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You’d be hard-pressed to miss May’s biggest headline, the WannaCry cyber-attack sent shockwaves around the globe. Businesses of all sizes and even police departments found themselves crippled without warning.
Among the most prominent victims were many NHS hospitals in the UK, affecting up to 70,000 individual devices such as essential MRI scanners and blood-storage refrigerators. But by the time it hit the news, it was too late – either your system was protected, or it was infected. Here’s how it all went so wrong.
What is WannaCry?
The WannaCry cyber-attack was a type of malware (the collective name for computer viruses & bad juju) called ‘ransomware’. Just like the name suggests, it’s actually a demand for money. Like all ransomware attacks, WannaCry encrypts your files and holds them hostage until you pay. In this case, the price was set at $300, payable with internet currency Bitcoin, and you had 3 days to pay before it doubled. If you didn’t pay, the ransomware threatened to delete your files permanently. It’s yet unknown how much money the WannaCry hackers have earned with their latest attack, but you can be sure plenty of people have paid the ransom. Even the FBI recommends paying the ransom, especially if the ransomed files are of a sensitive nature or weren’t backed up.
How It Spread So Fast
It seems WannaCry may be a ‘computer worm’ that self-replicates and spreads, rather than a phishing attack that needs to be activated with a click. So far, no common trigger has been identified, as is normally the case with phishing links. WannaCry moved rapidly from system to system, spreading out through the entire network, including all connected backups and storage devices. At the same time, it spread out to infect other networks, who then spread it further, and so on. Given the nature of the internet, it was everywhere within hours.
Why Some Businesses Were Safe
WannaCry could ONLY infect systems that have fallen 2 months behind in their Windows updates. This is because it was created to take advantage of a specific vulnerability in Windows, one which Microsoft patched months ago. Without that patch, the ransomware could waltz right past the firewall, past the anti-virus and directly into the system (the NHS were reportedly running Windows XP – no longer supported). Those running Windows 10 or a fully patched, recent version of Windows were completely unaffected – the virus literally had no way in
It just goes to show the importance of staying up to date. We haven’t seen a second spike in WannaCry attacks yet, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be one. A quick update could protect your business from weeks of downtime and lost revenue, making attacks like this a non-issue.
With our managed services, we can make sure you stay up to date – and protected. Give us a call today at 570.235.1946.
Our tech is something we use every day, but did you know it’s also the most disgusting? Your screen may look clean, but studies show that a mobile phone can be 18x dirtier than a public restroom – ew! It gets worse (sorry)…that keyboard you tap at while eating your morning toast? It’s probably the biggest bacterial threat in your house, with about 20 000 times more germs than a toilet seat, more if you share it with children.
It’s not just sickness we’re up against, because as dust builds up inside gadgets, they also slow down, malfunction or overheat. Your device essentially chokes on ick, as vents and filters are clogged by sucking in pet hair and floating debris. Here’s how to clean your essential tech items without damaging them:
Insider tip: Use a can of compressed air to blow the dust out. You can get these from many stores and they come with a long nozzle so you can really get in and direct the pressure. You’ll be surprised what flies out, so it’s best to do this outside! We don’t recommend using compressed air on your computer’s internal fans though, as this can make them spin too fast and damage them.
How often you clean your tech is up to you and your lifestyle. But it’s a good idea to blow out computer internal dust at least twice a year and wiping your tech down 1-2 times per week will definitely reduce germs and grime.
Is your computer making too much noise or getting too hot? Give us a call at 570.235.1946 and we’ll clean the internals for you.
You may not be storing military secrets or running a billion-dollar empire, but your business is still an attractive target for hackers. You need a firewall – a guard standing at the door of your network to stop the bad guys from getting in while still letting your staff come and go without interruption.
A surprising number of businesses are operating without a firewall, or with one unsuitable to the requirements of a business network. For most, it’s a risk they don’t know they’re taking because they assume all systems have built-in protections. Unfortunately, by the time the lack is discovered, it’s far too late.
A firewall is actually a special type of hardware or software that acts as a protective shield between the computers on your network and assorted cyber dangers. Data is constantly passed through at lightning fast speeds, invisible to the user experience.
Filtering: A strong firewall actively looks for known viruses, phishing emails and spam, and then blocks them before they can get in the door. Its internal knowledge of threats is updated regularly and search patterns quickly adjusted. Business firewalls also monitor data in both directions. When a computer goes online, all the data coming in and out is inspected to see whether it’s safe or not. If it doesn’t pass the test, the firewall instantly blocks it and records the details in a log.
