Office 365 Threat Comes with New Techniques

If you’re using Office 365, you wouldn’t want to miss this news: Online scammers are carrying out a highly customized spear-phishing campaign to steal Office 365 users’ credentials and attack organizations internally. Get yourself informed and read on.

What makes it different from other scams?

The new threat comes in the form of spear phishing, an old familiar method in which hackers send emails that purport to be from trusted sources and dupe you into disclosing sensitive information. In this particular attack, the email messages are admirably well-crafted, making them even harder to spot.

The emails are also rid of the usual telltale signs such as misspelled words, suspicious attachments, and dubious requests. You might have to recalibrate what you know about phishing scams, because this new threat ticks all the boxes that make it look legitimate.

How does it work?

The hackers behind the attack craft personalized messages, pretending to be from trusted sources, such as your colleagues or Microsoft itself, and send them to your inbox. The messages could contain a link or a PDF file that leads to a legitimate-looking landing page. Upon clicking the link, the user will be prompted to enter his or her credentials, which the hacker will use to launch attacks within the organization.

Once they gain control of your account, they might set up new forwarding rules to monitor your communication patterns, which will be useful for their future attacks. They might even use your account to send further phishing emails to your co-workers to collect more sensitive information.

As for the phishing emails with PDF attachments, there will be instructions to fill in username and password to view the document. And once you do, your account is no longer yours.

Another way they can get your credentials is by sending an invoice that requires you to log on to a web portal to view the file. Attackers can also use this technique to trick you into performing a certain action, such as forwarding sensitive information or paying an invoice.

What can you do to stay protected?

Your first line of defense is multi-factor authentication, whereby you use a password and another authentication method — like an SMS code — to secure your account. This function is already included in Office 365 and here’s a step-by-step guide on how to activate it.

The second line of defense is training yourself and your employees to spot common phishing techniques. In particular, verify the accuracy of the wording and the sensibility of the requests in the messages.

For good measure, your organization can also install an email-validation system which is designed to detect and prevent email spoofing, such as the Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting and Conformance (DMARC).

Identifying phishing emails and planning and implementing a robust defense system are ways to protect you and your organization against the new Office 365 threat. For tips on how to spot this type of scam and how to plan thorough security practices, contact our experts today at 800-421-7151.

SMBs Survive Disasters With Virtualization

Hurricanes Harvey and Irma caused millions of dollars in damages. Some of that damage was unavoidable, but hundreds of businesses managed to stay open thanks to innovative virtualization solutions. If you’re not already taking advantage of this technology, it’s time to find out what you’re missing.

Virtual desktops

In most offices, employees are still dependent on desktop computers. Their workstations grant them access to everything from customer relationship software to company databases and when these computers go down, there’s no way to get work done. Virtualized desktops allow users to access their files and even computing power from across the internet.

Instead of logging on to an operating system stored on a hard drive just a few inches away from their keyboard, employees can take advantage of server hardware to store their files across a network. With barebones computers, employees can log in to these virtual desktops either in the office or from home. Floods, fires and other disasters won’t prevent your team from working because they can continue remotely.

Virtual applications

Devoting a portion of your server’s hardware and software resources to virtual desktops requires a fair amount of computing power. If the majority of your employees’ time is spent working with just one or two pieces of software, you can virtualize just those applications.

If a hurricane destroyed your office and the hardware inside it, virtualized applications can be restored in minutes. They don’t need to be installed on the machines that use them, and as long as you have backups these applications can be streamed to employee computers just like a cloud-based application.

Virtual servers

If you use virtual desktops or applications, it makes perfect sense to use virtual servers as well. With a little help from a managed services provider, your servers can be configured to automatically create virtual backups. Beyond preventing data loss, these backups also make it possible to restore server functionality with off site restorations.

Virtualized servers are incredibly useful when clients need access to a website or database that you maintain in the office. For example, if you provide background checks on tenants to rental property owners through your website, an unexpected power outage won’t cause an interruption of service. Your virtualization solution will boot up a backup server away from the power outage and your customers will be none the wiser.

The benefits of virtualization extend far beyond disaster recovery planning. Your business can also reduce IT costs and increase hardware capacity — all it takes is some help from trained experts. Call us today at 800-421-7151 to learn more about what we can do for you.

DR Tips for Floods and Hurricanes

The trail of devastation left by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma has reminded us once again that coastlines and even entire regions of the country can be demolished by natural disasters. While catastrophes cannot be prevented, planning around them with a well-crafted disaster recovery (DR) strategy can help minimize the damages and keep your business alive.

Pay attention to location
First and foremost, your backup site should be in a hurricane-free zone. Ideally, your offsite facility should be located at least 100 miles away from your main location. If this isn’t possible, make sure it is built to withstand wind speeds of 160 mph (as fast as Category 5 storms), and is supported by backup generators and uninterruptible power supplies.

You should also request an upper floor installation or, at the very least, keep critical IT equipment 18 inches off the ground to prevent water damage.

