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Technology

Phishing Attacks In The Real World

 

When was the last time you almost lost $23,000 to a phishing email? This nearly happened to one of our clients this week. Fortunately, this phishing attempt was spotted before the funds were transferred, however, there are a few good lessons to take away from this story and we want to educate you so you can protect your company from these sorts of attacks.

“Bob’s Company” received an email at Accounting@Bobscompany.com. The email was from Bob@Bobsscompany.com.

The email wrote:

“Good Morning,

Please pay the attached invoice in the amount of $23,000.

Thank you,

Bob”
For the accounting manager, this was business as usual. The boss regularly sends requests to the accounting department to have bills paid. At a glance, there is nothing wrong with the email but in this instance, the tone of the email was unusual which caused for further investigation.

This phishing attempt was sophisticated enough to the point where the scam artist even took the time to forge a signature on the attached invoice that matched Bob’s signature. Fortunately, the accounting manager double checked with the boss before processing the transaction. What’s scary is just how close the accounting manager came to processing the payment which is a mistake any one of us could make. If they weren’t paying attention or were just in a hurry, anything could have happened.

What’s important to take away is just how predictable we are. Most companies operate the same way with similar departmental and communication structures. If this wasn’t true then social engineering scams wouldn’t work. This was a close call for just one company and it isn’t hard to believe that whoever sent this email has sent thousands of them and likely got paid on a handful.

These types of attacks are becoming more prevalent than any other because they are cheap, easy and work on businesses of all sizes. “Bob’s Company” is a small business, not a behemoth company that you surmise a hacker would go after. Small businesses are easy targets from a hacker’s perspective because many of them do not invest in security and user training like large companies do.

Some actionable steps you can take to avoid falling prone to this type of attack are:

  1. Avoid using departmental emails like Accounting, Payroll or HR. This lets the hacker know that they are sending the phishing email to the right person making it more likely for the email to have the hackers desired effect.
  2. Use regularly changing keywords when sending requests for a transfer of funds. Change this keyword every month and instruct your staff never to transfer funds without the keyword in the email. This is a really low tech solution but it works. These attacks are intended to trip you up when you aren’t paying attention. The majority of attacks never involve someone spying on your network and learning your passwords and company secrets. Simple though it may be, this is an effective form of two-factor authentication.
  3. Use free spoof phishing tools like KnowBe4 to test your employees to see who is likely to click on phishing emails. Invest in those employees by training them on what to watch out for.

We are living in an ever-developing world where cybercrime is global, the barrier to entry is low and we humans are the weak link in the chain. Since cybercrime has such low risk and high reward these scams will become more frequent and sophisticated. Businesses will have to adapt to these changes and develop strategies to protect their resources. It is important to consult with your IT partner to learn how you can train your employees and set up security measures that will prevent this coming wave of cybercrime.

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Technology Training

Harden Employees Against Ransomware With KnowBe4

Are you curious to see who in your company is most likely to download a virus on your network? Well now you can find out and the best part is, its free. With KnowBe4 you can administer a range of free tools that will allow you to see which of your users is most likely fall for phishing emails.

The sad truth is that some people will click on anything that comes across their email inbox. This is how most network infections start. Till more recently, there hasn’t been a lot anyone could do to prevent this. KnowBe4 allows you to find those trouble users and train them so that this major hole in your network can be filled.

From a compliance standpoint, KnowBe4 offers actionable data that will allow you to show your HIPAA or PCI compliance officer that you are taking actions toward due diligence.

As an IT company, we do our best to prevent major disasters with layered security involving anti-virus, managed firewalls, Office 365 spam filtering, security permissions and most important, great backups. Even with all of these security measures in place, there isn’t a foolproof method to ensuring that a few phishing emails won’t slip by unnoticed. We rely on backups to get our clients up an running quickly but even under the best of conditions, it is still better for the virus to have never been clicked on to begin with.

For a small investment in time, you can’t afford to not use these great free tools from KnowBe4. Take a few minutes to watch our new video on how to get started with KnowBe4 and harder you users against malicious emails.

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Technology Training

Learn how to use a VPN

You may have heard of, or even used, a virtual private network (VPN), but do you know what it is? A VPN is an encrypted tunnel through a wide area network (WAN), also known as the Internet. This means that the network does not have to be located in one physical location, unlike a local area network (LAN). By using encryption and other security measures, a VPN can scramble all the data sent through the WAN, so the network is “virtually” private. In other words, a VPN allows you to access the files on your local network over the internet from an airport, coffee shop or another country, and you will be as secure as if you were sitting in your office.

Businesses commonly use VPNs to communicate across multiple locations. A large company that has offices in several cities may need to send data between their locations via the Internet. To keep the information secure, the company will set up a VPN with an encrypted connection, effectively giving the company a secure intranet over the Internet.

In this video, we will show how you can download one of the many VPN services on your computer. Once downloaded, we will show you how to set up and use this tool. Although there are many VPN options to choose from, most of them work the same way. If you are going to be traveling for work, or need to work from home or a coffee shop, it is important to send and receive sensitive data over a VPN. Otherwise, you are opening a direct access to all of your company’s sensitive information, and risk a security breach. For more information, or if you would like to set up a VPN for your company, contact eTop today.

