Mobile Protection: Staying Secure in An Evolving Workforce

These days, any location can become an office. With mobile devices becoming more of a necessity than a luxury, most companies have had to expand the boundaries within which work can be done. Yet this trend towards mobile workforces comes with its own new set of challenges. The chief one being: how do you protect the devices that contain your most valuable data? We’ll share a few tips on how your team can stay secure while maintaining their sense of freedom and collaboration.

 

Advantages of A Mobile Workforce

 

Providing employees with mobile devices has tremendous upsides. If trains are stuck or a car breaks down, your employees can work on their phones or from home, and your business won’t miss a step. Flexibility also leads to a happier workforce. When your employees are free to work from home, and adjust to family or personal needs, they feel taken care of. And in turn, employees who feel inspired to work during off hours have the ability to do so. This is proven to increase productivity and morale and help you retain top talent. But the most enticing bonus is a reduction downtime. Employees who do not typically spend all day at their desk become more reachable with a work phone and can respond to emergencies quicker than ever before.

 

Understanding the Risks

 

The benefits of mobile are clear. But before you allow your team to roam, it’s essential to understand the challenges that lay ahead:

 

  • Compatibility issues: Allowing your employees to use mobile devices may mean they are running older operating systems or incompatible versions of popular programs.
  • Physical security: Mobile devices aren’t sitting securely in an office most of the time and therefore are at a higher risk of being stolen or broken. Working in public places creates the potential for sensitive info to slip into the wrong hands inadvertently.
  • Unsecured networks: When your employees work on mobile, they will no doubt use Wi-Fi networks located in airports, coffee shops, or their homes. These networks may feature little or no protection and are well-known for being a goldmine for hackers.
  • Third-party apps: Tablets and cell phones are guaranteed to be full of applications downloaded from a wide variety of developers who may have invasive permissions that allow them to mine company data.

 

Managing Mobile Securely

 

To unlock the tremendous advantages of your mobile workforce, you’ll need to make sure everyone is on the same page. Here a few steps you can take to make sure mobile security is top-of-mind:

 

  • Require multi-factor authentication: Two-step authentication requires that your employee have a physical item on them to prove their identity in addition to regular log-in credentials. Implementing it is crucial.
  • Use encryption: Have your employees utilize VPN’s to add an extra layer of protection against hackers.
  • Create clear policy: No matter what you require of your employees, it’s imperative that you make sure everyone understands what is expected of them. Print out policy forms, get them signed, and schedule future security audits.
  • Hold mobile security training sessions: Ensure every employee has the knowledge and IT training they need to combat potential threats. Make sure to continually check-in to update methods for protection and stay in sync.

 

Because mobile devices in the workforce are so widespread, giant strides are being made every day to make the devices in question more secure. But to be truly safe, you’ll still need to manage the cybersecurity on a wide array of devices in various settings. This is where a Managed Service Provider (MSP) like Net Works can be invaluable. We can be the eye-in-the-sky to help you stay in control while your employees enjoy their freedoms. Contact us today to find out how we can help.

 

The Advantages and Disadvantages Of BYOD

No one wants to be that person. You know the one. The “Three Phone Peter” who needs an extra briefcase to lug around the various devices they need every day. To avoid this excruciating burden, modern workplaces are rapidly evolving towards “Bring Your Own Device” (BYOD) policies that conveniently allow employees to utilize their own personal smartphones and tablets both at work and home. But while BYOD has its benefits, allowing everyone to waltz into work with their own technology can pose significant challenges to cybersecurity. To honor World Password Day (May 2nd, 2019) here’s a quick guideline on the upsides and potential pitfalls of choosing to implement BYOD in your workplace.

 

Advantages

 

Remember “Three Phone Pete”? With BYOD he’s now looking lean and clean and, along with everyone else in the office, happily using a device he’s familiar with and chose himself. This ease of use may even help boost productivity for the whole team. But the main upside now that your employees use their own devices is a drastic reduction in cost for your business. Initial capital investment and monthly spending can be significantly reduced when you don’t have to outfit and maintain a collection of work devices or pay for monthly data plans. On top of this, since you’re not responsible for tracking the physical whereabouts and usage of these devices, your administrative duties have been significantly reduced as well. So, is it time to kick your feet up and let everyone use whatever device floats their boat? Hold the phone.

