Posts Under Tag: IT Security

Strengthening the Weakest Link – The Ultimate Spear Phishing Defense

Not convinced your employees need the training?

Late in 2012 Trend Micro reported that 91% of targeted online attacks involved spear phishing, making this the most favored type of APT (Advanced Persistent Threat) attack. When spear phishing, attackers make use of information about prospective victims to increase their credibility, and the likelihood that recipients will “bite” (click a URL) in an e-mail or social media post. That’s why spear phishing attacks yield a 70% open rate because people extend trust to the putative source, if not to the actual attacker. Because of the portability and ease of spear phishing, its popularity will only continue to grow. Traditional methods don’t stop spear phishing because individual employees and customers open the doors to attackers. In these circumstances, the employee/victim becomes the weak link in IT security.

Today’s employees need next-generation security awareness training on a regular basis to keep them informed and your network protected.

“A staggering 91 percent of targeted attacks begin with a spear phishing email”



Spear phishing is a CSO’s worst nightmare because it is the most di cult attack to protect against. The use of targeted social engineering, practically undetectable malware and zero-day exploits are just some of the reasons why this is so. Clever hackers use legitimate-looking emails from organizations like the IRS, local banks, or Internet portals, targeted directly at CEO’s and other executives and employees.

One such incident occurred in 2012 when business executives received personalized emails informing them that their company was under investigation for criminal fraud. The email looked like a legitimate email from the IRS, and the link in that email directed the recipient to a website that looked exactly like an IRS webpage. But when the target clicked on a link, a Trojan was loaded into their computer which would steal everything interactive in the person’s email account before it could be securely encrypted. The result of such attacks is that customers are 42% less likely to do business with a company that has fallen victim to spear phishing and a resulting data breach. Even worse, phishing costs brands and corporations more than 98 billion dollars a year.

A Sorry Security Situation

CSOs are responsible for a company’s entire security. As such they oversee network security and are the first person everyone turns to whenever there is a breach. People expect CSOs to protect the company and prevent such breaches, but spear phishing makes even a CSO more likely to be blindsided. Once a breach occurs it is up to CSOs to act quickly and protect the company before any damage is done. Hackers count on this and act quickly to get every ounce of information they can before a breach is closed. Those who don’t understand how spear phishing works may blame the CSO or the security software in use. However, even the best CSO and best security software on the planet can’t stop an intelligent and motivated hacker.

If CSOs are to do their jobs well, then not only must they have the best security hardware and software, they also need the support of well-educated staff, and the ability to test their staff and find any weak links in need of strengthening. With all possible ‘defense-in-depth’ components properly in place, an organization becomes a very hard target, causing hackers to move on to pursue easier game.

The Missing Link

Several missing components can prevent employees from unwittingly opening the door to hackers:

How do you make sure your employees are getting the best education?

How do you make sure after your employees are educated that they don’t make security mistakes anyway?

If you could find out if they might be vulnerable to spear phishing, how can you enlighten them?

If existing methods for educating employees were effective, then spear phishing wouldn’t remain problematic for so many companies. Thus, it is obvious that a different approach is called for.

Hackers aren’t just looking to get at a company’s financial records and information. They are also after source code and intellectual property. In fact, they are literally trying to steal the future of your company. Years of work in your R & D department could end up in the hands of a Chinese competitor thanks to a single click of a mouse from an untrained employee.

Spearphishing has become so endemic in corporate and government networks that there is a joint government operation in effect to counteract it. Per the FBI: “Instead of casting out thousands of e-mails randomly hoping a few victims will bite, spear phishers target select groups of people with something in common—they work at the same company, bank at the same financial institution, attend the same college, [or] order merchandise from the same website. The e-mails are ostensibly sent from organizations or individuals the potential victims would normally get e-mails from, making them even more deceptive…

Law enforcement takes this kind of crime seriously, and we in the FBI work cyber investigations with our partners, including the U.S. Secret Service and investigative agencies within the Department of Defense.”

During a recent Microsoft TechEd conference, held in June 2012, Proofpoint surveyed 339 IT professionals about their concerns regarding targeted phishing attacks and enterprise data loss risks. Half of all respondents (51%) believed that their organization were targeted by a phishing email in the past year designed specially to compromise their users.

Dramatic examples of recent spear phishing attacks include:

The White House – China-based hackers breached a network used by the White House Military Office. According to their website, this office provides military support for White House functions, including food service, presidential transportation, medical support and hospitality services. There is no clear report on what the hackers were trying to access. An Obama administration national security official simply said: “This was a spearphishing attack against an unclassified network.”

Google, Inc. – A US official says that the same group that attacked the White House also broke into Google. Among those targeted were people who work at the White House. It is presumed that they were hoping these people would discuss secure information or conduct administrative business using their personal Gmail accounts.

South Carolina Department of Revenue – According to an official report, “A malicious email was sent to multiple Department of Revenue employees. At least one Department of Revenue user clicked on the embedded link, unwittingly executed malware, and became compromised. The malware likely stole the user’s username and password.” These attackers then gained access to “millions of Social Security numbers, bank account information and thousands of credit and debit card numbers” SearchSecurity’s coverage notes that, “In addition to the 3.8 million people whose data were exposed, the breach included information on 1.9 million dependents. It also included data on 699,900 businesses. Information on 3.3 million bank accounts were also stolen.”

