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October 9th, 2014

Security_Oct07_AEarlier this year news broke of one of the most widespread and potentially devastating bugs to-date - Heartbleed. While heartbleed was massive and companies are still dealing with the fallout to this day, news has recently broke of an even bigger potential threat: Shellshock. This is a security issue all business owners, managers, and employees should be aware of.

What exactly is Shellshock?

Shellshock is the name applied to a recently uncovered software vulnerability which could be exploited to hack and compromise untold millions of servers and machines around the world. At its heart, the Shellshock vulnerability is based on a program called Bash. This is a Unix-based command program that allows users to type actions that the computer will then execute. It can also read files called scripts that contain detailed instructions.

Bash is run in a text-based window called a shell and is the main command program used by OS X and Unix. If you have a Mac computer and want to see what Bash looks like, simply hit Command (Apple Key) + Spacebar and type in Terminal. In the text-based window that opens in Bash you can enter commands using the Bash language to get your computer to do something e.g., eject a disc, connect to a server, move a file, etc.

The problem with Bash however is that it was recently discovered that by entering a specific line of code '() { :; };)' in a command you could get a system to run any following commands. In other words, when this command is used, Bash will continue to read and execute commands that come after it. This in turn could lead to a hacker being able to gain full, yet unauthorized, access to systems without having to enter a password. If this happens, there is very little you can do about it.

Why is this such a big issue?

To be clear: Shellshock should not directly affect most Windows-based machines, instead it affects machines that use Unix and Unix-based operating systems (including OS X). So why is this so big a deal when the majority of the world uses Windows-based computers? In truth, the majority of end-users will be safe from this exploit. However, the problem lies with bigger machines like Web servers and other devices such as networking devices, and computers that have had a Bash command shell installed.

While most users have Windows-based computers, the servers that support a vast percentage of the Internet and many business systems run Unix. Combine this with the fact that many other devices like home routers, security cameras, Point of Sale systems, etc. run Unix and this is becomes a big deal.

As we stated above, hackers can gain access to systems using Bash. If for example this system happens to be a Web server where important user information is stored, and the hacker is able to use Bash to gain access and then escalate themselves to administrative status, they could steal everything. In turn this could lead to the information being released on to the Web for other hackers to purchase and subsequently use to launch other attacks - even Windows-based systems. Essentially, there are a nearly unlimited number of things a hacker can do once they have access.

If this is not dealt with, or taken seriously, we could see not only increased data breaches but also larger scale breaches. We could also see an increase in website crashes, unavailability, etc.

So what should we do?

Because Shellshock mainly affects back-end systems, there is little the majority of users can do at this time. That being said, there are many Wi-Fi routers and networks out there that do use Unix. Someone with a bit of know-how can gain access to these and execute attacks when an individual with a system using Bash tries to connect to Wi-Fi. So, it is a good idea to refrain from connecting to unsecured networks.

Also, if you haven't installed a Bash command line on your Windows-based machine your systems will probably be safe from this particular exploit. If you do have servers in your business however, or networking devices, it is worthwhile contacting us right away. The developers of Bash have released a partial fix for this problem and we can help upgrade your systems to ensure the patch has been installed properly.

This exploit, while easy to execute, will be incredibly difficult to protect systems from. That's why working with an IT partner like us can really help. Not only do we keep systems up-to-date and secure, we can also ensure that they will not be affected by issues like this. Contact us today to learn how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
October 2nd, 2014

Security_Sep29_AWith the ever growing number of security threats faced by businesses around the world, the vast majority of business owners have adopted some form of security measures in an effort to keep their organizations secure. But, how do you know the measures you've implemented are actually keeping your systems safe? Here are five ways you can tell if your security measures aren't sufficient.

1. Open wireless networks

Wireless networks are one of the most common ways businesses allow their employees to get online. With one main Internet line and a couple of wireless routers, you can theoretically have the whole office online. This method of connecting does save money, but there is an inherent security risk with this and that is an unsecure network.

Contrary to popular belief, simply plugging in a wireless router and creating a basic network won't mean you are secure. If you don't set a password on your routers, then anyone within range can connect. Hackers and criminal organizations are known to look for, and then target these networks. With fairly simple tools and a bit of know-how, they can start capturing data that goes in and out of the network, and even attacking the network and computers attached. In other words, unprotected networks are basically open invitations to hackers.

