Category Archive

Cyber Security

Cybersecurity – Firewalls

Jeff Cyber Security, IT Support November 4, 2020

As we explained previously, cybersecurity is the defence of computers and devices from damage or theft of sensitive information concerning your business and your customers.

 

Cybersecurity is a challenge all over the modern world. With 312 million people accessing the internet across the United States in 2019, this statistically makes the United States one of the largest online markets worldwide ranking only behind China and India in terms of online audience size.¹ The rate of growth in technology has made our personal information more accessible to potentially threatening people than ever before. This should make cybersecurity as important as any other part of your daily life and business.

 

Keeping your customer information safe and secure at all times should not only be important on a moral level but also has business benefits too. Using a good quality cybersecurity programme will not only protect you from cyberattack but will also make you appear more credible on a business level by providing confidence to your customers.

Firewalls in more detail.

 

Firewalls

Firewall a definition: Protect (a network or system) from unauthorized access with a firewall, ‘a firewalled network’.

Firewalls can be split into two different types depending on where they sit in a network:

 

Personal Firewalls

Personal firewalls are installed by the individual for the protection of their devices.

 

Boundary Firewalls

Boundary firewalls function at a network’s most outer points, meaning all the devices within the network are protected.

 

How firewalls function

Firewalls operate to set rules they must follow whilst police the traffic passing across a network. The firewall administrator manages these set ‘rules, making the firewall block actions that are considered to be of high-risk whilst allowing the use of ‘safe’ services online needed by users. Firewalls ‘filter’ data through a variety of methods. For example:

 

Firewall installation

Deciding on the best way to install firewall protection will depend on the size of your network. If it’s a very small network then using a software firewall on each device should offer adequate protection, provided it’s maintained correctly.

 

Safeguard administrative accounts – Using strong passwords and authentification protocols

Strong passwords!

Many of us have the bad habit of using a short repetitive password or a sequence of letters/numbers. This is unacceptable for good cyber safety. Long passwords with a series of numbers, special characters and letters in upper and lower case will give your password the best chance of standing up to potential scrutiny.

 

Restricting access to as few devices as possible

Make access limited to a select few IP addresses that you trust.

 

Record and manage Firewall rules

There should be someone in charge of the rules surrounding the firewall. They should also oversee the running of the firewall.

 

Use two-factor authentification

The more access criteria the better. Verifying your identity at available intervals ensures safety when accessing administrative accounts.

 

We’re Elixis Technology

In the ever-changing, technology-centric world we live in, it’s vital to have an I.T. solution source you can count on. At Elixis Technology, it is our mission to help businesses — big and small — produce the results their customers demand, with technology that actually works.

 

For more information, feel free to send us a message.

 

https://www.statista.com/statistics/276445/number-of-internet-users-in-the-united-states/#:~:text=In%202019%2C%20close%20to%20312,terms%20of%20online%20audience%20size¹

https://languages.oup.com/google-dictionary-en/²

 

CyberSecurity – Secure configuration

Jeff Cyber Security, IT Support November 4, 2020

As we found out in the last article, cybersecurity is an important part of every business in the modern world. Since COVID-19, the U.S FBI reported a 300% increase in reported cybercrimes¹ which highlights the importance of cybersecurity. Here are a few things to look out for.

 

Managing Permissions

To stop unauthorized access, managing permissions is very important, (by individuals within or outside your organization) to confidential information, sensitive data and system settings. A breach of access could result in malware intrusion, data theft/loss, or deliberate changes to your security settings will likely present opportunities for cybercriminals.

 

Configuring your system

System configuration control requires businesses to optimize all settings within their network for maximum security, ensure the upkeep of the system with regular maintenance as this lowers opportunities for cybercriminals.

This may sound simple, but breaking down your network into parts and fine-tuning each part to be as secure as possible can be a daunting task to undertake for the unconfident or untrained.

 

Are you open to attack? An attack could be imminent!

Keeping current and applying security protocols is very important, it requires you to be vigilant and aware of the latest update available. Regular system reviews are essential, be proactive when it comes to maintenance and change your settings accordingly as your business grows and develops. A poorly configured system could leave you vulnerable.

