Top 3 Scariest Cyber Attack Trends of 2020

For many, October is a time to embrace the truly scary in the world. Whether in costumes or in late-night horror-movie binges, people steer into all things spooky for a thrill. But, as with anything truly scary, it’s the threats closest to home that really get the hair on the back of your neck standing on end. What’s worse than the threat you can’t see? What’s scarier than the threat that might already be knocking on your door ?

A cyberattack occurs every 39 seconds, but unlike zombies, vampires and werewolves, you can protect yourself from these threats, no silver bullets or wooden stakes needed.

Here are three of the scariest cyberattack trends of 2020, as well as important steps you can take to protect your organization.

Masked hacker

1. No Target Is Too Large or Too Small

A number of high-profile cyberattacks this year has further proven that attackers can be fearless, targeting small and large businesses alike.

Hotel giants MGM and Marriot have seen massive breaches so far in 2020. For MGM Resorts, what was initially thought to be a breach of 10.6 million guest records turned out to be a loss of nearly 142 million records. The records were discovered on a hacking forum and included personal and contact details like names, addresses, phone numbers and dates of birth. The breach occurred because of unauthorized access of the company’s cloud server. Marriot suffered a similar blow (its second in three years) that resulted in the theft of 5.2 million guest records.

Even Fortune 500 healthcare companies like Magellan Health aren’t safe. In April of 2020, more than 365,000 patient records were compromised in a sophisticated attack on the company’s cloud storage system using a combination of phishing and ransomware. Among the data stolen were employee credentials, social security numbers and tax information.

Large businesses aren’t the only ones at risk. According to the Verizon 2020 Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR), 28% of all cyberattacks are launched against small businesses (those with less than 1,000 employees). Although small business are targeted less frequently, data breaches that do target them yield confirmed data disclosure more than 50% of the time. Breaches affecting large businesses result in confirmed exposure approximately 6.6% of the time.

2. Public Schools and Colleges Are in the Crosshairs

Empty classroomRich with sensitive student, staff and faculty data, universities worldwide are unfortunately becoming more and more attractive targets of cyberattacks. This year, Michigan State University was the victim of not one, but two attacks. The first came in May, when NetWalker malware encrypted and stole sensitive information and threatened to publish it unless a ransom was paid. The second occurred over the summer, when the university’s online shop was compromised, resulting in the theft of more than 2,600 shoppers’ credit card numbers.

Similar attacks on educational and research institutions are on the rise. According to researchers at Check Point, weekly cyberattacks on education increased 30% in July and August of this year when compared to May and June. And this trend shows no sign of slowing down. This year alone:

  • University of Utah paid cyberattackers $457,000 for ransomed data.
  • University of California, San Francisco paid a staggering $1.1 million, one of the largest payouts to cyber attackers in the education sector ever.
  • Attackers shut down servers in New York, North Carolina and Illinois community colleges, among others.

Universities aren’t the only education targets of cyberattacks, as a number of attacks on K-12 public schools has demonstrated in recent years. At the time of this writing, the K-12 Cyber Incident Map, which tracks cybersecurity-related incidents in K-12 public schools in the U.S., has tracked 1,043 cyber incidents since 2016. One of the most brazen attacks this year occurred in one of Connecticut’s largest public school systems. The Hartford Public School system was attacked by a file-locking malware that impacted more than 200 city servers and forced schools to close.

3. Attackers Are Exploiting the Pandemic

The number of incidents in U.S. public schools had already tripled in 2019 from 2018, but the problem has only worsened since COVID-19 forced many workers and students to work and study Woman riding a bus wearing a medical maskonline. As working and learning from home expands, so too do the opportunities attackers have to infiltrate vulnerable systems or exploit unaware users. It may be no coincidence that nearly 8.4 billion records have been compromised in the first quarter of this year alone (as compared to only 4.1 million records during the first quarter of last year).

One way cyber criminals have exploited the pandemic is to target the products so many have come to depend on as they work and learn from home. While these products have helped many protect themselves from exposure to COVID-19, they also have opened them to another kind of exposure. Within months of a nearly global shift in working habits, attackers stole 500,000 Zoom user records and put them up for bid in the dark web.

