Chimera Ransomware: What to Know

You are probably already familiar with ransomware, one of the nastier forms of malicious software that does the rounds every now and again, but what you may not already be acquainted with is a ransomware program called Chimera. Only recently discovered, Chimera’s creators have taken the already unpleasant ransomware program’s scare tactics to the next level. Read on for a closer look at the way that ransomware – and Chimera – operates.

Business is booming in the world of cyber crime, and scammers, extortionists, phishers and hackers are constantly on the lookout for new ways to exploit our fears and naivety in order to boost their bank accounts, steal our data, or simply cause us mayhem for their own twisted pleasure. One of worst types of malware for playing with our emotions – and therefore increasing the likelihood of us capitulating to its demands – is ransomware. If you don’t know how this program works, read on for an introduction.

If your computer has been infected by ransomware, the first sign that something is wrong is normally discovering that you are unable to open one or more of your files. That’s because the malware encrypts them, rendering them completely inaccessible. The next thing you see will be a ‘ransom note’, either in the form of an email or a notice that appears directly on your screen. You will be told that if you want to see your files again you will need to pay a sum of money. After making payment you will (allegedly) be sent a code that will allow you to decrypt your files.

Some types of ransomware up the fear factor even further by pretending that the FBI, CIA or other national law enforcement or government agency is behind the ‘kidnapping’. You will be told that your files are being held hostage because you have downloaded pirated software or files, or visited an illegal or illicit website – such as those depicting extreme pornography or threatening national security. Regardless of whether or not you are guilty of any of the above – be it a visit to an x-rated website, or downloading a pirated copy of the latest episode of The Walking Dead – your first instinct is probably to panic. The thought of no longer having access to any of our information, files or data is enough to make most of us break out into a cold sweat. If you haven’t backed up, everything from your vacation pictures to your company’s data could be lost for good.

The problem for ransomware creators, however, is that many users have wisened up to their tactics and are refusing to pay, instead calling in an IT specialist to try and restore their encrypted files. This has left cyber criminals needing to find a way to boost ‘trade’. And that is where Chimera comes in. Christened by the Anti-Botnet Advisory Centre – a part of Germany’s Association of the Internet Industry – and unlike previous forms of ransomware, which were indiscriminate when choosing their victims, this latest threat primarily targets businesses.

An employee will receive an email, purporting to be an application for a job within your firm or some kind of corporate deal. This email will include a link ostensibly to the applicant’s resume or to details of the offer, but will in fact go to an infected file stored in Dropbox. Chimera then infects the user’s computer and encrypts any local files. Once the PC has been rebooted, the ransom note will be displayed on the desktop. Payment is usually set at around $680 USD, which must be paid in Bitcoins. And in order to further scare the victim into paying, the note will also state that failure to make payment will result in the user’s files being published online.

If there is a slight silver lining to the Chimera cloud, it is that the Anti-Botnet Advisory Centre has not found any proof that files have been published – at least not yet. In fact, it is still unknown whether the ransomware does actually take the encrypted files or if it is just an empty threat. Regardless, it is still a threat which could easily convince many users to pay the ransom. And should Chimera make good on its threats, the ramifications for a business are huge – and that’s without taking into consideration the nightmare of having your files encrypted in the first place. With Chimera targeting businesses of all sizes and random employees within the business at that, isn’t it time you took another good look at your organization’s security posture?

Contact us today and talk to one of our security experts. We’ll be more than happy to help ensure that your small or medium-sized business isn’t taken hostage by Chimera or any other type of ransomware.

HDD and SSD Explained

Now let’s take a closer look at the two devices. We break it down into the following main categories:

Speed This is where SSDs truly prevail. While HDDs need a long time to access data and files because the disk must spin to find it, SSDs are up to 100 times faster since data can be accessed instantly. This is why an SSD-equipped PC will boot within seconds and deliver blazing fast speed for launching programs and applications, whereas a computer that uses a HDD will take much longer time to boot the operating system, and will continue to perform slower than an SSD during normal use.

Capacity As of writing, SSD units top out at 16TB storage capacity. Although there are large SSDs, anything that’s over 512GB is beyond most people’s price range. HDDs, on the other hand, have large capacities (1-2TB) available for much more affordable prices.

