Everything You Need to Know About the Dark Web

The Dark Web

The Dark Web

What Is the Dark Web and How Can You Stay Off It?

Ever heard of the dark web? It’s definitely not a place you want your company’s information to be. Learn everything you need to know about the dark web here.  

Most people have heard about the dark web in one form or another. It’s a place where criminal activity happens — from the purchase of illegal drugs to the hiring of assassins.

Of course, there is a legal side to the dark web as well; though, most people don’t know about. In fact, the origin story of the dark web is entirely legitimate and is even linked to the government.

Still, as a business owner or CEO, your relationship with the dark web (should you unfortunately have one) will not likely be good. It’s a bad sign if any of your information is found there. That’s why it’s important to know about what exactly the dark web is: Where it came from, what’s on it, and what you should do to stay as far away from it as possible.

What Is the Dark Web?

The dark web is essentially one “section” of the Internet. Specifically, it’s a section that isn’t included in mainstream search engines like Google. So, when you search a normal search inquiry, such as, “Where’s the best hamburger joint in downtown Pittsburgh?” you don’t get results from the dark web.

Instead, this section includes all sorts of illicit goings-on. Mostly, it’s a marketplace for things you shouldn’t be buying because they’re illegal to sell and/or buy. For instance, you can buy lifelong access to Netflix for a small price (six bucks). You can hire someone to hack into someone else’s computer for you and download their data or track their keystrokes. You can purchase credit card credentials. You can obtain prepaid debit card numbers and security codes.

How Does One Access the Dark Web?

We’ll reiterate again that the dark web is not a place you want to find yourself (or your information). However, for the sake of knowledge, we’ll explain that in order to access the dark web, you must download what’s called the Tor browser.

Tor stands for The Onion Router. This is basically the software that makes the dark web operate in the dark.

Where Did the Dark Web Originate?

The dark web began in the late 1990s as a way for the United States Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) to better hide their online communications. At this time, The Onion Router or Tor was brand-new.

Soon after its initial creation in 2004, the dark web’s Tor software was released for public use. Since that time, it has ceased to be solely a government resource and has turned into the “back alley” of the Internet.

How Can the Dark Web Affect Business Owners?

The dark web is a potential danger to all businesses of all sizes and in all industries. In fact, it can be a potential danger to individuals as well. But let’s talk about your business and the dark web.

Basically, it has been found that 60% of the web listings on the dark web could harm a business. That’s because, these listings offer individuals searching the dark web ways to obtain things like the following:

  • Customer data
  • Tips for hacking computers
  • Tips for hacking networks
  • Malware
  • Financial data
  • Phishing advice
  • Operational data
  • Intellectual trade secrets
  • Tutorials for cyber crime
  • Remote access Trojans (RATs)
  • Espionage services
  • Credentials access

How Can You Keep Your Business Safe From the Dark Web?

The best way to keep your business safe from the dark web is to have the proper cybersecurity measures in place. This means hiring a cybersecurity team or a managed service provider (MSP) to handle your company’s cybersecurity. Even if you’re a small business, hiring an MSP to have on retainer is a good idea.

They will make sure that you have firewalls and other detectors of malware in place for adequate security. It’s also essential to back up your data and to make everyone who works for or with your company aware of how to avoid phishing attempts.

Lastly, your cybersecurity team should be monitoring the dark web to make sure that none of your information lands there. This goes for personal information for you and your employees, as well as overall company information. Taking these measures is the only surefire way to ensure that your company does not end up on the wrong end of the dark web.

Clearing Up The Cloud – Have You Harnessed Its Strategic Advantages?

Cloud Services

Cloud Services

The cloud may still feel like a new technology – but in reality, it’s been around for more than 10 years now.

Does that make you feel old?

Let’s be clear about something – the cloud is here to stay. In recent years you may have still heard the occasional “industry insider” suggest that the world may be moving too quickly to an untested and unsure platform in cloud computing, but no more. The cloud is now an integral part of daily life for private consumer and business users alike.

What Is The Cloud?

The cloud is a network of technologies that allows access to computing resources, such as storage, processing power, and more. That’s where the data is – in these data centers all around the world. Which data center your data is in depends on what cloud service provider you’re working with.

