Monthly Archives: October 2019

When Should I Upgrade My Technology?

When is the worst time to realize you need a new car? When you’re on the side of the road in your old, broken down clunker that just won’t run anymore. Hopefully, you’ve never been there before. Unfortunately, businesses often find themselves in that exact situation when it comes to their computer systems. As businesses are increasingly dependent on technology, it’s ironic that attitudes about their upkeep and replacement remain lax. Why is that attitude dangerous and what can you do to combat it?

Break/Fix Cycles

There’s a good reason why you wouldn’t want to buy a new car, or a new computer system, just as the old one dies – desperation. Either you will buy a replacement that isn’t right for you or one that costs way too much.

Waiting until a computer, server, or another piece is completely unusable is unwise. This can result in going over budget or having to comprise the actual needs just to have someone running. Take the time to develop a relationship with a Managed Services Provider or VAR to plan what you need for a technology refresh. Get a general idea of how long your systems can reasonably last (typically 3-5 years depending on equipment and usage). Create a schedule for replacement on a regular basis, diverting resources to make it less of a burden when replacements are necessary. Do this before you are desperate.

Embracing the Technology Curve

While you don’t want to wait until you have a steaming heap of broken technology, you also don’t want to swing in the opposite direction. Purchasing everything at the bleeding edge of technology guarantees that you will get a version filled with all the bugs that software and firmware updates eliminate over the first months. As with many aspects of life, you must strike a balance. Keep an eye out for any advancements in hardware or software that you (currently or could potentially) use that would make a noticeable improvement for your operations. Then, make a plan for making that purchase. Lean on the guidance of your IT Support professional for the timing that makes sense.

New Options for a New Generation

The amount of tech needed for even non-technical industries is increasing by the year. This can present new challenges for a new era. For example, for thousands of years, contractors have needed hammers, saws, and other tools for physical tasks. Now they need to have tablets for blueprints, smartphones for communication, and desktops for billing and documents. That doesn’t take into account the administrative offices for larger construction companies. If construction companies need all this tech, imagine the changes in other industries as well!

Operating in this new age requires more expense and logistics. Thankfully, there are new options to address these new concerns beyond simply “go and buy what you need when you need it.” That’s exactly where a Managed Services Provider comes in.

Dollars and Sense

With your IT services provider, develop a monthly and annual budget for technology. Scour past spending numbers to determine reasonable, realistic amounts, as well as where you may have excessively spent due to desperation or the desire to be on the cutting edge. We have found that systems typically last about 3-5 years. Craft a budget that makes sense with this particular refresh cycle.

Having a fixed budget in place will avoid surprises when technology spending comes up. In addition, take a look at subscription services for both hardware and software.

Instead of charging one time for software without ongoing updates, products (such as Microsoft Office 365) now charge on a monthly or yearly basis. This allows you to know exactly how much you’ll need to budget as well as ensures you have the most recent version, features, and security updates.

There are similar services that work with hardware. Hardware as a Service (HaaS), allows you to be up to date on hardware needs without having to worry about making large capital expenditures. Just like with software, you can pay a monthly or yearly amount and receive a hardware refresh at regular intervals. In addition, HaaS providers should include maintenance in between upgrades to keep the current systems running in the best condition.

Technology is a part of business that won’t be disappearing. By doing your research and planning accordingly, you can successfully navigate when it’s time to upgrade.

Cybersecurity for Small Businesses

If you own or run a small business you know, better than anyone, that it’s not easy work. It takes a lot of time and energy to meet the demands expected of you every week. That’s why certain aspects of running a business, such as cybersecurity, often take a backseat to other, more urgent issues. Many small business owners look at cybersecurity as something they’ll get to when they have the time. Others rely on whoever in-house knows the most about computers.

Some employees might have the basic computer knowledge to get by, but a do-it-yourself (DIY) security approach isn’t the best choice. Let’s take a look at some reasons why outsourcing cybersecurity might be your best solution.

The Numbers Don’t Lie

In a recent survey, 87% of small business owners felt they were at low risk of ever being attacked. Even more alarming, 30% had absolutely no security solution at all. However, since 2016 at least 50% of small businesses have had at least one cyber-attack of some sort. That appears to mean that 37% of small businesses have already been attacked and still feel at low risk.

