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Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)

The concept of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) is a growing trend in business and presents some major challenges for the small business owner. BYOD refers to the practice of allowing employees to use their own handheld devices (and in some cases, laptops and/or tablets computers) to access their work networks. There are a wide variety of issues to consider, some of which are positive and others can be quite negative.

The immediate benefits of this practice are two-fold. The business saves money by limiting – or possibly even eliminating – the purchase of new equipment, and the employees get to use devices on which they are already proficient, which reduces the learning curve and improves employee morale. It’s already quite popular and is being widely accepted as the norm.

But, it does present some areas of concern. Application compatibility can be a big one… Some devices may work well with Office Productivity Suites (like MS Office) and others may have issues with them, or at least certain versions. Other concerns are related to confidentiality and security of company data. BYODs can be an inherent risk to private company data.

If every employee is using their own device, there’s admittedly a greater risk of lost or stolen data. This concern is often cited as the main reason business owners do not adopt a BYOD program. However, small businesses that are aware of this potential problem are in a better position to deal with it. The implementation of policies that are clearly outlined and understood by the employees is the first step to mitigating this risk. Such policies may limit the types of devices accepted under the program while spelling out what the protocol is for devices that are lost and stolen. Most policies allow for wipes of business data on personal devices should the worst happen. Other companies simply make sure their most sensitive information is kept offline, away from the major security risks.

The best, first step is to have an Acceptable Use Policy in place. This will clearly define what an employee can, and can’t, do so everyone is playing from the same sheet of music. In the case of compliance issues (SOX, HIPAA, etc.) having these policies can be your best defense against large law suites and fines.

We can help with this. We have policy templates that will get you from start to finish, with very little effort on your part. All you have to do is ask and we’ll get you started down this path. Give us a call at 501.542.4241.

Posted in: Security, Tech Tips for Business Owners, Technology and How it's Used, Tips and Tricks

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Ever Wonder How it Works?

I’ve posted, and written, a lot about malware (Viruses, Trojans and Worms, Oh My) lately and I’ve had a number of questions presented about how the Anti-virus/Anti-malware programs work. Even though the current software is fairly sophisticated today, those that have taken it upon themselves to write viruses are often a step ahead of the software. The simple truth is, new viruses are constantly being released into the wild and the anti-virus software cannot recognize these new presentations of a very old pain. The key here is detection. Once an infected file has been detected, it can either be repaired or quarantined, so the viral code cannot be executed. The big problem is that generic virus detection is simply not adequate for current and new viruses, and so anti-virus software have to be constantly updated with new lists of viruses as they are found. When a new virus is discovered (unfortunately only through execution on some poor unsuspecting user’s system,) samples are sent to virus analysis centers. These centers analyze the virus and extract a unique string that will uniquely identify that particular strain. This and other information about the virus is added into a database that users can then download. It is possible that, at some point, generic virus detection ever become 100% effective, in which case the other steps (removal/repair) would be greatly simplified.

So, How Do We Find Them?

There are four major methods of virus detection in use today: scanning, integrity checking, interception, and heuristic detection. Scanning and interception are the most common methods used today, with the other two have only been adopted by a few anti-virus programs. The sad thing is that scanning is only effective against known viruses, and completely incapable of dealing with new viruses, forcing anti-virus analysis centers into a reactive stance. How Does Scanning Work? A scanner will search all files in memory, in the boot sector (the sector on disk that specifies where boot information saved,) and on disk for code snippets that will uniquely identify a file as a virus. This function requires a list of unique signatures that were identified when the virus analysis centers discovered and identified them. To prevent false positives, most scanners also will check the code of a suspected file against either the virus code itself or a checksum of it. (A checksum is a method frequently used to determine if data has been changed, and involves summing all of the bits in a file.) This is the most common method of virus detection available, and is implemented in all major anti-virus software packages. There are two types of scanning: on-access and on-demand. On-access scanning scans files when they are loaded into memory prior to execution. On-demand scanning scans all of main memory, the boot sector, and disk memory as well, and is started by a user when he/she wishes. On-access scanning has become more aggressive recently, with virus scans occurring even if files are selected, but not loaded.

Scanners can find viruses that haven’t executed yet, which is critical for e-mail worms, because they can spread themselves rapidly if not stopped. Also, false alarms have become extremely rare with the software available today. Finally, scanners are also very good at detecting viruses for which they have the signatures/definition file.

