Cyber Insurance: Why You Need It and How Beacon Helps You Save

person at computer

Bear with us here, because we’re going to take a moment to talk about a subject that isn’t particularly fun.

Insurance.

Ugggghhhh, right? Unless you are in the insurance business (in which case, sorry), there is nothing particularly enjoyable about insurance. It costs money, and if you ever use it, it means something bad has happened. Nope, no fun at all.

Insurance IS important though, and it can provide some peace of mind that if the worst does occur, you won’t be financially ruined. Chances are you already have a lot of insurance in your personal and professional life: auto, health, life, liability, the list goes on. But now it’s getting increasingly important to add cyber insurance to that list.

Here’s what you need to know about this new and evolving area of the insurance industry.

What is cyber insurance?

Sometimes also called cyber liability insurance, this type of insurance covers or mitigates the costs for a business that has been the victim of a cyber attack, whether it’s ransomware, a phishing scam, a virus, or some other form of hack.

Man with computer and phoneDo I need cyber insurance?

If you store important or sensitive data on your network, a hard drive, or in the cloud, then the short answer is, yes, you probably do. Or if a cyber attack on your business could lead to a significant loss in productivity and income, then the answer, again, is yes.

Though there might be some basic cyber coverage in your liability insurance, cyber insurance will offer you much more protection. It’s especially important if you store any personally identifiable information about your employees or customers, such as names, social security numbers, credit card or bank data, email addresses, or birthdays. Any of that data could be used by a hacker to target an individual, who could in turn sue you for the security breach. Many cyber insurance policies can help cover the costs of settling that litigation.

What does cyber insurance cover?

Even if you aren’t targeted by a lawsuit, you’ll still have extensive costs in the wake of a hack. Cyber insurance covers a variety of these, including:

  • The recovery of your system or data;
  • Notification of customers or clients of the security breach that may affect them;
  • The costs of business loss due to downtime or suspended operations;
  • A forensic investigation into your hack to prevent future attacks.

All of these costs, and others, are typically covered by a cyber insurance policy.

tiny cart of cash next to computerOkay, sounds like I need cyber insurance. What’s it gonna cost me?

Costs vary depending on the size of your business—and the size of your policy. Some policies may cost as little as a few hundred dollars a year, while others are in the tens of thousands.

Aside from your business’s size and coverage needs, your costs can be affected by some other factors. One is location. If, for example, you store your data on a European server, it may be subject to foreign laws regarding data security and insurance, such as the recently passed EU Cybersecurity Act. So, it’s important that you have a full understanding of your network and data storage setup before you begin exploring your cyber insurance options.

Another key factor in your insurance costs is your cyber security. Just as many health insurance policies go up in cost if you have too many risk factors, your cyber insurance costs will increase astronomically if you don’t have proper security measures in place. If, on the other hand, you have robust security—including precautions like multi-factor login credentials, antivirus software, firewalls, and VPN usage for remote access—your premiums will likely be much lower.

Furthermore, if you fail to take preventative measures to protect your network and data, your cyber insurance claim—no matter how much you pay for it—may well be denied. Some cyber insurance providers won’t even offer you a policy if you don’t have proper security in place.

Yikes! I guess I need to beef up my cyber security, too.

You sure do. Fortunately, that’s where Beacon IT Services (BITS) comes in.

We offer extensive cyber security and threat protection services to our clients in addition to cloud integrations, data backup, and other key managed services.

Contact us today to begin exploring how we can make your business more secure. Because after all, an insurance policy is the last line of defense for protecting your business, and with BITS providing security, you reduce the potential of having to put it to use.

By | 2021-07-23T07:31:05+00:00 July 23rd, 2021|Computer Related, Cyber Security, IT Services|

Avoid A DIY Disaster: Call in the Pros for Your IT Needs

flaming computer vs. girl smiling with working laptop

We get it: when you’ve got a problem, the temptation to handle it yourself is strong. It’s why there’s a whole do-it-yourself (DIY) industry, devoted to giving you the tools you need to get the job done on your own.

And it’s so satisfying and fulfilling, isn’t it? Fixing your house and putting together a new piece of furniture are great DIY projects. So it’s easy to say, “I can fix it”, when your computer, network, or something else in your information technology (IT) setup needs attention, right?

Here’s the thing about IT DIYs though: Don’t.

Okay, if your computer is having a problem, do the old “turn it off, turn it back on” trick. This certainly works, sometimes. Beyond this, it’s just not worth it. Do IT right and turn to IT pros that solve these issues daily, like the knowledgeable and helpful experts from Beacon IT Services (BITS). It will save you valuable time AND money.

Two of our experts—Lead IT Support Specialist Caleb Pruitt and Account Executive Kevin Lackey—share some common issues they’ve dealt with firsthand. These seemingly easy-to-solve problems can quickly go awry and cause serious trouble for your business and network.

burning cityscape

This is what happens when you try to DIY your IT issues.