On average, a small business has a 60% chance of shutting down within a few months of a breach. Let that sink in. While many small businesses play fast and loose with security risks, the majority won’t live to tell the tale past a hack. A huge percentage of small businesses are happily swimming in the waters of commerce unaware of the school of piranhas forming underneath them because most of the previous victims have disappeared without a trace.

No One Is Too Small

Small businesses falsely assume that no one sees their company as attack-worthy. They think larger businesses are bigger targets due to their size and income. Everyone is a target. In fact, it’s worse for small businesses because they not only have less ave less security, but their valuable information often lacks appropriate backup.

What’s Good for the Goose Isn’t Good for the Gander

When implementing cybersecurity prevention for a small business, many people turn to what they’re familiar with. This often takes the form of relying solely on basic virus protection. While programs like these are certainly better than nothing, there’s more to do than controlling the spread of viruses. Cybercriminals are more motivated than ever before, and some hackers even work in teams to attack your computers until they find a way in. Single-layer, consumer-level solutions are not the best defense.

The Rising Threat of Ransomware

Hackers are far from dumb criminals. They know exactly what they’re doing. If a hacker encrypts the information on a single computer in a small business, there’s a good chance they can infiltrate the rest of the business, holding it captive using a ransomware attack.

When a hacker takes over your information, they hold it hostage until you pay the ransom, just like in a physical ransom situation. Just how much ransom are we talking about? According to some experts, half of all ransomware payments made by businesses amount to more than $10,000. 20% are more than $40,000. If you’re a large corporation, that could be a drop in the bucket. But for a small business, the cost is far more damaging. The ransom payment could amount to months of payroll. It’s no wonder that many small businesses close up shop after being attacked just once!

The Bottom Line

Take heart. This is not a hopeless situation. Nothing could be further from the truth! A small business simply needs to prepare. One of the biggest hurdles to having a comprehensive security plan is the cost. Most small businesses dream of having one dedicated cybersecurity person, let alone supporting a division like many larger companies. What is a more reasonable option?

MSPs (Managed Service Providers) are a way of outsourcing this difficult but important aspect of your business. Find a company that deals with small businesses regularly, like we do. MSPs understand the best ways to implement a security solution appropriate for your unique situation at a reasonable price. After all, a solution will only work if it keeps pace with the cybercriminals who are after your assets.

Hackers are After Healthcare Information

When you think of a hacker frantically tapping away in a dark room, who do you think he’s targeting? Banks? The government? Try healthcare information. 2018 saw three times as many healthcare-related cyberattacks as the year prior, and 2019 is holding onto that momentum.

Healthcare breaches are much larger in scope than we imagine. While you might think this affects a few dozen people at most, these hacks end up gathering information on thousands — sometimes millions — of patients at a time. One of the largest beaches this year (AMCA), exposed over 20 million patients. While these numbers can be mind-boggling, they do bring some important questions to mind.

Why Do Hackers Target Healthcare Information?

What possible reason could hackers have to want to know about that time you got ringworm at the gym or that you occasionally get heartburn? Healthcare records aren’t targeted for that information, but are actually prized for “full information”. Full information includes names, addresses, birthdates, and Social Security numbers. If someone steals your credit card information, you can have the card canceled and useless within a few minutes. Full information, on the other hand, includes personal information that rarely or never changes.

While we think about credit card information sold on the Dark Web, medical information is even more valuable. Just how valuable? According to current estimates, your medical record can fetch 10 to 60 times that of your credit card information! Once it’s in the wrong hands, that information can be devastating to your credit into the foreseeable future.

How Is Healthcare Information So Easily Breached?

Unfortunately, most healthcare organizations and those that work with them don’t take the hacking threat seriously. Here are some of the biggest factors contributing to this epidemic.

Older Systems

The healthcare industry is notorious for being slow to upgrade their computer systems. One reason is that many healthcare offices are small and have an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality. Also, HIPAA requirements are quite strict so finding new software can be a daunting task. There’s even a debate about whether or not newer operating systems are HIPAA compliant. Older, out-of-date software and systems are low hanging fruit for cybercriminals.

No Security Department

Think of your primary care physician’s office. You may be familiar with your doctor, the nurses, and the billing people, but when was the last time you saw an IT department? Many smaller offices don’t have the resources or the wherewithal to have something like this formally set up. They depend on the general staff —who are often overworked as it is — to take care of the day-to-day technical issues. Even if the entire staff is competent in this area, this would be a major undertaking.

