We Wish You a Merry BITSmas: Our Favorite IT Carols

Ah, the holiday season! It’s the time for spending time with loved ones, reflecting on the past year, and gift-giving and acts of appreciation. It’s also time for radio stations and retail businesses to be taken over by everyone’s favorite Christmas songs (we’re looking at you, Mariah Carey). At BITS, we have a few favorite holiday tunes of our own…and to celebrate the season, let us tell you why!

 

“Rockin’ Around the Cybersecuri-Tree”

In 2021, it was clear that cybersecurity concerns were at the top of our clients’ minds. A majority of our new clients gained over the past few years have come to us because of our expertise in threat prevention. Kevin Lackey, BITS Account Executive, reports that “security support is above and beyond the most sought-after service that we [BITS] provide!” And based on current trends, we see no indication of this slowing down.

It’s simple–everyone needs a cybersecurity action plan. In today’s always-online world, we see attempts at phishing and ransomware infection all the time. As we reported in October, even the most prominent companies globally like Facebook/Meta and Amazon frequently get targeted by security threats.

But that doesn’t mean that we’re all doomed to suffer email scams forever. That’s why our clients have us–our invaluable expertise will not only help you protect from cybersecurity threats, we’ll prepare and be right there with you if an incident occurs. We know the bad actors out there on the web aren’t slowing down, so we aren’t either. BITS support can help you get things back on track and running smoothly if an issue arises.

Get Cybersecurity Support

 

 

“IT Came Upon a Midnight Clear”

We hear it often–for our clients, the peace of mind they receive by partnering with BITS as their IT services provider is often the best gift their business gets every year. You need a team that can help you out regardless of the time of day or time of the year. That’s why we’re proud always to be a phone call away and boast a lightning-fast support ticket resolution time. With BITS, you can experience dependable IT services and the promise of issue resolution right when you need it.

Don’t underestimate how important it is to have an IT solution and support team you can trust, especially during this busy time of year! With us on your side to support your existing team, take the lead on your IT, or help with whatever IT solution suits your business best, you can be confident that BITS will always come through, day or night!

Explore Managed IT Services

 

“Joy to the Cloud”

With the increasing popularity of remote and cloud-based work, you need to make sure the cloud network for your business is secure. Don’t have a cloud network? We can help with that, too!

BITS can assist with the migration of data to a new cloud network or cloud virtual server that we can set up for you. Once your business data is off the ground, we can also assist with monitoring and managing your cloud network on an ongoing basis.

BITS Cloud Services

 

“What Data is This?”

If you don’t have your data backed up securely, you may someday experience the pain of losing precious files. And we wouldn’t wish that on anyone! Losing files can affect your personal livelihood and the livelihood of your business. That’s why it’s important to ensure your company’s storage solutions are sound and your data backup plan is dependable.

Fortunately, the BITS team excels in data storage and developing backup initiatives that can keep all of your information wrapped up tight (just like a perfect Christmas present!)

Backup & Store your Data

 

“All BITS Wants for Christmas is You!”

We hope you’ve enjoyed the caroling session and appreciate our spin on these Christmas favorites! BITS is all about spreading cheer, but we like to do so year-round. Our goal is to make your IT solutions work best for you, so get in touch with us to join the merriment!

As always, we wish all of our clients (and future clients!) a safe and happy holiday season and look forward to what the next year brings. Maybe you’ll have a new favorite Christmas carol by the end of 2022? Stick with BITS and we’ll find out together!

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and Happy New Year from the BITS team!

 

 

By | 2021-12-15T14:30:02+00:00 December 15th, 2021|System Administration, BITS News, BITS Team, Cyber Security, IT Services|

Our Favorite BITS: Gratefully Reflecting on 2021

As the days grow shorter and families gather for holidays, we often take time to reflect on the past year’s events and accomplishments in our lives. Anniversaries. Graduations. Promotions. All those memorable moments you look back on and smile. We’ve had plenty of those moments here at Beacon IT Services (BITS) over this busy year, with plenty of notable events and advancements in our realm of managed IT services.

For the entire month of November, we’ve been highlighting various things that we’re #Thankful for on our social media channels. From celebrating our nation’s veterans on Veteran’s Day to when we come together with our families on Thanksgiving, the month of November alone gives us a lot to be thankful for.

(Sidenote: we’re also #Thankful for follows! For more BITS insights, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn!)

In the spirit of the most grateful month of the year, the BITS team reflected on 2021 to share some of the things we are most thankful for.

BITS is Thankful for New Tools

Despite ongoing worldwide issues surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, the team at BITS hasn’t slowed down since the start. With the difficulties that the pandemic continues to create for businesses of all sizes, our growing team continues to nimbly step up to the plate and help our clients during these unpredictable times. To do so, our team has grown stronger than ever internally, with a full-service attitude committed to client success.

One of the ways we’ve grown internally is by making improvements to our own IT solutions. Following industry-wide best practices, we enabled multi-factor authentication across all Beacon employees’ computers. We have also begun rolling MFA to clients, which will provide an added level of security, and collectively, these upgrades will keep everyone better protected. It is all about staying ahead so our clients don’t have to worry about any interruptions in their service.

Even better, with our expertise in the latest cyber security measures and processes, we can help set up multi-factor authentication for your business, too. We got it done for Beacon in less than a week. We can have MFA up-and-running for you quickly and efficiently too.

BITS is Thankful for New Opportunities

Just this past month in October, the BITS team finalized significant contracts with two brand new clients.