Therefore, you should take steps to ensure that all wireless networks in the office are secured with passwords that are not easy to guess. For example, many Internet Service Providers who install hardware when setting up networks will often just use the company's main phone number as the password to the router. This is too easy to work out, so changing to a password that is a lot more difficult to guess is makes sense.

2. Email is not secure

Admittedly, most companies who have implemented a new email system in the past couple of years will likely be fairly secure. This is especially true if they use cloud-based options, or well-known email systems like Exchange which offer enhanced security and scanning, while using modern email transition methods.

The businesses at risk are those using older systems like POP, or systems that don't encrypt passwords (what are known as 'clear passwords'). If your system doesn't encrypt information like this, anyone with the right tools and a bit of knowledge can capture login information and potentially compromise your systems and data.

If you are using older email systems, it is advisable to upgrade to newer ones, especially if they don't encrypt important information.

3. Mobile devices that aren't secure enough

Mobile devices, like tablets and smartphones, are being used more than ever before in business, and do offer a great way to stay connected and productive while out of the office. The issue with this however is that if you use your tablet or phone to connect to office systems, and don't have security measures in place, you could find networks compromised.

For example, if you have linked your work email to your tablet, but don't have a screen lock enabled and you lose your device anyone who picks it up will have access to your email and potentially sensitive information.

The same goes if you accidentally install a fake app with malware on it. You could find your systems infected. Therefore, you should take steps to ensure that your device is locked with at least a passcode, and you have anti-virus and malware scanners installed and running on a regular basis.

4. Anti-virus scanners that aren't maintained

These days, it is essential that you have anti-virus, malware, and spyware scanners installed on all machines and devices in your company and that you take the time to configure these properly. It could be that scans are scheduled during business hours, or they just aren't updated. If you install these solutions onto your systems, and they start to scan during work time, most employees will just turn the scanner off thus leaving systems wide-open.

The same goes for not properly ensuring that these systems are updated. Updates are important for scanners, because they implement new virus databases that contain newly discovered malware and viruses, and fixes for them.

Therefore, scanners need to be properly installed and maintained if they are going to even stand a chance of keeping systems secure.

5. Lack of firewalls

A firewall is a networking security tool that can be configured to block certain types of network access and data from leaving the network or being accessed from outside of the network. A properly configured firewall is necessary for network security, and while many modems include this, it's often not robust enough for business use.

What you need instead is a firewall that covers the whole network at the point where data enters and exits (usually before the routers). These are business-centric tools that should be installed by an IT partner like us, in order for them to be most effective.

How do I ensure proper business security?

The absolute best way a business can ensure that their systems and networks are secure is to work with an IT partner like us. Our managed services can help ensure that you have proper security measures in place and the systems are set up and managed properly. Tech peace of mind means the focus can be on creating a successful company instead. Contact us today to learn more.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
September 19th, 2014

Security_Sep15_AData breaches are growing both in number and intensity. While many businesses have turned to cloud apps for better security measures, some experts and businesses worry about the cloud, mentioning that it could see an increased data breach risk. This leads to a collision course between data breaches and cloud usage. But it doesn’t have to end in a fiery crash, as there are steps you can take to prevent a cloud and data security breach.

The cloud opens up some great tech advancements for businesses and is here to stay. However, as with all tech developments, you need to also be aware of any vulnerabilities and security issues as they change and develop at the same time too. If you use the cloud and want to proactively prevent cloud-and-data security breaches then here are five tips to follow:

  1. Know your cloud apps: Get a comprehensive view of the business readiness of apps and which ones render you more or less prone to a breach. Ask yourself these questions: Does an app encrypt data stored on the service? Does it separate your data from that of others so that your data is not exposed when another tenant has a breach? The idea here is to know exactly what each cloud service employed offers and how your company uses them.
  2. Migrate users to high-quality apps: Cloud-switching costs are low, which means that you can always change and choose apps that best suit your needs. If you find ones that don’t fit your criteria, take the time to talk to your vendor or switch; now more than ever you have choices, and the discovery process in step one will help you find out what these are.
  3. Find out where your data is going: Take a look at your data in the cloud. Review uploads, downloads, and data at rest in apps to get a handle on whether you have potential personally-identifiable information (PII), or whether you simply have unencrypted confidential data in or moving to cloud apps. You wouldn’t want cloud-and-data breaches with this critical data.
  4. Look at user activities: It’s important to understand not only what apps you use but also your data in the context of user activity. Ask yourself: From which apps are people sharing content? According to tech news source, VentureBeat, one-fifth of the apps they tracked enable sharing, and these aren’t just cloud storage apps, but range from customer-relationship management to finance and business intelligence. Knowing who’s sharing what and with whom will help you to understand what policies to best employ.
  5. Mitigate risk through granular policy: Start with your business-critical apps and enforce policies that matter to your organization in the context of a breach. For example, block the upload of information covered by certain privacy acts, block the download of PII from HR apps, or temporarily block access to vulnerable apps.
The key to preventing a cloud-and-data security breach lies in careful attention to your cloud applications and user activity. Analyzing your apps and looking into user activities might be time consuming, but the minimization of cloud-and-data security breaches makes this task worthwhile. Looking to learn more about today’s security? Contact us and let us manage and minimize your risks.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
September 4th, 2014

Security_Sep02_AWith smartphones playing a larger role in today’s daily business, the need to recharge them while you are on the go increases. And when you’re nowhere near your charger, that public charging kiosk can look pretty promising. But what you might not know is that common traits in smartphone hardware and software design makes recharging phones through public chargers prone to juice jacking. If you're not sure what that is then let’s find out and also discover how you can avoid juice jacking too.

What’s juice jacking?

Regardless of the kind of smartphone you have, whether it’s an Android, iPhone or BlackBerry, there is one common feature across all phones: the power supply and the data stream pass over the same cable. This setup allows for juice jacking during the charging process whereby user access is gained on your phone by leveraging the USB data/power cable to illegitimately access your phone’s data and/or inject malicious code onto the device.

The attack can be as simple as an invasion of privacy, wherein your phone pairs with a computer concealed within the charging kiosk and information such as private photos and contact information are transferred to a malicious device. However, on the other hand, it can also be as invasive as an injection of malicious code directly into your phone. According to security researchers at this year’s Black Hat security conference, your iPhone can be compromised within one minute of being plugged into a harmful charger.

Exposure to a malicious kiosk can also create a lingering security problem even without the immediate injection of malicious code. Once a device is paired to a computer, it can access a host of personal information on the device, including your address book, notes, photos, music, sms database, typing cache, and even initiate a full backup of your phone, all of which can be accessed wirelessly at anytime.

How do I avoid it?

The most effective precautions center around simply not charging your phone using a third-party system. Here are some tips to help you avoid using public kiosk charger:
  • Keep your devices topped off: Make it a habit to charge your phone at your home and office when you’re not actively using it or are just sitting at your desk working.
  • Carry a personal charger: Chargers have become very small and portable, from USB cables to power banks. Get one and throw it in your bag so you can charge your phone anytime you’re at the office or while on-the-go if you use a power bank.
  • Carry a backup battery: If you’re not keen on bringing a spare charger or power bank, you can opt to carry a full spare battery if your device has a removable battery.
  • Lock your phone: When your phone is truly locked as in inaccessible without the input of a pin or equivalent passcode, your phone should not be able to be paired with the device it’s connected to.
  • Power the phone down: This technique only works on phones on a model-by-model basis as some phones will, despite being powered down, still power on the entire USB circuit and allow access to the flash storage in the device.
  • Use power only USB cables: These cables are missing the two wires necessary for data transmission and have only the two wires for power transmission remaining. They will charge your device, but data transfer is made impossible.
Even the tiniest detail like charging your phone from a kiosk charger could affect the security of your device. While there are many substitutes to using a third-party system, ultimately the best defense against a compromised mobile device is awareness. Looking to learn more about today’s security and threats? Contact us today and see how we can help.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
August 25th, 2014

Security_Aug18_AIt seems like nearly every week, and in some cases nearly every day, there is some security breach announced. The vast majority of these assaults tend to revolve around online user accounts, where password, account information, and even usernames are stolen. Over the years, there has been a general trend where the number of accounts breached or compromised is growing, and in early August news broke about possibly the biggest breach to date.