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Technology

Phishing For Passwords

There has been a recent increase in phishing attempts across the US and it is concerning for many reasons. It is important to be aware of these issues and how these phishing attempts work so that you can protect yourself and your company. The unfortunate truth is that there is only so much you can do to block phishing emails from landing in your inbox in the first place. The only surefire way to prevent phishing attempts from becoming a problem is by training your users to keep a keen eye.

phishing

A phishing attack like the one shown above is an attempt to get you to give away some important information, usually credentials to an email account. In the past, phishing attempts have been highly generic like the “Nigerian Prince” scam that any most discerning individuals would understand to be malicious. Now that most people have become aware of the nature of phishing attempts, the scammers are having to become more sophisticated.

This means that phishing attempts will become increasingly difficult to distinguish from legitimate emails. As more and more emails are being hosted in the cloud through services like Gmail and Office 365, scammers have found a particularly effective way to trick people. These services will periodically ask you to verify your credentials or even change your password every 90 days. These routines can be hijacked to make you think that you are giving your information to your provider when really you are giving it to a scammer.

By looking at your publicly available DNS records, scammers can tell what email platform you are using. It is easy to set up a web page and design it to look exactly like the login page of any hosted email provider. Scammers will use this information to send you highly targeted emails asking you to verify your credentials for “security” reasons. Seeing that the email appears to be from a trusted source, and the link in the email supposedly leads to your hosted email provider, you are likely to enter your password giving the scammer access to all of your information.

In order to help you avoid these pitfalls, we have a few simple steps to follow that will help keep you safe.

  1. Are you expecting the email? Maybe you are logging in from a new computer and the email host doesn’t recognize or trust your device. This is a good reason to expect an email with a link. If there is no reason to expect an email, then receiving one should be a red flag.
  2. Inspect the email. Start by looking at the sender. Do you know them? Don’t just look at the display name; carefully inspect the email address that the email is coming from. Is the domain address spelled correctly? If not, this is likely a scam. Does the email use scary works like Urgent or Emergency? This should be a red flag as well. Also, be sure to check any external link addresses and if they lead to an obscure website, this is likely a scam.
  3. Don’t use links. If you have reason to think that this email is legitimate, take one last security precaution and don’t use the link provided. If you need to verify your credentials then you will be prompted to do so the next time you log into your email account. Do a web search for the login page of your hosted email provider and log into your account from there. If you are not prompted to verify your login then you will know that the email you received is a scam. If it is a link from a known sender, you could also give them a call to verify that the link is from them.

Following these steps will allow you to filter out most phishing attempts that make it to your inbox no matter how sophisticated they become. These attacks rely on you making decisions while not fully paying attention, but they will never be able to fully copy the email provider they are trying to spoof. This means that if the email is not legitimate, then you will likely be able to point that out with a few seconds of careful inspection.

As always, be sure to work closely with your IT professional to ensure that you have a security plan in place. Phishing attempts can lead to data loss, security breaches and even significant lost revenue. It is always better to be preventative about these issues than having to deal with the aftermath.

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Technology

PCI Compliance Audits

Have you ever been audited for PCI compliance? If not, it is most likely that at some point you will be. In order to maintain the ability to process payments electronically, this will be a fact of life. The more transactions you process in a year, the more often you will be getting a visit from your friendly neighborhood qualified security assessor (QSA).


In short, a PCI compliance audit should not be something to fear as long as you are willing to rectify any issues that your QSA finds. This is a matter of determining liability on the part of your electronic payment processor. If you are not PCI compliant and you have a security breach, then your payment processor will not cover damages.

In most cases, you will receive a notice that you are being audited by your payment processor for PCI compliance. The audit will be performed and you will receive a report stating whether or not you are PCI compliant and if not, what you need to resolve in order to get there. At this point, it is up to you to work with a partner to help resolve any issues found by the QSA.

When you receive your PCI report, it can be confusing knowing how to implement the requirement without a partner that is experienced in compliance audits. Working with a company like eTop Technology can help you plan and implement solutions to ensure that you pass your PCI compliance audit both now and in the future. If you find your company in this position, please reach out to us and we will help you build a secure future.

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Technology

How to prepare for ransomware

Lately, there has been a lot of talk about ransomware: a type of computer virus that encrypts your files and holds them for ransom. Worse yet, there is no guarantee that your data will be released if you pay the ransom fee. In light of the most recent ransomware attack called “WannaCry” that infected a substantial number of businesses in Europe, it is important that you are taking measures to ensure that your business is safe.

Antivirus and firewall concept with businessman protected with umbrella

If you are not familiar with the statistics, ransomware was a billion dollar industry in 2016, and every cyber criminal knows it. There is exceptional financial motivation for these scams to be produced indefinitely, and they become increasingly sophisticated every day. As a business owner, ransomware is a constant threat that cannot be ignored.

