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Tech Talk for the reader of all things technology.
Two weeks after the first infections of WannaCry, the Ransomware that took the world by storm, we can finally take a deep breath and try to analyze the damage this campaign has done. One element worth noting is that while it may have disrupted lots of businesses, WannaCry failed to generate equivalent income for its creators. The bitcoin wallets created to collect ransoms contains a bit more than $100,000, an amount that pales in comparison with other, less famous ransomware campaigns of the past. This is the result of a variety of mistakes in the malware, like for example the famous kill-switch, an easy to control check that effectively shut down the malware.
Unfortunately, the ransomware, even if it was not successful in terms of monetization, still impacted a large number of companies and individuals that were not ready for something of these proportions. In addition, WannaCry has breathed new life into the world of ransomware, attracting more people than ever to this kind of illegal activity. In fact, we have seen a number of new Ransomware variants emerge in the last week. While some of them were copycats, others were enhanced versions of WannaCry, using not just one, but in some cases up to 7 different NSA exploits.
Now more than ever, its vital for you to always keep a backup of your work and be up-to-date with all the security patches released.
Spear-phishing attacks have become increasingly “laser-focused,” with many campaigns aimed at only a small number of inboxes belonging to the targeted organization, according to a report published this week by Israel-based anti-email phishing solutions provider IRONSCALES.
The company has analyzed data from 500,000 inboxes belonging to more than 100 of its customers over a period of 12 months. An evaluation of 8,500 emails that bypassed spam filters showed that roughly 77 percent of attacks targeted 10 inboxes or less, and one-third of malicious messages targeted only one inbox.
Experts believe attackers have been targeting fewer inboxes as this can help their operation stay under the radar longer, and it increases their chances of success if the emails are “hyper-personalized.”
The IRONSCALES study showed that 65 percent of email phishing attacks lasted for up to one month, and nearly half of them only lasted for less than 24 hours. Of the campaigns that went on for more than 30 days, roughly one-third spanned across 12 months or more.
Researchers noticed that attackers have increasingly aimed blast campaigns, which are not tailored to the recipient, at less than 10 mailboxes at a time. On the other hand, malware drip campaigns, which are more personalized, are more successful at bypassing traditional spam filters and they typically last longer.
According to the report, nearly 95 percent of phishing emails were part of highly targeted campaigns involving messages that impersonated someone from within the organization. Phishing emails that spoof a popular brand name are less common as they are more likely to be caught by spam filters - IRONSCALES noted that for every five brand-spoofing attacks detected by spam filters, 20 spear-phishing emails went undetected.
The most targeted departments are operations and finance, and the most frequently spoofed brands are DHL and Google.
“Sophisticated email phishing attacks represent the biggest threats to organizations of all sizes,” said Eyal Benishti, founder and CEO of IRONSCALES. “This report verifies that attackers have adopted numerous tools and techniques to circumvent traditional rules-based email security and spam filters. It’s now incumbent upon all organizational leaders to make sure that their employees are well-trained in phishing mitigation and that the cybersecurity technology in place is sophisticated enough to identify, verify and remediate email phishing attacks in real-time.”
What is the 3-2-1 Backup Rule and Why Do Your or Your Business Need it?
In a world of constantly changing technologies and their demand for bigger, better and faster ways of storing data, best practices for data governance can quickly evolve. This has not been the case for the 3-2-1 backup rule. This golden rule has withstood the test of time and applies to everything, from data stored on physical hardware or virtual machines, either locally or on a provider’s infrastructure.
That phish was this big!
Here's what you can do about it.
The tell-tale signs that your network has been hacked are all too familiar, or at least they should be. You may think it’s just a fluke (don’t we always get bombarded with pop-ups?), but if your systems seem more sluggish than usual, you notice unauthorized content posted on your website, or passwords have been changed without authorization, chances are your network’s been hacked. Don’t panic! It’s important to remain calm, retain your professional demeanor, and act decisively.
In addition to seeking guidance from a data security professional, follow these five steps for quickly responding to and recovering from a network attack.
Installing new software, keeping abreast of security issues, installing patches and upgrading to new versions of software is a full-time job. However, many small businesses can’t afford an in-house IT specialist, so they outsource to IT consultants who are busy and not always able to stay on top of the business’s IT needs. Other businesses rely on an “involuntary” IT person such as the company’s office manager. Either approach costs time, money and hassle and can even put your business at risk.