The latest big-scale breach

In early August, it emerged that a Russian hacker ring had amassed what is believed to be the biggest known collection of stolen account credentials. The numbers include around 1.2 billion username and password combinations, and over 500 million email addresses.

According to Hold Security, the company that uncovered these records, the information comes from around 420,000 sites. What is particularly interesting about this particular attack is that such a wide variety of sites were targeted when compared this with other attacks which tend to either attack large brand names or smaller related sites.

How did this happen?

Despite what many believe, this was not a one-time mass attack; all sites that were compromised were not attacked at the same time. Instead, the hacker ring - called the Cyber Vor - was likely working on amassing this data over months or longer. How they were able to amass this much information is through what's called a botnet.

Botnets are a group of computers infected by hackers. When the hackers establish a botnet, they attack computers with weak network security and try to infect them with malware that allows the hacker to control the computer. If successful, users won't even know their computer has been hacked and is being used by hackers.

Once this botnet is established, the hackers essentially tell the computers to try to contact websites to test the security. In this recent case, the computers were looking to see if the websites were vulnerable to a SQL injection. This is where hackers tell the computers in the botnet to look for fillable sections on sites like comment boxes, search boxes, etc. and input a certain code asking the website's database to list the stored information related to that box.

If the Web developer has restricted the characters allowed in the fillable text boxes, then the code likely would not have worked. The botnet would notice this, and then move onto the next site. However, if the code works, the botnet notes this and essentially alerts the hacker who can then go to work collecting the data.

So, is this serious and what can I do?

In short, this could be a fairly serious problem. While 420,000 sites may seem like a large number, keep in mind that the Internet is made up of billions of websites. This means that the chances of your website's data being breached by this ring are small. That being said, there is probably a good chance that one of the sites related to your website may have been breached.

So, it is a cause for concern. However, you can limit the chance of hackers gaining access to your information and a website's information.

1. Change all of your passwords

It seems like we say this about once a month, but this time you really should heed this warning. With 1.2 billion username and password combinations out there, there is a chance your user name for at least one account or site has been breached.

To be safe, change all of your passwords. This also includes passwords on your computer, mobile devices, and any online accounts - don't forget your website's back end, or hosting service. It is a pain to do, but this is essential if you want to ensure your data and your website is secure from this attack.

2. Make each password different

We can't stress this enough, so, while you are resetting your password you should aim to ensure that you use a different one for each account, site, and device. It will be tough to remember all of these passwords, so a manager like LastPass could help. Or, you could develop your own algorithm or saying that can be easily changed for each site. For example, the first letter of each word of a favorite saying, plus the first and last letter of the site/account, plus a number sequence could work.

3. Test your website for SQL injection

If you have a website, you are going to want to test all text boxes to see if they are secure against SQL injection. This can be tough to do by yourself, so it's best to contact a security expert like us who can help you execute these tests and then plug any holes should they be found.

4. Audit all of your online information

Finally, look at the information you have stored with your accounts. This includes names, addresses, postal/zip codes, credit card information, etc. You should only have the essential information stored and nothing else. Take for example websites like Amazon. While they are secure, many people have their credit card and billing information stored for easy shopping. If your account is hacked, there is a good chance hackers will be able to get hold of your card number.

5. Contact us for help

Finally, if you are unsure about the security of your accounts, business systems, and website, contact us today to see how our security experts can help ensure your vital data is safe and sound.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
August 7th, 2014

Security_Aug05_AThese days, the security of various technology based systems is constantly being called into question. From attacks on mobile devices to ever increasing types of malware, many businesses are struggling to stay on top of their security. One of the best ways to help ensure your systems are secure is to be aware of common security issues. To that end, here are five common ways your security can be breached.

1. You are tricked into installing malicious software

One of the most common ways a system's security is breached is through malware being downloaded by the user. In almost every case where malware is installed the reason is because the user was tricked into downloading it.

A common trick used by hackers is to plant malware in software and then place this software on a website. When a user visits the site, they are informed that they need to download the software in order for the site to load properly. Once downloaded, the malware infects the system. Other hackers send emails out with a file attached, where only the file contains malware.

