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What Should Concern Businesses About the New Orleans Cyberattack

The city of New Orleans experienced a cyberattack so severe Mayor Latoya Cantrell declared a state of emergency.

The attack occurred on Friday, Dec. 13 and caused the city to shutdown government computers. Officials announced the shutdown via social media posts.

City Shutdown Government Computers

The attack started at 5 in the morning, according to the city of New Orleans. At around 11 a.m., employees noticed what they considered suspicious activity. As a result, the city’s IT department ordered employees disconnect from Wi-Fi and close down their computers.

Fortunately, an investigations into the attack is currently underway as Federal and State agencies gather more information. As of now, nothing is known about the malware used during the attack and the Mayor said no ransom demands had been made yet.

Louisiana’s Third Cyberattack

This ransomware attack is the third to affect Louisiana in five months. In November, another attack prompted Louisiana’s Office of Technological Services to shut down multiple state agencies. And in July, cyber criminals attacked several Louisiana school districts, shutting down their networks for ransom.

As a result of the schools attacks, Governor John Bel Edwards declare a state of emergency that allowed state agencies to help local governments recover from the attack.

What’s the Damage?

Unfortunately, it’s always difficult to tell the extent of the damage. It could take months and, in some cases, years to truly understand what information was stolen.  Furthermore, hackers could have stolen government employee information, financial information and more from New Orleans.

Moreover, they will have to contact financial institutions and implement new procedures to address cyberattacks like this as well as increase security on their networks.

This begs the question, if State governments have to shut down entire systems and declare a state of emergency to deal with a cyberattack, what will it cost a small business?

Since the attack in November, The National Governors Association (NGA) has urged states to develop a formal continuity plan for responding to cyber threats. Additionally, cyber forensic experts will need to be brought in to investigate the breach.

New Orleans Government Cyber Attack Statistics

 

Cyber Response Plan

The NGA released a State Cyber Response plan in July, that governments are developing and 15 states have made their plans public.

Without a doubt, the impact of ransomware attack is nothing to scoff at and governments are learning the hard way. Ultimately, having a continuity plans in place ensures recovery from a breach runs as smoothly as possible.

Cybercriminals Declare Hunting Season

The FBI issued a warning in October declaring an increase of cyberattacks on “big game” targets. These are targets with money and sensitive information, willing to pay ransoms to restore their systems.

That doesn’t just mean local and state governments, municipalities and agencies. For instance, hackers often target businesses, hospitals, accounting firms and financial advisers for their data.

Additionally, businesses have to adapt and invest in security if they expect to succeed. The first of several security lessons: no one is too big or to small to get hacked.  Sensitive data is always in high demand. More importantly, dark web marketplaces, like Joker’s Stash, are always willing to sell it.

The Future of Cybercrime

Researchers warn that ransomware attacks will intensity in 2020. What’s worse, attacks are getting more sophisticated.

On the other hand,with the year coming to a close and a new one beginning, now is the perfect time to audit your IT infrastructure and verify it’s competency against these types of threats. Fortunately, 2020 will also see the rise of things like cyber insurance, AI and cloud-based security solutions.

Transitioning to a cloud-based solution, like a hybrid cloud,  might help industries across the board avoid scenarios like the ones in Louisiana.

You can read our article on how businesses can protect themselves from a cyberattack.

If you want to know more on cybersecurity news, the cloud, managed IT services and more contact us or visit our blog.

 

DoorDash Gets Data Dashed After Breach

DoorDash Data Breach

The food delivery company DoorDash was compromised on May 4th 2019. The company said the data breach exposed the data of 4.9 million users, delivery workers and merchants. Fortunately, users who made accounts after April 5, 2018 were not affected by the breach. However, the breach exposed names, phone numbers, order histories, email addresses, and password information.  DoorDash said the breach happened through a third-party service. If it can happen to them it can happen to anybody and too often, it does.

DoorDash said in light of the hack, it took additional security steps to secure user data. It added security layers around the data and brought in outside consultants and experts to further identify and repel potential threats.

