Tag: PC repair

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 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.

“Should I or Shouldn’t I?”…Microsoft Windows and Network Upgrading.

“Should I or Shouldn’t I?”…Microsoft Windows and Network Upgrading.

Network Upgrades: Priority or Unnecessary?

Here we are again.  We are at that point where technology leaders such as Microsoft has made updates and changes that will affect networks everywhere. It began with the arrival of the Windows 8 OS and continued with Office 2013 and Exchange Server 2013.  And of course, let’s not forget the sad departure of our dear friend, Windows XP, just around the corner.  He was both popular and reliable, but his time has come to leave us.  So that leaves us with the question that everyone is asking…”Do I really need to upgrade my equipment?”

Is Your Company Fighting the Network Blues?

There are multiple issues to look at when determining your upgrade priorities.  Let’s look at a few of them individually.

1. Operating System (OS)– What OS is running on the majority of your workstations?  If you’re using Windows XP, final support will end in April of 2014.  For end-users, this means no more updates, security patches or general support from Microsoft.

2. Applications – What applications does your business run?  Are they dependent upon a specific OS?  A lot of applications are joining the crowd and moving to the cloud.  Your key applications need to be evaluated and their requirements checked with what you are currently running and what you are considering.

3. The Network Server – Just as your workstations, you need to consider what OS is on your server versus what applications you use.  For example, did you know that if your server runs Exchange Server 2003 and you purchase Office 2013 for a new workstation, your copy of Outlook 2013 will not run your Exchange email?  It’s a compatibility issue.  It’s just one thing of many that needs to be considered when looking at network upgrades.

4. The Cloud – Everyone is talking about moving to the cloud lately.  Having access to software and files regardless of your location and less maintenance and upkeep are just two of the benefits customers are looking at.  Of course, the more you rely on the cloud, the more it will change your networking goals.

The final point is, every business wants to save money.  Spending money unnecessarily on technology can set you back.  But at the same time, not doing upgrades that are necessary can cost you time, money, production, and worst of all, maybe even your data.  All network upgrades need to be thoroughly planned. If you’re not sure, find someone that will do a free, no-obligation network analysis such as CMS IP Technologies.  An analysis will look at both your hardware and your software and give you a list of your options.  If you’re interested in reading more about the Windows XP end of support, you can find a good article at .