Technology Advisor Blog

Got Ransomware?  What's your Disaster Recovery Plan?

Posted by Ann Westerheim on 10/30/18 1:50 PM

Social Graphic - RansomwareDisaster recovery is a basic element of good business continuity planning. You've probably heard the phrase and like many businesses, it's something you'll get around to "later". 

Business continuity planning refers to the broad range of plans created so that a business can continue to be operational no matter what negative event might occur. Business continuity planning addresses severe, catastrophic events, loss of a key employee, director, or other principals in the organization, severe natural disasters that incapacitate a physical location, employee mistakes, and insider threats, etc. Basically anything that can go wrong!  Disaster recovery planning is one piece of this broad planning. Specifically, disaster recovery plans refer to how to quickly recover from some event that compromises your IT infrastructure.

In general, smaller businesses - which often have no IT support staff - will utilize the services of a managed service provider, like Ekaru,  to develop disaster recovery plans.
 
One piece of your disaster recovery planning needs to address how the business can protect its data from a ransomware attack. Unlike more well known viruses, ransomware doesn't just access your data, it locks it down so it is unusable. The business model behind this approach is simple: They are betting you will have no segregated backups and will be willing to buy back access to your data.  Ransomware isn't about how valuable your data is to your attacker, its about how valuable your data is to you.
 
We strongly advise multiple layers of security to protect your data.  There's no such thing as 100% security, so in addition to all the security measures you put in place, a rock solid backup is required.  Plan in advance what your Recovery Point Objective needs to be:  how much data can you lose?  15 minutes?  One hour?  One week?  The frequency of your backup matters.  Also, what is your Recovery Time Objective?  How long can you wait to get your data back?  Some backups may take a week or more to recover?  How much will that cost your business to be down for a week.  Every business has a different level of risk they can live with.  New threats mean this is a question that needs to be constantly revisited, and you may find some gaps that you can't live with.  Plan IN ADVANCE to make sure you fully understand your current risk level, your options to decrease your list, and then make a decision about your level of protection.  One of the worst phone calls we get is from the business got hit with data and it's too late to talk about protection.  You don't need a complicated plan, but don't get caught by surprise.

Tags: ransomware, cybersecurity, backup

Ransomware:  Don't be a victim!

Posted by Ann Westerheim on 10/23/18 2:26 PM

Ransomware_Blog_10-2018We hear routinely in the news that a major corporation or government agency has had its data integrity compromised, with millions of pieces of personal data accessed. In these cases the criminals behind the attack hope to get money by selling that data to other criminals. In the case of ransomware, the criminals want your money, and try to get it by holding your data hostage. Plain, old fashioned kidnapping with a hi-tech spin.  It's not about how much your data is worth to them, it's about how much it's worth to you.
 
It's not just happening far away, the attacks are local as well.  Earlier this year, the Leominster School District here in Massachusetts got hit with Ransomware and ended up paying $10,000 Ransom.  
 
What can you do to avoid falling victim?
 
Prevention is the best cure. Follow standard “data hygiene” principles that you probably hear about all of the time. Update your operating system, software, and apps whenever a new release or patch is released. Do this ASAP. Some patches may be released solely as a result of the discovery of a vulnerability. Watch out for phishing scams. If anything looks “off” about an email, don’t open it. And never open links you aren't totally sure of. Some people recommend sending the email back to the sender, but we advise against this because you may just be "raising your hand" for the bad actors.  If you get, for example, an email from your credit card company, instead call the number on the back of your card.
 
The most important thing you can do to make sure your data cannot be held ransom is strictly adhering to a regimen of backups. However, even backups may not be foolproof. If your data has been infected and you are unaware of it, or the backup is not segregated from your network, your backups may also be corrupted. Given the severe consequences of a ransomware attack to any business, consider having a security evaluation done by a managed service provider who will have the security expertise to advise on the best backup protocols for your situation.
 

Tags: cybersecurity, ransomware

You've Got Ransomware... Now What?

Posted by Ann Westerheim on 10/16/18 3:36 PM

Ransomware_ResponsesIf you're unfortunate enough to be the victim of a ransomware attack, there are basically only three options open to you. Ransomware is a type of computer virus that kidnaps your data and holds it hostage for money. It has become increasingly common attacking governments and all manner of business and non-for profit institutions.  These are often automated attacks that are broadly distributed, so even if you're a small business you're still at risk.  Too many small businesses think they're "under the radar" and in fact, about half of ransomware attacks hit small businesses.
 