The Cloud’s Many Layers

Public Cloud

Ideal for small businesses that may have trouble budgeting for any other type of cloud deployment, a public cloud is simple and cost-effective. Your data is stored in a “communal” data center, which, while not offering the best possible security or compliance guarantees, is often sufficient enough for organizations that aren’t required to maintain regulated compliance.

Private Cloud

A secure, dedicated environment to ensure maximum performance, security, and functionality for your business applications and employees. This is usually deployed for complaint-driven businesses such as healthcare and finance.

A Hybrid Cloud

This is like a dedicated cloud computing resource on Office 365 and Azure Stack with an extension to on-premise resources for maximum performance, control, security, and functionality. This is for businesses that require maximum control and scalability.

Instead of entrusting your legacy solutions to a public or private cloud, many businesses are opting for a hybrid cloud. They use a mix of on-premise, private and third-party public cloud services because this provides an infrastructure where one or many touchpoints exist between the environments.

Using a hybrid cloud gives you the freedom to choose which applications and resources you want to keep in the data center and which ones you want to store in the Cloud.

The Cloud Isn’t As New As You Might Think…

Would you say the cloud is “new”?

To some, this may seem like a question with an obvious answer, but it’s not that simple.

The way in which we think about technology can lead to something feeling new for a lot longer than would make sense otherwise.

After all, the cloud is more than a decade old, but a lot of people still think of it as a new technology.

For context, it was 2006 when Google and Amazon began using the term “cloud computing” – not necessarily the beginning of the cloud, but as good a point to choose as any.

In that year, the now woefully dated Crash won Best Picture at the Oscars. The Tesla Roadster was still two years from hitting the streets. Netflix was more than a year away from launching its now prolific streaming services.

Does that put it in perspective?

How Is The Cloud-Delivered?

SaaS (Software as a Service)

Software as a Service (SaaS) applications are being adopted at a much faster pace today than in the past. These are productivity applications like Microsoft Office 365, cloud-based practice management solutions, accounting programs, and more.

Your SaaS provider helps you identify and select line of business applications that will run well in the cloud. They can migrate your data and integrate it with software platforms in your current premise or cloud technology stack, or help you implement new ones.

PaaS (Platform as a Service)
This is whole cloth delivery of web applications that are based in the cloud, all via a comprehensive platform. The idea is that, in accessing this platform, you can utilize, develop and even deliver applications based on resources that you don’t need to maintain on-site.

IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service)
Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) delivers IT infrastructure on an outsourced basis and provides hardware, storage, servers, data center space, and software if needed. It’s used on-demand, rather than requiring you to purchase their own equipment. That means you don’t have to expend the capital to invest in new hardware.

Why Should You Use With The Cloud?
For the same reasons that thousands of other businesses around the world have already adopted cloud computing:

  • Computing Power: The cloud has the ability to activate tens of thousands of CPUs. This unparalleled power can quickly perform deep analytics of your data, and process nearly any ad-hoc queries that you require.
  • Reliable Costs: The cloud services subscription model offers the strategic advantage of low-cost, low-risk opt-in combined with a simple, predictable monthly fee.
  • Easy Scalability: Cloud services have the unique strategic characteristic of being able to stretch or shrink to suit your current level of demand. This is especially useful for businesses of scale or companies that go through seasons of activity.
  • Real-Time Collaboration: With cloud technology, your staff doesn’t have to wait for each other to be done with their part of the document or project in order to tackle their own aspect. They can all work on the same project at the same time to maximize productivity.
  • Remote Work Capability: This cloud feature allows you and your employees to work remotely as need be, which will give your business members the flexibility they desire to have a more balanced home/work life.

You Need To Keep An Eye On Your Cloud

As beneficial as the cloud can be, it’s important to note that it can also pose risks if it isn’t managed properly. It all comes down to the classic binary relationship between convenience and security.

The cloud gives you unparalleled access to your data from anywhere with an Internet connection. That means that external parties (including cybercriminals) can have undue access to your data as well if you don’t take the necessary steps to secure your environment.

That’s why you need to monitor your cloud. No matter who you entrust your data to, you should ensure that you or someone in your organization is given appropriate visibility over your cloud environment. That way, you can guarantee that security and compliance standards are being maintained.

