Well… What is Ransomware?

Ransomware is a type of malicious software that encrypts files on your computer so that cyber criminals can hold those files on your computer for ransom. Essentially, demanding payment from you within a certain timeframe to get them decrypted. In some cases, the encrypted files can essentially be considered damaged beyond repair.

There are plenty of ways ransomware can get onto a person’s computer, but as always, those tactics all generally come down to certain social engineering techniques or using software vulnerabilities to silently install itself on a victim’s computer.

Unfortunately, the threat of ransomware is very real, and is becoming an increasingly popular way in 2017 for malware authors to extort money from businesses and consumers alike. We’ll give you some great advice to have you properly prepare your computer, servers, and networks. Here are a few tips that will help you keep your data protected and prevent ransomware from hijacking your files this year and years to come:

1. First & Foremost, Back Up Your Files Regularly…

…and keep a recent backup off-site. If you don’t already have backups of your data, this is the most critical action step that will help you defeat ransomware. Be certain that you have a regularly updated backup and have tested that you are able to restore those files. Ideally, you’ll have the backup located on multiple drives.

2. Do NOT Download Email Attachments or Enable Macros

You may already received these types of emails … claiming to be an invoice or some purchase order of some sort. Be extremely careful about opening email attachments from anyone outside of your organization. Simply deleted any malicious emails without opening them. Also, consider installing Microsoft Office viewers that allow read-only access and don’t enable macros.

3. Don’t Have More Access Privileges Than You Need

Simply, the minimum effective dose here… if you don’t need administrator rights for your day-to-day tasks, then create a separate account with limited access. When you do login as an admin, don’t stay logged in any longer than necessary. Avoid browsing, opening documents or other regular work activities while logged in as administrator… that’s what your limited access account is now for.

4. Update, Patch, Uninstall

Malware that doesn’t try to install itself by a Microsoft Office file macro will often rely on outdated software and applications that have bugs in them. Be sure to apply the latest security patches available, which will limit the attacker’s options for infecting your computer with ransomware.

5. Train Your Employees in Your Business in Good Practices

Strong passwords. Not sharing user logins. Logging out at the end of the day. Train your employees who have access to computers and their systems to have good practices. They can be the weakest link in the company’s computer systems if you don’t have a training program in place that will teach them how to avoid spam email attachments, unsolicited documents, and malicious software.

6. Segment the Company Network

If you have clients or customers that need access to the internet while visiting the company, be sure to have a separate access point that only allows use of the internet and prevents access to the company network.

7. Show Hidden File-Extensions

By default, known file extensions like .EXE are hidden and that’s one way that ransomware frequently disguises itself is by having the extension “.PDF.EXE”, counting on Window’s default behavior of hiding known file-extensions so that it will seem like it’s just a PDF. We suggest that you re-enable the ability to see the show file-extensions so it will be more obvious to detect suspicious files.

8. (Did We Say 7? Here’s An Extra!) Disable RDP

One way the Cryptolocker/Filecoder malware often accesses victim’s machines is by using Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP). This is a Windows utility that allows others to access your desktop remotely. Such as those who fake that they’re an IT support person and will help you speed up your computer. If you do not require the use of RDP, you should disable it to protect your computer from malware that exploits this.

Ransomware can certainly be frightening, but there are many steps to take that can help you be prepared in any situation that would put your data at risk. That is why it has always, and will always be, the single most important best practice to protect your company against data loss with regular scheduled backups. That way, no matter what happens, you will be able to restore your data quickly. I can only hope that if anything positive can be taken away from the increased threat of ransomware, it is a clear indication of the importance of regularly scheduled, frequent backups to protect your valuable data.

To learn more about how to safeguard your business, or if you are looking for an expert to help you find the best solutions for your business talk to GCInfotech about a free technology assessment.

Published with consideration from NovaStor SOURCE

One of the core principles of virtualized technology is the ability to quarantine cyber security threats easily. For the most part, vendors have been winning this security tug-of-war with hackers, but that may change with the resurrection of a long-dormant piece of malware that targets virtualized desktops. If your business employs any form of virtualization, learning more about this updated virus is critically important to the health of your technology.

What is it?

Back in 2012, a brand new virus called “Shamoon” was unleashed onto computers attached to the networks of oil and gas companies. Like something out of a Hollywood film, Shamoon locked down computers and displayed a burning American flag on the display while totally erasing anything stored on the local hard disk. The cybersecurity industry quickly got the virus under control, but not before it destroyed data on nearly 30,000 machines.