 

Disadvantages

 

Even though the advantages to BYOD are numerous, it’s inadvisable to just let loose without understanding the challenges you’ll face once you do so. First, with everyone in the office now using their own device, employees aren’t guaranteed to be using the same applications, operating systems, and software versions. Compatibility issues are sure to arise, and workflow may suffer without strict standards in place. Second, these types of problems are harder to control since you don’t own the devices and therefore can’t direct an IT team to fix these issues without contracts in place protecting them and yourself from liability. Lastly and most importantly, this lack of uniformity and control drastically increases your chances of falling victim to malware hacks and cybersecurity breaches.

 

Properly Managing BYOD

 

With these advantages and disadvantages in mind, the best way to stay safe and in sync when opening the door for BYOD is to have a clear-cut policy in place that lets employees know exactly how you expect them to handle this newfound freedom and what the consequences are for non-compliance. To make it completely clear, sit down and hammer out a tailor-made policy that is specific to the needs of your company and covers:

 

  • What devices are authorized for use
  • What constitutes acceptable use of said devices
  • What security precautions must be undertaken
  • The type of support employees can expect to receive
  • What kind of reimbursement you will offer, if any
  • Disclaimers, potential risks, and liability

 

With BYOD becoming more popular and convenient by the day, chances are you will have employees asking to use their own devices sooner rather than later. If you are concerned about keeping control while loosening the reigns on the types of devices your employees use, consider adding the support of a dedicated MSP. At Net Works we have the expertise to create a uniform policy that balances employee satisfaction with device management and cybersecurity. Contact us today.

Why Hackers Target Small Businesses

With the everyday hustle of running a business, you probably don’t schedule in time for spring cleaning of your office devices or records, and it’s not likely to be something that comes to mind when you do happen to have free time. While it might seem like a simple, inconsequential thing, it’s actually the foundation of a national awareness month.

 

April is Records and Information Management Month, an entire month dedicated to promoting good record keeping and information management. It’s like spring cleaning for your old, duplicate, or insignificant files. This month is a good time to uninstall outdated programs no longer in use, organize files and bookmarks, and even perform backups of your files and system. Not only does organizing and cleaning up these old files help make your data easier to access and sift through, it can also free up space, speed up your network, and even help keep your digital assets safe from hackers.

 

Small businesses in particular are very tempting to hackers, due to the fact that they have more assets than individuals to exploit, and tend to have fewer protections and more vulnerabilities than larger corporations. With a smaller team, many small businesses might not have an in-house IT team that has established proper security, such as firewalls and anti-virus software. Additionally, older programs that were never properly removed might not have been updated recently, and could have vulnerabilities that would make them easy prey for hackers. Small businesses might even have more relaxed policies about passwords, making them easier for hackers to guess or phish from unsuspecting employees.

 

Net Works doesn’t wait for Records and Information Management Month to get to work protecting you from hackers. We understand the specific risks that you, as a small business decision-maker, face in the digital age and with our professional team of tech experts, we can help make your business secure.

 

After a thorough audit of your current security measures, we’ll work with you to determine the best course of action for your business. Net Works can help you identify where your current security measures are lacking, and even help save you time and money by finding more efficient programs and methods for your digital operations. Additionally, we can help keep all of your data safe by encrypting it, while also performing regular backups to the cloud to assure your information is safe and accessible, should a disaster ever strike. By partnering with Net Works, you’ll also receive regular audits to make sure your digital operations are functioning as securely and efficiently as possible, and that no new vulnerabilities have popped up for hackers to exploit.

 

Being a small business doesn’t mean you have to fall prey to the dangers of not having an in-house IT team. Net Works is a reliable, affordable way to keep your staff the size that works for you, without the security risks. Contact us today to learn more about how we can keep your business safe from hackers, and keep your business running smoothly and efficiently.

 

Is It Time to Upgrade The Operating System On Your Office Devices?

Are you using Windows 7, older versions of Outlook for email, or Windows Server version 2011 and below? If so, it’s time to learn about Microsoft’s End of Life Support. You do not want to find yourself in need of tech support for an unsupported product. That’s why being prepared is critical. What products are nearing the end of their support life cycle and what can you do to help your business stay on top of these changes?