3 Examples of Why You Need an IT Pro

1. Setting Up and Monitoring a Firewall

Woman frustrated by computerSetting up a firewall is a must for enhancing your security. By filtering traffic and stopping outside users from accessing your network, it can keep you and your data safe. But setting up the firewall can be a real challenge: it needs to be set up to protect against a wide variety of threats, including phishing attempts, ransomware, viruses, and more, and updated to keep up with fast-evolving cybersecurity threats. Ensuring that your firewall works as intended and to its fullest potential requires the expertise of a dedicated IT team.

Even more importantly, you need someone to monitor your firewall. Otherwise, your not really protected because no one is handling alerts in a timely manner when intrusions or security issues occur. “It’s like having an alarm system but leaving your door wide open,” explains Caleb.

2. Migrating Your Email Server

email icon“Email migrations are not for the faint of heart,” says Kevin. And between maintaining and updating your passwords and logins across multiple servers and managing the transfer of data for everyone in your organization, he’s got a point. There are a lot of details to consider, especially to maintain business continuity.

Still, you might think you can handle it all yourself. After all, many servers, like Microsoft Office 365 seem like they’d make things easy. But the truth is there’s plenty that can go wrong. For example, Office 365 only backs up your data for 30 days at a time. So if you need to dig up an old email for reference, or to support a legal issue, you may not have it archived. Again, why not make sure all the configurations are set up to take advantage of technology and optimize the outcome?

This is another great time to ask an IT Pro for help, like the BITS Team, to provide back-ups and other security measures – for around $4 per employee.

3. Cleaning Out Your Hard Drive

Distressed man looking at computerYou’ve got hundreds, thousands—more even—of files saved. Your hard drive is filling up fast, and soon you’ll be out of room – and your business will come to a screeching halt. Surely, deleting some files and clearing out space is something you can handle yourself, right?

Not so fast.

There are a couple of pitfalls here. You could accidentally turn off your anti-virus software and expose yourself to viruses and scammers. Or you could accidentally delete some file(s) that you need, and if you haven’t backed up all your data effectively, then that file is gone forever. Even worse, you could end up inadvertently deleting a file or program that your system needs to run properly. We’ve seen it happen: a client deleted an essential Windows file while trying to clear space, bringing their entire system to its knees.

So don’t take the risk. Contact BITS for help. Or even better, have them sync your network to the Cloud so you can have all the storage space you’ll ever need and never have to worry about running out of space.

Maintain Your Network with BITS

You can trust BITS to solve just about any IT issues that come up. We’ve been doing this for 20 years. But more importantly, the constant maintenance and updates you get from managed services professionals mean that most problems won’t arise at all. “Think of BITS like your auto mechanic,” says Caleb. “If you bring your car in for regular maintenance, you can count on it to run smoothly. But if you try to fix problems yourself or just neglect them, you lose that peace of mind, and more often than not, it’ll create bigger issues in the long run.”

Or, as Kevin explains: “We try to be the SPF to prevent the sunburn, not the aloe to soothe it. We want to keep the fires from even starting, but if they do, we are already in front of it… and it’s much easier to put out.”

In other words, whether you have an IT issue that needs resolution or you’re looking for a partner that protects you from challenges and disruptions down the road, you should contact Beacon IT Services (BITS) today. You’ll regret trying to fix that problem yourself, but you won’t regret choosing BITS.

Is Your Head In the Cloud? Here’s Why That’s Good For Your Business

clouds in a blue sky

How’s that saying go? “Head in the clouds?” It’s a term that usually has negative connotations, but maybe not for much longer.

That’s because nowadays, the term “cloud” has become synonymous with technology and cloud computing, a service that lets users store data and programs on a remote server—the cloud—and access it from anywhere they have an internet connection.

It’s quickly becoming apparent that migrating their network to the cloud is an absolute must for businesses that aim to stay on the cutting edge: in fact, a Verizon study in 2017 found that 77% of businesses felt that the cloud gave them a competitive advantage (and that number has surely only gone up since then).

Cloud servers offer far more data storage than you’d get from a typical server (and certainly more than saving directly to your hard drive). The cloud offers more than just storage solutions, though. Here’s a look at some of the key benefits of cloud computing, and why you and your business should get your head (and network and data) in the cloud.

Mobility and Remote Collaboration

The days of work being confined to the office are over. Whether you and your team are working from home or logging in to get some tasks done while traveling, remote work is now the norm. Fortunately, the cloud makes this easy. With all of your data and important applications housed in the cloud rather than in the office, you can be sure that everyone on your team can access what they need, when they need it, regardless of their location.

