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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 In many cases it’s a matter of outdated infrastructure and insufficient funding.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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Texas Ransomware Cyber Attack

Ransomware Attacks & Financial Firms

Ransomware Attack On Texas

Tuesday, August 20, 2019 a ransomware attack took place in 22 municipalities in Texas. Computer systems were hacked and held for ransom in a widespread ransomware strike. The cities of Borger and Keene were among those affected. Borger residents couldn’t access birth certificates or pay their utility bills.

Ransomware attacks are a growing problem for governments on a city, state and county level, according to a report by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA). The type of ransomware was not revealed and no state networks were breached in the attack according to Texas officials.

What is known is that the ransomware came from a single source.

Ransomware

Ransomware is the most common tactic used by cyber criminals because it’s relatively simple to execute and it’s cheap.

This has led to a rise in ransomware attacks since 2017 and most victims are small cities and counties. These cities are perfect because they often have underfunded IT staff and are therefore most vulnerable.

The same reasons that make these places so vulnerable to attack make financial firms vulnerable as well.

Cyber criminals are leveraging ransomware attacks to steal from industries of all kinds, but financial services firms are among the most lucrative.

Here are the reasons why:

  1. They store valuable, sensitive and confidential data that can be sold on the dark web or to a competitor.
  2. They usually have significant amounts of money available. This making them more likely to pay a ransom to get back encrypted data if there’s substantial downtime.
  3. Their IT security is believed to be lacking and inefficient, especially within smaller banks and credit unions.

The Looming Threat of Ransomware Statistics

Ways to Avoid Ransomware & Cyber Traps

Effectively combating ransomware requires implementing technical and cultural measures. This includes:

Training

Ransomware attacks are perpetrated through an email containing an infected link or attached document. Knowing what to look for is half the battle and greatly reduces the chances of falling victim to these attacks.

Here are some telltale signs of a ransomware attack:

  • There are glaring grammar and spelling errors in an ostensibly professional email.
  • You receive an email at odd hours of the day or night.
  • If the link attached to the email connects to an unusual URL. Hover your cursor over the link to check the URL.

Now more than ever it’s important to address this concern. Cyber-attacks affect financial services 300 times more than other companies, according to a report from Boston Consulting Group (BCG). Despite this, BCG found that many financial institutions are poorly equipped to respond effectively to a ransomware attack.

This comes from a failure to prioritize cybersecurity as a top issue. There is an overemphasis on prevention over detection and response. There is also a lack of security awareness in company culture in general, which can worsen the problem.

If employees reuse account credentials like passwords attackers can easily obtain them and cause serious damage. The most dangerous threats come from inside a firm- from a careless employee who fall victim to phishing, spoofing and other social engineering schemes. The resulting losses across the financial services industry run up to tens of billions of dollars.

 

Securing Your Network

It’s important to train users to recognize certain kinds of attacks, but keeping a secure network requires an approached focused on strong network architecture. An infrastructure capable of detecting and eliminating malware that may have found its way into the network.

It’s possible that your network may contain numerous latent threats, so all applications and email inboxes should be properly scanned for malicious content.

Top IT Service providers, like Nerds Support, deploy firewall as well as implementing comprehensive email security to stop threats before they become problems.

They’re also allow you to segment and control access throughout the network to minimize the spread of a virus attack should it get in.

Backups

When a hacker uses ransomware, they encrypt all data and sensitive information necessary to operate. That means payroll, customer’s financial information, email, internal documents and more. The only way to regain access is to pay a ransom of some kind.

If you backup your data, however, that doesn’t have to be the case. With the right strategy, rather than paying ransom, you can just restore your files from the latest back-up and the cyber criminal’s ploy will have been stopped in its tracks.

Cloud based back-up services are the best at this. Nerds Support provides partners with daily backups and updates all systems with the latest security features to combat cyber-attacks. These advanced solutions even allow you to create a virtual copy of your servers on the cloud and restore all compromised data within minutes of a breach or attack.

The Greatest Risk Isn’t What You Think

It’s logical for a cyber-criminal to target financial firms for the reasons mentioned above using ransomware. It’s a reality of living in an ever-more-digital era. Ransomware and other malware attacks are here to stay and should not be ignored. The greatest damage to a firm is not to their business, their productivity or their infrastructure, it’s to their reputation.

