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Why Businesses Are Transforming Their Cybersecurity

Digital Transformation and The Cloud

In the wake of the pandemic and lockdown that followed, many medium and large sized companies have taken the time to upgrade their cyber security.

81 percent of businesses invested in accelerating and updating their IT infrastructure. This is according to a survey conducted by CensusWide and sponsored by Centrify. The purpose of the survey was to try and understand how IT spending has changed in the past six months since the Pandemic struck.

There have been numerous cyber attacks since the lockdown took place. Some of the most notable have included Twitter, the social media platform. On July 15, 2020, hackers used social engineering to gain access to high profile Instagram accounts like Barak Obama, Bill Gates and Elon Musk to trick victims into sending money to a specified address.

In the end, more than 130 accounts were impacted and the address received more than $110,000.

Cyber Attacks In 2020 Prove Security’s Important

Most recently, American healthcare company Universal Health Systems experienced a ransomware attack that impacted the systems of hospitals across the world.

Another health care organization was hacked in early October. Tennessee-based Community Health Systems was hacked in 28 states after millions of people’s personal information was stolen by cyber criminals.

It’s no surprise that the overwhelming majority of businesses have transformed their cyber security in the past 6 months. Medium and small sized firms are adjusting their IT infrastructure to reflect the need for digitally- driven systems. The Covid-19 pandemic forced firms to rely on remote operations to continue.

The data reflects this as well. 48 percent of organizations had to speed up cloud migration as a result of the pandemic. Business leaders took swift action when the lockdown came. Many quickly adopted cloud-based solutions or hired a managed IT services company to onboard their team in preparation for remote work.

However, the biggest issue was that many companies in a rush to ensure business continuity neglected cyber security. In fact, there were businesses and firms that were completely unprepared to migrate to a remote environment. As a result, they struggled to readjust when they could no longer work out of the office.

Remote Operations Are In Danger Without Cyber Security

This made firms carrying sensitive client information even more vulnerable to attack. And cyber criminals have taken notice. These rushed attempts to continue remotely has led to glaring vulnerabilities in security. Furthermore Cyber security incidents have spiked as result.

Cyber security company Malwarebites released an extensive report studying the effects of COVID-19 on business security. Company data and a survey with 200 cyber security experts concluded that remote workers were the cause of 20 percent of security breaches.

24 percent of respondents said their organization paid unexpected breach-related costs after shelter in place orders began.

Cyber Attackers And The Dark Web

On October 21, 2020 a cybersecurity company said it found a hacker selling the personal information of almost 200 million Americans. Much of the data hackers obtain start with a simple social engineering scam. The cyber thief sends a phishing email to an unsuspecting remote employee and they click on a link contained in the email.

In the CensusWide study, 51 percent of employees are making secure remote access a top priority. Contrary to this, 27 percent of organization IT leaders say that secure access to various teams, IT services companies and third-party providers is a priority.

Large firms were more concerned with cyber security than smaller one, according to the study. This is a bit alarming considering the average cost of an insider-related cyber incident is $7.68 million USD. An IBM and Ponemon Institute Survey showed organization with fewer than 500 employees spent an average of $7.68 million per incident.

Considering how so larger businesses are investing in cyber protection, that makes smaller businesses prime targets for hackers. What’s worse is that a January study showed that 43 percent of all SMB’s lacked any type of cyber defense plan.

Unfortunately, firms prioritize operation over security and leave themselves open to an attack that could cost them their business. 60 percent of all small companies fail within six months of a cyber attack.

There are those who believe they can withstand a cyber attack. However, they don’t consider the fact that even if a business pays a ransom or recovers from a breach, cyber criminals can still use  and sell their data on the darkweb. Dark web marketplaces like Joker’s Stash are infamous for selling social security numbers, credit card information and more.

 

Conclusion

IT experts and business leaders are understanding the importance of a resilient cloud strategy. Cyber security has become an important factor in transforming and modernizing IT infrastructure.

Larger firms were the first to invest in a digital transformation with medium sized businesses following behind.

Smaller businesses are now at their most vulnerable as hackers look for easier targets. But with so many organizations experiencing cyberattacks, protecting valuable client data needs to be a priority. Ensuring data compliance is key to securing sensitive client data. Nerds Support is a perfect place to start for a comprehensive cloud migration strategy that protects small and medium sized businesses and modernizes IT.