Even better, the cloud allows easier collaboration between remote colleagues, or even between two people working on their computers in neighboring offices. With the cloud, everyone is able to work on the same version of a file, in real-time. Ever spend an hour working on a document only to discover that a co-worker has already gone in and made changes, making your work incorrect or moot? With cloud computing, that frustration can be a thing of the past.

cell phone

Security and Disaster Recovery

Of course, the cloud offers massive and scalable data storage solutions. But beyond just offering you more storage, it offers more secure storage, too. Though your data will be on a remote server, most reputable cloud hosting services offer full security monitoring and encryption that’s far more robust and cost-effective than you can implement internally. One 2015 survey found that 94% of businesses that synced their network with the cloud saw an improvement in their internal security.

The cloud also offers optimal disaster recovery capabilities. Regardless of how prepared you are, disasters do strike, in the form of accidents or natural disasters affecting your office, or network issues affecting your data. With your data secure in a remote cloud server though, you can recover much (if not all) that you lost. Not only that, you can recover your data much quicker from the cloud, meaning less downtime and lost revenue for your business.

Cost-Effectiveness and Sustainability

field of flowers and wind turbineWhile migrating your network to the cloud does present some initial costs, those will be offset in the long run by significant savings. For one thing, with the cloud, you’ll only be paying for the server storage space that you actually need and use. You also won’t be spending money and building and maintaining your own servers. The flexibility of the cloud and various services and software that typically come with cloud hosting packages will also save you considerable money (and time), allowing you and your team to work faster, smarter, and more efficiently.

Beyond the costs for your business, the cloud also offers tremendous savings on energy used. Running a business is always going to leave a significant carbon footprint, but the cloud offers one of the most environmentally sustainable solutions. Not only does the cloud cut down on paper waste and other physical expenses, cloud computing is also considerably more energy-efficient than on-site data centers. That means lower energy bills in the short term and a real investment in the planet and your community in the long term.

Find Your Silver Lining in the Cloud With BITS

Flexibility, collaboration, security, efficiency: these are just a few of the ways that migrating to the cloud will benefit you. Your business will be faster, safer, and more able to adapt to whatever challenges and innovations come along.

Don’t get caught standing in the rain: contact Beacon IT Services (BITS) to migrate your business to the cloud. Our expert team of technicians will work with you to seamlessly transition your network and data to the cloud without disrupting your business and service to your customers. Then, we’ll work with you and your team to fully understand the new technology and procedures. Bottom line – We will help you make the most of this powerful new tool.

Ok, one more cloud-related saying: “every cloud has a silver lining.” Well, with cloud computing, it’s all gold. Help your business be its best today and prepare for the future by contacting BITS. We’ll get you migrated right away. After all, with the cloud, the sky’s the limit.

sun shining through clouds

By | 2021-04-23T10:35:15+00:00 April 23rd, 2021|Hosting Services, Computer Related, IT Services|

Client Spotlight: W. Schillig – “BITS Keeps Us On Track”

When it comes to business, you never want there to be any downtime that can get in the way of delivering for your customers or getting the job done. And when your business is spread across the globe in multiple time zones, it’s absolutely essential that your network is reliable and working all hours of the day and night.

“If somebody from one of our factories in Germany calls us at 3 AM, our computers and servers have to be running,” says David Most, Vice President of Sales with W. Schillig. Fortunately, David and his team don’t have to worry about service outages because they partner with Beacon IT Services (BITS).

 

W. Schillig sofa

What Doesn’t BITS Do For Us?

W. Schillig logoSince its establishment in 1949, W. Schillig has been delivering high-end, European style home furnishings. With U.S. operations based out of High Point, N.C., the company specializes in modern, contemporary sofas and furniture produced with high-quality German engineering. In addition to selling beautifully designed finished pieces to customers and retailers, shoppers can also personalize their items with more than 70 design options and dozens of choices of color and fabric.

With factories located throughout Europe and Asia and a distribution base throughout the U.S. and Canada, the people of W. Schillig absolutely rely on their computer technology to keep them connected with their customers and each other.

Several years ago, it became apparent that W. Schillig’s IT provider wasn’t delivering on all of their needs. “They just weren’t available enough,” says David.

They decided to give BITS a try. It started with just a few small projects, but upon discovering the dedication, tenacity, and follow-through of the BITS team, the partnership quickly grew. Today, BITS covers the majority of W. Schillig’s managed services needs.

“What doesn’t BITS do for us?” David says. “They handle just about everything: hardware purchases, programming our machines. It goes from installing a new server—which BITS did last week—to helping us turn on the computer and put in the right password. I don’t even know everything BITS does for us because it’s seamless. If someone is having an IT issue, they just call BITS and it’s taken care of.”