There are a nearly limitless number of ways you can be tricked into downloading and installing malware. Luckily, there are steps you can take to avoid this:

  • Never download files from an untrusted location - If you are looking at a website that is asking you to download something, make sure it's from a company you know about and trust. If you are unsure, it's best to avoid downloading and installing the software.
  • Always look at the name of the file before downloading - Many pieces of malware are often disguised with file names that are similar to other files, with only a slight spelling mistake or some weird wording. If you are unsure about the file then don't download it. Instead, contact us as we may be able to help verify the authenticity or provide a similar app.
  • Stay away from torrents, sites with adult content, and movie streaming sites - These sites often contain malware, so it is best to avoid them altogether.
  • Always scan a file before installing it - If you do download files, be sure to get your virus scanner to scan these before you open the apps. Most scanners are equipped do this, normally by right-clicking on the file and selecting Scan with….

2. Hackers are able to alter the operating system settings

Many users are logged into their computers as admins. Being an administrator allows you to change any and all settings, install programs, and manage other accounts.

If a hacker manages to access your computer and you are set up as the admin, they will have full access to your computer. This means they could install other malicious software, change settings or even completely hijack the machine. The biggest worry about this however, is if a hacker gets access to a computer that is used to manage the overall network. Should this happen, they could gain control over all the systems on the network and do what they please on it.

In order to avoid this, you should ensure that if a user doesn't need to install files or change settings on the computer, they do not have administrator access. Beyond this, installing security software like anti-virus scanners and keeping them up to date, as well as conducting regular scans, will help reduce the chances of being infected, or seeing infections spread.

3. Someone physically accesses your computer

It really feels like almost every security threat these days is digital or is trying to infect your systems and network from the outside. However, there are many times when malware is introduced into systems, or data is stolen, because someone has physically had access to your systems.

For example, you leave your computer on when you go for lunch and someone walks up to it, plugs in a USB drive with malware on it and physically infects your system. Or, it could be they access your system and manually reset the password, thereby locking you out and giving them access.

What we are trying to say here is that not all infections or breaches arrive via the Internet. What we recommend is to ensure that you password protect your computer - you need to enter a password in order to access it. You should also be sure that when you are away from your computer it is either turned off, or you are logged off.

Beyond that, it is a good idea to disable drives like CD/DVD and connections like USB if you don't use them. This will limit the chances that someone will be able to use a CD or USB drive to infect your computer.

4. It's someone from within the company

We have seen a number of infections and security breaches that were carried out by a disgruntled employee. It could be that they delete essential data, or remove it from the system completely. Some have even gone so far as to introduce highly destructive malware.

While it would be great to say that every business has the best employees, there is always a chance a breach can be carried out by an employee. The most effective way to prevent this, aside from ensuring your employees are happy, is to limit access to systems.

Take a look at what your employees have access to. For example, you may find that people in marketing have access to finance files or even admin panels. The truth is, your employees don't need access to everything, so take steps to limit access to necessary systems. Combine this with the suggestions above - limiting admin access and installing scanners - and you can likely limit or even prevent employee initiated breaches.

5. Your password is compromised

Your password is the main way you can verify and access your accounts and systems. The issue is, many people have weak passwords. There has been a steady increase in the number of services that have been breached with user account data being stolen. If a hacker was to get a hold of say your username, and you have a weak password, it could only be a matter of time before they have access to your account.

If this happens, your account is compromised. Combine this with the fact that many people use the same password for multiple accounts, and you could see a massive breach leading to data being stolen, or worse - your identity.

It is therefore a good idea to use a separate password for each account you have. Also, make sure that the passwords used are strong and as different as possible from each other. One tool that could help ensure this is a password manager which generates a different password for each account.

If you are looking to learn more about ensuring your systems are secure, contact us today to learn about how our services can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
July 10th, 2014

Security_July07_ABYOD, or Bring Your Own Device, is one of the most common business trends of the past couple of years. To many, the idea of bringing their own phone, tablet, laptop, or even computer to the office is ideal because it is a system they are undoubtedly familiar with. They may also view personal devices as better than the office models. Even if you don't allow your employees to bring their own devices to work, there is a good chance they do anyways. However, this could pose a security risk that needs to be dealt with.

What should I do about BYOD?

