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.
- Ask for the caller’s name.
- Hang up and call your company’s IT department or managed services provider—do not just redial the number that called you.
- 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
“Why can’t I be the admin of my own computer?”
It’s a question that everyone who works in IT dreads being asked. Admin privileges are a useful thing to have, after all. They’re required for major system changes to a device, which can cover everything from editing files to downloading software. It can get incredibly frustrating to have to call up your IT provider just to have them type in a passcode. When your role requires regular software downloads, it makes sense to want to ‘cut out the middle man’ so to speak. After all, what’s the worst that can happen?
Principle of Least Privilege
No two IT providers are exactly the same–we’re all special little snowflakes like that. However, like snowflakes, that’s almost impossible to tell when you aren’t an expert (and even then, you have to get really close). Many of the basic principles of IT and cybersecurity are shared among various providers. One of those principles is that of least privilege. Essentially, least privilege is the idea that each user should have the least amount of privilege necessary to get their job done. Some end users may require admin-level privileges to complete their work, but the vast majority do not.
The goal of the principle of least privilege is to limit the damage that any one account can do to a system. That damage could be the fault of the end user, like if they deleted an important file or downloaded malware to the device. In many cases, the end user is not at fault, and their account was compromised by a threat actor. Whatever the scenario, it’s one that could have been limited or even prevented by the principle of least privilege.
For each additional admin account on a device, that device’s exposure to threats increases dramatically. When that device is used for work, additional admin accounts raise the business’s exposure to threats as well. An admin account allows a threat actor to make major changes to a device that can damage an entire organization before being contained-if they are contained at all.
In short, is the principle of least privilege annoying? Yes. Is it much less annoying than a full-blown security failure? Definitely.
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!
In late 2020, the technology world was shaken by a massive attack involving SolarWinds, the creator of a popular networking software with over three hundred thousand customers worldwide, including 412 of the companies that make up the Fortune 500. Initially, onlookers believed that the attack was directed at the massive software corporation and their high-profile clients because of malicious code found in SolarWinds networking software and a large initial degree of overlap between SolarWinds clientele and victims of the hack.
However, recent information has revealed that over a third of known victims had no connection to the software company whatsoever, implying that there were multiple, as-of yet unknown, vectors of attack. Even larger government bodies such as the National Telecommunications and Information Administration and the Treasury Department reported that the hackers had limited success in breaching secure data, such as internal government emails. The full scope of what data was compromised, as well as who launched the attack and how it was initialized, is still unknown.
These types of far-reaching cyberattacks can feel like the stuff of nightmares for everyone involved. Private citizens may have had sensitive data leaked to malicious third-party actors, the affected corporations lost money and consumer trust, and the full extent of the damage done to United States domestic security is still unknown. SolarWinds is still currently investigating the root cause of the attack, and allegedly is pointing to Microsoft’s cloud as the potential first attack vector. Federal law enforcement and Microsoft itself have not yet commented on this possibility.
At this point in early 2021, there’s still a lot we do not know about what was once called the SolarWinds attack. Everything from a list of affected entities to possible motivations for the hack are still unknown. In the meantime, all everyone else can do is maintain their cybersecurity standards and keep an eye on the news. If your company is looking for help designing a cybersecurity plan, reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org–we’re always happy to help.
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.
- Regularly remind your employees about your business’s security protocols and cybersecurity best practices.
- Keep personal and work devices separate. Opening personal email or going shopping on a work device exposes a business to increased attacks.
- 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.
What does a cyberattack look like? There’s no specific technique, target, or goal to unite them. They can be part of an anti-terrorism campaign, like the United States’ Stuxnet attack on Iranian nuclear refineries. They can be motivated by financial gain, like the recent trend of ransomware attacks that demand payment in Bitcoin before unlocking the target’s data. Some attacks are simply done for hacker clout, like the spade of DDoS attacks done in the 90s and early 00s. As time goes on, new cyberattack strategies are emerging that may define the rest of the decade.
In 2020, observers noticed an uptick in attacks that focused on securing and/or releasing corporate data. Attacks that resulted in a data ‘leakage” increased over the past year, and 2021 has continued that trend through January. On the first day of the year, over nine thousand data leakages occurred, a larger single day number than any day from 2020. With 2020 already representing a 93% increase in leakages over 2019, any continuation of the trend is threatening. Without a strong response to this trend from the public and private sector actors who work with confidential consumer data, it is likely to continue its astronomic growth.
So what are some of the steps that possible targets of these attacks can take to minimize their risk?
- identify what sensitive data your company holds and where it is stored
- periodically review whether the sensitive data your company holds can be deleted
- monitor user activity as it relates to sensitive data and limit non-essential access
In the case that prevention fails, and your business is affected by a possible data leakage attack, time is essential. Creating a strategy for security response teams prior to an attack is crucial to properly identifying the attack, quarantining the data, and limiting the scope of the leakage. If you or your company are looking for assistance in creating that plan, reach out to us at email@example.com.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org to learn about how a managed services provider can protect your business from exploits like these.
The coronavirus has changed how we work dramatically. With new methods of communication, new threats, and less time in the office, some businesses have discovered that remote work is making them more productive. Many remote workers are reporting higher levels of job satisfaction and even improved mental health after gaining more control over their workday. However, not all work is equally suited to this new normal. Some businesses that regularly process confidential information are struggling with how to adapt their in-office privacy standards for home work.
A recent study conducted by Go Shred found that almost two-thirds of home workers admitted to printing out office documents on their home printer. While some of these materials were not sensitive, others admitted to printing documents that contained confidential client and employee data, ranging from home addresses to personal medical information. The problems, however, don’t end at the printer. Disposal methods are also shoddy for many home workers. 24% of those surveyed who had printed confidential information had not disposed of those materials at the time of the survey. Of the 76% who had destroyed the documents, roughly 20% used their home shredder and municipal trash removal to do so–another privacy failure.
It’s understandable why this occurs: convenience is king at the home office. That doesn’t excuse the practice, which significantly increases business liability and consumer risk. Remote workers need a defined procedure that they can follow, and consequences for failure. Decision-makers who need to navigate COVID safety protocols and confidentiality best practices to design those guidelines will be the ones who control how secure their data really is. Maximizing worker safety, data privacy, and ease-of-use will all be crucial components of that process–but creating guidelines to regulate that behavior is the only way we can solve the issue of confidentiality. Until we’re back in the office, that is!
If you’re interested in learning more about data privacy, check out this article summarizing Go Shred’s findings. If you’re interested in working to develop a comprehensive compliance plan for your company, or if you’re just looking for everyday IT solutions, you can reach out to us via email at email@example.com, or call us at (703) 790-0400.
As a leading managed server in the Mid-Atlantic region, we are pleased to announce today that the Mount Vernon-Lee Chamber of Commerce has named OptfinITy as its Best Mid-Sized Business of 2020. This award recognizes exemplary local businesses who best embody the values of the Chamber.
In today’s new and often uncertain business environment, OptfinITy plays an important role in helping companies adopt the technologies they need to stay afloat without straining shrinking budgets. OptfinITy combines efficiency with cost-effectiveness to better serve their clientele, allowing small businesses to make the most of their investments into IT and digital security.
The list of all Mount Vernon-Lee Chamber of Commerce honorees is featured online at https://mountvernonleechamber.org/business-awards/.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.