Technology Advisor Blog

Another Scam to Watch Out For:  "Neighbor Spoofing"

Posted by Ann Westerheim on 7/10/18 9:30 AM

cell phoneHave you experienced an increase in the number of "local" junk calls to your cell phone?  You're not alone.  Scammers have yet another tactic to get through to you by "spoofing" a phone number.  When your phone rings and you see a local number, you're more likely to pick up.  After you pick up, your number is proven to be a "real" number which is more valuable to scammers and the number of calls increases.  

In many cases, the calls are just your spoofed to be from your area code and the first three digits of your phone number, but keep in mind that the spoofed calls may be created to look like they come from your children's school or doctors office.  If you can't authenticate the caller, don't give any information over the phone.

What can you do?  Your phone carrier may allow you to block calls, but the scammers just keep changing the numbers.  Adding your number to the National Do Not Call Registry will help (worked well for me when I added my cell number!).   As always, make sure your employees are aware of these kind of scams.   We talk so much about cybersecurity and computers, we also want to remind users that phone scams are still in play.  The "human firewall" is important for phones too:  Think before you click AND think before you answer!

For more information check out this article from the Better Business Bureau:  https://www.bbb.org/en/us/article/news-releases/16670-a-new-kind-of-phone-scam-neighbor-spoofing

 

Tags: cybersecurity, spoofing

Whats New in SMB Tech?  Internet (VoIP) Phones!

Posted by Ann Westerheim on 6/5/18 1:04 PM

Ekaru-Jive-Lunch-EventIn case you missed it:  Last week we hosted a technology lunch and learn event with our partner, Jive Communications.  Local business owners enjoyed networking, lunch, and technology.   

Verizon is phasing out old copper phone lines, and if you have an old phone system, you may be in need of a change (even if you aren't excited about the latest and greatest features!). We still see SMBs with phone technology that's over 10 years old!  If its been that long, its time for a change.

One of our missions at Ekaru is to help SMBs get more from the technology you already have and to learn about the new technology you need to know about!

Some of the highlighted features covered in the presentation include:

  • Auto Attendants - You can add multiple Auto Attendants for your business at no additional cost.
  • Call Queues - Instead of needing to do a rapid-fire "please hold" for multiple inbound calls, you can set the calls in a queue with a pre-recorded message (with an escape hatch to voicemail) and then pick up when you're free.
  • Custom Schedules - Need to send calls to an answering service after hours - just program it in.
  • Mobile App - You can send and receive phone calls with your office caller ID from your cell phone - bring your office phone anywhere you go!
  • Hot-Desking - Get your customized phone settings to appear on another office phone.  This is great if you have shift workers or mobile workers who work out of different offices.
  • International Calling - Free calls to over 50 countries.
  • Reporting and Call Analytics - What are your busiest phone times?  How long are your average calls?  How many calls go to voicemail.  With a modern system, all the data is at your fingertips.

These are just some of the features we discussed.   For more information, check out the presentation slides.  If you're already using the system, we recommend starting with a simple plan and then building in new features as you learn about them and how they may help your business.

We've been using the Jive system for a few years and you can stop by our office to see the system in use, try a loaner phone, or get a full on-line demo.  If you haven't looked at phone systems recently, we highly recommend that you check out Jive!

Sign up for a Demo!

 

Tags: VoiP,, SMB

Important Notice Regarding Your Domain Name(s)

Posted by Ann Westerheim on 6/4/18 2:15 PM

Internet WHOISA few clients have asked us about recent notifications received from Network Solutions (and others):    "Action Required: Notice Regarding Your Domain Name(s)".  In this day and age, we recommend that all users stay alert when opening email, and we welcome questions about the legitimacy of received mail - better safe than sorry!

This notification states as follows:

"This notification is being sent to you as a contractual requirement of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) WHOIS policy. When you registered your domain with us, you agreed to keep your contact information in Account Manager current, and the WHOIS policy mandates that we ask you to verify and/or update this information periodically. Further, ICANN requires us to remind you that providing inaccurate or dated contact information may be grounds for domain name cancellation."