The first reaction of many office managers and business owners, worried about security threats that could stem from BYOD, is to impose an outright ban of devices. While telling your staff they are not to use their devices for work may seem like a quick and easy solution, you can be 100% sure that there will be employees who ignore this policy and use their personal devices for work regardless.

This could put your business at a higher security risk if the rule is ignored, especially if you don't implement any security measures to protect your networks and data. In order to minimize the potential threats BYOD can expose your business to, we suggest you do the following:

1. Consider embracing BYOD

Instead of simply banning personal devices in the workplace take a step back and look to see if there are any benefits BYOD can offer. For example, if you operate on razor thin margins and have not replaced hardware in years, there is a good chance your employees will have better systems at hand. This could help you reduce your overall tech costs.

The same goes for phones for your employees. Why not offer to pay for the plan and allow employees to use their own devices? Of course, you are going to want to implement security measures and usage rules, but if this is easily achieved then it may help reduce your overall operating costs. Before you do implement a system like this however, we strongly recommend you read the rest of this article and follow the steps below.

2. Set up separate networks for employee devices

Oftentimes, the main reason employees bring their devices to the office and use them for work purposes, especially when it comes to mobile phones, is because they can happily connect to Wi-Fi for free without using their data plans throughout the day.

Chances are high that because they use the work Wi-Fi on their device for non-work tasks, they simply keep using the device when they are doing work related activities. This could pose a security risk, especially if you run business-critical operations on the same network. You could nip this potential problem in the bud and simply install another Wi-Fi network for mobile devices and non-critical business processes.

It is usually quite affordable to simply purchase another line and the networking equipment to support this, not to mention the fact that it will keep business-critical processes secure from errant malware. As an added bonus, you will likely see increased productivity because the bandwidth demand will be limited, so important data will move quicker.

3. Educate your staff about security

In our experience, the vast majority of BYOD related security risks are exposed by mistake. An employee may have a virus on a personal phone and be unaware of it. When they connect to the network it can then be unintentionally spread to other computers resulting in a potentially massive security breach.

One of the simplest ways to prevent this is to educate your employees about proper mobile safety. This includes how to spot apps that could contain malware, sharing security threat updates, and teaching your employees how to secure their devices. You really need to stress just how important security is to them.

On top of this, contact an IT expert like us for a recommended anti-virus and spyware scanner for mobile devices that users can easily install. Encourage employees to not just install this but to keep it up to date too. Many of these mobile specific scanners are free and just as powerful as desktop versions.

4. Work with an IT partner to establish a solution that works for you

Beyond education and simple network establishment, it is a great idea to work with an IT partner like us. As experts, we keep tabs on the trends and solutions related to BYOD and will work with you to establish a program that works for your company.

It may be that you don't actually need to integrate BYOD but to update hardware or software to newer versions instead. It could be that there is a simple solution to employees feeling frustrated with slow performance of existing systems at work.

If you do implement BYOD, we can help establish security measures and policies that will ensure your networks and employee devices are secure. The best advice we can give however, is to do this before you start allowing BYOD, as it can be far more challenging to implement and enforce changes when employees are already using their devices at work.

Looking to learn more? Contact us today to see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
June 26th, 2014

Security_June23_ABusinesses are relying increasingly on virtual machines to handle more critical data and tasks than ever before. Still, many are misguided about their security needs in a virtual environment. There are several myths that if believed can have serious consequences; leaving your organization vulnerable to an attack. Understanding these issues is key to helping you make better and safer decisions about the virtual environment of your business.

Myth No.1: Existing endpoint security will protect our virtual environment

Most traditional endpoint security solutions are virtual-aware and provide low levels of protection. This simply isn’t enough. Depending on the virtualization platform used (VMware, Microsoft, etc.), your traditional endpoint security suite can probably recognize virtual endpoints. However, this physical software often can’t bring its full tool set of anti-malware to the virtual world, meaning it can only perform basic tasks such as on-access scanning.

Therefore what you need is a solution that has been designed to keep both virtual and physical computing environments secure. There are a wide-number of solutions out there, and the best one for your business will depend largely on the virtual environments you employ. We strongly recommend talking to IT experts like us, as we can help determine, or even offer, the strongest security based.

