Breaking Up

The moment you realize you are not alone

Some years back when I first started setting up my first web servers. I built a domain server, a website server, an email server, and a database server. Everything was running smoothly. Then after about one month or so, I came into the office and looked over at the server monitor and noticed the mouse moving across the screen. I thought, “What’s going on?”. There were a couple of menu’s being clicked. Then it hit me, I’ve been hacked!

My first emotion was anger after all these are my machines, I spent many, many hours getting them configured just right. This was a big lesson for me. Instead of assuming that everyone is nice, and everyone respects your space that doesn’t mean anything when you put yourself out there on the internet. People will just hack, hold your work for ransom. Why, because you didn’t think that would happen to you.

I’ve had many, many calls when someone has come to work after a weekend, or a holiday suddenly something is just not the way it should be, or after an innocent restart there’s now ransomware.

Sure, some break-ups are hard to do, but this decision should be an easy one this time.

How can we protect ourselves?

Well, as I found out you have to be proactive about it. You have to make sure every machine that accesses the internet (and especially servers) have had every single patch/update installed all the time, then make sure you have a very good anti-virus, anti-spam, and a good firewall. Then make sure that the virus software runs daily, scans continuously and make sure you check each machine daily, weekly and monthly. Test your backups by restoring them to a physical or virtual machines, you don’t want a backup failing when you need it.

That’s just too much time, how can I do my job if I have to do this on all my employees’ machines?

Well, you certainly would find the time, if you got ransomware at a price of about 15 bitcoins ($45,000 dollars) or you’d certainly feel bad if you had the opportunity to do something and didn’t.

We offer “Managed Services” to help you as much as possible to avoid the bad guys

Our managed service plans offer several layers of protection. In every case when we start a new managed service customer the machines have been unpatched and unprotected with on average 50 or more needed security patches. In addition, anti-virus is non-existent, isn’t scanning on a regular basis or its freeware.

Neil was right, breaking up is hard to do

Sure, some break-ups are hard to do, but we need to break up with the hackers. This decision should be an easy one this time (a no-brainer). Want to know how much your outage would cost? We can tell you. Call us for a personal outage cost comparison you’ll be surprised. We’re waiting to help you.

So, what happened to the hacked server?

Well, I immediately unplugged it from the network and restarted it. It would not start, the hacker had done his job. I spend the next 70 hours straight (with just a few 1/2 hour naps), getting the email server back online. I make sure things are up to date, patched and cared for every minute now and you should too.

The Unspoken Hero or Silent Killer of your Business

In our busy internet influenced life we often don’t think too much about how being without our electronic stuff would be. Because of a recent electrical storm, I didn’t think too much about it. Until I thought about a nearby restaurant and wondered if they had a particular item on the menu, I immediately grabbed my tablet, turned it on, then it hit me, the power is out and there is no internet (duh!). Imagine this same scenario but this time we need to send an important document, a powerpoint presentation, or even a contract. But, instead of just the electricity being down we’re permanently down because our computers drive has just crashed.

The silent killer is definitely the outage, and not having access to our data. We depend on it, and it would destroy our business without it. Even for a short time I couldn’t last long without the internet.

Most of the time being a computer consultant I go about doing my regular tasks. These tasks are unseen by customers and occur on an ongoing basis, its just part of the job to spend so much time working with backups. Recently with my new “Managed Service” offering I changed my strategy because of the difference between a consultant that is called when things just break, and a true “Managed Service” provider.

There are several factors to consider when creating a good backup plan. What kind of business is involved? How long could this customer be without their files? How many days could they gap if they lost part of their information? If a ransomware attack occurred how are the backups stored? What if a tornado landed?

Computer Hardware

Certainly, the list can go on, but, taking the most important ones and developing the plan is what a good consultant and a “Managed Service” provider do. I just started implementing mock ransomware attacks on my managed service clients as an ongoing test to make 100% sure they are ready. Have concerns that when your network crashes you’re ready? Give me a call, I’ll be happy to offer a 68 point network review at no cost. In the Dallas / Ft. Worth area call 972-571-4808.

Time face
What was your time?

Should you want to see how long you could go without your network or internet connection, turn off or unplug your electronic devices and see how much time it takes you before you reach for one.

 

 

New Year means New Threats…

Remember the IRS hoaxes, and FBI emails

Keep in mind the government doesn’t send emails. Also, be on the lookout for banking emails, be very careful. Sometimes if I get something and I’m not completely sure I’ll hover over one of the links in the email, outlook will usually display the underlying link as a balloon showing the actual location. If I see a strange website location address, then I know for sure it’s a phony. When in doubt, don’t click.

We Add to our Email Filter Once a Month

Every few weeks I sit down and go though my junk email and add those suspicious items.

One thing that might surprise you is that nearly 2.5 million emails have been processed by the server in the last 30 days. In addition of that 1 million were SPAM.

It’s a never ending battle, and striking a balance between what to allow and what to block is daunting. The SPAMers typically change the words in a subject just a little to get through and you can’t use the email address to block, because that will be different next time.

The Biggest Fear is Ransom-ware

In recent time, ransom-ware is the biggest threat. Using Microsoft’s own technology against you, clicking on an email link, or clicking on a suspicious website can infect your computer. The ransom-ware executes an encryption algorithm that encrypts all your documents, images and backups. The encryption key that unlocks it is sent to the perpetrators and you’ll have to pay them to unencrypt your files. This is true for both Apple and PC’s, no one is safe.

Some folks over at Cyber-Reason have put together a free utility that can help prevent ransom-ware attacks, it’s available from this link. Do a google search and you can find free ransom-ware protection for your Mac.

What should you do?

Well, if you’re one of my clients, you’re taken care of on an ongoing basis.  I work hard to help protect and clean up your inbox before you get it. If your not, you should be. Give me a call at 972.571.4808 and ask me about offsite automatic data backups, low cost hosting, and email hosting.