How to Ensure Your Team Can Securely Work From Home
As the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to spread, many companies continue to assess how they can best prioritize their employee safety and maintain regular business operations. Many companies and governments recommend employees work from home, where possible, to avoid exposure to illnesses and the subsequent loss of productivity. This article will cover some of the ways your company and employees can work from home safely, securely, and productively.
How Businesses Can Securely Work From Home
With the increase in remote work, companies have to respond in various ways to avoid cybersecurity risks or interruptions to business. “When supporting a remote workforce, understand that security controls shift. Therefore, firewalls, DNS, and IDS/IPS could be ineffective when employees head home. Most environments that support VPNs should be able to protect the remote user, be sure to account for the bandwidth of users and remote desktop sessions,” said Dan Garcia, Senior Information Security Engineer II at Datto.
VPN Guidance from CISA
The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) released an alert to encourage organizations to adopt a heightened state of cybersecurity. According to the CISA, remote work options require a VPN solution to connect employees to an organization’s network. The CISA encourages organizations to review the following recommendations when considering alternate workplace options:
- Update VPNs, network infrastructure devices, and devices used to remote into work environments with the latest software patches and security configurations. See CISA Tips Understanding Patches and Securing Network Infrastructure Devices.
- Alert employees to an expected increase in phishing attempts. See CISA Tip Avoiding Social Engineering and Phishing Attacks.
- Ensure IT security personnel are prepared to ramp up the following remote access cybersecurity tasks: log review, attack detection, and incident response and recovery. Per the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Special Publication 800-46 v.2, Guide to Enterprise Telework, Remote Access, and Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) Security, these tasks should be documented in the configuration management policy.
- Implement multi-factor authentication (MFA) on all VPN connections to increase security. If MFA is not implemented, require teleworkers to use strong passwords. (See CISA Tips Choosing and Protecting Passwords and Supplementing Passwords for more information.)
- Ensure IT security personnel test VPN limitations to prepare for mass usage and, if possible, implement modifications to prioritize users that will require higher bandwidths.
In addition, managed service providers (MSPs) are recommending the following best practices and advice for how businesses can remain secure through remote work scenarios.
- Use a Secure WiFi Network: If possible, all remote workers should work on a secure, private home network instead of relying on public WiFi. Suppose employees send data through an unsecured WiFi connection. In that case, they lose the power of privacy, making it possible for cybercriminals to intercept data. Employees may be putting personal information at risk if they access email accounts or send sensitive data over a public WiFi network. It’s essential to ensure your network is secure by using a VPN and a strong password that isn’t easily cracked.
- Secure Home Workstations: Ensure everyone has fully patched and updated anti-virus and anti-malware software. It’s essential to follow the same best practices you would in the office and report any suspicious activity or concerns to internal IT or your MSP.
- Coordinate With Your Internal IT or MSP: When working remotely, it’s crucial to continue your typical cybersecurity best practices and reach out with any questions or concerns.
Protect Remote Workers from Data Loss
As small and medium-sized (SMBs) businesses worldwide continue to adapt to remote work, there has been a surge in the use of cloud collaboration apps. According to research from Techaisle, 74% of SMBs are using collaboration focused SaaS solutions.
In adjusting to a completely remote, digital workforce, businesses need tools to quickly and effectively enhance how they handle new compliance, security and data loss risks. Many companies have turned to cloud-based solutions like Microsoft 365 and G Suite. At one point, Microsoft Teams gained more than 12 million daily users in a single week – up 37.5% – and then suffered an outage due to the rapid rise in demand.
While Microsoft 365 and Google Workspace may make collaboration more efficient, data protection and management remain challenging. To address that threat, SMBs need a reliable solution for this growing reliance on the cloud and Datto’s SaaS Protection can help.
Microsoft 365 and Google Workspace Data are not Automatically Protected
SaaS data is not immune to permanent data loss. Both Microsoft and Google make no guarantees when it comes to restoring deleted data, whether it’s human error or a malicious ransomware attack. Also, the move to remote work has triggered a wave of new cyberattacks. Previously, only 12% of all malicious traffic was directed at remote workers. Still, according to ITProPortal, this has jumped to 60% during the pandemic.