Nerds Support achieves SOC II certification

Nerds Support Achieves SOC 2 Certification

For the full press release you can click here.

The Importance SOC 2 Certification

When a Managed Providers Service Provider (MSP) looks at a SOC 2 review, the firm illustrates that they are actually interested in protecting customer data and guaranteeing information is safe and secure. MSP’s success depends upon their capacity to properly store very useful client assets.

MSP’s are actually 3rd party IT solutions companies that remotely take care of client IT framework, information, and cyber protection often under a subscription-based version.

SOC analysis are part of American Institute of CPA’s (AICPA) Service Organization Control reporting system. Its function is to see to it all the correct systems exists to guarantee safety, security, method integrity, discretion, privacy and availability of consumer information.

These analysis apply to modern technology- focused companies like Software-as-a-service businesses and those that utilize valuable customer data. Nonetheless, MSP’s are not required to go through a SOC 2 review or any type of security review to operate legally.

Nerds Support Distinguishes Itself

For this reason, Nerds Support has actually been a differentiator in the IT support industry. Our services along with our support technicians are constantly looking for accreditations and updating their skillset to stay on par with the latest innovations and IT support technology.

“I am extremely proud of our team for going through all of the required steps to achieve full SOC compliance,” said Scott Richman, CEO and founder of Nerds Support. “It really shows we wanted to differentiate ourselves from our competitors by going the extra mile for our clients and ensuring their data is secured with a certified company.”

MSP’s Are Better When SOC 2 Certified

An MSP with a SOC 2 certification offers peace of mind to any sort of firm seeking to team up with an IT service provider. Nerds Support’s SOC 2 license confirms that our experts have actually been audited by a private professional public accountant as well as it satisfies effective safety and security specifications. Business interested in using a handled providers ought to seek ones that have gone through these substantial SOC 2 audits for the safety of their firm records.

“We don’t want to be like any other MSP. We want to make it clear to business owners across South Florida that we care about their security not just their business,” Richman said.

It Matters To Us Because It Matters to You

As a managed services provider, Nerds Support works with CPA, financial firms, wealth management firms, and other businesses across South Florida to maintain their IT infrastructure, protect their networks, and optimize their systems. That’s why we were determined to be the company they can trust to manage important data.

As a managed IT company provider, Nerds Support collaborates with Certified Public Accountants, financial advisors, wealth management firms, and various other organizations around South Florida to keep their IT solutions infrastructure secure, guard their networks, as well as enhance their devices. That is why we were actually figured out to become the company they may trust to manage important information.

An MSP with a SOC 2 qualification offers a peace of mind to any kind of firm appearing to companion with IT service provider. Nerds Support’s SOC 2 license proves that our experts have actually been audited by an independent accredited Certified Public Accountant and meets the correct security criteria. Businesses curious in using a managed services provider ought to go for ones that have gone through these significant SOC 2 audits for the safety of their provider data.

You can read more about Nerds Support, cloud computing, cybersecurity and more by checking out our blog.

A businessman holding a laptop secured by the cloud

Top Cybersecurity Risks for CPA Firms in Miami

Cybercriminals are always hunting for identity theft victims. It is becoming increasingly important for you to take proactive measures to protect your clients’ personal and financial information. It doesn’t matter if you work by yourself or for a large accounting firm—digital security risks are a growing concern for everyone in the accounting profession. Those who don’t address these concerns are putting themselves and their businesses at serious professional liability risk.

There has been a rise in cyber attacks since the Coronavirus pandemic set in. 80 percent of firms have seen an increase in cyberattacks. Therefore, it is becoming increasingly important to take proactive measures to protect clients personal and financial information.

The truth is, cybercriminals are always hunting for new victims. Gartner research shows that the cyber security market will be at $170.4 billion by 2022.

We’ve already seen countless instances of hackers targeting businesses and institutions and getting paid millions of dollars in ransom money. Cities like New Orleans and Naples, Fl have suffered severe attacks that compromised their systems and the security of the cities themselves.

Since financial institutions are trusted with much of their client’s personal data, they are high valued targets for hackers.