 

Poorly kept software

Patch management is integral to stop hackers. Failing to have the correct security framework and fixes can leave software vulnerabilities exposed, leading to a greater probability of a damaging cyber-attack.

 

Keeping yourself secure

Use a vulnerability scanning tool

Vulnerability scanners help to find weak points across networks’ online services, devices, and applications. Make sure these scans are a regular part of your cybersecurity routine.

 

Avoid removable media and Disconnect unnecessary peripherals

Disable ports to prevent the use of flash drives and other removable media. These devices are common causes of transmission for malware, you should stop the use of them wherever possible.

 

Shape guidelines for secure system configuration

Form a set of guidelines on how software programs should be set up to ensure maximum security. Perhaps include a rule that apps or services have a multifactor authentication wherever available and if not possible they should be removed from the system immediately. Ensure that you document any cases where the rules cannot be adhered to.

 

Make a record of all software and hardware

A good start to configuring your network to be secure is to create an inventory of all the software and hardware components of your network. Keep record details such as version, purpose, location, and patch status to help with system maintenance.

 

We’re Elixis Technology

In the ever-changing, technology-centric world we live in, it’s vital to have an I.T. solution source you can count on. At Elixis Technology, it is our mission to help businesses — big and small — produce the results their customers demand, with technology that actually works.

 

For more information, feel free to send us a message.

 

https://www.cybintsolutions.com/cyber-security-facts-stats/¹

 

Cybersecurity – An introduction

Jeff Cyber Security, IT Support November 4, 2020

Cybersecurity is the practice of defending internet-connected systems such as; computers, electronic systems, networks, and mobile data from cyber attacks. Cybersecurity’s sole objective is to prevent the loss or damage of personal information belonging to the owner or user. It also prevents harm to your computer networks, applications, data and devices.

 

Cybersecurity is constantly changing to keep up with the ever-evolving methods and technology used by hackers.

 

In the digital world, all the information cannot be guaranteed to be safe nowadays. Cyber attacks can and will happen and they can happen anywhere. Cybersecurity law in the U.S promotes three fundamental principles confidentiality, integrity and availability. Every element of an information security program (and every security control put in place by an entity) should be designed to achieve one or more of these principles. Together they are called the CIA Triad.

 

While there is no reliable data on this for the current year, data breach statistics from 2018 show that over 2.5 billion accounts were hacked in that year. That amounts to roughly 6.85 million accounts getting hacked each day or 158 every second.¹

 

Keeping your data safe is very important, but arguably more important is the data and information regarding staff and customers also.

 

The business benefits of having cybersecurity to a good standard

Customer interest

Customers will trust your company more knowing that the information they are trusting you with is being used safely and securely. Possibly bringing more customers in if you can offer a better standard of security than your rivals.

 

The potential cost to you

The average cost a small business incurs as the result of a cyber- attack has risen to $200,000². And with 58% of cyber attack victims being small to medium businesses³ you are more than likely to be one of those targeted.

 

Certification inspires adoption of security

Having proof from the cybersecurity program provider through certification will distinguish your business as one that cares about online security. It will ensure customers, suppliers and partners with proof that you are using their data in the correct secure way.

 

A start with cybersecurity

A good place to start with cybersecurity is by using best practices, here are 5 key controls for cybersecurity.

 

These include:

  1. Secure configuration
  2. Malware protection
  3. Patch management
  4. Firewalls
  5. Access control

 

There are many factors outside of these five controls to help the protection of your data, however, these are a good place to begin. In the following blogs, we will explore each of these controls and give you some tips and information on how to implement the best practices around each in your business.

 

We’re Elixis Technology

In the ever-changing, technology-centric world we live in, it’s vital to have an I.T. solution source you can count on. At Elixis Technology, it is our mission to help businesses — big and small — produce the results their customers demand, with technology that actually works.

 

For more information, feel free to send us a message.

 

https://review42.com/hacking-statistics/¹

https://www.theburnin.com/technology/small-business-cyber-attacks-cost-rise-2019-10/#:~:text=This%20weekend%2C%20CNBC%20reported%20the,after%20suffering%20a%20data%20breach²

https://www.forbes.com/sites/ivywalker/2019/01/31/cybercriminals-have-your-business-their-crosshairs-and-your-employees-are-in-cahoots-with-them/³

 

Two Factor Authentication: It’s Important

Elizabeth Cyber Security October 15, 2020

Sure, Google recommends it for your Gmail account, and maybe Snapchat or Facebook suggested doing it at some point. But why? What does 2 Factor Authentication actually do?