A Remote Working Superhero

Mel Gonzalez

BITS came to W. Schillig’s aid in a major way in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic. Wanting to keep safe and socially distanced, W. Schillig’s employees quickly transitioned to remote working using laptops but quickly discovered their VPN wasn’t quite up to the increased workload. Tasks that should have taken minutes suddenly took an hour.

Then, while addressing a separate issue, BITS IT Support Specialist Mel Gonsalez heard about the slowdown. Mel discussed the issue with David, explaining that if they connected their laptops to workstation terminals, employees would be able to work as quickly and efficiently as if they were sitting at their desks. David was skeptical at first, but Mel quickly convinced him.

“Mel explained everything and told us what we needed to do to speed up our processes,” David says. “Within a few days of that conversation, we took action and hooked up our terminal system. Now our people can connect and work at a better pace. Some of our key programs even function better. It was a big deal and saved us so much time and frustration. Mel is kind of a superhero for our company.”

KeeW. Schillig sofa and roomping the Ship in Motion

Of course, Mel isn’t the only BITS team member who’s gone above and beyond for W. Schillig. David explains: “BITS’ brand is really all about the people. The people make the brand. And BITS has great people, very proactive.”

For David, it’s that dedication, as well as a talent for clear communication, that sets BITS apart.

Recently, a BITS team member contacted David to let him know that W. Schillig’s server might need replacing. “He said, ‘Your server is over 10 years old, and you could have a situation if you don’t replace it,'” David says. “He really made the situation simple and clean for us. We aren’t IT specialists, so that explanation was hugely helpful.”

As a result of that conversation, the server was replaced and the new server is running better than ever. That kind of proactive problem solving that characterizes BITS’ work gives David the peace of mind to focus on his business and not worry about IT.

“Our ship is in motion. It has to keep going forward,” he says. “If one thing breaks, the ship slows down. BITS keeps us on track. And that’s critical.”

No Worries, We Got IT

Interested in finding out what BITS can do for you and your business? Contact us today or request a free audit. We can’t wait to get to work for you.

By | 2021-01-15T09:02:08+00:00 January 15th, 2021|System Administration, Computer Related, BITS News, BITS Team, IT Services|

Take a Rest, We Got IT: What Your IT Team Does When You’re On Vacation

cup of coffee with milk being added

It’s 8:44 AM.

You wanted to sleep in later, of course, but it was still nice to not wake up to the sound of your phone alarm buzzing. You go to the kitchen and make some coffee, then sit down on your couch, enjoying the quiet. You just breathe.

Of course, cancelling the big vacation was a bummer, but you needed the time off. But as your head clears, a worry crosses your mind. Will everything be OK without you? You grab your phone, hover your thumb over your email.

Then you stop. You can relax. You’ve got a good team. You trust them. And you also know that even while you’re taking your much deserved rest, your information technology partner – your IT team – is still hard at work, keeping your network and infrastructure running so your business can keep doing business. So pour yourself a refill of coffee, and get comfortable, while we take a look at what your IT team does while you are on vacation.

They’ll Maintain Your Operating System

inflatable pink flamingo in poolOne of the key things your IT team does while you’re out: maintaining your operating system. Ensuring network connectivity, monitoring and adding bandwidth as needed, optimizing your data backup solutions, providing necessary system updates to ensure your customers have the best possible user experience, your IT team does it all.

More importantly, they monitor your system 24/7, so they can catch any potential issues before they arise and cause problems. That means no disruptions to your business, no inconveniences for your customers, and no panicked phone calls from the office while you’re taking it easy.

They’ll Connect You to the Cloud

man lounging with laptop computerOf course, you may not be able to help yourself: you go to work everyday, and even when you’re off, there’s one or two things you need to take care of yourself. Fortunately, with the right IT team working behind the scenes for you, it’s easy and seamless, all thanks to the cloud.

Your IT team will set up cloud networking and data storage solutions for your system. That means your whole network can be accessed from anywhere, and you can log on from anywhere you can connect to the internet, be it your couch or the pool or anywhere. Furthermore, your IT team will monitor your cloud network, keeping an eye out for any possible disruptions, so you have one less thing to be concerned about.

They’ll Keep Your Network Secure

Speaking of concerns, don’t let any worries about security wake you from your mid-day vacation nap. Your IT team is working hard to keep your network and data secure, whether you’re connected to the cloud or on a private network.

The team will get your system set with the best protections and defenses, with a fully customized firewall to protect you from network breaches, viruses, and phishing attempts. Their regular inspections will locate and correct any vulnerabilities in your system, and the team keep an eye out for any irregularities, ready to spring into action if anything goes wrong.

And if you go a little too deep into vacation mode and forget your passwords while you’re out? Your IT team can help you get logged back in, too.