Durability HDDs consist of various moving parts and components, making them susceptible to shock and damage. The longer you use your HDD, the more they wear down and most eventually end up failing. Meanwhile, an SSD uses a non-mechanical design of flash storage mounted on a circuit board, providing better performance and reliability, and making it more likely to keep your files and data safe.

Noise An HDD can sometimes be the loudest part of your computer. Even the highest-performing HDDs will emit some noise when the drive is spinning back and forth to process data. SSDs have no moving parts, meaning it makes no noise at all.

Heat More moving part means more heat, and HDD users will have to live with the fact that their device will degenerate over time. SSD uses flash memory, generating less heat, helping to increase its lifespan.

Cost To be frank, SSDs are much more expensive than HDDs for the same capacity. This is why most computers with an SSD only have a few hundred gigabytes of storage. HDDs are about twice as cheaper than SSDs.

Despite the high costs and low capacity, SSD is a clear winner over the HDD in terms of performance. While you’re paying more for less memory with an SSD, you’re investing in a faster and far more durable data storage option in the long run.

We recommend using an SSD as the primary storage for your operating system, applications, and most-used programs. You can install another HDD inside the same computer to store documents, movies, music, and pictures – these files don’t need to leverage the incredible access times and speed of SSD.

Looking to invest in some new hardware for your business? Make sure you talk with our experts before you make the decision – we can provide sound advice and help guide you in the right direction.

Working From Home Tips To Boost Productivity

Working from home may sound like a faraway dream, but with the inception of the Internet, it has become a reality. Today, more and more firms are allowing their staff to work remotely instead of coming into the office every day. The results have been positive – employers notice an increase in productivity, work quality, and staff loyalty. However, telecommuting does present some challenges of its own. We’ve compiled a few tips to help you become more productive at home.

One of the major concerns that business owners have when allowing people to work from home is the limited amount of control they have over their staff. Companies fear that most employees might become unproductive if they become their own boss and are responsible for managing their own hours. While it is easy for remote employees to feel disconnected from work, if you make communication a top priority, telecommuting can actually work wonders.

So have you been given the privilege to work from home? Check out the following tips to ensure a productive day.

Get dressed

It’s important not to dress too casually when working at home. That’s why wearing your pajamas while working can be counterproductive. There’s no need to choose an overly formal attire – like a suit with a tie – but at least wear something comfortable yet presentable that will help you get into a work frame of mind.

Create a focused workspace

Select a workspace that’s neither too comfortable nor uptight. The best method to get into the mindset of ‘going to work’ is to create an environment that allows you to easily focus on the tasks at hand. This can be a room with a door to keep out family members, or simply a space that’s free from all sources of distractions such as your family, snacks or the television. But in the end, it all comes down to personal preference – do you enjoy working in a clear space or a cluttered chaos? Would background music distract you or help you concentrate? Do you like working in a bright environment or prefer a dim area? Take these into consideration before choosing your workspace.

Plan ahead

The secret to working more productively is to have an organized plan of action. Write down the plan so you can prioritize tasks properly and schedule what needs to be done and when it must be completed. Also, it’s always helpful to know your most productive hours. This is so you can schedule your most challenging tasks during those hours and set aside easier ones in your least productive periods.

Stay away from social media

Social media is considered by many as the biggest time and productivity killer. So if your duties don’t involve managing your company’s Twitter account or responding to customers’ requests via Facebook inbox, you should steer clear from these social networking sites. There are many applications out there that allow you to block social media websites and notifications, but of course you wouldn’t have to resort to such measures if you can exert some self-control and discipline.

Invest in technology

Another thing to consider about working from home is the technology to help you work easier, such as a second monitor. Sometimes you will also need certain tools to stay connected to your company, clients, and colleagues. These tools may include but are not limited to web conferencing software, document sharing applications, or screen sharing programs.

These tips will turn your home into an office that will keep your working hours productive and disciplined throughout the day. If you’re looking to implement IT solutions that will encourage a more productive work environment, get in touch with our experts today.

How to Be More Productive in 2016

We know, we know; sometimes there just aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything done. More than ever before, our busy personal lives and hectic working ones are demanding more and more of our attention, and even the best laid plans and good intentions can get waylaid by a sheer lack of time. If you’re constantly under pressure to get things done and are starting to feel like you’re drowning, take a look at the following productivity tips.

