Email security and cybercrime – Almost daily there is a story that covers this subject in the news, whether it’s a large global corporation or an elderly retired person. So many people are still unaware of the risks that can be faced with email security.
Here at MPR IT, we have sadly gained a considerable amount of experience in dealing with these threats. We would therefore like to remind our customers of some simple guidelines that you should ensure your staff follow for email security. These include recommendations from the Government Cyber Essentials Scheme. We also strongly advise if you or any employee is concerned they have an affected PC/Laptop – call us asap
- Email Attachments – Never open an email or attachment if you don’t know the sender. If you are not expecting an attachment from a known sender – call them and check they did send you something
- Check email addresses – criminals will set up accounts with very similar email addresses making it easy to trick you into thinking you know the sender email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
- Malware Protection – do you have a robust malware in place? This will stop viruses and ransomware from getting through to your emails and employees
- Access Control – encourage your staff to choose passwords that would be hard to guess and not simply change the number on the end each time it needs to be Password or 123456 are not ever going to be good choices. Also ensure that admin passwords are only given out to members of staff that should have access to these.
- Firewalls – investing in a high end firewall can prevent hackers from gaining access to your systems and to make certain there are no leaks.
- Secure configuration – Is your system configured to ensure security for your organisation. Are all laptops, PC’s and phones password protected? Do files need to be password protected?
- Patch Management – the likes of Microsoft and other operating systems regularly release new updates to their software. Ensure you are fully up to date as these updates will often include patches to ensure your systems are more secure. As hackers become more clever the software providers work hard to identify areas to increase security.
We also recommend you view the following websites
- National Cybercrime Website
- Thames Valley Police – Little Book of Cyber Scams
- Thames Valley Police – Little Book of Big Scams
Whilst the majority of news stories cover ransomware and data being lost or damaged, we have known criminals to spend months watching systems, gathering information and general daily routines. Then with a simple email, that looks to have come from a sender you know they have managed to gain access to your bank accounts and emptied them before anyone has realised. Either way it is extremely costly to your business. Please ensure your staff are fully briefed on email security and the types of scams and crimes that can & have happened. If any doubt or you would like more information please contact us to discuss.
Office 2007 was launched a decade ago, and included the Microsoft products – Excel,Word, Outlook, Powerpoint, and One Note. Since its launch there have been significant advancements in connectivity and productivity for many companies. This means that the majority of companies have left Office 2007 behind, and moved to Office 2016 or more likely to Office 365, however there are a few companies still using Office 2007.
Most Microsoft packages are only supported for 10 years and therefore it is the turn of Office 2007, to receive the end of life treatment. Meaning by the end of October 2017 there will be no further:
- Technical support
- Bug fixes for issues identified
- Security fixes for vulnerabilities released
In addition to the end of life support coming to an end, it is important to note Outlook 2007, will no longer connect to Office 365 mailboxes. Therefore users of Outlook 2007 will not be able to receive or send emails.
Microsoft are now urging users of the 2007 version to consider upgrading to the latest offerings. There are a number of advantages to this, not least the fact that support will be ending in a few months time. During 2017, there has been a number of global cyber attacks. People using packages that are no longer supported by Microsoft are at greater risk.
Earlier this year, in an unusual step Microsoft were pressured into releasing a fix for the Wanna Cry virus on Windows 2000. Despite having stopped supporting the package in 2010, they still had a larger number of users, who were subsequently affected by the virus. It is highly unlikely that they will make this move again in the future and are already publicising the end of life for 2007 package, with recommendations to urgently update software. The most popular choice for businesses these days is Office 365. Please see our page on Office 365 for full details on this product.
MPR IT Solutions has a wealth of knowledge and expertise in supporting companies in making the change to Office 365. We have worked with a number of companies to ensure the transition is smooth, & there is minimum disruption to staff. Please do not hesitate to contact us to discuss your options to migrate to Office 365 – whether you are currently using 2007 or another version of the Office Suite.
