alt tag

Posts from December, 2016


A Primer on Phishing Attacks

Wednesday, December 21st, 2016

credit-card-1591492_640

Phishing attacks are a dangerous and devastating method hackers use to steal personal information and accounts—primarily by striking the user instead of the machine. According to the APWG Phishing Activity Trends Report, the first quarter of 2016 saw an explosive 250 percent increase in phishing attacks, meaning both the industry and individuals should be increasingly concerned about these scams.

While security software is getting better at detecting phishing attacks, it can’t stop them all. Here’s the rundown on what you can do to protect yourself and your employees.

What Exactly Is a Phishing Attack?

The goal of a phishing scam is to get a person to hand over private information, usually pertaining to account access credentials, credit card numbers, social security numbers, or other information, that can be used to steal accounts, information, and identities.

According to Indiana University, phishing attacks, or scams, typically present themselves as fake emails masquerading as official sources asking for personal information. Google adds that phishing attacks can also come through advertisements and fake websites.

So, phishing attacks come in several forms. One example of a phishing attack is an email arriving in an employee’s inbox asking them to reset their Gmail account information. Another is an email from “Amazon” saying the account holder’s credit card information didn’t go through for a recent order.

What’s the Best Defense Against Phishing Attacks?

The best thing a person can do to protect themselves from phishing scams is to be wary any time they receive a message asking for personal information. Businesses and organizations can protect themselves by educating their employees and members about what phishing attacks look like, and how to avoid them.

Teach your employees to look for red flags, like an email address that doesn’t correspond to the supposed sender, impersonalized messages, grammatical errors, and/or unsolicited attachments. Equally, watch out for spoofed links that list one URL on the page but redirect to another—and keep an eye out for spoofed URLs that don’t match the real site (e.g., gooogle.com instead of google.com).

Some phishing emails use such highly personalized information that they may appear, on the surface, to be authentic. Don’t let your guard down. Phishing attacks typically use fear to motivate a person into handing over sensitive information with statements like “your order will be canceled” or “your account will be deactivated.” Instead of clicking the link inside the email or responding directly with personal information, go to the real website using a search engine or by typing the URL directly into your browser. If you receive a phishing email related to any of your professional account credentials, report it to IT.

The State of Phishing Attacks

Now that web users are spread out over a variety of operating systems including Windows, Mac OS, Android, and iOS, it makes sense that hackers would divert more effort to scams that attack the user instead of the operating system. Symantec reported a 55 percent increase in “spear-phishing” scams across 2015. In the first quarter of 2016, CSO reported that criminals successfully targeted 41 organizations in a phishing scam aimed at retrieving W-2 data.

If your company is looking to improve its IT security practices against threats like phishing scams, the IT consulting experts at MPA Networks are ready to help. Contact us today.

The End of the Samsung Galaxy Note 7: Device Explosions Trigger Full Recalls

Tuesday, December 13th, 2016

samsung-1666557_640

In a rare move, Samsung fully recalled and discontinued production on its previously well-reviewed Galaxy Note 7 model following several verified cases of the devices catching fire. This unexpected turn of events has left a vacuum in the large smartphone and phablet product space. Businesses often rely on these devices to increase productivity on the go, as they are much easier to haul around than a full-sized tablet or laptop.

What’s going on with Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7?

Samsung issued two recalls on the Galaxy Note 7, the second of which included phones that were sent out to replace the faulty ones in the first recall.

Essentially, the problem with the Galaxy Note 7 over other faulty device recalls is that Samsung is unable to figure out exactly why these devices are exploding. Samsung initially thought it was a problem with defective batteries from a supplier, but the fires continued with the new models.

This issue is confined to the Galaxy Note 7: Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge. Older Samsung smartphones are not affected. However, Samsung has made the news over defective product problems in the past, including washing machines and microwaves.

