Regularly Evaluate Your Cybersecurity

Experts estimate that the global market for cybersecurity products this year will exceed that of last year. At first glance, an increase in spending seems necessary and shows that businesses are becoming more aware of cybersecurity issues. But a closer look may prove otherwise. Learn why your company could be investing in cybersecurity products the wrong way.

Uncover threats and vulnerabilities

Every business should evaluate the current state of its cybersecurity by running a risk assessment. Doing so is one of the easiest ways to identify, correct, and prevent security threats. After discovering potential issues, you should rate them based on probability of occurrence and potential impacts to your business.

Keep in mind that risk assessments are specific to every business and there is no one-size-fits-all approach for small business technology. It all depends on your line of business and operating environment. For instance, manufacturing companies and insurance groups have totally different applications to secure.

After tagging and ranking potential threats, you should identify which vulnerabilities need immediate attention and which ones can be addressed further down the line. For example, a web server running an unpatched operating system is probably a higher priority than a front desk computer that’s running a little slower than normal.

Tailor controls to risks

Instead of spending time and money evenly on all systems, it’s best that you focus on areas with high risk. You should address these issues immediately after an assessment, but also put plans in place to evaluate their risk profiles more often.

Assess existing products

Chances are, your organization has already spent a great deal of money on security products and their maintenance and support. By conducting risk assessments more often, you can improve the strategies you already have in place and uncover wasteful spending. You may discover that one outdated system merely needs to be upgraded and another needs to be ditched. Remember, your existing products were purchased to meet specific needs that may have changed immensely or disappeared altogether.

It’s much harder to overcome cybersecurity obstacles if you’re not regularly evaluating your IT infrastructure. Contact our experts at 800-421-7151 for help conducting a comprehensive assessment today!

The Benefits of Virtualization in 2018

The relationship between computer hardware and software can be frustrating. Both require the other to function properly, but both also require individual attention. Virtualization makes this relationship more flexible, and we’ve got a rundown on a few of the best examples.

More technology uptime
Virtualization vendors use fancy names for the features of their technology, but behind all the technobabble are some revolutionary concepts. Take “fault tolerance” for example. When you use virtualization to pool multiple servers in a way that they can be used as a single supercomputer, you can drastically increase uptime. If one of those servers goes down, the others continue working uninterrupted.

Another example of this is “live migrations,” which is just a fancy way of saying that employee computers can be worked on by technicians while users are still using them. Let’s say you’ve built a bare-bones workstation (as a virtual machine on the server), but you need to upgrade its storage capacity. Virtualization solutions of today can do that without disconnecting the user and restarting their computer.

Better disaster recovery
Data backups are much simpler in a virtualized environment. In a traditional system, you could create an “image” backup of your server — complete with operating system, applications and system settings. But it could be restored to a computer only with the exact same hardware specifications.

With virtualization, images of your servers and workstations are much more uniform and can be restored to a wider array of computer hardware setups. This is far more convenient and much faster to restore compared to more traditional backups.

More secure applications
In an effort to increase security, IT technicians usually advocate isolating software and applications from each other. If malware is able to find a way into your system through a software security gap, you want to do everything in your power to keep it from spreading.

Virtualization can put your applications into quarantined spaces that are allowed to use only minimum system resources and storage, reducing the opportunities they have to wreak havoc on other components of the system.

Longer technology lifespans
The same features that quarantine applications can also create customized virtual spaces for old software. If your business needs a piece of software that won’t work on modern operating systems, virtualization allows you to build a small-scale machine with everything the program needs to run. In that virtual space, the application will be more secure, use fewer resources, and remain quarantined from new programs.

In addition to software, virtualization also encourages longer life spans of old hardware components. With virtualization, the hardware an employee uses is little more than a window to the powerful virtual machine on the server. Employee computers need only the hardware required to run the virtualization window, and the majority of the processing takes place on the server. Hardware requirements are much lower for employees and equipment can be used for several years.

Easier cloud migrations
There are several ways virtualization and cloud technology overlap. Both help users separate processing power from local hardware and software, delivering computing power over a local network or the internet. Because of these similarities, migrating to the cloud from a virtualized environment is a much simpler task.