Performance: You can use your firewall to set network traffic priorities. For example, it can make sure a Skype call gets all the resources it needs to allow for flawless video and voice quality, while someone watching YouTube videos at the same time will receive reduced resources. Rules can be set to allow certain applications to be treated as a higher priority than others, certain departments or even users. You can tailor your network performance to meet your unique business needs.
Management: Business firewalls allow you to see who’s doing what and when over your network. You can create rules for specific users, devices and times. For example, you might allow your employees to access Facebook during lunch breaks only, while at the same time keeping it completely unblocked for you or your marketing team. Thorough logs are kept automatically and can be used to troubleshoot problems. For example, your firewall logs might show that a computer inside your network connects to a third world country at 3am each night, which would certainly be worth investigating.
Connection: A strong firewall allows your remote workforce to access your servers with ease and security, while at the same time keeping cyber-attacks out. Remote work arrangements are growing in popularity and necessity, often requiring server access at a moment’s notice. You can set your firewall to authenticate the identity of users before allowing access, and create a virtual private network (VPN) that keeps any transferred data safe from interception.
We can install, configure and manage your business firewall – Call us at 570.235.1946 to start protecting your network today.
We repair many computers and laptops each week, but unfortunately this is often ‘closing the barn door after the horse has bolted’. Computers have a habit of dying at the worst possible time – like when an important project is due tomorrow, or before you copy family photos to a backup. We’ve combined our repair services with preventative measures to ensure this doesn’t happen to you. Our managed IT services can remotely take care of all the computers in your house, protecting you against both threats and system failure.
Anti-virus always up-to-date: While many homes have anti-virus software installed, they don’t often have the latest virus and threat definitions. These systems are at risk every minute they spend online, as the anti-virus simply will not pick up and stop an unknown threat.
New viruses and hacking threats arise every day, and there are entire companies dedicated to creating anti-virus updates to catch them. We can make sure your anti-virus definitions are always up-to-date, keeping your computer secure against even the newest viruses.
Software patches: Hackers like to spend their time figuring out new ways to break into computer systems. Software companies like Microsoft and Apple release regular patches to close these security holes. The patches are supposed to be applied automatically, but we often find that isn’t the case – patches didn’t download, were canceled or produced an error. Our services involve remotely checking that each patch has been applied successfully, and troubleshooting if required. As an added advantage, any time new features are packaged into an update, you’ll find them already installed for you.
Early failure detection: Some parts in your computer send out alarm bells when they’re about to die. Unfortunately, they’re not literal alarm bells (that would be too convenient), but information in the background that needs to be interpreted or manually checked. We can monitor these and advise repairs as required.
Data protection: Hard drives which store your information do eventually wear out, but they’re one of the parts that send out early failure warnings. We can monitor this and give you ample warning so that you have time to back up your important files. When it’s time, we’ll work with you to arrange drive replacement, making sure to either clone or re-install your operating system, whichever suits your needs best.
Tune-ups: Even the most cared for computer will slow down over time. Hard drives become cluttered, operating systems corrupt and ghosts of uninstalled programs still remain. We can remotely schedule and run a regular maintenance routine that will keep your system running in top condition and lightning speeds.
Our managed IT service happens entirely behind the scenes, so there is no disruption to your experience. You simply enjoy the benefits of having your own IT specialist team at one flat, low cost. You and your family continue to use your computer/s as normal, the only difference is problems are fixed BEFORE they happen and your system has the very best security against threats.
Start with managed IT services today.
Before buying a computer for work, it’s important to consider whether your best bet is to get a consumer model or one built specifically for business use.
You’ve probably seen business computers with the same brand name that you have at home, but that’s where the similarities end. Investing in the right system now will pay off long term, saving you time, money and a whole lot of frustration. Here’s what you need to know to make the best choice for your business and budget.
When you invest in a computer, you want certain inclusions built-in and ready to go. For a business, those include features that will make your network more secure and staff more productive. For example, fingerprint readers, remote desktop software and data encryption tools. The operating system that comes pre-installed on a business-class computer will also have features the consumer options don’t, including the ability to join corporate networks. Computers designed for home use come with Windows Home or Starter editions, which may require hours of expert assistance to link into a secure business network.
Work out how often you’ll be using the computer for business. If the computer is mostly for home use and only occasionally for work, then a consumer PC with the appropriate work software and settings will be fine. On the other hand, a computer that is mostly for business use should be a business-class computer, not just for security but also build quality reasons.
Durability and Reliability
It’s probably no surprise that consumer PCs don’t have the same build quality as business ones. In fact, consumer models only have an expected lifespan of around 2 years. They just aren’t built to last. Business-class computers are built to last several years, with higher quality components and rigorous testing at every level. Most parts (if not all) are name-brand with an emphasis on reliability and long term durability.
