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Posts from March, 2018


10 Cyberattacks Your Business Should Defend Against

Thursday, March 29th, 2018

Cyberattacks are a major security concern for any business that uses the Internet. Even if your company doesn’t have a website, hackers can go after your email address and business service accounts.

Though they represent one of the more severe risks of a cyberattack, a data breach costs an enterprise $1.3 million and an SMB $117,000 on average.

Cyberattacks take many forms; your business should plan to protect itself from the following common types of cyberattacks:

1. Phishing: In phishing attacks, hackers impersonate a business in an email to persuade recipients to hand over personal information via a reply or to install malware. The email may also contain a fraudulent link to a fake version of a trusted website’s login page. Whaling and spearphishing are specific types of phishing that refer to attacks that single out a specific person or group.

2. SQL Injection: SQL injection is a technique cybercriminals use to exploit database-entry forms on a website. Rather than inputting a name, password, address or other information, a hacker will instead enter a code command designed to damage your database. This is typically successful when the website doesn’t properly sanitize and clean user-input data.

3. Cross-Site Scripting: XSS attacks occur when a hacker slips malicious code into your website or application. It’s common for hackers to exploit advertisement networks and user-feedback fields to sneak code onto a business’s public platform.

4. Man in the Middle: An MITM is similar to a phishing scam in that a hacker impersonates an endpoint in communication. For instance, the hacker might pose as a representative for your bank when communicating with you and pose as you when communicating with the bank — and obtain valuable information with this strategy. More sophisticated variations of this attack involve jumping into a legitimate conversation and impersonating a trusted individual.

5. Malware Attacks: Malware refers to malicious programs designed to infiltrate and disrupt user devices. Of all the different types of malware, ransomware is among the most high-profile and dangerous: It disables access to a device until the user pays a ransom. Trojans, worms, and spyware are other notable types of malware.

6. Denial-of-Service Attacks: DoS attacks disrupt networks and online platforms by overwhelming them with incredible amounts of traffic. Hackers can use these attacks to knock your website offline or slow your network to a crawl. Distributed-denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks are a DoS variation that utilize multiple devices to pull off the attack; one such example is the Mirai IoT Botnet, which caused a major internet disruption for the eastern United States.

7. Social Engineering: Social engineering refers to a hacker using psychological manipulation to get an employee to hand over confidential information or install malware.

8. Drive-By: These attacks trick a user into installing malware, usually a Trojan, by clicking a link in a web browser. Drive-bys typically exploit security holes in web browser plug-ins.

9. Unpatched Software: Unpatched software attacks are entirely avoidable: They work by hackers using known exploits in programs that have already been fixed. Hackers rely on the fact that some users neglect to install important updates.

10. Brute Force Password Hacks: Hackers may also seize your company and employee accounts through brute force password hacking. In this scenario, they use a program to continually guess an account’s password at login until the program finds one that works. Secure passwords will take far longer to crack, so hackers tend to target less secure accounts.

IT security is an incomplete process unless your business has the right hardware, software and employees working together to prevent attacks. The IT consulting experts at MPA Networks can help. Contact us today.

Cybersecurity and C-Level Execs: Protecting Data While On the Go

Monday, March 26th, 2018

While all employees need to be mindful of security, the nature of C-level executives makes them more attractive targets for hackers. That means it’s necessary for them to take greater precautions.

According to TechRepublic, C-level executives are more vulnerable than other employees because of the mobile tendencies of their work, and they are higher-value targets because of their access to confidential information. Hackers often use lower-level employees as a way to work up to C-level executives to get the information they’re looking for.

Because of their vulnerabilities and target value, C-level executives need to adhere to the strictest security practices.

Internet Access Security Risks

Hackers can do a lot of damage with little effort if executives connect their devices to unsecured networks. C-level executives tend to travel frequently, which can expose their devices to vulnerable Wi-Fi networks. Coffee shops, airports, hotels and exhibition centers are among the largest and most vulnerable network threat locations — and all are places executives tend to frequent. Executives may be working on unsecured Wi-Fi or even worse: hacker-implemented Wi-Fi masquerading as a legitimate access point.

Your company’s best defense against vulnerable public and private networks is to avoid the “penny wise and dollar foolish” mindset: Pay for an unlimited mobile data plan with tethering support for your executives. Using mobile 4G internet on the go eliminates the risks of using out-of-office networks, and tethering support will allow C-level executives to connect their devices that don’t have built-in 4G mobile network access. Your company can also invest in network tunneling, VPNs and other security measures.

Executive Data Access Is an Attractive Target

Consider this hypothetical example: Bob from H.R. has access to everyone’s Social Security numbers, while Janet from accounting has access to the company’s financial records. But Sam the CEO has access to all that information and more. Because of this, hackers view executives as the biggest fish in the sea, and they will target executives over all other potential targets. This is an even bigger problem on outside networks than within the office network because executives don’t have all the security technology that the office provides protecting them.

