the situation using remote access software, or they could be willing to come to you.
If you’re looking for a partner with a proven track record of giving quality computer service, contact us today!
Companies that suffer security breaches nearly always have one of these IT security problems. Is your company guilty of any of them?
A shocking number of businesses are not backing up their data properly. According to market research company Clutch, 60 percent of businesses who suffer a data loss shut down within six months.
Not only should every business be fully backing up their data, but their backups should be regularly tested to work too. It's a step that businesses miss surprisingly often. Many businesses don't find out that their backup can't be used until it's already too late.
Reactive and not proactive
The world is constantly changing. The IT world doubly so. Attackers are always figuring out new ways to break into businesses, hardware evolves faster than most can keep up, and old systems fail due to wear and tear far quicker than we would like. A huge number of businesses wait until these issues impact them directly before they respond. The result is higher costs, longer downtime, and harder hitting impacts.
By responding to hardware warnings before it fails, fixing security holes before they're exploited, and upgrading systems before they are out of date: IT can be done the right way. Being proactive about your IT needs means systems don't have to break or compromised before they are fixed. The result for your business is less downtime, fewer losses, and lower IT costs.
A surprising number of people will use the password "password" to secure some of their most important accounts. Even more still will write their own password on a post-it note next to their computer. In some cases, many will even use no password at all. Strong passwords act, not only as a barrier to prevent unwanted entry, but as a vital accountability tool too. When system changes are made it's often essential that the account that made changes is secured to the right person.
With an insecure password or worse; none at all, tracking the individual responsible for reports or accountability becomes impossible. This can result in both auditing disasters on top of technical ones.
Insufficient Staff Training
Humans in the system are commonly the weakest point in IT security. Great IT security can be a bit like having state-of-the-art locks on a door propped open with a milk crate. If staff aren't trained to use the lock, it's worth nothing at all.
Often times businesses can justify spending big on security for the latest and greatest IT defenses. The very same firms may exceed their budget and spend almost zero on training staff to use them. In this instance, a little goes a long way. Security training can help staff to identify a threat where it takes place, avoiding and mitigating damage, often completely.
Weak Data Controls
Some companies can take an ad-hoc, fast and loose approach to storing professional data. Often crucial parts can be spread across many devices, copied needlessly, and sometimes even left unsecured. Client data can be found regularly on employee laptops, mobile phones, and tablet devices. These are famously prone to being misplaced or stolen out in the field along with vital client and security data.
It can be easy for both employees and firms to focus on the costs of devices and hardware purchased for the business. The reality is that the data held on devices is almost always worth many times more than the device that holds it. For many firms, their approach to data hasn't been changed since the firm was first founded. Critical data is often held on single machines that haven't been updated precisely because they hold critical data. Such machines are clearly vulnerable, outdated, and prone to failure.
Common problems with simple solutions
Each of these common issues have simple solutions to secure against IT failure. With a professional eye and expertise in the field, every business should be defended against IT issues that risk the firm.
If you need help securing your IT to protect your business, give us a call at 262-515-9499.
Anti-virus programs don’t catch viruses when they’re not running. Yes, it’s blatantly obvious, but what’s not always clear is how often your staff are disabling your anti-virus programs so they can squeeze in a little playtime. Maybe download and install a game, free app or get through the block to a suspicious website. It happens in businesses across the country, and more often than you think. It’s just human nature to see a problem and work around it, because surely their computer won’t be infected, those things only happen to other people.
Unfortunately, the biggest threat to your data and network security is your staff. Fantastic, loyal, hardworking people, who make occasional silly decisions. Even the innocent ones, like ignoring the virus software update that keeps popping up, requesting to download the latest protections. Your staff aren’t intentionally putting your systems at risk, but they are creating a weak link that exposes your business to attacks that may cost you thousands.
That’s the key difference between free anti-virus and managed anti-virus. Free solutions were created for home use, where self-induced breaches aren’t such a big deal. The license on free solutions is usually in fact only for home usage. This is because in a business setting, even the slightest gap in your digital walls can lead to lost revenue, delays and even lawsuits. With a managed anti-virus solution, your staff can’t do those things. They literally can’t disable the protections or uninstall it, and updates happen automatically.
With the benefit of human oversight, we’re able to see when machines aren’t fully protected or have already become infected. Managed anti-virus means just that – we manage it for you – so that we know when there’s an issue and can take the necessary actions. Often working invisibly to your employees, we can remotely fix small problems before they become big problems, which leaves your employees feeling trusted while your business remains secure.
Managed anti-virus gives your business protection on a much higher level, because let’s face it, the stakes are much bigger. It takes software control out of the end users hands and puts your system security in the hands of an expert. The program can’t be disabled without a password, nor can it be uninstalled by anyone without the highest permissions. When updates are released they are downloaded and applied automatically. No delays, no putting it off until later, no gaps in your digital walls.
