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Author Archives: Admin

To Cloud, or Not to Cloud

Everyone is talking about cloud computing these days and for good reason. The cloud is revolutionizing how computing power is generated and consumed. Cloud refers to software and services that run on the internet, instead of locally on your computer. When tech companies say your data is backed up “in the cloud,” it has nothing to do with those white fluffy things in the sky. Your data isn’t actually up in the cosmos or floating around in space. It has a terrestrial home. It’s stored someplace — lots of places, in fact — and a network of servers find what you need when you need it and then deliver it.

Cloud computing, if done properly, can make your business much more efficient. However, a cloud solution is only as good as the quality of the research, the implementation and the follow-through. So, how do you know if moving your business applications and data to the cloud is the right answer for you? There are few things you need to know about the cloud first.

What exactly is the cloud? This is a tricky question in and of itself. Just like the clouds in the sky, there are many clouds when it comes to technology. In the simplest terms, cloud computing means storing and accessing data and applications over the internet instead of your computer’s hard drive. It is using a network of computers to store and process information rather than a single hard drive.

Public vs. Private vs. Hybrid? Not all clouds are the same. You have options with public clouds, private clouds and even hybrid clouds. Choosing the right options for your business comes down to the needs and the amount of control you would like to have.

  • Public clouds: owned and operated by a third-party cloud service provider which deliver their computing resources such as servers and storage directly through the internet. With a public cloud, the hardware and software are owned and managed by the cloud provider. You access these services and manage your account using a web browser.
  • Private clouds: unlike the public cloud, the private cloud is used by only one organization. A private cloud is one in which the services and infrastructure are maintained on a private network. Some companies also pay third-party service providers to host their private cloud.
  • Hybrid clouds: combine public and private clouds, which allows data and applications to be shared between them. Data and applications can move between public and private clouds as needed, offering better flexibility and more deployment options.

HaaS or Saas? Just like there are different types of clouds, when it comes to cloud computing, there are also different types of cloud services. Most commonly used cloud services fall into two categories: HaaS and SaaS.

  • Hardware as a Service (HaaS) basically refers to leased computing power and equipment from a central provider. The HaaS model is very much like other hardware service-based models. Clients rent or lease rather than purchase a provider’s hardware.
  • Software as a Service (SaaS) utilizes the Internet to provide applications to its users, which are managed by a third-party. Unlike HaaS, this is a web-based model where software providers host and maintain the servers and databases eliminating hardware investment costs.

Is it safe and reliable? As mentioned before, cloud computing is the way of the future. We know it is easy and inexpensive – but is it safe and reliable? What good is saving money and switching to a cloud solution if it will bring additional risks to my business? Most cloud service providers offer encryption features such as service-side encryption to manage your own encryption keys. So, in reality, you ultimately decide how safe your solution is. As far as reliability goes, in many cases, cloud computing can reduce the amount of downtime to seconds. Since there are multiple copies of your data stored all throughout the cloud, there is no single point of failure. Most data can usually be recovered with a simple click of the mouse.

In the end, though, companies shouldn’t make decisions entirely based on what they are comfortable with or what is cheapest. What should be most important is deciding whether or not transitioning into the cloud will work for your business.

To cloud or not to cloud? The choice is all yours. Do your research and ask the right questions.

Fixing Your Weakest Link: Your Employees

You can have every piece of security hardware in the books: firewall, backup disaster recovery device, and even anti-virus. However, your employees will still be the biggest vulnerability in your organization when it comes to phishing attacks. How do you mitigate as much risk as possible?