If you don’t have the resources to manage this type of ongoing monitoring, then it would be wise to work with the right third party IT services company. Doing so will allow you to outsource the migration, management, and monitoring of your cloud. You’ll get the best of both world – security and convenience.

How to Know When to Outsource IT

Group of people discussing Outsourcing IT

Nearly every company must now rely on technology on a daily basis. For most companies, the role of technology will only grow in the future, making it even more important for all companies to have the tech support they need at all times. Depending on the situation, companies may hire employees to handle IT in-house, or they may outsource IT to a third-party provider.

Group of people discussing Outsourcing IT

The information below will help you determine whether it is time for your business to consider IT outsourcing.

Benefits of Outsourcing IT

Before you can decide whether outsourcing is right for you, you must first understand the reasons you might choose this path. Below are some of the potential benefits of outsourcing IT:

  • Fewer headaches – When you outsource IT, you no longer have to worry about maintenance, upgrades, repairs or any other technological problems.
  • Fewer expenses – Outsourcing IT is cost-effective, as you won’t have to pay for full-time employees to handle IT.
  • Scalability – Outsourced IT services can be scaled up or down to meet your needs as your company evolves.
  • No interruptions – When IT is outsourced, you won’t need to deal with downtime or other workflow interruptions related to IT issues.
  • Better use of in-house resources – Many businesses delegate IT responsibilities to existing employees when they can’t afford to hire full time IT personnel. With outsourcing, you will no longer need to split your employees’ focus in this way.

Downsides of Outsourcing

Although outsourcing IT offers several benefits, there are downsides as well. For example, you won’t have as much control over your operations as you would have if you kept IT in-house. In addition, if your provider is in a different time zone or has a heavy workload, communication can be problematic. Finally, if your business is small, outsourcing may be too expensive.

Should You Outsource?

Deciding whether to outsource IT to a third-party provider can be a challenge for any company, and there are many factors to consider. If you aren’t sure whether outsourcing IT is right for your company, simply compare your options and weigh the pros and cons. Remember to evaluate the potential for cost savings, as well as the impact on your day-to-day operations. It’s also a good idea to learn about the services available to you so you will know what you should expect if you choose to outsource.
If you decide to proceed with outsourcing, it is important to consider multiple providers before making a selection. Choosing the right IT provider can make all the difference in the success of your company. Remember that the cost of outsourced services is not the most important factor. Making sure that you are receiving reliable, high-quality services is essential. Interview each of the providers you are considering and ask them about the services they provide, the fees they charge and the customer support they offer. You should also read reviews from past customers to find out how others have felt about the services they received from the provider in question.

Small Business Owner? How to Choose Tech Support

Computer Engineer Helping Small Business Owner

Computer Engineer Helping Small Business Owner

Small Business Owner? How to Choose Tech Support

It is an unfortunate truth that many small businesses assume they don’t need to outsource their IT needs to a professional IT company.

This couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, small businesses desperately need IT support — often, because they won’t have the resources to staff an in-house IT department.

Fortunately, IT companies generally offer support contracts that can work in a small business’s favor. Your company will be able to choose the level of support you specifically need. If you only require IT services occasionally, for troubleshooting network problems or setting up new software, for example, you can choose a low-level contract that won’t cost much. If you’re looking for more comprehensive coverage, you can always scale up.

Here are some other important tips to consider when choosing tech support for your small business.

Consider what type of fee structure you prefer.

IT companies generally offer two different types of fee structures:

  • A flat fee due monthly, biannually, or annually
  • A pay-as-you-go structure

Every business is different, but it is possible (and maybe even likely) that your small business won’t benefit from a flat fee payment structure.

This is because you may not actually end up needing the extent of services that a flat fee structure is best for. Larger businesses, certainly, will need to contact and get help from their IT company regularly every week or month. In fact, these companies often have in-house IT. But If your small business only uses IT minimally (for example, just for your website or for inventory ordering, etc.), you won’t use enough of your support package, and paying the flat-rate fee will get expensive.

On the other hand, we must note that niche industries may require a lot of IT tech support — even if your business is small. If this is the case for you, a flat rate monthly or biannual fee could be beneficial.

Look for IT companies who’ve been in the industry a while.

