Technology Advisor Blog

Employee Buy-In for Security Awareness Training - It Matters!

Posted by Ann Westerheim on 5/21/19 4:58 PM

Employee Awareness Training - Buy-InEvery Employee Matters
Whether your name is on the sign out front, or you're in a leadership role, or you're just an entry-level employee, the success of the business is in your hands. In that role, you know that each department feeds into the overall health of the business, and you need to ensure everyone, and everything is operating at maximum wellness.

Most of these divisions, or departments, within your business are affected first by the employees who are working within them. By getting all employees on board with security awareness you can address a multitude of threats and risks to your success.

It Takes a Village
Strong leadership helps create a culture where each employee and department feels that they are relevant and part of the company’s success. Part of that success means avoiding the threat of a breach which could very likely destroy your business’s future. Asking for their buy-in means making them feel relevant and valued as not just a risk, but as a part of the success. Today's threats are automated and indiscriminate. Employees need to know that it isn’t just high-level executives who are targets for a data breach. Their level of access or knowledge can be used as a gateway to obtaining any information within a company. Everyone matters – and unfortunately, that makes everyone a target.  Turn the conversation around and show how everyone can help!

This can help to facilitate a team environment where no man left behind becomes part of the culture. There is a tendency to look out for each other when you know that one of you is not dispensable. Create and cultivate that culture.  This is more important than ever when considering cyber threats, as the weakest link will become the point of attack.

Get on the Train
We have fire drills and other emergency training sessions that give our team a heads up on how to react in such a situation, but do you take the same precaution when it comes to cybersecurity? Probably not. We need to change that. Look for ways that are engaging and create team building. You can have contests for security awards, ongoing tallies of scores that unify internal divisions to succeed and band together. Individuals can be nominated and rewarded for reinforcing behavior or actions. Regardless of the method you use, make it fun.

Security awareness is as essential to the success and growth of your company as good leadership and solid decision making are. You cannot avoid facing the risk it poses in today’s business environment. What makes it different, is acknowledging that leadership is not solely responsible for taking on the burden it brings to a business. It is a company-wide risk that leadership needs to acknowledge and ensure that everyone knows their value within both the company and avoiding a cyber crime.

Tags: cybersecurity

Cybersecurity - Explained in Plain English

Posted by Ann Westerheim on 5/16/19 12:44 PM

Yesterday we hosted a Cybersecurity Awareness Webinar focused on explaining some of the key impacts to SMBs in plain English

Here are some of the key take-aways.

We asked listeners to think about how they secure their own homes from outside threats.  Everyone has doors and windows, to keep people out.  People may have dead-bolt locks, security systems, motion sensors, video cameras, a fence, a big dog, etc.   You get the picture.  It's not just ONE thing that you do for security, it's the combination of a lot things put together that help keep you secure.  Also, different people will have a different level of protection needed to feel safe - everyone has a different level of risk tolerance

Now imagine a major crime wave hits your town and your neighborhood.  Imagine that several of your neighbors have had home break-ins.  At this point, most people would wisely reconsider ALL their security options, and strengthen each of the layers of protection and add a few more.  Are ALL your windows locked?  Does your family know what to do when an intruder rings the door bell?  Do you have motion sensors?  Is your alarm system up to date and connected to the police department?   Basically, to retain your level of safety, you must respond with more security protection to address the increased threat.

The same scenario is happening in Cybersecurity.  Cyber crime is now larger than all other forms of organized crime.  We've all seen the headlines, but in a way this has led to "cyber fatigue".  Too many SMBs think that when they hear that Marriott or Yahoo has had breach, they are relieved that they're not a big company and hence not a target.  This is NOT how it works.  Threats are automated and half of all threats hit SMBs.  Smaller events don't make national news, but they're happening everywhere.  In our line of work, we sadly hear about a lot of the local events.

We're advising all SMBs in our community to be very clear about what protection you have and what protection you don’t have, so you can make informed decisions about your security gaps and risk tolerance.

By thoroughly understanding the options, each business can make an informed decision about the level of acceptable risk.  Know your security gaps BEFORE disaster hits.

With an greatly increased threat level, the security basics such as antivirus and security patches just aren't enough any more.  After disaster strikes there isn't much you can do but there's plenty to do ahead of time to prepare, so get started!  We hear from too many people who say "I'll just pay the ransom" or "I have insurance so I'm all set".  Think this through now, and get a better plan!

There’s no such thing as 100% security, but the more layers of protection you have, the safer you are against data loss, breaches, and downtime.  The cyber threat level has increased dramatically over the past few years, and to even maintain the same level of risk, you'll need to increase security.  

Tags: cybersecurity

Are You Still Using Windows 7?  It's Time for a Change!

Posted by Ann Westerheim on 5/13/19 9:59 AM

HourGlassAre you still running Windows 7 or Server 2008 in your office?   Microsoft will be ending support for Windows 7 and Server 2008 on January 14, 2020. Microsoft made a commitment to provide 10 years of product support for Windows 7 when it was released on October 22, 2009. When this 10-year period ends, Microsoft will discontinue Windows 7 support so that they can focus their investment on supporting newer technologies.

This is a standard part of the Microsoft product life cycle. After January 14, 2020 technical assistance and automatic updates that help protect your PC and Server will no longer be made available for these products. Your systems will no longer have security protection and will be out of compliance for all major security compliance requirements (MA Data Security Law, HIPAA, etc), so it’s extremely important to be aware of this deadline and start the planning process now.