If your business doesn’t have an IT specialist on staff, using cloud-based software makes your life a lot easier. All of these updates are handled automatically off-site by the cloud services provider, which has a full staff of IT experts to provide up-to-the-minute technology. Even if your business does have IT specialists on staff, outsourcing to a cloud services provider enables your IT employees to spend less time on nuts-and-bolts maintenance issues and more time developing innovative ideas to grow your business.
It seems that every day, we read about data breaches affecting huge corporations, such as Target, Home Depot and Sony. If such big companies aren’t immune to malware, hackers and viruses, you can imagine how vulnerable your small business is. And while large companies can afford the fines and lawsuits associated with a data breach, such costs will put the typical entrepreneur out of business. Don’t assume you’re safe because no one would bother to hack your business data. In reality, because small businesses are typically less protected from online threats, they are actually the preferred targets of online hackers.
Reputable data security solutions providers can help by offering far better security than the average small business owner can provide. Storing your data in the cloud ensures it is protected by experts whose job is to stay up-to-date on the latest security threats.
Natural disasters, theft or accidents can destroy your business’s critical data if it’s stored solely on hard drives or in-office servers. In recent years, extreme weather events such as floods, hurricanes and blizzards have put many small companies out of business—at least temporarily. Between 40 and 60 percent of small businesses affected by a disaster never re-open their doors, according to FEMA statistics.
Cloud storage and backup services can store continuously updated copies of your business data and applications online, so they’re always safe from disaster and can be restored after an incident. Automated backup removes the risk of human error during the backup process, creating greater security. In addition, many cloud backup solutions offer the ability to save multiple versions of a document automatically, so you can easily go back to access earlier versions.
Of course, you don’t need your business to be decimated by an earthquake to see the value of cloud backup solutions. If your in-office server goes down, or if a heavy snowfall unexpectedly keeps you and your employees from getting to the office, cloud services can ensure your business doesn’t miss a beat. You and your staff can keep working using cloud services to keep your business up and running.
Working remotely is a preferred perk for many employees these days. And, of course, busy small business owners often end up burning the midnight oil at home. When you use cloud services, you don’t have to email yourself files for later, or remember to bring a thumb drive home. Instead, you and your team can access the latest versions of your documents and data from anywhere you have an Internet connection. Cloud services are a game-changer for salespeople and others who frequently travel on business to visit clients and prospects in person. Never again will you have to worry about leaving the latest version of a presentation, contract or proposal behind at your office.
Cloud-based software updates automatically, with no effort on your part. With no need for time-consuming maintenance on your end, your staff gains efficiency. Employees don’t have to sit around waiting (and not working) while your IT specialist updates or fixes their computers. And since they always have the latest versions of software, their computers are always running at peak performance. Fewer crashes and faster speeds mean your workers can get more done in less time.
Cloud services offer new ways to connect with remote or virtual employees, with customers and with prospects. For example, you can hold virtual conference calls or video conferences online using cloud VoIP technology. Cloud-based collaboration tools allow teams to view, comment on and edit documents or presentations simultaneously in (almost) real-time. When there’s no need to travel to a physical location to hold a meeting, your options for interacting with customers expand incrementally. That means more satisfied customers and stronger relationships.
Cost savings is one of the cloud’s biggest benefits for small businesses. Many cloud services providers offer free versions that are often suitable for a small company’s needs. Instead of making a one-time payment for costly software, you pay for cloud services as you go, on a monthly or subscription basis. This pay-as-you-go model helps your cash flow, as costs are spread over time.
Cloud services cut your labor costs, too, since the cloud services provider handles tasks that would normally be done by an IT employee. Last, but not least, when using cloud services, you pay only for what you use. This ensures you aren’t overspending on hardware you don’t end up using, or buying software that your business quickly outgrows.
As a small business owner, enterprise-level software tools used to be beyond your reach. But if you use cloud computing solutions, that’s no longer the case. Cloud-based software enables you to access powerful, secure applications that most small businesses couldn’t afford without investing in expensive hardware upgrades or costly software installations. Having access to cloud computing tools can help even the smallest business look big and successful to potential customers. With the latest software at your disposal, your small business can compete on a more level playing field with bigger companies.
Cloud services are a great way for small businesses to manage planned growth. As your company expands, you can easily switch to the next level of cloud services, add servers or add users almost instantly. There’s no need to purchase costly new software or hardware, because you’re just “renting” what you need from the cloud services provider.