There are a couple of major disadvantages to scanning-based techniques. First, if the software is using a signature string to detect the virus, all a virus writer would have to do is modify the signature string to develop a new virus. This is seen in polymorphic viruses. The second, and far greater disadvantage is the limitation that a scanner can only scan for which is has the signature. Virus updates occur more frequently today because of the Internet, viruses still cannot be detected until one has executed. Integrity Checking Definition: An integrity checker records integrity information about important files on disk, usually by what is known as checksum. Should a file change due to virus activity or corruption, the file will no longer match the recorded integrity information. The user is prompted, and can usually be given an option to restore the file to its pre-corrupted/infected state. This is an extensive process, and few virus checkers today utilize it.

Posted in: Malware, Technology and How it's Used

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SPEAR PHISHING

What is it?

Nope, I’m not talking about anything related to SCUBA diving or any of the gilled creatures that swim around in the ocean. The Spear Phishing that I’m speaking of here is the use of cleverly crafted and targeted emails, and just as frequently social media messages, that are designed to trick the user into performing an action, such as clicking on a link or opening a file.

How does it work?

Simply put, an attackers will send an email that is specifically designed to look like it’s from a legitimate and/or trusted source. These messages will often look almost exactly like those that might come from a source from which you might even expect to receive a message. One of the most common ones might look like it comes from your bank, asking you to click a link, or open a file. The message may well be designed to look just like your banks web site, complete with the logo to make it look legit. This email is designed to entice the user to open a file that contains a malware infection, or click on a link that will drive the user to a web site. This web site may be infected with malware, or will ask the user to login using their creden

Spear Phishing

Spearfishing or Spear Phishing

tials to check on their account for what may appear to be a valid concern. The goal is for the user that sees the message to click the link, or open the attached file. When they arrive at the fake site and enter their username and password the attacker now has the user’s credentials to the bank account. They can login and transfer money before the user is aware anything is happening. If it’s an attached file, the file will often be a source of Malware that is intended to infect the recipient’s computer, which in turn will begin mine that same type of information and send back to the original attacker, and the cycle continues.

Should I be worried?

The answer to this is a simple “Yes”. Spear Phishing is the leading source of successful infection found in the wild today. That fact alone insures it will continue to be used.

How can I prevent it?

Train your users. Knowledge is the best defense. Make your users aware of the threat. Teach them to never visit a site via an email link. And even if you intend to go to the site to check it out, always type the URL address of the web page directly as opposed to clicking the link. Use cloud-based security tools. Cloud-based email, web filtering and endpoint protection can allow you to ensure that the user does not receive these targeted messages. Using web filtering and endpoint protection can help to block the threat from being successful. Use multi-factor Authentication. Many sites now offer multi-factor authentication. Enable this useful feature for all accounts where it is available to provide a huge boost to the password security. Have a plan in place. Analyze the different scenarios that could occur in relation to this and have a plan for what steps should be taken, should a user fall victim to an attack.

As always, if you need any assistance implementing or understanding this (or other threats), give us a call. We’ll be glad to help.

Posted in: Malware, Social Media, Tips and Tricks

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POODLE Bug Presents a Major Network Security Risk

No, I’m not joking around. It’s real. You may be familiar with bugs known as Heartbleed and Shellshock, which I’ve addressed them in earlier BLOG posts. But now, it’s time that you be made aware of a new bug called POODLE (Padding Oracle On Downgraded Legacy Encryption). Simply put, POODLE allows hackers to access and steal information on encrypted connections.

It is important to note that this is NOT a flaw in SSL certificates, their private keys, or their design but in the old SSLv3 protocol. The bug hijacks pieces of information by using this outdated web communication protocol, leaving systems susceptible to information theft. It’s not believed to be as serious as the Heartbleed bug in OpenSSL, since the attacker needs to have a privileged position in the network to exploit the latest. The usage of Hotspots, public Wi-Fi, does make this attack a real problem. This type of attack falls into the “Man-in-the-middle” category.

How Do They Do It?

Did you ever wonder why you don’t have to log into your e-mail account each time you use it? This is because your browser has a cookie installed which lets your e-mail know that you are who you claim to be. While this is convenient, it can present a problem. If a hacker tricked you into connecting to a bogus wireless hotspot, for example, this bug could allow them to steal a cookie from your computer. This would give hackers a chance to steal enough information from a web connection that they that they would then be able to steal your cookies and effectively pretend to be you.

The Risks

When POODLE emerged earlier this year, security officials got to work and quickly patched many of the sites that were most vulnerable. Unfortunately, it seems, the experts did not go far enough. The bug formerly attacked an outdated version of SSL (Secure Socket Layer), which is no longer used on modern browsers, but is around due to some older sites, which still require it. Another newer layer of security called TLS (Transport Layer Security) has now been found to also be susceptible to POODLE and a fix has yet to be implemented. By the way, some banks are susceptible to the new iteration of this bug.