 

woman floating on inflatable pink flamingo

Don’t Worry: Beacon Has Got IT

So to really rest and make the most of your time off, it’s clear that a trusted IT partner is a must: you need Beacon IT Services (BITS).  We’ve been helping our clients manage their networks, protect their data, and keep their businesses running day and night through spring, summer, fall, and winter for more than 20 years (and lots and lots of vacations).

Contact us today to discuss what we can do for you, or request a free audit.

The History and Evolution of Managed IT Services

History: we’ve lived through it, and more is being made every day. And while what’s happening in IT services may not seem quite as dramatic as what’s happening in the rest of the world, there’s no doubt that the industry is rapidly evolving in ways that will change how IT business is done going forward.

And it’s not just that the way IT services are handled: it’s in the increasing need for every business to have a robust online presence, and with that, the need for trusted managed IT service providers. So how did we get here? As always, to get a sense of where we are going, it’s worthwhile to take a look back.

From “Break / Fix” To Managed Services 

For a long time, the dominant model for IT services was “Break / Fix.” A business would have their system set up, then when something went wrong, they’d call up an IT team to come fix it. Sure, that meant lots of downtime while they waited for the team to address the issue and big bills to fix major problems. But at the time, companies either weren’t relying as heavily on technology in their day to day business, or least they didn’t believe that they did.

As times changed and technology advanced, it became clear to many companies that technology was absolutely essential to their operation. The long down times and significant work (and income) reductions that came with the “break / fix” model were simply unacceptable. Still, it wasn’t feasible or practical for many companies – especially small businesses – to have their own full-time IT expert. So managed IT services were born.

In the managed IT services model, companies contracted with outside team of IT experts to monitor their technology and fix any issues that arise as soon as possible. This meant that companies no longer had to worry about crashing systems or email being down, but could also leverage more sophisticated and complex technology. The IT team would even update a company’s technology and systems to be up-to-date.

A New World of IT

Today, more business than ever is conducted online. Cloud computing gives companies access to levels of data storage and online collaboration that would have been unthinkable (or at least unaffordable) just ten years ago.

And with so much more happening in that cloud space rather than on hard drives, cyber security is even more essential as well. Fortunately, managed IT services can also put systems in place (like multi-factor authentication) to prevent data from being stolen, exploited, or tampered with.

So it’s no surprise that companies are increasing the resources they give to IT: data shows that 44% of businesses plan to increase their tech spending this year.

And more changes are in store.

Soon, 5G technology will likely transform the digital landscape again, increasing the speed and capacity of online systems while decreasing latency (the time it takes for data to travel between devices and cellular towers- practically, the delay between your action and a site’s response). Soon, people from across the world will be able to collaborate together as though they are in the same room.

The power of 5G technology, along with other revolutionary innovations like the Internet of Things (IOT), could change everything about the way we do business and live our lives. It goes without saying the “break / fix” model wouldn’t fly in this new world. Every business that wants to stay competitive will need a trusted IT team of experts to manage their technology and ensure their cyber security.

And a business that doesn’t adapt to this new world of IT? Well, they’re history.

Take Control of Your Future

Fortunately, a trustworthy IT partner isn’t hard to find. In fact, you’ve got one right here: Beacon IT Services (BITS). We’ve been helping our clients manage their IT since 1998: we’ve been there through IT’s history and evolution, and we can help you ready your business for the future.

Contact us today to discuss your managed IT needs, or request a free audit. Your future begins today.

By | 2020-06-25T11:49:34+00:00 June 25th, 2020|System Administration, Computer Related, 5G, IT Services|

Windows 7 End of Life: Managing the OS transition

Windows 7 logoFirst, let us begin by paying our respects to a hard-working piece of software. The Windows 7 operating system first became available to consumers in October 2009. Since that time, the OS has supported millions of business and personal computers, offering Microsoft users an alternative to the less-popular and more-problematic Windows Vista.

But, every beginning must have an end. And, that end came to pass just recently. On January 14, 2020, Microsoft ended its standard support of Windows 7, opting instead to focus its service around the next generation OS – Windows 10.

What does that mean for users who still rely on Windows 7? Let’s find out.

Impact of Windows 7 End of Life

Microsoft has been notifying users of the Windows 7 expiration date for a while. But, that doesn’t mean everyone has taken notice. And, even if they have, not everyone has taken steps to upgrade their operating system in time.

That’s not completely surprising. For a business, an OS upgrade requires effort and planning to service every single workstation. There’s both an expense and a potentially significant time commitment. So, it’s completely understandable if some small or medium-size business owners have pushed the task down their priority list.

After all, it’s not like your computers will just suddenly stop working.

That said, delaying an upgrade can have significant consequences. Consider the fact that in the modern age cyber security threats are growing at an increasingly alarming rate. Even with the latest security tools, there’s no guarantee that you’ll escape someone’s attempt to penetrate your network and hijack your data.

