Monthly Archives: April 2019

What Is Phishing & How Are Hackers Using It?

While the number of people falling for sending personal information to the crown prince of Nigeria in hopes of receiving his promised wealth and riches seems to be dropping, phishing remains a major issue. In fact, the number of phishing campaigns pursued by hackers around the world increased 65% in the last year.

What exactly is phishing? Hackers mimic the emails, forms, and websites of legitimate companies in an effort to lure people into providing their private, personal information, like credit card numbers, social security information, account logins, and personal identifiers. The victim typically doesn’t realize they’ve been compromised until long after the event, and oftentimes only after their identity or finances are affected. In the past, an attack was carried out relatively quickly. As soon as the victim gave up their information, the hacker moved in and stole money from the compromised account. Today, it’s often more lucrative for hackers to sell that information on the Dark Web, resulting in longer-lasting and even more devastating attacks.

3 Types Of Phishing Attacks

Spear Phishing

Phishing attempts directed at specific individuals or companies have been termed spear phishing. Attackers may gather personal information about their target to increase their probability of success. This technique is by far the most successful on the Internet today, accounting for 91% of attacks.

Threat Group-4127 used spear phishing tactics to target email accounts linked to Hillary Clinton‘s 2016 presidential campaign. They attacked more than 1,800 Google accounts and implemented accounts-google.com domain to threaten targeted users.

Clone Phishing

Clone phishing is a type of phishing attack whereby a legitimate and previously delivered email containing an attachment or link, has had its content and recipient address(es) taken and used to create an almost identical or cloned email. The attachment or link within the email is replaced with a malicious version and then sent from an email address spoofed to appear as though it came from the original sender. It may claim to be a resend of the original or an updated version to the original. This technique could be used to pivot (indirectly) from a previously infected machine and gain a foothold on another machine, by exploiting the social trust associated with the inferred connection due to both parties receiving the original email.

Whaling

Several phishing attacks have been directed specifically at senior executives and other high-profile targets within businesses. The term whaling has been coined for these kinds of attacks. In the case of whaling, the masquerading web page/email will take a more serious executive-level form. The content will be crafted to target an upper manager and the person’s role in the company. The content of a whaling attack email is often written as a legal subpoena, customer complaint, or executive issue. Whaling scam emails are designed to masquerade as a critical business email, sent from a legitimate business authority. The content is meant to be tailored for upper management, and usually involves some kind of falsified company-wide concern. Whaling phishers have also forged official-looking FBI subpoena emails and claimed that the manager needs to click a link and install special software to view the subpoena.

Have you ever gotten an email from your bank or medical office asking you to update your information online or confirm your username and password? Maybe a suspicious email from your boss asking you to execute a wire transfer. That is most likely a spear phishing attempt, and you’re among the 76% of businesses that were victims of a phishing attack in the last year.

Method of Delivery

Phishing scams are not always received through email and hackers are getting trickier and trickier with their preferred method of execution. In 2017, officials caught onto attacks using SMS texting (smishing), Voice phishing (vishing) or social engineering, a method in which users can be encouraged to click on various kinds of unexpected content for a variety of technical and social reasons.

Ransomware: The Consequence

Phishing is the most widely used method for spreading ransomware, and has increased significantly since the birth of major ransomware viruses like Petya and Wannacry. Anyone can become a victim of phishing or in turn, ransomware attacks. However, hackers have begun targeting organizations that are more likely to pay the ransoms. Small businesses, education, government, and healthcare often, don’t have valid data backups. Therefore they are unable to roll back to a pre-ransomed version of their data. Instead, they have to pay their way out or cease to exist. Outside of ransom costs, victims of phishing campaigns are often branded as untrustworthy and many of their customers turn to their competitors, resulting in even greater financial loss.

Why are effective phishing campaigns so rampant despite public awareness from media coverage?