The company also said hackers obtained the last four digits of users’ credit card information. The customers’ full card numbers were not obtained, nor were the card verification values (CVV). The hackers also managed to steal the driver’s license numbers of about 100,000 delivery workers.

Hashing

DoorDash uses a method of encrypting data called Hashing. Hashing is taking a way of representing data in the form of a series of symbols. Moreover, it allows you to take an input, say a password, of any length and turn it into a string of characters that turn out to be the same length.

There are algorithms, like SHA1 and SHA256, that do this for you and generate unique hashes. They will take a name like Thomas Johnson and turn it into something that resembles “aeb4048c96b086739900f4f4144cd1f5”. The good thing about these hashing algorithms is that there’s no way of reversing the process. If someone had access to the hash, they couldn’t reverse engineer the name. At least in theory.

Brute Force-Attacks

There is are some methods of getting the non-hashed password or information hackers often exploit, sometimes quite successfully. One of these methods is called a brute force attack or a dictionary attack. The hackers take a long list of passwords and run it through the appropriate algorithm. Then the hacker looks at the hash they wish to recover and look for it in the list of hashes. Like looking for a number in the phone book when all you have is a name. If they find a hash in the list that matches the one they have, they simply look at the plain text version on their list.

If you couldn’t tell, this is a very intensive process. However, experienced hackers will use huge word lists and run them through their systems. These systems can analyze passwords in a matter of seconds.

Hash Collision

Hash collisions happen when two sets of data correspond to the same hash. This is very rare but useful. The hacker would be able to use a series of characters to access your account since it generates the same hash as your password.

Doordash assured its users and the cyber community that the hashing routine used salt to increase its complexity. No, not actual salt. “Salt” in cryptography simply means adding random data to the input (the password going into the algorithm)  so the hash is unique. This decreases the chances of a brute force attack or a hash collision.

Adding Salt to a Hash

Hashing isn’t full proof. It’s very deterministic, meaning a certain input will always give you the same output. Thomas Johnson as an input will always produce the same hash. So, if two people coincidentally use the same input for a password, they will both generate the same hash.

Adding salt to a hash means you take a random variable of a specific length and add it to the input. So, even if the input itself isn’t unique, the variable makes the hash unique. Metaphorically adding salt gives the hash a more distinctive flavor.

Despite the fact DoorDash took these extra precautions to encrypt their users passwords, experts suggest that any user affected by the breach should change their passwords to something as complex and secure as possible.

It’s Common

Unfortunately,  data breaches like the one in DoorDash occur fairly often. The more sensitive the information the more lucrative the hack will seem to a cybercriminal. That’s why the healthcare, accounting and financial services industry are often targets of cyber-attacks. 71 percent of breaches in 2019 were financially motivated, meaning hackers are looking to get information they can use to enrich themselves. Then, company that regularly deals with clients’ financial information would be a prime target. Doordash has credit card information to facilitate purchases but accountants and financial advisers have much more specific information.

That’s why managed IT for Finance and accounting is so important. Companies take their IT infrastructure for granted, often times, because they see it as an extra expense not a necessity. However, security is an expectation not a luxury. Providing managed IT for accounting and fiance is mostly about planning with compliance and security in mind.

That’s why agencies regulate these types of companies . Many compliance laws force industries like fiance and accounting to maintain high levels of security. That way, financial information isn’t compromised. Yes a thief is blamed for a robbery, but if the bank has poor security and didn’t install security cameras to cut costs, the bank is just as much to blame. This metaphor might simplify things a bit too much, but sadly that is the case for many industries. They don’t invest in newer cyber security because they’re too small to get attacked. Other times companies will think the security measures they take are good enough.

Small Sized Businesses are More at Risk

If a business owner reads this article and thinks to themselves, “I’m not Doordash, I run a small accounting firm,” they’re sadly mistaken. As a matter of fact, 43 percent of data breaches in 2019 targeted small businesses. People only take notice of the breaches occurring in large companies like Doordash and Capital One because those make interesting news articles and blogs. More often, it’s the smaller companies that suffer the greatest losses. 60 percent of small companies go out of business within six months to a year of a cyberattack. This is a number taken from the U.S. National Cyber Security Alliance.

