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.
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
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
Canterbury Archaeological Trust, one of the UK most famous Archaeology firms based in Kent, turned to MPR IT over 5 years ago looking for an outsourced IT company. They required a reliable company to provide day to day support, Office 365, Anti-virus and also support on any larger projects that may require IT services.
Included in the support that we offer to the Trust is an all-inclusive server support and AVG anti-virus software. Ensuring the charity is safe in the knowledge that the systems are monitored and support available 365 days a year, all for a set cost per month. No unexpected bills for when something goes awry on a weekend or holiday period.
This support became invaluable one weekend when something went wrong on the network. As 24 hours support was in place, an out of hour’s call was made to MPR IT. With the ability to remotely look at the network our engineer quickly identified that malware had in fact infiltrated the system, and he quickly made the decision to make his way to the site.
Within an hour of the initial call out the network on site had been shut down and all machines physically unplugged to avoid any further damage occurring. This is key with any malware attack, the sooner the network is detached from the outside world the quicker it will stop from spreading. Over the next few hours, the infected file was identified and removed whilst the remaining files were scanned. The network is backed up on a regular basis,which is something we recommend to all our clients. This meant that when restoring the network it was easy to revert to the most recent back up and limited data lost, especially as this occurred out of hours meaning that there had been limited access since the back up the previous evening.
What Canterbury Archaeological Trust have to say about MPR IT
Just a quick note to thank you and the team – and especially David and Mitch – for the fantastic response to the weekend viral attack on our computer systems, and for your sound advice in the first place which resulted in building such a resilient set-up. From your first response on Monday, which limited the damage, to the speedy and efficient disaster recovery, we could not have asked for more. Several of our staff have commented on their amazement at the speed with which you got us back up and running. Brilliant job, well done!
Personally, I can’t help contrasting it with what happened a few years back when the Raid Array blew, that really was a disaster. We’ve come a very long way since then, thanks to MPR-IT.
Commercial Operations Director
Canterbury Archaeological Trust
For more information on how we can support your business please do not hesitate to contact us and discuss your requirements.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
Many new customers that join MPR IT require an IT Audit review – we can offer this to any company irrespective of you coming on board with MPR for full support. For many businesses the new financial year is April and so now is the time to identify the needs of your business going forward. We can help direct you to the most cost effective and efficient technology to suit your business needs. An IT audit review has 3 aims:
- Provide an objective and independent review of an organisations, policies, information systems and controls.
- Provide reasonable assurance that appropriate and effective IT controls are in place.
- Provide audit recommendations for both corrective actions and improvements to controls.
With technology and security changing so quickly, it is surprising how out dated your equipment can become and unable to cope with the daily demands of the current operating systems. I have recently experienced this with my own hardware such as my Kindle and IPad. Despite them both having up to date operating systems and only being approximately 4 years old, they are both increasingly becoming slow and unable to cope with some of the latest apps. I was then faced with the minefield of different versions of Kindle and IPad to review and decide which suited mine and my family needs. Did we need both now that the Kindle has advanced in terms of what it can be used for or could we manage with just one tablet. As you can imagine in this day it is highly unlikely that one item will serve the family without constant squabbles as to who can use what and when.
Office hardware is just as easily affected. When you have an office with even just 5 members of staff it can become very expensive to renew all the hardware such as PC’s, printers and laptops all in one go and many businesses do not have the budget to replace these all at once. Not to mention servers that store all of your important data. Security is also changing so quickly to keep up with the ever increasing threat of hacking and new variations of viruses. How do you decide which PC is the first to be updated – from my experience when working in large companies it was always the director that got the latest tech. Very annoying for the poor admin person that is on an old PC that crashes every hour and spends more time in the day screaming at the computer than actually working. Meanwhile the Director was at yet another lunch meeting and the brand new PC was collecting dust. This means that your staff are not working efficiently and actually costing you more money than you might think.
It is surprising how many businesses are not aware of the most vital IT hardware in their office – for example if you are an internet based business such as an E-bay shop, it is actually your internet that is most vital. If you cannot connect to the internet you cannot see your orders. This could be viewed on a smart phone, tablet or PC. So your PC is not necessarily the most vital piece of equipment. Or if you are a printing firm – without the best printer you cannot satisfy your customers. The list can go on but I am sure you get the picture.
MPR IT can offer IT audits for all companies, our trained and experienced team have knowledge of all the most up to date and efficient hardware and software available on the market. One of our team can spend time to listen and understand the needs of the staff and identify where and when new hardware should be procured if necessary. Today there are so many options for both hardware and software, we can help identify the most efficient options for your business.