Reduce Risk and Avoid Downtime with Datto SaaS Protection
An independent data backup separate from the SaaS app itself is necessary to avoid the most common data loss pitfalls. Setup, backup, and recovery can all be made remotely by your MSP, ensuring data is protected and managed efficiently. Want to learn more about our reliable SaaS backup and easy recovery? Contact our product experts today!
Services Protected by Datto SaaS Protection
Staying Connected & Productive When Working Remotely
Whether your team consists of members across different geographic locations or you have full remote employees, there are ways to work within the confines of temporary team member isolation. Here are some tips and suggestions for how your company can stay productive and communicative while working from home:
Communication tools need to be your go-to solution
- Video conferencing systems, like Zoom or Microsoft Teams, will be your best friend. Ask yourself, “Is this conversation better-suited face-to-face?” If so, book 15 minutes with someone over your video conferencing system instead of managing these communications over email or a messaging tool. It will go the distance to keep you and your teammates in sync.
- Slack and Microsoft Teams messaging tools are a great way to continue moving through processes and asking critical questions to team members. This is a quick way to get answers and to communicate small needs or changes with the group.
- Don’t be afraid just to pick up the phone and call someone. Share your phone number with your colleagues when you need to have a quick conversation.
Block off “Do Not Disturb” time on your calendar each day
- Communication tools, especially when remote, can become your entire day if you don’t manage your time appropriately. Establishing blocks of time where you request not to be interrupted to concentrate on your work is crucial.
- Utilize the “Do Not Disturb” feature to limit your notification overload. Getting constantly pinged can be overwhelming for anyone. Do your best to reduce distractions when you need to go heads down on problem-solving for an hour.
When you’re in a video meeting, turn on your camera and pay attention
- It’s easy to get distracted by other inquiries you’re receiving when you’re on a video meeting, especially when you can’t just close your laptop like when you’re in a conference room with team members. The only way to avoid this is to turn off notifications and focus on the session’s content.
- Turning on your camera allows people to read your expressions and interact with you more effectively. Additionally, it gives you the incentive to be present in the meeting instead of handling other issues during the call.
Working from home is about balance. Make sure you take frequent breaks and monitor your working hours as you would if you were commuting. It’s easy to burnout when you work from home, so talk with your manager if you feel that you are struggling to be productive. Use the tools you have at your disposal to continue being effective contributors and collaborators with your remote team members.
If you’re looking for an expert team to help improve your company’s work from home tools and security, contact Hemi IT Solutions today!
How to Confidently Protect Your Business from Ransomware
More and more, ransomware has emerged as a significant threat to individuals and businesses alike. Ransomware is a type of malware that encrypts data on infected systems, has become a lucrative option for extortionists. When the malware runs, it locks the victim’s files and allows criminals to demand payment to release them.
These people can impact organizations of all types and sizes. Still, small businesses can be particularly vulnerable to attacks, and the use of ransomware is on the rise. In the McAfee Labs June 2018 Threat Report, the number of new ransomware strains saw an increase of 62% in the previous four quarters. This increase brings McAfee’s total number of identified strains to roughly 16 million. Ransomware is distributed in various ways and is difficult to protect against. Like a flu virus, it is continually evolving.
There are ways to protect your business against ransomware attacks. In this article, you’ll learn how the malware spreads, the different types of ransomware proliferating today, and what you can do to avoid or recover from an attack. Hiding your head in the sand won’t work because today’s ransom seekers play dirty.
There are a few dominant types, or families, of ransomware in existence. Each type has different variants. New families will continue to surface as time goes on. Historically, Microsoft Office, Adobe PDF and image files have been targeted. Still, McAfee predicts that additional types of files will become targets as ransomware continues to evolve.
Most ransomware uses the AES algorithm to encrypt files, though some use alternative algorithms. To decrypt files, cyber extortionists typically request payment in Bitcoins or online payment voucher services, such as Ukash or Paysafecard. The standard rate is about $500, though there has been much higher. Ransomware campaigns typically focus their attacks in wealthy countries where people and businesses can afford to pay the ransom.