Two Factor: The Gold Standard

Two Factor Authentication (or 2FA) has been treated as the gold standard for a while now, but it didn’t always mean a code from a text or an email. Before smartphones (and therefore a portable email inbox) were widely available, the second factor in 2FA was security questions. But websites ask for that too. So what part of it is supposed to make whatever account is under 2FA more secure?

Two Factor authentication uses things that you know and something you have. In today’s world, you have a phone that can be sent a code, and you know your password to the account.

Before that was widely available, banks and other such institutions might have used you having a valid ID or debit card with you knowing your social security number, your account number, or maybe even a security question you’d set up with them previously. This all makes it less likely that the unscrupulous grocery store manager that took your check uses it for nefarious purposes. He might have the account number for the check, but he doesn’t have an ID or the answer to the security question, so he doesn’t get access to your account. Even better, he’d have a really, really hard time getting either of those things without drawing suspicion. Great!

Surely, 2FA has SOME Weakness?

2FA is an excellent second layer of security for systems that may otherwise be pretty easy to brute-force into. It can also act as a sort of warning system; if some website with 2FA enabled sends you a code, you know it’s time to change your password without your account actually getting breached. Not today!

Knowing all of this, you should also know that 2FA isn’t infallible. Welcome to the world of social engineering. Social engineering is a form of hack that manipulates people, instead of computers, to get information. Craigslist (a platform where people can buy and sell used items online) had to put out a notice telling people that they shouldn’t give any code they receive over text to a stranger. Why?

The Tale of Craigslist Scammers

Some clever scammers had figured out that Craigslist will allow people to reset their passwords with only a code via text, which would normally be fine, since only you have your phone. Normally. What the scammers were doing involved acting interested in a product only to ‘suddenly’ get cold feet when price or location is being hammered out. That’s where the social engineering comes in. The scammer tells the seller something like: “Well, I’m worried you’re a scammer. I’m going to send a code to the number on the ad, and if you get it, tell it to me so I know you’re legit.” Then the scammer clicks the button to reset the seller’s password, the seller gets the code and then tells it to the scammer – and boom, account’s hacked.

Remember, it’s easier to type in a code every time you log in than it is to try and recover your YouTube channel from a hacker that got your password, and never tell anyone that code! Never tell anyone the answer to your security questions, either, since that’s also 2FA.

Stay safe!

Online Security 101 – Password Protection

Jeff Cyber Security August 3, 2020

Businesses often focus heavily on technical solutions to online security issues – firewalls, anti-virus, web filtering – but then forget to tackle one of the greatest risks to their digital assets; their employees.  Sadly, human error and poor employee awareness of security threats are some of the most common causes of data breaches.

.

Bad password practice, for example, is a security weakness that hackers are keen to exploit. These attacks are potentially devastating for a number of reasons but one of the main ones is that criminals can access your accounts in a way that appears (on the surface at least) to be legitimate.  You may not be aware of the attack when it happens as the hacker isn’t going to announce their presence as they pour through your sensitive data!

.

There are technical solutions you can use to solve this issue, such as password managers (Keeper, Dashlane, etc) and access platforms (such as Azure Active Directory),  but as a first step you should ensure your staff is practicing what’s often called ‘good password hygiene.’

.

How Do Cyber Criminals hack password-protected accounts?

Hackers use a number of techniques to hack accounts and gain the ‘front door’ access to sensitive information. A few of these are listed below.

.

Phishing

This method involves social engineering – an act of manipulation designed to make victims perform certain actions. This may come in the form of impersonating a trusted entity (such as a bank or a known person) so that the victim voluntarily shares account credentials or other forms of sensitive information.

.

Malware

Hackers sometimes use malicious programs such as Screenscrapers and Keyloggers to make note of passwords as they are entered. This method involves injecting the victim’s computer with malware beforehand.

.