Volume: There are nearly 5 million new phishing sites created every month, according to Webroot Threat Report. There are now even Phishing as a Service companies, offering phishing attacks in exchange for payment. One Russian website, “Fake Game,” claims over 61,000 subscribers and 680,000 credentials stolen.

They work: Over 30% of phishing messages get opened, and 12% of targets click on the embedded attachments or links, according to the Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report. In short, these hackers have gotten really good at looking really legitimate.

They’re simple to execute: New phishing campaigns and sites can be built by sophisticated hackers in a matter of minutes. While we think there are far more legitimate ways to be earning money, these individuals have made a living out of duplicating their successful campaigns.

Now that you have an understanding of what phishing is, our next two blogs will teach you How to Spot a Phishing Attack, and Fixing Your Weakest Link: Your Employees.

To Renew or Not Renew, That Is the Question

You’re prepared, at least mentally, to begin your migration to Windows 10 because you’ve read What Does Windows End of Life Mean to My Business? and Getting Ahead of Windows End of Life. Is your hardware ready, though? How you handle your IT (on your own, as needed support, or with a fully managed agreement) will change how you will have to deal with your transition. The following items should help you decide how to prepare your hardware for the Windows 10 migration.

Do It Yourself

If you own all of your own equipment and deal with IT issues in house, then you will want to get started on migrating your devices now. The good news is that Windows 10 is highly compatible with just about every PC out there. If you run into trouble, it’s likely a vendor incompatibility issue, not Microsoft, itself, so you’ll want to contact them directly. When you have that handled, upgrading from 7 to 10 is as simple as running the ISO file from Microsoft.com, from a USB, or DVD. The bad news is that it will take significant time migrating every PC in your business. You’ll also need to deal with a backlog of Microsoft customer service support if you happen to run into any issues. Remember that almost 70% of the world’s computers are still running Windows 7. It’s almost guaranteed that others will run into issues and need support, as well.

MSP

If you are with a managed service provider, you should be just fine. In fact, you likely already have a plan in place from your most recent business review. Over the course of the next few months, your IT company will ensure software compatibility with all of your line of business applications and contact any necessary vendors and schedule a time with you to come out and run the update once their sure everything will go smoothly. Now, would also be a good time to consider any hardware upgrades that you’ve been needing. All new PCs will automatically come with Windows 10, alleviating any upgrade issues now or in the next three years or so. The best part of it, you have to do nothing. No downtime for your business, no extra IT work for you, and no worries.

If you’re on a full managed services agreement, the upgrade is more than likely covered and any hardware needs will be handled on a new monthly payment plan (HaaS agreement). If you’re on a partial agreement or break/fix model, you’ll likely be billed for the time required to complete the upgrade. Either way, your IT company will have you completely in hand. Just remember that your service provider will soon be booked solid assisting other clients with this transition. It’s important to schedule now so you’re not left waiting.

Time to Get a Contract?

If you’re reading this blog as someone that had planned to do this upgrade on your own but have now decided that you don’t have the time or desire to do so? It’s time to contact us. We’ll make sure that you’re taken care of through Windows 7 end of life and well beyond.

Conserving Bandwidth without Inciting Mutiny

Warning warning: this will be a bit of a tricky topic because it’s impossible to talk about bandwidth conservation without words like limits, controls and monitoring. Let’s face it, in today’s workplace, employees have come to expect the complete freedom that comes from Wi-Fi and BYOD and are likely to balk at anything that hinders their “rights” to these services. We’ll focus on providing tips and logic that allow you to control bandwidth consumption, all while maintaining happy employees.

Identify Your Largest Culprits

If you’re like most offices, you’ve got that one guy. The one that is sitting there with 56 browser windows open, streaming music as well as that day’s big game, yammering on his work phone all while surfing the web on his Wi-Fi connected cell. Not only is this behavior obnoxious, it’s killing everyone else’s productivity. Start your bandwidth conservation with these individuals. Begin with a simple conversation. “Do you really need to have all of that going all at once?” If a conversation doesn’t work to both kill the usage — and frankly, get them back on task — you can move forward to more aggressive measures including website restrictions, a separate Wi-Fi network for all cell devices or a performance improvement plan for this individual.