How Ransomware Spreads
Spam is the most common method for distributing ransomware. It generally spreads using a form of social engineering. Cybercriminals trick victims into downloading an e-mail attachment or clicking a link. Fake email messages might appear to be a note from a friend or colleague asking a user to check out an attached file, for example. Or, an email might come from a trusted institution (such as a bank) asking you to perform a routine task. Sometimes, ransomware uses scare tactics such as claiming that the computer has been used for illegal activities to coerce victims. Once the user takes action, the malware installs itself on the system and begins encrypting files. It can happen in the blink of an eye with a single click.
Another standard method for spreading ransomware is a software package known as an exploit kit. These packages identify vulnerabilities and exploit them to install ransomware. In this type of attack, hackers install code on a legitimate website that redirects computer users to a malicious site. Unlike the spam method, sometimes this approach requires no additional actions from the victim. This is referred to as a “drive-by download” attack.
Spam botnets and exploit kits are relatively easy to use but require some level of technical proficiency. However, there are also options available for aspiring hackers with minimal computer skills. According to McAfee, there are ransomware-as-a-service offerings hosted on the Tor network, allowing just about anyone to conduct these types of attacks.
Common Types of Ransomware
As noted above, ransomware is constantly evolving, and new variants are appearing all the time. So, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to compile a list of every type of ransomware proliferating today. While the following is not a complete list of today’s ransomware, it gives a sense of the major players and the variety in existence.
Ransomware has been around in some form or another for the past two decades but came to prominence in 2013 with CryptoLocker. The original CryptoLocker botnet was shut down in May 2014, but not before the hackers behind it extorted nearly $3 million from victims. Since then, the CryptoLocker approach has been widely copied, although today’s variants are not directly linked to the original. The word CryptoLocker, much like Xerox and Kleenex in their respective worlds, has become almost synonymous with ransomware. CryptoLocker is distributed via exploit kits and spam. When the malware runs, it installs itself in the Windows User Profiles folder and encrypts files across local hard drives and mapped network drives. It only encrypts files with specific extensions, including Microsoft Office, OpenDocument, images and AutoCAD files. Once the dirty work complete, a message informing the user that files have been encrypted is displayed on the user’s screen demanding a Bitcoin payment.
CryptoWall gained notoriety after the downfall of the original CryptoLocker. It first appeared in early 2014, and variants have emerged with various names, including Cryptorbit, CryptoDefense, CryptoWall 2.0 and CryptoWall 3.0, among others. Like CryptoLocker, CryptoWall is distributed via spam or exploit kits. The initial version of CryptoWall used an RSA public encryption key. Later versions (including the latest CryptoWall 3.0) use a private AES key, further masked using a public AES key. When the victim opens the malware attachment, the CryptoWall binary copies itself into the Microsoft temp folder and begins to encode files. CryptoWall encrypts a wider variety of file types than CryptoLocker. When encryption is complete, it also displays a ransom message on a user’s screen demanding payment.
The criminals behind CTB-Locker take a different approach to virus distribution. Taking a page from the playbooks of Girl Scout Cookies and Mary Kay Cosmetics, these hackers outsource the infection process to partners in exchange for a cut of the profits. This strategy allows for achieving large volumes of malware infections at a faster rate. When CTB-Locker runs, it copies itself to the Microsoft temp directory. Unlike most forms of ransomware today, CTB-Locker uses Elliptic Curve Cryptography (ECC) to encrypt files. CTB-Locker impacts more file types than CryptoLocker. Once files are encrypted, CTB-Locker displays a ransom message demanding payment in Bitcoins.
Locky is a relatively new type of ransomware, but its approach is familiar. This malware spreads using spam, typically in the form of an email message disguised as an invoice. When opened, the invoice is scrambled, and the victim is instructed to enable macros to read the document. When macros are enabled, Locky begins encrypting an extensive array of file types using AES encryption. Bitcoin ransom is demanded when encryption is complete. Can you sense a pattern here? The spam campaigns spreading Locky are operating on a massive scale. One company reported blocking five million emails associated with Locky campaigns over the course of two days.