 

First, it is important to know when products are being phased out. Microsoft has specific product life cycles. According to their website, support for Windows 7 ends on January 14, 2020. That gives users less than one year to prepare. Windows 7 launched on October 22, 2009, at which time Microsoft committed to ten years of product support. As this time period expires, it is important to note that this lack of support can leave you vulnerable if you do not upgrade your Operating System. For example, those automatic updates that many users get in the habit of ignoring often include critical security patches that you will no longer receive. If you’re using Windows 7, it is time to upgrade.

 

Now that you are thinking about upgrading your Operating System, how do you get started? The process can certainly sound overwhelming. You may have questions, or alternatively, you may be unsure as to what questions you should be asking. It’s time to contact a trusted Managed Service Provider like Net Works to help you navigate this process.

 

What else do you need to know to keep your IT updated? Microsoft has been moving toward a subscription-based model, pushing clients and companies to move toward Office 365 subscriptions instead of the old model of buying a disc, loading Microsoft Office onto your device, and having a perpetual license for the product. Users who have a perpetual license, such as those on Office 2016, will need to upgrade by 2020 in order to use their product in conjunction with the suite of Office 365 products, like SharePoint and Exchange. These end dates are important to keep track of in order to keep all of your products working together. When you connect Office 365 products with “legacy” versions of Microsoft tools, you do not benefit from the full range of the current product capabilities and certain aspects may not work properly. Therefore, it is important to have a trusted Managed Service Provider on your side to help you keep everything working together, make timely upgrades, and keep track of product lifecycle end dates.

 

How else can Net Works help? We can guide you as you choose the right IT products and software solutions for your office. For example, we can go over the pros and cons of moving to Office 365 now, staying with a perpetual license model, or waiting until the End of Life deadline to make any changes. With all the other aspects of running a business taking up time, it can be a challenge for business decision-makers to navigate the many options available. We are here to take IT off your plate and help you ensure you are making the best, most informed decisions possible in a timely manner. With a partner like Net Works on your side, you will not be caught off guard when a product nears the end of its support life cycle, and you will be able to make proactive, informed business IT decisions.

 

Contact Net Works today and be prepared for any changes technology companies throw your way!

Stop Phishing on National Clean Out Your Computer Day

Starting in the year 2000, The Institute for Business Technology began sponsoring a seemingly silly holiday called “National Clean Out Your Computer Day.” But unlike “Groundhog Day,” this tradition could actually help you protect yourself from harmful elements. With Spear Phishing attacks becoming more common and complex, February 11 is the perfect day to take a moment to make sure you’re doing your due diligence. Here are a few reasons why being more devout in your observance of this underrated annual ceremony is in your best interest.

 

It’s No Fun Being the Phish

 

Spear phishing might sound like a fun way to spend a vacation in Hawaii, but it’s actually a scarily sophisticated scheme that will quickly ruin the sunny disposition in your workplace. In a spear phishing attack, hackers pose as seemingly trustworthy sources and send emails designed to get you to click a link, download a file, or respond to an urgent request before you’ve fully thought things through. Spear phishing is usually targeted, with a long-term plan set in place to learn about you or your employees and fool the target with personalized information that makes the requests within seem reasonable and credible. Because human error is the most reliable vulnerability cyber attackers can exploit, these breaches are incredibly commonplace. An October 2017 study by the Better Business Bureau showed that 90 percent of cyberattacks targeting businesses come through phishing emails.

 

Unfortunately for many businesses, these attacks work because they’re very believable. A recent attempt targeted Netflix subscribers by sending emails addressing users by name and stating that their account had been deactivated due to billing issues. They were then linked to a site where they were asked to provide credit card details and other sensitive information. A breach like this is just one of many high-profile examples that show how a basic “fake email” tactic is enough to infiltrate even the largest organizations.

 

Celebrating Creates Peace of Mind

 

If appropriately spent, “National Clean Up Your Computer Day” on February 11 can be the perfect time to take all the proper precautions to prevent attacks like these.

 

Start the day by double checking your email filters. Email filters prevent spam and seemingly malicious messages from reaching you at all, so you won’t even consider responding to them. Taking this a step further, consider implementing a Sender Policy Framework (SPF) to help you prevent spoofing of your email addresses.

 

Next, do some cleanup. If you haven’t cleared them in a while, who knows what potential dangers are lurking in the darkness of your overflowing spam, inbox, and download folders? Getting rid of this unwanted clutter will remove potential pitfalls and create more space in your system to work with.