Massive Interconnectivity

You might remember having to wait while people faxed/mailed your medical records from one place to another if you changed doctors or had to have treatment at a different location. Now, it takes a few minutes while things electronically transfer. We expect convenience, but it comes at a cost. Many medical facilities and hospitals constantly send information back and forth throughout the day. The more points of transfer in a system, the more opportunities there are for someone to find an entry point.

Various Devices

Along with being interconnected, healthcare is more and more dependant on technology. In many areas, modern healthcare facilities look more like a futuristic spaceship than a hospital! Remember that every piece of technology that uses medical information is a potential target for hackers. While the main servers might be heavily protected, who makes sure that the third desktop at the nurse’s station on the second floor has its security updated? What about the rolling computer used for billing or the tablet used by one of the surgeons? Any of these devices open the door for someone to gain access to all of the patients in the system.

Out of sight, out of mind

Unfortunately, this is most likely the main cause of hacks in the healthcare system. Medical professionals are well aware of the idea of “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. Unfortunately, they tend to ignore this when it comes to their IT, waiting until a disaster to force necessary changes.

If you are in the healthcare industry or work with healthcare information (i.e. lawyers, billing departments, accountants), don’t wait before it’s too late to turn a new leaf. If you frequent doctor’s offices, make sure they know the importance of cybersecurity. The last thing you want is to be on the news as the latest victim.

Rise of Ransomeware

From a technology standpoint, there’s never been a better time to be alive. Chatting with people for free all across the world or opening your front door at home while in a business meeting, it seems that our interconnected world has unlimited possibilities. Sadly, that can go really wrong when people with less than pure motives take advantage. Viruses and other threats are on the rise, and there is one word whose very mention sends shivers down the spine of mortal cybersecurity professionals everywhere: ransomware.

Ransome is so frightening because of how quickly it is becoming a major issue across all systems worldwide and how devastating it is for businesses. Today, we will be discussing this threat and what you need to do to keep it out of your business.

Know Thy Enemy

What exactly is ransomware and why should you care? Like other computer threats (think viruses or trojan horses), ransomware has a colorful name that aptly describes what it does. In fact, it’s exactly what it sounds like: someone holds your data or computer access hostage until you pay a ransom. Depending on the circumstances, this can range from a relatively small sum to well over $1,000,000.

These attacks rarely occur on their own. Most often they are part of an email phishing scheme. As criminals have become more and more sophisticated, attacks like these — that only suckers used to fall for — are becoming common even among seasoned professionals.

The Rise

Ransomware has grown to by one of the top cyber threats your company faces. To put this in perspective, in 2018, we saw a 300% increase in ransomware attacks from the year before. So far in 2019, we’ve seen even more attacks than all of last year.

Why the increase? Frankly, because it works. While the ransom can be quite high, most hackers consider the size of the company and value of the data. In most cases, they set the price cheaper than manually restoring the data, so many companies just pay the ransom and hope if they don’t have a proper backup. The FBI recommends not paying so as to not encourage the hackers, but they also recognize that this may actually be the only option for many organizations without the proper security protocols in place.

(In)Famous Status

Ransomware has been popular in the news lately because hackers are targeting governments of all sizes, in addition to businesses. For instance, in the state of Florida alone, seven municipalities have been victims. In April, the city of Tallahassee paid $500,000 to get access to critical systems and data after an attack. They paid for the attack by diverting funds from employee payroll. The city of Riviera Beach paid over $600,000 in Bitcoin for a similar attack in May after an employee fell for a phishing scam!

National governments are also falling victim! The government of Ecuador said that have seen over 40 million attempts to hack into their system. A few have been successful, resulting in expensive ransoms.

What Does This All Mean?

Saying that “ransomware is here to stay,” would be a massive understatement. However, there is a bit of good news about this. While ransomware itself is a relatively new threat, it uses old standbys to enter your computer in the first place. Ransomware affects your system after hitching a ride on another threat, such as a virus or phishing attempt. Think of it this way. In the past few years, zika, a dangerous virus passed on by mosquitos has been on the rise. Because it’s transmitted by a known pest, we can use the same precautions we’ve always used against mosquitos to prevent infection. This would include repellent, avoiding standing water and wearing long clothing.

Similarly, the best way to avoid ransomware is to protect your network against many of the same threats we’ve always faced with computers. This means being proactive and keeping your system safe before the ransomware can have access to your vital data. In the event of a breach, you also need to have a viable back-up to seamlessly rollback before the attack.

How well does your current system protect you from ransomware and other