Playing defense in the ransomware game is a layered approach, with several security methods to prevent ransomware from getting to your network. The first line of defense includes anti-virus, a good firewall, and effective spam filtering. The next important step in any security plan is user training. Ransomware is generally not a problem until someone within your network clicks on the wrong email or web link. The final layer of defense are things like an insurance policy or data backups.

Preferably, investing in each one of these layers is best practice. However, if you have to choose one component over another, backups are the most important investment that you can make. With a good backup system, you may lose some time and a nominal amount of data after an attack, but you will be able to restore your data without the ransomware affecting your business.

In addition to having the data backups in place, it is also essential to ensure that your backups are up-to-date and running properly. Backups have a tendency to face errors that can disrupt a backup schedule. With proper backup monitoring, you may find that your backups were not operating as expected, thus leaving your data vulnerable.

Talk to your IT professional to ensure that you have both preventative security measures and contingencies in place to protect your data in the event of a ransomware attack.

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Technology

Popcorn Time Ransomware

While everyone is in the spirit of giving this holiday season, there is something to say about giving for the wrong reason. A new strand of ransomware is a good example of this. It’s called Popcorn Time. This new strand of ransomware will allow you two options if your computer is infected. You can choose to pay the ransom or you can choose to forward the ransomeware email on to other people in your contacts. If your efforts successfully infect two other computers, you will receive a decryption code for your computer.


Image result for popcorn time ransomware


Up to this point, this method had been unheard of and it pushes the boundary of social engineering scams to a new level. This method is likely to make the infection rate significantly higher as the ransomeware is coming from a trusted and legitimate source. Another nasty feature of Popcorn Time is that if you enter a false decryption code four times, it will start deleting files.
It can’t be stressed enough that unless you are expecting an email, you should not open any attachments unless you have confirmed the legitimacy of the email through another source of communication. Like with any other ransomeware, if your computer is infected, your best hope is to rely on your data backup system.
As an IT New Years resolutions it may be a worthy pursuit to be sure that your backups are running smoothly and if you haven’t made the investment into a backup solution yet, there has never been a better time. These social engineering scams are real and are becoming more and more clever by the day. Protect your investments and your company by putting up measures to insure against attacks like these. For more information, contact eTop for a free consultation.

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Technology Training

How To Block Web Browser Ads

If you are tired of ads constantly cluttering your internet browser then there is a solutions. Maybe you own a business and you are looking to add an extra layer of protection to keep your employees from clicking on links that they shouldn’t. AdBlock Plus is a great free tool that allows you to keep your browser clean and free from distractions. Hint, this trick also works for your free Pandora account if you don’t feel like paying their monthly subscription.

As an IT company we have found that some employees will click on whatever they see. With adds becoming more and more personalized, it is easy to find yourself getting distracted. The best way to deal with ads is to keep them from popping up at all. You can’t click on what you can’t see. This simple program could save your computer or your company network from a lot of trouble. At the very least it will make your employees more efficient.

To begin, download AdBlock Plus. Once downloaded you will need to open the program and set up your filters. AdBlock Plus has already created a comprehensive filter, however, if you would like certain sites to server you adds then you are free to set up white lists. Once you have your filters set you will be able to surf the web free from distractions.

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Technology

Train Employees What To Click On

October is cyber security month – a month dedicated to ensuring that you and your business are as safe from online threats as possible.
Cyber security threats are real, and they are more common than you may think. Whether it is a phishing scam coming through your e-mail or targeted malware, cyber criminals are constantly coming up with new ways to target your business.
Unfortunately, no matter how effective your network security is, there’s one factor that you can’t account for – and that’s the human users on your system. Unfortunately, many phishing scams are becoming so good that it’s easy for intelligent, aware people to be sucked into their trap.
Thankfully, with all of the constantly evolving threats out there, a new industry is emerging. Companies are now being created that focus solely on identifying and preventing threats to cyber security.
One example of these companies is knowbe4.com, a site that offers security awareness training to employees who may not be aware of the best strategies for avoiding phishing attacks. The site also offers simulated phishing attacks for practical testing, and statistics to demonstrate how effective the training efforts have been.  Other similar education programs include Secureworks and Rapid7.
When it comes to avoiding cyber security threats, the best offense is a good defense. Training your employees to recognize phishing scams and avoid falling prey to their schemes is one of the best investments you can make for your business’ network security system.
These companies are experts at targeting specific cyber threats and in-depth training. However, there are several general guidelines for cyber security that you and your employees can be begin implementing immediately.
Firstly, phishers can imitate internal e-mail addresses, so attachments in e-mails should never be opened unless they are expected. For the same reason, it’s best to avoid sending sensitive information over e-mail – confirm through another method of communication to make sure that it is necessary before doing so. Lastly, use extreme caution when clicking on links or images online or on e-mail – if something seems too good to be true, it probably is. Extreme caution should always be used online in order to ensure that your network remains as secure as possible.
Even though cyber security threats are highlighted in October, they are a constant threat to businesses of all kinds and sizes. If you have any concerns about your business’ current level of network security, want security education for your employees, or are interested in learning more about the education programs mentioned above, call eTop Technology. We will be able to help you tailor your approach to cyber security for your industry and business needs.