Take it From Facebook: You Need a Cybersecurity Action Plan

Picture this:

Years from now, you’re sharing a holiday with your family. After overhearing you reminisce and discuss how unpredictable the beginning of the 2020s was–and hopefully how wonderful the rest of the decade was–a child in the family looks up from their tablet and asks you:

“So, were you there for the great Facebook blackout of October 2021?”

Okay, you got us; we’re exaggerating. A kid wouldn’t ask that, and the chances we will be discussing this month’s six-hour Facebook outage in a decade is improbable. However, any time a significant internet player experiences such a sudden, long-lasting interruption, the situation is ripe for an examination, especially because October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month. It’s like they knew!

It also goes to show how quickly the stories (real & fake) will travel, especially if you have an outage. Nobody wants this type of PR!

Why Did Facebook Go Down?

(A) Were the Facebook platform and its owned subsidiaries hacked by an outsider cybersecurity threat?

(B) Was it an inside job due to Facebook’s continued legal and ethical struggles perpetuated by a company whistleblower?

(C) Was it just a stunt to celebrate the coincidence of October as the month dedicated to cybersecurity awareness?

(Spoiler: we think that last one is highly unlikely.)

Here is what we do know, a few weeks after the event:

On Monday, October 4th, 2021, at around noon, the Facebook outage began. Most of the social media juggernaut’s services–including internal company communications and systems–were down due to “networking issues” until approximately 6:08 pm EDT when services finally resumed. Until then, curious internet sleuths–like the team here at Beacon IT Services (BITS)–monitored sites like DNSChecker.org with curiosity, speculating on what caused the tech giant’s DNS routing information to go missing.

The following day, Facebook engineers revealed that a “configuration issue” with their data centers caused their DNS servers to go down. As far as we know, this wasn’t the result of a “hacker,” disgruntled employee, or a strange tribute to National Cybersecurity Month. The issue occurred during the everyday upkeep of the company’s backbone connection between its data centers.

Yep. It was an accident. And frankly, it could happen to anyone.

Facebook was not the only online platform affected. Instagram, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and the virtual reality platform Oculus suffered from Facebook’s downtime. As a result, thousands of businesses across these platforms lost advertising revenue over the six-hour outage, which also hurt the businesses that rely on Facebook for advertising and services. The outage had a domino effect that interfered with much more than your ability to scroll through your Facebook timeline.

Coincidentally, the popular live-streaming platform Twitch (owned by Amazon) suffered from a leak of confidential information just days later, on Wednesday, October 6th. How strange that another huge internet presence had a problem on the heels of Facebook’s outage! This time, it wasn’t just an unlucky maintenance accident, but a real breach caused by an outside source.

These incidents demonstrate that the web is constantly bombarded with cybersecurity threats and technical mishaps across all industries and platforms–including the major internet players.

“Whoa, if even Facebook has issues, then my website is doomed!”

You can stop that train of thought right here; there’s no need to panic! Yes, this kind of situation can happen, even to the big players. Of course, prevention is the best medicine, but recovery is what’s critical. How well are you prepared to get your business back online if a cybersecurity attack happens to you? Your preparations now can determine if a future outage will last for minutes, hours, days, or weeks.

What’s the cybersecurity action plan for your business? Is your team ready to jump into the fray and solve the issue at a moment’s notice? Do you need some guidance?

BITS can help with that! Not only can our managed IT services help to mitigate serious security issues from occurring in the first place, but you can count on us to be right there if anything were to happen. We’ve seen, and handled, most every client issue over the years, stemming from servers to intranets and everything in between.

When your web presence is in jeopardy, you want a team on your side with the know-how to get you back online as fast as possible. Discover why BITS provides peace of mind for handling unfortunate maintenance accidents and cybersecurity attacks from malicious sources. Contact us to discuss your IT concerns and let our experts do the heavy lifting to prepare a dependable security foundation for your business.

By | 2021-10-25T08:54:16+00:00 October 20th, 2021|BITS Team, Cyber Security, IT Services|

How To Protect Your Business From Costly Ransomware Attacks

It’s never good news when cybersecurity is in the news. Unfortunately, that’s certainly been the case this year, as story after story has emerged of cyber attacks and hacks crippling major corporations and utilities. The ransomware attack that halted Colonial Pipeline, hiking prices and causing gas shortages on the East Coast, was one of the most well-known recent incidents, but certainly not the only one: hackers also targeted food suppliers, insurance companies, communication companies, and many more. Indeed, one prediction from Cybersecurity Ventures predicts that businesses will be attacked by ransomware every 11 seconds by the end of 2021.

Though that particular estimate is on the higher (and more alarming) end, there’s no question that cybersecurity is an absolutely essential part of any responsible business’s IT agenda. If you run or work for a small business, you may not be a target of the multi-million dollar schemes affecting some of the major, international corporations, but you are still at risk. There’s no need for panic though. With a few precautions, you can make sure your business is protected.

Why Ransomware Attacks Are So Common Now

To begin understanding how you can protect your network, employees, and business, it’s important to understand what exactly is happening.

hacked laptopTo start, let’s look at exactly what a ransomware attack is. Essentially, ransomware is malicious software (or malware) that infects a computer or network, taking control and restricting access to files and programs. The only way for the system’s owner to regain control and keep their data from being destroyed or publicly leaked is to pay a ransom to the malware’s creators.

Lately, attacks like this gotten more frequent. Many exporters and observers agree that this is most likely a side effect of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Why? Due to the pandemic, many workers transitioned from working in offices every day to working from home. Unfortunately, many also began using unsecured remote networks to do their work, opening themselves up to attack.