There are ways to keep your browser safe and to find out whether or not you’re at high risk for such bugs. BizTek Connection wants to make sure you’re doing everything you can to keep your company’s web presence and security safe. For more information, contact us via phone at 501-542-4241 or email at info@BizTekConnection.com

Posted in: Malware, Security

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Ransomware – Coming to a Computer Near You!

It seems like it never ends… It seems that Malware is cropping up quicker than the industry can update the virus definitions and today is not different.  But there appears to be a new variety of Ransomware that has recently hit the market.  From what the industry has found so far, KEYHolder appears to be from the same folks that were behind Cryptorbit. It goes by the name KEYHolder.  Although Ransomware may seem like a relatively new type of attack, it actually goes back to the “AIDS” Trojan (also known as “PC Cyborg”) as far back as 1989.  In other words, they are really good at making, and propagating, this type of attack.

Like other Ransomware, KEYHolder will encrypt files (anything/everything from documents, music, videos to images, etc.) on any attached drives, including network mapped file shares. Once the encryption is complete, a ransom of $500 is demanded for the unlock key. The user is directed to download a Tor compliant browser and make the ransom payment through a Tor masked server.

It is thought, although no one is positive at this point, that the initial infection occurred via email.  As this is still developing, the industry as a whole is working to mitigate this threat, there is still much speculation around KeyHolder.  There is some chatter in the security community about infections happening through direct control of systems from the outside, but we have seen no evidence of this. Source files are still being investigated and signatures, to mitigate the risks will be updated by Antivirus vendors as quickly as possible.

This is a very valid, potential threat. Until more is known, and the industry has released fully functioning definition files to reduce the related risks, it is strongly recommended that you inform your users of the following:

1. Do NOT open attachments from unknown senders. While we have seen Ransomware attacks sourced from watering hole attacks, or social harvesting attacks, the vast majority are coming in through email via spear-phishing attacks.

2. Backup often.

3. Do not click on links that seem suspicious

4. Do not allow any software that you do not know the origins of to be installed on your system.

5. Keep endpoint security versions update

6. Keep endpoint signatures up to date

7. Contact BizTek support staff if you have any doubt about your current level of protection, or suspect that you are infected in any fashion.

Malware in any variety, is a pain, even in it’s simplest form.  But some, such as Ransomware and other, can bring your business to its knees.  If you are not confident that you have this base covered, give us a call.

Posted in: Malware, Security

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5 Myths about “The Cloud”

5 Myths about “The Cloud”

During 2014 we have seen a definite uptick among central Arkansas businesses taking advantage of “the cloud”. In the US, 72% of all businesses have already adopted the cloud to some degree. Of those, 82% have saved money by making the switch; and 80% have recognized improved processes and productivity.

The term “cloud” is used so broadly that it is difficult to grasp the concept. This causes much confusion about the cloud and how it could improve their business. So we thought we would help you better understand the cloud, and how it can improve your business.

Myth #1: Today’s cloud is like the Wild West, with few controls and security.

While there are hundreds of cloud providers, they fall into 3 categories: public, private and hybrid (a combination of the two). Examples of public cloud are Google Drive, Dropbox and Microsoft’s OneDrive.  These provide an economical place to store data, but you have no control over it, or where the data is stored.  Private cloud provides the opportunity to have much greater control of your data. Most businesses utilize the private cloud for maximum security and support.

Myth #2: The cloud is the reason so many businesses are getting hacked.

Businesses are being hacked because they are struggling to keep up with hackers that are constantly searching for security holes to pillage.  Without an equally vigilant data security team, this is a losing battle. The right private cloud provider is far more likely to maintain enterprise-class security that will minimize chances of a breach.  Today’s typical small- to medium-sized businesses’ security can be no match for today’s hackers.

Myth #3: My company’s data is more secure under my own lock and key.

Even with proper backup disaster recovery plans, firewalls and anti-virus/anti-spam solutions, it is difficult to afford the level of security available from a reputable cloud provider. Typically they utilize multiple, mirrored data centers for redundancy. They employ around-the-clock professionals to manage their security and monitor all systems. They have redundant internet providers, backup power supplies, and access controls.

Myth #4: My systems will be slower if I am accessing data in the cloud.

With today’s bandwidth and data transfer technologies, you will not likely notice any data latency. In some cases, your systems may even run faster. Many businesses today not only maintain their data in the cloud, but utilize computer processing in the cloud as well.  Rather than purchasing and maintaining their own processing power, they rent it from a cloud provider.  This provides improved processing speed that more than overcomes any latency during data transfer.

