Basic Cyber Security

On: September, 21st 2017 | Under: Office 365


Cyber security threats are continually evolving. Viruses, worms, trojan horses, spyware, phishing, adware and scareware have all been around for a long time. Lately, one particular form of malware known as ransomware has been creating havoc with businesses and organizations worldwide.

Ransomware when detonated works by locking up your files using encryption. You are then asked to pay a ransom to get the code that allows you to unlock your files. Lately, some cyber criminals don’t even add value to this “service” they offer. They just take your ransom and don’t give you the code.

Many customers we see during our daily work (and rescues) don’t even have the most basic cyber security measures in place. This article is intended for the non-technical amongst us to assist and educate about the need to protect computer users against these ever-evolving cyber threats.

Ransomware

In every case we have seen so far, the ransomware package has been physically detonated by a human using the endpoint. Ransomware mostly arrives in email as either an attachment or as a link to a malicious or compromised website. It can also be spread from software downloads, websites and advertising delivered over online ad networks.

What can you do?

Educating yourself and your employees are the #1 defense against cyber criminals.

  • Three years ago, in the olden days, we used to say don’t open an email or attachment from someone you don’t know. These days that rule still applies, however, we have seen cases of ransomware being “redistributed” to everybody in the victim’s email address book, so it’s not just people you don’t know that you can’t trust.
  • Think about that attachment or link you are about to open. Common sense applies. Were you really expecting an invoice from your mother? Were you really expecting that traffic ticket from the police? (Think – how did the Police ever get your email address?)
  • If in doubt about an email then phone the person up and ask if they just sent you that attachment. Better to be safe than sorry.

The most basic cyber security needed on your computers and network.

  • Every endpoint in your network (Cell-phones, Laptops, Desktops, Servers etc.) must have up to date and functional business grade Anti-Virus software.
  • Apply Operating System patches. Manufacturers like Apple, Microsoft and others regularly release patches and updates to fix vulnerabilities that have been discovered (mostly by cyber criminals) in their operating systems.
  • Apply application patches. Products like Office, Adobe, Chrome to name but a few, all have vulnerabilities and exploits. As these exploits get discovered patches are released by the manufacturers to remedy the situation.
  • Always use the latest version of the operating system available. Whilst Microsoft’s Windows 7 is still around and a good operating system, Windows 10 is inherently much more secure.
  • Restrict administrative privileges. Only log in as the administrator to perform administrative functions. Your regular login (and your employees) should only have standard user rights. Why? This makes it harder for malware to be installed, as installation usually requires administrative privileges.
  • Backup your data daily. This needs to be business grade and not to a shared drive on the network. Why? Most ransomware will spread to every “share” it can find – too bad if that is your backup. With regards to ransomware the phrase “Backup or Pay up” springs to mind.

Beyond basic – The next level of cyber security measures.

Once the basics are covered off, we can then talk topics like firewalls, VPS, cloud virus and spam pre-filtering of emails, changing settings in software, 2-factor authentication, and an application that detects and stops unauthorized encryption etc. These will give a much more comprehensive solution beyond basic, however “comprehensive” is probably beyond the scope of this document titled “Basic Cyber Security” and would make it rather long and too technical.

How can Computer Troubleshooters help?

  • Businesses without their own IT resource will often need assistance in implementing these basic cyber security measures. As an IT department for the small and medium-sized businesses, Computer Troubleshooters can be your IT resource.
  • We are able to deploy a management system to your computer(s) and network that keeps a track of your Anti-Virus, Patching, and Backups etc. This system reports to our service desk when things are going away.
  • We are able to assist with your staff training, with a presentation and booklets etc.

Technical Stuff/Further Reading

 

Australian Government – Australian Cyber Security Centre – Essential 8 Explained PDF Download

BackUp or Business Continuity

On: August, 27th 2017 | Under: Cloud, Data Recovery, Managed Services


The facts according to the Boston Computing Network’s Data Loss Statistics, are that 60% of companies that lose their data, will shut down within 6 months of the disaster. This is something that every business wants to avoid.

The following article provides a high-level understanding of how, as a business owner the question for you is one of Business Continuity of which Backup is a key component.

What is Business Continuity?

Business continuity involves a mindset of being proactive and putting plans, processes and systems in place, so that when the unexpected occurs you can return to normal operations with minimal delay thereby reducing the level of disruption and cost to your business.

