Published on: April 17, 2017 in
Ransomware has become a fast-track for making money for hackers. But instead of just demanding a small payment for the decryption code that will unlock their computers, some hackers are demanding that victims sacrifice two other friends to ensure they receive the code they need. Read more to find out what makes “Popcorn Time” such a devious program and how you can avoid becoming one of its victims.
Ransomware is nothing new. Cybersecurity miscreants have been taking advantage of online users for years by requiring payment to “unlock” a victim’s computer. What Popcorn Time does differently is give users the option to spread the virus to two other victims in the hopes that they will pay the ransom — a tactic that promises to double their money at the expense of your sense of morality (and at the expense of your friendships as well).
The Cost of Popcorn
When you inadvertently download this ransomware, you will be met with a screen that explains that your files have been hijacked/encrypted, and that to get them back you will need to pay one Bitcoin for a decryption key that they keep stored remotely. The Bitcoin fee is usually more than $700, a hefty price to pay.
Spread the “Cheer” and Hope they Bite
What makes Popcorn Time unique is the option victims have to take their cost away by allowing the ransomware to affect two of their friends for a chance to get a free decryption code. Of course, it works only if both friends pay the ransom, which leaves you looking (and feeling) like the Grinch.
Avoiding Popcorn Time this Season
The easiest way to avoid downloading ransomware is to stay off of sites that might contain questionable files. However, this is nearly impossible for modern users, and many hackers are getting good at making their files look legitimate. Limit your exposure to potential ransomware by keeping your software up-to-date and your computer protected with a security program from a reputable company (for example Symantec). If you need to learn more about how to avoid running into ransomware while you’re online, give our professional cybersecurity consultants a call.
Published on: April 3, 2017 in
Can you think of an industry that hasn’t improved because of advanced technology? It’s hard to come up with one; much easier to think about where technology has made our lives better. A good example would be the medical world, where everything from robotic surgeries to electronic health records (EHR) — plus these five integrated healthcare technologies — are leading to more patient-friendly futures.
Putting the words “healthcare technology integration” together opens things up pretty broadly, so what do we mean by it exactly? In this instance, we’re not talking so much about complex surgical procedures or hi-tech medical devices; the focus here is more on IT, or “information technology,” in the healthcare realm.
It may not sound as impressive as some of the sci-fi-seeming technological advances like anesthesiologists’ iPads that use “perioperative information management systems” to track the patient’s well-being during surgery; or the “Argus II” bionic eye, which takes a video signal from a pair of sunglasses and transmits it to retinal implants. But the improvements technology integrations are making to the patient experience are no less significant.
In the past, healthcare providers had but one “convenient” way of reminding patients of upcoming appointments. Phone calls are fine, but even with the advent of robo-calls, connections can be missed and messages can fall through the cracks. Today, your doctor’s office can reach you via more expeditious “e-methods” like email, chat, and text message. They also afford patients an interactive option where they can confirm dates and times with a click of their mouse or a tap of their screen.
Integrating technology into your healthcare routine will never replace the advantages of meeting your physician face-to-face, but it certainly makes it easier for you to manage your wellness. For example, there are apps that give you on-demand access to your medical records and patient history, with features like real-time chatting with your doctor, therapist, or nurses — allowing for better, faster decision making when it comes to your health, all without an actual appointment.
Here’s one area of patient care where new apps are truly simplifying things, making communications between you and your doctors and pharmacists completely hassle-free. In many cases, the process for getting the right medication at the right time can be totally automated; gone are the days of calling in scripts or dropping them off and waiting. Welcome to the new age of software programs that manage your meds, automatically refill them, and keep you on-track to better health.
Everyone has a different approach to staying fit or recovering from illness, and in the world-wide-web era, search engines are a part of most people’s repertoire. But the data you find online won’t be tailored to your precise situation, and certainly won’t be 100% trustable. Thankfully, a slew of sophisticated health-tech apps are integrated with wearable devices to give you accurate, up-to-the-minute info on how you’re doing with your stress management, heart health, or temperature regulation.
The historically labor-intensive, often irritating undertaking of filing medical claims has been seriously improved upon by technology in recent years. Thanks to cloud computing, your doctors and insurance carrier can collaborate on your behalf using secure, encrypted apps that result in faster processing and far less paperwork. You’re even able to enter your insurance info ahead of time, and stay up-to-date throughout the process with automated status updates.