Myth #5: Making the move to the cloud is traumatic to my daily business processes.

Choosing the right cloud provider is key to a smooth transition. It is their business to assure that the transition is almost transparent to all users with little interruption to normal business processes.

Fact: BizTek can provide customized recommendations for your business to maximize the benefits of the cloud.

Posted in: Tech Tips for Business Owners

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Advice from our Service Desk

Advice from our Service Desk

According to our Service Desk technicians, there seems to be a rise in adware among our clients. Whether users are being targeted more frequently, or users are not practicing “safe surfing”, the result is a loss in productivity.  So this article will focus on some of the causes, and how to avoid getting bitten in the first place.

Downloading Software

While there is an abundance of software programs that can make us more efficient, professional and effective, there are landmines out there… particularly with free software downloads.  We’ve seen some clients with 3 or more toolbars on their internet browser, and they are not sure where they came from.

  1. Be sure that you have a professional grade anti-virus program installed and running.
  2. As you maneuver download pages, carefully watch where you click. Sometimes the page will include more than one “Download” button in an effort to get you to download additional packages.
  3. When you download a program, be sure to select “Save” rather than “Open” or “Run”. This allows your virus scanner the chance to perform a scan prior to executing the program.
  4. Avoid the temptation of just clicking through the prompts in order to save time. Sometimes you can avoid a lot of frustration by taking the time to read before you click.
  5. Some software programs, by default, include additional programs. These programs can be from the same software company, or another company that pays them to help propagate their software. As you are installing a program, carefully watch for checkboxes that need to be unchecked to avoid unwanted programs.

Signs of Adware

By design, adware is not always obvious to the user. As adware creeps in over time, the change is not dramatic.  But over time, the change can eat up your time and efficiency.  Watch for the following when surfing the internet:

  1. There are more pop-ups than usual; or pop-ups are difficult to close.
  2. Search results in your browser do not look normal; sometimes you are being redirected to an unintended site.
  3. When you open a new browser window, it opens to a site that you did not select.
  4. Your “Home” button on your browser takes you to a new, unfamiliar search engine.
  5. You notice a new toolbar at the top of your browser that you did not select.
  6. Bookmarks appear that you did not create.
  7. It seems that pages load more slowly and you wonder if your internet speed has decreased. This can be due to high traffic usage on your network or the site itself.
  8. Familiar webpages begin to look unusual.

If you believe that you are victim to adware, call our Service Desk.  We can identify the problem, and get you back to screaming speed in no time.

Posted in: Tech Tips for Business Owners

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Disaster Recovery – Famous Last Words

Disaster Recovery – Famous Last Words

“I’m sure my IT Services Provider tests our backups properly on a regular basis.”

This is critical to your Disaster Recovery program. You should confirm to be sure. Also ask for documentation whenever they occur, and what frequency they follow.

Regardless of the backup medium (tapes, NAS, external hard drive, offsite), if you don’t fully test your backups on a regular basis, you can’t be sure you can recover from a disaster. There are many factors that can cause a system restore to fail. For example:

  • In order to restore your systems, you must first reinstall your backup software. Make note of where it is kept, and that it is safe from the same disaster.
  • If you have to replace your backup software, be sure that a newer version is compatible with the version used with your last backup.
  • If you are still using tapes for backups, your tape drive needs to be protected from the same disaster. Otherwise, you will need to have access to the same type of tape drive.
  • If someone takes your backups home or to a safe deposit box, you need to be sure you can get to them quickly if needed. Make alternate plans in case the person with your backups is out-of-town for the weekend. Or the bank is closed for a 3-day weekend.
  • If your backups are maintained offsite, you need to know the full process for restoring those backups. Determine if the backup service provides assistance and to what level.

“My IT guy runs our backups every day.”

If your backup system requires someone to manually kick-off the backup process, or carry the backups home, you could be at risk. Although intentions are good, sometimes conflicts arise. Important or emergency projects may arise that causes your person to skip a backup or two. After all, one day’s worth of data may not seem critical to them. Or two. Your plan should prevent someone else taking that risk with your business.

“Our tape backups have always worked fine. We don’t need to invest in newer technology.”

Whether you use tape, CDs, DVDs, or external hard drives, you obviously don’t use new media every time. You simply rewrite over a previously used one. This is normal and fine. You should determine how long it is safe to reuse the medium. Hopefully your backup system provides alerts when a backup fails. If it does, hopefully someone is able to immediately rerun the backup on good media, if they have time. Your business is too valuable to depend on chance and hope.