At the same time, hackers took advantage of the fear and uncertainty bred by the pandemic to start sending out targeted phishing emails. Using subject lines with topics related to coronavirus prevention and safety measures, these emails, often falsely attributed to reputable sources like the World Health Organization or the Center for Disease Control, tried to dupe worried readers into surrendering important data and credentials. Sometimes it worked.

How You Can Keep Your Network Safe

Even as we better learn to battle COVID-19 and life returns to something closer to normal, the threat of ransomware attacks persists. Fortunately, protecting against them is not as difficult or complicated as it may seem.

Here are three steps to take:

icon of virus-free smartphone

1. Enlist the aid of managed services pros

To start, one of the key things to remember is that you don’t have to fight this by yourself. Partnering with a trustworthy and proven network management team like the experts at Beacon IT Services (BITS) can go a long way towards securing your network and your data. (Not to mention all of the other benefits of our services, including cloud migration, data recovery, and general systems maintenance.)

2. Set up a VPN

Next, your BITS team will work on securing your remote network. In most cases, that will mean setting up a virtual private network (VPN) for you and your team to work on. VPNs offer the security and function of a traditional, hardwired private network while still allowing users to access it remotely. BITS partners with SonicWall to offer a variety of secure and reliable VPNs that will secure your network.

3. Prepare your team to spot scams

You also must train your employees to recognize the signs of potential phishing emails. From keeping an eye out for suspicious and overly complex email addresses to unusual requests for social security numbers, credit card info, and other sensitive data, there are some simple things employees should always watch out for. Your IT expert can provide info on essential best practices and can offer recommendations on valuable services like KnowBe4 if more in-depth anti-phishing measures are required.

BITS will also install powerful firewalls and anti-virus software on your network to keep it safe from other threats. Our 24/7 network monitoring also allows us to identify any issues as they arise—before they become a problem for you and your business.

Don’t Fall Victim to Ransomware: Contact BITS Today

Don’t waste time: contact us now to get to work on securing your network.

If you already partner with us, don’t hesitate to reach out if you have concerns about your security. We’ll work with you to make sure everything is secure and that you have the best protection possible.

By | 2021-07-23T07:32:09+00:00 June 24th, 2021|System Administration, Cyber Security, IT Services|

Managed IT Services

Disaster Response Time

If you’ve ever been in the unfavorable position of seeing your business IT infrastructure compromised, you understand the necessity of an expedient response from your IT vendor. If you haven’t, thank goodness. Unfortunately, the rise in the number of successful web-based attacks increases the odds of you facing this situation sometime in the future.

Successful businesses protect themselves against known risks. So, how do you best prepare for the eventuality of your company network being attacked? Another way to ask this questions is: What are the elements of a good disaster preparedness plan that ensure the fastest response time?

At Beacon, we hang our hat on two essential elements when working with clients to secure their IT infrastructure: experienced live technicians, and a properly-configured remote tool kit.

Live Technicians Make All the Difference

It’s natural and easy to become reliant on technology. Humans have done this at every stage of our evolution. An appropriate present day example is the societal discussion taking place around automation. It’s true – robots and artificial intelligence may very well be the components that someday revolutionize the workplace.

But, even the smartest tech leaders of the most forward-looking companies are re-learning the value of human capital. As Elon Musk, the CEO of the upstart carmaker Tesla, recently acknowledged, there is such a thing as over-automation. It turns out that the key to ramping up the production of Tesla’s highly-anticipated Model 3 is not more robots, but more people.

We’ve always placed a high value on highly personal customer service. In fact, the calling card of Beacon’s IT services is the ability of clients to receive live assistance immediately.

If you’re faced with a cyber attack that took down your network, you don’t want to be reduced to leaving voice mails to your IT vendor. Or worse, relying on a corrupted or compromised network to figure out what’s what. You want to be speaking with a real expert right away, not three hours from now. It is this step that’s going to be the difference between restoring your network in minutes, rather than days.

Remote Tools Help Your Network Recover Quickly

Hopefully, your firewall solution is good enough to keep out any unsavory characters. But, if we’ve learned anything about IT security in the last few years, it’s that breaches can – and do – happen despite the most robust security setups.

If your defenses have been penetrated, what helps you get your systems back online the fastest is a responsive data backup system (that you had the foresight to install prior to the attack). There are two setups that yield the best results: local virtualization and cloud backup. Both can get you back online within hours, if not minutes.

Local virtualization relies upon an on-site device that’s connected to your network. In case of a breach, the device is automatically quarantined. It is then used to restore access to your data by transferring the data to a “clean” server, or by acting as a server itself.

The second method is similar to the first. The difference is in the way the backed up data is stored and accessed. In local virtualization, the backup data can be accessed locally, on the backup device.

With the cloud backup, your data is sent to the cloud at selected time intervals – could be as often as once an hour. The task can be scheduled for non-business hours or overnight, so it does not interrupt normal business operations. If the need arises, you can access the saved data from a cloud portal – a secure, dedicated web page. In this manner, you’re able to restore individual files; or, in a disaster recovery scenario, activate servers in the cloud to replicate the compromised servers on site. In some scenarios, cloud servers can even be set up to mimic the function of your on-site servers, allowing authorized users to access the data the way they normally would.

Is Your Network Protected From Today Exploits? 

If you’re not sure, give BITS a call at 336.546.6660. We’ll be happy to talk to you about your IT security concerns. Our team is experienced in crafting customized solutions for the most stringent requirements.

By | 2018-05-15T11:49:08+00:00 May 15th, 2018|BITS Team, IT Services|