 

Finally, call a meeting and make sure your entire workforce is aware of the current risks and taking the same precautions. It’s always essential to make sure everyone in your organization understands potential risks and is on the same page about preventing hackers from finding a way to worm their way into your systems.

 

A Powerful Partner Can Protect You

 

Worried you might get phished? Celebrate “National Clean Out Your Computer Day” by partnering with an MSP who can help you stay safe. Working with Net Works will help alleviate stress about all types of phishing schemes and free you up to focus on the aspects of your business you really want to be worrying about. We will be your trusted partner who continuously arms you with the know-how and required tools to confront the latest cybersecurity threats. If you truly value your time and safety, contact Net Works today to learn how we can help keep you from staying late to clear out your computer.

Celebrate Data Privacy Day with A Disaster Recovery Plan

The New Year has arrived, which means you’re probably hard at work taking steps to achieve your New Year’s resolutions for your business. Hopefully, along with your growth goals, you’ve also set goals to improve your plans for disaster recovery in case of a data breach, systemic failure, or ransom attack. If not, you’re not alone, and it’s certainly not too late to start. In fact, oversights and ignorance about the importance of data security is one of the reasons Data Privacy Day is now an international holiday.

 

Every year on January 28th, the US, Canada, and over 40 European nations celebrate Data Privacy Day. Each year on this day, the National Cyber Security Alliance works to raise awareness about cyber security and promote best practices for privacy and data protection. While their efforts include efforts to educate individuals, a large focus of the initiative is to raise awareness for business owners on the dangers of data breaches in the age of the Internet and social networking.

 

Just as it’s crucial safety planning to change smoke alarm batteries yearly, Data Privacy Day is a great time to check in on your current security systems to see if there are any vulnerabilities and to find where you can make improvements. It’s also a good time to review your social media settings and change old passwords.

 

It’s likely that you’ve already taken some security precautions in an attempt to keep your business’ data safe, but it’s also important to have a fail-safe in place. Whether there’s a physical disaster that takes out your servers, like a bad snow storm, or a malicious attack on your data, like a ransomware attack, your business is still at risk and your assets need to be protected. Oftentimes, it’s not just your business’ information, but your clients’ information that can be at risk as well.

 

Not only can these types of incidents impede your ability to operate smoothly and efficiently, these disasters can be costly as well.

 

At Net Works, we know the devastating effect security breaches and data losses can have on your productivity and profitability. That’s why we offer comprehensive and thorough disaster recovery services that will keep your digital assets safe and accessible no matter the circumstances.

 

In order to offer you the disaster recovery plan that’s best suited to your organization’s needs, we will work together to build a customized plan for your business. The expert disaster recovery team at Net Works can help you explore different disaster scenarios and offer you the various solutions available so you can make an informed decision about the best course of action for your individual circumstances. By storing your backups in our secure, remote servers, your data will be safe from any localized attacks and dangers your business may face. Additionally, our team is available to offer you consultations and support to help address any further concerns you may have down the line.

 

While our goal at Net Works is to prevent any disasters from occurring, having a disaster recovery plan that’s been tested and proven effective for your business will give you the extra element of protection you need to rest easy that your business will thrive in 2019. Contact Net Works today to see how we can help make you more secure for this year’s Data Privacy Day.

Understanding Blockchain for Business

Have you heard about blockchain? By now, most business owners have, but that does not mean they know whether to build it into their IT strategy or not. If it’s challenging for you to find the time to keep up with the latest IT buzzwords, you’re not alone. Many, even most, small-to-medium sized business owners are focused on the day-to-day and long-term strategy of their business. They don’t have the time to pay attention to every new technology trend. However, you don’t want to risk falling behind or missing an innovation that could make a big impact for your company. That’s why Net Works stays up to date on the latest in business IT. We are here to help you stay knowledgeable so you can take advantage of the innovative technologies that make sense for your business.

 

Today, we will focus on helping you understand blockchain, which can be notoriously difficult for business owners outside of the IT world to grasp. You have most likely heard the term, even if just in passing, but what does it mean?

 

Essentially, blockchain is a form of shared digital record-keeping, originally developed in 2008 as a public transaction ledger for bitcoin. The transactions in each record (the block of information) link together forming a blockchain.