  1. Create and Strictly Enforce a Password Policy: Passwords should be complex, randomly generated, and replaced regularly. In order to test the strength of your password go to howsecureismypassword.com. (This is a perfectly safe service sponsored by a password protection platform that tells you how long it would take a hacker to decode your password.) When creating a password policy, bear in mind that the most prevalent attacks are Dictionary attacks. Most people utilize real words for their passwords. Hackers will typically try all words before trying a brute force attack. Instead of words, use a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols. The longer the password, the stronger it is. While it’s difficult to remember passwords across different platforms, try not to repeat passwords. This will protect all other accounts in the event of a breach on one of your accounts.
  2. Train and Test Your Employees Regularly: Educate your employees on how they can spot a phishing attack. Then, utilize penetration testing (this is a safe phishing attack orchestrated by your IT company to see how employees respond) and how well they do. If employees fall for phishing attempts then send them through training again. We recommend doing this on a quarterly basis to ensure that your employees stay on their toes and you should provide education on the latest attacks.
  3. Create a Bring Your Own Device Policy and Protect all Mobile Phones: You can safeguard as much as humanly possible on your network, but your employees are all walking in with cell phones. Are they allowed to get work emails on their phones? What about gaining access to the network remotely? Cell phones create a big black hole in security without proper mobile device management and mobile security.
  4. Perform Software Updates Regularly: Make sure that your software is up-to-date with all the latest security patches. Holding off on updates means that you’re leaving yourself open to vulnerabilities that have been discovered and addressed.
  5. Invest in Security: Security is not something for cost savings. Home-based hardware is not sufficient, and you, at the very least need a quality firewall and backup device. Invest in your employee’s training, ongoing security updates, and maintaining a full crisis/breach plan.

There are two things that aren’t going away in any business, employees and security threats. Make sure that you’ve taken care of everything you can to avoid falling victim to these attacks.

How To Spot A Phishing Attack

Would you know if you were the subject of a phishing attack? Many people claim that they’d be able to tell right away if they received an email from an illegitimate source. If that were the case, there wouldn’t be 1.5 million new phishing websites every month. A 65% increase in attacks in one year! Hackers would have moved on to their next idea for swindling people out of their identities and money. How do you spot a phishing attack and avoid falling victim yourself?

Look for these red flags:

  • Sender Email Address: Always check to make sure that the email address is legitimate. Amateur hackers will send things from Gmail or Hotmail accounts and hope you don’t notice. More sophisticated hackers will closely mimic an actual email domain, like amazonprime.com rather than amazon.com. Double check the email address before responding, clicking, or opening, even if the from name appears correct.
  • Discrepancies in Writing Format: If the attack is coming from overseas, you’re likely to notice some small issues in writing format, like writing a date as 4th April, 2019 rather than April 4, 2019. While this is subtle, it should be a red flag.
  • Grammar Issues: We all fall victim to the occasional typo, but if you receive an email riddled with grammar and spelling mistakes, consider the source. It’s likely from a hacker, especially if the email supposedly comes from a major organization.
  • Sender Name: This one is also difficult to track, but phishing emails will typically close with a very generic name to avoid raising suspicion. You should recognize the people that send you emails, or at the very least clearly understand their role at the organization.
  • Link Destination: Before you click on any link in an email be sure to hover over it. The destination URL should pop up. Check out the domain name of this URL. Similar to the sender email address, make sure that this address is legitimate before clicking.
  • Attachments: Is it realistic to expect an attachment from this sender? Rule of thumb, don’t open any attachment you don’t expect to receive, whether it’s a Zip file, PDF or otherwise. The payload for a ransomware attack often hides inside.
  • Email Design: A cooky font like Comic Sans should immediately raise red flags, especially if you don’t clearly recognize the sender.
  • Links to Verify Information: Never ever click on a link to verify information. Instead, if you think the information does need updating go directly to the website. Type in your email and password, and update your information from the Account tab. Always go directly to the source.

Odd Logo Use: Hackers try their best to mimic a websites’ look and feel. Oftentimes, they get very close; but they won’t be perfect. If something feels off, it probably is.

While there is no fool-proof method for avoiding falling victim to a phishing attack, knowing how to spot likely culprits is one step in the right direction. We’ll cover other protective measures to reduce your risk of falling victim to phishing attacks in our next blog.