Brand-new IT companies often nab customers by claiming to know the latest trends in IT and how to best handle the most recent wave of cyberattacks. While these are both areas to be concerned about, as a local business or one that’s just starting out, these benefits (if they are actually true in the first place) may not be particularly beneficial to you.

As a small business, you basically want reliable IT support for basic security monitoring, troubleshooting, and possible software or hardware recommendations and/or setups. For this reason, it’s important to search for an IT company that is local and has been in the industry for a long period of time. This means they have the experience, which is exactly what you want. Ask the IT companies you are considering to speak with clients they’ve worked with for a long time so that you can get a handle on the kind of support you’ll be receiving from them.

Find an IT company that can help you grow.

Most small businesses are looking for ways to grow. If this is the case for your business, you should start looking for an IT company who can scale up your services when you eventually need them.

We’ve already stated the importance of having several payment options when it comes to your service level needs. This also comes in handy as you look toward the future of your business. While now, you may prefer a pay-as-you-go structure, you should work with an IT company who offers bigger, broader, flat-rate packages too. The extent of their services should also run the gamut.

With this in mind, also remember that an enormous IT company who won’t be able to provide personalized support to your niche industry isn’t generally recommended. The potential for scalability down the line is key here.

While you may assume that larger businesses are the ones who need all the major tech support, small businesses require IT expertise as well. It’s true that your IT needs may not currently match that of a mid- or large-size enterprise, but investing in the hire of an IT company will surely boost your business’s success as you grow and expand.

Use the simple tips above to locate the optimal IT company for your small business. We’re positive you’ll see the benefits of a good hire right away.

What Are the Top Tips for Choosing the Best IT Company?

Two IT Company Professionals Working

Two IT Company Professionals Working

What Are the Top Tips for Choosing the Best IT Company?

Website outages, cybersecurity attacks, and any number of other IT incidents can cost your company hundreds or even thousands of dollars — every minute. For this reason alone, you need an outsourced IT company who is competent and highly qualified to handle your IT needs.

But how do you choose the best IT company?

Naturally, the IT needs of each individual business will vary. A medical practice will need IT assistance that specializes in privacy as well as cybersecurity because they’ll have a tremendous amount of sensitive data in their systems. On the other hand, your industry may require less focus on privacy and more focus on the particular type of software that you use.

Finding an IT company who specializes in your industry is the first step to locating optimal IT support.

Here are some other tips to keep in mind when choosing an IT support company for your business.

1. Look for experience.

As is always the case when you contract out services, you need to look for experience. It may be tempting to work with a brand-new, up and coming IT company in your area, but something as important as IT support warrants hiring a company who’s been in the business for at least a few years.

To establish that the IT companies you are considering have enough experience to get the job done right, ask to speak with their current or past clients. Also, ask for the list of credentials that their support staff possesses. These are the individuals you’ll be working with regularly, and you want to look for certifications and schooling in IT-related fields.

Lastly, make sure the experience that these companies have is related to your industry, specifically. We’ve already touched on this a bit, but it’s important to reiterate that it’s better to find an IT company who specializes in your industry than to find night one who claims they can “do it all.” Many IT companies specialize in healthcare IT, transport IT, or other specific industries, which means they know and understand these industries inside and out. That wants you want.

2. Choose a local company.

Some IT companies will claim they can take on your business from across the state or the nation. While this is possible, it’s unlikely you’ll get the level of quality service you actually deserve. It’s much better to go with a local IT company who you can work with directly.

In many situations, you’ll actually need IT support staff from your MSP (managed service provider) to come to your business for installations, troubleshooting, or network setups. This shouldn’t have to be a huge production. Having a local IT company available for quick service calls is a huge advantage.

3. Look for forward-thinking companies.

Not only do you want your IT company to focus on maintaining your current network and system structure, but you also want them to propel your business forward. Whether fast or slow, growing should be a primary concern for any business.

Some IT companies are more capable at scaling their services than others. Essentially, you want to find a company who will propel your business forward with their own IT ideas. They also need to have the employee-power and IT resources to scale your business up with ease and efficiency. As you expand, you don’t want to have to switch IT companies.