In addition to preventing the attack, it’s also wise to limit the amount of data access an executive has on devices they use when traveling — especially for international travel.

Executives should use “burner” laptops/phones that only have the information they need for the trip in order to limit data exposure in the event of a hack. For example, don’t store a payroll spreadsheet containing every employee’s Social Security number on a travel laptop.

A stolen device is also an important risk to consider, so your business should always use encryption and secure passwords on executive devices used when traveling.

Email Is a Primary Attack Avenue

Email security needs to be a priority: It’s everywhere, so it’s irrational to think executives will only read and reply to emails in an office setting. C-level executives are primary targets in “whaling” attacks — high-value targeted email phishing scams. The main concern is man-in-the-middle attacks, where a hacker poses as a trusted individual in a conversation. Technology can only do so much to safeguard against whaling scams. Hackers may learn a great deal about a specific target and tailor their methods based on that information — unlike a standard phishing scam that involves throwing out a generic net to see who falls for it.

IT security is important at all levels, but lapses at the executive-level can have disastrous results. The IT consulting experts at MPA Networks can help your business implement strong security practices so your company can avoid catastrophic security breaches. Contact us today to learn more.

Giving a Presentation: A Technology Preparedness Checklist

Monday, March 19th, 2018

Giving a presentation can be stressful, so dealing with technology issues at the last minute is the last thing you want when attempting a professional delivery. The following technology preparedness checklist can help you make a good impression rather than forcing the audience to sit through on-the-fly troubleshooting.

A presenter should test the presentation where they are going to deliver it in advance.

Here’s what to do:

Hardware/Software Preparation Checklist

  • Run a “dress rehearsal” by testing any new hardware against the presentation delivery workflow. If this is the first time you’ve presented in a particular environment, run through loading your presentation and making sure the whole thing works correctly.
  • Ensure you have working login credentials for the presentation device and network, and test them in advance. Some computers will run a time-consuming new account setup script the first time a user logs into a device with network credentials.
  • Be sure the presentation device is running the most recent software updates. This will avoid surprise “update needed” popups and forced updates that can derail presentations.
  • Disable screen savers, phone calling and background messaging programs to avoid unwanted interruptions. Turn off any other disruptive applications you can identify.
  • Ensure the presentation device is compatible with the screen mirroring monitor or projector, and make sure you have all the necessary adapters and cables. Check in advance to see if you’re using an AppleTV, Miracast, Roku, WiDi or direct cable connection for monitor/TV/projector access. Make sure your device is compatible with the connection platform. Don’t rely on the IT staff to have all of the necessary cables ready.
  • Know your device’s screen mirroring shortcuts. For example, Windows devices use “Windows Key + P.”
  • Make sure audio playback works on the presentation device if you’re using sound in your presentation. Working video does not guarantee working audio.

Software Compatibility Checklist

  • Ensure your presentation files are compatible with the presentation device’s software. For example, if you’ve prepared a speech in Keynote, you may need to convert it to PowerPoint.
  • Check for embedded media file compatibility. For example, an embedded .MOV file may work on the PC on which you created the presentation, but it might not work on the presentation device. If you’re sure you’ll have internet access, you can link to or insert the videos from website sources to remove compatibility issues.
  • Run through the presentation and check for formatting issues on the presentation device. The presentation device may be using a different version of the software and thus may display differently. Avoid using custom fonts, and stick to the five-by-five text rule to work around formatting changes.

Presentation Access Checklist

  • Make sure you can load your necessary files onto the desired presentation device. PowerPoint files may not embed all linked content, so be sure to move all the necessary media files with the presentation file. Test it on another device if you can.
  • Have two data copies of your presentation ready in case one fails. Store copies on a flash drive and external hard drive, an optical disc and a portable drive, or a flash drive and cloud storage. If you’re bringing your own device, have a copy on external storage just in case you need to present on a different device.
  • Avoid internet dependencies if at all possible.

The more familiar you become with a given presentation environment, the better able you will be to pinpoint the most important factors to check on before a presentation. The experts at MPA can also help your business streamline its presentation hardware and software configuration through productivity consulting and desktop management. Contact us today to find out more.

The Mirai Botnet Returns — and Why You Should be Concerned

Tuesday, March 13th, 2018

The Mirai botnet refers to a massive-scale network of Linux-running Internet of Things devices turned into remote-controlled bots through a malware infection. Hackers can use the network to run a distributed denial of service, or DDoS, by having the infected devices overwhelm a target with data traffic. Mirai malware and its copycats are an ongoing threat to Internet security and stability. All businesses should be concerned about Mirai’s damage potential and perform their security due diligence to avoid contributing to the problem.