Cyberscams affect people in many walks of life. We have all seen the stories in the news of large corporations that have been hacked such as the recent NHS attack or Talk Talk in recent years. Companies of all sizes are at risk to being hacked or cyberscams, SME’s are targeted just as often, we just dont see it reported as much. Even in your personal life you can be at risk for cyberscams, through social media or email. The cyber criminals are getting sharper and also now send text messages as well as emails to trick people. Everyone no matter their age can be at risk.
Cyberscams can be devastating, with criminals asking you to click on a link to confirm your details and taking you to a dummy site that looks very real. They can also access your systems and monitor your activity, create ghost accounts that make you think you are dealing with a supplier you deal with all the time when in fact they are scammers looking to steal your data and money.
Whilst as a company MPR IT, often given advice and have written a number of blogs on this subject, we have recently come across these two books written by Thames Valley and Metropolitan Police. We feel these are extremely useful and would strongly suggest that you take the time to read and digest. Obviously if you have any questions or require any additional support regarding this subject our team will be pleased to help.Read more
Disaster Management Plans
Over the weekend, the big story in the news was all about the IT system failure at British Airways. The CEO of BA has released a statement that the systems crashed due to a short power surge knocking out the main servers, unfortunately for the company the back-up systems then failed to take over. This resulted in over 75,000 customers being affected and flights grounded around the world.
When the story first broke, BA did not release much information to the public, no doubt as the Directors were scrambling to find out what had gone so badly wrong. However, this resulted in various speculation such as systems being hacked, no back up servers in place or that this was due to cost cutting by out sourcing IT Support. It would appear, that none of these were the case.
Many people in the IT industry are watching this story closely to understand how this situation happened. With many questions being asked, including:
- Why did the back-up servers not take over?
- Are the back-up systems in the same location as the main servers?
- Are the communication systems such as website and mobile app in the same location?
- What was the Disaster Management Plan?
Irrespective of your IT Support being in house or outsourced these questions should not be being asked. Here at MPR IT, we support a wide range of customers for IT, on both a daily basis and, also with larger projects such as server/network installations and server hosting. With all our customers, we hold the same approach, no matter the size of your company – you need to be prepared for any eventuality. Whilst we have not had to deal with an incident the size of BA’s problems at the weekend we have had to deal with various situations where a company server has gone off line. These include a flood in an office, or a system hack. Essentially the plan is the same – get the company back up and running in the shortest time possible and preferably without their customers ever knowing there was an issue and with the least cost involved. I think we can quite safely say this is going to be very expensive for BA.
Disaster Management Recovery plans are one of the most important things that your business can put in place. The aim of a DMR is to ensure that your business continues smoothly with little or no disruption, and your company needs will differ from that of any other company. The main points that you need to consider are:
- Is your data/server backed up daily?
- Is this back up stored in a secure separate location to the main server?
- Can your customers still contact you?
- Can your staff continue to carry out their duties?
- Can your operation continue and will your customers be affected?
We have written blogs in the past about important it is to have a Disaster Management Plan in place, however the events this weekend have shown that it is not just in the case of fire, flood or bad weather that your company needs to plan, in advance for. In the case of BA it was apparently due to a power surge, that the systems failed. Not as many speculated in the first few hours, that it was due to out sourced IT Support or being hacked with a virus. If you and your company would like to discuss your current Disaster Management Plans please do not hesitate to contact us.Read more
Wanna Cry Cyber Attack – Over the last couple of years, I have spent several hours if not days reading articles on cyber crime and hacking as part of my role here at MPR IT. If you follow us on social media you will also see how this is a hot topic for us and we quite often post news stories of hacks and how you can protect yourselves, I have also written a few blogs on the subject (all of which can be found on our website). So, the breaking news on Friday and all over the weekend of the hack affecting over 150 countries around the world, with some 200,000 machines affected this wasn’t entirely a shock for me. All too often I see stories of both large corporations and small one person business being hit by hacking or ransomware.
As a company that takes pride in providing the best support and advice to our customers, our priority is prevention rather than cure, although we do unfortunately have experience on the cure as well. Our key guidelines for protecting your systems are pretty simple:
- Ensure you Operating System is the most current and up to date – Microsoft release patches and updates regularly. This particularly virus is targeted towards out of date, older systems. Please ensure your system is fully up to date. If you have any concerns please contact us and we can check this for you.