4. Make sure you can choose your level of service.

Again, needs vary where IT is concerned. You certainly do not want to pay for services you don’t need and won’t use. For this reason, look for an IT company who offers a range of service levels.

Most IT companies offer at least two or three levels of service. For example, they may offer an entry-level fee for simply monitoring your systems and alerting you as soon as possible if there’s a breach. If you require network setups, software installations, and other management services, you‘ll naturally want a higher level of service. Having options is the main concern here.

No matter what IT company you choose, it’s important to take your time, and do your research. Your IT company will be one of your business’s most important assets. Hire well, and you’ll reap the benefits of easier daily operations, higher returns on investment, and ultimately, more business opportunities.

Your MacOS Is Under Attack: 2019’s Biggest Malware Threats

MacOS and Malware

Your MacOS Is Under Attack: 2019’s Biggest Malware Threats

MacOS and Malware

The Mac operating system (MacOs) has frequently been hailed as one of the best systems for its resiliency to malware and typical viruses. But the days of MacOs standing strong and tall with no worries have really always been a misconception. Mac systems are just as vulnerable to the beefed-up, intelligent malware threats that are out there today.

SentinelOne published a lengthy review of the MacOs malware at the end of 2018, but in a new release, SentinelOne also stated that there has actually been an uptick in the numbers of new types out there attacking users. Here is a look at some of 2019’s biggest MacOs malware threats that every Mac-reliant business owner should know.

1. OSX.Siggen: A Malware Download from a Malicious Domain

Masquerading as a helpful app called WhatsApp, OSX.Siggen is actually a latched-on malware that slips in during a regular app download. WhatsApp is a fake social media platform, and the download looks super enticing when users come across it. However, once added to MacOs, the app runs with a backdoor designed to take administrative control over the system.

2. KeyStealDaemon: Password Hijacker

This dirty malware showed up in February of 2019, but by June it was still running strong. Apple allowed a patch several years ago designed for another purpose, but KeyStealDaemon can create administrative privileges for itself by slipping through. Unfortunately, this malware allows the person behind the scenes to get into the system and steal pretty much any password you have stored. The good news is, if you have properly updated your system, KeyStealDaemon can be booted out because it cannot break through.

3. CookieMiner Slips In and Steals Credentials

Toward the end of January 2019, a cryptominer showed up with its own installed backdoor to induce a threatening combination of technologies to steal cryptocurrency exchange cookies and passwords for Google Chrome. The worrisome thing about CookieMiner is this: experts believe that the malware could potentially have the rare ability to bypass things like authentication processes that involve multiple factors. If CookieMiner is capable of gathering enough cookies and credentials, cryptocurrency wallets can be virtually pickpocketed right in plain sight.

4. Mokes.B Puts On a Good Act

Persistence agents running amuck on your MacOs with familiar names may never be spotted, especially if they are calling themselves things like Firefox, Skype, or Chrome. This is precisely how Mokes.B avoids suspicion when it latches onto the operating system in application support folders and tracking files. Mokes.B is super-scary because it can gain the ability to take actual screenshots whole you are on pertinent screens, but it can also record keystrokes to steal date you are keying in.

5. A Variant of OSX.Pirrit Has Shown Up

OSX.Pirrit caused a lot of problems a few years ago, but this malware never really disappeared altogether. Instead, new family members under the old parent app are still being found on MacOs, and they are not being detected as they would otherwise be when acting as OSX.Pirrit. The aim of this malware is to make money from redirect actions that occur as a result of a browser infection, but there are rumors that PIRRIT is potentially capable of stealing data as well.

6. OSX.Dok Reroutes User Traffic

OSX.Dok gets into a system and installs a securely tucked-away Tor version location on a Mac system. User traffic hitting a site gets sent to an onion server instead of where it should be, which is a major problem for business owners needing to protect sensitive customer actions when they think they are on an e-commerce website. One of the scariest things about OSX.Dok is the fact that it can steal even SSL encrypted internet traffic maneuvers. Older versions of this software were thought to be banished, but new versions continually pop up.

Even though there are so many Mac users who think they are covered by some unseen immunity from malicious software, these risks are there and the growing list of 2019 proves that fact. Attackers deploying these software programs are targeting those easy-to-break barriers, so something like an improperly updated computer or even an unsuspecting employee can leave a business computer wide-open for an attack.

