By -- 2020-12-28 in Blog

Ransomware attacks have been on the rise for years.  The software necessary for these attacks are more sophisticated, anonymous currencies like Bitcoin are more prevalent, and companies are collecting more data, creating a perfect storm for bad actors looking to make money off of security lapses.  These scams take several forms.  The group could lock workers out of their devices, delete important data and offer to restore it upon payment, or steal data and threaten to release it to the public.  When people are victims of this kind of scam, the hacker offers to delete the data if the victim pays the group.  Some companies take the offer–but the hacker rarely delivers on their end of the deal.

Nearly half of all ransomware attacks include the threat to publish stolen data.  This was not always the case.  Previously, companies with a secure backup of their data could restore their data and ignore the hacker’s threats.  The threat of releasing data removes any leverage the company would have from a backup.  In addition, a company can never have a full guarantee that their data was deleted.  Both sides of the interaction know this, so why do companies pay? Research suggests that fear of the public’s response to a data breach is a major factor.  The backlash against companies who have lost sensitive data to hacks in the past has been severe.  This public pressure combined with hope for a return to before the security breach took place is part of what pushes companies to make deals that are not in their best interest.

So what should you do if a ransomware attack breaches your company’s security? First of all, do not engage with the hackers.  Their goal is to make money, not to help you.  Second, contact a legal expert to understand what liability you might have, and what your options are.  Finally, invest in your security.  Once data has been stolen, it is difficult to get back to ‘normal’.  Prevention is key to keeping you and your data safe.  If you or your company are in need of increased security, you can always reach out to us at info@optfinity.com.

By -- 2020-12-23 in Blog

We’ve written a lot of posts about how hackers are infiltrating corporate data and systems, but we haven’t spent much time discussing how they monetize that access.  A recent article discusses how a group of hackers used their access to their victim’s email services to the tune of $1.7 billion in losses.

Threat actors first gain access to an e-mail network through social engineering, the process of manipulating individuals within an organization to gain access to sensitive information or areas.  Once they have that access, the threat actor observes the organization’s pattern of communication so that they can mimic it.  At that point, the infiltrators will impersonate an employee to redirect payments to fraudulent bank accounts

The FBI sent an alert highlighting the dangers of this e-mail forwarding technique, stating that:

“The web-based client’s forwarding rules often do not sync with the desktop client, limiting the rules’ visibility to cybersecurity administrators. While IT personnel traditionally implement auto-alerts through security monitoring appliances to alert when rule updates appear on their networks, such alerts can miss updates on remote workstations using web-based email.”

We need to internalize how impactful these hacks are.  We also need to contrast those costs with the relative cheapness of how to prevent them. While only 7% of spear-phishing attacks use this technique, it is a remarkably effective one.  The almost 2 billion dollars in losses caused by this type of hack makes it the single costliest kind of attack in the past two years.

If you want to prevent these kinds of attacks at your own business, there are several important steps you can take.

  1.  Ensure that your mobile and desktop version of your email application can synchronize with each other, and have the latest updates.
  2.  Set up your email to flag communications where the sender’s address and addresses from replies do not match.
  3.  Enable multi-factor authentication.

If you need help protecting your company from threat actors, or if you’re just looking for new technology solutions,  consider reaching out to us at info@optfinity.com.

By -- 2020-12-15 in Uncategorized

For 45 minutes on Monday morning, a variety of Google services were inaccessible across Europe and North America.  Google Search, Gmail, and a variety of Drive programs were all down.  Google’s physical devices also reported critical errors during the outage.  Initial reports blamed this on an error in the service’s authentication system, but a new report from the company shows that the problem was more widespread than initially thought.Google revealed that the root issue was a flaw with the company’s storage management system.  The issues only cascaded from there: limiting the authentication system’s capacity meant that the entire identity-management system was broken.  All users of Google Cloud Platform and Google Workspace at the time of the outage were affected.

So what lessons do this outage teach?

Big Tech Companies Aren’t Infallible

This is the third major failure in as many months, along with the five hours Amazon Web Services was disrupted in November and Microsoft Azure’s outage in October.  It can be tempting to trust blindly when a company has a track record of reliability and success, but track records won’t keep you afloat if a failure occurs.

