Tag: network security

The BYOD Scenario

The BYOD Scenario

BYOD - Bring Your Own DeviceBYOD (Bring Your Own Device) is a movement that has gained great speed within the last four years. With employees that sync accounts from PC to tablet to cell phone, information and data is readily available at any given moment.
Our goal here is to educate you on the potential security issues & risks. If BYOD is right for you, you will want to make sure it is done securely to avoid the most common disasters.

BYOD Disasters & Traps

  1. Out of Compliance
    When employees access data on personal devices, businesses have no guarantee that the devices are compliant with the company’s data & privacy policies or mandated HIPAA regulations.
    Failure to comply with federal regulations can result in consequences from expensive fines to criminal penalties.
  2. From Your Network to Their Cloud
    Having an employee with their own device means the potential for access to individual cloud services such as OneDrive or Dropbox.
    Employees can easily snap photos or copy confidential data into their personal cloud for access away from your network without IT even being aware.
  3. Rogue Apps & Security
    Speaking of personal clouds, having a device on the network with access to personal cloud services, also means that without the proper security policies in place, your network can be threatened with viruses and ransomware in the form of rogue files. The more access these devices have to your network, the more damage the infection can cause.
  4. The Productivity Problem
    When BYOD began gaining popularity in 2012, it promised to make your employees happier and more productive. Staff could choose from a number of apps and tools to accomplish their work, using tools that they are more comfortable with. It wasn’t long after that companies began finding their employees on social media during work hours or worse, playing games or streaming movies.
  5. Lost or Stolen Devices
    Having a device lost or stolen can be a costly mistake. Employees are naturally more free when it comes to using a personal device versus a company-owned device. Regardless, having a device with critical company data, including customer information, lost or stolen from a restaurant or your car’s back seat can cost you heavy fines or the loss of a valued customer.

Adopting the BYOD Policy

If you decide that BYOD is for you, it is best to adopt a company-wide policy that will protect both you and your employees. Specify what devices are permitted and who is responsible for servicing the devices for maintenance. Also clearly state who owns what apps and data, and what apps will or will not be allowed.

Place proper security within your network to protect yourself from malware and viruses. If your business is held to government standards due to HIPAA-compliancy or other federal regulations, make sure that your employees are included in this as well.

Lastly, develop an exit strategy. When an employee leaves your company, what will happen to the data on that device? Are you simply relying on changing passwords?

There are many other questions that you may have, so always feel free to contact a professional to discuss your options and responsibilities. The suggestions here are merely the tip of the iceberg to make you aware of the details involved when incorporating BYOD into your network.

The Dangers of Phishing

The Dangers of Phishing

Phishing is an attempt to acquire sensitive information such as usernames, passwords and credit card details.Our newest publication will help explain the details of phishing, how it affects your business network, and how to best prevent it.

Download your copy today!

Data Backups & Recovery; What to Look For

Data Backups & Recovery; What to Look For

Local, On-site, Off-site, Cloud-based, Business Continuity….These are all terms for various types of data backups. And if you search online for data backups, the list becomes long and arduous. So how do you determine what is best for your business?

Local & On-site Data Backups

This is exactly what it sounds like.  Your data is being backed up at your location, possibly on your server as a Windows backup, on a magnetic tape, or on an external drive.  This is typically a more affordable method, internet is not required, and will give you immediate access to your data from your location. However, it does have its downfalls.  On the chance that disaster occurs at your location, your data could be inaccessible from a remote location or even worse, destroyed.

Off-site, Cloud-based Data Backups

This method of backup does require internet as your data is stored away from your location.  This can be seen as both a fault and an advantage.  Unlike local backups, if disaster was to occur at your location, you can rest assured that your data will be safe from fires and floods.  You also have the ability to gain access to your data from remote locations.  For some customers, this ability alone is a deciding factor. The disadvantage of course is cost.  Typically off-site backups are more expensive than on-site and are usually subscription based.

So What is Business Continuity?