A History of Attacks

Mirai first appeared September 2016, then reemerged in late 2017; its botnet of devices maxed out at around 600,000 infected devices.

While the average person probably doesn’t know what Mirai is, most people in the eastern half of the United States experienced what it can do: it was responsible for the October 2016 wide-scale slowdown of the Internet for the entire region.

Without diving too deep into the technical details, this outage-causing traffic came from malware-infected routers and cameras. In the malware botnet’s initial use, it created a massive 630 Gbps attack on a journalist’s website on September 20, 2017, double the traffic from the previous largest known attack.

While the hackers from the original Mirai attack eventually pleaded guilty, the threat from Mirai and similar malware is still very real. In late 2017, hackers used a variation to seize control of over 100,000 devices in just 60 hours, mostly consisting of unsecured modems made by ZyXEL.

How It Works

Mirai is a worm-like malware that infects Internet of Things devices by using factory default credentials. The malware scans the Internet for dozens of IoT devices with known vulnerabilities from default security settings and seizes them. Mirai exploits human behavior because owners often don’t change the default settings. The malware will control the device and use it to flood a target with Internet traffic when the hackers activate a signal. The malware creates an ad-hoc network of thousands of devices and has them all attack a target at the same time until the target’s web hosting platform is so overwhelmed with traffic it goes offline.

Mirai is dangerous because it inspires copycat malware that can be used for similar attacks. This malware family tends to target low-hanging fruit: low-cost electronics with little security. Device owners will have a difficult time identifying when their devices are infected because they remain dormant between the infection and the attack.

What It Means for Businesses

Businesses should be concerned about Mirai and similar malware in two areas: having their devices seized by the malware and being a target of a DDoS attack. Your business could be a victim of the malware without being a hacker’s target if your devices get infected and become a part of the network. An infection could potentially run up bandwidth usage, lead to slower network connections, and cause device malfunctions. Your business could be a target of a botnet DDoS attack, but your company’s devices are far more likely to be infection targets.

Managing Messaging Tools in Your Office

Monday, March 5th, 2018

When used well, instant messaging tools can increase productivity while offering secure information exchange in your office. Messaging works in business environments because it’s less involved than email, easy to queue and fast to respond. Several free and premium messaging systems that vary in both features and security are widely used in businesses today. Some of the most popular include Slack, HipChat, Yahoo Messenger and WhatsApp.

As with any communication tool, businesses should make sure messaging services are being used securely and for work-related purposes. The following tips can help your business stay focused on work while minimizing security risks when using instant messaging platforms:

Avoiding Distractions

While instant messaging helps speed up work-related communication, it can also be a major source of distractions. Taking an overbearing stance against non-work related conversations can be bad for morale; instead, your administrators should steer the conversation towards productivity in the following ways:

  • Use a service that controls which accounts can talk to one another to ensure that employees are only talking to business contacts.
  • Keep chatroom membership levels appropriate. The smaller the number of people in a given chatroom conversation, the less opportunity there is for distractions. Having too many people in a chatroom can make the conversation difficult to follow.
  • Design chatrooms around a specific group or job, and make sure the name describes the room’s purpose. This will naturally steer conversation toward an appropriate topic.
  • According to Slack, there’s no such thing as too many chatrooms, so don’t feel obligated to condense groups. Having more chatrooms helps minimize conversation clutter.
  • Assign administrators to chatrooms to bring the conversation back on topic if it gets too far off base.

Checking Conversation Logs: When HR Gets Involved

Sometimes your business will have to address bad behavior on instant messaging services over both security and distractions.

Monitoring all conversations is bad for morale, because employees will feel as though management is invading their privacy.

It’s best to read employee conversations only if there’s a report of harassment, abuse or a substantial drop in productivity. Set chat expectations in advance to avoid the need to pull conversation records.

Conversation Security

Your business should ensure your instant messaging platform has sufficient security practices to prevent outsiders from gaining access. Because instant messaging platforms save conversation history, an intruder may access untold amounts of confidential information. It’s also important to make sure employees are using secure login credentials. Administrators can minimize the amount of damage from a compromised account through access control settings. Additionally, many messaging platforms allow your business to control who employees can contact so you don’t have to worry about outsiders accidentally gaining access to group conversations.

Data Security

Employees may use a messaging platform to transfer files with confidential information between each other. Therefore, it’s important that your messaging service encrypts data transfers. Messaging services that store file transfer backups in the cloud can also introduce new security risks, so staff should move sensitive data files through other, more secure means.

The IT consulting experts at MPA Networks can help your business find the right messaging tools that fit your needs. Then, through business productivity consulting, they can help you set policies that help avoid workplace distractions and implement secure technology use. Contact us today to learn more.