“We are now working with Circle Graphics to support their two locations in High Point, NC, which boast an infrastructure of over 50 servers,” reports Kevin Lackey, Account Executive for the BITS team. “They now have our entire BITS technical team supporting them, rather than a single Systems Administrator, partnering with their on-site IT folks in a co-managed arrangement,” says Lackey. “We also signed Riithink to an agreement for both IT Services and Cloud Services that includes a hosted server solution using Microsoft Azure.”

We’re always thrilled for the opportunity to build new client partner relationships and to help more businesses keep their IT networks performing at their very best. Could you be our next client partner? We would love to chat and see what we can do for your business!

BITS is Thankful for YOU!

After a banner year that shows no sign of slowing down, we have to acknowledge the group we’re thankful for year-round: ALL of our client partners! We know you depend on us year after year to maintain business continuity. We also know that it’s a choice and we don’t take that lightly. Thank you for being part of the BITS family. Your trust is the best gift we can receive for the holidays!

For those of you who aren’t working with us (yet), consider this: Are you thankful for the IT services your company experienced in the past year? Are you satisfied with their cloud-based solutions? Can you depend on them for live in-person assistance? Did they proactively protect you from cyber security threats? Do they have all of your important data backed up safely?

If you answered “no” to any of these, maybe it’s time for a change? We would be glad to talk with you about our services and ultimately, give you more peace of mind around your technical infrastructure. As we like to say, “No worries. We got IT.”

Have a Happy Thanksgiving from your friends at BITS. We hope you have as much to be thankful for as we do!

By | 2021-11-19T11:26:56+00:00 November 19th, 2021|BITS News, BITS Team, IT Services|

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|

Cybersecurity: Small Business Solution to an International Problem

“Cyber intrusions and attacks — many of them originating overseas — are targeting our businesses, stealing trade secrets, and costing American jobs. Iranian hackers have targeted American banks. The North Korean cyber attack on Sony Pictures destroyed data and disabled thousands of computers. In other recent breaches that have made headlines, more than 100 million Americans had their personal data compromised, including credit card and medical information.”

This commentary doesn’t belong to a cybersecurity expert working for big business. And they’re not an assessment by a member of the intelligence community.

No, these words were published in an April 1, 2015 op-ed in Medium (a popular online journal) by none other than the 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama. They speak to the enormity and seriousness of the problem that cyberattacks initiated in foreign countries present to American businesses and citizens.

These concerns have not dissipated in the interceding years. In fact, the threat continues to grow.

Cybersecurity vulnerability isn’t just an American problem. It is a truly global concern. That recognition has driven international cooperation among the world’s governments, best exemplified by early agreements like the Budapest Convention on Cybercrime, and supported by more recent measures, like the Obama Administration’s Executive Order promoting the sharing of private sector cybersecurity information.

These efforts aim to protect consumers and businesses in developed nations, by building up capabilities and shoring up vulnerabilities in both developed and developing countries. After all, cybercriminals often operate more freely in less-regulated, emerging economies.

But, not all international initiatives succeed. In fact, nations like China, Russia and India have bristled at the terms of agreements like the Budapest Convention, preferring to keep their policies, capabilities and vulnerabilities closer to the vest.

So, while some global efforts are succeeding in identifying and bridging cybersecurity gaps – this paper by the non-profit Third Way captures the latest success and challenges – American businesses still face a digital environment fraught with danger.

As a business owner, you can appreciate the gains made by global cybersecurity cooperation. But, at the same time, you must also do everything you can on your own to secure your digital assets.

Protecting Your Business From International Cybercrime

There are a number of things you can do to minimize the chance of being victimized by international cybercriminals. This article from The SSL Store outlines a detailed, robust 9-step guide for cybercrime prevention:

  1. Follow industry best practices (GDPR, NIST, HIPPA, PCI SSC)
  2. Implement digital and physical security measures (antivirus, firewalls, etc)
  3. Keep up with asset lists, patches and software updates
  4. Manage SSL/TLS certifications and keys for your domain
  5. Train employees to identify threats and take appropriate and immediate action
  6. Implement email security solutions and run your employees through phishing simulations
  7. Monitor traffic and access to increase transparency
  8. Test and assess your systems regularly
  9. Develop, implement and enforce new security policies often

This a great, comprehensive list. The only problem is, it’s impossible to implement all of these recommendations for most small businesses. If you have the budget for a robust IT team, yeah, you can handle most of this in-house. But, most small businesses run a shoestring IT operation with one, maybe two, people.

So, What Can Small Businesses Do To Prevent International Cybercrime?

If you’re a small business, a more reasonable technical solution may be to simply wall yourself off from countries known to host a large number of cybercriminals. If you don’t do business in places like Russia, China, Brazil, or any other country from which a large number of cyberattacks are known to originate, then there’s no reason to leave yourself exposed to bad actors in those locales.

One solution we’d recommend is the SonicWall Geo-IP Filter. Configuring the filter is relatively straight-forward and easy. If you don’t do

any international business at all, you can simply block all international traffic and call it a day. If, on the other hand, you have a few international markets where you’re active, you can set up the filter to allow connection from just those countries.

But, what if you have a substantial number of customers in some of those less-regulated countries? For this scenario, you can create a “white list” of IP addresses that belong to your clients and you know are safe, and still block traffic from everyone else.

One word of caution: the Geo-IP Filter may not protect your network from VPN connections. VPNs are used to route internet traffic through one or several servers located in different parts of the world, masking the true origin of the user.

Beacon Knows Cybersecurity

Want some expert help setting up the Geo-IP Filter, or implementing any other cybersecurity measure? BITS is here to help. Give us a call today.

By | 2020-09-22T12:27:02+00:00 November 19th, 2019|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|