Most of these breaches occur because a low level employee does something wrong. They open an email that contains malware, they don’t secure their passwords, they expose valuable information on social media, they are victims of an elaborate phishing scam. Nerds Support works as a financial cloud provider giving extensive training, security protocols, policies and procedures within the company.

Now, notice how they published a blog regarding the incident. They didn’t have to do this. DoorDash could’ve gone to the press but they knew it was important to retain a sense of confidence in the company. The company needed to tell as many people as possible that everything was taken care of. That’s obviously because perception builds trust and trust is the currency that builds companies.

A Data-Breach in Trust

If a breach occurs it’s highly likely that confidence in the companies ability to secure sensitive data will decrease. Restaurants have gone out of business because a customer found insects or filth in their foods. Companies fail more often from a decline in trust than anything else.

Nerd Support provides FINRA approved cloud storage to financial firms because keeping with industry compliance creates a safer digital environment for both the company and its clients. If someone is looking for a firm and sees it’s following all regulatory and security standards, then it’s a subconscious relief that builds confidence in the firm.
That being said, IT solutions for finance differ from the solutions other companies need, but all industries are regulated to some degree.

What can you do to Avoid a Breach?

Create a business continuity plan. This will mitigate the impact of a breach and ensure your business survives and recovers. DoorDash has one, which is why it immediately took steps to bounce back from the attack. The company added new security measures to their systems, hired outside consultants, and took to social media to update everyone on the status of the company. There is no doubt the company discussed all of this at some point in it’s history.

This was a swift and comprehensive move on DoorDash’s part because they knew the longer it takes to act after a disaster the bigger the losses.

Delete all emails, links online posts that you suspect might lead to a virus or data-breach. These are how many cybercriminals steal information.

Update and secure all software. This is often overlooked but it can be one of the best defenses against malware and viruses.

Encrypt sensitive data. Like DoorDash, encrypting sensitive data will make access to it difficult at worst and nearly impossible at best. Encrypting data is just converting data into another form.  Like hashing a password by turning it into a series of numbers and letters. Nerds Support encrypt its partner’s data and store it in a highly secure data center. We focus more on software encryption but you can also encrypt hardware.

DoorDash is just an example of what can befall any company in today’s world. Companies experience hacks, data  leaks, and personal data’s constantly stolen. The threat is more visible to the public now as larger companies fall victim to attacks. Cyber-crime is the world’s highest paying business, estimated in the trillions of dollars.

Business owners need to take action. If they don’t do anything, they’re just waiting to be next

Plantation gas leak aftermath

Plantation Gas Leak : Always be Prepared for any Disaster

Over the weekend, there was a gas explosion in the South Florida city of Plantation.  23 people were injured and the former PizzaFire restaurant was destroyed more than 20 local businesses were damaged and closed. Dozens of people’s livelihoods were disrupted by this disaster, leaving many wondering what their next move should be. Many businesses rely on some form of IT to help run their business.

When you have in-house IT, if something happens, you could lose everything and if you don’t chances are recovery will be painstakingly difficult. You are at the mercy of the elements, a victim of circumstance. You don’t really think about it, but you’re always vulnerable, and life offers no guarantees.

Chances are, no one going to work that day planned on having their business damaged in a gas explosion.  Yet it occurs without warning. If the lights go out and the infrastructure of your workplace is compromised, that could mean days and weeks spent trying to recover, which takes a huge toll on you and your business.

Crews spent that Sunday closing off the Plantation site by installing metal chain-link fencing. If you’re unable to access your workspace due to damages that could also inconvenience you and your staff. Cloud computing can be the solution to these very real issues. It provides the freedom and flexibility to manage these types of unpredictable situations and can mitigate losses tremendously.