TeslaCrypt is another new type of ransomware on the scene. Like most of the other examples here, it uses an AES algorithm to encrypt files. It is typically distributed via the Angler exploit kit, explicitly attacking Adobe vulnerabilities. Once a vulnerability is exploited, TeslaCrypt installs itself in the Microsoft temp folder. When the time comes for victims to pay up, TeslaCrypt gives a few payment choices: Bitcoin, PaySafeCard and Ukash are accepted here. And who doesn’t love options?
TorrentLocker is typically distributed through spam email campaigns and is geographically targeted, with email messages delivered to specific regions. Often referred to as CryptoLocker, TorrentLocker uses an AES algorithm to encrypt file types. In addition to encoding files, it also collects email addresses from the victim’s address book to spread malware beyond the initially infected computer/network—this is unique to TorrentLocker.
TorrentLocker uses a technique called process hollowing. A Windows system process is launched in a suspended state, malicious code is installed, and the process is resumed. It uses explorer.exe for process hollowing. This malware also deletes Microsoft Volume Shadow Copies to prevent restores using Windows file recovery tools. Like the others outlined above, Bitcoin is the preferred currency for the ransom payment.
According to ArsTechnica, KeRanger ransomware was discovered on a popular BitTorrent client. KeRanger is not widely distributed at this point. Still, it is worth noting because it is the first fully functioning ransomware designed to lock Mac OS X applications.
Instead of encrypting files on a victim’s computer, Petya overwrites the master boot record, leaving the operating system in an unbootable state. Petya commonly relies on phishing emails to spread its payload.
Initial reports categorized NotPetya as a variant of Petya, a strain of ransomware first seen in 2016. However, researchers now believe NotPetya is instead a malware known as a wiper with the sole purpose of destroying data and not obtaining any ransom.
WannaCry burst onto the scene in 2017 in a widespread ransomware campaign that affected organizations across the globe. Over 200,000 organizations in over 150 countries were impacted. The ransomware strain, also known as WCry or WanaCrypt0r, affects Windows machines through a Microsoft exploit known as EternalBlue.
Protect Against Ransomware
Cybercriminals armed with ransomware are a formidable adversary. While small-to-mid-sized businesses aren’t explicitly the target in ransomware campaigns, they may be more likely to suffer an attack. Frequently, small business IT teams are stretched thin and, in some cases, rely on outdated technology due to budgetary constraints. These constraints are the perfect storm for ransomware vulnerability. Thankfully, there are tried and true ways to protect your business against ransomware attacks. Security software is essential. However, you can’t rely on it alone. A proper ransomware protection strategy requires a three-pronged approach, comprising of education, security and backup.
First and foremost, education is essential to protect your business against ransomware. Your staff must understand what ransomware is and the threats that it poses. Provide your team with specific examples of suspicious emails with clear instructions on what to do if they encounter a potential ransomware lure (i.e. don’t open attachments, if you see something, say something.).
Conduct bi-annual formal training to inform staff about the risk of ransomware and other cyber threats. When new employees join the team, make sure you send them an email to bring them up to date about best practices. It is essential to ensure that the message is communicated clearly to everyone in the organization, not passed around on a word of mouth basis. Lastly, keep staff updated as new ransomware enters the market or changes over time.
Antivirus software is essential for any business to protect against ransomware and other risks. Ensure your security software is up to date, as well, to protect against newly identified threats. Keep all business applications patched and updated to minimize vulnerabilities. Some antivirus software products offer ransomware-specific functionality. For example, Sophos offers technology that monitors systems to detect malicious activities such as file extension or registry changes. If ransomware is detected, the software can block it and alert users. However, because ransomware is continually evolving, even the best security software can be breached. This is why a secondary defence layer is critical for businesses to ensure recovery in case malware strikes: backup.
Modern total data protection solutions, like Datto, take snapshot-based, incremental backups as frequently as every five minutes to create a series of recovery points. If your business suffers a ransomware attack, this technology allows you to roll-back your data before the corruption occurred. When it comes to ransomware, the benefit of this is twofold. First, you don’t need to pay the ransom to get your data back. Second, everything is safe since you are restoring to before the ransomware infected your systems. The malware can not be triggered. Here’s an example of how Datto saved the day for the international hotel chain, Crowne Plaza.