Implement Social Media Controls Wisely

Social media can be extremely beneficial for your business by connecting customers, providing excellent marketing opportunities and opening a door for customer service. It becomes a problem when you have people sitting at their desks scrolling their feed, posting selfies, or going live to tell people about what they ate for breakfast rather than working. To solve this problem, we do not recommend killing access to all social media in your office. People will find a way around your controls. Instead, we recommend conservative protocols.

First, have a conversation with your employees. Let them know that you understand their desire to connect with the outside world while at the office but that it can’t interfere with work expectations. That means personal live videos, bathroom breaks for a selfie photo session and constant comments on friend’s posts are out. An occasional birthday greeting or post is perfectly acceptable.

If this doesn’t stick for the company as a whole (not just the occasional individual), you have to get a bit harsher. For example, limit access to social media to between the hours of 11-2 (a typical span for lunch breaks). Limit access to particular departments like sales, marketing, and customer service. Limit access to particular problem sites (e.g.,. if Instagram isn’t utilized in your company social media strategy, you may want to cut access entirely).

Block the Right Websites

Outside of social media, typical bandwidth sucking sites include YouTube, Pandora, Spotify, Netflix and any other streaming services. While you’re probably okay allowing music streaming (listening to music often brings people into hyper-focus), you’ll want to cut off access to most video streaming when you start to see bandwidth issues. Rather than get rid of everything cold turkey, consider putting a TV with access to all of these streaming services in the breakroom so that employees don’t feel deprived of their binge-watching, but are at least doing it in a constrained, appropriate environment.

Backup and Update at Appropriate Times

Data backup and systems updates are absolutely critical to business success, but you don’t necessarily have to do the heavy lifting during peak usage hours. Instead, schedule the major daily backup (not just incremental minute-to-minute changes) to run afterhours. Cluster your system updates to run all at once for all employees at night or on the weekend rather than whenever the employee sees a pop-up.

Aggressive Security Protocols

Malware and viruses are notorious for stealing bandwidth. Make sure you have the proper firewall and virus protection protocols in place to avoid having these piggybackers stealing your network power.

Audit Your Bandwidth – Get What You’re Paying For

Every year, we recommend running an audit of both your phone and bandwidth services to make sure that you’re getting what you’re paying for. What do your upload and download speeds look like versus what you were promised? A master agent and MSP can help to make sure everything is in line.

Bandwidth is a limited and extremely important asset. You don’t always have the option of buying more pipeline. Instead, implement these bandwidth conservation protocols to make sure your employees are always able to work at their maximum capacity.

Getting Ahead of Windows End of Life

With Windows 7 end of life quickly approaching, it’s time to start thinking about what needs to be done to prepare. Technically, regular Windows 7 support has been dead since 2015, however, the extended support period is over January 2020, which means no more updates or security patches. What should you be aware of for EOL? Get ready, you may have some work to do.

Many are concerned that their PCs will stop working. That is not the case. Your Windows software will work, but its security will depreciate rather quickly, which could put your PC in danger of cyber-attacks and viruses. Back in 2014, Microsoft ended support for Windows XP. It affected 40% of computers worldwide. Now, years later, it is estimated that about 7% of computers are still using Windows XP. These computers are the ones hackers like to target because of the security holes caused by lack of regular patching.

