Technology Advisor Blog

Cyber Attacks Increasing - Cape Cod Community College Hacked for $800,000

Posted by Ann Westerheim on 12/12/18 12:01 PM

Cyber Attacks and Small BusinessCyber threats are real and they're local.  Major corporations like Marriott make the big headlines, but too many smaller businesses and institutions think they're "under the radar".  Attacks are widespread and they're automated.  The average firewall is getting hundreds of thousands of intrusion attempts per month, over 50 ransomware attempts, and twelve phishing attempts.   All it takes is ONE user clicking on ONE wrong link and a lot of damage can be done.

Recently Cape Cod Community College was hacked for over $800,000.   In this particular case, a user opened an email that looked like it was from another college, and the user didn't have any suspicions at first.  What they didn't know, was that malware targeted their financial transactions.  The college worked with the FBI and were able to get some of the funds back, but this is actually quite rare.  The college is beefing up their cybersecurity protection now, but waiting until disaster strikes will help next time, but can't undo the damage incurred in this attack.

Working with hundreds of local businesses, we've seen a big increase in the number of threats this year, and we're advising everyone in our community to review all the risks, and make informed decisions about the level of protection needed.  The protection in place over the years (Firewall, Antivirus, Security Patch updates) just isn't enough to protect against the latest threats.  More tools are available to SMBs and the first step is to understand the risks involved.  The level of protection you had in the past is not enough.

"Cybercrime is now larger than all other forms of organized crime put together"  Michael George, Continuum Navigate.

A business class firewall is one of the most important layers of protection against intrusions, and we recommend Sonicwall, recognizedas the leader for SMB protection, but that's just one layer of protection.

Globally, the SonicWall Capture Threat Network, which includes more than 1 million sensors across the world, recorded the following 2018 year-to-date attack data through October 2018 including  a 117 percent increase in the number of ransomware attacks.

  • 9.2 billion malware attacks (44 percent increase from 2017)
  • 3.2 trillion intrusion attempts (45 percent increase)
  • 286.2 million ransomware attacks (117 percent increase)
  • 23.9 million web app attacks (113 percent increase)
  • 2.3 million encrypted threats (62 percent increase)


In October 2018 alone, the average SonicWall customer faced:

  • 1,756 malware attacks (19 percent decrease from October 2017)
  • 819,947 intrusion attempts (17 percent increase)
  • 57 ransomware attacks (311 percent increase)
  • 8,742 web app attacks (185 percent increase)
  • 152 encrypted threats (12 percent increase)
  • 12 phishing attacks each day (19 percent decrease)

For more information, read the full Sonicwall Report

We want everyone in our community to fully understand the changes in the threat landscape and what can be done to help better protect your businessCall us to schedule a time to review your current level of protection so you can understand  the protections you have in place, and where there may be gaps that need to be considered.  There is no such thing as 100% security, but understanding the risks and making an informed decision about the level of risk you can tolerate is critical for protecting your business. 

Tags: cybersecurity, ransomware, SMB

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

What I learned at Hubspot Inbound 2018

Posted by Nancy Amato on 9/24/18 4:27 PM

Hubspot_Inbound_CollageNancy recently attended Hubspot Inbound 2018 with 24,000 marketing pros from around the country and around the world (plus 400,000 followers!)  "INBOUND is a community of people who are passionate about marketing, selling, and delighting customers in an inbound way. Our annual event and year-round media platform inspire and educate hundreds of thousands of people so that they—and their businesses—can grow better."

Getting out to a conference is a great way to learn and re-charge.  At Ekaru we're always looking for ways to learn and grow.  Here are some of Nancy's thoughts and experiences:

I am excited to share with you what I learned at Hubspot's annual conference –Inbound18Brian Halligan, the co-founder of Hubspot talked about how to fuel your company’s growth.  He believes the old Marketing Funnel that we have been living by in the sales and marketing world has a crack in it.  So he created the Flywheel. His inspiration came from Jeff Bezos who created the circular model and it has helped his growth at Amazon.  Customers are input into our business not output like in the Marketing Funnel.  Modern business needs to embrace this new model, in order to grow in the near future.  Our customers are on the flywheel.  We need to apply force to the flywheel so we can get the biggest return on our investment.  This happens in the engage stage with sales reps.  We then shift to the marketer to attract as many people in as we can.  The loudest channel in the flywheel is to delight.  Put all your force on the wheel into delight in order to make your customer happy. 

We want to have no friction in our buyer’s process.  Brian quotes  ‘’your customer experience has to be 10x lighter”.   The goal is to scale up service, marketing and sales processes.  This new growth model is for sales, marketing and customers to have very little friction and we need to continually delight all of our customers at all times.  The lower the friction in our model, the higher the return on investment will be. 

Dharmesh Shah, the other co-founder to speak from Hubspot talked about how we are living in a new world, and we need to change in order to grow.  Wow…such powerful words!  He said, culture is critical and it defines the destiny in a company.  He believes in SFTC which is Solving For The Customer.  Our goal is to help them succeed and we don’t want to just satisfy them - we want to delight them.  This is part of the cultural code deck (which he has written about in a book) because this puts the customer first.  Remember, the customer experience starts and never ends, just like with the Flywheel that Brian talked about..  What a fabulous great talk by Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah.

Another keynote speaker was Shonda Rhimes.  If by chance you do not know who Shonda Rhimes is, she has created six award winning sitcoms on CBS.  She talked about when she walks into a negotiation, she does NOT surrender, for example her recent experience with Netflix.  She is extremely busy with streaming, Netflix and Shondaland.  It is too early for her to mention anything about Shondaland, which by the way An American Television production company that she founded.  As Shonda says ‘it’s where the bad asses live’.  Shonda feels in the working world we have nothing to lose, and must always speak up.  Shonda spoke about how important time management is with work and family.  I also like how she said losing weight sucks, and she recently lost 100 pounds in one year

I really like Alex Rodriguez's speech about his obsessing with learning.  Did you ever think you would hear a former baseball champion speak like that?  He likes to find people who are respectful and successful to be around.  He had his share of strikeouts and failures and has grown from all of that.  Alex likes to be on the Shark Tank and find people who are poor, hungry and driven -  his version of a "PhD".  He summed up what Inbound18 means to him, by saying it means to educate and inspire yourself and surround yourself with good people.  What powerful words those are to live our everyday lives by. 

 

 

Tags: SMB, small business, Marketing

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

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