Technology Advisor Blog

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

13 Ransomware Statistics All Businesses Must Know

Posted by Ann Westerheim on 1/23/19 8:45 AM

13 Ransomeware StatisticsBig businesses make the headlines but small businesses are NOT immune to Cyber Attacks!  

Industry leader Datto surveyed over 2400 IT professionals who deal with ransomware and other cyber threats every day, and the results are something every SMB needs to be aware of.

From 2016 to 2018 there has been a 79% increase in ransomware attacks.  35% of IT pros reported multiple attacks for the same SMB in the same day.  Only 1 in 4 attacks are reported, so the news is not making it to the general population.  The cloud and Apple products are NOT immune.  The average cost of the downtime associated with an attack is $46,800.  

One of our missions at Ekaru is to help SMBs create a technology roadmap and we recommend that you download the Ransomware Report to get started. We highly recommend sharing these statistics with your team to raise awareness in your organization.  Ongoing training is one of the key components to help keep your business safe.  Also, please ask about new technologies you can put in place to help safeguard your business.  Antivirus and firewalls are no longer enough to protect against advanced threats, and if you haven't completed a security risk assessment in the past year, now is the time!

Keep your data safe!

Tags: cybersecurity, ransomware

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, SMB, ransomware

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: backup, cybersecurity, ransomware

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

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