Author: infomedia

Computer Security Alert: New Cryptowall Ransomware Threatens to Lock Up Your Files


Have you ever heard of ‘ransomware’? If not, now is the time to become familiar with the concept, as a particularly devious piece of ransomware is making its way around the Internet.

Ransomware is an illicit computer program that is placed on your computer when you download infected files. The program, once on your computer, encrypts your files with a secret key, making them unusable unless you know the key.

The catch? To de-encrypt your files, you need to pay $500 to the creators of the program. It’s a ransom, hence the name, ‘ransomware’. This particular version is called Cryptowall, and it’s making its rounds through the web.

How to Avoid Cryptowall

How can you make sure you steer clear of this nasty program?

There are two main ways Cryptowall gets on your system. The first is by downloading attachments that have been infected by the program. The second way is by clicking on advertisements that have been infected.

One tactic the creators of the program use to spread Cryptowall is by sending fake incoming fax reports, or sending emails informing users of a new voicemail. There are also suspicious-looking Dropbox links that are being sent out.

The same computer security principles that keep your computer clear of other viruses and programs can also help you avoid Cryptowall and other ransomware programs. Instruct your users to avoid clicking on any suspicious links sent to their email addresses. If it looks too good to be true – or if there is any question about the origins of the email – don’t download it or click on it.

Also, make sure your system’s antivirus and antimalware definitions and software are continually updated. Doing so will give your computer a robust barrier against intrusion and give you warning about anything you’re about to download or install.

Additionally, be sure to back up your data regularly. Creating a safe and clean copy of your data gives you a way to restore your data in the event your files become compromised by this program or any other illicit program. We cannot stress enough how important it is to back up your files and your data, to protect them not just from Cryptowall and other dangerous programs, but also from emergency disasters and other situations. Contact us for more information on our data backup and recovery services, and call us for a free backup assessment.

By being vigilant and taking proper precautions, you can avoid paying ransom for your files and stay away from Cryptowall.

Still Using Windows XP? Your Computer Security Could Be Compromised


Last year, we wrote about how Microsoft decided to finally end support for one of its landmark products, Windows XP.

Since that last post, the April 8, 2014 deadline has come and passed. Now, any computer system that uses Window XP (or Microsoft Office 2003, for that matter) is wide open and vulnerable to a slew of potential problems, all because there are no longer any security updates, hotfixes, patches, or technical support available for these systems.

As a recap of what could happen, you could face security risks from new exploits designed to take advantage of security systems dependent on Windows XP. The protections that normally would be there are no longer being developed.

You can also have certifications suspended if you’re audited, since your systems’ integrity is no longer guaranteed.

Finally, you can face a lack of compliance charge if you are in an industry that demands information security standards from regulators.

Plus, software and hardware vendors likely aren’t supporting Windows XP SP3. It’s just like what happened with Windows 2000. Software and hardware that is created now doesn’t function with Windows 2000, and the same fate is likely for Windows XP.

Windows XP is a great system, but Microsoft is moving on to other systems and platforms. Your organization should do the same. You need to take action to make sure your computer security is up to date and in line with the latest in protective measures – and need to do so as soon as possible, in order to mitigate risks.

Are You Ready for April 2014? If Not, Your Computer Network Is at Risk

Do you know what happens on April 8, 2014? If you run Windows XP or Office 2003 in your office environment, you should – you could face compliance and security risks if you’re not prepared.

On that day, support will officially end for Windows XP and Microsoft Office 2003. This means no more security updates, patches, hotfixes, or technical support. As a result, there are potential consequences that require upgrades now rather than later – especially given how long it takes to upgrade an enterprise network.

Here is the info you need to know before the April deadline arrives so you can act today.

Windows XP Set to Fade Away computer network

Approximately 31% of all organizations use Windows XP in some capacity. Considering how long ago this OS was launched, that is a remarkable statistic.

Now, though, Microsoft is moving its customers away from this mainstay by ending support. You can certainly use Windows XP SP3 after this date if you wish – there’s nothing to keep you from it – but doing so is unwise.


Why not Upgrading Is Risky

If you continue using unsupported Windows XP after next April, your organization will face:

  • Security risks from vulnerabilities and exploits that will no longer be patched or fixed but will still be prevalent
  • Potential for certification suspension should an auditing organization determine you can no longer maintain the integrity of your systems
  • Lack of compliance with federal regulations in certain industries, such as healthcare, that require a certain standard of information security for sensitive data

Furthermore, it’s also pretty likely that software and hardware vendors will stop supporting Windows XP SP3. The OS immediately preceding Windows XP – Windows 2000 no longer has hardware or software supported on that operating system.  Software and hardware created today can’t function properly with Windows 2000.

The same fate is likely with Windows XP.

The risk of using Microsoft Office 2003 is a bit less severe, but is still something you’ll need to address to make sure your work environment is as productive as it is now. Given the time it takes to deploy a new IT environment, acting today is better than waiting any longer and facing problems come April.

Take Action Today to Prepare Your Business  

April is less than six months away. That’s not a lot of time to protect your systems against new viruses, aggressive hackers, and other dangers to your systems.

Plus – and this is just as important – there may be serious legal compliance issues at stake, as mentioned above. The cost of dealing with paperwork, paying fines, hiring lawyers, and ultimately fixing a problem later is far greater than preemptively preparing now. Don’t get entangled in red tape and government agency enforcement if at all possible.

Take action today to make sure your systems are upgraded and ready to not only protect against outside dangers, but also comply with the law.