MPR IT are completely independent of any one hardware supplier and so are able to offer you the best price on the equipment needed for your business. Our staff regularly review the latest tech on the market and so can offer an informed view of how your business can continue to run cost effectively without any hassle from outdated systems. Please contact us if you would like to us to review and audit your companies’ IT equipment in advance of the new financial year, with the right information and direction we can assist your business in identifying where your IT budget is best spent to support you through the future.Read more
How Secure is your data?
I spoke to my friend this morning, her Facebook account has been hacked. She is experiencing strange statuses being posted on her account. My instructions to her – change your password asap. She doesn’t know her password it is stored on her devices so whenever she wants to go on to her social media she just loads the page or app. However someone out there knows her password. I asked if this was the same password for her email account, online shopping accounts and anything else. Her response – probably!! I could not stress enough to her to get on line as soon as she went home to get it all changed, and don’t save passwords on devices.
You may think well it’s only social media they can get into – that’s just the start. We are becoming increasingly aware of the number of people and business that are being hacked. Here at MPR IT we have been made aware through speaking to contacts within the industry and also our customers that more and more people are being hacked. I personally have read an article that in parts of the world there are crime organisations that employ computer experts solely with the intention to hack accounts. It starts with just £1 being taken from a bank account with amounts increasing. The bank sees that you have paid the recipient previously so aren’t concerned. Then sometime later you notice a considerable amount missing from your account and its too late. The money cannot be retrieved. We have previously written a blog about Ransonware such as Crypto locker, it is reported that over the last year over £1.5 Billion was made through this software.
My dad is forever calling me with “I got an email today from a bank that I have never had an account with saying I need to reconfirm my details”. Every time I say the same thing, ”Dad, don’t even bother opening these emails, delete them immediately”. Yet he still questions it time and again. These people that hack our computers and accounts are relentless. They will bombard thousands of people with these type of emails. If they get one person that responds it is still a result for them.
If you get such an email and you think it could be from an account you have such as Paypal or Itunes, please disregard the email. The chances are it is not from Paypal or itunes. These companies will never ask you to reconfirm any information. If you do happen to click on the link you will be taken to a website that looks identical to the true page. If you are in doubt the best thing is to close down your browser completely and then open a new one, go to the true site and check your details.
We have come across incidents where hackers have accessed the network and monitor the goings on within your internal emails or emails to customers. They use the information of how you work and replicate this. One example we have come across is that a company has emailed Joe Bloggs a customer the bank details to pay an invoice. 5 minutes later Joe Bloggs got an email saying sorry I gave you the wrong account. Please make payment to this account. That second email did not come from you but Joe thinks it did. 2 months later you are chasing him for payment and he is adamant he paid. He did – to the hackers. Now both companies have lost a considerable amount of money – never to be seen again. The banks and Police are powerless as this money has been spread across multiple accounts throughout the world.
We recommend that you follow our simple rules and change some small ways in which you work – follow up emails concerning payments or bank transfers with a quick call. Did you get my email? If anything changes I will call you. Any time you think your PC is behaving weirdly – close everything down, disconnect the internet, turn your router & switch off. It won’t just be your PC but the whole office affected. Then contact MPR immediately to get assistance. The longer you leave the network connected the more damage can be done. Not only will they steal money but to hide any trace of the hack they will wipe everything and I mean wipe everything from your systems, we have seen blank laptops with not even an operating system left. This is more money lost as it will be costly and time consuming to rectify and keep your business running. Another rule is to make a regular back up of your data daily. This means only 1 day of work is lost and not an entire business.
Please also see http://www.nationalcrimeagency.gov.uk/crime-threats/cyber-crime/online-threats-to-consumers for any further information.
The Password Rules
The hackers are becoming more sophisticated – we have heard many stories, whether you think they are urban myths or not they need to be taken seriously. We cannot stress strongly enough the following rules:
Never write down or store a note on your PC with your passwords.
Make sure every password is different for each log in you have.
Change your passwords regularly, and randomly not – on the first of every month.
Choose a password that is not obvious – your birthday or PASSWORD is not & never will be secure
Never ever open an email from unknown address
Never ever open attachments from an unknown address.
Back up your systems daily
Ensure you have a reliable anti-virus and malware system in place this will help to slow them down
Any sign of anything untoward shut down PC, and Internet Router and switch
Call MPR IT for immediate assistance.Read more