Myth No.2: My existing anti-malware doesn’t interfere with my virtual operations

Performance issues can create security gaps that don't exist in your physical environment. Traditional endpoint security uses an agent-based model where each physical and virtual machine has a copy of the security program’s agent on it. This agent communicates with the server while performing security tasks. This is fine for physical machines, but if you have 100 virtual machines running off of one main environment that has been infected with malware, you’ll also have 100 instances of malware running on the machines.

This high level of duplication can cause massive performance degradation and waste tons of storage capacity. Therefore, you should make an effort to ensure that all of your systems including the main ones are without malware. This not only makes every system secure, but can also speed up overall operations.

Myth No.3: Virtual environments are inherently more secure than physical environments

Sadly, this just isn’t always true. Virtualization is designed to allow software, including malware, to behave as it normally would, and malware writers will target any and all weak points in a business’s network to accomplish their goals. An attacker who compromises one virtual machine and finds a way to jump to the hypervisor - the system that enables the virtualization - then has access to every virtual machine on that host.

Therefore, malware scanners on both the user and main systems would be a good idea. If it does happen to get on a system, the chances of it spreading are drastically reduced.

Myth No.4: Using non-persistent virtual machines effectively secures a network

In theory, any machine that encounters malware is wiped away and recreated cleanly. However, we are now seeing malware that is designed to survive teardown of individual machines by spreading across the virtual network. This allows it to return when new virtual machines are created.

Additionally, being too eager to create new machines on demand can result in virtual machine sprawl, which happens when virtual machines are created but then forgotten. This leads to an unmaintained virtual endpoint operating without your knowledge. Even if the rest of your virtual machines are secure, it’s possible for one machine to eavesdrop on the traffic of another virtual machine, leading to privacy and security risks.

The best solution to this is to employ an IT manager who can track and maintain systems. Many IT partners offer a solution like this, so experts like us may be able to help ensure your systems are secure.

Myth No.5: Specialized virtual security programs are more or less the same

There are various approaches to virtualization security and your network will probably need a blend of available options. This all depends on what you’re trying to protect.

A non-Web-connected server is going to have entirely different security needs than a virtual desktop of a server that manages customer information. Implementing one without the other simply just won’t do in today’s world, where attackers are set on getting their hands on your data.

Proper security is vital in making virtualization a critical component of your business IT infrastructure. Looking to learn more about virtualization and its components? Contact us today and see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
June 13th, 2014

security_June13_ANo matter what industry you operate in, today’s technological advancements make it inevitable that network security threats will sooner or later come knocking on your door. While it is true that corporate security measures can consume a lot of time and a huge chunk of change, the rapid growth of malicious Internet activity makes it extremely vital for your business to become familiar with and to follow the right security guidelines.

10 Security practice guidelines for businesses

  1. Encrypt your data: Encryption of stored data, filesystems, and across-the-wire transfers is essential to protect sensitive data as well as to help prevent data loss due to equipment loss or theft.
  2. Use digital certificates to sign all of your sites: You should obtain your certificates from a trusted Certificate Authority, and instead of saving your certificates on the Web server, save them to hardware devices like routers or load balancers.
  3. Implement a removable media policy: Devices like USB drives, external hard disks, external DVD writers or any writeable media facilitate security breaches coming into or leaving your network. Restricting the use of those devices is an effective way to minimize security threats.
  4. Implement DLP and auditing: Be sure to use data loss prevention and file auditing to monitor, alert, identify, and block the flow of data into and out of your network.
  5. Use a spam filter on your email servers: Using a time-tested spam filter such as SpamAssassin will remove unwanted email from entering your inbox and junk folders. It is important that you identify junk mail even if it’s from a trusted source.
  6. Secure websites against MITM and malware infections: Start using Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) which creates a secure connection between a user and server, over which any amount of data can be sent securely. Through SSL, you’ll be able to scan your website daily for malware, set the Secure flag for all session cookies, as well as use SSL certificates with Extended Validation.
  7. Use a comprehensive endpoint security solution: Using an antivirus software alone is not enough to provide defense against today’s security threats. Go for a multi-layered product to prevent malware infections on your devices.
  8. Network-based security hardware and software: Start using firewalls, gateway antivirus, intrusion detection devices, and monitoring to screen for DoS attacks, virus signatures, unauthorized intrusion, and other over-the-network attacks.
  9. Maintain security patches: Make sure that your software and hardware defenses stay up-to-date with new anti-malware signatures and the latest patches. If your antivirus program doesn’t update on a daily basis, be sure to set up a regular scan and a remediation plan for your systems.
  10. Educate your employees: As simple as it sounds, this might be the most important non-hardware, non-software solution available. An informed user will more likely behave more responsibly and take fewer risks with valuable company data resulting in fewer threats to your organization.
Businesses cannot afford to take chances with security. Why? Because doing so can trigger a domino effect, causing a cascade of problems that can lead to operational outages, data loss, security breaches, and the subsequent negative impact to your company's bottom line. Looking to learn more about security for your business? Call us today for a chat.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
May 13th, 2014

