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The 7 Differentiating Ways We Protect You From Ransomware

With the WannaCry attack still circulating, businesses are up in arms wondering how to protect themselves.

The first question you need to ask yourself is whether or not your existing IT provider has adequately protected you from the latest in ransomware developments. As your first line of defense against cyber threats, your IT provider must be on top of your security..

Ransomware is nothing new.

It’s just that this particulary virulent strain has garnered international media attention. Now, even more ransomware developers have exploited the same security gap that allowed WannaCry in, meaning that more businesses are exposed to risks. That’s why when the media starts talking about a global threat that has swept up tens of thousands of victims, it’s a bit too late.

Ransomware protection starts well before that.

Some IT providers do not focus on protection and prevention, leaving you vulnerable. In those cases, it becomes a matter of time before something happens to your networks.

A proactive, holistic approach to ransomware is your safest approach. Here’s how we protected all of our clients from the recent Ransomware attacks:

  1. We start all clients with a full security assessment. Whether your IT is being managed internally or with another provider, you can have us come in and assess your network and will provide a report that shows you where we see room for improvement. If nothing else, this offers clients assurance that they are secure.


  2. We perform daily proactive maintenance and monitoring. When software patches are sent by vendors, we ensure that they are updated quickly, reducing the number of vulnerabilities that ransomware and other malware can get into your network.

  1. We ensure their software is always up to date. Everything from your desktop operating systems to your line of business applications to your server software needs to be an up-to-date version that is still supported by the manufacturer. When you use outdated software, you’re at a much higher risk for infiltration.

  1. We implement multiple layers of security. Security needs to include firewalls, email spam blockers and an antivirus that is constantly updating with new definitions to enhance your ability to block emails from ending up in your inbox and identifying malware before it has a chance to cause damage.

  1. We never skimp on backups. Regardless of what protective measures you do or don’t put into place, having the right backups ensures that you can recover quickly from the ransomware without having to pay the ransom or worry about remnants of ransomware being left on your device, ready to reactivate at a moment’s notice (yes, this happens).

  1. We set up resilient environments. For our managed services clients, we ensure that their networks are set up to be resilient. If they experience an outage, ransomware or some other malady, recovery is quick and painless.

  1. We test their security over and over again. If our clients get a suspicious email, they know they can call us and we’ll test it out to see if it is malware or a legitimate link or attachment. We get calls like that all the time, and have successfully thwarted a number of potential attacks because of that.

If you’re not sure how much security you really need, start with an assessment. At a minimum, you should understand what your risks are and be able to prioritize where your attention should be on mitigating those risks. Remember, it takes more than an off-the-shelf antivirus to protect you.

How are you protecting your company from ransomware? Contact us today for a Security Assessment at (425) 687-6185 or online.  

Protect Your Business from the WannaCry Ransomware Now

When the so-called WannaCry ransomware attack swept across the globe recently, it took hospitals, businesses, and consumers by storm, affecting tens of thousands of people.

Perhaps the most alarming part about the attack: it’s still going and it’s still evolving.

The attack preys upon a vulnerability in Microsoft operating systems, making it particularly widespread. Attempts to completely end the attack have been met with evolved ransomware attacks that take advantage of the same weakness.

This is a strain of ransomware that you don’t even need to click something to get.

Understandably, a lot of businesses and consumers want to know how to protect themselves.

Stop WannaCry ransomware from taking your business down:

1. Install all Microsoft patches. Microsoft put out a security patch that corrected this now-exploited vulnerability back in March. Yet, many companies do not regularly update their operating systems. We ensure that patches are installed when they come out, and have verified that this patch was installed for our clients.

2. Use current software. Many companies use Microsoft operating systems that are no longer supported by Microsoft – including Windows XP for their desktops or Server 2003 for their servers. Because it’s not supported, it’s no longer receiving security patches. If you’re using XP or other software that is no longer supported, upgrade immediately.

3. Have image-based backups. The best way to prevent ransomware from taking your business down is to ensure that you have an image-based backup system. That way, if your network gets infected, you can easily restore the data without paying ransom.

Think you’re infected? Take these evasive actions immediately:

1. Shut everything down and disconnect the infected computers from network.

2. Call a reputable IT provider with expertise in dealing with ransomware to determine your best course of action.

3. Avoid paying ransoms where possible. There are no guarantees you get your files back, and there is a strong possibility that malware will be left on your PC.

Warding off future ransomware attacks

With cybersecurity experts warning users to batten down the hatches for the next wave of ransomware exploiting these vulnerabilities, it’s important to start being proactive and educated. Your staff should know what to do in the event that they click on something and realize they made a mistake. There’s no shame in the mistake, ransomware is rampant.

If it’s not WannaCry, or similar variants, it will be something else. Being prepared to deal with ransomware is not something you do after an attack hits mainstream media. It’s something you and your IT provider should be proactively defending against.

This is our approach to security. If you’re not sure that you’re safe from WannaCry, give us a call at  (425) 687-6185  or reach us online.