Chances of repelling an attack are even lower when you’re using out-of-date or unsupported software. Cyber criminals are not dumb – they tend to go after the easiest targets. And, post-January 14, 2020, that includes users of the Windows 7 operating system.

If You’re Sticking with Windows 7…

woman thinking in front of a laptopDespite the warnings, some of you may decide the push your luck and continue on with Windows 7. The good news is, you’re not out there entirely on your own. You can still purchase extended support from Microsoft.

However, that support is going to cost you. And, that cost is going to more than double the following year. Microsoft is consciously implementing an aggressive cost structure for Windows 7 extended support in order to motivate customers to ditch the old system and upgrade. Eventually, though, that support is going to end, too.

So, while you’re mulling your upgrade options, here are few suggestions for keeping your business network protected:

Update to the latest Windows 7 service pack

If you’re going to run unsupported software, you might as well have the latest version with the latest security patches. That should keep you in relatively good shape for the very immediate future.

Encrypt your internet traffic

This requires purchasing a VPN (virtual private network) service. What is a VPN? Simply put, a VPN connects your network traffic to another secure server somewhere else in the world, and routes your traffic using that server’s internet connection. Here’s a good article that goes into more detail.

Delete unknown/unused software

You really should do this anyway. But, it’s even more important if you already have an existing weak link. Removing unknown or unused software limits the potential avenues of attack for intruders.

Activate two-factor authentication

Again, something to consider as a best practice. Two-factor authentication requires users to go through two stages of secure entry into a network, database or application. This doesn’t have to be two passwords. There are a number of authenticating factors. You can learn more about them here.

cyber securityUse a password manager

Most users create passwords they can easily remember. In many cases, these passwords are easier to crack for hackers using sophisticated password-cracking scripts. A password manager can help mitigate this problem. Not only will it track all of your login information, it will also generate passwords that are harder to crack.

Educate yourself and your employees about ransomware

Knowledge is key to success, right? The more educated you are about common cyber attack tactics, the more securely you can operate your business. But, you’re also only as strong as your weakest link. That means that your employees have to know as much about cyber security as you do.

Beacon Knows Operating Systems

Whether you’re considering an OS update, or you’re hanging on with Windows 7 for a little while longer, Beacon can help you keep your business infrastructure secure and operating at peak potential. For help assessing your network security, request an audit from our dependable team of IT professionals.

By | 2020-09-22T12:27:02+00:00 January 30th, 2020|Computer Related, IT Services|

The Scary Interwebs: Top Cyber Security Threats in 2019

Big plans for Halloween this year?

The October 31st holiday is an annual pilgrimage to the Altar of the Sweet Tooth for the kids. For adults, on the other hand, the celebration is closer to a fetishization of all things horrifyingly scary.

If you’re a small business owner, or an executive tasked with keeping your company’s digital infrastructure and business data safe, however, you might be forgiven for wanting to skip the terror-fest this year. Why? Because the number and variety of cyber threats just keeps increasing exponentially, year after year, making every day Halloween.

A few obligatory frightful statistics to ponder:

  • A hacker attack on an internet-connected computer or device occurs every 39 seconds.
  • Depending on who you ask, anywhere between 43% and 50% of cyber attacks target small businesses specifically. Oh, and small business typically invest less than $500 on cyber security.
  • Despite the prevalence of cyber crimes and the attention they receive, only about 10% are actually reported – meaning that the statistics above and below may represent the low end of the possible threat spectrum.
  • Some off-the-shelf hacking tool kits are available for purchase for as little as $1.
  • Roughly three out of four organizations lack even a basic cyber security incident response plan.
  • A data breach can often go nearly six months before being detected – and this is true for your financial institutions (Capital One), credit monitoring agencies (Equifax) and even the big boys in tech (Facebook).

What new and potentially devastating cyber threat trends emerged in 2019? Let’s take a look.

Cloud Computing Infrastructure Exploitation

Over the last several years, cloud data storage has become big business, and a popular method of managing your company data. However, non-secure sign-up processes, ease of use and low costs make cloud providers targets for all sorts of nefarious actors.

“Hackers have been found using cloud services to mask their identities while carrying out attacks. We have seen hackers exploiting and abusing popular cloud-based services such as Google Cloud Platform, Microsoft Azure, Asus Cloud, Google Drive, Dropbox, and others to fool their victims. Hackers may use these services to spread malicious code or distribute macro-laden documents and spreadsheets or use them as command and control servers. Hackers were also found using cheap cloud services to host their entire DDoS and brute force infrastructure, and then targeting users and other cloud providers.” – TechGenix

Mobile Fraud

As more and more financial transactions are being initiated on mobile devices, cybercriminals have shifted their exploits to the apps supporting e-commerce.