Warranty and Service
Unfortunately, when a consumer PC fails, the burden is on the owner to send it away for repairs. The terms of the warranty will usually state that any other attempt to repair it will void the warranty. Repairs can then take weeks and often involve a frustrating process of paperwork and following up. Contrast that with what happens when a business computer needs service – the technicians will come to you and fix it on the spot, often within hours. Business users enjoy a professional experience with priority status and a dedicated support line, all designed to reduce down-time and get you operational, faster.
Talk to us today at 570.235.1946 about choosing the right computer for your needs.
Laptop computers are one of the most fragile pieces of tech you’ll ever buy, but they also receive the roughest treatment. Extend your laptop’s life with these five easy tips.
Avoid sharp movements during use: While some newer laptops have an SSD drive with no moving parts, many laptops still have mechanical drives which work a bit like a record player. It has a head which is like a record player needle, and a data storage platter like a record. The head hovers just microns over the surface of the spinning disk and a knock can cause them to collide. Just like a deep scratch on a record, whatever data was on that section will be corrupted and lost. Make sure you always power down the laptop before moving it or packing it away.
Keep it cool: Your laptop has 2 sure ways of telling you when it’s too hot – the fan and auto-shut off. Each component in your laptop is generating heat, and the harder it’s working, the more heat each creates. The fan runs to blow that heat out the vent and keep the components cool enough to continue operating. Because there’s no clear temperature indicator, your fan volume is the best guide to monitoring laptop heat. While the laptop is working hard (and getting hot), the fan will spin faster and louder. It’s not uncommon for it to sound like a hair dryer at times! Help it out by keeping your fan vent clear of books, blankets, and other blockages.
Respect the cords: Inside those robust looking power cords are a bunch of delicate wires, begging you to be gentle. You’d think they should be able to take a beating, get bent, twisted and run over with chair wheels, but unfortunately not. Keep cords clear of sharp or flat-edged items, and when wrapping for transport try to mimic how it came out of the box. Wrap the cord gently around itself or the power adapter and secure with Velcro or similar.
Carry it in padded style: Look for a bag that not only fits your laptop but also provides padding. Your system will endure countless bumps and bangs as the bag is moved around, even with careful use. Ideally your bag has bottom, side AND top padding, as well as a waterproof outer. If backpacks aren’t your style, look for padded or hard-shelled sleeves.
Back it up: Laptops give us fantastic mobility but as mentioned above they’re quite fragile. While a backup won’t make your laptop components last longer, it will make minor repairs that much easier. You’re more likely to take it in for a service if your data is accessible elsewhere, and of course, in the event of accident or theft, you’re fully prepared. Consider an off-site backup for additional protection, so no matter what happens with your laptop you still have your important files.
Call us at 570.235.1946 to give your laptop a life-extending service.
Anti-virus programs don’t catch viruses when they’re not running. Yes, it’s blatantly obvious, but what’s not always clear is how often your staff are disabling your anti-virus programs so they can squeeze in a little playtime. Maybe download and install a game, free app or get through the block to a suspicious website. It happens in businesses across the country, and more often than you think. It’s just human nature to see a problem and work around it, because surely their computer won’t be infected, those things only happen to other people.
Unfortunately, the biggest threat to your data and network security is your staff. Fantastic, loyal, hardworking people, who make occasional silly decisions. Even the innocent ones, like ignoring the virus software update that keeps popping up, requesting to download the latest protections. Your staff aren’t intentionally putting your systems at risk, but they are creating a weak link that exposes your business to attacks that may cost you thousands.
That’s the key difference between free anti-virus and managed anti-virus. Free solutions were created for home use, where self-induced breaches aren’t such a big deal. The license on free solutions is usually in fact only for home usage. This is because in a business setting, even the slightest gap in your digital walls can lead to lost revenue, delays and even lawsuits. With a managed anti-virus solution, your staff can’t do those things. They literally can’t disable the protections or uninstall it, and updates happen automatically.
With the benefit of human oversight, we’re able to see when machines aren’t fully protected or have already become infected. Managed anti-virus means just that – we manage it for you – so that we know when there’s an issue and can take the necessary actions. Often working invisibly to your employees, we can remotely fix small problems before they become big problems, which leaves your employees feeling trusted while your business remains secure.
Managed anti-virus gives your business protection on a much higher level, because let’s face it, the stakes are much bigger. It takes software control out of the end users hands and puts your system security in the hands of an expert. The program can’t be disabled without a password, nor can it be uninstalled by anyone without the highest permissions. When updates are released they are downloaded and applied automatically. No delays, no putting it off until later, no gaps in your digital walls.