There is no debate about the benefits of this technology. The only thing standing between your business and more affordable, efficient computing is an IT provider that can manage it for you. For unlimited technology support, virtualization or otherwise, on a flat monthly fee — get in touch with us today at 800-421-7151!

How to Reduce Your PC Power Consumption

Every home or office has a computer. In one year, a typical desktop that’s on 24/7 releases carbon dioxide that’s equal to driving 820 miles in an average car. To save energy, you don’t need drastic changes; you can start with making small adjustments that will ultimately accumulate to significant savings.

1. Disconnect your external devices

Devices that connect to your PC like printers, sound systems, and webcams consume power, too. That’s why you should disconnect or remove these devices from your PC as soon as you’re done using them.

2. Use a smart strip, especially for computers you cannot turn off

A smart strip is a series of several electrical outlets in one strip, with circuits to monitor and maximize your gadgets’ power consumption. By connecting your PC and its peripherals (printer, speakers, scanners, etc.) to the smart strip, you don’t need to unplug your equipment when you’re not using them.

3. Adjust your computer’s energy settings

You can also consume less energy by adjusting your PC’s power settings. For example, you can make sure your hard drive and monitor go into “sleep” mode when they’re left idle for a few minutes. Lowering the screen brightness will also help you save electricity.

4. Shutdown and unplug your computer when not in use

If you are not yet using a smart strip, then it’s best to shut down the computer when you’re not using it. Also, make sure to unplug it, as leaving it plugged consumes standby power.

5. Use a charger only when charging your laptop

When we charge our laptops, it’s easy to just leave them there and forget about them. This results in the eventual degrading of the battery. Leaving the charger plugged on the wall also consumes standby power. So either use a wall outlet with a timer, or plug your charger on a smart strip instead.

6. And should you be in the market for a new PC, choose one that’s Energy Star compliant

Energy Star is the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s symbol for energy efficiency. Every product that earns the Energy Star symbol is guaranteed to deliver quality performance and energy savings. Studies have shown that a single Energy Star compliant computer and monitor can save from $7 to $52 per year in electricity bills.

Saving energy is a combination of smart choices in hardware plus developing good energy-conservation habits. These tips should help you achieve that. If you need assistance in choosing the best hardware for your needs, call us and we’ll be glad to help you out.

Malware Strain Infects 200k More Devices

Yet another global malware infection has been making headlines and the story just took a turn for the worse. When the news of VPNFilter broke, experts warned that 500,000 devices were already infected, but now they believe that number is much higher. Thankfully, it’s not too late to protect yourself.

VPNFilter recap

A team of security researchers from Cisco released a report that a strain of malware had been discovered on hundreds of thousands of routers and network devices. Originally, researchers believed it affected only Linksys, MikroTik, Netgear, and TP-Link devices.

Like many malware strains, VPNFilter infects devices that use default login credentials. But it’s worse than the average cyberattack because it can destroy router hardware and cannot be removed by resetting infected devices.

As if destroying 500,000 routers wasn’t bad enough, VPNFilter lets its creators spy on networks and intercept passwords, usernames, and financial information.

What’s new

Just two weeks after VPNFilter was discovered, security experts announced that it targets 200,000 additional routers manufactured by ASUS, D-Link, Huawei, Ubiquiti, UPVEL, and ZTE. Worse yet, VPNFilter can alter data passing through infected routers. That means when you enter a username and password into a banking website, hackers could steal that information and show you an incorrect account balance to hide fraudulent deductions.

How to stop VPNFilter

Rebooting a router won’t remove the malware, you need to factory-reset the device. Usually, all this requires is holding down the Reset button on the back of the device for 10-30 seconds. If your router has no reset button or you’re unsure whether pressing it did the trick, contact a local IT provider immediately.

Cybersecurity threats have become so prevalent that even large enterprises struggle to keep their digital assets safe. Outsourcing IT support to a managed services provider like us will give you enough capacity to deal with issues like VPNFilter as soon as they arise. Call us today at 800-421-7151 to learn more.