Diversify and Monitor

If all your tools for support, monitoring, servicing, collaborating, etc. are on the same platform, you’ll be wiped out by those platform’s errors.  While it can be tempting to unify your systems for simplicity’s sake, your monitoring tools should always be separate so that you can be notified in case of an outage.  End-to-end visibility is the goal.

Backups Are Your Friend!

Having independent access to your data is crucial when your cloud host fails.  Backups create overlapping coverage so that no one failure impacts your company.  On top of that need for access, backups remove any worries about losing data that’s stored remotely.

 

In short, these failures should keep us from becoming complacent.  Security isn’t just about preventing attacks, it’s about preventing all disruptions in service. Take care of your technology, be aware of what these outages can do to your business, and take steps to prevent failure before it happens.

If you need more information on preventing service disruptions, leave a comment or email us at info@optfinity.com.

 

By -- 2020-12-10 in Blog

With work-from-home becoming the new normal, companies are scrambling to adapt their security practices.  Some are hiring an outside firm to handle their transition, while others are trying to cobble together an in-house solution.  Security is difficult to maintain at the best of times, and 2020 is most definitely not the best of times.  Security experts have noticed a large increase in cyberattacks over the course of 2020.  Threat actors have created over 5.5 million Trojan attacks.  Malware has increased by 2000%.  Threat actors are taking advantage of the pandemic, resulting in the loss of crucial data and massive amounts of money.  With all of these threats out there, what can you do to keep your company safe?

In times like these, you need expertise.  While you could hire an outside firm to handle your transition, small businesses often can’t afford that option.  This series of blog posts will go over some of the steps you can take to keep your company’s data safe without going over-budget.  If you’re looking for an in-depth explanation of any of these topics, you can leave a comment here or on any of our social media posts.  We also have a free webinar series starting in January that will cover this transition to the “New Normal” that you can sign up for soon. In the meantime, we’ll be discussing a new step you can take to improve your business’s security every week.

Consider A Password Manager

Do you know how common bad passwords are?  Over 25 million people use “123456”, and another 8 million use “123456789”.  4 million people are still using “password” to secure their data.  Each of these can be cracked in under a second — not much better than no password at all.  One common reason for why people choose non-secure terms for password is their difficulty in remembering complex passwords.  If your company’s security protocols require a certain degree of password complexity, workers might then store their passcodes in a text document that itself is not password-protected.  So how do you solve these issues? A password manager!

A password manager allows employees to generate, store, and fill passwords for various sites. This allows each employee to easily follow uniqueness and complexity requirements. Some password managers even allow employees to securely share passwords with other employees, without allowing them to see the password itself.  Furthermore, password managers are usually either free or available at a low monthly cost, making them a fantastic option for small businesses on a budget. In short, a password manager is the way to go for anyone concerned with improving business security.

Do you use a password manager? Are there questions or concerns you have about using one? Leave a comment here, or email us at info@optfinITy.com.  We’d love to hear from you!

 

By -- 2020-12-1 in Blog

Remote work has become a way of life for so many of us. It makes a lot of things harder. Communication, focus, and task management have all become more difficult. One of the things hardest hit by remote work is our online security. An overall increase in teleworking makes it harder for companies and workers to maintain cybersecurity standard for several reasons. This means that cybercrime has been more effective during the pandemic. Staying safe despite these threats means that decision makers need to make changes to how telework functions at their companies.

Why is cybercrime so effective now? One reason is that the devices that cybercriminals target are more important than ever. It used to be that if a cybercriminal locked an employee out of their computer, they could get a replacement and report the problem easily. Now, that same computer could take days to fix, with critical work halted in the meantime. A second reason is the added complexity that comes from having employees out of the office. Losing the office firewall means more vulnerable employees. Employees don’t have a security team in their house reminding them to change their passcodes or not to click on strange emails. Finally, work-from-home puts stress on remote security teams. With workers operating from changing locations and at changing times, it’s harder to identify irregular behavior.

You can take control of your business’s cybersecurity with a few simple steps.