The aim is to ensure that all essential functions can be up and running or be returned to operational status quickly during various unexpected events such as a natural disaster (Flood, Fire), cyberattacks, theft, or major IT system failure.

What is involved?

The key aspect is to develop a plan that then is well communicated and understood by your staff so they know what to do when the disaster occurs. Like all plans, if it is not communicated and shared then it’s not worth the paper that it is written on.

The process of writing the plan involves identifying the key risks, identifying the ways you can prevent those risks occurring for instance:

  • risk is data loss
  • prevention is designing and implementing a multilevel backup solution.

Then the last element of the plan is documenting the steps in responding and recovery if an incident occurs that does bring down your systems.

Businesses today are more reliant than ever on IT, one of the biggest threats these days being a cybersecurity breach. A fair portion of the plan will need to focus on recovery from an IT disaster.

The plan will need to be reviewed regularly as a business grows and circumstances change and the recovery processes should be thoroughly tested to ensure it will work.

What are your backup options?

There are many options available to businesses these days for backup. With today’s modern technologies and cloud storage services, a hybrid combination of traditional on-site backup plus off-site backup to the cloud, has become the popular choice amongst businesses wanting to ensure high levels of continuity.

The key questions in making a choice is determining the level of risk and the importance of the system and the data that is being backed up. Answering these questions will impact on the choice that you make. You can see I have not mentioned cost or price. One might ask Why? Well because you need to remember this is about having a solution that will minimise the cost of failure which will far outweigh the cost of the solution you choose.

If you are not certain about this statement ask somebody who has experienced the loss of data due to a failed system backup.

What are the traditional onsite backup options?

Onsite with machines all backing up either to tape or disc and then being stored onsite. Usually scheduled to occur daily, every couple of days, or weekly. The greatest weakness is that if something happens to the premises the backups can become corrupted and lost and an external service provider such as Kroll Ontrack may need to be used to try and recover the data.

To overcome the above weakness some business’s will transport the discs/ tapes to an offsite location where they are stored.

What is happening today?

The cost of online storage has reduced with the introduction of data centre services and the continued adoption of cloud storage services. Today most businesses will have a recovery strategy based around using cloud storage, with onsite backup devices that then replicate to a data centre.

The drivers behind this are many but one can put it down to speed of recovery, ability to quickly monitor and ensure backup has occurred, hence no unpleasant surprises if a data loss breach or cyberattack occurs.

 What next?      

The first step is to make sure you have a plan and an understanding of your options. This is where you should have a chat with your local computer troubleshooter to understand how they can help you to minimise the disruption to your business from a data loss/breach. Visit www.computertroubleshooters.com.au to locate your nearest provider.

Protecting a Business against Ransomware and Scams

On: July, 30th 2017 | Under: Office 365


Every day, every month there is a new threat to being able to conduct business effectively and efficiently. How do you protect a business from the threat of disruption whether it is a scam, virus, ransomware or simple network or internet failure?

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) eighth annual report on scam activity highlights the significant cost and growth in the disruption to business. The cost of hacking scams had a fourfold increase between 2015 and 2016. Reported at a cost to business of 2.9 million in 2016.  This highlights the significant risk of todays digital world to business.

Scams continue to become more sophisticated using modern technology to make fake emails, invoices, and websites appearing legitimate to even the most astute business person. These scams have devastating effects on businesses by eroding the investment they have made in their reputation, increasing operational costs and in certain cases crippling the business from operating.

 

 

This article looks at how a business can avoid becoming a victim of a scam by ensuring they have the right support and systems in place to minimise the risk of disruption.

Why does size matter?

Larger organisations have the resources, time and budgets to invest in ensuring they are not subject to an attack. As the headlines indicate even with this effort they are not always successful in defending themselves.  The reality is that as smaller organisations are hampered by the amount of money and resources they can spend on IT, means that these organisations are an easier target for the cyber criminals.  The cyber-criminal finds it easier to get in and often it takes longer to detect meaning more havoc created.

Smaller organisations are often a means to access and breach larger organisations. Why? Because the smaller organisation is often the weakest link (security wise) in a supply chain relationship thereby providing an entry point to the larger business partner.

What are the key elements to protect Business Continuity? 

One must ask if the IT environment something that can just be left alone or does it need to be looked after? The answer is obvious it needs to be managed and looked after, it needs somebody who is accountable and responsible for ensuring that the risk is minimised.