Why is ransomware so nasty? Because it steals the most important thing your business possesses. Data. It's not about the value of your data to someone else, its about the value of your data to you.  Worse, once infected there isn’t generally a way out. No one can “disinfect” your machine. You aren't going to be able to call in IT support to solve the problem. Basically, you have three options.
  1. Pay the ransom. This payment is usually via bitcoin (a digital currency). Some ransomware viruses even provide help lines if you're having trouble. Of course there are no guarantees your will get access to your data - these are thieves you’re dealing with.  We strongly advise against this unless there is no other option.  Be sure to make a copy of all data before taking any recovery steps. 
  2. Don’t pay and lose your data - This has its obvious downsides, unless…
  3. You have a safe, clean backup. In that case, you are stuck with the nuisance of restoring your data with the backup, but you aren’t out any money. However, this comes with a caveat: your backups have to be clean. The problem with ransomware viruses is that just making backups may not be sufficient to protect your data, as the backups can be infected also.
As you can see, the first two options aren’t very favorable solutions. The only real defense against an attack is the third option. You have to be prepared ahead of time with a safe, segregated backup. Also, plan in advance to know the difference between a recovery point objective (how much data you may lose) and a recovery time objective (how much time it will take to recover).  Be sure to get the advice of a specialist on how to protect your data from this very serious threat to your business.  Ask Ekaru about our down-time calculator!

Tags: SMB, cybersecurity, ransomware, cybersecurity

5 Surprising Tech Trends Boosting Small Business Growth

Posted by Ann Westerheim on 10/5/18 9:26 AM

Cybersecurity - 5 SMB TrendsRunning a small business is exciting but also very risky. American business owners and managers spend countless hours building enterprises that bring value to the table. However, their survival rate doesn't look rosy according to recent statistics. Approximately 80% of businesses survive their first year, 50% survive their fifth year, and 30% survive their tenth year. The fact that their failure rate only increases over time is cause for concern.

Given the dire situation, what can small businesses do to ensure their survival? At Ekaru, we believe that efficient and growth-oriented businesses rise to the top and capable of weathering the storm during recessions. That’s why we’ve listed several surprising tech trends to help boost the growth of your small business below.

  1. Artificial Intelligence And Machine Learning

Tech giants such as Amazon, Google, and Microsoft have been instrumental in the development and promotion of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML). These companies have reaped the benefits of integrating AI & ML technologies into their existing business processes. They’ve been able to automate tasks, enhance employee productivity, predict customer behavior, and introduce intelligent software services.

Small businesses can also leverage AI & ML as these big players are now competing for the startup market. They’re introducing apps, productivity tools, and services that come embedded with AI & ML from the get-go. Furthermore, they’re becoming increasingly user-friendly allowing staff members of small businesses to take advantage of these with minimal training.

  1. Conversational Chatbots

Business managers understand the importance of responding to their customers, employees, and vendors as quickly as possible. Not only does this improve the effectiveness of their businesses, but also keeps their reputation in good standing. Therefore, implementing an automated and intelligent response pipeline across all communications channels is vital.

A smart way for businesses to communicate via email, messaging apps, social media, and their websites is with chatbots. While chatbots are nothing new, they are becoming more conversational, sophisticated and capable of dealing with increasing market demands. They respond to all inquiries around the clock, hold productive conversations, and bypass commerce bottlenecks.

  1. Cybersecurity

We take cybersecurity seriously at Ekaru and for a good reason. Small businesses are the largest target with 43% of cyberattacks targeting them specifically. We’re also aware that many small and mid-sized companies (SMBs) don’t have large cybersecurity budgets, which increases their vulnerability. But their security issues don’t end there. Quite often, they’ll use weak passwords, store them in insecure places, and don’t educate their employees about password security.

Having pinpointed these glaring problems, we set out to offer small businesses a cost-effective and reliable solution. We introduced Ekaru MyGlue, which is a secure password manager to share, store, and synchronize passwords between executives, employees, contractors, and clients.

  1. Marketing And Sales Automation

Two key areas, which small businesses can easily automate, are their marketing and sales processes. The reason for this is that marketing and sales software offers automated functionality due to AI & ML implementation. They easily integrate into businesses’ existing systems and help to automate and speed up marketing campaigns and sales tasks. Vendors such as Salesforce collaborate with Google to offer such marketing and sales tools for small businesses.

  1. Social Payments

Social payments have been on the rise ever since the advent of PayPal and social media platforms. Consumers enjoy the convenience of transferring funds immediately or within a day by using secure payment processors and mobile wallets. By linking their bank, credit, or debit card accounts to these services, they can easily receive and send funds to people and businesses online.

Many small businesses are running marketing campaigns on social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Some even collaborate with notable social media influencers to spread awareness of their brands, products, and services. Consumers who follow these influencers can make frictionless social payments for any goods and services that interest them. 

Conclusion

As we’ve seen, there are several exciting tech trends that are changing the face of business in a positive way. AI & ML help to automate tasks, chatbots are becoming conversational, cybersecurity is increasingly vital, marketing and sales automation speed up these processes, and social payments are on the rise. Contact us to learn how recent tech trends can boost the growth of your business.

Tags: SMB, cybersecurity

Subscribe by Email

Most Popular Posts

Browse by Tag

See all tags...

Connect With Us

Older Blog Posts

For older Ekaru blog posts, go to ekaru.blogspot.com.