Cloud Computing Benefits

 The cloud allows you to back up your files, applications and even desktop computers so that you can operate virtually from anywhere at any time. If some unforeseen travesty occurs, your business won’t be at a stand-still. Your employees won’t be sitting around waiting for your office to relocate or reorganize. If your computers get damaged or destroyed in an event like the one in Plantation, all you’ve lost is hardware. All of your data is secured, encrypted and protected by a network of servers that are independent of physical machines.

Nerds Support, for example, has a team of dedicated specialists that can provide a business continuity plan and help reestablish your routine workflow within hours of an event. You’ll have access to all your data and can continue working unimpeded. Cloud computing makes any place your place of business. You don’t have to look for a temporary office space or wait around helplessly for the city to clean up the damage or clear any obstructions. Dealing with the event itself is strenuous enough.

Visit our website where we have free e-books on how cloud computing can protect your business from natural disasters, accident, and even cybercriminals.

Like the old saying goes, “You can plan a pretty picnic, but you can’t predict the weather.” Let Nerds Support and the cloud be your umbrella.

*image by Daniel A. Varela, Miami Herald

Hurricane destroying a business with no backup data, files, and continuity plan.

How to Prepare your Business for a Hurricane

Storms can devastate homes, families and entire communities. For small businesses, recovering from hurricanes and tropical storms can take years. Sometimes, they don’t recover at all. The Golden Corral franchise restaurant in New Orleans suffered considerable damage after Hurricane Katrina.

Natural disasters can negatively affect businesses in a variety of ways. There are other kinds of disasters called operational disasters, which occur when a business loses an important manager or director, the conditions within the business become far too unfavorable to maintain productivity. Large and small businesses deal with the effects of disasters differently, mainly because larger businesses have more resources at their disposal for restoring their operations.

ACCUweather, which provides global forecasting services, is predicting 12-14 storms in 2019. Of those, only about two to three strengthen enough to become a major storm (category 3-5).

The first thing to do before anything else is to create a business continuity plan as soon as possible, preferably long before hurricane season starts. A continuity plan can greatly improve your chances of a timely recovery after a hurricane, storm or any other natural disaster. Plans include detailed instruction for restoring operations after a natural disaster. Protect the components that are most responsible for sustaining operations first. It is important to make an appraisal of key elements within your business to really determine how you proceed.

According to survey taken by Womply, a software-as-a-service company, 51% of small businesses surveyed said that damage from a hurricane would be “extremely damaging” to their operation. This is due to the damage that a hurricane deals to business assets during a storm. Networks, technology, equipment and data are among the litany of assets that are at risk during a hurricane. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has a Continuity Resource tool kit which gives businesses insight into how to adapt to rapidly changing conditions and make quick recoveries from operational disruptions.

What Can My Business Do to Prepare?

Where are your assets located? A software company, for example, may have servers that operate within a warehouse away from the office. In that case you would have to ensure there are protections put in place to secure them. Back-up your data as soon as possible. Make sure your data is secured off-site.

For example, Nerds Support data center is located in downtown Miami in a secure building that can withstand a category 5 hurricane. If a catastrophic hurricane, more powerful than a CAT 5 were to hit, the servers would be moved to another secure location away from danger with the uttermost care. With today’s technology this is easier than ever. Cloud based services function as a way to secure data and ensure functionality for businesses so that they can work remotely or recuperate necessary digital tools to continue their operation.

You can work from a different location regardless of the weather conditions or circumstances. Your workforce will also need to adapt and work with you to expedite recovery, but that will necessitate effective leadership on your part as a business owner. Many companies now have a mobile workforce that often have to move from the office to the field or work remotely from another location.

You need a system of communication that allows you to access the bulk of your workforce if not everyone simultaneously. It is important that you keep track of everyone’s location in real time and establish a plan of action. Look into who within your workforce travels most frequently and where they travel to. Establishing clear communication from within your team is essential to preserving organization and even moral. Confusion and miscommunication can lead to exacerbate tension and anxiety and create a perception that the storm is more severe that it is.

Download our FREE e-book for more information on how to prepare for a storm and how to weather any natural disaster this hurricane season.  Or contact us today at 305-551-2009, there’s still time to get prepared.