“Today, mobile fraud is outpacing web fraud. More than 60% of fraud originates from mobile devices. It used to be mobile browsers that were fraud heavy, but now 80% of mobile fraud comes from mobile apps.” – RSA White Paper

Blockchain Privacy Poisoning

Just last year, blockchain technology was being hailed as the most secure method of encryption. How quickly things change.

Hackers have found a way to turn legislation aimed at protecting online consumers – GDPR – into an exploitation through what’s now being called “privacy poisoning.”

“The term […] refers to the insertion of personal data into a public blockchain, thereby making that blockchain non-compliant under the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). According to the GDPR, all individuals have ‘the right to be forgotten,’ so you can immediately see why blockchain technology represents such a problem: by their very nature, blockchains are meant to be completely unchangeable and immutable. So this naturally creates a paradox for organizations: you have personal data ‘on chain’ that cannot be altered, and you simultaneously have the right of individuals to change, alter or delete their data at any time. Personal information cannot be deleted without compromising the chain.” – CPO Magazine

Software Supply Chain Attacks

Not only are hackers targeting cloud networks and mobile banking apps, they’re also going after the source code via software supply chain attacks.

“Attackers hunt for unsecure network protocols, unprotected server infrastructures, and unsafe coding practices. They break in, change source codes, and hide malware in build and update processes.

Because software is built and released by trusted vendors, these apps and updates are signed and certified. In software supply chain attacks, vendors are likely unaware that their apps or updates are infected with malicious code when they’re released to the public. The malicious code then runs with the same trust and permissions as the app.” – Microsoft 

DDoS

Distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks – flooding a targeted website with an overwhelming amount of traffic – are nothing new. In fact, it’s one of the oldest methods of carrying out cyber warfare.

DDoS attacks were on the decline as recently as 2018. But that trend appears to be over, as Kaspersky Lab notes:

“Last year the number of DDoS attacks was constantly falling, leading Kaspersky Lab experts to assume that cybercriminals who had been conducting DDoS attacks for financial gain had shifted their attention to other sources of income (such as crypto-mining). However, statistics for Q1 2019 contradict this trend and show that the number of DDoS attacks blocked by Kaspersky DDoS Protection has actually grown by a staggering 84%, when compared to Q4 2018. This figure could indicate that such attacks were still in demand, despite being inaccessible when popular DDoS marketplaces were taken down. Once new DDoS-for-Hire websites launched, the number of attacks grew exponentially as a result.”

Beacon Knows Cyber Security

Want to make sure your business is protected from the latest hacker exploits? Beacon is here to help. Give us a call today.

By | 2020-09-22T12:27:02+00:00 October 24th, 2019|Computer Related, IT Services|

Client Spotlight: Graham Personnel Services

How do BITS customers really feel about the job we do for them? We’re sure that almost every business asks itself a variation of the same question. After all, being successful is all about maintaining relationships.

Here, at BITS, we really wanted to know the answer. So, we decided to take the radical step of, you know, actually talking to our clients about how our services impact them.

Inaugural Client Spotlight

This month, we had the pleasure of speaking with Dace Hennessee, General Manager of Graham Personnel Services. Dace was extremely welcoming and forthcoming about his company’s reliance on the IT expertise provided by BITS.

So, what stands out about BITS services to Dace?

“Beacon is a local company. Graham Personnel is a local company. I think that’s a good match. We like to support locally owned Triad companies.”

That answer is more than just a preference for doing business with a neighbor, however. It’s about quality and reliability. And, knowing that if the owner’s computer is experiencing an issue, it will be fixed as fast as humanly possible. (In this case, we did our thing and it was back to normal within the hour.)

In managed IT services, the speed with which a glitch is resolved can mean a difference of thousands of dollars. After all, if his computers are down, Dace isn’t placing too many people on work assignments.

And that can be a major concern if, let’s say, you’re moving your entire operation to a new location.

“The Move” 

One of the biggest projects BITS managed for Graham Personnel Services was transitioning the company’s IT infrastructure to new offices on Gallimore Diary Road. In addition to it’s 30+ employees, GPS also houses multiple classrooms with dozens of computer stations where applicants are screened for various skills.

“Two years ago, we switched everything from one location to another location. I think we were down for 30 minutes,” says Dace. “We were up and functional by 8:30 [a.m.]”

The BITS team handled all the planning, logistics and execution for the job, seamlessly transitioning employee work stations, classroom computers, company servers and presentation equipment to their new homes.

“A lot of that was planning. It was getting involved early,” observes Kevin Lackey, BITS Account Executive who was involved in the project. “Having that vision on the front side, knowing what the expectation was, and being involved so early really helped us. Because we knew: this is what he’s asking.”

What Else Does BITS do for GPS?