 

Three Key Business Benefits of Blockchain

 

1) Improved Trust & Consistency

How many transactions take place across your business each day, across how many partners? From orders to payments, when each party has their own record, the truth can get lost. Blockchain instead creates a single authoritative ledger of each transaction, which all parties must agree to. All transactions must be validated by all parties involved. They must also consent before a new transaction is added to the chain. Once entered, a blockchain record is extremely difficult to modify or remove. No transaction can be deleted, not even by an administrator.

 

2) Efficiency

This completely digitized record-keeping process eliminates inefficient paper processes that leave more room for human error and delays. With blockchain in place, you may be able to cut out the middleman for certain transactions, thereby cutting costs. For example, if you do business internationally, you may be able to use blockchain to make foreign transactions that would otherwise require a third-party service, thereby cutting the conversion cost.

 

3) Improved Security

Blockchain technology is harder to hack, and significantly improved cybersecurity may be the biggest benefit your business will see. Data is stored across a network of computers that verify information with one another. To infiltrate information stored in a blockchain, a hacker would need to compromise a majority of the computers in this vast network. Since hackers typically exploit human error to infiltrate the network through a single access point, this decentralization makes a big impact for cybersecurity. Better cybersecurity means better customer relationships. In today’s environment, businesses rely on customer data; meanwhile, those customers are hearing constant stories about data leaks and breaches. Strong cybersecurity practices can be a major differentiator in a climate in which customers are becoming more aware of business data practices.

 

These are just a few of the benefits that blockchain can bring to businesses. What could it do for yours? Contact Net Works to discuss blockchain’s potential applications for your business. Our team is here to answer your questions and help you develop a comprehensive IT strategy that evolves with the technology landscape.

 

Are Passwords Leaving Your Network Unlocked?

Passwords today are like spare keys that have been given out to too many friends and neighbors. Common password content like birthdays, favorite sports teams, or names of children or pets are easily found on social media accounts. With Thanksgiving around the corner and Black Friday sales emails flooding your inbox, you may not notice when a hacker poses themselves as a retailer in order to gain access to your accounts. Is your business prepared to take on the holiday hackers?

 

Cybersecurity is vital to a successful business, especially as these hackers try to exploit the companies they expect to be the least protected: small-to-medium sized businesses. Your accounts need an extra layer of protection so that your business network does not fall into the wrong hands. This is where multi-factor authentication comes in. Multi-factor authentication requires two or more pieces of evidence before a user is granted access to a protected account or device. We see this in practice all the time. For instance, at the ATM, the user must present both the correct debit card, and enter the right PIN. This is an example of two-factor authentication at work. The system works by requiring information the end user possesses, like a PIN or a password, with an object the intended user should have on hand.

 

Today’s businesses rely on cloud storage. The cloud is an incredible efficiency tool that empowers your workforce to access what they need when they need it. With that ease of access comes a risk that your information could be accessed by the wrong individuals, especially if you have not taken every precaution to secure it. When your sensitive business accounts and databases are secured only by passwords, you are putting yourself at risk, even when the passwords are complex and changed frequently. You need backup protection in the event that passwords are compromised.

 

There are many products that help you add this layer of protection to your network. Trying to sift through, select, and implement these products can be time consuming and confusing. At the same time, you know that an upfront investment of time and resources into cybersecurity can make all the difference when hackers strike. Multi-factor authentication creates more work for the hackers, and more opportunities for your defenses to protect your network. If someone is trying to invade an employee’s email account, guesses the password, but then needs to enter a randomly generated code that went to your employee’s phone or workplace computer, they may move on to invade a less protected network. Unlike a PIN, which suffers many of the same pitfalls of a password, these codes may only work for a limited period of time and have no personal connection to the user, meaning they cannot be guessed. This type of system gives you greater confidence that the people accessing your network are the ones meant to be there.

 

Setting up multi-factor authentication can have some unforeseen complexities, and is best handled by IT professionals who have the expertise and skill-set to implement this useful protection for your business.

 

Net Works has the experience and cybersecurity expertise you need to ensure your network is as secure as possible. Contact us today to talk about your next steps.

 

Attack of The Zombie Servers: Are Your Precious Resources Being Drained?