Business Continuity is the relative “new kid on the block”.  The focus here is not on recovering data after a disaster, but continuing to access it during a disaster.  This method can be virtualized quickly both on and off-site, allowing your business to keep functioning and saving you costs by eliminating the normal down-time.

Again, the disadvantage might be seen as higher costs, but if you weigh it against the advantages, it may be worth considering for your business.

What Method is Best?

That really depends on your business.  Disasters are something we do not like to think about.  For us at CMS, it is always on our mind, especially with hurricane season less than a month away and the recent flooding in Texas.  It reminds us that things can go wrong, and it’s not always a natural disaster.  Ransomware has grown exponentially in the past few years, and with your network files encrypted, a secure backup may be the only thing to protect your business and your investment.

Find someone you trust, give us a call at CMS.  We will help you look at your data and determine your needs.  From there, we can assist you in finding the method to work best within your budget and still accomplish your goals.  If you would like a little more information on Business Continuity, you can visit our website to read more.

**For all our readers along the coast, June 1 begins Hurricane Season.  Visit http://www.texasprepares.org/ to get ready.
Protecting Your Network from Ransomware

Protecting Your Network from Ransomware

What is Ransomware?

Ransomware is malware that holds the victim’s data ransom by preventing access to the computer by locking the desktop or by encrypting the user’s files where they cannot be read. The malware then displays a ransom note, possibly pretending to be from federal or local law enforcement of some sort.

The ransom note may even claim that the computer was used to look at illegal websites, videos, or images and will try to frighten the victim into paying up by threatening to bring them to court.

As we quickly approach 2016, researchers at Fox IT have successfully identified the “Big 3” Ransomware families, whose members have generated huge income in 2015:

  • CryptoWall
  • CTB-Locker
  • TorrentLocker

What are the Basic traits of Ransomware?

Although each ransomware variant is unique, they still work in similar ways. There are generic traits seen with these behaviors.

File-system behavior

Most ransomware will place payment instruction files in the directory of the files that it’s going to encrypt. These files are usually in the form of a text, image and/or URL. It may even include a popup window notifying the user that his files are being held ransom and require a ransom.

Network behavior

Ransomware will encrypt files on drives that are network mapped on the computer as a side effect. This can affect an entire business that relies on network shares for their data, potentially spreading from one computer, to the server, to all other computers that access that server. Having a proper backup solution in place may be the only solution to protecting your data.
As we find encrypted files on a network share, we can use that to determine which user was initially infected with the ransomware by checking the creator of the instruction files on the share. This tells us which computer to disconnect from the network. The goal is to disconnect the infected user as quickly as possible from the network to prevent any further damage.

So where did the Ransomware come from?

One method for installing ransomware is through certain websites. These may be malicious websites, set up by criminals for the sole purpose of infecting website visitors, or they may be legitimate websites that have been compromised by infected advertisements or links by the criminals and used to spread malware.
Another way ransomware can install on your computer is through the opening of email attachments in SPAM or infected emails. These malicious emails may have what looks like regular files attached, but once you open them, your computer is at risk of becoming infected with malware. You may not even see it happening.

Ransomware on Mobil Devices

Ransomware for mobile devices is becoming more common and now have the ability to lock your smartphone or tablet or even encrypt the files stored on these devices. Criminals have learned that we are more dependent upon our phones and tablets than ever before. In some instances, they are more frequently used than our computers, explaining the increase in “mobile malware”.

Follow these tips to stay protected from ransomware.

  • Make sure you have a quality, antivirus program installed on your network, and that it continues to be updated on a regular basis. This also includes installing a reputable security app on your phone and tablets.
  • Keep the operating system and all software on your computers & servers up-to-date by installing the latest security patches and updates.
  • Consider adding a mail-filtering service that not only protects your email from SPAM, but also adds manageability and virus protection. Some services, such as MailWatch from CMS, will continue to spool your email when your connectivity is down, protecting you from lost emails.
  • Avoid downloading software or mobile apps not necessary to your work and only download from trusted sources.
  • Most importantly, Backup! For your network, have a data backup solution in place that protects your critical data on your network so that if anything does happen, you have an untainted backup source to retrieve from and restore to your network. And don’t forget to back up your mobile device to a reliable cloud source that you can retrieve from and restore.
Who’s Looking Out for Your Network?