For years, Shamoon remained completely inactive — until a few months ago. During a period of rising popularity, virtualization vendors coded doorways into their software specifically designed to thwart Shamoon and similar viruses. But a recent announcement from Palo Alto Networks revealed that someone refurbished Shamoon to include a set of keys that allow it to bypass these doorways. With those safeguards overcome, the virus is free to cause the same damage it was designed to do four years ago.

Who is at risk?

As of the Palo Alto Networks announcement, only networks using Huawei’s virtual desktop infrastructure management software are exposed. If your business uses one of those services, get in touch with your IT provider as soon as possible to address how you will protect yourself from Shamoon.

On a broader scale, this attack shows how virtualization’s popularity makes it vulnerable. Cyber attackers rarely write malware programs that go after unpopular or underutilized technology. The amount of effort just isn’t worth the pay off.

Headlines decrying the danger of Shamoon will be a siren call to hackers all over the globe to get in on the ground floor of this profitable trend. It happened for ransomware last year, and virtual machine viruses could very well turn out to be the top security threat of 2017.

How can I protect my data?

There are several things you need to do to ensure the safety of your virtual desktops. Firstly, update your passwords frequently and make sure they’re sufficiently complex. Shamoon’s most recent attempt to infect workstations was made possible by default login credentials that had not been updated.

Secondly, install monitoring software to scan and analyze network activity for unusual behavior. Even if legitimate credentials are used across the board, accessing uncommon parts of the network at odd hours will sound an alarm and give administrators precious time to take a closer look at exactly what is happening.

Ultimately, businesses need virtualization experts on hand to protect and preserve desktop infrastructures. Thankfully, you have already found all the help you need. With our vast experience in all forms of virtualized computing, a quick phone call is the only thing between you and getting started. To learn more about how to safeguard your business, or if you are looking for an expert to help you find the best solutions for your business talk to GCInfotech about a free technology assessment.

Published with consideration from TechAdvisory.org SOURCE

You don’t have to be a big corporation to catch a cybercriminal’s attention. In this article you’ll learn about the risks that business email compromise, ransomware, and a new breed of malicious Microsoft Office files pose to your small business.

Did Your Boss Really Email That?

The next time you receive an email from your manager or from the head of the company urgently requesting sensitive information or banking details, check again.

Scammers are going beyond spear phishing and using a scheme called business email compromise (BEC) to trick employees into sending them money. And it’s not just large companies that fall for the email wire fraud scam. In April, the FBI warned that small companies and non-profits—any business where wire transfers are a normal part of conducting business—are desirable targets.
“The schemers go to great lengths to spoof company email or to use social engineering to assume the identity of the CEO, a company attorney, or a trusted vendor,” stated the FBI in its security alert. “They research employees who manage money and use language specific to the company they are targeting, then they request a wire fraud transfer using dollar amounts that lend legitimacy.”
The losses are real and potentially devastating to small businesses. BEC scams have affected companies in every state of U.S. and 79 countries, according to the FBI. In Arizona alone, the average victim loses between $25,000 and $75,000.
Law enforcement received BEC reports from more than 17,000 victims from October 2013 through February of this year, the agency said. In total, they were scammed out of more than $2.3 billion, said the FBI. One unidentified American company was hit for nearly $100 million and another, Ubiquiti Networks lost $39.1 million last year.
If you get an urgent, email-only request for a wire transfer, it’s time to raise your guard. The FBI suggests something as simple as picking up the phone and verifying that everything is on the up-and-up.

Data Held Hostage

By now, the threat of ransomware has been well publicized. This particularly wicked form of malware encrypts victims’ files, rendering them useless until they pay—you guessed it—a ransom. Even forking over the funds doesn’t guarantee that cybercriminals will uphold their end of the bargain.
According to a recent report (PDF) from Symantec, the average ransom demand—$294 at the end of 2015—has climbed to $679 today. Sure, it may a small price to pay to regain access to critical data, but the total cost can quickly climb in small office environments.
“While the home user may be faced with a $500 ransom demand for one infected computer, the ransom demand for multiple infections at an organization could quickly rack up to tens of thousands of dollars,” cautioned the report.
And the threat’s growing larger. Trend Micro observed that the number of new ransomware families out in the wild climbed to more than 20 during the first half of 2016, a 172 percent increase over all of 2015. Worse, they are getting more insidious.
“JIGSAW [a ransomeware variant] deletes encrypted files whenever victims fail to pay the ransom on the given deadline. Similarly, SURPRISE increases the ransom every time victims miss a deadline,” stated Trend Micro in a recent report. “Our findings also revealed how some ransomware families were designed to target specific business-related files. SURPRISE and POWERWARE, for example, encrypt tax return files.”