Additionally, some data protection products today allow users to run applications from image-based backups of virtual machines. This capability is referred to as “recovery-in-place” or “instant recovery.” This technology can be useful for recovering from a ransomware attack because it allows you to continue operations. At the same time, your primary systems are being restored and with little to no downtime. Datto’s version of this business saving technology is called Instant Virtualization. Instant Virtualization virtualizes systems either locally or remotely in a secure cloud in seconds. This solution ensures that businesses stay up-and-running when disaster strikes.
Ransomware and other malware shouldn’t hold you or your business hostage. If you’re ready to ensure, your business is protected in the event of an emergency, give us a call.
Why Your Business Needs A Digital Transformation
Digital Transformation and its Importance in Business
What is a digital transformation, and why is it important? Technology is essential for all businesses in today’s digital age. From startups to established businesses, it’s imperative to remain competitive and relevant.
Digital transformation ensures digital technology is incorporated into all areas of a business, replacing manual or analog processes with digital procedures and ensuring the effective use of new technology. Ultimately enhancing how you manage and add value to every customer interaction within your company.
Consolidate Information. Streamline Data. Communicate Better.
At Hemi IT Solutions, we provide a seamless transition. Every company’s specific needs, stage of growth and pace of change are factors to consider when implementing a digital change. A digital transformation is intended to improve business capabilities composed of people, process, and technology best practices.
Moving manual or analog processes to digital can be a challenging undertaking that requires time, acceptance and investment but operating will allow you to transform your business and allow your company to adapt to today’s ever-changing digital landscape.
In this article, we will explore the business benefits your company can see through digital transformation.
The benefits far outweigh the challenges. Making your business more accessible to a larger demographic, allowing you to develop more long-lasting relationships with new and existing clients. An effective transformation is a key component in a company’s successful business strategy.
Adaptability and Digital Transformation
If there is one thing that COVID-19 has taught us, it is the importance of going digital. Being able to access your information securely, from anywhere at any time, is a necessity. The pandemic has compelled many businesses to adopt cloud-based software and video technology to ensure the ability to work remotely. The ongoing situation made businesses evaluate their digital capabilities and adapt accordingly.
Integrating digital processes into your business strategy is vital to ensure your business’s success is not reliant on analog processes.
Going digital is pertinent for internal communication and external information when implementing data collection tools and analytics to improve customer experience. Particular customer datasets make it easier to assess, assemble and evaluate customer information, making for improved engagement and acquisition. Essentially, helping enhance business strategies and growth.
Creating digital workplaces is an exciting endeavour for any business as it guarantees longevity, flexibility, and success well into the future. Hemi IT Solutions can help your company adapt to this ever-changing digital age.
Approachability and Digital Transformation
Digital transformation is about improving how your business connects with its customers and adds value to every customer interaction with the company.
Undergoing this transformation can make your company more approachable over the leading competitor. The user experience (UX) or customer experience (CX) is a leading priority. A seamless and intuitive experience can create new and returning customers and consistent ROI.
Today’s customers expect to have information instantly, whether through comprehensive and mobile-friendly cross-functional web platforms or instant messaging systems and chatbots. No matter what industry, whether B2B or B2C, the customer expects a certain level of service and responsiveness. Providing your customer with a consistent experience across platforms will provide your company with a competitive advantage and why companies worldwide continue to make substantial investments in digital initiatives.
Hemi IT Solutions can provide a seamless transition to any new software and hardware implementation. We understand new technologies deliver the greatest value when they seamlessly integrate with existing systems.
Accountability and Digital Transformation
Another benefit of digital transformation is that it keeps the business accountable to its employees, clients, and overall objectives.
An effective digital strategy can empower employees to deliver more productivity by improving internal communication and collaboration through integrated intranets and cloud-based services. Undergoing a digital transformation and incorporating technology in daily operations creates a collective digital culture within a company and allows for additional connectivity and teamwork. Hemi IT Solutions can help you implement modern systems to help your team manage their workloads more efficiently and provide insights into employee and business performance.
