Lessons in Cyber Security & Threat Prevention

Atlanta Ransomware Attack

The ransomware attack that took hostage a number of vital computer systems in Atlanta last month wreaked havoc on residents and sent the city’s administration scrambling. What can we learn from the situation?

Considering that city officials were aware as early as last summer that “severe and critical vulnerabilities” existed within the municipality’s computer network, the biggest takeaway is: DON’T WAIT to shore up your cyber security.

We’re not in the business of beating dead horses. And, surely, Atlanta officials have their hands full orchestrating the recovery from the attack and trying to return vital operations back to normal. Nonetheless, the fact that a 2017 internal city audit revealed an utter lack of preparedness to manage any sort of cyber threat should not go unmentioned.

What that means is the March 22 attack wasn’t a technology problem. As with most hacking efforts, it’s not the code that sinks you – it’s the human element that’s exploited for criminal gain. In this case, the human element was the inability of city administrators to respond to known threats. Not only was the city not equipped to handle an attack on its networks, it also didn’t have a proper response plan ready.

The number of ransomware attacks spiked sharply in the last year. So, if you don’t have an updated plan for your organization’s network security, you may very well be the next target of SamSam – the group responsible for the Atlanta situation – or another criminal outfit.

The good news is that there’s an army of cyber security professionals who are very skilled at crafting customized solutions. We, at Beacon, have been good at it for quite a while.

Protection Through Prevention

The best way to avoid a ransomware attack is to make sure that your network has a sufficiently strong firewall in place. A firewall identifies incoming web traffic and filters any suspicious or unapproved activity. The effectiveness of any firewall depends on how well it is configured. Typically, large networks require complex firewall configurations and a team of IT specialists for maintenance and monitoring.

Firewalls are great at protecting against known threats. However, new hacking techniques are developed every day. To defend against these zero-day exploits and other sophisticated attacks, IT pros deploy advanced automated audits that boot the threat off the targeted network. About 80% of current Beacon clients rely on this type of advanced protection. And, ideally, that number would be 100%.

Of course, even the most well-designed security setups can be breached. Criminal hackers know that people are the weakest link in network security and design attacks to take advantage of unwitting networks users. (There’s that human element again.) However, the odds of such attacks succeeding are low if your organization takes security awareness training seriously. Security seminars should be made available to every person on staff, and be repeated at least once every three years.

Recovery: It’s Good to Have a Back-Up Plan

Let’s be honest – sometimes hackers succeed even when you’ve done everything right. If that happens, you don’t want to find yourself in the same position as the folks in Atlanta. Backing up your network will protect you in case of a catastrophe.

While the concept is simple, data backup is actually a fairly complex process that takes considerable forethought. You’ll need to decide how often your network needs to be backed up (hourly, daily, weekly, etc). You’ll also have to examine how long your organization can go without access to your data.

A busy medical center, for example, would need to have its data backed up hourly to capture changing patient statuses, doctor’s orders, prescriptions, etc. With lives at stake, it would also be imperative to restore access to that data as quickly as possible.

Organizations that don’t deal with life and death issues would probably have less stringent requirements for their data protection plan.

We’re Here to Help

Have questions about your company’s cyber security? Give BITS a call at 336.546.6660, and we’ll be happy to talk to you about your concerns and data protection needs.

By | 2018-04-12T11:22:11+00:00 April 12th, 2018|IT Services|

It’s Finally Here! See the Birth…

After 8.5 hours of hard labor at M3 on St. Patrick’s Day, our newborn officially arrived at 3:20pm, weighing in at a hefty 4,621 pounds. Under trusted and constant care, Team M3 delivered a bright, healthy and colorful addition to the Beacon family.  We are so thankful for all the attention we are receiving for our carefully wrapped bundle of joy, which we’ve named “The BITS-Mobile”.

Beacon’s IT Services Division (“BITS”), which primarily serves the Triad area (Greensboro/Winston-Salem/High Point) has experienced fast growth over the last year. “The BITS-Mobile will not only provide transportation for our technical staff, but also transport equipment such as servers and desktops to our client sites when necessary,” says Mark Dirks, Beacon’s CEO.  “Since our BITS clients are mostly Triad-based, our marketing team recommended a more traditional ‘mobile’ marketing approach through vehicle graphics for local brand visibility.

Matthews Mobile Media (“M3”) has an incredible team and worked with our design team to produce a really creative and professional design. John Scaramuzzo, Beacon’s co-founder and COO, leads the newly dubbed “BITS” Division and is anticipating continued growth after seeing the client base double over the last 12 months.  “Although my team constantly monitors our clients’ technical infrastructure to maintain system health and deter technical problems, there are times when the staff needs to be on site for installations and to work on specific issues,” says Scaramuzzo.  “BITS is essentially an extension of our client’s organization and it’s important that we can be on-site within minutes.  So the BITS-Mobile is a welcome addition to the Team!”


Special Note from Matthews Mobile Media (M3): “Congratulations!  It’s a BITS mobile!!! We have been clients of Beacon for several years and have benefited from their expert team’s proactive service.  There is no doubt that the personal attention and dedication to client growth is a reflection of their mission.  What a privilege to be a part of the birth of their next generation by helping bring the BITS-Mobile to life.  To us, it is a natural fit because we specialize in mobile.  We help companies from all over express themselves through vehicle and environmental graphics.

We like to turn heads for our clients; that’s what we do! So helping to design, create, produce and apply that ‘outerwear’ for our Beacon’s newborn gives us an exceptional rush!  Who knew IT could be so sexy?  Well… we did ;)

Thank you, Beacon, for letting us outfit your newest addition!  All of us at Team M3 look forward to watching the BITS-Mobile grow up and have a little brother or sister very soon!

By | 2017-04-11T13:17:25+00:00 March 27th, 2017|BITS News|