Technology integration in healthcare is improving the ways we prevent diseases, perform surgeries, and deliver treatments. But the innovations with the most significant day-to-day influence are the ones that provide patients with access to reliable, real-time information. That’s where patient outcomes have been advanced the most — right before our eyes.
Published on: March 20, 2017 in
Business technology has become one of the most important components for successful companies big and small. In an overwhelmingly digital landscape, businesses depend on IT for marketing, data storage, and financial transactions. And with that comes the need to secure every bit of private information cyber criminals might want to feast their eyes on. And while an outsourced security professional is a must, there are a few simple steps you can do yourself to get started. Check out five of our favorites here.
Limitation of lateral data transfers
Employees not being educated on data sharing and security is one of the biggest reasons for internal data breaches. It’s a good idea to limit access to important data and information by restricting access privileges to only a small number of individuals. Also, you can decide to use network segmentation to cut unnecessary communication from your own network to others.
Keeping your machines and devices updated
Internal breaches might also occur when employees work with unguarded or unprotected machines. They might unknowingly download malware, which normally wouldn’t be a problem if machines were properly managed. Updating your operating systems, antivirus software, business software, and firewalls as often as possible will go a long way toward solidifying your defense systems.
Use monitoring and machine learning to sniff out abnormalities
It’s not all on your employees, however. Network administrators should employ monitoring software to prevent breaches by analyzing what is “normal” behavior and comparing that to what appears to be suspicious behavior. Cyber criminals often hide in networks to exploit them over a long period of time. Even if you miss them the first time, you should monitor suspicious activity so you can recognize impropriety and amend security policies before it goes any further.
Creating strong security passwords and credentials
No matter how often we say it, there’s always room for improvement when it comes to your passwords and login procedures. In addition to text-based credentials, you should require other methods whenever possible. Fingerprints and smart cards, for example, are much harder for cyber criminals to fake. Regardless of which factors are used, they must be frequently updated to prevent breaches – accidental or otherwise.
In the end, no system is perfect. Zero-day attacks exploit unknown gaps in security, and human error, accidental or otherwise, can never be totally prevented. And for this reason, small businesses need to start embracing cyber insurance policies. These policies help cover the damages that might occur even under a top-of-the-line security infrastructure. Considerations for selecting a policy include legal fees, first and third-party coverage, and coverage for reputation rehabilitation.
The field of cyber security is overwhelming — even for seasoned IT professionals. But not for us. We spend our days researching and experimenting to craft the best security solutions on the market. If you’re interested in one of our cutting-edge cyber-security plans, call us today.
Published on: January 23, 2017 in
As 2017 rolls in, the threat of more formidable cyber attacks looms large. Hackers and the cyber police will spend a lot of time outsmarting each other, while consumers of technology, individuals and businesses alike, anticipate the best security plan that can guarantee they sleep soundly at night. When it comes to defending against cyber-attacks, forewarned is forearmed. Here are some of the threats we predict in the coming year.
Increased threats on cloud technology
Cloud service has numerous benefits to businesses. They make data storage, collaboration, and processing more efficient; they enable employees to work faster; and they help operations flow smoother. Cloud technology’s popularity is expected to rise well into the next few years, but as demand increases, so does the dangers presented by cyber attackers.
Ransomware will be more complex
Ransomware incapacitates computer systems by locking down files and preventing access for ransom. In its 2016 Threat Predictions report, security software company McAfee predicts a peak in ransomware attacks next year. Although they also predict it to recede by mid-year, damages to vulnerable cloud-dependent infrastructures can be great and costly. Most alarming in the prediction, however, is that in the coming year ransomware attacks will be more complex due to new elements.
Ransomworms, which use advanced victimization techniques to mine further data within an already compromised network, are expected to put an even crueler spin to an already formidable malware. Doxing, on the other hand, affects avenues such as social media and any place where sensitive, easily identifiable information can be extracted to serve the ultimate purpose of extorting money.
More threats to IoT (Internet of Things)-enabled devices
It is also predicted that 2017 will see attacks made on IoT-powered devices, which will make life harder for those who depend on technology that makes life easier. It targets medical devices and Electronic Medical Records, “connected cars”, basic domestic tools, and tech-driven wearables, such as smartwatches and fitness trackers. The danger posed by this intrusion is fully capable of corrupting information stored in your devices.
Advanced cyber espionage
Cyber espionage is by no means a novelty. In 2017, it’s expected to hold sway in cyber-threat prevention measures as it becomes even more complex. It encompasses all sectors of society, including individuals, private organizations, government institutions, and entire countries. Perpetrators will have the means to bypass networks by attacking firewalls and wreak havoc in their victims’ network. Fret not, for there will be measures in place to detect this threat also in the coming year.