Social attacks, like phishing, camouflaged as COVID-19 relief information and government health advice can sneak in payloads of ransomware, keyloggers, trojans and more. One study found that between February and March of this year, ransomware attacks increased by around 148%. What’s more, the same report by Carbon Black found that notable spikes in cyber attacks occur shortly after major COVID-related news, highlighting the opportunistic nature of cyberattackers.

What You Can Do

If you find this information frightening, you’re not alone. But you’re also not defenseless.

  • Regularly train staff and students on cyber security According to the 2020 DBIR, phishing has emerged as the most common threat to both big and small businesses. As phishing is a social attack, one of your best routes to preventing it is regular, thorough security awareness training of your staff. For schools and colleges, it’s not enough to train your staff and faculty on the importance of security awareness; you must also make sure your students understand cyber security best practices.
  • Let BITS equip your organization with anti-virus software This may sound self-explanatory, but as some of your employees are working from home, make sure they are only accessing your systems from approved, secure devices. For educators providing students with laptops, provide adequately-protected devices. Beacon IT Services (“BITS”) can help with all your anti-virus needs!
  • Partner with BITS to establish a strong perimeter Our experts can help you create, maintain and monitor firewalls and gateways to protect your network from cyber attacks. In many of the attacks, including those on Marriot, Magellan Health and Michigan State University, the vulnerabilities were found in unprotected or under-protected networks and servers.

Contact us!

The experts here at Beacon IT Services are ready to handle your IT security needs. Request a free audit or contact us with any questions about how we can help with your security and threat protection needs! It may not be silver bullets or wooden stakes, but with BITS, you can be sure you’re doing everything you can to protect yourself from threats.

By | 2020-10-26T07:56:43+00:00 October 26th, 2020|System Administration, Cyber Security, IT Services|

Connect Everywhere: Why You Need a Reliable VPN

So. Here we are. Still working from home. (Well, many of us.) Still not back to normal.

(Not going to reiterate everything that’s going on. You know what’s up. And if you’re reading this in the future and have no idea what I’m referring to… well… you’re very lucky.)

So yes, here we are, and here we stay. One thing to learn from everything happening now is that you need to be prepared for anything. Even if you’ve been able to get through 2020 largely unscathed, the general chaos and disruption right now should illustrate the need to be adaptive and ready to roll with whatever comes next.

Empty office

When it comes to your business, that means being ready to work from anywhere. What you need is a way for you and your team to access your business’s network form anywhere, while still offering the same level of cybersecurity that you’d get connecting directly in the office. That way you’ll be able to carry on your work without interruption, no matter what the universe decides to throw at us. (And as we’ve seen, it can throw a lot.)

A virtual private network (VPN) can provide what you need. And SonicWall is one of the most trusted VPN providers in the business.

Here’s what you need to know.

What Is SonicWall?

SonicWall is a technology company specializing in appliances and devices that primarily provide cyber security and remote, wireless access.

What Does SonicWall Offer?

SonicWall offers a number of useful products and services, including firewalls, cloud security, and content filtering. They also specialize in remote access and VPNs.

So what’s a VPN, again?

A virtual private network (VPN) extends a private network across a public network. It allows for the security and function of the private network while allowing users to access the network anywhere. In other words, it’s the technology that make remote work possible and safe.

SonicWall offers a number of VPN options, so businesses can find the version that will work best for them.

What Can It Do For My Business?

Simply put, a reliable VPN will allow your team to work from anywhere. With just a laptop computer and wi-fi connection, they’ll have secure access to your servers and network wherever they choose to connect, allowing them to seamlessly accomplish their work without needing to be in the same space.

Man working outside on a laptopThat means that even when everyone may not be able to be in the same space (like is happening now), they can still work and collaborate like a team. Your business will be able to run without interruption regardless of how your team may be scattered. Some VPNs even allow easy and convenient access via smartphone operating systems, offering even more flexibility for you and your team.

A VPN also provides useful and essential security measures to keep your data and business secure. Many VPNs require user authentication (via passwords, digital certificates, or even biometrics) to access so only authorized users can access your network, in addition to a host of other security measures.

Do I Need a VPN?

If you have a team working for you and you want to make sure you can continue to run and function under any kind of changing circumstance, then we’ll say, yeah. You do. Definitely.