A New Twist to Malicious Microsoft Office Documents

Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files are among the most widely emailed among employees, and cybercriminals bank on that fact to spread malware and collect user credentials.
It’s not exactly news, but Sophos has noted that malware coders are switching up their tactics. If you’re expecting attackers to flood your inbox with Word documents that harbor the malicious macros of old, keep reading.
Word Intruder, a popular exploit kit, now targets an expanded set of Microsoft Office vulnerabilities and stages complex attacks that may slip through your defenses if your systems aren’t properly patched.
Sophos, a security software company, recently revealed in a blog post that the latest version of “Microsoft Word Intruder now includes the ability to deploy a decoy document, as well as new payload files that are relocated to the end of the exploit block.” The tactic, according to Sophos security researchers, enables attackers to cover their tracks while the exploit does its damage.
The best defense against this type of threat is to train employees to stop opening attachments from unsolicited emails and to keep your anti-virus software up to date.

To learn more about how to safeguard your business, or if you are looking for an expert to help you find the best solutions for your business talk to GCInfotech about a free technology assessment.

Published with consideration from Small Business Computing SOURCE

November 30th — is National Computer Security Day, an annual event observed since 1988 to help raise awareness worldwide of computer-related security issues. It should also serve as a reminder to small business owners to protect their computer networks from hackers, fraudsters and identity thieves.

Computer security is sometimes referred to as cybersecurity or IT (information technology) security. It applies to the protection of computer-based equipment, the information stored on and services related to it from unauthorized and unintended access, change or destruction, including unplanned events and natural disasters.

Recently, the public opinion research company Ipsos Reid released the findings of a survey of U.S. small businesses revealing that many of them do not fully comprehend the impact a data breach can have on them. As a result, they take a passive approach to safeguarding sensitive information that leaves them vulnerable not only to a breach but potentially devastating financial and reputational damage as well.

The survey also found that:

  • Sixty-nine percent of small business owners are not aware or don’t believe that lost or stolen data would result in financial impact and harm to their businesses credibility.
  • Forty percent have no protocols in place for securing data.
    More than one-third of the respondents report that they never train staff on information security procedures.
  • Forty-eight percent have no one directly responsible for management of data security.
  • Just 18 percent would encourage new data privacy legislation requiring stricter compliance and penalties to information security threats.

Computer Security Day is an excellent time to ensure that your company is following best practices to protect yourself from data breach and identity theft. They include:

  • Analyzing possible security gaps in your organization and within your supply chain.
  • Implementing ongoing risk analysis processes and creating a security policy specifically designed to limit exposure to fraud and data breaches.
  • Regularly training employees in proper document management and encouraging their adoption of security best practices.
  • Implementing a “shred-all” policy for unneeded documents and keeping sensitive materials under lock and key until they are destroyed.
  • Paying particular attention to hard drives on computers or photocopiers. The only way to destroy data stored on hard drives is physical destruction.
  • Installing and using effective computer network protection such as anti-virus software and a firewall.

To learn more about how to safeguard your business, or if you are looking for an expert to help you find the best solutions for your business talk to GCInfotech about a free technology assessment.

Published with consideration from TransFirst SOURCE

One of the biggest myths that I hear from our customers is that small businesses aren’t as susceptible to security breaches as large enterprises. The truth is, just because you’re small doesn’t mean you aren’t vulnerable. In fact, by 2019, the cost of cybercrime is expect to soar to $2 trillion.

Small businesses haven’t historically been the target of cybercrime, but that is changing: In the U.K. alone, nearly 75 percent of small businesses reported a security breach in 2015, an increase over the preceding two years. Why the change? Hackers prey on small businesses as opposed to larger ones because small businesses tend to have lower security defenses, which includes working on outdated software, often due to lack of financial and human resources.

This shift underscores how critical security is to businesses today. However, that small businesses aren’t at risk for security breaches is only one of the misconceptions I hear from our customers today.