Determine recovery hierarchy
Certain parts of your IT are more mission-critical than others. Ask yourself which systems or data must be recovered in minutes, hours, or days to get your business back to running efficiently.

For example, you may find that recovering sensitive customer information and e-commerce systems take priority over recovering your email server. Whatever the case may be, prioritizing your systems ensures that the right ones are recovered quickly after a disaster.

Use image-based backups
Unlike fragile tape backups, image-based backups take “snapshots” of your systems, creating a copy of the OS, software, and data stored in it. From here, you can easily boot the virtual image on any device, allowing you to back up and restore critical business systems in seconds.

Take advantage of the cloud
The cloud allows you to host applications and store data in high-availability, geo-redundant servers. This means your backups can be accessed via the internet, allowing authorized users to access critical files from any device. Expert technicians will also watch over and secure your backups, allowing you to enjoy the benefits of enterprise-level backup facilities and IT support.

Back up your data frequently
Back up your data often, especially during disaster season. If your latest backups were created on the 15th of September and the next storm, Hurricane Jose, makes landfall on the 28th, you could lose nearly two weeks of data.

Get in the habit of replicating your files at the end of each day, which should be easy if you’ve opted for image-based backups.

Test your DR plan
After setting up your backups, check whether they are restoring your files accurately and on time. Your employees should be drilled on the recovery procedures and their responsibilities during and after disaster strikes. Your DR team should also be trained on how to failover to the backup site before the storm hits. Finally, providers, contractors, and customers need to be notified about how the hurricane will affect your operations.

As cell towers and internet connections may be affected during this time, make sure your company forums are online and have your employees register with the Red Cross Safe and Well website so you can check their statuses.

It’s nearly impossible to experience little-to-no disruptions during disasters like Harvey or Irma, but with the right support, you can minimize downtime. If you’re concerned about any natural disasters putting you out of business, call us today at800-421-7151. We offer comprehensive business continuity services that every company must have.

What Will You Do When This Disaster Hits Your Business?

In today’s world of rampant cybercrime, every savvy business owner knows the necessity of locking down their data. However, we find that the cyber security technologies used by the vast majority of businesses are woefully out of date. Sure, your current solution may have worked great, but digital threats to the safety of your company are constantly evolving. Criminals will eventually attempt to breach your data — and your barriers are not as secure as you might think.

Before World War II, the Germans developed a technology that would prove to be a key player in the conflict: its family of infamous Enigma machines. These devices, about the size of a small microwave, were composed primarily of a typewriter and a series of three or four rotors. By using a set of rules
contained in a corresponding codebook, German soldiers would use the machine to encode vital messages to be sent covertly over the airwaves. The number of potential permutations — and thus solutions — for the code was in the tens of millions. The Germans were confident that the code could never be broken and used it for a vast array of top-secret communications.

The code’s impenetrability didn’t last. Via photographs of stolen Enigma operating manuals, the Polish Cipher Bureau reconstructed one of the stubborn Enigma machines, internal wiring and all, enabling them to decrypt the Wehrmacht’s messages from 1933 to 1938. Facing an impending German invasion, Poland decided to share these secrets with the British. But, at the outbreak of the war, the Germans increased the security of the Enigma initiative by changing the cipher system daily. In response, a British code-breaking team, led by genius English computer scientist Alan Turing, constructed primitive computers, known as “bombes,” that allowed them to decrypt the incredibly complicated ciphers faster than ever before. But it wasn’t until the capture of the U-110 warship and the seizure of its Enigma machine and codebooks that the British were able to decrypt the most complicated cipher of the war, the Kriegsmarine Enigma.

The information gleaned from these decrypts are believed to have shortened the war by more than two years, saving over 14 million lives.

Just like you, the Germans believed the systems they had put in place to defend their secrets were impenetrable. And it’s true: the system had few cryptographic weaknesses. However, there were flaws in German procedure, mistakes made by Enigma operators, and failures to introduce changes into the Enigma formula — along with the Allied capture of key equipment and intelligence — that ultimately allowed the Allies to crack the code once and for all.

Take this as a cautionary tale: the most advanced, complex cryptography system in the world became obsolete within 10 years. The same goes for your potentially outdated cyber security measures.

Though they may not be led by Alan Turing and his crack team, you can bet criminals are constantly chipping away at the defenses of even the most powerful firewalls. The arms race between cyber security companies and cybercriminals rages on behind the scenes, and you can bet that they’ve already cracked your business’s “Enigma.” Just look at the massive European cyber-attack this past June, which infected computers from over 27 companies across the continent, including those of the largest oil company in Russia, with ransomware. The unimaginable cost of that attack is something you certainly don’t want your business to shoulder.

As technology evolves, so does crime. New threats arise each and every day. While solutions are available (and needed), they are notably absent in older software developed at a time before these constantly morphing attacks even existed.