Microsoft’s Hyper-V Server 2019 Finally Released: Here’s What You Need to Know

hyper-v to amazon

Microsoft’s Hyper-V Server 2019 Finally Released

After being plagued with everything from data loss issues to a lack of available hardware, Microsoft finally released their long-awaited Hyper-V Server 2019 to their Evaluation Center approximately eight months after the expected release date of October 2, 2018. This is even after the Microsoft team skipped the crucial RTM (“release-to-manufacturing”) stage that allowed hardware developers to deploy and test adequately, forcing a holdup before organizations could even utilize the update. The mysterious delays of this free enterprise-class server virtualization solution may make users a little wary, but the functionality offered may simply be too tempting to overlook the release.

hyper-v to amazon

What Is Microsoft Hyper-V Server 2019?

Microsoft’s Hyper-V Server 2019 is a free product that is meant to compete directly with VMWare, providing enterprise-class virtualization for your datacenter and hybrid cloud, according to Microsoft’s Evaluation Center website. Essentially, you’re able to quickly scale and balance workloads to meet the demanding performance requirements of today’s data-heavy businesses. The release contains the Windows hypervisor technology as well as a simple and reliable virtualization component and a Windows Server driver model. The product is intended to help reduce costs and improve overall server utilization. You can easily compare Windows Server versions in this free online tool from Microsoft.

“We Found Some Issues with the Media”

Microsoft’s bland explanation of why they quickly pulled Windows Hyper-V Server 2019 from the Evaluation Center almost immediately included this note on their blog: “As we were getting ready to publish Microsoft Hyper-V Server 2019 in the Evaluation Center, we found some issues with the media. We are actively working on resolving it”. This was after the software giant released the Windows Server 2019 evaluation media, minus the Hyper-V Server portion of the package. While it’s fortunate that Microsoft immediately discovered these issues before the software was widely implemented, there were still some critical features that users had been anxiously awaiting for many months. It appears there were some issues with Remote Desktop Protocol and media installation problems, too.

While it seems that all of the glitches have been safely ironed from Microsoft’s latest release, wary users may want to give the platform a few months before launching into full utilization. After more than seven months of delays, Microsoft has left fans wondering if they’re preparing to phase out the popular — and free — tool in the future.

How Does Windows 10 Improve Security and Data Protection?

Windows 10 Data Protection

Windows 10 Data Protection

Windows 10 comes a step closer to preventing cyberattacks and privacy threats facing users. It’s a next-generation solution that helps you fight threats from hackers and criminals who target your business. This is a big plus for cybersecurity managers. The past several years have brought some of the worst and most frequent cyberattacks in history. Security professionals are constantly on the lookout for new ways to prevent network breaches and safeguard the data of clients and the enterprise. Let’s take a closer look at how Windows 10 can help.

What Are the Security Advantages of Window 10?

Microsoft introduces Windows as a service in this version of their OS. It includes a unique way of creating, implementing and maintaining Windows. Each update adds new features to protect the security and privacy of users. The idea is that protection is layered into the functionality so that it doesn’t affect performance or distract users.

Windows; Core Services Engineering and Operations is thus better able to protect data and privacy. Built-in features identify suspicious activity that can put your business in jeopardy. This helps your security team detect and block sophisticated attacks faster. Releases focus on adding new features that combat new or anticipated risks. This is all possible thanks to the software giant’s finger on the pulse of the latest ransomware and malware hitting around the globe.

Windows 10 is considered to be the most secure version yet released. Because Microsoft has addressed cyberattacks during the engineering phase, improved security itself becomes a major bulwark, protecting your system from files and executables sent by hackers.

How Does Windows 10 Protect Your Data Better?