Lastly, by helping companies achieve their digital transformation, we ultimately help them develop process efficiencies, streamline operations, and increase productivity, generating a competitive edge for the company and achieving their broader business goals and objectives.
With a successful digital transformation, all departments are empowered to communicate efficiently, manage the appropriate projects and access necessary data with ease.
Make the Change Today
Digital transformation is an essential part of business and imperative to remain competitive and relevant. Integrating modern technologies into everyday business operations is essential for success in today’s digital world and a vital tool in enhancing customer experience, employee productivity and overall success.
Digital transformation positions companies for growth and improves integration between different areas within a value chain, and enhanced business performance. Today, a digital transformation strategy will help your business be more adaptable, approachable, and accountable for future successes tomorrow.
Hemi IT Solutions can help you undergo your digital transformation today and help implement custom solutions. Reach out to our team and learn how we can help you with your digital transformation.
4 Elements You Absolutely Need for a Reliable IT Strategy
Why You Need a Reliable IT Strategy
An effective IT strategy creates a roadmap for technology to shape and support your company’s entire business plan. Information Technology plays a vital role for every individual within the business, including employees, executive leadership, and customers. For an IT strategy to be robust and efficient, it must mirror business goals, projects, and strategy. Therefore IT isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. An IT strategy that works well for one company often won’t suit another perfectly. A reliable IT strategy considers an organization’s mission, values, plans and outlook for achieving goals when building the IT infrastructure.
With the evolution and growth of technology, a cutting-edge IT strategy that supports the security, development and functions of a company is becoming more critical than ever for businesses. An effective IT strategy can boost sales, improve customer experiences, streamline marketing, and support communication between partners, vendors and consumers.
When building an IT strategy for your company, there are four elements to consider: hardware, software, security and support. They must co-operate and accentuate one another to function well and improve business practices.
High-quality hardware is the cornerstone of any effective IT solution. When you invest in premium hardware, it can save you from unnecessary lulls in productivity. From laptops and desktop computers to wireless routers and network servers, quality hardware keeps things running smoothly and provides added value because of durability.
When it comes to your network server, you need a solution to support your organization’s database, email functions, and additional files in a secure fashion with backup capabilities. Many companies are moving to cloud services for their server functionality. Utilizing the cloud allows companies to scale functions to fit their specific needs. Users can get their applications to market fast. Cloud technology is the most innovative solution available at this point, and when appropriately used, gives users a competitive advantage.
You can choose between public, private or hybrid storage based on the security needs for data, plus the control choices are entirely customizable. Cloud-based applications are easily accessible from practically anywhere and streamline work processes. They regularly update to stay current with changes and ultimately save companies money on servers and other equipment.
Software, and the data you’re putting on your hardware devices, is meant to maintain and control the business strategy. Businesses with innovative software solutions automate many business tasks and reports, streamline processes and save the organization time and money.
When building your IT strategy, you want to seek opportunities to program software functionality to fulfill business requirements. Depending on your company’s needs, you could require different solutions for tasks such as tracking inventory, recording accounting information, or storing data to manage other business activities.
Arguably the most critical detail of IT strategy is security. Security puts strongholds and processes in place to protect your company and customers’ data. Without a solid security strategy, your business could be at risk of hackers, cyber attacks, email scams, stolen information or worse.
When creating your IT strategy, it’s essential to list and be aware of potential threats that could affect your system. For each risk, realistic and actionable solutions or preventative measures need to be in place to ensure the risk never comes to fruition or escalates. Strong security reduces potential downtime and sets you apart as a trustworthy and reliable business.
A reliable IT strategy is a pro-active one, and it’s essential to focus on the future and the present. Ongoing IT support is a big part of innovative technology implementation. Great support always keeps operations running smoothly and introduces new technologies that will propel your business to the next level.
Our team at Hemi IT Solutions is dedicated to building successful, strategic, and customized IT plans for businesses in any industry. We keep up to date with advancing technology, monitor your hardware, software, servers, and provide ground-breaking solutions for your business’s continuity and future. Get in touch with our team today for a complimentary technical assessment and learn how we can help boost your business with our IT managed services.