Consumer Confidence and Recall Fallout

Because of the safety problems with the devices and tarnished branding, Samsung has discontinued the Galaxy Note 7 product line. The FAA banned Galaxy Note 7 devices from airplanes, even when powered down. According to CNET, 40 percent of people surveyed claim they will not purchase another Samsung phone after this debacle. And while the publication notes that this survey may represent a higher share than reality, there’s no question that the brand has been damaged by bad PR.

The same survey reports that around 30 percent of people will switch to iPhones, while the other 70 percent will switch to a different Android manufacturer. While Samsung’s reputation will certainly take a hit from the Note 7 recall, and Android’s market share will dip slightly, claiming it’s “doomsday for Android” is an exaggeration based on market data.

About Lithium-Ion Battery Safety

Lithium-Ion batteries, which are found in just about every device with a rechargeable power source, are prone to catching fire in overheating, overcharging, and physical damage situations. Issues including swollen and punctured batteries can happen to any phone or device using these batteries. Such problems are, of course, a major safety issue, as the devices can burn people and/or start larger fires.

Galaxy Note 7 Alternatives

Even if your employees love their Galaxy Note 7 devices, they’re not safe to use and should be replaced. Several other viable large-form smartphones on the market can replace most, if not all, of the Note 7’s functionality. Android Community recommends the following devices:

  • Samsung Galaxy Note 5 (there was no Galaxy Note 6 model)
  • Samsung Galaxy 7 Edge
  • LG V20
  • Google Pixel XL
  • Xiaomi Mi 5
  • OnePlus 3
  • Huawei P9 Plus
  • ZTE Axon 7

Alternatively, your employees could look at switching to an iPhone 7 Plus or larger Windows Phone device.

For help improving your business IT productivity and guidance in finding the right technology solutions for your company’s specific needs, contact the experts at MPA Networks today.

Antivirus Software: When One Is Better Than Two

Wednesday, December 7th, 2016

antivirus-1349649_640

If your company’s antivirus software is letting you down, you should think twice before installing a second one on a computer: It may actually make things worse.

Multiple antivirus programs working in conjunction on the same device is not a case of “the sum is greater than the parts” but rather “less is more.”

With many viable free solutions like AVG, Avast, and Avira, it can be very tempting to install backup for a paid option. However, the interaction between multiple antivirus programs leads at best to, essentially, nothing. At worst, it will be detrimental to system performance, stability, and security.

Stepping on Toes

The primary reason that running simultaneous antivirus programs on the same device is a bad idea is that the two programs will confuse one another for malware infections and try to eliminate each other. According to PC World, the antivirus scan conflicts can spill out and cause other programs to fail, while making the operating system less stable. Computer users may immediately notice general slowdown and shorter battery life after installing a second antivirus program.

Users may also be plagued with continuous “false alarm” messages after threats have been removed because the act of one antivirus program removing an infection will be seen by the other as a malware action. Therefore, if you’re installing a new antivirus program on a computer, you’ll need to remove the old one first. This includes removing Windows Defender.

Anti-Malware Scanning Software: Antivirus Backup Exists

Backup exists, but it’s not found in additional antivirus programs. Instead, your business can utilize additional programs commonly referred to as “anti-malware” that are specifically designed to catch infections antivirus software misses for improved protection.

The term “antivirus” is a bit misleading because the programs actually protect computers from a wide range of software-based threats on top of viruses including Trojans, rootkits, worms, and ransomware. Antivirus refers to a software security program that runs in the background at all times as an active form of protection. Anti-malware programs including Malwarebytes, SuperAntiSpyware, and Spybot work through “On Demand” scans, meaning they can be used periodically to clean malware infections.

The Recovery Clause

In disaster recovery situations, your IT staff may need to install a different antivirus program to combat a malware infection that the currently installed software can’t remove. In this situation, the old software will need to be disabled or uninstalled before the new program can get to work.

If you’re looking for better digital security options for your office, contact MPA networks today. Use our experience in IT consulting to your advantage for assistance in both preventing and reducing downtime over malware threats.