- Many virus’s are spread through email attachments – NEVER open anything from someone you don’t know or aren’t expecting. If you are unsure about an email or attachment, call MPR IT or the company where the attachment has come from and enquire as to whether it is legitimate.
- Ensure you permanently delete any emails with attachments that you do not need, or where you don’t know the sender.
- Make sure that you have an up to date Anti Virus – MPR IT can check this for you if you are unsure how up to date this is or if you don’t have anti-virus we can provide anti virus software to your company.
- NEVER share passwords with anyone and make sure that passwords you do have are always different. PASSWORD1 is surprisingly still a popular choice – it’s not a good idea as very easy to guess.
- Back up your data daily and store a copy off site securely as well on site. The worst that can happen if data is backed up is that you lose one days’ work, and not everything.
The virus ‘Wanna Cry’ that hit the world on Friday, and spread over the weekend is mainly targeted at Government departments. Where systems are older and the networks are very large, this allows it to spread so quickly, we are therefore not expecting for this to affect many of our customers, however please be assured that our team are prepared and ready to deal with any issues that you may experience.
To our customers with a contract that includes workstation monitoring, we have already rolled out emergency patches to any potentially affected machines. If you do not have a contract that includes workstation monitoring please contact us and we can look to update any patches or we can review your contract to include workstation monitoring should you wish.
Please take this simple advice and pass to your colleagues and get the message out on how to avoid potential cybecrime hacks and viruses. Hopefully one day soon I won’t be spending so much of my time reading articles on cybercrime.Read more
Ransomware, cryptolocker and cybercrime seem to be the most popular topics in the news this year. I look after the social media here at MPR IT and a large chunk of my role is to review numerous websites looking for news that may be of interest to not only our customers but also to our team. By keeping on top of the news means we can be one step ahead of new technology coming out, and also what to watch out for.
Most of the news seems to be about cybercrime and hackers lately. Companies are attacked daily, from small websites through to the American government. Utility companies, dating sites, children’s toys they have all been in the news and not for the best reasons. Just this week it was reported that train companies in the UK had been hacked. With more and more companies relying on technology to run it, I sadly fear it won’t be long till some unscrupulous organisation will try a major attack to infrastructure.
Whilst reviewing news sites this week, I was extremely pleased to see a report on a University in Florida. They are one small step closer to helping the world combat cybercrime, by designing a technique called Crypto Drop. The report showed that by monitoring activity on targeted files, it was possible to block ransomware when only a tiny percentage had been encrypted. Whilst it is not fail safe, it is a new approach against hackers. The technique includes countermeasures which are triggered once ransomware infiltrates the network. This technique relies on three indicators of ransomware activity:
- Bulk modification of file types
- Dissimilarity – plain text looks nothing like encrypted file
- Entropy – encryption produces high entropy
Whilst running the demonstration it was proven that Crypto Drop can contain the action of malware. Only 0.2% of files were encrypted. In essence this is an early warning system as opposed to a fail safe solution. Ransomware will still be on your network, and action should still be taken to clean the network, however only a small percentage of files will be lost as opposed to the network. This will not be an automated piece of software and will require your network administrator to run the software to help distinguish between expected and unexpected activity.
As we all know the people behind cybercrime are equally as clever and constantly coming up with new ways to infiltrate our systems and come up with new scams, once a program such as this is developed fully and launched they will no doubt be looking at ways to break through Crypto Drop.
So there is a little light at the end of the tunnel in the war against cybercrime. In the meantime please ensure you review your network security and business practises to ensure you do not become a victim to cybercrime. We have blogged before about the best ways to stay ahead of hackers and this technique will be no excuse to not continue ensuring your systems are secure and backed up regularly. If you require any assistance on making sure your network is secure at all times please contact us at MPR IT Solutions.Read more
Cybercrime and you
The hot topic for the first half of 2016 has been all about cybercrime, hacking and ransomware. It seems that no company no matter the size is safe from attack. In this blog we will talk about some of the companies that have been attacked and how this can ultimately affect you. We will also talk about the steps you need to take to ensure your systems and network are secure.