Hackers are one of the most cunning criminals to have ever existed. While the cyber-police and the defenses they put up are no slouches, threats to security systems can still make technology-dependent individuals and businesses quiver. Although damaged networks can be repaired, compromised privacy restored, and stolen data returned, the amount of damage that hackers can cause might be irreparable and/or result in a significant dent in your IT infrastructure and budget. The value of a network security system makes itself known when you least expect it, which is why security should be a top priority.
Are your systems protected from these predicted remarkable feats of hacking? Call us if you want to discuss security services that are best for you.
Published on: December 12, 2016 in
Computer technology firm Symantec is warning consumers that an infamous trojan virus still targets healthcare data across the United States and around the world. This infamous piece of malware hides among image files downloaded with pirated software. Read on to learn more about the Stegoloader infection, how it might target your business, and what you can do to keep it at bay.
What is Stegoloader?
The trojan known as Stegoloader infects machines through product key generators packaged with downloads of pirated software. Small companies have been targeted by the malware, particularly those in the healthcare industry — and to a lesser extent, the insurance and technology sector.
Steganography is a cyber-attacker term for hiding malware inside an image file. Once the image is opened on a vulnerable machine, the program gathers information and crawls through the network looking for weaknesses. Although Stegoloader doesn’t appear to be a particularly sophisticated program, it can devastate your business by stealing electronic medical records as well as installing a secondary piece of malware to pilfer banking information.
Anthem and Premera Blue Cross are two big-name victims of the widespread malware. Symantec believes that Stegoloader’s creators plan to sell healthcare data because they’re more lucrative than other information types. Symantec also believes the cyber attackers are opportunistic, taking advantage of companies that download pirated versions of popular software.
How to Avoid becoming infected by Stegloader
Because the Stegoloader trojan often lurks in illegal product key generators and illegitimate software, the best way to avoid infection is to stay away from sites that offer pirated software. Other than that, we recommend educating your employees on safe practices, avoiding unknown image files and quarantined backups, and updating operating system and antivirus software as often as possible.
When business owners download pirated software, they’re trying to cut corners to save money on business applications and technology consultants. But not only are they getting themselves in trouble with cyber attackers, they’re also breaking the law. If you’re looking for a better way to protect your company and keep your information safe, contact us today.
Published on: December 5, 2016 in
Let’s face it, keeping yourself free from online threats can be a pain: using different passwords for every site, changing them every three months, using advanced encryption, the list goes on and on. You either end up paranoid of being online or giving up altogether. We’ve organized 5 simple cybersecurity measures that we promise anyone can implement.
1. Two-Factor Authentication
Did an attacker get your password? With two-factor authentication they’ll still need your mobile device to do any damage. Here’s how it works: every time you log into a service that requires a password, the service will send a code to your mobile device for another layer of authentication. Nowadays, most internet services have this option: Google, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Skype, Slack, etc. Check a full list here to see if you could be using two-factor authentication on any of your online accounts.
2. Password Manager
Say goodbye to the bygone era of memorizing a long list of different passwords for the various websites and services you use. Password manager software may have been around for a long time, but it’s still a viable solution for improving your login integrity. After installing it, all you need to do is create one secure master password and let the software do the rest. It will store and encrypt all of your passwords in one place for future reference and help generate random, more secure passwords for any new logins.
3. Keep All Software Up to Date
Update all of your software and your operating system as often as possible — it’s that simple. New versions come with better protection and fix any newly discovered loopholes. If you are too busy or can’t find the time to do it, check for an automatic update option. Any excuse for postponing updates will feel a lot less valid when it means a security breach or system crash.
4. Disable Flash Player
Adobe Flash Player may be what allows you to play Candy Crush during your work breaks, but it has boasted such a poor security record that most experts recommend that users block the plugin entirely. Most internet browsers have the option to block Flash by default, while allowing you to enable blocked content you deem acceptable by simply right-clicking and selecting Run this Plugin.
5. HTTPS Everywhere
When dealing with technology, long acronyms tend to scare off novice users before they even make it to step two. But don’t panic, there’s only one step to this trick. ‘HTTPS Everywhere’ is a browser extension that forces your browser to automatically navigate to sites using a secured encryption, if the site allows it. The thing is, a significant percentage of websites offer HTTPS connections but don’t present them as the default. When that’s the case, ‘HTTPS Everywhere’ gives your browser a gentle nudge in the right direction.