The New York Times – The same China-based hackers who have wreaked havoc on the White House, Google, and others have been named as the responsible parties for this breach, too. In this particular case, the newspaper blames Symantec’s antivirus software for not foiling a malware installation.

Attacks against Google, Adobe and at least a dozen other advanced persistent threats (APT) that have been publicly documented have been initiated at least in part through targeted spear phishing emails. By itself, software alone is not a completely effective defense.

SC Magazine reports:

“Researchers have noted an increase in spear phishing targeting numerous industries, primarily in the United States, where malware evades detection by hiding inside Windows help (HLP) files attached to emails. The HLP files are embedded in attachments that appear to users to be ZIP files. Once the ZIP files are opened, however, one of several backdoors will be downloaded, allowing an attacker to carry out a range of feats – from changing users’ passwords to logging keystrokes to capturing screenshots or a number of other information-stealing tactics sent from the command-and-control server.”

Strengthening the Weakest Link

There is an important conclusion to be drawn from all this recent news. Security products continue to become more advanced and sophisticated, and that will certainly help. But to cope with the current situation and future attacks, end-users must be educated and informed. The more knowledge they possess, and the better informed those users are about attacks, the less likely they are to fall prey to scammers, online or off.

We are also starting to see an increase of social engineering over the phone. Hapless users are being called on behalf of ‘Microsoft’ or well-known security software companies and directed to allow access to their computers. Educated end-users do not fall prey to such scams.

But how do you train jaded users? Users who think they know everything. Users who have heard it all and are more sophisticated than average users. It’s not good enough that the trainer is a highly regarded security expert. You need that training to come from someone who understands hacker culture and how hackers think.

Contact us to learn how you can protect yourself from these types of phishing scams. Call 920-885-0141.

Help! My IT Guy Quit

Backup Plans In Case Your IT Guy Quits

Every business whether a small or big requires an IT staff to provide knowledge and expertise to ensure that all the operations run smoothly. If you only have one or two individuals in your office who can make tools work, problems can arise at an unexpected time, and this could even get worse if the guy quits. It is never a simple task to hire another IT guy since your new guy has to obtain information about your previous staff to do the job effectively. There are many things you have to put in place to ensure that you are safe in case the employee decides to quit.

Check if you have a game plan. You will be stunned by just how much knowledge your IT staffs have in their head, and when they decide to walk out the door, they walk with all the knowledge, and you will be left desperate if you want your business to keep running. Some of the things you should ensure to have for backup include;

It is safe if you are aware of the type of software licenses you have bought and the period they cover. Also, you should have authentication keys in case you wish to reinstall the software. Ensure that all the hardware is guaranteed and that you have the warranty in the event of a breakdown. Another essential document to have is the records of the contracts you ever had with the cloud service vendors. Such records can save you big time in case you are in a crisis.
Backups and Network Restoration

You should be aware of the kind of system that your IT expert is applying to back up your data and know how often it is backed up. Ensure to have all the necessary passwords and usernames, and it is advisable to learn more about IT such that if the network goes down unexpectedly, you know all the necessary steps you need to follow to bring it up again. Also, make sure you have a disaster recovery plan.


Security is a very critical aspect of every business, and it would be a disaster if your IT guy quits and you are not aware of what should be done to deny them access to your system after they are gone. This will pose a threat to your business since you just cannot trust everyone and assume that it will be okay if a former employee is out there with all your company’s information including the deep secrets. You do not know what they can do especially if they left when you were not in good terms. Ensure to protect yourself.
Know about your current projects

Ensure that you know everything that is going on with your network. Do a follow up on the progress and everything that needs to be done soon. You should know when you need to install new Internet access tools otherwise, you will be caught off guard. You should have a list of the things that need to be done and the current progression and make sure that the list has all the information you need in case of reference or consultation like the date when it should be done, and the contact information of the involved personnel. This will help you stay prepared even with the absence of your IT staff.

Support system

Most IT guys are likely to use the support ticketing system to collect data required to solve network problems. In such cases, if there is one in your firm, make sure you know the ticket system’s details like the login password and username. Also, make sure to research as much about it as possible like how to log in and how they function and stored. The tools are your gateway to solving any future IT breakdown since they show you both the issue and the solution. It is good if you have all the information needed about them to avoid stress when your IT staff is no longer there for you.

Ensure you have contacts of people you can look up to

You will be safe if you have information about a person you can call for help in an emergency. These are third party vendors that you are confident they will not let you down whenever you need them. Make sure you have information about the service contract for every vendor like when the contract expires and the terms and condition of the contract including the payment terms. The information is crucial since if you are aware of the expiry date, then you know when it needs to be renewed and the payment helps you to decide which vendor is more suitable. Third party vendors are of great importance since you will always know you are covered with or without an IT staff.