Here are the Top Cyber Security Risks CPA Firms in Miami are facing:

Ignorance

While the advanced abilities of modern cyber criminals may seem obvious, too many businesses do not grasp the reality of the frequency and the severity of the threat. One study estimates that 97% of companies have already experienced a breach of some sort, meaning at least one hacker has bypassed all layers of security. The threat of cyber security is real, and ignorance offers no protection.

Poor Passwords

Passwords are the most basic defense against unwanted digital access. How secure are your passwords? Are you using them to their fullest potential? For most corporations, poor passwords are a major security risk. About 76% of corporate network breaches are directly related to lost or stolen credentials, like easily hacked passwords. Change your password immediately if it is “123456,” “password,” or something equally unsafe. Be sure to follow best practices for strong passwords like a long chain with varying types of characters.

Internal Threats

Internal threats usually come from individuals who misuse their information access. Unfortunately, no matter how careful your firm is, you may have an unscrupulous employee on your hands. Also, service vendors may find themselves in a building where sensitive information is on display. It’s important to restrict access to information to employees on a need-to-know basis.

The Cloud and Other Technological Vulnerabilities

Unless you have Managed IT experience, finding all the technological vulnerabilities in your software and hardware is nearly impossible. Every application and operating system on your computer, phone, or tablet can have a vulnerability, and it only takes a hacker one moment to exploit it once it has been found. When you use cloud-based storage, you add another layer of vulnerability. Work with an IT professional and be sure to review your cloud-based service providers often.

Phishing, Malware, and Hacking

4,000 firms were analyzed in a 2020 Verizon report and they found that 52 percent were a result of hacking.

Phishing and malware are malicious attempts to access sensitive data. Phishing is the process of sending an email that entices a reader to click on an attachment and enter personal data, which opens the computer to a hack. Malware is malicious software installed without a user’s knowledge with the purpose of hacking the computer or otherwise disrupting its function. Both are a risk for the modern CPA. All it takes is an involuntary click on a seemingly innocent email to infect a computer or release sensitive information.

Of course, you also have the risk of being hacked.

As a data collector and caretaker, a CPA has a legal responsibility to remain compliant with government regulations. Over time, the data that is stored in order to remain compliant becomes a threat in and of itself. If the data is not properly stored, or if it is not able to be found in the event of an audit, your firm could face a large set of legal risks.

How to Defend Against Cyber Security Threats

Work with an IT professional

Work with an IT professional to ensure you have proper security protocols in place. Review any cloud-based service providers to see if they have good security measures as well. Perform a security risk assessment to stop any potential problems before they can grow.

Understand and Protect the Flow of Confidential Data

Make sure you understand the flow of confidential data in your firm and enforce proper security procedures. Review access controls to ensure only those who should see data have access to it. Train, vet, and monitor your employees, and carefully screen any service providers or vendors who come to your facility. Make sure customers are not able to see the data of others when they visit your facility.

Create an Information Security Plan

Have a written information security plan that includes a timely purging of generic data sets. Train your employees to adhere to these rules. Review the plan periodically among leadership staff as well as employees.

Reduce Your Risk with Professional Liability Insurance

Protect yourself with proper insurance. While all of these risk reduction strategies are important, the most important way to protect yourself and your business is through professional liability insurance. Purchase a policy that properly addresses all potential cybersecurity exposures.

Protect Your Firm from Cybersecurity Threats

For CPAs, protecting data can quickly become a full-time job. It is your ethical and legal responsibility to do everything in your power to protect your clients and their personal data. Beyond that, you need to protect yourself—Cybersecurity risks are very real in this modern world. By following these strategies and obtaining appropriate liability coverage, you can fight cybersecurity threats head on.

Conclusion

The cyber risks are so great these days that management must get involved to ensure that appropriate mitigation strategies are in place. We all know the first step to treating addiction is admitting there is a problem. Similarly, the first step toward cyber security is acknowledging that you are at risk.

 

Be careful with social engineering scams that install malware

Reduce Malware Infections in 7 Steps

7 IT Solutions To Reduce the Risk Of Malware Infections

Friday, June 26 2020 The University of California at San Francisco School of Medicine paid over $1 million to regain access to data after hackers encrypted it with malware.