When to switch: This is around the size where it becomes impossible to monitor each computer individually without a full-time IT technician on your team. Users may be spread out across the network and you’re way too busy to stand watch over them while they work.
Ransomware has undeniably been the biggest security threat of 2016. No-one was safe. Hackers targeted everyone and everything, including home PCs – and they were astoundingly successful – earning themselves upwards of $846million from US reported incidents alone. Business is booming for hackers, with thousands of attacks each day bringing in an average of $640 per target. Perhaps even more alarmingly, the financial cost of each individual attack is on the rise – the more ransomware proves to be an easy earner for them, the more they demand each time.
For a quick payday, some hackers offer to ‘rescue’ you from immediate danger – for a fee. One method is to trick you into thinking you have a virus that will spread if you don’t pay money to remove it immediately. Another much scarier method is to pretend to be the FBI and say your computer was involved in a crime (anything from money laundering to child pornography) and you can avoid going to prison by paying a few hundred dollars.
Thousands of regular people are also waking up every day to discover they’ve been locked out of their own files. Entire music and video libraries, digital photos from the past 5 years, personal budget files and even their secret novel draft …all held hostage until the user pays a ransom. The encryption is so strong and unbreakable that paying the ransom often becomes the only solution.
The way ransomware gets onto your computer is deviously simple. Generally, the hackers convince you to click an email attachment/link or pop-up. With both approaches, the hacker usually offers helpful information, for example:
It’s so tempting to click through for more details and that’s what the hackers count on. Their messages and pop-ups aren’t obvious threats and so slip easily under our radar. Unfortunately, they’re not the most trustworthy bunch so paying may not actually unlock your files, and one payment can quickly become several.
To make matters worse, they can encrypt any backups connected to your computer too, like a USB drive. Having a backup is super important in any situation, but in cases like this, the right backup is needed. Not only one stored separate from your network, but one created recently with all the files you can’t bear to lose. Before restoring your backup, however, you’ll need to make sure the malware isn’t lurking in the background, ready to not just re-infect your restored files but also the backup drive itself.
To avoid finding yourself up to the waist in ransom demands or sending hackers money each month, we recommend being wary of email attachments, even from friends and family. If you’re not sure what the file is, don’t click it. They may not have sent that email intentionally; their infected system may be auto-emailing everyone in the address book. You should also be careful with any popups that appear out of place, especially ones that try to make you panic. If it doesn’t sound right or look right, don’t click it. Ransomware is just too dangerous to risk.
Call us at 570.235.1946 or schedule an appointment to set your computer up with protections against ransomware, and put backups in place that will keep your important files safe.
The message is clear: email is king. Many clients and customers choose to communicate primarily by email and as you know, it gives a fantastic ROI in your marketing strategy…unless you’re using a free email like Hotmail, Gmail, or even your internet provider. If that’s the case, you’re losing business each and every day.
It looks unprofessional: Imagine if banks used free email accounts – you’d never feel comfortable giving them your personal details let alone any money. How people perceive your business is what makes your business. Without that professional touch, you’ll appear temporary and fly-by-night. It puts your credibility into question and sends the message that you’re not serious about doing business – or worse – that you’re prepared to cut corners.
It erases your experience: Newer, fledgling businesses often start out with a free email address. The address clearly communicates that they are new and have little experience, and are perhaps testing the waters in a new direction. They’re not even remotely proven yet and are firmly within the hobby-zone. Continuing to use the free address once your business moves into the professional arena means you’ll struggle to build momentum and any experience will be negated.
It’s forgettable or inappropriate: Your business success hinges on being memorable enough to gain referral custom and results from your advertising. Unfortunately, free email addresses are by default filled with hard to remember clutter, for example – email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Neither of these roll off the tongue, is appropriate for business, or can be remembered without a high likelihood of typos and bounce back. Branded email addresses such as email@example.com make running a profitable, scalable business much easier.
It’s not permanent or safe: When you use a free email address you are at the mercy of the email provider. They may close down operations or cancel your account for any reason. These types of accounts are also often hacked and leaked on a global scale. When a better internet or email deal comes along, you’re still stuck using the old address because it’s printed on your business cards, car lettering and flyers.
Some will agree to keep the address open for a fee, but you’ll lose the control and flexibility you need to grow your business. With your own domain name, you own it and can move it to a new business-grade email service easily. You’ll also have complete master control over the addresses within your domain, resetting passwords and creating/closing accounts at will.
Give us a call at 570.235.1946 to set up your branded business email.