While in-depth security measures need to be implemented and managed by experts, little steps like the ones listed here can be just as important. Check back often for more helpful cybersecurity tips, but if you have more urgent security needs for yourself and your business, our experts are ready and waiting to offer a helping hand.
Published on: September 19, 2016 in
According to several reports, the volume of malicious cyber attacks has significantly increased recently. And even though our devices have the latest network security systems, hackers have a cunning trick up their sleeves — social engineering. Unlike malware and other viruses, social engineering tricks people into divulging sensitive data to hackers. Unfortunately, businesses are also vulnerable to various social engineering tactics. As a business owner, you should be vigilant of these common scams used by hackers.
Phishing scams are perhaps the most common type of social engineering attack. Usually seen as links embedded in email messages, these scams lead potential victims into seemingly trustworthy web pages, where they are prompted to fill in their name, address, login information, social security number, and credit card number.
Phishing emails often appear to come from reputable sources, which makes the embedded link even more compelling to click on. Sometimes phishing emails masquerade as government agencies urging you to fill up a personal survey, and other times phishing scams pose as false banking sites.
What’s the best way to infiltrate your business? Through your office’s front door, of course! Scam artists can simply befriend an employee near the entrance of the building and ask them to hold the door, thereby gaining access into a restricted area. From here, they can steal valuable company secrets and wreak havoc on your IT infrastructure. Though larger enterprises with sophisticated surveillance systems are prepared for these attacks, small- to mid-sized companies are less so.
Quid pro quo
Similar to phishing, quid pro quo attacks offer appealing services or goods in exchange for highly sensitive information. For example, an attacker may offer potential targets free tickets to attend a sporting event in exchange for their login credentials. Chances are if the offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Pretexting is another form of social engineering whereby an attacker fabricates a scenario to convince a potential victim into providing access to sensitive data and systems. These types of attacks involve scammers who request personal information from their targets in order to verify their identity. Attackers will usually impersonate co-workers, police, tax authorities, or IT auditors in order to gain their targets’ trust and trick them into divulging company secrets.
The unfortunate reality is that fraudsters and their social engineering tactics are becoming more sophisticated. Nevertheless, the best way to avoid these scams is knowing what they are and being critical of every email, pop-up ad, and embedded link that you encounter in the internet.
To find out how you can further protect your business from social engineering attacks, contact us today.
Published on: June 29, 2016 in
A number of clever, yet common techniques have been the basis for several social engineering attacks we’ve seen lately. Hackers are registering domain names similar to authentic domains in an effort to make the e-mail recipient believe that the sender’s request is legitimate.
These techniques can consist of one or more of the following:
- Homoglyphs – A homoglyph is one or more characters with shapes that appear identical or very similar. For example, a capital O and the number 0, a number 1 and lower-case l, a lower-case g and q, you get the idea. Believe it or not, it’s quite common for someone to mistake these letters for one-another when spoofed and replaced in a domain name. (e.g., ahrconsu1ting.com (yes, that’s a number one in place of the letter l))
- Transposition – Simply put, its swapping letters that are adjacent to one-another. most people won’t notice this in a domain name when quickly glancing at a senders e-mail address. (e.g., ahrconsutling.com)
- Repetition – Repeating one of the letters in the domain name (e.g., ahrconsultting.com)
- Replacement – Replacement of one of the letters in the domain name, usually with a letter in proximity of the original letter on the keyboard (e.g, ahrconsilting.com)
- Omission – Removal of one of the letters from the domain name (e.g., ahrcnsulting.com)
- Insertion – Inserting an extra letter into the domain name (e.g., ahrconsiulting.com)
So how is this used by phishers (read: hackers)?
- A hacker will research a company on any number of corporate information sites (Manta, Spokeo, etc.) to gather data about its structure, owners, website, email addresses, revenue, and any other publicly available information
- They will then privately register a domain similar to the target’s domain using the above techniques
- They will immediately send an e-mail from the CEO or President (or similar) to a mid- or high-level employee, preferably in finance, with an official-looking request
- The e-mail will typically request a money wire transfer or some other type of urgent monetary request be sent to a particular account or recipient
- The request may also have what appears to be an official-looking e-mail signature compiled from the information gathered above
Don’t fall victim to this fairly common attack, be sure to double check authenticity of e-mail name and domain name spellings.
When in doubt, make sure a verbal approval is acquired before doing ANYTHING involving company capital.