Brute Force attack

This method can take time, as it involves individually testing all possible alphanumeric combinations until the right one is found. If the maximum password length is fairly short this method can prove effective, however for longer passwords it often takes too long.

.

Rainbow Table Attack

When you create a password it isn’t stored as the text you type, it’s encrypted using something called a ‘hash function’ to create a corresponding value known as the ‘hash value.’

A rainbow table attack is a sophisticated password hack that involves working backward from these encrypted values to find the plain text password.  This method demands a lot of computing power due to the size of the ‘rainbow tables’ used in this attack method.

.

Dictionary attack

Similar to a brute force attack in its execution, only a dictionary attack involves testing passwords from a pre-prepared list.  A dictionary, could, in theory, be used, but typically these attacks use a list of common words, phrases, common passwords and sometimes even passwords that are known to have been used previously.

.

Guessing

This technique requires little explanation.  Often users set up account passwords with names of things, people, or places that mean something to them this makes it easy for a hacker who’s done background research.  Another password pitfall is the use of common letter or number sequences such as ‘123456789’ or ‘qwerty12345’ etc.

.

Use good Account practice as your first line of defense

Creating a strong password isn’t rocket science.  As we’ve just mentioned, try to avoid numbers and letters in any sort of recognizable sequence and try not to use words that mean something to you.  The strongest passwords consist of a long, random string of characters with no obvious meaning and no connection to the user.

.

Make sure your team is aware of a few basic principles of good password practice:

.

  • Use multi-factor authentication if possible. This requires 2 or more conditions to be met before access is granted.  A verification code sent to your phone is a good example of this.
  • Use upper and lowercase letters.
  • If it’s memorable don’t use it! Also NEVER use the same password for multiple accounts.  Sometimes people fall into the trap of memorizing one complex password and then using it everywhere.
  • Make it as long as possible. Password length restrictions often apply.  IF your password must be between 8 and 16 characters it’s best to create on that sits towards the upper end of that scale.
  • Change your password. It’s rare, but sometimes accounts are hacked without the accountholder’s knowledge. Changing your passwords now and then mitigates the damage a stealth attack like this can inflict.

.

Account logins are your frontline defenses against a data breach.  Make sure your team is setting up accounts safely so that your digital world is kept secure.

.

We’re Elixis Technology

We help businesses across Clark county harness technology to drive success.  Our expertise covers all bases; from remote monitoring/maintenance and security to hardware, phone systems, surveillance solution, cloud services, and much much more.  It’s easier to ask ‘what can’t we do?’

Why not get in touch today to see how the best tech solutions can power your business towards its goals.

.

Online Security 101 – VPNs

Jeff Cyber Security August 3, 2020

Using a VPN – Virtual Private Network

The term ‘VPN’ sounds familiar, right?  You’ve probably come across the ads for consumer-grade VPNs designed to give users unbridled access ‘geo-blocked’ content and keep internet traffic encrypted in insecure public Wi-fi locations.  While they’re great for personal use they are also a great tool for businesses to hold in their Cyber-defences toolbox.

.

How does a VPN work?

A virtual private network acts as an intermediary through which you can access the internet from a device.  This has various benefits most of which concern security.  Instead of accessing the internet directly, users can browse the internet through a remote server located in a data center which could potentially be located anywhere in the world.  Data traffic between your device and this remote server is encrypted, making it unreadable to cybercriminals.  This encryption gives you increased anonymity and privacy by hiding your device’s IP address – keeping it hidden from potential hackers and the prying eyes of your internet service provider.

A VPN can also function as a local network.  If multiple computers are connected to the same VPN you can gain secure, remote access to files stored on your office desktop from almost any location. Because traffic between user devices and the VPN server is encrypted, file access using a VPN means your data is never exposed to the dangers of the internet.

.

Added benefits and protection:

.

Gain access to restricted content

A common issue we’ve all experienced at one time or another – you might be on vacation and you want to catch up with your favorite shows but then you see this:

“We’re sorry, this content is not available in your region.”

VPNs often have multiple server locations around the world meaning you can bypass geographic restrictions by using the internet connection of a server in another country.  In the example above you’d just switch to the ‘US server’ in order to enjoy the same content, you can view at home.

.