Situations like this happen all the time. Unfortunately, businesses and institutions across the world have failed to properly prepare for cyberattacks. In many cases it’s a matter of outdated infrastructure and insufficient funding. In other cases, it’s neglect or improper training.

Because of the fact that if your system is infected, you likely won’t be getting your files back unless you pay the ransom, you likely don’t want this to infect your work systems. One of the ways to limit the possibility of this is to educate your employees on how to minimize the chances their systems will be infected. Here are seven practical IT solutions to reduce the risk of malware infections.

1) Watch out For Vulnerabilities

Cyber attackers are using all kinds of technology to exploit networks and systems. One piece of malicious tech they use are exploit kits. Exploit kit, also exploit packs, are programs used to deliver malware to a vulnerable network.

What do I mean by vulnerable? A vulnerability in software is a mistake, or error, in the code. The hacker manipulates the user into visiting a malicious website and if any errors exist in the code of the system, the exploit can be implemented.

Furthermore, exploit kits function in the background making it difficult to determine when you’re experiencing an attack.

Update your operating system, browsers, and plugins. If there’s an update to your computer waiting on queue, don’t let it linger.  Additionally, updates to operating systems, browsers, and plugins are often released to patch any security vulnerabilities discovered.

You can protect yourself from these types of attacks by avoiding links and remembering to update your software. Many of us have the nasty habit of putting off systems updates. The little icon in the corner that reminds us of a new update is often seen as a bother. However, consider the alternative.

These systems updates fix any security vulnerabilities the developers and programmers uncover. There is actually a type of vulnerability called a Zero-Day vulnerability and it happens when hackers exploit undiscovered or unintended vulnerabilities. The malware is actually called zero-day exploits.

This applies to mobile phones as well. Software updates on your phone are meant to strengthen the software and patch any flaws the programmers missed when releasing the software. Software is constantly improving because code is constantly improving.

This explanation in many ways oversimplifies the process but it works for our purposes.

2) Remove Software and Files From your Systems You aren’t using

We’ve all heard of spring cleaning. We look through all the things we have and toss out what we don’t use. If we let things accumulate they create clutter and can create big problems. Well, the same thing applies to software on your devices.

You have to periodically look through all the software on your devices and determine which ones are outdated and which ones are worth keeping. For example, Microsoft no longer releases software updates for Windows 7 and Windows XP. Furthermore, using these applications without support or patch updates puts you in a position to get hacked.

How old are the applications you use? When did you last update them?

Do your homework and find out or someone else will.

3) Be aware of Social Engineering

Cybercriminals spread malware into your systems through social engineering tactics like phishing. There are older, less commons ways too that are worth going over. In some cases, a hacker will place an unlabeled USB in a public place or an office. The idea is that an unsuspecting victim will pick it up, consider it harmless and claim it as their own. This is also a form of social engineering because it still manipulates users into executing a certain action.

There are anti phishing tools you can use like Retruster that protect against fraudulent emails, phishing and ransomware. There are also many plug ins available for free that help users identify malicious links by creating a “safe to click” marker on them.

4) Inspect your Inbox Like Your business depended on it: Because it does.

Understand that the biggest vulnerability your business has walks on two feet. It doesn’t matter how many tools, tips and software updates you have if you fall for a social engineering scam. And it doesn’t just happen to small companies either.

Facebook and Google put together were victim to a payment scam of over $100 million. Between 2013 and 2015 a Lithuanian hacker managed to send each company fake invoices while pretending to be an Asian manufacturer they were in business with.

This is an example of Vishing, a.k.a. voice phishing. Leading to the next point:

5) Always Verify credentials with Cold Callers

Vishing is a bit more difficult to pull off on companies. However, when done correctly it can generate a huge amount of profit for the scammer like I mentioned with Facebook and Google.

Depending on the company you might get a call from someone pretending to be Microsoft. In other cases it’ll be a vendor or a bank checking in. It’s difficult to say in what form these scams will come because the scammers tailor them specifically for a business.

In the case of Facebook and Google, for example, the scammers had to know they two companies were working with that specific vendor.

For your company it will be different according to your specific circumstances. If it isn’t believable then the victim won’t fall for it.