“We always check the backup logs to make sure the backup was successful.”

Initially, with any new backup solution, checking backup logs will be consistently performed. Day 1: Successful. Day 2: Successful. Day 3: Successful. After a few months, it begins to seem less worthwhile to take the time to check it every day. So it is checked every other day. Then once a week. Then once a month. Good habits degrade to bad. And you know that is just when a disaster occurs.

There’s a better way.

A fully automated, onsite/offsite Backup Disaster Recovery (BDR) program is becoming more affordable these days. With the cost of data storage on the decline, and greater bandwidth available, taking the human element out of the process just makes sense. Your BDR program should include redundancy at every level possible. Having the option of receiving email or text messages in the event of a failed backup provides convenience and confidence. Knowing that you can restore systems in hours, rather than days or weeks, helps you sleep at night.

Make 2015 the year that you shore up your disaster recovery plans to make sure your business is not at risk. Give us a call and we’ll show you how easy and inexpensive it can be.

Posted in: Tech Tips for Business Owners

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What does “Unified Communications” mean?

What does “Unified Communications” mean?

More and more this term is thrown around in business circles. But just what does it mean? Unified communications is the real-time communication within your organization, across multiple locations. It can include instant messaging, telephones, smart phones, video conferencing, presence information, voice messaging, call control and even speech recognition. Some also include non-real-time communications like voicemail, email, fax and SMS.

So what does this mean to your business? Typically, improved employee productivity and mobility, even when out of the office. Communications can be sent from one medium and received by another. With the inclusion of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), phones can literally be plugged into any internet connection anywhere, and automatically perform just as in your office. Today’s VoIP phones are feature-rich and can be easily configured by each user.

How expensive are these systems? Typically, today’s unified communication systems are considerably less expensive than their older counterparts. Some systems do not even require upfront hardware investments. Unlike traditional hardware-based communication systems, today’s systems are software-based. That means they are both flexible and upgradable as new capabilities are introduced. Users can be added and changed easily.

What about cloud-based systems? At first blush, a cloud-based communication system seems counter-intuitive. In reality, putting the switches, intelligence, features, communication horsepower and data in a secure data center delivers tremendous benefits. This enables a consistent experience regardless of access device (desk phone, desktop, smart phone). This truly provides a fully unified communication system.

So what are these benefits?  To list a few:

  • Turn any smartphone into an office phone – send calls anywhere and stay in touch with your business needs, even during a disaster.
  • Make calls directly from Microsoft Outlook – avoid misdialing by clicking on the number.
  • Users can update their configurations from anywhere – from a simple portal employees can update call handling options and voicemail recordings.
  • Consistent communication experience across all office locations.
  • Security – corporate data and phone configurations are protected in highly secure data centers.
  • Feature-rich phone systems without CapEx – unlimited calling with all the latest features to stay connected with employees and customers, without the investment.
  • No maintenance contract – there’s nothing to maintain onsite since the system is maintained continuously professionally in a data center.
  • Dramatically lower your communications expense.

BizTek is ready to assist you in updating your current communication system to one that will grow with your business, both in size and functionality. There’s no reason to use yesterday’s technology, nor watch future advancements leave you behind. Do yourself, your employees, and your shareholders a favor by calling us today!

Posted in: Tech Tips for Business Owners

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New Windows 7 / Server 2008 R2 Patch Is Bad,

It disables some graphics driver updates, as well as Windows Defender

As a general rule of thumb, I’m a proponent of setting Windows Update to automatically updating the OS (operating system) an Office products. But, in this particular case, accepting/applying one particular update, specifically KB 3004394, can cause a range of serious problems and I recommend (as does Microsoft) removing it.

The first issue that caught my attention is that KB 3004394 blocks the installation or update of graphics drivers such as AMD’s new Catalyst Omega. Nvidia users are also reporting difficulty installing GeForce drivers. Hallock recommended manually uninstalling the update, advice now echoed officially by Microsoft.

The issues related to this newest update isn’t limited to graphics driver problems. Redmond hasn’t directly divulged each and every issue, but Microsoft’s Answer Forum is littered with tech-savvy users reporting that USB 3.0 drivers are broken and User Account Control (UAC) prompts have gone haywire. Microsoft has acknowledged that it may even prevent the installation of future Windows Updates.

An even more troubling byproduct of this update is that the Windows Defender service, which is crucial software that blocks viruses and malware, has even been disabled by the update.

It’s important to note that only Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 have have issues with this update. .

Posted in: Tech Tips for Business Owners

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