Myth: The cloud isn’t secure

Chances are, if you’re a small business, you don’t have an in-house IT department. You might work with an external consultant, or you might just be doing it all yourself as many small business owners do. For this reason, many small businesses are moving their physical technology infrastructure to the cloud because of the many security benefits it provides. Cloud solutions give businesses peace of mind that their data is secure by providing automatic updates to ensure they are always benefiting from the latest security advances. And because business owners can rest easy knowing that they are always on the latest technology, they can spend their time doing what really matters – growing their business, acquiring new customers, etc.

This kind of always-on security is what drew Romax, one of the U.K.’s leading marketing communications businesses, to the cloud. The company moved to a combination of Microsoft Azure, Office 365 and on-premises solutions (a hybrid model) for enhanced security because it needed to be in compliance with tight information security policies regarding retaining client data. The company’s move to the cloud provided Romax owner Wesley Dowding with peace of mind knowing he could focus on his business. “I can go to sleep at night knowing that if the place went down, we’d still be able to serve our clients and our data is secured,” he said.

Myth: I’m not big enough to be susceptible to security risks

At Microsoft, our customers’ security is always top of mind. That’s why we invest more than a billion dollars per year in security-related research and development and build best-in-class security features into all of our cloud solutions that protect against security risks that small businesses may not realize they are susceptible to, such as:

  • Lost and/or stolen devices: With employees working across multiple devices from multiple locations, it’s not uncommon for devices to get lost or even stolen. Microsoft BitLocker, included in Windows 10, encrypts all data stored on the Windows operating system, ensuring that even if an employee leaves his mobile phone on the bus or has her laptop stolen from her car, the data stored on it remains secure.
  • Employee error: It takes something as simple as an employee opening the wrong mail or clicking on the wrong link to compromise your systems and data. To help thwart the risk of this kind of employee error, Microsoft Outlook comes with built-in anti-phishing detection to help prevent fraudulent email messages from even reaching your employees in the first place.
  • Outdated technology: Running outdated solutions has a significant impact on small businesses – data shows that small businesses that are running the latest technologies can increase their annual revenues 15 percentage points faster and create jobs twice as fast as businesses using outdated solutions. On top of that, a different study revealed that 91 percent of consumers said they would stop doing business with a company because of its outdated technology. With Office 365 and Windows 10, security updates happen automatically so you never have to worry about whether or not you are protected against the latest threats.
  • Weak passwords: Hackers are becoming more and more sophisticated, and if your passwords (and your employees’ passwords) aren’t becoming more sophisticated at the same time, you could be at risk for a breach. Fortunately, Windows 10 users benefit from the Windows Hello & Microsoft Passport features that enable them to replace passwords with biometric authentication such as face, iris or fingerprint identification for greater security.
  • Data backup: Backing up your files can help reduce losses in the event of a physical security breach – like a break-in at your office or stolen devices – and get you back up and running quickly. Microsoft OneDrive for Business – included in all Office 365 commercial plans – provides a secure place to store documents in the cloud so you can always access them from anywhere or any device – even when you’re offline.

Myth: If I haven’t been compromised yet, what I’m doing is probably enough

Security experts like to say that there are two kinds of businesses in the world today: Those that have been hacked and those that don’t know they have been hacked yet. Data from a recent cybercrime study proved this to be true: according to the Ponemon Institute, it takes – on average – 170 days to detect a malicious attack.

It was just such a situation Chelgrave Contracting, an Australian maintenance and labor hire company, found itself facing. The company’s General Manager, Greg Scott, discovered the company’s antivirus software had expired six weeks before without triggering an alert. The lapse prompted a minor virus attack, with only luck preventing the company’s PCs from develop a major virus outbreak, Scott says.

Chelgrave turned to Microsoft Intune, which includes endpoint protection built on Microsoft’s powerful Malware Protection Engine, enabling Scott to provide all Chelgrave PCs with real-time security updates. Remote and mobile employees now receive these updates simply by connecting to the Internet, ensuring their laptops retain the highest levels of protection.

This example underscrores the importance of not letting your security lapse – after all, security breaches can be devastating to small businesses – and making sure you are using the right technology, like Windows 10, Intune and Office 365, that protects you 24/7.

Truth: Security is vital to small business success

Security will continue to play an increasingly vital role in the success of SMBs, which are targeted by hackers now more than ever before. Taking basic steps will make your business safer, but using Microsoft technology allows a business and its employees the peace of mind that their data — their own and clients’ — is secured.