In this case the message IS legitimate, and we always recommend as an extra precaution that you go straight to the website in question (in this case, the company you registered your domain name with, typically Network Solutions), rather than clicking through the link in the website.  Yes, we just said the email was "real", but as a "best practice", don't follow links in emails when you don't have to. 

You don't have to reply to the email, it's just a reminder to check that the current information is still valid, and to update it as necessary.

ICANN (the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) is a non-profit organization committed to maintaining a number of databases associated with domain names.   ICANN is committed to maintaining the WHOIS directory, which is a directory of contacts associated with all domain names - much like a telephone book.  In order for the information to be useful, it must be up to date, and anyone who registers a domain name must agree to keep the information up to date.  Domain name registrants, businesses, individuals, consumers, and law enforcement are all stakeholders in this directory.

As part of your contractual agreements when you registered your domain name, you agreed to keep the contact information accurate and current.  If you use a private registration, you must keep the contact information current at your registrar.   Note that all your renewal notices, etc, will be sent to the current contact on file, so its also in YOUR interest to keep the information current.  Even if you have a credit card on file for automatic renewal, if the card expires or gets replaced, without out accurate contact information you won't get the notification and you could lose your domain name.  

To look up your own information, go to the Network Solutions WHOIS lookup tool.  The Registrant organization should be your company name (not an employee or webmaster! - this is VERY important!  Does the business own the domain name, or does the employee or webmaster who set it up own it?  Make sure this is correct!.  Also check that the registrant, administrative, and technical contacts are all current.  

Check the WHOIS Primer for more information on the role of ICANN and the WHOIS directory.

 

 

 

Tags: eMail, Internet, web site

Got a consumer class router?  Power cycle it NOW!

Posted by Ann Westerheim on 5/29/18 4:02 PM

FBI - Cyber WarningThe FBI has issued an important warning about certain consumer-class routers after a massive malware attack was detected.  Turning the router off, then on again is a simple and important step to help stop the malware.  Additionally, it's recommended that you update the password and make sure the firmware is up to date.  The malware is capable of blocking traffic,  collecting information that's transmitted through the device, and disabling devices entirely.

The devices affected include Linksys, MicroTik, Netgear, and TP-Link.  The malware attack is being linked to Russia.

We strongly recommend that all businesses, no matter how small, always use a business-class firewall.

For additional information, we recommend excellent summaries in The NY Times and Krebs on Security (a lot more technical detail).

 

Tags: cybersecurity, malware

Cybersecurity - What is the cost to Small Businesses? Another factor to think about related to Microsoft Security Patches...

Posted by Ann Westerheim on 5/14/18 10:55 AM

App_Security_400We've all seen the headlines of the major cybersecurity incidents:  Target, Yahoo, Equifax, Sony, etc... Cybersecurity is a topic that affects everyone, and we view it as a public safety issue.  With all the headlines over the past years, at this point, most people "get it" that cybersecurity is a big problem, but the education can't stop there.   

Too many SMBs see the big companies listed in the headlines and  think they're "under the radar" when it comes to cybersecurity, but half of all attacks hit small businesses.   A big part of our mission at Ekaru is to bring enterprise class IT to small businesses, and security is a big part of it.

And there's more:  The headlines tell just part of the story -it takes a little more digging to identify the real costs.  As an example, the San Francisco metro system was hit by Ransomware over a year ago.  At the time, the network was held hostage for $73K.  All ticket point of sales systems were rendered useless, so to keep people moving, free fares were offered for the busy holiday weekend.  With an estimated 700,000+ rides per day at a fare of  $1 to $2.25, the system lost between $1.3M and $3.3M.  This figure includes lost revenue, and doesn't include all the round the clock work to restore systems from backup.

The cost analysis doesn't stop there, though.  Last week Microsoft released a critical zero-day security alert.  As bad actors continue to find and exploit cyber vulnerabilities, the major tech vendors continue to update products to address the vulnerabilities.

