Posts Tagged ‘Internet Security’

The best offense is a good defense: Disaster preparedness essentials

January 12, 2012

[tweetmeme source=LANSystems only_single=false]Guest blog by Cindy Bates, Vice President of Microsoft’s US SMB Organization

Planning for “the worst” isn’t quite as fun as refining a business plan or coming up with new ways to market your products or services, but doing so just might make the difference between the success or failure of your company. In fact, the U.S. Department of Labor estimates that more than 40 percent of businesses never reopen following a disaster; and, of the remaining companies, at least 25 percent will close in two years.

Yet, small businesses that take time to develop a disaster preparedness plan that includes preventive measures as well as actions to be taken in the event of disaster greatly increase their odds of withstanding catastrophe. To get started with creating a disaster preparedness plan, I recommend small- business decision makers consider the following:

  • Insurance plans and policies – Understanding the intricacies of an insurance plan or policy requires a good bit of time, but it’s a step well worth taking now since it’s unlikely there will be much time to do so when disaster strikes. Also, you might notice gaps in your plan that can be addressed before it’s too late.
  • Money management – It’s always wise to keep your finances in order, but all the more so when it comes to disaster preparedness. Have all financial obligations, including bill payments, payroll details and account information, in a safe place, since these responsibilities will still require attention even in the midst of dealing with a disaster.
  • Cloud-based software for storage and more – Cloud-based software services designed for small businesses store data in secure, offsite locations and provide access to data from anywhere employees have an Internet connection. If your physical office is hit by a natural disaster, you’d still be able to access your information for business continuity. Furthermore, many small businesses have found cloud-based software to provide a host of other benefits, including access to enterprise-class capabilities at an affordable price.
  • Microsoft Security Essentials provides real-time protection for your home or small- business PC that guards against viruses, spyware, and other malicious software. Microsoft Security Essentials is a free download from Microsoft that is simple to install and easy to use and that is automatically updated to protect your PC with the latest technology. The greater the security of your PCs, the less the chance that a virtual disaster like cybercrime could impact your business.
  • Technology      updates – By maintaining updated technology, small businesses can      prevent many virtual disasters from happening in the first place. Install updates      whenever prompted to do so, or set company PCs to install updates      automatically.
  • Virtualization –      Virtualization consolidates physical server hardware onto virtual machines      that live in the cloud. This not only helps small businesses recover more      swiftly from disaster but also can lead to cost savings and more efficient      operations.

Small businesses that need to implement new technology systems to better prepare for disaster should engage the help of a qualified IT services provider and can find a list of Atlanta-based providers here.

Also, for more advice on preventing and preparing for disaster, check out this free eGuide on disaster preparedness. Finally, I encourage you to keep tabs on my blog, where I regularly address a range of business and technology issues relevant to small businesses.

Cynthia (“Cindy”) Bates is the Vice President of Microsoft’s US SMB Organization where she is responsible for the company’s end-to-end SMB sales and marketing efforts, including SMB strategy, business development, regional field sales and national distribution sales, channel marketing, and customer marketing. 

Cindy and her team align Microsoft’s resources across customer and partner engagement to drive success in serving the millions of Small and Medium Sized Businesses in the US, helping them start, grow and thrive by leveraging today’s powerful and affordable technologies. At the pillar of these technologies lies cloud computing, in which Microsoft has more than 15 years of experience and understands how to meet the demands of SMBs for simplicity and impact, with enterprise-grade capabilities, flexibility and affordability in a familiar environment. 

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It’s a jungle out there – be smart online

June 29, 2011

[tweetmeme source=LANSystems only_single=false]Recently, I posted a job on craigslist for a senior systems and network engineer.  Although craigslist is a popular site, I have never used it and had some concerns about posting on a site that has received so much bad press. After researching, I decided to post our job and have been very happy with the response. But it’s a jungle out there and I knew to expect some scam artists to use the ad to try an attack.

Then today, I received an email from updates-craigslist: Updates!New Terms – Accept: June 29, 2011 with the following message:

———————————————————————-

craigslist

———————————————————————-
Dear Customer,

We need your help resolving an issue with your account. To give us time to work together on this, we’ve temporarily limited what you can do with your account until the issue is resolved.

We noticed some unusual activity . 

How you can help?

You must reverify your account and take the time to accept and read our terms: log in here  

It’s usually pretty easy to take care of things like this.

Ad: # 318-277-551-175

We understand it may be frustrating not to have full access to your account. We want to work with you to get your account back to normal as quickly as possible.