In addition to helping you deal with planned growth, cloud services also enable you to manage unexpected growth spurts. What if your product suddenly goes viral on social media and your business website is overloaded with visitors placing orders? You can quickly solve the problem by scaling up to the next level of cloud-based services or adding new cloud-based tools.
Cloud services can help with unexpected or seasonal slowdowns, to. If business declines, you eliminate a product or service, or you need to lay off staff, simply scale down the cloud services you are using. By providing simple, affordable scalability, cloud services enable small businesses to turn on a dime.
Cloud services mean infinite flexibility for small business owners. Most cloud services providers offer free trials or demonstrations so you can test out their offerings and see how well suited they are for your business needs. If you like the product, subscribe to it. If you change your mind, unsubscribe. It’s as simple as that, without the need to learn a new system and install or uninstall programs. Being able to try out new technology without making a huge commitment of money or time is a big bonus for small business owners on a budget.
Join the Crowd in the Cloud
Clearly, cloud computing offers a host of advantages for small business owners. Perhaps the biggest is that it enables you to focus less on IT and more on your core business. With the flexibility and ease of cloud services, you can move quickly to take advantage of opportunity and grow your business to its full potential.
Your choice of operating system—iOS, Android or Windows—may be driven by what you already have in your business (although it doesn’t have to be). Each operating system has some pros and cons. Apple offers streamlined simplicity and a wide array of apps; however, its tablets lack expansion capability or user-sharing features. Android tablets offer customizability and affordability, but are more susceptible to malware. Windows tablets offer the most “business-friendly” functionality—including the ability to run the full version of Windows 8—but are expensive.
The functionality you need will affect your choice of operating system. What do you want your tablet to do? What applications do you need? Research available apps for each operating system; read user and professional reviews.
Tablets come in a range of sizes. Generally, 7-inch tablets are considered small; 10-inch tablets are large. Bigger screen sizes boast better display quality, resolution and readability, but also weigh more.
Even if you use cloud-based apps to store and access data on a tablet, you can only access to that data when you have an Internet or cellular connection. For maximum productivity during times you don’t, choose a tablet with enough internal storage to handle your data—and then some. Consider the types of files you store, and don’t forget that apps take up space, too.
The higher the processor’s “-core” designation, the faster it is—for example, quad-core is faster than dual-core. In general, you’ll want the fastest processor you can afford.
Depending on how you plan to use the tablet, you may need external USB ports, HDMI ports or slots for memory cards to expand internal storage.
Wi-fi Only or Cellular Connectivity
Some tablets are Wi-Fi-only, but for more flexibility, look for a tablet that lets you get cellular service from a wireless provider. If you want to use your phone as a Wi-Fi hotspot for your tablet, choose a tablet that can do this.
If you will type a lot on your tablet, you’ll probably prefer an actual keyboard to the on-screen keyboard. For graphics applications like sketching or jotting notes in handwriting, consider a a model with a stylus built in.
Multiple Accounts/User Logins
If different users need to share the same tablet, make sure you choose one that allows multiple users or logins.
Battery life is especially important if you’re frequently on the road, use your tablet for long stretches at a time or use battery-intensive apps. Manufacturers’ battery life estimates are generally best-case; read user reviews for a more realistic estimate.
Consider the environment in which you’ll be using the tablet. A tablet that’s used on construction sites must be tougher than one used in corporate conference rooms.
As tablets gain storage space, screen size and functionality, they often gain weight, too. It can get tiring to tote a hefty tablet in your bag or hold it up to view. When assessing weight, factor in cases, keyboards and other attachments.
Budget is a big consideration—but don’t skimp on tablet features to save money. Buy a late-model tablet so it won’t become outmoded quickly, and choose one that offers a bit more than you need now so it can grow with your business. If you’re on the fence, assess whether a tablet is truly a “need” for your business or just a “want. ” Perhaps a laptop and/or a smartphone can serve the same purpose.
"Don't use your phone while it's charging," "don't leave it plugged in overnight" and "always let it die completely" — these are just a few popular myths about smartphone batteries.
When it comes to battery life, there are many little rules for what you can and can't do with your smartphone. While plenty of real rules exist, there are several rumored ones you can simply ignore. Phone batteries have evolved so much over the years, becoming smarter and easier to manage. Most lithium-ion batteries, used by major retailers like Samsung and Apple, should last between three and five years, if you take proper care of it.
Here's the truth behind five major phone charging myths.