To learn more about how to safeguard your business, or if you are looking for an expert to help you find the best solutions for your business talk to GCInfotech about a free technology assessment.

Published with consideration from Microsoft. SOURCE

New research suggests that SMBs have a long way to go before getting up to speed with today’s cyberthreats.
A third of small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) have no idea what ransomware is or how devastating the malware can be, highlighting a series lack of understanding which could seriously harm today’s companies.

According to new research  released by antivirus firm AVG on Tuesday, too many businesses are unaware of how dangerous ransomware can be — and how easily it is to become the latest victim of the malware strain.

Ransomware is a type of malicious code that once executed on your system — usually through a malicious link or phishing email — locks your PC, encrypts either your files or hard drive, and demands a ransom payment in return for a decryption key which claims to give you your system back.

One of the latest strains to be detected, MarsJoke, threatens to wipe data if a ransom is not paid within 96 hours.Time-sensitive threats are a common tactic used by ransomware campaign operators to put pressure on victims to pay up, and ransom payments can range from small amounts to hundreds — or thousands — of dollars.

As ransomware can be a very lucrative prospect for cybercriminals looking to cash in, unsurprisingly, infections are on the rise. Locky, Cerber and Virlock are only some of the ransomware variants which are being used in active campaigns against entities including hospitals, governments and gamers.

One UK university has reported  21 attacks in the past 12 months alone.

Last year, the FBI received 2,453 complaints about ransomware hold-ups, and out of these cases that were actually reported, the damage cost victims more than $24 million.

“The true scale of the problem is somewhat hard to define though because, understandably, many businesses and organisations are reluctant to reveal they’ve been held to ransom because of fears about being targeted again, or losing existing or new customers,” AVG notes.

In June, the security firm asked almost 400 SMB customers in the US and the UK whether they knew about ransomware. In total, 68 percent of respondents had heard of the term ‘ransomware,’ but it is the 32 percent — just over a third — that had no knowledge which is the concerning factor.

Considering the first recorded attack took place in 2005, which came in the now-common form factor of a fake antivirus message which required payment, 11 years on is a long time to not know about such a dangerous threat to business operations.

To make matters worse, out of the 68 percent of respondents which said they knew what ransomware was, 36 percent gave the wrong answer — and actually didn’t really know what the malware was, or its implications.

If you find yourself a victim of such malware, the first thing to do is research the infection to see if security companies have come up with free decryption tools, including AVG andKaspersky.

While some tools are available, it takes time to crack updated versions and so you may be out of luck. If none are available, you may have to resort to backups of your data. You might be tempted to pay up; however — if you do so, you are funding the criminal enterprise, and there is no guarantee you will be given a working key to retrieve your files after paying the ransom.

Curious to learn about other common malware that can cause trouble for business owners? Want to upgrade your existing network security system? Give us a call today, we’re sure we can help.

Published with consideration from ZDNet. SOURCE

The next time you visit Dropbox.com, you may be asked to create a new password. Why? Back in 2012 the cloud storage firm was hacked, and while it thought only email addresses had been stolen, new evidence has come to light that user passwords were compromised, too. So if you’ve been using Dropbox since that time but haven’t updated your password, the company advises you to do so ASAP.

Despite the unfortunate incident, Dropbox has implemented a thorough threat-monitoring analysis and investigation, and has found no indication that user accounts were improperly accessed. However, this doesn’t mean you’re 100 percent in the clear.

What you need to do

As a precaution, Dropbox has emailed all users believed to have been affected by the security breach, and completed a password-reset for them. This ensures that even if these passwords had been cracked, they couldn’t be used to access Dropbox accounts. However, if you signed up for the platform prior to mid-2012 and haven’t updated your password since, you’ll be prompted to do so the next time you sign in. All you have to do is choose a new password that meets Dropbox’s minimum security requirements, a task assisted by their “strength meter.” The company also recommends using its two-step authentication feature when you reset your password.

Apart from that, if you used your Dropbox password on other sites before mid-2012 — whether for Facebook, YouTube or any other online platform — you should change your password on those services as well. Since most of us reuse passwords, the first thing any hacker does after acquiring stolen passwords is try them on the most popular account-based sites.

