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.

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.


 

My Notebook Won’t Connect to My New N750 Linksys Router or When You’re Not Holding All The Aces Your Holding The Bag

Holding All the Aces
My ever faithful US Robotics Router has been acting very intermittent lately, so it was time to replace it. After all, the servers that sit behind it run this site and some others and we can’t have those down. So, with a little research I ended up with a Linksys N750 (EA3500) router. Configuring the basic router functions went pretty easily, it did take a while to find where to input the virtual settings so the servers would get pass thru on the correct ports. But, all in all it went pretty well and those functions wouldn’t be used by a typical household.

UNTIL…. I went to configure my notebook to connect to the wireless part of the router.

Holding the Bag
After using the settings that came with the router for wireless access, my notebook asked for the pass code (as normal), I supplied it, but, unfortunately it wouldn’t connect. I thought it must be in that new fangled WPA2/WPA Mixed setting. After all it’s too simple to just supply the wireless password and everything would work right? right! After all the usual computer consulting trouble shooting, I changed the settings to the old standard WEP, still no dice. Linksys support website said to attempt the connection put in the password and you’ll connect, then asked “Was this information helpful?”.  But what if that doesn’t work? What now?

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This is where we have to think small, and start methodically. Here’s what to do:

  1. Unplug the Linksys Router, wait about 20 seconds and plug it back in. Wait for it to boot up completely.
  2. Restart the device (in my case my notebook) and attempt the connection.
  3. It Worked.

Amazing how much, just resetting clears the confusion in a device sometimes. So, next time before you make the call, check the connections, power down the devices and try one last time. BTW, there is an order to starting network devices and each one should be completely up before you move on to the next one, and they are: Modem, Router, Switch, Computer.

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