When to switch: This is around the size where it becomes impossible to monitor each computer individually without a full-time IT technician on your team. Users may be spread out across the network and you’re way too busy to stand watch over them while they work.
For a very small fee per computer each month, all the costly stress and drama of defending your business network against the latest attack simply goes away. It’s all managed centrally by a company such as ours, so you can get on with doing what you do best – running a profitable business.
Find out how affordable managed anti-virus really is, call us today at 262-515-9499
When you sign up for an internet service, the provider will hook you up with an email address, too. Your internet service provider (ISP) wants to keep you connected to them. But this convenient email address isn’t always the best long-term solution for you.
That “email@example.com" email address may work fine. You use it to keep in touch with your family and friends, you get bills to that address, and you’ve used it to login to your social media and online news and shopping sites.
But relying on your ISP for your email address may not be the best strategy for you. Here are some drawbacks to consider.
#1 If you rely on your @isprovider.com address, you could end up locked in with poor service or high prices. You feel stuck because you can’t take your email address with you if you want to switch providers.
#2 Internet service providers are not in the email business, whereas email providers such as Gmail and Outlook are always working to improve. Your ISP may not have updated its email offerings for a decade.
#3 Most ISPs have very limited storage space for email, which can make your service less reliable and convenient.
#4 Also, ISPs don’t make the same effort to keep your email secure and your inbox spam free. A provider more focused on email services offers more sophisticated filtering. ISP emails usually have primitive spam filtering that is easy to bypass.
#5 With an ISP email, your email is often accessible only on the provider’s mail servers, and you need to be able to access those servers to get to your emails. A cloud-based email provider lets you access your inbox via a Web browser. So, it doesn’t matter where in the world you are; you can still get access.
#6 You might be supporting a local ISP with your business. If that smaller provider goes belly up, however, your email address is gone forever, too.
Making the switch to an email provider
You may feel compelled to remain loyal to your ISP because changing your email address is a headache. Yet migrating to a Web-based email provider on your terms will help.
You'll have a smoother transition if your ISP allows you to download your current address book.
Fortunately, once you make the switch to a Web/cloud-based email provider, you can move ISPs without it making any difference to your email communications.
You could even pay a small fee to upgrade your email with a custom domain name. Maybe you’ve always wanted to have your email come from @yourlastname.com, because it looks cool. Or, if you have a home business, you could have your email come from @yourbusiness.com. This looks more professional, and you can move the address to any provider, as the domain remains the same.
Whether you’re using an ISP or Web/cloud-based email provider, it’s also a good idea to back up your emails. By downloading and backing up your email, you gain more control and peace of mind.
We can help you find the right email provider or ISP for your needs. We’ll help you migrate your email, and we can set up a backup too. Let us help you, call us now at 262-515-9499.
A firewall sounds like a pretty intense thing – unless you’re an action-movie stuntman. Yet when it comes to internet security, you may not have as much firewall protection as you need.
Many internet security products bundle antivirus and firewall software, and many users think this is enough. But first, let’s be clear about what a software firewall actually does:
There are drawbacks, though. Software firewalls work only on the computers on which they are installed, and you’ll need to buy multiple licenses to protect several computers.
You also need expertise to administer the firewall to keep up with changing threats. And there are security threats. Bad actors target software firewalls. They're right there on the computer they seek to exploit.
Beefing Up Your Firewalls
Many businesses also use hardware firewalls to add security. A hardware firewall around your office network acts as a perimeter boundary. The hardware firewall is like the border guard keeping an eye out for dangerous traffic. The firewall inspects incoming internet traffic to protect you from malware and cyber-threats.
IT experts can set up firewalls to pass only safe data. This adds a layer of protection to your network and also secures network-connected devices. Workstations, printers, digital equipment, and telephone systems often don't have software firewalls.
So, combining firewalls protects both local computers and other devices on your network. The hardware firewall checks traffic coming in from and going out to the internet, whereas the software firewall secures what’s coming into or out of the computer, even from internet sources.
Think about it this way: A cyber-criminal is trying to access your systems. They take many approaches, one of which is trying to breach your network perimeter. Another is sending targeted communications to sucker someone into clicking on a virus-laden email. The hardware firewall could stop the perimeter attack, but the software helps stop the malware infection spreading from the user’s computer to others in your office.
Partner with a Firewall Expert
Firewalls can give your business tremendous control over:
Yet both software and hardware firewalls need the right expertise to install correctly. Firewalls must be regularly monitored and managed, because threats are constantly changing.
Combining firewalls adds protection but only if you configure them to minimize weaknesses. You’ll need someone to identify compatibility issues and avoid blocking legitimate data.