Compile the information about monitoring tools

Most IT guys use monitoring tools to make sure that the network is safe and to monitor everything going on with the network, ensure that you have a list of these monitoring tools and all the credential information about them. Also, make sure you know how they work and how to make reports if you find yourself in a crisis. With such information, you can keep your network monitored always, and you will not have to go through breakdown or insecurity crisis.

Hire a managed IT service

The other solution to get out of this stress is by hiring Managed IT service. This is a great privilege for you since it reduces the chances of your IT support just disappearing on you without notice. Also, they keep all your detailed records thus if you decide to hand over the job to another company, they will have access to the previous management easily. Managed IT services also reduce the cost for you. It is the best solution for you to get rid of all the network stress.

With the above backup plans, nothing will ever go wrong as much as the business network is concerned. Losing a person you entrusted with a task can be frustrating and stressful, but you always have to ensure that you are ready to go even if they leave.

The Importance of SSLs

Why SSL? The Importance & Advantages of SSL Certificates

SSL is a standard abbreviation of Secure Sockets Layer. It is a form of security for sites that handle sensitive information like passwords, names, addresses, credit card numbers and others. It serves as a secure link between the user and the server company. SSL is important since it ensures that all confidential information is protected. There are several benefits to using SSL certificates.

  • Encrypting information – With SSL certificates, information can be encrypted so that third parties cannot access it. Users will be comfortable knowing the website they are accessing has high-quality encryption. The encryption make it harder for third-parties to access the information as it moves between servers.
  • Authenticity – When browsing, users want to be certain the websites are authentic. The reason is that they will be sharing sensitive information on the website. Having SSL certificates ensures websites get server certificates that are an additional form of protection. Customers can validate websites by looking at the documents to find out if they are up to date. It ensures that customers are safe from imitation websites.
  • Payment made safer – Customers who will want to browse on safe sites especially if they are paying for goods or services. SSL certificates make them more confident in online transactions since they will be certain that the information they enter is not accessed by other unauthorized parties.
  • Anti-phishing protection – Customers have been receiving phishing emails that would trick them into entering their credit card information that will later be used to carry out malicious acts. SSL certificates make it easy for users to identify fake websites from the real ones. Once they see that a website is unsecured, they will not continue browsing on it.
  • Brand reputation – Businesses that use SSL certificates on their websites improve their brand reputation. Customers put more confidence in the brand since they will be sure any information they share remains private. The business will be seen as one that is willing to advance with technology as it moves towards future-proofing. Customers will be inclined to trust the business and will be assured of getting a positive experience every time they access the website.


Businesses that operate online are advised to go through the process of obtaining an SSL certificate. Choosing to operate without one will make customers hesitate when it comes to making purchases. SSL certificates are getting more popular, and soon, customers will only be making payments to businesses that have secure websites.

The Cloud Technology

The Evolution of Cloud Backup

The world of technology and therefore, the world of business is constantly changing and evolving. One of the many innovations in technology that has changed the face of business and is still in the process of changing it is the “cloud“. In fact, one could say that the future of IT and the future of business as a whole depends entirely on the cloud and the many services that cloud backup provides.

In the recent past of business, the major corporations that dominate the business landscape had to build and maintain massive IT infrastructures in order to simply maintain and run their business operations. Everything required physical backups, and systems to maintain and control all digital data and physical computers and hardware that produced that data.

The transition of technologies in business has never been easy for those who run those businesses. In fact, may companies in the early 1990s were terrified to embrace new technologies, worried that they were just a fad or a trend that would soon dissipate. However, as the tech boom occurred, those changes became inevitable. Old DOS-based systems transitioned to PCs equipped with Windows, communications changed, the ways in which internal networks were created evolved to create faster connections and embrace widespread internet access, and the like.

All of these changes lead businesses to create IT departments that were vital in maintaining those systems, updating them, and troubleshooting them when employees and business executives had trouble navigating the new technological landscape. Business technology went from a slow growing industry to a rapidly developing one seemingly overnight.

Resistance to Change Continues

In spite of the fact that businesses have had to evolve along with their technologies, many businesses are still hesitant to embrace major changes to technology. Today, that change is cloud backup options. The cloud is a way to backup and run many business software options and files virtually and digitally. This means that information and programs are accessible from many locations and clunky physical backups and hardware are not necessary.

However, many business owners fear this change. They have it in their heads that the cloud is too complicated or that it is not secure or that it is unreliable. There are a myriad of reasons that businesses come up with to avoid change, but the reality is that the cloud is the way of the future and outdated hardware, a remnant of the past.

Cloud Backup Services in Reality

Cloud backup services allow for a great deal more flexibility in business. The hardware that is used in business can more quickly and easily be changes and upgraded, software can more easily be distributed to devices, and businesses can have employees accessing the same information and systems all around the world.

Businesses can even transition to a system in which employees bring their own devices to work on so that the business itself can minimize clutter and minimize technological expenses as well as space expenses. Because work devices can be portable like tablets and notebook computers that can access the cloud information from any workstation or even any outside location, business can be more flexible and more efficient.

The cloud is secure, reliable, and ensures that a loss of hardware does not mean a loss of information and programs. As such, the cloud is the way of the future of business and will continue to grow and evolve from here.