For smaller organisations this leads to either employing a resource or developing a relationship with an IT Service provider who is accountable. It makes sense to develop a relationship where the provider is on the front foot and is monitoring all key elements and maintaining an organisations systems in advance of something going wrong. This is commonsense as it is about protecting against a major disruption to a business.

The key components that need to be looked at are:

  • Data back-up/ Business continuity
  • Security of endpoints
  • Network configurations, performance and access
  • Email access and security
  • Software up to date
  • Patch management (ensuring your users are up to date on all updates to the operating system or the Anti-Virus software is the latest.)
  • Website performance and content filtering
  • Password management
  • Monitoring

 

The key element for a business owner is to understand how this approach shifts the nature of the relationship with your IT provider from being reactive to proactive. It means the IT provider is preventing breakdowns instead of reacting to a break down. This means a monthly fee for the maintenance rather than a call out figure. It means the provider is monitoring and using tools to remotely manage and perform maintenance activities.

 

What does this cost?

The key thing to remember this is an investment in ensuring a business is not disrupted. Some providers will charge per device; others will charge a monthly figure based on complexity of what they are managing; others will charge based on per user.

 

As a business owner understand what is included and what is not and what service agreement does the provider use. For instance, at Computer Troubleshooters we provide a 100% guarantee. To locate your local Computer Troubleshooter at www.computertroubleshooters.com.au

 

Final Thought

Change is hard to accept for anybody and in the case of IT management it is hard for people to see the monthly outlay as an investment in their future. But this is exactly what it is. It is a strategic investment that allows a business to minimize the risk of disruption and ensure it can continue to grow and develop.
Sources of information for this article:

Watchguard: The Cyber Crime Guide for small and midsize business

ACCC: targeting scams reporting of the ACCC scams activity 2016

Datto: WannaCry the ransomware Crisis explained

Stay Smart Online  Small business guide Protect your business in 5 minutes

Protecting a Business against Ransomware and Scams

On: July, 30th 2017 | Under: Office 365


Every day, every month there is a new threat to being able to conduct business effectively and efficiently. How do you protect a business from the threat of disruption whether it is a scam, virus, ransomware or simple network or internet failure?

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) eighth annual report on scam activity highlights the significant cost and growth in the disruption to business. The cost of hacking scams had a fourfold increase between 2015 and 2016. Reported at a cost to business of 2.9 million in 2016.  This highlights the significant risk of todays digital world to business.

Scams continue to become more sophisticated using modern technology to make fake emails, invoices, and websites appearing legitimate to even the most astute business person. These scams have devastating effects on businesses by eroding the investment they have made in their reputation, increasing operational costs and in certain cases crippling the business from operating.

 

 

This article looks at how a business can avoid becoming a victim of a scam by ensuring they have the right support and systems in place to minimise the risk of disruption.

Why does size matter?

Larger organisations have the resources, time and budgets to invest in ensuring they are not subject to an attack. As the headlines indicate even with this effort they are not always successful in defending themselves.  The reality is that as smaller organisations are hampered by the amount of money and resources they can spend on IT, means that these organisations are an easier target for the cyber criminals.  The cyber-criminal finds it easier to get in and often it takes longer to detect meaning more havoc created.

Smaller organisations are often a means to access and breach larger organisations. Why? Because the smaller organisation is often the weakest link (security wise) in a supply chain relationship thereby providing an entry point to the larger business partner.

What are the key elements to protect Business Continuity? 

One must ask if the IT environment something that can just be left alone or does it need to be looked after? The answer is obvious it needs to be managed and looked after, it needs somebody who is accountable and responsible for ensuring that the risk is minimised.

For smaller organisations this leads to either employing a resource or developing a relationship with an IT Service provider who is accountable. It makes sense to develop a relationship where the provider is on the front foot and is monitoring all key elements and maintaining an organisations systems in advance of something going wrong. This is commonsense as it is about protecting against a major disruption to a business.

The key components that need to be looked at are:

  • Data back-up/ Business continuity
  • Security of endpoints
  • Network configurations, performance and access
  • Email access and security
  • Software up to date
  • Patch management (ensuring your users are up to date on all updates to the operating system or the Anti-Virus software is the latest.)
  • Website performance and content filtering
  • Password management
  • Monitoring

 

The key element for a business owner is to understand how this approach shifts the nature of the relationship with your IT provider from being reactive to proactive. It means the IT provider is preventing breakdowns instead of reacting to a break down. This means a monthly fee for the maintenance rather than a call out figure. It means the provider is monitoring and using tools to remotely manage and perform maintenance activities.