Recurring IT Issues You Shouldn’t Be Having

Having issues repeat in your IT environment is more than frustrating. It drains productivity, it costs you money and frustrates staff. And it shouldn’t be happening.

Do any of these 7 recurring issues sound familiar?

1. Can’t use line-of-business software. This happens when your IT provider doesn’t understand the issue or will not communicate with your software provider. Your IT partner should talk to your software manufacturer to resolve the issue.

2. Internet issues. Internet problems hinder employees and can prevent customers from reaching you. Often, IT providers do quick bandaid fixes instead of correcting the real problem, and these issues resurface again.

3. Printing issues. This is not going to bring the company to it’s knees, but it can be a sign of a bigger problem. Either your provider doesn’t undertand the root of the issue or isn’t dealing with the problem at all. Neither are good indications of a provider who has your back.

4. Files are corrupt. Files can become corrupt and it shouldn’t be a major issue because you should have backups (hopefully your provider has advised you of this). But if it’s happening repeatedly, it’s likely that the source of corruption is not being addressed – and that could be a major problem.

5. Backups failed. When files get corrupt, you get malware, or data is otherwise lost, your provider should easily restore that data if you have backups. We test our backups quarterly to ensure restoration, and this is not something that your provider should take lightly.

6. IT provider isn’t reliable. If you can’t get answers on the phone or they don’t show up when they say they will, or they don’t bring their “A” game every time, then that’s a recurring issue with your IT provider and not one you should have to put up with.

7. Malware keeps spreading. If you have malware, your IT provider should be able to swiftly handle the infection and protect you. If you keep getting malware or the same malware keeps spreading, that implies serious security gaps.

Any recurring issue is a sign of a bigger problem, and it needs to be addressed. The fix for these recurring issues? Bypass your IT provider and get a third party to do a full assessment of your environment. The assessment will help you determine where the problem lies – in your environment or in your IT provider – and what the best solution is. The assessment protects your investments and your company, allowing you to get back to work and put these recurring issues behind you.

Are you having recurring issues? Contact Dataworks at  (425) 687-6185  or online.

 

4 Ways We Protect Our Clients From Threats

Threats are everywhere, and they’re not just targeting big business. Phishing emails of increased sophistication target smaller businesses because they’re often more unsuspecting. Hackers are getting through firewalls that aren’t configured properly.

In fact, some threats aren’t even targeting anyone specific. Open Wi-Fi connections are breeding grounds for security threats. Employees who use their mobile devices may be unknowingly infecting your network as they log in.

And to fight these threats, your IT provider needs to be responsive to your needs. If you feel like just a number to your IT provider now, what’s going to happen when you really need their assistance?

Here are just 4 of the ways that we protect our clients from threats:

1. Multilevel security. It takes more than antivirus software to protect your business. Security software suites often don’t cover multiple layers well, despite their claims. The best protection is gained by working with a provider who knows the best tools for your specific environment and budget and will use a multi-layered approach to implement those tools and manage them for you.

2. Affordable remote access solutions. Many companies think remote access tools are out of their reach, so they rely on unsecured methods which creates unnecessary vulnerabilities on your networks. However, secure remote access is easy, offering you both the productivity and accessibility your employees need, while keeping your data and networks secure from threats.

3. Proactive approach to IT. The best defense is a good offense. Our OneCare managed services plan offers companies the ability to proactively protect their networks. By keeping software and equipment up to date, using the latest threat detection and aversion tools and monitoring your networks for any signs of trouble, we’re able to thwart problems before they have a chance. 

4. Responding to clients promptly. You call because you want your problems to go away. We believe in responding to each problem and assigning priorities to ensure that all issues are given the attention they deserve and the urgency each situation warrants. Each ticket that comes in is reviewed and escalated within 12 minutes, regardless of how the ticket is generated.

At Dataworks, we understand what threatens your business. Combating those threats requires a comprehensive approach to IT from a provider who will respond quickly every time you call. Don’t wait for trouble to strike your networks. Make sure your company is protected today.

Find out if you’re at risk. Contact us at  (425) 687-6185  or online for an assessment.

 

5 Core Services to Be Sure You’re Getting from Your Provider

How do you know when you’re getting good value from your IT provider? For most companies, the answer is not so simple. In fact, many companies just make their decision based on cost, assuming all IT companies are alike. But they aren’t – not by a long shot.

It’s important to ensure you’re getting the best value from your IT provider. For starters, make sure they’re providing you with these 5 core services:

1. Service Level Agreement. This is your IT provider’s guarantee to you and takes out all ambiguity in your relationship. This is essential. Too many small businesses believe that if something is technology related their IT provider will automatically cover it – when this is not the case. By spelling out the terms of your service agreement with the provider, you will know exactly what to expect and hold the provider accountable. Otherwise, you’re at their whim.

2. Work with other vendors. Your managed services provider should work with your other technology vendors to make sure that everything works harmoniously. This is particularly true for line-of-business software, where there might be kinks to work out with your operating systems or servers to make everything seamless. Your IT provider should be focused on improving your productivity and not resorting to finger-pointing with the software vendor.