Partner with an IT expert. We know how to work with firewall rules, and understand what they mean and how to react to alerts generated. Have you heard of a breach that compromised Target's point of sale systems? That fiasco involved ignored firewall alerts! Don't let it happen to you.
We can help you set up and maintain the firewall protection you need. Contact us today at 262-515-9499!
Fresh-baked cookies are yummy, but you may not have the same positive associations with cookies on your computer. Here’s what you need to know about cookies and what they mean for your internet browsing.
A website cookie is a small piece of text the website you are visiting stores on your computer.
Cookies are equivalent to your ticket to get onto the website. Website owners track your individualized code to gather information.
Cookies tell the website that the user has been to the site before. The website can recall personal login information and other preferences. A shopping site will remember your cart and let you continue shopping, or suggest other goods you might like.
Viewing and Controlling Cookies
So, why are sites asking for permission to store their cookies on your computer? Users are more concerned now about the digital footprint they are leaving on the Web: they want to protect their Web history.
Let’s be clear. When you accept a cookie, you are not allowing access to your computer or any of your personal data, unless you have knowingly provided it as you do when online shopping, that is.
Also, it’s not possible to execute code from a cookie. That means a bad actor can’t use a cookie to deliver a virus or malware.
Overall, cookies on their own are safe. Agreeing to first-party cookies from the website simplifies session management, personalization, and tracking.
The danger comes from third-party cookies generated by advertisers or analytics companies. Say, for instance, you surf to a webpage that has 10 ads on it. You don’t even have to click on any of those ads to generate 10 cookies. These cookies track your browsing history across the Web on any site carrying their ads. That’s why people are becoming more wary of the privacy implications.
That’s the Way the Cookie CrumblesUsers can make their own cookie choices. Those who allow cookies will enjoy a more streamlined Web surfing experience. Those who don't want cookies tracking their browsing history will opt out. Without cookies these users have to re-enter their data every time they visit a website.
Often you can control your cookies in your browser settings. In Google Chrome, for example, you’d select “Settings” from the menu drop down in the upper-right corner, then “show advanced settings” and then “content settings.” In the Cookies section you might choose “Keep local data only until you quit your browser” and “block third-party cookies and site data.”
If you’re really annoyed by the pop-ups asking you about cookie use, you can install a browser add-on, too.
The “Incognito” mode on your browser can be used to save cookies for the current session, but when you close the browser the cookies will be deleted.
We can help you minimize the extent to which you are being tracked on the internet. Contact our IT experts today at 262-515-9499. If you want to serve actual cookies if we visit you at home to do the work, we won’t complain.
The Rolling Stones sang, “Hey you, get off my cloud,” yet businesses might want to think instead about leaving the public cloud. Weigh these possible public cloud concerns against the advantages of alternate cloud solutions.
When most people think of the cloud, they are thinking of the public cloud. Apple users are on its iCloud. Others may be storing files on Dropbox, OneDrive, Google Cloud, or other services. These all typically have a free level of service. You can pay a monthly fee to upgrade based on the resources you use.
Cloud data is easy to store and access. This can enhance business productivity and efficiency. Added advantages of hosted cloud services – public or private – include the following:
Yet there are some drawbacks to the public cloud. The public cloud is affordable because businesses share resources. The cloud service provider relies on economies of scale. They bring many businesses together for the same services, and it all adds up. But if you’re in an industry with high compliance requirements, the public cloud is a risk.
Advantages of the Private CloudThe private cloud offers the same benefits as the public cloud – and more.
A private cloud solution is dedicated to your business: yours is the only data on the server. This is a more secure solution offering greater visibility and infrastructure control.
A private cloud can be on- or off-premises. On-premise, your IT team sets up, manages, and maintains the cloud infrastructure. Off-premises, a cloud services provider customizes a dedicated and secure cloud.
The private cloud is appealing to regulated industries, government agencies, and tech companies needing strong controls. It is more expensive but allows businesses to easily access data, applications, and backups, and with reduced security risks.
Cloud Flexibility with a Hybrid OptionA third alternative is the hybrid cloud. The business takes advantage of both public and private cloud solutions. You decide which apps and data workloads need more security. Meanwhile, the public cloud is available to offer cost savings and efficiency, plus, it can be a backup for sporadic traffic spikes.
The hybrid option, though, requires strong integration between private and public cloud deployments. Managing the mix of architectures can prove challenging.
Understanding the difference between these cloud offerings can help you choose the best for your business.
Need help migrating to the cloud or changing your cloud solution? Our IT experts can help you weigh the tradeoffs and determine the best one for your needs. Contact us today at 262-515-9499!
Cybercrooks are disturbing people. Consider job-search scams. With the world economy reeling, bad actors are capitalizing on people’s desperation. They’re targeting those looking for work. There are steps you can take to filter out illegitimate opportunities.