Who’s Looking Out for Your Network?

Today I want to talk about the importance of using a consistent IT services provider.  Every business out there relies on some type of technology to make their business run, whether it is your phone system or your computer network.

At CMS, we work with a variety of customers both large and small.  Some customers employ their own IT personnel and simply rely on us as a provider of equipment and backup support, while others depend on us fully for managed services, using us as their “offsite IT department“.  Regardless of your size and budget, having a local IT company that you consistently work with is important, and here is why.

Knowledge of your Network!

Working each time with the same company, they will learn your network.  They will be better educated on the layout and design of your network, the applications that your employees use and the security policies in place.  If you’re not using the same business to resolve your issues, each problem will cost you in additional time to pay for a learning curve.

 Elimination of Network Problems Before They Occur

Because there is a familiarity with your business and your network, your IT provider can help you eliminate problems before they occur.  They are more capable of seeing a device with declining performance if they are always the ones to work with it.  And as we know, fixing a problem is much quicker at the beginning than it is in the end, which can reduce your down time.

The Trust Relationship

Finally, it all comes down to trust.  Your IT provider should understand the nature of your business and only have your best interest at heart.  Your goal is to run your business as efficiently and effectively as possible, and your IT company should be up to the challenge to make that happen.

Sometimes, it may seem like it is salespeople just trying to make a sell, and we understand that getting your network up to standard can be expensive at first. However, we can say that customers who trust us and make the investment are more productive and suffer less downtime.

We encourage you to find a local IT provider in your area that you trust, check out their reputation with other customers, and build a relationship that will strengthen your business.  If you are in the Southeast Texas area and are looking for someone, visit with us and ask us questions.  We are always happy to meet new faces.

The Importance of Password Security

The Importance of Password Security

Passwords are everywhere.  From your Windows login to your banking software, to the online store where you purchase your “can’t put down” books from; everyone wants you to log in with your special login.

But how “special” is your login?

It’s simple.  We are busy people with lots to do; so to remember long, secure passwords may not be high on our priority list.  And if we have to have a different one for every site or device that requires one, then we are really in trouble.  After all, we aren’t just speaking of websites, but phone apps, computer logins, email accounts, and well…you understand.  The list can be endless.

So how can we make things easier for ourselves and harder for the criminals? Let’s break it down into 5 easy steps.

First, Don’t Share Your Login.

As simple as it sounds, it’s a very common problem. It could be a matter of you giving your login to a best friend, or it could also be a case of 8 employees all logging into a network using the same username and password. Either way, you’re setting yourself up for disaster.

Next, Make Your Password Secure

Believe it or not, password is still one of the most commonly used passwords. It actually was the second most common password for 2014, preceded only by 123456 that came in at #1. Others include 12345, qwerty, and letmein. For a complete list, visit gizmodo.com.

Best password practice would recommend that your passwords are 8-12 characters long and include alpha, numeric and special characters. Using both upper and lowercase is also good practice. A perfect example might be: h*3Dxy8vM.

Worried about remembering your password? There are multiple sources available for password keepers. Just always look for one that is secure and from a reputable publisher.

Our Next Recommendation is Locking Your Desktop

This may be the easiest of them all. If you’re walking away from your desk, “Just Lock It”.

In the “good ole days” when security wasn’t an issue, we would leave our desktops unlocked and leave. When we returned, we would have strange replies to emails that were sent from our account. We always knew who the usual suspects were and it was all in fun & humor, but now, leaving your computer available for anyone’s access is just not safe. Information is more critical than ever and customer data is everywhere. It’s our job to protect both our company and our customers.

Let’s Not Use the Same Password for Every Account

If someone steals your only username & password, they could access everything you own. Many of us are guilty of using one login for everything. When you add that to the simplicity of our passwords, we have just done a major portion of the legwork for the criminals. Use different credentials for different sites.