 

What does this cost?

The key thing to remember this is an investment in ensuring a business is not disrupted. Some providers will charge per device; others will charge a monthly figure based on complexity of what they are managing; others will charge based on per user.

 

As a business owner understand what is included and what is not and what service agreement does the provider use. For instance, at Computer Troubleshooters we provide a 100% guarantee. To locate your local Computer Troubleshooter at www.computertroubleshooters.com.au

 

Final Thought

Change is hard to accept for anybody and in the case of IT management it is hard for people to see the monthly outlay as an investment in their future. But this is exactly what it is. It is a strategic investment that allows a business to minimize the risk of disruption and ensure it can continue to grow and develop.
Sources of information for this article:

Watchguard: The Cyber Crime Guide for small and midsize business

ACCC: targeting scams reporting of the ACCC scams activity 2016

Datto: WannaCry the ransomware Crisis explained

Stay Smart Online  Small business guide Protect your business in 5 minutes

Connectivity, Disruption, The Internet of Things, Small to Medium Business

On: June, 28th 2017 | Under: Office 365


The world is becoming more connected and the buzz word of the year is “The Internet of Things”. What does this really mean and will small to medium businesses be impacted? The short answer is YES, the harder question is How? Right now, there is no detailed answer but we do know the ‘Internet of Things” will change the way small to medium businesses do business as they use technology to innovate.

This article provides you with an overview of what is meant by the “Internet of Things’ and some of the challenges it creates and the impact on the relationship of the Small to Medium Business IT provider.

 

Internet of things defined?

The IT world is at its best with the use of jargon and having a language of its own that makes it hard for the ordinary person or the small to medium business owner. Let’s break down the mystique of the Internet of Things. (IoT)

Internet of things is defined as: the interconnection via the Internet of computing devices embedded in everyday objects, enabling them to send and receive data.

Consumers are experiencing the impact of this convergence in all technologies everyday e.g., Smart TV, Internet Fridges, Cameras, Motor vehicles, home security systems, Smart homes electricity, hearting etc. The continued adoption is driven by the benefits delivered to each consumer in the way it improves their daily life.

Is it any different for a small to medium business? The answer is no. Every single business will look at ways they can use the interconnection of computing devices to achieve improvements in their business.

 

What are the Business benefits for small to medium businesses?

Every business owner will look to 1) improve the top line by increasing revenue from existing customers or from finding new customers, 2) gain efficiencies and improvements in the way products/services are delivered. 3)Reduce costs by streamlining processes, and 4) being able to accelerate the time to market increased responsiveness.

This impacts the way the small to medium business owner thinks about IT and the relationship they have with their IT advisor/technician. No longer is it about a break/fix relationship but rather one that requires the advisor to understand what the game plan is for the business and then provide the strategic advice of how technology can be used and the final part is the buying of and the implementation of the actual technology solution.

A recent Telstra report “Digital transformation. Are you disrupted or disrupting” reported that “55% of all respondents are actively seeking to disrupt current or new market’s”

 

What are the challenges confronting us with the evolution of IoT?

Security: With an increase in the number of network connected devices serious security measures need to be taken to prevent data leakage. More devices increase the number of vulnerable points. This changes the face of security and requires a total management perspective to ensure you are minimising the risks of a security breach and loss of data. The other challenge that goes with this is simply the volume of data that is being collected. This raises the challenges of data recovery and Business disaster recovery strategies. Without the data, it becomes very difficult to do anything.

Connectivity: As more devices are connected this will impact the thinking around the underlying infrastructure requirements and will drive a move away from traditional centralised server/client paradigms to authenticate, authorize and connect different nodes in a network.

Extended Network Management: IoT creates a need to work with larger data capacity and manage more IP addresses this means more work for the IT support group and they need to be managing around the clock as a business cannot afford the network to be down. This changes the nature of IT from Break/fix to proactive monitoring.

Final Thought

IoT is an issue that the smart business owner is going to take notice of. Why? Because of the benefits it delivers in being able to run a successful business whether that’s moving to a new business model or disrupting an existing market, or using data more effectively to gain improvements and reduce costs.