Cybercriminals like to be timely. Plus, appealing to people’s emotions improves their success rate, so it’s not that surprising that there’s been an uptick in job-listing scams in 2020.
The bad guys are betting people will be less cautious when they see an attractive job offer. Don’t be their victim. Take these steps instead.
Read the job description carefully
Be wary of instant hiring
No matter the industry, few positions are filled immediately. You should expect the recruiting process to take time. If you are being pressured to take hiring steps urgently, that should be a red flag. Get an email congratulating you on earning the position before you’ve met with anyone? Proceed with caution.
Question modes of communication
Job scammers will rely on online chat interviews and email. If you don't speak in person with someone, it will be more difficult for you to confirm legitimacy. With emails, read the return address carefully. A scam job might use a close approximation to a big brand to add credibility. (You have to look closely to distinguish between nationalbank.com and nationlbank.com.)
A good strategy is to search the company’s website for a job listing. If you don’t see the role you’re interested in posted, investigate further.
Don’t pay for a job opportunity
Don't pay an upfront fee for a background check, uniform, or some other testing or training. Don't provide any of your private personal information at the outset either. Don’t send tax or banking details before a formal offer of employment. Even then, be aware that some scammers take it from start to finish, including interview and job offer.
Trust your instincts
If the job sounds amazing, and you can’t believe how perfect it is, scrutinize the posting. A listing posting an exorbitant fee for easy work or telling you about the stupendous success of another candidate is likely a fraud. Confirm standard job expectations and salary with an online search of career listings.
Falling prey to a job or other cyberfraud can leave you vulnerable to more than disappointment. Victims report loss of money, identity theft, or computer hacking, and more. An IT expert can help with security patches and system upgrades to keep your devices and network safe.
A few months ago we thought working from home would be temporary: a couple of weeks of remote work was going to help corral this coronavirus thing, and we’d get back to usual. Now we know better, and the things we could put up with in the short term loom as bigger challenges. Poor internet connectivity is one of those.
Many home internet connections were fine before. Someone in the family could be streaming Netflix, and another person could be checking email or paying bills – no biggie. Yet the demands on the internet connection have grown exponentially. People still want to do all those things, but students are also connecting to online learning platforms. Employees are logging in to video conferences, too.
Many businesses and their employees have seen the benefits of working from home during the pandemic. However, as remote work becomes a long-term solution, people can’t continue making do with subpar internet connectivity. What can be done?
Improving Internet Connectivity
Internet connections vary widely depending on where you are. You could enjoy blazing fast internet that allows you to upload large files in minutes even while someone else blasts zombies in a multi-player video game. Yet a few streets away, a user lacks the bandwidth to participate in a conference call without connectivity issues.
Home office internet connectivity depends on several factors, one of which is your internet service provider (ISP). Some ISPs simply aren’t as good. They may be cheaper, but they could be overselling their capabilities, which results in slowdowns at night. Higher-priced ISPs are less likely to have this problem. You may gain speed by simply switching to a different provider.
The kind of network connectivity available is also a consideration. Perhaps your network provider’s signal is carried over copper wiring. If that’s the case, the internet signal degrades with distance. Those physically further away from the exchange will have slower internet than someone closer in. Unless you want to move houses, there’s not a lot you can do about this one.
Still, fiber-optic cables are increasingly available in different areas. The ISPs charge more for these connections, but reliability benefits. Fiber loses only 3% of its signal over distances greater than 100 meters, whereas copper can lose up to 94%! At the same time, fiber is more durable and lacks the conductivity issues of copper, which can be vulnerable to power lines, lightning, and signal-scrambling.
Another factor may be the plan you’re on. The ISP may have a 100+ Mbps plan, and you’re only on the 12 Mbps. That was enough before, but you may want to upgrade now that so many devices are connecting to the internet at the same time.
Find out also if your plan is subject to a data cap. Some ISPs set up a data threshold limiting the amount of data you can use in a month or at particular times of the day.
Get Expert Insight into Your Internet
You might also benefit from upgrading your home internet connections. An IT expert can come in and take a look at the hardware you’re using to get online. There could be some quick connectivity gains with an upgraded router or gateway, or moving your wireless access points.
Our IT gurus can also determine whether a Wi-Fi booster or mesh solution would help. In your area, you may have a 4G or 5G wireless option. It’s more expensive but can be another way to get the speed you need.
Point-to-point Wi-Fi might also be an option. If you’re within range of a location providing business-grade internet, it may work to set up a dish on your roof. Of course, geography matters in this case, as you need a line-of-sight connection to the signal source.
Now that work from home is stretching long term, consider how you can upgrade your internet connection at home. Support remote work, student online learning, and other ways you use your bandwidth by getting the best you can. Give us a call at 262-515-9499 to learn more!
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We provide you with important, practical tips and insight for your technology and networks for both home and business.