6) Make sure You have a Secure Connection

Whether you’re working in the office or remotely, you need to ensure your connection is secure. If you’re working from home, perhaps you’ll need a VPN to protect your Wi-Fi connection. Additionally, when you’re browsing on the web make sure the website is secure.

7) Use strong passwords with Multi-layer authentication

A large percentage of people reuse the same passwords for the personal and professional logins. It’s time to change that habit. Companies like Google and Apple created password generators that create strong, complex passwords. However, don’t leave it up to google.

If your business doesn’t use multi-layer authentication for access to important documents, files or websites, you’re living in the past. Nerds Support uses multi factor password authentication to ensure whoever is logging in can only do so if they are the right person.

Our systems require a mobile phone confirmation, email confirmation and password confirmation in order to provide access to our systems. That way, if a device gets stolen or a hacker gains access to a password, neither will be enough to access files alone.

Conclusion

Malware attacks are growing. Now that businesses are moving towards remote work, protecting against these types of attacks are more important than ever. Cyber security is not just about the technologies that protect your important data. It’s also about what you are doing to protect your business. It is the first and the last line of defense.

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How Cyber Attackers Use The Coronavirus to Steal Your Data

Coronavirus Email Scams

The recent coronavirus outbreak has motivated cybercriminals to send virus related malware attacks across the world.

Phishing emails claiming to possess information on protecting against the virus have appeared, spreading misinformation and malicious software. These emails encourage victims to open attached documents containing malware that can freeze or completely steal valuable data.

Scammers use fear and uncertainty to manipulate victims into infecting their computer with malware. However, incorporating tragic events, potential pandemics or natural disasters into their attacks is nothing new.

Beware of Phishing After Any Big Event

Attackers customize phishing emails to current or upcoming events like tax season, hurricane season, and holidays. Regardless of the occasion, the goal is the same: to access valuable information. The attacks prey on people’s desperation for answers and suggest that they have can give them to you.

Furthermore, there have been cases of scams emerging in places like Michigan and New York. Officials in these states are warning residents to be vigilant of emails asking for donations or personal payment card information.

Coronavirus scam emails were popping up in early February which prompted Michigan’s Department of Health and Human Services to warn citizens on their dangers.

The Federal Trade Commission even sent out a memorandum advising people on how to spot email scams and stay safe online.

Additionally, the FTC says cyber criminals could be setting up fraudulent websites that sell fake products using illegitimate emails, social media posts and texts to trick people into sending them money or personal information.

An example of a phishing email scam offering fake information about COVID-19.

Common attributes of a fake email are spelling and/or grammar errors.
If you receive a suspicious link, hover your cursor over it to view the destination url.

Protecting Against Coronavirus Phishing Scams

Here are some tips recommended by the FTC to keep safe against scammers:

1) Be suspicious of emails claiming to be from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or anyone purporting to be an “expert” with information on the virus.

2) Avoid emails that allude to any “investment opportunities.” Social scams will promote products claiming they can cure, detect, treat or prevent the disease are fake.

3) If you’re going to donate, do the proper research into the organization and payment method. Don’t be pressured to donate and especially if it’s through an email link.

4) Ignore offers for vaccinations. Ads that say they have the cure or treatment for coronavirus are probably scams. Any medical breakthrough will be announced on mainstream media networks.

5) For up-to-date information on the virus visit the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO)

Don’t Be Misled

These scams will continue to spread and they won’t go away any time in the near future. In fact, scammers will certainly take greater advantage of the misinformation and fear from media coverage.

Moreover, cyber scammers in China were reported sending malicious emails containing malware. It’s difficult to protect yourself from these types of attacks but

Threat actors also targeted users in Japan with a campaign that spread malicious documents with supposed information on the virus.

Unsurprisingly, these social engineers even sent emails impersonating the CDC to lure unsuspecting users into malware traps.

The Coronavirus is a real threat but it’s important to keep a level head and not expose yourself to even greater harm online.

Ultimately, even Facebook has begun planning to ward off misinformation on the virus. Other social media platforms have voiced concern about the spread of false claims on their platforms as well.

The virus has attracted the attention of a global audience but that doesn’t mean you have to fall victim to those looking to profit off of that attention.

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