In the case of security patches, these are actually required by law by the MA Data Security Law, HIPAA, and other industry-specific regulations.  

 "For files containing personal information on a system that is connected to the Internet, there must be reasonably up-to-date firewall protection and operating system security patches, reasonably designed to maintain the integrity of the personal information. "

So here's the curve ball.  The critical security patch released by Microsoft last week had a bug:  systems that got the security patch lost their ability to connect to the network!  This meant that these PCs became basically useless until the network connections were restored.  This led to downtime at customer sites, and enormous efforts by IT support firms like Ekaru to restore connectivity for affected users.  As we consider the overall cost of security, the downtime associated with failed security updates is also a major consideration. 

To secure networks and comply with regulations, we rely on Microsoft to continually address security vulnerabilities with security patches.  With the complexity of modern computing systems we realize that things are changing all the time.  Going forward, more diligence by Microsoft in testing of security updates is needed - 2018 has gotten off to a rough start!  That said, our message to all SMBs is that the risk of not complying with security updates is far greater than the risk of the rare problem update. 

So we continue our message to all users that cybersecurity is a public safety issue and we're all in this together and we all need to do our part!

 

Tags: cybersecurity, ransomware, cybersecurity

Ekaru Now Delivers Dark Web Monitoring Services through ID Agent Partnership

Posted by Ann Westerheim on 5/9/18 8:29 AM

Ekaru Offers Monitoring and Alerting of Stolen Digital Credentials, Increasingly Valuable Asset on Dark Web

Hacker_BlogEkaru announced its new Dark Web monitoring services provided through its partnership with ID Agent, provider of Dark Web monitoring and identity theft protection solutions. With Dark Web ID, Ekaru offers around the clock monitoring and alerting for increasingly compromised digital credentials, scouring millions of sources, including botnets, criminal chat rooms, peer-to-peer networks, malicious websites, bulletin boards and illegal black market sites.

 “Too many small businesses think that they’re “under the radar” when it comes to cybersecurity.  Users have weak passwords and often reuse passwords at multiple sites.  About half of all cyber attacks hit small businesses, but they just don’t make the headlines like the big companies.  It’s been Ekaru’s mission from the beginning to support and protect small businesses”, said Ann Westerheim, PhD, President at Ekaru.

 The Dark Web is made up of various digital communities, and while there are legitimate purposes for the Dark Web, it is estimated that over 50 percent of all sites on the Dark Web today are used for criminal activities, including the disclosure and sale of digital credentials. 

 “Digital credentials such as usernames and passwords are widely used to connect to critical business applications – the reason these credentials are among the most valuable assets found on the Dark Web,” said Kevin Lancaster, CEO of ID Agent. “Unfortunately, the unaffordability of cyber offerings has played into the cyber poverty line experienced by small businesses. Dark Web ID, however, delivers an affordable model that provides small businesses with the same advanced credential monitoring capabilities used by Fortune 500 companies to organizations in the SMB and mid-market space.”

Dark Web ID is the industry’s only commercial solution available to detect customers’ compromised credentials in real-time on the Dark Web. It vigilantly searches the most secretive corners of the Internet to find compromised data associated with your customers’ employees, contractors and other personnel, and notifies them immediately when these critical assets are compromised. There are a few competitors in the market but none completely focused on the Dark Web as ID Agent’s solution.

About ID Agent

ID Agent provides a comprehensive set of threat intelligence and identity monitoring solutions to private and public sector organizations and to millions of individuals impacted by cyber incidents. The company's flagship product, Dark Web ID, combines human and sophisticated Dark Web intelligence with capabilities to identify, analyze and monitor for compromised or stolen employee and customer data, mitigating exposure to clients’ most valuable assets – their digital identity. From monitoring your organization’s domain for compromised credentials to deploying identity and credit management programs in order to protect the employees and customers you serve – ID Agent has the solution. For more information, visit: http://www.idagent.com or go to LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook.