Can you name a well-known organisation that has been attacked? Here are just a few that you will know and possibly use:
Talk Talk – 57,000 customer personal details accessed and 15,600 customer bank details taken. This caused uncertainty for many customers as to what had happened to their bank details and at what cost to them. This attack cost the company upwards of £35million in compensation and loss of customers. 4 people were subsequently arrested in connection to the attack.
Vtech – Over 5 million customers affected by this attack on children’s manufacturer. Accounts set up online to allow children to play games were hacked, leaving them vulnerable. Whilst it did not store any bank or credit card details, it did store personal contact information. The company were not even aware of the attack until contacted by a journalist. A 21 year old was arrested, he had carried out this attack from his home in Berkshire.
BBC News, The New York Times, MSN – One of the more recent occurrence. These news sites were unwitting victims to malicious adverts on their sites or malvertising. Tens of thousands of people were exposed to these adverts, which could deliver malware to your device, encrypting your files. This was a large attack on well-known news outlets and if they had been successful could have been devastating for millions of people, however all ads were removed quickly.
Ashley Madison – The chances are you don’t know the company by name, but will have heard this story. The company are an on-line site encouraging extra-marital affairs. The site was hacked and user details stolen. The information was then leaked on-line causing many spouses to be very unhappy. We can all guess how that ended up for many people.
FBI – Slightly concerning that the Federal Government of America are also at risk. The same hackers also accessed the CIA director’s personal email. Having accessed the FBI Portal the hackers were then able to view records on arrested suspects. These details were then leaked on-line.
Donald Trump – Now no matter your view on the Presidential candidate for the US, it is surprising that even businesses owned by one of the most successful businessman at are risk. Malware was put into the Trump Systems and stole credit card details from hotels across the US. It is not known how many people were affected by this, but expected to be in the thousands. The hacktivists Anonymous have also recently announced they are declaring war on Trump.
Now for some of the lesser known companies, some of which are in our own region, just to show you that it is not just the large companies in the world that can be vulnerable. Do not have a false sense of security that this cannot happen to you. Sadly everyone is at risk.
Solar UK – Based in Battle, East Sussex, this small business of just 11 people were hacked by the current largest terrorist organisation, ISIS. The company website was vulnerable to attack and unbeknown to them, the website had been taken off line. Anyone searching for them, would be horrified to see CCA or the Caliphate Cyber Army videos. This hack was apparently in revenge for a drone strike in Syria. It is believed that the company was targeted by a search Robot trawling through the internet to find unsecure websites.
Chatham Town FC – In January of 2015, this small part time football club had its page hacked and in place of the usual content an image was put up supporting the perpetrators of the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris. Luckily all the content of the Football website was backed up and was back up and running after a couple of days with no data lost.
The list seems to go on and on of varying different business types that are vulnerable, we highly recommend that you review all your network and personal security. The Government Cyber Essentials scheme backed by the FSB is key to help win any government contracts and is good practices for all businesses. It is no longer something that businesses should think it would be nice to have in place, it is essential. The risks are extremely high, not just for your customer’s details, but also your business as a whole. If you are unfortunate enough to be attacked, it will be costly both in monetary value for custom, but also in getting it fixed and downtime for your staff.
These are the 5 key points on the Government Cyber Essentials scheme
Malware Protection – do you have a robust malware in place? This will stop viruses and ransomware from getting through to your emails and employees.
Access Control – encourage your staff to choose passwords that would be hard to guess and not simply change the number on the end each time it needs to be updated. Password or 123456 are not ever going to be good choices. Also ensure that admin passwords are only given out to members of staff that should have access to these.
Firewalls – investing in a high end firewall can prevent hackers from gaining access to your systems and to make certain there are no leaks.
Secure configuration – Is your system configured to ensure security for your organisation. Are all laptops, PC’s and phones password protected? Do files need to be password protected?
Patch Management – the likes of Microsoft and other operating systems regularly release new updates to their software. Ensure you are fully up to date as these updates will often include patches to ensure your systems are more secure. As hackers become more clever the software providers work hard to identify areas to increase security.
We also recommend you view the national cybercrime website or if you have any concerns about any of the issues raised in this blog – please contact MPR IT to discuss the current state of your network and if there is anything else we can help you with to improve security.Read more