Here are some of the ways that Windows 10 improves its protection, including the new tools that can detect threats:

  • Windows 10 disrupts malware and thwarts hackers by changing the playing field. Bad actors can’t attack systems in the same old ways.
  • Device Guard acts as a shield against malware by allowing you to block unwanted apps. This gives users a proactive way to prevent ransomware and malware attacks as well as spyware.
  • Windows Defender uses machine learning, the cloud and behavior analysis to respond to new threats. This is like having a smart guard dog that not only prevents intruders from entering but smells them coming a mile away.
  • Microsoft Edge systemically disrupts malware, phishing and hacking attacks so that fewer threats make it through the system to trick users.
  • Windows 10 has aggressive data protection that meets compliance requirements without slowing down users, who expect the same solid performance Windows has always offered.
  • Windows Information Protection contains business data so it cannot be leaked to unauthorized users via apps, docs and the web.
  • BitLocker helps your security team protect sensitive data from prying eyes. Military-grade encryption takes over when a device is lost, stolen or otherwise compromised.
  • Azure Information Protection partners with Windows Information Protection to assign permissions that govern how certain data is shared.

What Ways Does Windows 10 Protect User Identify?

Windows 10 has built-in identity and access management protocols. This advanced technology safeguards user identities. For example, Windows Hello presents an alternative to passwords. It uses many factors to achieve solid security, such as a PIN, biometrics and a companion device.

Credential Guard uses NTLM-based authentication protocols, while Windows pass the hash (PtH) method authenticates without displaying the user’s text when a password is being entered. There’s also a hardware-based component that also limits access.

What Does This Additional Protection Mean for Security Teams?

While 57% of organizations offer training and incentives to security recruits, it’s hard to keep these resources for very long. This is due mainly to the high demand for qualified candidates. With additional protection built into applications themselves, busy cybersecurity teams can concentrate on other crucial tasks to protect the company’s data and reputation.

Which Office 365 Plan Works Best for Your Organization?

Microsoft Office 365 Plans

Microsoft Office products have become ubiquitous throughout a range of industries, and there are more choices than ever before to find the suite of professional office software tools you need to run your business effectively.

While you can still find Office products available for a single licensing fee (Office 2019, for example), most businesses are turning to Office 365 as a subscription software solution that offers a range of powerful tools, including cloud storage and seamless sharing integration across devices.

Microsoft Office 365 Plans

But if you’re ready to move forward with a subscription-based Office 365 solution, you’ve still got to narrow it down for the right product. Will your business benefit from the Business or Enterprise option? If you choose Enterprise, which level makes the most sense for your organization? Read on for a breakdown on how to choose the best Office 365 product for your team [OPTIONAL CTA] and feel free to reach out to us at any time for support or guidance in making the transition to Office 365.

Choosing Between Office 2019 and Office 365

The key distinction between Office 2019 and Office 365 is connectivity. Office 2019 is different in the way you purchase and use it, but more importantly, it does not offer any of the cloud-connected features of Office 365. For businesses wishing to utilize the power of cloud storage as well as greater choice in terms of features and connectivity, the subscription-based Office 365 is the way to go.

Business vs. Enterprise

If you operate a small business, you can find several Office 365 Business options that provide licenses at a set rate per user for up to 300 users. Select either basic plans that focus on cloud storage solutions to more advanced options that also include desktop access to products like Microsoft Word and Excel, as well as cloud collaboration system, SharePoint. Opting for Office 365 Business is a good move if you’re keeping an eye on your budget, but still want to access many of the staple features that Office has developed over several decades. To take full advantage of the cloud tools, larger businesses will want to opt for Office 365 Enterprise options, which offer unlimited data storage, including archive and mail storage. Enterprise plans also allow for greater interaction and collaboration across platforms like SharePoint, which is another bonus for larger companies with employees in multiple sites.

Which Enterprise Level is Right for Your Business?

If you run a larger business, or have a small business with high data storage needs, then choosing Office 365 Enterprise is probably the right choice. Microsoft currently offers 3 levels of service: E1, E3 and E5.

The first level, E1, offers basic office tools, including Word, Excel, and SharePoint, at a reasonable monthly rate. E3 includes these tools as well as additional connectivity–and the protection to go with it. Data loss prevention and encryption are among several tools that Office 365 customers at the E3 level will be able to take advantage of. To consolidate your entire suite of digital solutions into one overarching tool, the E5 level of Office 365 Enterprise includes advanced protection for your company’s data, plus communication tools and video conferencing platform options to best accommodate larger business and keep them in compliance.

As you find the right next move for your organization, feel free to reach out to {company} today to assess your needs and the potential solutions that today’s Office products can provide.