  1. Regularly remind your employees about your business’s security protocols and cybersecurity best practices.
  2. Keep personal and work devices separate. Opening personal email or going shopping on a work device exposes a business to increased attacks.
  3. Enable multi-factor authentication on your devices. This is an easy way to keep threat actors from accessing any secure account.

These steps are just the beginning. While individuals should do their best to keep their devices secure, they can’t do it alone. Maintaining security for your business is complex. As cyberattacks become harder to identify and prevent, businesses’ security needs increase. If you want to design a security strategy that takes your work-from-home risk into account, email us at info@optfinITY.com or call us at 703 – 790 – 0400.

 

By -- 2020-11-14 in Uncategorized

The ways that people communicate at work has evolved over the years, with online messaging services and email becoming more important. However, the office phone has remained a staple of office communication for decades. Recent advancements have changed what that phone system looks like. Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phone systems have replaced traditional landlines in many offices, allowing workers to make phone calls over an internet connection. With advantages like lower costs, portability, and accessibility, VoIP systems have become more popular for small businesses who have transitioned to working at home.

Hackers have taken notice of that increase in popularity. Over the summer, a hacking campaign has compromised the VoIP systems of over 1000 companies across the globe. Their primary goal was using the system to dial premium numbers that they owned. On top of that, criminals were able to eavesdrop on private calls and use the business network to mine cryptocurrency. While researchers have identified the vulnerability that hackers used to exploit the system, law enforcement has not yet been able to identify the group or groups responsible.  While the benefits of VoIP are great, there is a real risk in using these systems to communicate

So what do you need to do to keep your business safe? First, identify what brand of VoIP system your company is using. These attacks were only possible on Sangoma and Asterisk systems. If you have one of these systems, we highly recommend that you identify whether the flaw has been patched, and patch it if it has not. If you have a VoIP phone system and are concerned about your business’s risk, contact us at info@optfinity.com to learn about how a managed services provider can protect your business from exploits like these.

By -- 2020-11-8 in Blog

Everyone is familiar with the uptick in email phishing scams that have come with the COVID-19 pandemic. Workers and employers alike are adapting their security practices to defend company and consumer data. However, cybercriminals are adapting too. One group is combining phone calls and custom phishing sites to corporate VPN credentials. This group acts on a ‘bounty’ system, where a person hires the group to attack a specific company. Worst of all? The attacks have been remarkably successful.

So what does this attack look like? First, the group receives a request to target a specific company. They then create a site that mimics that company’s VPN portal. Once the setup is finished, the group makes a series of phone calls to employees working from home. The callers inform the target that they are with the company’s IT department trying to troubleshoot VPN issues. They then try to coerce the target into revealing their log-in information over the phone or entering their credentials into the fake website. At that point, the phishers have access to the company’s internal information.

This combination of fake websites and fraudulent calls have been more effective than traditional email phishing attempts. Despite that, workers can take steps to prevent being caught up in this scheme. If you receive a call from someone you don’t recognize who is asking for sensitive information, take these steps before disclosing anything.

  1. Ask for the caller’s name.
  2. Hang up and call your company’s IT department or managed services provider—do not just redial the number that called you.
  3. When you reach your company’s tech support, explain that you received a call from someone claiming to be from their department. Once you explain what the caller was asking for, they can confirm whether the call was legitimate.

If the call was legitimate, no harm done! You can continue troubleshooting the issue with only a small delay. If not, you’ve saved yourself and your company a lot of trouble. If you’re concerned about your company’s vulnerability to these types of combination attacks, OptfinITy is here to help! You can email us at info@optfinITy.com or call us at (703) 790 – 0400 to discuss all your cybersecurity needs

By -- 2020-11-6 in Blog

When people think of spam emails, it’s usually phishing that comes to mind. These are the emails that make up your junk folder: a truly frightening combination of poor grammar, bad spelling, and vulgarity that makes you question how anyone can fall for a phishing attack. Spear-phishing has become the new way to create a spam email campaign. By targeting specific demographics and crafting believable ‘lure’ emails, cybercriminals can entice people to click untrustworthy links in their emails. In recent years, the group TA542 has been one of the most prolific criminal entities to use spear-phishing as their primary form of cybercrime, sending almost one million fraudulent messages a day.