Dropbox’s ongoing security practices

Dropbox’s security team is working to improve its monitoring process for compromises, abuses, and suspicious activities. It has also implemented a broad set of controls, including independent security audits and certifications, threat intelligence, and bug bounties for white hat hackers. Bug bounties is a program whereby Dropbox provides monetary rewards, from $216 up to $10,000, to people who report vulnerabilities before malicious hackers can exploit them. Not only that, but the company has also built open-source tools such as zxcvbn, a password strength estimator, and bcrypt, a password hashing function to ensure that a similar breach doesn’t happen again.

To learn more about keeping your online accounts secure, or about how you can protect your business from today’s increasing cyber threats, give us a call and we’ll be happy to help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org SOURCE

Password security – a source of anxiety for many of us. So much of our lives rely on the strength and secrecy of our passwords. How would you like to never worry about your password security ever again?

In today’s workplace, almost everything we do requires some form of password-guarded access.

Because password security is so crucial, it is part of my job to educate others to ensure password security. Many people fall foul of poor password security at one point or another. If you’re lucky, it results in your computer’s language hilariously changed to something you have no hope of understanding. The result being time lost, spent on reversing the language change. If you’re not so lucky, a compromised password can lead to hackers and digital thieves accessing sensitive information, stealing money, corrupting data, or locking you out from your accounts. The consequences can cut deep and take many months or even years to repair.

Password practices are often taken for granted, which is one of the reasons why reminding ourselves of best practices from time to time, such as on the annual Password Day, can help us ensure complete password security.

Follow these steps to never have to worry about password security again.

Stop Being Predictable

We’ve all been trained to build our passwords the same way. Years of automatic prompts have asked us to include capitalized letters, and numerical or punctuation characters, in our passwords.

Unfortunately, password crackers out there have noticed the pattern.

Because the result is that we all:

  • Start out with a favored word to form the foundation of our password
  • Use up our capital letter on the first character
  • Add on a number and exclamation mark on the end of the password to hit the requested quota
  • And voila – we’re left with our ‘uncrackable’ password: “Ninja1!”
  • While we think we are secure, having hit all the types of characters required, we are leaving ourselves open to having our password guessed. Whether through social engineering to crack passwords, or by way of other password hacking methods, we are left vulnerable. Our best bet is to stop being so predictable.

    Stop Using One Word Passwords

    Words are very predictable. The next step we can take in upgrading our password security is to banish the use of single word passwords. Not only are one-word passwords often short, but also they are predictable. Did you know that databases exist that contain every word in every language? The purpose of these databases is to be used by hackers to crack passwords simply by trying every word. This is called a Dictionary attack, which can also take the form of a Rainbow table attack. Of course, it might seem that one-word passwords are far easier to remember than anything else is. But, when thinking of security, ease cannot be the main criteria for decision making. Security must be.

    In fact, as Better Business Bureau explained, some of the most common (and least secure) passwords are not always words.

    The following passwords were the top 10 passwords used in 2014 – You might guess, that these passwords should not your first choice for your online banking account.

    123456 2. password 3. 12345 4. 12345678 5. Qwerty
    123456789 7. 1234 8. Baseball 9. Dragon 10. Football

    Not only are more complex passwords more secure, they can be just as easy to remember too.

    What makes a strong password? On to our next step.

    Long And Strong Passwords

    How can we create passwords that are strong and still memorable? There’s a bit of a trick to it.

    First off, strong and memorable passwords should consist of multiple words. PieceOfCake you might think.

    Nope. First rule of multi-word passwords is to use a strong of words that are either nonsensical, or that are very particular to you.

    CoffeeLobsterMarathon – a good place to start for a nonsensical string of words. And the image it conjures is so bizarre it’s easy to remember.

    DavesFavoriteColorIsGrey – Knowing your mate Dave’s favorite color is a very unique circumstance to you. And very hard to guess.

    Second stage is to interlace these passwords with – you guessed it – special characters.

    Leaving us with C0ff33L0b$t3rM8r8th0n and D8v3sF8v0r1t3C0l0r1sGr3y.

    Both of these blow “Ninja1!” out of the water in terms of password security.

    Use Unique Passwords For Every Account

    I know. This advice normally elicits the response that it is impossible to remember passwords for every account. But, for reasons we will get into later, it really isn’t. And the benefits are huge.

    Does anyone you know use one password for every account? Many people do. The problem is that it is a real threat to password security. Because it only takes one leak from one of the many places you’ve used that password for more accounts to be accessed.