About Ekaru

Ekaru has been a leading provider IT support services, hosting, and data protection to small and medium businesses since 2001. Our curated technology platform is designed to give you the level of support you need, with a budget that fits, so you can focus on your business.  For more information, visit www.ekaru.com or go to LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook.

 

Contact:                                                          

Ann Westerheim, PhD

Ekaru

978-692-4200

awesterheim@ekaru.com

Tags: cybersecurity, data security

Cybersecurity - Why you  need to train your employees

Posted by Ann Westerheim on 5/3/18 3:13 PM

In case you missed it... here's a review of our latest webinar on cybersecurity from earlier today.

Train, test, and prevent Cyber attacks.  Big companies make the headlines when there's a cybersecurity breach, and too many SMBs believe they are "under the radar". Today's threats are automated, and everyone is at risk.  Some reports indicate that up to 95% of breaches are caused by human error.

Will your employees click on that link they're not supposed to click?  Do they know not to install a USB stick labeled as "Company Financials"?  Cybersecurity protection requires layers of protection with attention to Technology, Process, AND People.

Training your employees is specifically required by the MA Data Security Law and other industry specific regulations such as HIPAA.  There's no such thing as 100% security, but don't leave your network exposed to avoidable human errors, and don't take on the liability of knowingly ignoring the law.

The Employee Security Training program is a cost-effective way to increase security and protect your business, and demonstrate compliance to training requirements of the MA Data Security Law, HIPAA, and other industry specific security compliance requirements.

Here's a recording of today's session on cybersecurity and employee training :

To learn more about the training platform and sign up, visit www.ekaru.com/training.

Tags: training, cybersecurity

Cybersecurity is a LOCAL issue - Massachusetts school district pays $10,000 ransom to unlock its files after cyber attack.

Posted by Ann Westerheim on 5/2/18 3:59 PM

This past week a Massachusetts school district paid $10,000 ransom to unlock its files after a cyber attack.  The Police Chief commented that there is no further investigation of this crime because solving this crime is "impossible". This is unfortunately a sign of the times.

 

At Ekaru, it's been our mission for years to SECURE and EDUCATE our small business clients.  All of us see headlines in the news when big companies get hit with a cyber attack,  and too often we think that's a problem that only happens to large well known companies  (Sears, Equifax, Sony, Target, etc). 

Today's modern threats are automated and indiscriminate.  ANYONE,  no matter how big or small can get hit with a cyber attack.  When an attack is local, it's a reminder that cybersecurity affects ALL of us, and this is a matter of public safety.

In the case of the school, its unclear how the ransomware got onto the network, but one of the most common attack vectors is email, so its vitally important to train employees.  Clicking on phishing emails and using weak passwords are easy to fix with some security awareness education.   In addition, its clear that the school district didn't have a disaster recovery plan or even a robust backup if they had to pay the ransom.  

We're working to spread the word that with some technology, process, and people fixes (training!), we can all greatly reduce the threat of cyber attacks.

Unfortunately, sometimes it takes a case close to home to remind us of how real these threats are.

To read the full article, go to cbsnews.com.

Tags: Cybersecurity, email scams, cybersecurity, ransomware, cybersecurity

Sending an email to more than just a few recipients? DON'T hit the send key before reading this....

Posted by Ann Westerheim on 4/16/18 3:54 PM

eMail-BulkMailYou need to send an important update or invitation to all your clients and you're ready to hit the "send" key.  Don't!  

If your eMail hosting provider or Internet Service Provider sees a lot of mail coming from you that looks the same, this will be categorized as "bulk" commercial mail and you may unwittingly violate the acceptable use policy of your provider.  Even though these would be emails people want, the systems and algorithms in place can't tell the difference between your well-crafted invitation to a high-quality event, or highly thoughtful customer update, and the massive amount of spam on the Internet.   

To send bulk mail, first you must comply with the current anti-spam laws, and then you need to find a way to successfully deliver your mail.