The Top Three Reasons Why Your Network Needs Preventative Maintenance

In a split second, without warning, disaster can strike your computers, networking, servers, software, and other elements of your work environment – leaving you crippled and unable to perform.

Sometimes, we can pick up on warning signs and take action in the nick of time. Whether it’s a virus, a hacker, a piece of unsupported software, or an obsolete piece of hardware, bad things will happen.

Here are three reasons why you should take advantage of preventative maintenance – and nip the problem in the bud before you have one.

Downtime Is Extremely Expensive

How much money does your business make each hour that it is supposed to operate, but can’t? preventative maintenance

Last year, businesses in North America lost 70.6 million person hours. That’s over 400 hours on average per company per year.  You can imagine how much that would cost – and that’s just considering labor costs. Once you include lost opportunity costs, customer service costs, damaged reputation, supply chain disruption, and other negative impacts, the cost grows exponentially.

Every hour that your network doesn’t function costs your business money. It is far less expensive to mitigate these problems before they become larger, costlier problems that take longer to fix and cause more disruptions.

Your Data Is Exceptionally Vulnerable

As technology grows, so do opportunities for havoc when it comes to the most fragile and valuable component of your network – its data.

Imagine what would happen if critical data became corrupted, stolen, lost, or otherwise compromised. For most businesses, that could not only expose them to financial consequences, but could also have legal compliance repercussions.

Preventative maintenance includes testing your backups on a scheduled basis to make ensure your data is being backed up, secure, and duplicated onsite and offsite for maximum protection. It can also help maintain your systems so security vulnerabilities are identified as they occur – not as they are exploited.

Your Systems Have Critical Points of Failure

Finally, how your infrastructure operations may be at risk due to unseen-but-present points of failure, or weak spots in the process.

Preventative maintenance can identify weak links in your IT infrastructure and review them before they have a chance to break, causing damage to the rest of your system.

This typically includes:

  • System health checks that take care of old, unused files, streamline processes, free up resources, and boost your overall productivity by identifying warnings and critical errors that may otherwise go unnoticed without a maintenance plan and monitoring software in place
  • Security health checks that routinely sweep and monitor your systems for harmful internal and external behavior, vulnerabilities, unpatched software, undefended ports, ineffective firewalls, attempts to penetrate your defenses, and other signs of security risks
  • Hardware reviews that take a look at your physical equipment – computers, networking, storage, servers – and ensure they are updated and performing as expected, while assisting with forecasting replacement timeframes and budgeting

There are plenty of reasons why preventative maintenance is not only a wise idea for any business, but a must.  Talk with us today for more info on how you can set up preventative maintenance for your own systems and guard them against the unknown and unforeseen.

Want to Keep Your Data Safe? Onsite and Offsite Data Backups Are a Must

For businesses in today’s age, data is easily one of the most – if not the most – valuable assets.

It’s also one of the most vulnerable.

In a moment, data can be corrupted, stolen, or lost – crippling your business’s ability to execute its mission. Since recovering lost data may be impossible, the product of years of collection, analysis, and diligence can disappear forever. Such a calamity could also keep you from meeting compliance for many industries, which is a serious legal problem with potentially-severe repercussions. birmingham it

The Risk of Failure

Case in point: 60% of companies who experience data loss for 10 days or more go out of business within 180 days. It gets worse; a staggering 93% of companies who lose data for 10 days or more file for bankruptcy within 365 days of the disaster – and half file for bankruptcy immediately.

Even if you have backups, the risk is still there. All storage drives and tapes will fail over time – and only 34% of businesses routinely test these backup devices. Once they do, 77% have found points of failure.

Fortunately, with data backups and routine tests, you can avoid these disasters. However, merely pursuing one option over the other isn’t enough. Here is why both onsite and offsite data backups are a must.

Onsite Data Backup Gives You Immediate Access

With onsite data backup, you can store your data on your premises. Our solution includes a fireproof external hard drive that can resist temperatures up to 1550° F for 30 minutes per ASTM E119, while also resisting floods to a depth of 10 feet for three days, freshwater or saltwater.

Using onsite data backup gives you several advantages. You can:

  • Quickly store data to a networked device
  • Access your data quickly to restore your work to a certain point in time
  • Retrieve data without the Internet

We use ShadowProtect 5 to protect the operating system, platforms, and data – everything on your server. This allows us to restore your data after disaster strikes very quickly and easily – even to different hardware if needed.

But that’s not all you need to protect yourself. If your current backup solution includes taking the backups physically off site, your data must be encrypted if it contains sensitive data for compliance reasons.

That’s why we recommend keeping onsite backups on the fireproof hard drive as well as performing offsite backups that would be encrypted and in multiple geographic locations (per some legal requirements for specific industries). This brings us to…

Offsite Data Backup Gives You Flexibility and Automation

Offsite data backup takes your files and duplicates them offsite through the Internet via a secure connection in multiple geographic locations.

This backup method lets you:

  • Create multiple copies of your data
  • Protect your data with encryption
  • Access your data from any location, securely
  • Automate your recovery, even when you’re not there
  • Store a virtually-unlimited amount of data

Our Bcloud Offsite Data Backup Service gives you automated data backup and recovery options around the clock through encrypted channels, ensuring that you can pick back up where you left off anywhere – even if you have to set up an emergency location after disaster strikes.

What Do Both Methods Give You?

When combined, both methods give you a powerful way to protect and safeguard your data – the lifeblood of your business.

Make sure you can perform your work at all times, no matter what threats may be present. Consult with us about how you can put into place a superior system to maintain the continuity of your business –and keep on mission.