Industries that Need Virtual Desktops

Apart from the cloud, one of today’s biggest IT trends is virtualization. And why not, it has helped countless businesses in more ways than one. An emerging model of virtualization is virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI), which involves hosting a desktop operating system and making it available on almost any device. It is most effective in the following use cases:

Legal

The legal industry is relying more and more on virtual desktops due to the mobility that they provide. Attorneys work long hours on cases and often have a home office, occasionally work from other offices, or need to access important information at a moment’s notice. With the right virtual desktop, attorneys can access the information that they need safely and under compliance. Virtual desktops are changing the way law firms are able to operate.

Healthcare

In an industry where every file is sensitive, the importance of confidentiality can’t be overstated. With VDI, rules and permissions can be customized based on the individual virtual desktop. As such, every medical professional can only view patient records relevant to them. It also allows them to log into their virtualized desktop while working across a variety of locations and devices.

Academic institutions

By leveraging VDI, a school’s IT team can create a virtual desktop — with the necessary restrictions implemented — for each student. If each classroom has a set of workstations, students’ desktop experiences will be consistent throughout their day. Even though they’ll be using different hardware every hour or two, they’ll always see the same desktop.

Companies with shift workers

In most cases, shift employees don’t really need one designated computer to fulfill their task because one computer is shared by multiple users. VDI makes it easy for companies to manage several desktop accounts on fewer devices. Workers can log into any devices, access their own virtual desktop, work as they do every day, and log off at the end of their shift.

Users with multiple computers

Depending on the nature of work, some positions require working with several computers on a regular basis. With VDI, they can integrate desktops and maintain it across two or more devices.

Field or remote staff

Employees that work remotely or in the field need access to tools and applications when on the job. A secure and reliable way to do it is through VDI. A complete VDI solution makes access to a consistent desktop experience possible anytime, anywhere, and using any device. It allows your remote or field workforce to operate effectively, no matter the circumstances.

Of course, these are just a few situations where VDI is helpful. Any business can enjoy security and productivity enhancements with a team of virtualization experts on call. Contact us today at 800-421-7151 to find out how we can help.

Tips to Reduce Risks After a Security Breach

No company is completely safe from data breaches. For proof, look no further than companies like Yahoo, AOL, and Home Depot, which compromised millions of personal customer information. That said, no business is completely helpless, either. The following steps can minimize the risks to your business in the event of a large-scale data breach.

Determine what was breached

Whether its names, addresses, email addresses, or social security numbers, it’s critical to know exactly what type of information was stolen before determining what steps to take. For example, if your email address were compromised, you’d take every precaution to strengthen your email security, which includes updating all your login credentials.

Change affected passwords immediately

Speaking of passwords, change yours immediately after any breach, even for seemingly safe accounts. Create a strong password comprised of alphanumeric and special characters, and make sure you never reuse passwords from your other accounts.

Once you’ve changed all your passwords, use a password manager to help you keep track of all your online account credentials.

If the website that breached your information offers two-factor authentication (2FA), enable it right away. 2FA requires two steps to verify security: usually a password and a verification code sent to a user’s registered mobile number.

Contact financial institutions

In cases where financial information was leaked, call your bank and credit card issuers to change your details, cancel your card, and notify them of a possible fraud risk. That way, banks can prevent fraud and monitor your account for suspicious activity.

Note that there are different rules for fraudulent transactions on debit cards and credit cards. Credit card transactions are a bit easier to dispute because they have longer grace periods. Debit card fraud, on the other hand, is more difficult to dispute, especially if the fraudulent transactions happened after you’ve notified the bank.

Place a fraud alert on your name

Hackers who have your personal information can easily commit identity fraud. To avoid becoming a victim, contact credit reporting bureaus like EquifaxExperian, or Innovis and request that a fraud alert (also called credit alert) be added to your name. This will block any attempt to open a credit account under your name and prevent unauthorized third parties from running a credit report on you.

Putting a credit freeze on your name might result in minor inconveniences, especially if you have an ongoing loan or credit card application. Still, doing so will greatly reduce your risks of getting defrauded.

These steps will ensure you don’t fall victim to identity theft in the event of a large-scale data breach. If you want to take a more proactive approach to protect your sensitive information against breaches, contact our cybersecurity experts today.