Currently, about 70% of businesses worldwide use Windows 7, so it’s highly likely that you need to take action before Windows 7 retires. The more systems you have on Windows 7, the sooner you need to prepare. Here‘s a quick action plan:

  • Determine how many systems need an upgrade. Simply take a count of all the systems running Windows 7 or, if you still have some, Windows XP. If systems are on Windows 7, and the hardware is up to par, you likely will be able to do a simple license upgrade.
  • Assess your hardware. Windows 10 will not work on all hardware systems. You may need an upgrade. Contact your IT provider to help you determine if your hardware has the right specs. Easiest way to tell? If your hardware came out in the last three years or so, you’re probably in the clear. We recommend upgrading your hardware about every three to four years to avoid any compatibility issues.
  • Create a timeline and budget. You don’t have to make all these changes all at once. You could plan them out up to and including January 2020, but we recommend getting started sooner rather than later. Again, your IT provider will be able to help determine your best path forward.
  • Create contingency plans. Unfortunately, not all line of business applications will immediately jump to operation on Windows 10, particularly if you’re utilizing an older version of the software, or if your software provider has gone out of business or moved to their own end of life cycle. Sometimes this is inevitable, but you need to be able to quarantine these vulnerable systems from the rest of your network as much as possible or take the time to plan your upgrade now. A quality IT company will be able to help you make the decision, as well as set up a test environment so that you know your contingency plans are working long before you need them.
  • Training Your Staff. While the transition from Windows 7 to Windows 10 is not the monumental shift past software updates have been, the new system does take a bit of getting used to. Plan time to work with your staff one-on-one or in a group so that you don’t end up with them wasting time tinkering or trying to figure out why their favorite button isn’t where it used to be. Your IT provider should be able to provide this user-based training for Windows 10, as well as the majority of software you utilize on a daily basis.

Keep in mind that Windows 10 end of life takes place in January of 2025; so, while planning, ensure your devices can make the switch again in a few years, or that you’re budgeting for another upgrade. Also, document your processes during the shift. This could make life so much easier down the road. Most of all though, act. You don’t want to be stuck without security patches or an up-to-date operating system. It’s like hackers can smell your outdated system and will gladly break-in. Protect yourself and your business and begin planning sooner than later.

What Does Windows End of Life Mean to my Business?

You’ve all heard the panic. Windows is cutting off support for its widely popular version 7 software. January 14, 2020 will officially mark Windows 7 End of Life. Many companies have used Windows 7 since it launched in 2009 and are still actively using it today. So, what’s the big deal? Can you just stick with Windows 7 or will your computer self-destruct?

The good news is that your computers will work just fine after the End of Life date. However, just because your computer will function doesn’t mean it’s wise to hold onto outdated software. The largest concern for Windows 7 users is security. Since updates and support will no longer be available, your device will be extremely vulnerable to cyber threats. In fact, this is a bit of a hacker’s dream. They are standing by, knowing people will neglect to update their operating system.

Windows 7 is actually already in its ‘extended support’ phase and has been since 2015! Microsoft ended mainstream support including new features and warranty claims. Yet, throughout this time, Windows has kept virus patches and security bug fixes up to date. With End of Life, that will go away. IT and security experts alike strongly suggest migrating your operating system to something current before the Windows EOL date. Theoretically, you could pay for Windows 7 extended support on each individual device, but the costs will build up faster than simply migrating. Not only that, but specific security and bug fixes will also be more expensive and charged on an individual basis.

Currently, there are a few options to choose from when it comes to Windows 7 EOL. Don’t be cheap and go to Windows 8. Though it is a newer version, it’ll only be a matter of time before you need to migrate all over again. You could transition to Windows 10 (recommended). If you are worried about cost efficiency, you could try a free operating system like Linux. It will take some research to find the specific Linux platform that’s best for you, but it may be worth it if you’re someone who likes to tinker. Then, of course, you could swap to a Mac altogether. Just keep in mind that Apple’s products are pretty expensive and you may need to re-purchase certain business applications.

It’s important to begin working with your IT Company on this migration as soon as possible. They’ll take a look at the devices you are using, determine how many are utilizing Windows 7, and ensure your hardware isn’t out of date. Not all computers will be able to handle a new operating system, which could make a migration take much longer, more difficult, and costlier as you upgrade hardware. Your IT company will provide a recommended path for an upgrade with a clear budget and timeline for completion.

Overall, take some time to plan your transition. Talk to us if you need additional help or options. Most of all though, get moving now. EOL will be here in no time.