When it comes to business, competition is fiercer than ever: you might have rivals undercutting your prices, you could be a bricks and mortar store pressurized by internet-based sellers, or perhaps you’re struggling to get a grip on your processes, marketing plans or even employees. By upping your efficiency stakes, working in a more agile fashion, and simply getting more work done more quickly, you could find that you’re holding the key to solving your problems.

Your issues with productivity might be personal or they may well stem from your staff. As a small or medium-sized business owner or manager, you can’t afford to sit back and let your own inertia or disorganization or your employees’ lack of dynamism drag your company down. Take action and start getting to grips with your workload and help your business get 2016 off to a far more efficient start.

Take time out first thing

Okay, admittedly taking ‘time out’ sounds counterintuitive for increasing productivity, but hear us out. By taking a few minutes at the start of every morning, you’ll be getting the day off to a calm and orderly start, thereby increasing the chances of you being more productive, as opposed to running around like the proverbial headless chicken for the rest of the day.

Part mindfulness and part preparation, begin by emptying your head of any thoughts. Be in the moment and spend a minute or two breathing deeply. Next, consider the things most playing on your mind in relation to what needs to be done either today or in the near future. Jot them down on a piece of paper followed with a short outline on how you are going to tackle them. Then set your mind to going forth and making those resolutions happen, one by one.

Quit multitasking

Some reports say that multitasking can negatively impact on your productivity by as much as 40 percent. When we’re taking on more than one task at a time, the perception is that we’re killing it productivity wise and getting loads done. The reality is that we’re spending the majority of the time jumping from one thing to the next and not fully focusing on any of them.

You need to exercise willpower to commit to ‘singletasking’ but before long it should come as second nature. Pick one thing that you are going to work on and stick to it until you have finished, or at least done everything you can for the time being. This includes not checking your email during that time – surely one of the biggest productivity sappers of all time. If the temptation is too strong, log out of your inbox on your computer and set your phone to silent if you have audible alerts configured. If you’re worried you’re going to overlook something during this time period, use an online or physical notepad to note down spur of the moment thoughts or ideas.

Reassess your working hours

It’s no secret that the traditional 9 to 5 is on the way out. Being connected and contactable around the clock is putting paid to that, but is being constantly online actually counterproductive? How effective are you really at 11pm at night when you’re slumped in front of Game of Thrones with a glass of wine and a spreadsheet full of data?

Take a tip from the latest round of startups that are taking a sledgehammer to the idea that we need to work around the clock and are instead turning the working week on its head. The CEO of one rising startup has gone as far to institute a five-hour workday that runs from just 8am to 1pm, taking into account that studies show people are more productive earlier in the day. The theory goes that making people sit in an office for 8 hours a day, whilst giving them ample time to be productive, equally gives them just as many hours to waste time. A shorter working day could instill a greater sense of urgency in employees, who in turn respect the company’s consideration of their personal lives and work harder.

Depending on your business, changing your working hours may not be practical, but it could still be food for thought – and adopting a singletasking approach and planning your day ahead calmly and clearly is achievable and will never hurt.

If you’d like to find out how implementing better IT and more efficient procedures can help you beat the productivity blues, get in touch with us today.

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Because IT security is such an IMPORTANT topic, WAMS has put together a series of every other week IT security tips to show you and your employees how to drastically reduce your chances of being a victim of cybercrime.

Seriously, these bi-monthly e-mails – and the strategies they contain – could save you from getting your bank account wiped out, getting your clients’ personal information stolen, losing critical data and having your systems down for extended periods of time, not to mention the bad PR, civil and criminal lawsuits and fines that can result from a data breach.

Every week we’ll focus on a single, simple thing you can do to avoid a data breach. We’ll also alert you IMMEDIATELY if we see any new threats developing that you need to be on high alert for.

As you would expect, we’re doing everything on our end to keep your network secure; however, security is a TEAM effort. YOU and your EMPLOYEES need to know how to avoid accidentally inviting a hacker, virus or data breach into your organization. Fill out the form to begin receiving free IT security tips!