Finally, Don’t Use Your Username as Your Password

Again, this is done as a time-saver and for ease, but you are only making it easy for the password stealers. Your password should be unique, only used as a password and nothing else, and only by you.

Unfortunately, we are in a time where malware and viruses are accessible everywhere as little bots do nothing but infect networks and break passwords all day. And the sad truth is that, for some, creating these infections is a full-time job.

If you are concern about your network or how to determine where your network stands on security, contact a local IT provider, such as CMS IP Technologies in Beaumont and set up an appointment for a no-obligation network evaluation.

The Value of Managed IT Services

The Value of Managed IT Services

So, What is “Managed IT Services”?

We like to call it…your virtual IT department.  Imagine staffing an entire company just to be your IT support, but not having to worry about training, employees calling in sick, or any other issues with an in-house staff.  Managed IT services means that you have access to an entire technology company when you need it, staff who is watching and proactively protecting your business data and network.

Here’s How Your Business Can Benefit from Managed Services.

Remote Support – Most managed services providers will offer some type of remote support. Here’s your scenario….

It’s the end of the month and Sally comes to work to get payroll done. She turns on her computer first thing in the morning, opens an email attachment from a “customer”, and sees an alarming pop-up on her screen, warning her that her PC has been infected and to immediately click below to fix her computer.

Instead of clicking, Sally places a quick call to her IT support help desk so that her managed services support can gain remote access to her PC and verify that the popup is indeed part of the virus.  Being trained and familiar with this type of malware, they then properly remove any traces of the malware without the PC getting completely infected and Sally is able to go back to work.

If caught quickly before anything else was loaded into the PC, this call may have only taken 15-30 minutes of her time. Now, there are instances where things are worse and it does take longer, but Sally’s issue was resolved without having to schedule an engineer to come out on-site, saving both money and time. After all, productivity in a business is what really matters.

Scheduling Priority – So what if Sally’s PC was already infected beforehand. This may prevent IT staff from gaining remote access to her PC, because unfortunately, that is what malware does. Your IT company may offer their managed services customers a scheduling priority. Basically, your emergencies take priority over other minor IT calls from customers who may not subscribe to managed services.

Proactive Network Management – aka…”Stopping threats before they happen.”

Monitoring software can help manage your network, notifying staff when your server is no longer connected to the internet or your business network.  They can also receive status updates on possible hardware failures, keeping your network running and preventing problems before they happen.

Let’s not forget to include email services that not only block SPAM, but blocks malicious programs that may try to enter your network through a email link or fake attachment.  What if Sally’s virus-infected fake email was blocked before entering her email client?  She would have never seen the threat.

Management of your network security through your firewalls, routers, and even your antivirus software can prevent threats from ever entering the playing field as well.

Other benefits of managed services can include:

  • Disaster recovery planning & data backup management
  • 3rd Party vendor management & assistance
  • Software updates and Microsoft patch management
  • and more depending upon your IT company’s profile

How many people would you have to staff to take care of everything mentioned above?  

Don’t forget, along with salaries, there’s employee benefits to include. And the larger your company network is, the larger your IT staff would need to be to properly secure it.  So just maybe using a Managed IT services provider is what your business needs. And if you’re not sure, find a local IT company like CMS IP Technologies that is willing to do a free evaluation of your network.

Why Employing Strong Firewall Policies is Critical

So, you think your network is safe? I think a large store chain felt the same way until their network was compromised along with thousands of their customer’s credit card information. The truth is you can never be too safe when it comes to protecting one of the most valuable assets your company owns – its data!

Has your server or PC ever been compromised? If you answered no, how do you know? Has your home PC ever had a virus? Yea….how long do you think that virus was on there before you actually realized it?  Maybe someone snuck in, decided there was nothing important in there and then snuck out without you even knowing. Or perhaps they managed to get their hands on your Quicken file and you don’t even know it yet – but you will at some point.