 

As Halloween approaches, you probably wouldn’t be too surprised to see a zombie or two. What you may not know, however, is that there are millions of zombies lurking in offices and data centers around the country year-round. These zombies might not hunger for brains, but they are scary for their own reasons.

 

Zombie servers are a common IT issue that is rarely discussed or addressed, despite its prevalence. The term is used to describe a server that’s physically running, but not performing any functions, and can refer to either physical or digital servers. While this might not seem like too big a concern, zombie servers can be a huge money sink, and in some cases, even compromise your network’s security.

Because physical servers can use up a lot of space and electricity, it’s incredibly wasteful to have them running when they’re not offering you or your business any benefit. Digital servers might not use up electricity, but they still often require costly fees to keep running. Potentially even more worrisome is the fact that zombie servers are often forgotten about, meaning they’re rarely updated or patched, and therefore vulnerable to malicious attacks or viruses. In these cases, they make easy prey of anyone trying to gain access to your data or network. To make things worse, some haven’t even been configured with an IP address – making them virtually impossible to discover without physically inventorying your data center. Because of this, it can be difficult to even realize that they’re there, making them even more difficult to sort out. This problem is primarily one with large data centers, but it’s one that can affect smaller businesses as well, where it can be even more imperative to save resources.

 

Now that you know the dangers of zombie servers, you might wonder how you can discover them at your own business. At Net Works, we know the risk zombie servers pose to your business’ efficiency and security, and we’re prepared to help. By partnering with us, we’ll perform a thorough examination of your IT infrastructure to analyze your existing systems to root out any zombie servers hiding in the shadows. Net Works will also create a personalized plan to remove any unnecessary redundancies, resolve any security risks, and keep your digital assets functioning as efficiently as possible.

 

Zombie servers can be the result of new systems being added without the older ones being shut down, servers not being decommissioned properly, or even just incorrectly estimating how necessary the server will be for whatever purpose it serves. Whatever the cause, the best way to prevent them is to have a dedicated and proficient Managed Service Provider monitoring your network to make sure all your IT resources are accounted for and serving a purpose. We are fully equipped to handle undead servers, as well as a number of other IT concerns.

 

Contact Net Works today, and we’ll make sure the only zombies lurking around your business this Halloween are the ones in costume.

 

New Threats you should know…. and be concerned with!

Is Your Business Ready To Face The Threat Of Ransomware Attacks?

Ransomware can be very profitable — if you’re a hacker. For example, according to a report by the security firm Sophos, the SamSam ransomware attacks, which target healthcare providers, have net the creator of this ransomware $6 million. The largest ransom paid so far was $64,000. Could your business afford an attack like that? As you can see, with stakes this high, hackers have plenty of motivations to utilize ransomware attacks. What can you do in the face of this threat?

First, it is important to understand what happens during a ransomware attack. There are two types of ransomware. In one type, your screen will be locked, and in the other, your files will be encrypted. In both cases, a ransom is demanded to either unlock your devices or decrypt your files. Often included is a ticking clock, and if you do not pay the ransom within a certain time frame, your files will be destroyed. Sometimes, it can spread to other devices in your network even without a user taking any action. Your files may be backed up, but you may not be out of the woods just yet. Some ransomware attacks can disrupt the ways in which your applications run, affecting your entire device. What is even worse is that in some cases, ransoms are paid without files ever being unlocked or decrypted. We are dealing with cyber-criminals who are known to be untrustworthy actors, yet businesses often find themselves left with no choice but to pay the ransom. With such devastating consequences, you need a plan in place to prevent these attacks and minimize consequences if prevention fails.

In order to understand how to prevent attacks such as these, you need to know how the hackers infiltrate your network. The most common method is through phishing emails, which makes your employees your first line of defense. A trusted IT partner like Net Works can help you and your team learn how to recognize suspicious emails. We can also help you navigate the decisions that must be made should your net-work become compromised by ransomware. With Net Works working on your behalf, you will not be facing these attacks alone. You will have a team of IT experts working for you who have seen it all.

Take the first step to protecting your business from the threat of ransomware. Contact Net Works. Together, we will build a strategy to fight off ransomware attacks, reduce downtime in the event of an at-tack, and minimize potential damages. We will help you understand all of your options so that you can avoid paying a ransom that may not even get your system unlocked. Our team is ready to defend your business, contact us today.