In addition to helping with the occasional monumental move, BITS provides all end-user support for GPS’ employee work stations. In plain language, we are Graham Personnel’s external IT team. Everything from managing software updates to helping recover lost passwords is managed by the BITS help desk.

We also help Dace keep an eye on equipment performance, recommending updates when necessary and managing the procurement process.

Last, but definitely not least, BITS also manages firewall and backup functions for the GPS website, keeping digital assets secure and functioning at 100%.

About Graham Personnel Services

Graham Personnel Services has a 50-year history of successfully placing job seekers in the Triad area with businesses, large or small, in the distribution, manufacturing, professional and healthcare sectors. Over the years, the company has developed expertise and earned recognition in helping Fortune 500 companies and small businesses in Greensboro and the surrounding communities fulfill their staffing needs.

During any given week, there are anywhere between 700 and 1,200 associates placed on assignments with Graham Personnel clients. The firm takes pride in its commitment to customer satisfaction and strives to be the local leader in recruiting.

Client Profile

Name: Graham Personnel Services

Size: 30+ employees

Industry: Staffing

Location: Greensboro, NC

BITS Services: end-user support (managed IT), firewall, backup

By | 2020-09-22T12:27:03+00:00 June 25th, 2019|System Administration, Computer Related, IT Services|

Employee Security Training: Your IT New Year Resolution

Happy New Year! What are you looking to do better in 2019?

The turn of the calendar tends to bring with it thoughts of personal growth and improvement.  But, for many business owners – their identity being tied directly to their enterprises – New Year’s resolutions often translate to things they can do better for their companies.

So, let’s restate the above question: What are you looking to do better for your business in 2019?

If you’re open to it, allow us to offer a suggestion: if you haven’t made cyber security a part of your company culture, make cyber security training for your employees a priority this year. Why? Because you’ll be shoring up the weakest part of your network defenses.

The Case for Initiating Security Training for Your Employees

It’s not a secret that employees are the weakest link in any organization’s security efforts. That doesn’t mean that your staff is going out of their way to jeopardize your network. They’re just either unaware of which actions leave the company vulnerable, unsure of what to do if they do encounter a potentially threatening situation, or simply don’t assign a great deal of importance to security concerns (this is sometimes called the “it’s the IT guy’s problem” syndrome).

In most cases, though, you really can’t blame the rank-and-file. Think about this:

  • 65% of companies have over 500 employees who are never prompted to change their passwords
  • 52% of business leaders don’t know what to do if cyber security is breached
  • 45% of employees don’t receive cyber security training at all
  • Microsoft Office applications (Word, Excel, etc) account for 38% of malicious file extensions
  • 91% of cyber attacks begin with a phishing email

What are these statistics telling us? First, that workers are routinely targeted – and via the communication methods (email) and business applications they rely on the most (Microsoft Office). Secondly, if/when things go wrong, management typically doesn’t empower employees to help in warding off the threats, and often has no plan of action.

Let’s take a look at a few more statistics:

  • cyber crime is expected to cause $6 trillion in damages by 2021
  • 61% of breach victims in 2017 were companies with less than 1,000 employees
  • average cost of malware attack is $2.4 million

If you’re a small business, a multi-million dollar mistake is hard to recover from. Encouraging your team to become more discerning digital users and an active part of your data security efforts is, simply put, the smart move. The best way to do that is with an active cyber security training program.

What Does Security Training Entail?

Education can cure a lot of ills. This is absolutely the case with cyber security concerns. But before you can teach, you much know where your subjects stand.

As such, the first part of training focuses on identifying what your trainees know and don’t know. At Beacon, we initiate our cyber security training program with real-world examples of cyber exploits. This is accomplished with a computerized test, where employees are asked to complete a few simple tasks, such as opening an email with an attachment.

The test serves two purposes. First, it exposes people to real life attack methods that they are likely to encounter. Secondly, it identifies the types of exploits to which your team is most vulnerable.

Once you know which types of tricks are most likely to work on your team members, you can arm them with the skills to shore up their vulnerabilities. That’s the second part of the training – teaching how to recognize when something is amiss and how to counter a suspected attack.

The training portion should be tailored to each employee, based on the results of their assessments. Focus on what they don’t know. You don’t want to waste anybody’s time going over concepts they already know well. Your team is more likely to retain information they find valuable and/or interesting – so, teaching them stuff they know is counterproductive. Each employee’s training should cover the exploits they did not handle well during the assessment.

At the end of training, be sure to remind your team of how valuable their contributions to network security are.

Beacon Knows Security Training

Want some professional help with your employee security training? BITS is here to help. We’re more than happy to get your team up to speed on the latest cyber threats.

By | 2020-09-22T12:27:04+00:00 January 28th, 2019|Computer Related, BITS News, IT Services|
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