The fact is, even if you have gotten through the current pandemic moment without having to shut down your office or working space, you simply don’t know what’s coming in the future. Not to fear-monger (really) but the next world changing event may separate your team and provide a new need for remote work. And even when you aren’t navigating worst-case scenarios, a VPN offers your team unparalleled flexibility in how they collaborate.

For example, a team traveling to meet clients no longer has to put off other work or rely on people back at the office to access important data. Instead, they can access via the VPN and pull up the information and files they need directly.

Or how about when you wake up at 3:40 AM with the solution to the problem you’ve been working on suddenly in your head? Do you wait until you get to office hours later and discover you’ve forgotten your epiphany, or do you log in via your VPN, solve the problem, and lay back down for a few more hours of restful sleep with a feeling of real accomplishment?Man working on laptop at home.

How Do I Get a VPN?

Well, that’s where Beacon IT Services (BITS) comes in. We’ve been working with SonicWall for years, providing VPNs for our clients along with a host of other services. We even use a SonicWall VPN ourselves. We can get one set up for you and your business so you can begin working from anywhere.

So don’t wait for the next big moment. Be prepared, and contact us today to get started.

By | 2020-09-24T10:44:05+00:00 September 24th, 2020|System Administration, Other, Cyber Security, 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.

What’s Hot in IT? New Programs to Keep Your Data Cool

hot day on the road

 

Whew! It’s the height of summer and it is HOT. Take your breath away hot. Cook an egg on the hood of your car hot. Don’t go outside unless you can jump in a pool hot (or at least dip your toes into a kiddie pool in your backyard).

In other words, it’s a good time to stay inside. And while your inside, cooling off with a glass of something cold and refreshing, you can think about a different kind of heat, like what’s generating interest and excitement in the world of information technology services.

So what is hot in IT these days? Cyber security is always a major trend. And as COVID-19 continues to move more business online, anything that can keep your business and your data safe are a high priority.

Beacon IT Services (BITS) is always on the lookout for new programs and innovations that can help protect our clients. “Security is still the name of the game in managed services,” says BITS account executive Kevin Lackey. “We continually research new security services / security stacks for our clients to ensure we can stay in front of any potential issues or threats. There are literally hundreds of options, but we try to tailor which offerings are 1) beneficial to our specific set of clients and 2) can be incorporated with our systems.”

Lately, two new products that will help our clients improve their security have got us particularly excited. Here’s a look:

Auvik: Network Monitoring

Auvik is a networking monitoring solution that allows managed service providers (MSPs) to monitor entire network infrastructures, including data centers, workstations, physical servers, and more. With it, administrators can manage multiple clients from a single parent account. From that parent account, they can then add two-factor authentication for all accounts, allowing for an ample security upgrade.

Auvik also provides a dashboard for administrators with a centralized view of overall network performance for enhanced maintenance and can detect connected devices within the network and establish a secure inter-network connection. This allows for easier and more efficient troubleshooting. Plus, it easily integrates with variety of workflow and business tools like Microsoft Office.

All in all, Auvik ensures that managed service providers like BITS can effectively monitor their client networks and keep them running with maximum efficiency.

Huntress: Intrusion Detection

Keeping networks secure from hackers requires constant vigilance, but Huntress software is valuable tool for keeping them out – and getting rid of any who may have found a way in.

While many hackers use their own knowledge of antivirus and preventive security systems to get past firewalls and establish a foothold in a network. They can implement hard-to-detect malware that only runs when a user logs in or even only the user executes specific processes.

Huntress is specifically designed to seek out those footholds and provide a means to correct them. It integrates with existing security measures, and gives managed service providers like BITS detailed reports on security compromises it finds along with detailed instructions for fixing the issue.

The result is a significantly more secure network without significant extra costs: a win-win for managed service providers and their clients.

BITS Will Connect You with the Best and the Latest in IT

Of course, knowing what’s hot in IT is only helpful if you’ve got a partner to implement it. BITS can be that partner for you and will implement the IT innovations that make sense for your business and its needs. From hot new programs like Auvik and Huntress to other established programs like Proofpoint, IronScales, and KnowBe4, we are poised to offer and deliver the solutions that make a difference.

Contact us today to discuss how we can help you, or request a free audit. No need to step outside: our remote IT will help keep your online business running and secure, no matter how hot it is outside. Cool.