Their latest attack was a campaign targeting supporters of the Democratic party in the United States. Their lure emails mimic the language on emails sent from Democratic activist groups like ActBlue, leading people to believe that the sender is trustworthy. Once they click on the link in the email, they unwittingly download TA524’s signature malware, a program called Emotet. This does anything from scanning your computer for personal information to downloading your banking credentials. TA542’s combination of realistic lure emails and sophisticated malware makes them a particularly dangerous group of cybercriminals. However, there are still steps you can and should take to protect your data!

Traditional advice about how to avoid phishing scams is not to open links from people or companies that you aren’t familiar with. However, spear-phishing emails mimic those trusted senders. Some ways to stay safe in this new environment is only to open links or documents that you are expecting to receive. When you receive a link in an email that is unfamiliar or unexpected, go to the sender’s website and navigate to the desired page from there. As cybercriminals become more advanced, having outside tech support becomes increasingly important—if someone from your company falls prey to a spear-phishing attack, having secure data backups and a plan for how to mitigate the damage caused by the malware is crucial. If you’re concerned about spear-phishing, reach out to us at info@optfinity.com to learn more.

By -- 2020-10-27 in Blog, Uncategorized

Work-from-home is the reality for so many of us during the coronavirus pandemic. Being out of the office has its challenges: interrupting kids, spotty internet, and endless miscommunications! However, online meetings have become the symbol of this new working environment, especially the virtual meeting app ‘Zoom’. Part of the app’s popularity was its security. Zoom increased its revenue over 300% during the pandemic, due in part to its security guarantees. That all changed when investigators discovered that the company had not been completely honest about their security protocols.

Zoom had always represented itself as having end-to-end encryption. This meant that no-one except meeting participants could access non-encrypted data on the meeting. It claimed to provide that encryption long as everyone accessed the call using their computers. Instead, users only had access to TLS, transport layer security. This meant that Zoom had access to unencrypted meeting data. The outrage prompted Zoom to release an updated version of their security that included true end-to-end encryption. So now that Zoom’s improved security has been released to the public, is it worth returning to the platform?

The good news is that now Zoom does seem to have full end-to-end encryption. The updated security option is available for everyone, a change from their initial plan to only offer it to paid users.  This makes Zoom one of only a few videoconferencing platforms to offer the service. However, the option does still have its drawbacks. For free users, the feature requires two-factor authentication to enable. Each user has enable the feature, meaning a meeting host cannot enforce the feature. The option is only available in meetings with under 200 members, an 80% reduction in capacity.

In the end, Zoom’s updated security policy makes it a great option for smaller, secure meetings. Individuals and small business owners will love the combination of convenience and security that the free option provides without being inconvenienced by the member limit. However, the removal of features and need for manual authentication from every member makes Zoom’s end-to-end encryption impractical for most large meetings. Cybersecurity has only become more important in the past few months, so making sure your meetings are safe is crucial. If you need help making sure that everything is protected, you can email us here or call us at (703) 790-0400.

By -- 2020-10-23 in Blog

The world’s largest software registry, NPM, removed three packages from their site on Thursday after discovering that they contained malicious code.  Each of the packages were ‘libraries’ for the coding language JavaScript.  A library is a collection of resources often used for software development. Because libraries can contain so many different types of data, they are a perfect place to hide malware.  These packages remained on the site for over a year before NPM, the hosting site, removed them.

So what makes this code so dangerous? When downloaded, they create a ‘shell’ on the user’s computer.  This ‘shell’ allows bad actors to connect remotely to the user’s device.  This means that the bad actors had complete access to the information stored on the computer. They could even download more malware to the device so that removing the package did not remove their access.  For this reason, NPM stated that any computer with these packages installed should be considered ‘fully compromised’.

If you downloaded these packages on your devices, you are at risk. You should take some steps to secure your information:

  • Think about wiping your computer.
  • Rotate any sensitive information from a different computer.
  • Remove the package from your computer.

Finally, this is a situation where you should consider seeking outside help.  If you want to keep the compromised device, an outside IT firm is a great resource to make sure that your information is secure.  Contact us here if you think that this may have affected your computer. You can also call us at (703) 790-0400.