There are many other examples of network and data compromise but you get the point. It’s critical to do all you can to keep the bad stuff away from your network. We had a situation once that our server was painfully slow and we simply did not see any bread crumbs to nail down the problem. We would reboot it and it would stabilize for a day or so then go right back to super slow mode. We finally found the culprit. Someone overseas (from what we could tell) compromised our server and loaded it up with foreign movie trailers and they were streaming them from our server.

Protection with Border Control

We use the term Border Control to characterize the role of a firewall. It’s important to follow best practices with configuration and even down to the type of appliance that you purchase. Sorry, but a $65 Netgear will not do the trick. You need a robust device that offers more than NAT routing and port forwarding. Protecting your network is a multilevel approach and Border Control is just part of it, so keep that in mind. But today we are focusing on the border…your firewall.

Below are some best practices to consider for controlling your border.A quality device from a reputable manufacturer is the best place to start. A business class router from Cisco, Meraki or SonicWall is what we recommend. They offer various models that will fit just about any small business budget as well as large corporations with huge budgets. Throughput, speed, number of users etc. all come into play and need to be considered when determining the proper firewall for your network. A quality sales rep from a reputable company should be your trusted advisor and can help you make that determination.

Options such as security services are very important features of quality firewalls. These security services include Antivirus, Content filtering, intrusion detection / prevention and more.  Remember my note about border control being part of a multilevel solution? Antivirus at the firewall is the first line of defense for viruses entering the work place. This does not replace AV on the desktop! AV at the border will help to mitigate virus and malware issues.

Content filtering is a very important component to protect your network from improper web habits of your employees. It also adds that peace of mind that you’re going to a safe site even though it looks like a legitimate business class website. This at times can be an unpopular policy among employees but unfortunately it is something that needs strong consideration.

We recommend putting a statement in your handbook that outlines company policies and expectations of use for company technology. Ask your employees if they would mind paying the hourly rate of the tech that has to clean their PC or the network from viruses at $100 plus per hour. That may open their eyes.

Finally, intrusion detection and prevention is something that should be considered. The preferred method is to use a service that does 24 hour monitoring for the absolute best protection. However that can be pricey. If that is not an option, the ID/PS on the firewall is an important component. It blocks and filters opportunistic bots and hackers and keeps them from entering your network. It’s important to monitor this and the reports to know who’s trying to get in.

So there you have it. This should give you some things to consider when protecting your network. Nothing can guarantee that you will not be compromised but we certainly don’t want to make it easy. The easy ones are the ones that the bad people are looking for!

The 2015 Annual List of the Worst Passwords

The 2015 Annual List of the Worst Passwords

Sorry Star Wars Fans, But You Just May Need to Change your Password.

It’s that time of the year again. SplashData releases its 5th annual report of the most commonly used passwords in order to highlight the insecure password habits of Internet users.

The purpose of this list is to encourage users to become more conscience of Internet security and the threat of stolen passwords. Using weak passwords puts the user at risk for hacking and identity theft.

Here are the top 25 worst passwords that made it onto the annual list:

  1. 123456
  2. password
  3. 12345678
  4. qwerty
  5. 12345
  6. 123456789
  7. football
  8. 1234
  9. 1234567
  10. baseball
  11. welcome
  12. 1234567890
  13. abc123
  14. 111111
  15. 1qaz2wsx
  16. dragon
  17. master
  18. monkey
  19. letmein
  20. login
  21. princess
  22. qwertyuiop
  23. solo
  24. passw0rd
  25. starwars

Numerical sequences have taken several spots on the 2015 list, along with keys that are in order on the keyboard, such as qwerty & 1qaz2wsx. Of course, pop references are always a hit and this year was about Star Wars, but even The Force can’t protect you from malware.

Longer keywords did appear, but using a longer password does not add security if the password is simple or has a detectable pattern.

The thing we want you to remember is that the list above was compiled from passwords that were compromised and leaked this past year, so they have already proven to be “hackable”.  If you would care for a downloadable PDF document with the passwords and security tips from SplashData, you can safely download it from CMS.