For everyone on a managed service plan with Ekaru, the operating system report is included in your monthly report, so that’s a good starting point to look at which systems will be affected.  Many newer systems can be upgraded in place and you don’t need new hardware. Older systems will need to be fully replaced.

As a general rule, if the system is relatively new you can upgrade the operating system in place, so your cost is just the license cost for Windows 10 and a small amount of labor.   Our general guideline is that a system less than 3 years old, that has i5 Processor (or better) and solid state drive would fine to upgrade in place.   For an older system that has light usage needs it may also make sense to just upgrade the operating system in place.   Older systems should just be replaced.   In business, after a system is five years old, it's time to replace in general.   There's not point in putting more money into an old system, and your business will be held back by the slower performance of an older system. 

Note that in the early days of the release of Windows 10, many systems were sold as Windows 10 systems, with "downgrade rights" to Windows 7, so you may be lucky and already have a Windows 10 license.  Typically we would start the upgrade and then if a new license key doesn't need to be activated, you will be all set.  In our experience, we can typically tell in advance from the Serial Number, but it hasn't been 100%.

Other cost factors to consider are your Microsoft Office licenses and other line of business applications you may have that can't be transferred to a new system, or won't run on Windows 10 (Office will be fine, but some line of business applications may not).  We want to work with you on planning to help minimize surprises.  You may need to run older applications in "compatibility mode".  An "OEM" license for Microsoft Office can never be transferred to a new system, so you would need to purchase a new license, or consider moving to Office 365, and we we would advise you to factor in this cost to the process.  Also, note that we can now provide hardware on monthly subscription basis, so this may be a fit for many businesses. 

All of these factors are why it's not always just a simple answer as to upgrade in place or replace.   

Sometimes there are activation issues with Microsoft licenses, so we generally plan on a window of two hours to do an upgrade in place.  Typically the upgrades are much faster than this, but if there are license activation issues and we need to contact Microsoft, it may take longer.  

For Server 2008, the system will need to be replaced, or it may be time to consider moving the the cloud.  

We’re advising everyone in our community to have a Windows 7 / Server 2008 end-of-life plan in place by June 15.  

Tags: Microsoft, cybersecurity

Cybersecurity Awareness Training - Everyone Needs to Get Involved!

Posted by Ann Westerheim on 5/2/19 10:38 AM

Ann - Nancy - Cameron - Cyber-Training-CroppedAnn - Ekaru-Cyber PresentationLast week, Ekaru hosted a Cybersecurity Awareness Training session at the Cameron Senior Center in Westford, MA.  It's part of our mission to raise cybersecurity awareness for EVERYONE.  

Everyone needs to know how to stay protected in today's environment, and it's important to know what protections need to be in place for the people who you work with who are trusted with protecting your information.

The presentation covered the current state of the cybersecurity landscape, and offered some practical tips to spot the most common scams.

The world has changed a lot over the past years, and so much of our lives are conducted on line through banking, health records, social media, and more.  By now, everyone knows the Cybersecurity Basics:

  • Protect your computer with Antivirus Software
  • Keep your security patches up to date
  • Use STRONG passwords
  • Backup your data

The thing is, the bad actors know this too and they’ve developed some new tricks using social engineering to trick you into divulging your personal information or bypassing your security.  Cyber-crime is now bigger than all other forms of organized crime, and its important to know how you can protect yourself.

The rise of cryptocurrency has allowed criminals to collect money anonymously, and this has led to an explosive growth in cyber-crime.  With basic protections in place by most users, email has become one of the most common attack vectors.

Ransomware, which is a type of malicious software designed to block access to a computer until a sum of money is paid is one of the most damaging threats.  You may think that your data wouldn’t be worth much to a criminal, but that’s not what matters.  How much is your data worth to you?  Typically, Ransomware is spread through email, so watch carefully for messages that contain links for documents, and keep in mind that the bad actors have many tricky tools to use to trick you into opening that message.

Phishing is a type of online scam where criminals send an email that appears to be from a legitimate company and ask you to provide sensitive information or payment.

There are three common types of phishing scams:    Brand impersonation, Business eMail Compromise (BEC) Scam, and Blackmail

In a Brand Impersonation email, you may get a fake message from Microsoft to update your password, or a fake email regarding a FedEx Delivery.  Amazon, LinkedIn, UPS, and Bank of America are commonly impersonated brands.

In a Business eMail Compromise Scam, you may get an email that looks like its from a trusted source like boss, attorney, or friend, but it’s not!  Beware that many people have lost money in fake wire transfer scams through email.  If you’re buying or selling a home watch out for any last-minute bank changes.  People have lost their homes over this! 

Losses due to BEC (Business Email Compromise) scams have doubled in 2018, compared to 2017 figures, and have reached a whopping $1.3 Billion, according to the yearly FBI internet crime report.

Blackmail emails will contain threatening language and ask for a payment to prevent further harm.  They can be very detailed and scary, but they are just mass-marketed threats. 

Things to watch for:  Watch out for a sense of urgency in the email, names that may be slightly off, and other threats.  Be extra careful opening attachments or clicking on links. 

Trust your gut, and call the company directly to speak to someone who can verify the request.  Don’t reply to the email and don’t call any numbers listed in the email.

Stay safe on line and Think Before you Click!

Tags: cybersecurity, ransomware

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