Additional protection – Web filtering and anti-Phishing

Many (but not all) VPN services include the added safeguard of web-filtering and anti-phishing software.  This blocks access to rogue websites and keeps phishing scammers out of your email inbox for additional peace of mind.

.

A VPN makes public Wi-Fi networks safer.

At home or in the office you can control who has access to your Wi-Fi network.  You can also implement security measures like firewalls to keep your network secure.

When you access a public Wi-Fi network, however, you have none of these controls.  You don’t know who’s accessing the network, what their intentions are and you have no idea what security is in place.  You could just use mobile data and bypass public WiFi altogether but this can be expensive.

Thanks to encryption, using public WiFi through a VPN is much safer.  Hackers use techniques such as ‘Man-in-the-middle’ attacks to intercept traffic on public networks – this gives them access to browsing data and sensitive information like account logins.  VPN encryption makes such information unreadable.

.

Choosing a VPN – Factors to consider

First, you should consider the type of VPN that is best for you.  There are a few options:

.

Standalone services

An ideal solution for small businesses or domestic users where only a few devices require the use of the VPN.  It involves endpoint to server encryption and requires the installation of an application on each endpoint device in order to use.

Router VPN

This is a convenient way to provide secure, encrypted VPN internet access to multiple devices without having to set up the VPN client on every single device.  Your VPN router provides encrypted internet access to any device that connects to it.

Corporate VPN

Ideal for businesses that have remote workforces.  A corporate VPN (often called a remote access VPN) Is designed so that employees can securely access either cloud-based or locally-stored resources from any location.  This option may require a more tailored approach involving more complex setup than the other options.

.

Once you’ve identified the type of VPN that is right for you, consider the following:

.

  • Where are the servers located? IF you travel frequently on business, consider where the VPN servers are located so you can maintain access to the sites you need, no matter where you are in the world.
  • What devices are supported? Most VPNs are pretty good in terms of device compatibility. However, It’s always worth reading into the finer details just to be sure that your devices will work with the VPN.
  • Is there bandwidth restriction? If you’ll be using the VPN for data-heavy activities you’ll need one that doesn’t impose bandwidth restrictions.
  • What about added security? Look for VPNs that take security seriously!  Try to find features such as DNS leak protection, web filtering, and anti-phishing protection.
  • Will my activity be logged? VPN providers are often quick to claim that they don’t keep online activity records.  You should look into such claims in further detail though, as it’s common for VPN providers to log activity in some form.
  • How many devices can connect at the same time? Many standalone VPN services allow between 5 and 10 devices to connect at any one time.  Something to bear in mind if you have a larger number of IT users.
  • How much will it cost? VPN services are typically billed on a ‘per user per month basis.’  Many fall into the $5-$15 per month range meaning they’re an affordable way to improve your business’ online security.

.

More and more businesses are waking up to the enhanced security afforded by VPNs.  VPNs are cheap and providers often offer plans that can be canceled at any time, so why not give one a try today – you have nothing to lose!

.

We’re Elixis Technology

We help businesses across Clark county harness technology to drive success.  Our expertise covers all bases; from remote monitoring/maintenance and security to hardware, phone systems, surveillance solution, cloud services and much much more.  It’s easier to ask ‘what can’t we do?’

Why not get in touch today to see how the best tech solutions can power your business towards its goals.

.

Online Security 101 – Ransomware

Jeff Cyber Security August 3, 2020

Ransomware

Ransomware is a type of malicious software that usually aims to extort money from victims by encrypting files and disabling operating systems.

File encryption is probably the most common attack method used in ransomware attacks. Files stored on an infected device are subject to encryption, then a message will pop up informing victims of what’s taken place and what’s required of them in order to regain access to their files.

Ransomware attacks are never subtle!  The attackers will make sure you know what’s happened and will make their demands very clear!  They might use coercive language and even threaten to delete files permanently if they don’t receive a payment within a specified timeframe.

Such attacks are designed to panic victims into action, and often the attackers get their way as victims can’t bear the prospect of losing access to their files – their livelihood may be at stake.  However, acquiescing to the demands of the attackers is no guarantee that they’ll restore access to your files and it may even increase your chances of being attacked again in the future.

.