    If your username, email address, and password are exposed by a security breach of one of the services, accounts, or companies you have dealt with – hackers will be able to take these details and try to access any other accounts with the same details. If passwords are different for every account you use, this technique will not work. Meaning you can enjoy much better password security. So, how on earth can we remember each and every password?

    A Smarter Way To Memorize Your Passwords (A Password Manager)

    It would be very impractical to try to memorize passwords for every single account we own. For accounts we access every day, it would probably be doable. But, many times we have accounts to things we only need to access occasionally. At which point memory will likely let us down. We need some help. Password managers are secure applications that help us store and organize passwords. It is simply the best way to manage all the accounts and passwords we have. All we need to do then is remember the password we need to access the password manager. If you’ve followed the advice above, your password manager password will be strong and memorable.

    Change Your Passwords Regularly

    The dreaded password change. Often people see this as either optional, or a needless inconvenience. But there are very strong arguments for why changing passwords regularly is essential for password security. For example, brute-force attacks are used to decipher passwords. They work simply by trying every possible combination of characters. The limitation of this type of approach is that it requires a lot of time to achieve its desired result. Although – even then, this can be surprisingly short. Using our example above, according to How Secure is my Password, “Ninja1!” can be cracked in 7 minutes. Changing passwords frequently can minimize the risk that a brute-force attack has enough time to breach your password security. Not to mention that it can also minimize the danger posed by password leaks.

    Don’t Casually Share Your Passwords

    You would never share your password with anyone, right? Especially not a stranger. When we’re not focused on security, it can be easier to fall into a trap than we realize. If you think one of your accounts might be compromised, be sure to change the password as soon as possible.

    Ensure You Have Anti-Malware Installed

    What’s the connection between password security and malware? Well, some types of malware are able to track keyboard inputs for account and password information, and transmit that information to a malicious third party. The strongest password will do us no good if Malware is able to track the input from our keyboard. Which means, as part of our password security regime must be to ensure our devices are malware free. Malware often uses security flaws in unpatched software to infect a system. Therefore an up-to-date operating system is also needed to fully protect your device from being compromised by malware.

    Enable Two-Factor Authentication

    Two-factor authentication provides an extra layer of protection for your password security regime. On top of a password, authorized access requires another factor to login to your account.

    For example, a second factor might be a time-limited security code generated by an authenticator app on your mobile device – such as two-factor authentication with TeamViewer. Access is only granted when the username/email address, password, and security code is entered correctly.

    This is perhaps the most sure-fire way to ensure total password security, as even if your password is compromised, access will not be granted to your account without the correct second factor authentication.

    Password Security Key Takeaways

    Being absolutely sure of password security is a major relief. All sorts of potential problems can be avoided. Once you’ve set up the system you want to use, practice makes it a part of everyday business.

    In summary, password security means:

    Dropping the predictability. “Ninja1!” doesn’t cut it
    Leave one-word passwords behind
    Long and strong passwords are better and can be easy to remember too
    A different password for every account stops hackers in their tracks
    Password managers are a must-have tool for password security
    Changing passwords regularly is not optional
    Be careful not to reveal passwords to untrustworthy sources
    Make sure there is no malware on your devices
    Use two-factor authentication wherever you can

    I hope you found this advice useful.

    The NBA Finals may now be over but for one team, the losses keep coming. Yahoo! Sports reported that the Milwaukee Bucks fell victim to a spoofed email scam last month. Names, addresses, Social Security numbers, compensation information and dates of birth of the players were unknowingly sent to a hacker and created a massive security issue for the team. And just because your employees don’t make millions of dollars doesn’t mean hackers won’t target your company. Here are four ways to protect yourself from spoofed emails.

    Education is key
    There are countless cliches out there promoting the importance of education, but when it comes to cyber security, you might as well embrace them all. In the case of spoofed emails, you need to make sure your employees know what these are and how they can harm your company. They can come in several forms and look to attack your organization in a number of different ways. A good defense starts with trained employees using best security practices when it comes to emails. Knowledge isn’t just the key to success, it’s the building block of a comprehensive email security plan.

    Check the sender
    The easiest way to determine a real email from a spoofed one is to view who is sending it. While your basic junk mail folder will screen the really lazy attempts at spoofing, you and your employees can’t rely on it to weed out everything. A lot of cybercriminals have gotten skilled at mimicking the look and feel of companies through professional looking graphics and signatures. For starters, you are going to want to ignore email display names as these can be deceptive. The domain name provides the best clues as to who the sender really is. For instance, if an email requesting your company’s financial documents claims to be from the IRS but the domain reads IRSgov.com, it’s a spoof email since that domain is not what the IRS uses. If you ever spot an email containing a domain you consider to be suspicious, delete it immediately. If it is from a legitimate sender, they will send you a follow up email in a couple of days.