Once the enemy has found a way to pick your lock, you need a new lock. Luckily, you have your trusty IT provider, constantly on the lookout for cutting-edge solutions that protect our clients from even the nastiest malware.

Don’t be like the Germans. Constantly look at options to upgrade to more robust, better cyber security to defend yourself from the bleeding-edge hackers, and sleep safe knowing your business is secure.

Reduce Your Printing Costs with These 5 Tips

Outdated printers, the lack of a printing workflow, and an over-reliance on hard copies may be contributing to your ballooning printing expenditures. With some creative problem-solving and fresh ideas, you could drastically reduce your printing budget. Start by following these five tips.

Replace Outdated Printers

Outdated and cheap printers may be functional, but they are putting a huge dent in your IT budget.

Any piece of equipment that is seven years old (or older) requires frequent repairs and causes more trouble than it’s worth. Because old printers are no longer under warranty, fixing them is more costly and challenging. It’s also difficult to replace parts for old printers because manufacturers have stopped carrying them for models that have been phased out.

When you replace outdated equipment with newer, multi-functional printers, you’re investing in hardware that will pay for itself with increases in productivity and efficiency.

Avoid Purchasing Unnecessary Supplies

A poorly managed printer environment could result in a stockpile of cartridges, toners, and reams of paper. This happens when, for example, an employee uses a printer that’s about to run out of ink and makes an unnecessary request for a new ink or toner. This is more common than you may think, and definitely more expensive.

In the absence of a dedicated printer manager, you can avoid this situation by automating supply replacement. Assign a point person to proactively place orders when supplies are about to run out, so your company can avoid needless purchases.

Impose Strict Process Workflows

Submitting expense reports, filing reimbursements, and other administrative tasks require a proper document workflow. Without a guideline, employees and administrative staff tend to print an unnecessary amount of documents.

Automate your company’s document-driven processes to reduce or prevent redundant print jobs that result in stacks of abandoned documents. Not only is it wasteful, it’s also a security and privacy concern.

Go Paperless

Designing a document management solution that reduces paper consumption is the best way to save money. It may not be possible in every department, but those who can do their jobs without printing should be encouraged to do so by management. Printing lengthy email chains that can be discussed in a meeting is just one example of a wasteful practice that should be avoided.

Reduce IT Support Calls for Printing Issues

Calling your company’s IT guys to assist with problems like paper jams, printer Wi-Fi issues, and other concerns reduces employee frustration. You and your IT personnel could avoid dealing with these productivity killers by identifying the problem areas of your print environment. Then, you can work on solutions specific to your office, such as drafting a printing workflow, or getting help from document management experts who can recommend time- and budget-saving solutions.

Having a group of experts manage your IT workflow can make your day-to-day operations more efficient and help you save on printing costs. Our experts will gladly recommend best practices and tips on document management. Call us today at 800-421-7151.

Social Engineering Exploits Facebook

You’ve received a message from one of your Facebook friends. You click on the link not knowing what you’ve gotten yourself into. This describes one of the latest social media adware schemes, which has wreaked havoc on Facebook users worldwide.

What is it?

Little is known about the adware itself or those behind it, but it was uncovered by David Jacoby, senior security researcher at Kaspersky Lab, when he received a Facebook message from one of his friends, only to find out that wasn’t the case.

Basically, the adware uses Facebook Messenger to track your browser activity and pushes you to click on malicious ads or give out personal information.

How does it work?

By clickjacking and hijacking credentials of Facebook users, the adware is able to send messages to people in the victim’s contact list. If you’re one of those people, you’ll receive a phony message from your friend’s compromised Facebook account.

The message includes your friend’s name followed by the word “Video,” a shocked face emoji, and a shortened URL. Once clicked, the URL will redirect you to a Google Doc with a blurred photo taken from your friend’s Facebook page, disguised as a video. If you click on the “video”, you’ll be redirected to one of a number of targeted websites based on your browser, operating system, and location.

For instance, if you use Google Chrome, you’ll be sent to a website that looks exactly like YouTube, complete with the official logo. The hoax website will show you a fake error message to trick you into downloading a malicious Chrome extension.

If you’re on Firefox, you’ll be sent to a site with a false Flash Player update notice and a Windows adware executable; the same goes with OS X except the adware is hidden in a .dmg file.

The goal here is to move your browser through a set of websites so tracking cookies can monitor your activity and display malicious ads or you can be “social engineered” to give up confidential information.

How do you avoid falling victim?

Facebook has rolled out a number of automated systems to stop harmful links and files. What’s more, they will provide you with a free antivirus scan if they suspect that your account has been compromised by adware.

Still, you should be very skeptical about any shortened URL links sent to you by your Facebook friends, no matter how long you’ve been friends.

Due to their low key nature as potential security endpoints, cyber criminals are turning to social media platforms as their new medium of choice. To keep your business safe, you need to stay up-to-date and educate your employees. If you have any other questions about social media and how it can impact your business, just give us a call at 800-421-7151.