3. Multiple layers of security. There is no software suite or single solution that will adequately protect your business from all of today’s security threats. That doesn’t stop some IT providers from offering security services that include only antivirus and firewall and telling you that it’s adequate (it’s not). Your security should offer you multiple layers of protection, drawing from the best manufacturers for each layer, not relying on a canned solution. These layers are now more scalable and affordable, so they can better meet the needs of small business.

4. Remote access. As the business landscape shifts to accommodate more remote work, your technology needs to follow suit. This is something that small businesses can easily afford now without taking risks or making large investments on infrastructure. Your IT provider should be able to offer you multiple options that help remote employees securely connect to company networks.

5. Future planning. Technology pushes us forward and a good IT provider will be thinking ahead with you. That means everything from forecasting for the lifespan of your technology to helping you budget for upgrades and plan for the downtime that occurs during systems upgrades.

Sometimes, providers don’t provide the services your company truly needs, but you might not even find that out until a crisis hits. Even with these core services, if you don’t feel like your IT provider is a partner to your company, then chances are that you’re not getting the best value for your IT dollar.

Are you getting value from your IT provider? Contact Dataworks Consulting at  (425) 687-6185  or online.

5 of the Latest Security Threats to Small Businesses

The landscape of network security is rapidly changing. More and more, security threats are targeting small businesses. Hackers and criminals see smaller businesses as easy targets, as they are often less secure. The loss of data or prolonged downtime also has a much larger impact on small businesses, making security the No. 1 concern for many companies.

Here are 5 rising threats that your company needs to guard against: 

Ransomware: The threat of ransomware isn’t new. It’s been around for a few years now. However, this may shock you: 65% of ransomware is now being delivered through encrypted websites that appear secure. The only way to safeguard against this is by increasing specific security measures on your firewall that will thoroughly inspect each piece of data coming through.

Internet of Things (IoT): The sheer number of different devices that can connect to the internet ‐from wireless access points to tablets, phones and even thermostats and door locks ‐ is astounding. A lot of small businesses use these without properly securing them. This creates backdoors onto your network, exposing you to a potential attack.

Firewalls: The latest firewalls are great security tools but only if they’re properly configured and maintained to not allow everyone on the network. Otherwise, they provide easy access points that can be exploited quite easily.

Phishing: This threat has been around for many years, but the level of sophistication has increased dramatically. Phishing emails look more realistic today than ever, making it easier to trick unsuspecting employees into giving up secure information. Email filters and employee education are both essential to combat this threat.

Mobile devices on the network (BYOD): Employees bringing their own mobile devices, customers accessing networks with their devices, and even portable company assets all pose different threats to your network that you need to guard against. This can easily be done with safeguards such as guest networks and mobile device management.

Many companies might think that they’re secure because they have the latest antivirus software, but this only guards against malware. Software suites for small business security are often ineffective too. While one or two applications in the suite tend to work exceptionally well, the suite often leaves gaps in coverage.

To be truly protected, you need to understand the threats targeting small businesses and use a multilayered approach to protect your company from these threats.

Contact Dataworks Consulting at  (425) 687-6185  or online.

 

The 7 Best Tips and Tricks to Making Remote Access Easy in 2017


If you’re a small business, you might think that offering employees the opportunity to work remotely is out of your league ‐ or an unsecured proposition that is riddled with risk for your company’s networks.

This couldn’t be further from the truth. In 2017, your company can easily and affordably make it possible for employees to access the work while they’re out of office without compromising network security.

You don’t need a lot of infrastructure or money to make it happen either. It’s easy and secure. In fact, the tools might already be in your environment. They just need to be configured properly.

Here are 7 tips and tricks to make mobility a possibility for your company:

  • You don’t always need a terminal server. Contrary to popular belief, remote access doesn’t always require a terminal server. While they are occasionally necessary, they are not the most affordable solution.
  • Check your current inventory. In many cases, you don’t need anything more than a good firewall that comes with its own Virtual Private Network (VPN). The VPN will usually require licensing for users (some even come with a few) and these are inexpensive.
  • Use line of business apps. A lot of business software offers mobile apps that make mobility easier than ever. The apps connect and share data between the mobile device and the server. If your business applications offer these solutions, they are worth exploring. .
  • Look into mobile device management (MDM) solutions. MDM will help you manage mobile devices that are used to access company data or networks. Perhaps most importantly, they make it easy to remotely wipe company data from mobile devices when a device is compromised. .
  • Seek out the cloud where it makes sense. Cloud-based applications like Office 365, which makes MS office email accessible through multiple forms, makes it easier than ever for employees to work from anywhere.
    • Turn cell phone into your office phone. Newer office phone systems offer apps that you can easily install on your mobile device to gain the full functionality of your office phone from anywhere without your clients knowing that the employee is working from home.
    • Implement a bring your own device (BYOD) policy. These are good to have if you have any personal, mobile devices in use ‐ both in and out of the office. This guides employees on acceptable use.

For years, many small businesses have thought mobility was out of their reach. In 2017, secure remote access has never been easier or more affordable.

Wondering if 2017 is the year you can offer remote access at your office? Contact us at  (425) 687-6185 or online.