To read more about Malicious Social Engineering, see our other blog post: Can you expand a bit more on the threat posed by malicious social engineering?
Published on: June 16, 2016 in
ESPN recently reported that a laptop containing the medical records of thousands of NFL players was stolen from the car of a Washington Redskins’ trainer. And while the team released a statement saying no health information protected under HIPAA guidelines was at risk, the incident shows that EMRs are vulnerable no matter the size of your company. That’s why you need to have all medical records completely protected no matter where they are being stored.
And while the Redskins’ situation was bad, an NFL spokesperson did state that the NFL EMR system was not compromised and the league believes the thief was unable to gain access to the intercepted computer or its files. However, this does not mean the situation is resolved and the team is now in the process of informing every person who could be affected.
Not only is this embarrassing but the Redskins could also be vulnerable to civil lawsuits from players affected even if no HIPAA protected information was accessed. If this sensitive data had been breached the team would have faced a significant fine from the federal government in addition to these lawsuits.
According to Bloomberg Business News, a Massachusetts hospital was required to pay the federal government $850,000 for HIPAA violations last year after a laptop containing private health information was stolen. This event triggered a system-wide analysis which revealed several other areas of non-compliance. Not only was the hospital required to pay the fine, but it also had to invest heavily to upgrade their technology systems.
These two stories can serve as a valuable learning tool for any organization that stores documents or files that are regulated under HIPAA guidelines. For starters, it is important to understand that while email threats like phishing are very real and dangerous, the easiest way for a person to gain access to medical records is to simply take the device they are physically stored on.
That is why it is absolutely vital to have any device, be it a smartphone, a computer or tablet, password protected and encrypted should it store or transmit medical information of any sort. This, however, is simply the bare minimum and you might want to consider additional security measures such as two-factor authentication to add an extra level of protection to your devices.
Another thing to consider is storing your EMR data in the cloud. When files are stored on the cloud, it means you have complete control over who is able to access these documents and where they can be accessed from. In the case of a missing laptop, once it has been reported as lost, you can immediately block it from retrieving any files and perform a remote wipe which will erase anything currently stored on it.
It is important to remember that every device, even those at companies that use the cloud for document access and storage, still need to have strong passwords and encryption in place. Also, it should be noted that transferring HIPAA-protected data to the cloud is a process that must be handled with care. There are several things which must be addressed to ensure your data is protected in line with all government regulations. Bringing in a cloud service provider who specializes in HIPAA storage can make this process a smooth one for you, your staff, and your patients.
Need help protecting your EMR? Interested in learning more about utilizing the cloud to store your documents? Contact us today. We’re experts in HIPAA-related matters and will guarantee your information remains safe and compliant.
Published on: February 27, 2015 in
July 14, 2015 marks a major transition, this is the date Microsoft stops releasing critical patches and officially ends support for Windows Server 2003. While this date may seem distant, now is the time to understand that the end of support and the end of life of Windows Server 2003 means that your business needs to ensure that it has a plan to migrate the applications and workloads currently relying on Windows Server 2003 onto Windows Server 2012 R2.
Just to be clear, End-of-Support for Windows Server 2003 means:
We urge you to start your planning to migrate off of Windows Server 2003 and onto a platform that will provide you the security and reliability that you’ve experienced over the last decade with Windows Server 2003, with the added value of the features now included in Windows Server 2012 R2.
Delaying will only create additional expenses, and ‘rigging’ your environments to detect intrusion, inclusion of more advanced firewalls, network segmentation, and so on, to simply isolate Windows Server 2003 servers will only result in an environment that costs more, and is still out of compliance, and out of date. Not to mention the maintenance costs for aging hardware… you’re just delaying your opportunity to transform.
Now is the time to act.
Contact TECHLINQ to learn how we can help:
Discover and catalog software and workloads running on Windows Server 2003/R2.
Assess your inventory. Categorize and analyze the applications and workloads you cataloged based on factors that will help you make informed choices about priorities and urgency.
Target the right migration destination for each application and workload. Take the opportunity to learn how you can transform your environment with the robust capabilities and services offered in Windows Server 2012 R2. Different workloads and applications logically lead to certain configurations. Your choice will be driven by factors such as speed, ease of migration, cost, and desired functionality.
Migrate. Make a plan and begin to migrate. To help you plan, TECHLINQ will be happy to discuss migration options and how you can transform your environment more efficiently and with minimal disruption.
Please contact us to get more information and set up an appointment today.