You must have permission to send the mail via an opt-in process (such as a newsletter sign up), or implicit permission such as an established client relationship.  The CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 puts into law the differentiation between legal and illegal commercial email.  Commercial emails are considered legal if they adhere to the following standards:

  1. The header of the commercial email (indicating the sending source, destination and routing information) doesn't contain materially false or materially misleading information;
  2. The subject line doesn't contain deceptive information;
  3. The email provides "clear and conspicuous" identification that it is an advertisement or solicitation;
  4. The email includes some type of return email address, which can be used to indicate that the recipient no longer wishes to receive spam email from the sender (i.e. to "opt-out");
  5. The email contains "clear and conspicuous" notice of the opportunity to opt-out of receiving future emails from the sender;
  6. The email has not been sent after the sender received notice that the recipient no longer wishes to receive email from the sender (i.e. has "opted-out"); and
  7. The email contains a valid, physical postal address for the sender.

Source:  Cornell Law School: Legal Information Institute.

Even if you follow all these rules, now you need to find a way to deliver your mail to your recipients.  Your email hosting provider or Internet Service Provider will not be reviewing the contents of the email so they may just block you.  If you plan to use any bulk email, we recommend Constant Contact or Hubspot to send your mail.  There are also many other excellent providers, but these are the ones we use and recommend.

We've seen clients try to work around the bulk mail limitations by sending mail in batches or by trying to hide the number of recipients in distribution lists.  It won't work! Computer systems are very good at recognizing patterns and you won't outsmart the system.  Blocking an individual sender, which is highly inconvenient for that sender, actually protects you from the worse situation of having your entire domain blocked.   If your domain is blacklisted, it will take time to get off the black list, and in the meanwhile, no one in your company will be able to send email.

Why do eMail hosts and Internet Service Providers block mail?  They're trying to cut down on the spam that ties up about 90% of email traffic.  Many viruses attack PCs by turning them into "zombies" that send mail on behalf of spammers.  This ties up valuable resources, so the hosts and Internet Service providers want to stop it... and unfortunately they wind up stopping the "good guys".

After you comply with all the rules, and use the right platform, keep in mind that if customers "unsubscribe" then you can't add them back on to the list.  We recently sent out an important customer update, and found that a few customers didn't receive it because they had unsubscribed from our newsletter.   Focus on high value information, and use your bulk mail sparingly to keep the retention level high.  You may also need to do some customer education around what you're trying to achieve with the notifications so they won't just de-clutter one day and cut off all communications (and then ask why they didn't get the important update).

Bottom line, don't fool around with bulk mail.  eMail is a great way to get the attention of your clients directly in their inbox, but be informed and responsible before hitting that "send" button!

Tags: eMail, email security

Help! Sent Items Folder in Outlook Only Shows My Name

Posted by Ann Westerheim on 3/23/18 10:16 AM

We hope you're keeping up with organizing your "Inbox" in Outlook using different folders to group your mail.  You may also want to organize your "Sent Items" folder into different sub-folders.  Perhaps you have some company related emails you want to group or perhaps you want to track your sent items by major projects.  If you add a sub-folder, you may be alarmed to see that all the mail is listed with your name.  As you can see below, my messages in my newly created "TEST FOLDER" folder for sent messages are all listed by who sent the message.  Me!  Not helpful.  I already know who sent them!

Un-sorted SENT Folder.jpg

By default, a folder in your "Inbox" is  listed by who its "From", and messages in your main "Sent Items" folder are listed by who they are "To".  When you create a new folder, by default, the folder organizes the mail by who it is "From".  This is not helpful when you're looking at sent items.

The fix is very easy.  Under the "View" tab, select "View Settings" (look for the gears), and then select "Columns".

Advanced View Settings - Outlook.jpg

Within the Columns page, select "To" from "Available Columns" and move it to the right side, "Show these columns in this order".  It needs to be moved up to replace the "From" (You can remove "From", but the sort will work if you just move up "To" above "From".

Select TO in Columns.jpg

Select "OK" and now you'll see your sent mail presented in a more useful way, that is by who it is "To":

Sorted SENT Folder.jpg

Have fun organizing your mail!

Tags: Microsoft Outlook

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