Forms of Ransomware

Like many other forms of Malware, ransomware comes in a variety of forms.  The common theme they all share is that they will massively affect your ability to use your computer or access the file resources you need.  Here are some of the most common types…

Screen Lockers. You can probably guess what these do.  Screen Lockers typically infect your computer’s operating system, rendering the entire machine unusable from the point of entry.  You’ll try to log in to your account only to be confronted with an unclosable pop-up message demanding payment.

Crypto Ransomware. This is ransomware in its ‘classic’ form.  Here encryption is used to render a victim’s files unreadable.  The victim then receives an alarming, sometimes threatening message demanding payment in order to have files decrypted.  Threats of ‘permanent deletion’ are often made and often a countdown clock appears giving victims a payment time limit.

Scareware. Scareware uses fear alone to extract payment from victims.  Scareware is often encountered on infected websites.  A pop up will often appear displaying a message such as;

“Warning, 157 malicious threats have been detected on your computer.  Do you want to fix these now?”

The message will then redirect the user to a page where payment details are requested.  Alternatively, interacting with the pop-up could trigger the download of more harmful malware.  Encountering Scareware isn’t usually as serious as other forms of ransomware – you can just walk away, it’s less likely that your device has been infected.

Doxware. Similar to Crypto ransomware but with an added sting in its tail; doxware attacks involve a threat to make sensitive files public. Doxware attacks often target ‘high profile’ or ‘high net worth’ individuals such as politicians or celebrities, for whom personal files being leaked could be catastrophic to their reputation.  Once the attack has occurred it’s hard to do anything as the hackers already have your files in their possession, sadly this tends to make doxware more successful than other forms of Ransomware when it comes to victims paying the fee.

.

How to protect yourself against ransomware attacks

With about a quarter of ransomware attacks resulting in a victory for the attackers, ransomware is one of the more lucrative forms of malware from the cyber criminal’s point of view.  Prevention is definitely better than cure with this and all other forms of malware, so preventing infection in the first place should be your priority.

First, let’s consider the common pathways ransomware takes to infect computers.  Most attacks are the result of ‘user-initiated’ action.  This could mean opening an infected attachment in a spam email or interacting with an infected website. Other pathways to infection require no user input, such as ‘drive-by downloads’ and ‘malvertising.’

.

See below or some of the best ways to keep your system and files secure against ransomware.

.

  • Consider active security solutions. Use a combination of various anti-malware software measures to protect your users.  This means more than just anti-virus; look for threat protection that offers the added security of a firewall to protect your network at the point of entry; consider web filters and spam protection to prevent your users from accessing malicious sites and email, and consider threat protection services that offer some kind of backup facility so you can restore files should you lose them.
  • Keep all software patched. Keep everything up to date: operating systems, anti-malware platforms, software, and apps.  Hackers are constantly on the lookout for vulnerabilities in well-known software platforms.  By keeping everything up-to-date you’ll minimize these points of entry.
  • Be careful with Email. Train your staff to be wary of emails from unknown sources.  Take particular care when dealing with embedded links and attachments unless you’re 100% confident they come from a legitimate source.
  • Use cloud services. Over-reliance on email to send documents can pose risks.  Cloud storage services allow mass filesharing while minimizing opportunities for malware to find its way onto your computer.
  • Disable Macros.  If you receive a Microsoft Office files that require macros to be enabled to read it, consider using Office Viewer. Since 2013, Microsoft Office has had macros disabled by default, and users will now see a small pop up saying that macros have not been allowed to run.  Cybercriminals have been known to use macros to harmful effect by embedding malicious code in Office files and distributing them online.
  • Don’t pay the fee! Of the roughly 25% of ransomware victims who pay the fee, about one-third of those never regain access to their files.  Even if your files do get restored be wary of subsequent attacks; now that you’ve paid the attackers might have you down as a ‘soft target.’

.

We’re Elixis Technology

.

We help businesses across Clark county harness technology to drive success.  Our expertise covers all bases; from remote monitoring/maintenance and security to hardware, phone systems, surveillance solution, cloud services, and much much more.  It’s easier to ask ‘what can’t we do?’

Why not get in touch today to see how the best tech solutions can power your business towards its goals.

.