Stay tuned as this evolves over the coming months and years.

 

Some interesting reading:

“Digital transformation Are you disrupted or disrupting” Telstra

“Asia Pacific Industrial IoT Cloud platforms 2016” Frost & Sullivan commissioned by Bosch

 

Making sense of Communication Solutions for Small business

On: May, 24th 2017 | Under: Office 365


In today’s connected business environment communication solutions are more critical than ever, yet deciding on what system, which technology, which provider is very difficult due to the variety and mix of solutions that are available. This article looks at assisting a business in navigating this very complex and difficult decision.

What is the starting point?

This is the easy part start with documenting what it is you require by analysing the business environment that you operate in. Sounds simple enough but it is often overlooked or not completed. This is where you will gain a clear picture of your requirement and your needs.

Some of the factors/questions that need to be looked at are: how does your business interact with customers? Do you have a dedicated team undertaking outbound activities, do you run a support centre? How big is the sales team? Is the sales team office based or mobile? How many calls will be active at any point in time? How many locations are employees located at? Do you have any compliance issues? What is the expected new numbers of employees next 12 months, 24 months? What level of integration is required across your systems and technologies? E.g. CRM System.

The above list is by no means exhaustive but it does start to provide a guideline for what is needed to consider in defining the requirement.

What are the key factors in evaluating a solution?

When evaluating a solution, the key criteria will cover Cost both initial investment and ongoing monthly recurring costs, Quality i.e. sound voice quality, including reliability of connection and speed, Ease of implementation i.e. level of training required, feature functionality, level of support provided and Adaptability being the ability to scale with expansion or contract if required.

Understanding your requirement by documenting it enables one to better identify the key criteria by which every solution can be rated and evaluated. This process enables an effective decision to be made.

Considerations

Cloud Based Phone System V Traditional Physical Phone systems

Cloud phone systems have been heralded as the future of business communications. A cloud based system is simply a service that delivers calls and PBX -style functionality over an internet connection (Voice over Internet protocol VOIP)

Traditional phone system is based around a copper landline that is serviced by a telephone company such as Telstra. Typical equipment required includes an on-premise PBX hardware that may need to be upgraded as your employee numbers grow past the capacity of the PBX hardware you have purchased.

Feature comparisons between Traditional and Cloud Based systems

Both traditional and Cloud based phone systems have extensive functionality that will meet many business needs. Some people consider that there is greater programming capability with a VOIP system and less capital investment is required with VOIP solutions.  My comment is that you need to ensure you have a solution that gives you the features you need now and in the next five years. You do not want to be changing phone solutions every 3 years. That is a very expensive exercise.

Speed of deployment/ Business Interruption

When assessing which system to purchase ensure that you have identified how much time is required to install and deploy the system as it is a key to minimizing the disruption to a business. Every minute a business is not available to conduct business the greater the impact on overall viability of the business.

Bandwidth/Internet Connection

A VOIP system requires a broadband connection and the more simultaneous users using the system means more bandwidth is required. Check to see if your Internet Service provider has a bandwidth cap in place and check the data usage regularly so you do not exceed the cap. Exceeding the cap is going to impact quality.

Final Thoughts

As a small to medium business you need to decide for your communication systems that is right for the business.  A Computer Troubleshooters Service provider can assist you at all stages of the process of implementing a phone communication system. This is from the initial selection to implementation and ongoing support.

While there are many positives in implementing a VOIP system remember no matter what solution you choose there is always positives and negatives the final decision should always be based around the objective criteria you have defined.

VOIP Phone Systems

Advantages                                                        Concerns

Sophisticated                                                       Provider response times

Easily set Up and configured                                   Extent of support

Cost                                                                    Dependence on provider

Easy to scale                                                        Educating staff in the system

Expansive Features                                              System Software upgrade disruptions

Comparable call quality to landlines                        Availability of Bandwidth

No investment in hardware PBX                             Reliability of provider network

Soft calls receiving calls via your desktop or laptop     Power outages

 

In conclusion, The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACME) reported in 2014 (Australian SME’s in the Digital Economy 5-6) “that cloud services continue to gain acceptance and popularity with small and midsized businesses.”

The move to VOIP Unified Communications will continue and your local Computer Troubleshooter is there to help you make the right decision.