Ransomware’s Cruel Greed: Proven Security Protects Your Business

Ransomware

Ransomware

Cybercriminals lock victims out of computer and network files – sometimes destroying data – and extort cash to get that data back. That’s a ransomware attack, costing businesses billions worldwide.

Ransomware can spread by the simplest of user actions. Email phishing, or Business Email Compromise (BEC) – fraudulent and deceptive emails posing as legitimate messages – is perhaps the most common propagation method. Social media clickbait, particularly using fake accounts masquerading as friends or colleagues, is common also. Simply visiting an infected website can corrupt your system, even if the user doesn’t click anything on the web page.

How common is ransomware? There’s bad news and good news. The bad news: attacks are extremely common, with thousands of organizations being probed every day. The good news: savvy IT professionals are fending off attacks, so infections are still comparatively rare. However, attacks are on the rise and cybercriminals are growing more sophisticated.

Ransomware attacks are hitting businesses of all sizes, from a few employees to enterprise corporations. Individuals get infected also, especially those without good antivirus protection. Government agencies and health care organizations have become prime targets.

Data Loss and Financial Risk

Ransomware encrypts computer files and network drives, then demands a ransom in exchange for a decryption key. Most victims end up paying the ransom. Ransomware can be difficult, if not impossible, to crack, and paying the ransom can be the only way to get data back.

Costs of recovery can be enormous. The ransom itself can run from thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars, even approaching $1 million dollars. The real cost of recovery runs easily into the millions. FedEx reported losses of more than $300 million before operations were fully restored. The total cost to US business is estimated at $75 billion or more per year, with downtime costing around $8,500 per hour.

Cybercriminals typically demand payment in Bitcoin. Cryptocurrency affords substantial anonymity, making it nearly impossible to track perpetrators. Even if they could be identified, cybercriminals often work over international borders. Jurisdiction issues makes prosecution almost impossible.

Preventing Ransomware

Ransomware protection is a complex endeavor involving technology, education and best practices. You need the right tools – the right information – and the right business processes.

Key steps to protect your data include:

  • Maintain up-to-date antivirus/malware protection, especially on email. Do your research for best programs, including buyer reviews on popular online retail sites.
  • Perform regular external backups, and quarantine them from your network as soon as they’re completed. Keep archival history as much as possible.
  • Train employees. Malware is most often spread by human behavior, e.g. clicking an email phishing link or social media clickbait. Proper training can minimize risk by educating staff about the risk of suspicious links.
  • Maintain strong firewall protection to minimize the risk of a single infected machine spreading malware into your network.
  • Keep all enterprise software updated with the latest releases and patches. Software firms are constantly improving security, and outdated software is riskier.
  • Administer IT user permission security so employees have access only to the software and functionality required for their job roles.
  • Disable macro scripts on files shared via email – an important component of training.

Along with preventative measures, create a contingency plan. If you are hit with ransomware, you’ll be better prepared to cope if you have plans in place to continue operations and speed up recovery.

Setting up a cryptocurrency wallet should be part of the contingency plan. If your business is hit – and you decide to pay the ransom – you’ll be able to pay much sooner if you already have this in place.

See these resources for more detail on what you can do to protect your business.

What to Do If Infected

More than half of targets don’t report ransomware attacks, according to FBI estimates. This is likely driven by concerns over bad publicity. Financial and business process recovery is bad enough without adding in a PR nightmare.

However, it’s critical to notify the FBI if your systems are infected. The FBI is the lead federal agency for cybercrime. Their investigative and technology capabilities are state-of-the-art, and no one is better equipped to help you understand your options and recover your data.

The FBI suggests that you do not pay the ransom. The decision is up to your company leadership, and it’s true that most victims do pay. In many cases, the cost of paying the ransom is far less than the potential losses from operational downtime.

Ransomware removal often involves wiping systems clean and restoring uninfected files from backups. It’s a delicate business best left to a professional cybersecurity company.

It Can Happen to Your Business

Ransomware and cybercrime are on the rise. Costs to businesses are going up.

Education and preparation are the best defenses against cybercrime. Responsible management needs to be proactive. Threats are real, cybercriminals are serious, and today’s IT professionals are armed with the tools and the knowledge to keep their companies safe.