Financial services organizations possess people’s most personal financial information. Social security, banking information, credit history, etc. If you’ve failed to take the necessary precautions to prevent or mitigate an attack and your firm is breached, it will be nearly impossible for anyone to trust you again.

When you take on a client, there is an agreement that you will safeguard their information. There is a supposition of trust. If that trust is broken, the thing your service is founded upon, rebuilding your reputation will be an uphill battle for years to come.

What Does it Mean?

In the case of the Texas attacks, the governments of these municipalities have resources that help them recover. They have taxpayer funding, cyber security experts and other advantages that a private organization does not have. Even with these advantages, it’s still struggling to address the overall issue of cyber-attacks.

According to the cyber security firm Recorded Future, the attacks on these 22 cities were the most organized and coordinated attack they’ve ever seen. The Texas Department of Information Resources (TDIR) are currently involved in trying to bring back all systems online as are officials from other federal agencies.

If this is the type of damage that can be done on government institutions, there is no excuse for negligence on the part of any business let alone one as frequently targeted as a financial organization. Take stock of your current IT resources and make sure your company is properly prepared in all respects against ransomware and cyber-attacks.

For more information on Malware, ransomware and social engineering visit our blog or contact us and we’ll answer any questions or inquiries you may have about how to make your firm safe and secure.

A business owner trying to secure their business

Why Cloud Security is Better for Your Business

In May 2017, there was a massive, worldwide ransomware attack known as WannaCry that targeted computers running on Microsoft Windows operating system. Organizations that had not installed the Microsoft security updates were affected by the attack.

 If you’re reading this thinking, “That’ll never happen to me or my business,” you’re not alone, but you’re likely to be wrong. Malware attacks are becoming more frequent.   85% of all attachments emailed daily are harmful according to Cyber Defense Magazine. The same magazine states the expected cost of online crime is $6 trillion by 2021. Moving your IT to the cloud may seem laborious and intimidating, but it’s actually the best thing you could do in today’s era of tech-dependence. Your business has the most chances at growth and security with the cloud.

Here are a few reasons why:

1.You are not an IT security expert

You’re running a business; there’s no way you should be expected to keep up with all the new IT security threats that are coming out on a seemingly daily basis. Cloud services providers, like Nerds Support, however, have both the resources and expertise necessary to keep up with new threats. They’re exposed to a huge range of vulnerabilities and threats because they protect businesses daily.

Nerds Support works on all IT related matters exclusively. Giving you periodic updates and staying vigilant of any discrepancies or anomalies within your system. This means they can spot systemic issues that may affect your business long before you can.

2. You can’t stay focused on IT Security around the clock

 To ensure that your business is secure, you need to monitor and manage your IT security at all times. This requires important resources and a budget. Nerds Support’s team monitors, manages and responds 24/7, ready and willing to protect your business from criminal hackers and toxic viruses.

Your data stays encrypted when you transition to a cloud-based infrastructure. It’s how we keep your information safe in transit and storage so that even if it is somehow accessed or acquired by some malicious third party, it’s unreadable. With the cloud you’re always protected by advanced levels of security.

3. You probably don’t have a “Business Continuity Plan

Protecting your data from a cyber-attack is just one way the cloud can be of great value to a business owner. However, another frequent issue that you have to be aware of is network downtime. If your IT is on-premises, the resilience of your network is only as good as the robustness of your server. If this is compromised, damaged or destroyed, your system goes down. If you have on-site infrastructure, the fortitude of your network is highly reliant on your server, and, therefore, vulnerable. If your server is damaged destroyed or compromised in any way, your system will go down.

Cloud service providers, like Nerds Support, don’t rely on one server alone. They have a host of back-up systems both on and off-site, all protected by the most robust network and security available. If a server goes down it gets switched to another server and your business can continue uninterrupted. This allows you the flexibility to do something called ‘virtualize’ your IT infrastructure in the cloud. You can generate multiple copies of your applications, files and even desktops, storing the original in a separate and secure location.

Learn more about the cloud here

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