Security_May13_AAs we increasingly come to rely on cloud-based systems, the browser will likely become even more important to business owners and managers. While there are a number of browsers out there, many Windows users prefer to use Internet Explorer (IE), largely because it is the browser which comes pre-installed on all Windows computers. However, if your business uses IE, there is an important zero-day security flaw that you should be aware of.

What exactly is a zero-day flaw?

A zero-day flaw is a security vulnerability that is taken advantage of by hackers on the day it is discovered. In other words, there are zero days between the discovery of the vulnerability and people taking advantage of it.

The way most software programs work is if a user finds a security flaw, they will usually inform the developer who will then develop a fix and release it in a patch that users download. The problem is, sometimes it is a hacker who discovers this vulnerability. Instead of reporting it, they start to capitalize on the flaw, exploiting it to attack other users before the developer becomes aware of it and has a chance to fix it.

The IE zero-day flaw

In late April, news broke that a zero-day flaw had been discovered in Internet Explorer's code. The flaw affects IE versions 6-11 - essentially every supported version of the browser. Hackers had found a previously unknown flaw that allowed them to gain the same access rights as a user.

How it worked is that the hackers sent emails to users with links to a website that hosts a malicious code. These emails were largely phishing in nature, meaning they aimed to get the user to click on a link in the email. Some of the subject lines used in attacks included:

  • Welcome to Projectmates!
  • Refinance Report
  • What's ahead for Senior Care M&A
  • UPDATED GALLERY for 2014 Calendar Submissions
In these emails there was a link to a website that hosted a code which could then be executed if the user visited the site using IE. When executed this could potentially expose the user's system. Once vulnerable, the hackers could install malicious software without the user's knowledge.

How do I guard against this exploit?

The good news is that Microsoft has released a patch that fixes this exploit. This has definitely been welcomed, and what is really interesting is that Microsoft has actually released the update for XP users as well - this coming after the cessation of support for XP.

To guard against the exploit you should firstly update the version of Internet Explorer that you are using. The easiest way to do this is to go to the Internet Explorer website and download the latest version - version 11 - of the browser. Version 11 can run on both Windows 7 and 8, so the vast majority of users should already be running this latest version.

If you are using an older version, Microsoft has pushed the patch out via both IE's automatic update feature - so restarting the browser should install the update. The other option is Windows Update. Simply running the Update program and installing the updates should ensure that the latest version of IE is installed.

For Windows 7 and 8 users, you can do this by:

  • Opening the Control Panel on your system.
  • Clicking on System or Performance and Maintenance followed by System.
  • Selecting Automatic Updates from the menu in the window that opens.
  • Following the instructions in the new window that opens.
Once installed, you should restart your computer if you aren't asked to do so. If you noticed that Automatic Updates was already ticked, try restarting your computer and this should install the updates.

If you are using XP, you can visit the Microsoft Update website using Internet Explorer and following the instructions.

Aside from updating your browser, you should ensure that your anti-virus and malware scanners are up to date and scheduled to scan your system on a regular basis. Be sure to look at all emails closely as well, if one seems a bit dodgy, or you receive one from someone you don't know, it is best to ignore it and delete it right away.

Businesses who are using XP should seriously consider updating because Microsoft will not be introducing security updates in the future, leaving your systems at greater risk of attack. At the very least, it may also be a good idea to switch to another browser like Firefox or Chrome, both of which will work on XP and are updated regularly.

Worried that your systems are not secure enough, or still running XP? Contact us today to see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security