    Embrace DMARC
    Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting and Conformance (DMARC) can help reduce the risk of spoofed emails being sent internally. For businesses that do not set this up, it is possible for someone to spoof an email account that looks like it is from your business or a current employee and send it from a different server. As we saw in the case with the Bucks, these can appear legitimate to employees who will then in turn do what is requested such as turn off security settings or handover sensitive data. With DMARC in place you can prevent spoofed emails from utilizing your domains by requiring any email sent by your domain to come from your server. This greatly reduces the risk of an internal spoofed email showing up in the inbox of your employees.

    Utilize email protections
    A lot of companies believe they can get by with the simple protections that come standard with an email client. However, doing the bare minimum is rarely enough to stop spoofed emails, not to mention all of the other threats lurking in your inbox, and high-powered email and spam protection will give your organization the added layer of security it needs. Much like elite-level basketball players need the best coaching and equipment to succeed, the only way to truly reduce the risk of falling victim of a spoofed email is to educate your staff properly and then equip them with email filtering. This ensures they aren’t wasting their time constantly trying to identify legitimate emails from fake ones but are prepared when the situation presents itself.

    When it comes to email security, working with us is a slam dunk. We may not have the skills of Steph Curry on the basketball court but when in the realm of IT, competitors say they want to be like us. Give us a call today to find out more.

    Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org SOURCE

    The financial services industry has long been a heavily targeted sector by cyber criminals. The number of attacks that involved extortion, social-engineering and credential-stealing malware surged in 2015. This means that these institutions should strive to familiarize themselves with the threats and the agents behind them. Here are 7 new threats and tactics, techniques and procedures (TTP’s) that security professionals should know about.

    Extortion

    The cyber criminal Armada Collective gained notoriety for being the first to utilize distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks. This occurs when multiple systems flood a targeted system to temporarily or completely disrupt service. They evolved the idea further and started to extort Bitcoins from victims who were initially notified of their vulnerability. If they didn’t comply with the ransom demands of the criminals, they would flood their systems until the victim’s network would shut down completely.

    Social media attacks

    This involved criminals using fake profiles to gather information for social engineering purposes. Fortunately, both Facebook and Twitter began to proactively monitoring for suspicious activity and started notifying users if they had been targeted by the end of 2015. However, you should still have your guard up when someone you don’t know, or even a friend or colleague, starts asking you suspicious questions.

    Spear phishing

    Phishers thrive off familiarity. They send out emails that seem to come from a business or someone that you know asking for credit card/bank account numbers. In 2015, phishers went to the next level and began whaling. This normally involved spoofing executives’ emails (often CEO’s) to dupe the finance departments to transfer large sums of money to fraudulent accounts.

    Point-of-sale malware

    POS malware is written to steal customer payment (especially credit card) data from retail checkout systems. They are a type of memory scraper that operates by instantly detecting unencrypted type 2 credit card data and is then sent to the attacker’s computer to be sold on underground sites.

    ATM malware

    GreenDispenser is an ATM-specific malware that infects ATM’s and allows criminals to extract large sums of money while avoiding detection. Recently reverse ATM attacks have also emerged, this is when compromised POS terminals and money mules to reverse transactions after money being withdrawn or sent to another bank account.

    Credential theft

    Dridex, a well known credential-stealing software, is a multifunctional malware package that leverages obfuscated macros in Microsoft Office and extensible markup language files to infect systems. The goal is to infect computers, steal credentials, and obtain money from victims’ bank accounts. It operates primarily as a banking Trojan where it is generally distributed through phishing email messages.

    Other sophisticated threats

    Various TTP’s can be combined to extracted data on a bigger scale. Targeting multiple geographies and sectors at once, this method normally involves an organized crime syndicate or someone with a highly sophisticated setup. For example, the group Carbanak primarily targeted financial institutions by infiltrating internal networks and installing software that would drain ATM’s of cash.

    The creation of defensive measures requires extensive knowledge of the lurking threats and our team of experts is up-to-date on the latest security information. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us to find out more about TTP’s and other weapons in the hacker’s toolbox.

    Published with consideration from TechAdvisory SOURCE