Thanks,

———————————————————————-

Copyright ©2011  Inc. All rights reserved. CL #73445897433\

It’s a scam and has all the characteristics (without typos) of a phishing attempt.  It tries to get you to login with their fake link and get you to input your account information.  Once your username/password was obtained, the phishers would take over your account and get as much information as they could about you.  They can’t do much on craigslist except make some inappropriate postings under your name, but they could use the username/password to break into other accounts like Twitter, Facebook or bank accounts.

So as a reminder, don’t fall for email scams.  When in doubt – don’t click, reply or forward.  Use strong passwords and make sure you have a good spam filter and malware protection.

What hackers want

November 5, 2010

[tweetmeme source=LANSystems only_single=false]Especially after someone has been the victim of a hacking attack, they want to know why. Hackers have many motives and trying to decipher their behavior is complicated. The classification of white hats, black hats, grey hats and such is an interesting attempt to legitimatize electronic spying and sabotage.  Perhaps there are “good hackers” that perform a valuable service, but most attacks are malicious in nature.  Generally, hackers want to take something from you, teach you a lesson or show their programming skills.

Taking something from you.  This can be financial information, social media login and password, your time or your peace of mind.  Many victims of infections that cause pop-ups with objectionable material are traumatized.  They often react like the victim of a physical crime.  Anyone that has been hit with difficult to remove malware knows that it can be time-consuming and expensive to remove the infection.

Teaching you a lesson.  Hacking may have started as practical jokes that exploited vulnerabilities for pleasure and recognition, but it has grown into an industry that steals billions of dollars of productivity each year. The pranks of today can cause great harm, intended or not.  A recent Twitter Prank illustrated how disruptive it can be to “play around” on the Internet. Some may find justification for causing disruption in that they are just exposing vulnerabilities, but it is harmful and illegal.  Malware is vandalism.

The best defense is a good offense.  Implement appropriate protections for your electronics.  Computer or cyber security takes many of its strategies from the physical world.  You use locks for your house and car.  You may have an alarm system, but the amount of protection is related to the value of the property.  For instance, Fort Knox has fences and armed guards that protect the fortress.  You should use the same strategy to protect your computer systems – the more valuable the information, the more you should invest in protection.

Vulnerabilities, Threats and Consequences (VTC).  Determine the assets to protect and then analyze the vulnerabilities, threats and consequences. Just like with your physical property, use your assessment of the risk to determine the protection. Start with a review of your firewall and make sure you have a good backup of your system.  Backups are an essential part of a disaster recovery plan and are especially economical if you ever have to restore.  Also, use a malware protector in addition to your spam and virus protection. You may want to double-up on the malware protection.  For many companies, enterprise level protection is essential.  Protection includes content filtering in addition to the essential spam, virus, spyware, adware and ransomware protection.

It is difficult to stay ahead of the hackers.  There are so many of them and they spend a great deal of time working on the next attack.  Certainly, if that effort was put to positive use, we would be on the way to solving world hunger.  But meanwhile, use practical computer measures to protect yourself, your company and your family.

If you have suggestions or comments, please contact me at: mary@lansystems.com.

The Internet is the Wild, Wild West ….

April 12, 2010

[tweetmeme source=lansystems only_single=false]

 and there ain’t no Sheriff in town!

Just like the western frontier the Internet is a place where opportunity abounds, but it is not without danger.  If you understand risk, manage uncertainly and protect yourself from diabolical people, the Internet is a magical place. When online, a good rule to follow is “when in doubt – don’t.”

Two main problems with the Internet are that 1) there are more scammers than can be counted and 2) it is hard, sometimes impossible, to determine authenticity. 

In the Wild, Wild West if some cowboy came riding up to you, you’d better be a quicker shot or have a trusted friend covering your back.  You could never take any chances because there were all kinds of hoodlums out there, alone or in gangs, that were trying to separate you from your property.  And if you had established your homestead (website, email address), you’d have even more to worry about because they would always know where to find you.

On the Internet, the cowboys are the scammers and your trusted friend is your firewall, Spam filter and malware protection software to name a few.  But even with these helpers covering your back, you could fall prey to a malicious attack.  So you have to have a backup plan to protect all your critical data.

On the Internet, anyone can pretend to be anyone.  Determining someone’s authenticity is just not that easy.   In the Wild, Wild West anyone could steal the sheriff’s badge and the judge’s credentials.  Unless you had another way to identify them, you could be fooled.  This happens several times a second on the Internet.  A scam artist masquerading as a someone authentic gets you to download malware, adware, ransomware, gives  you a virus, steals your identity, gets you to buy something or send money to claim your million dollar inheritance.  Many of these scams are so obvious that it is hard to believe that people still fall for it, but then again it is the Wild, Wild West!

For ways to protect yourself, see our Tech Notes at http://www.lansystems.com.