Don’t Take the Bait: Tell-Tale Signs of Phishing Email Scams

illustration of fish and hook

We’ve all gotten those emails. They’ll come from a company you’ve done business with, or from someone you know. A boss maybe. The wording is odd sometimes—there are always phrases that seem a little off, like “I’m stuck on a conference”—but the tone is usually urgent. Some action or information is needed. A cell phone number. Or credit card or social security data. Or maybe just clicking a quick link.

They are phishing emails: a scam in which a hacker or cyber-criminal sends their target a message intended to trick the target into revealing sensitive information. They are a common security threat, but with their frequently outlandish requests (who knew there were so many Nigerian princes that need our help?), it’s easy enough to view phishing emails as an irritant at worst and comical at best.

However, cyber scammers have gotten considerably more sophisticated in their methods. It’s no wonder that in May of 2021 there was a 440% increase in phishing attacks.

The truth is, it just takes one mistake—whether that’s a gullible employee or a distracted click on a questionable link—to open your business up to a major security breach. That’s why it’s more important than ever to make sure that you and your employees know some of the common signs of spam emails, so they can send these nefarious missives to the trash bin on sight.

Here are three common signs to look out for:

1. Requests for Sensitive Info

Maybe a package you ordered is stuck in transit somewhere, and your credit card information is needed to expedite shipping. Maybe your account with an online shopping service has been suspended, and you need to answer some security questions to log back in. Or maybe an acquaintance is in a jam, and they need your bank account number to wire the cash they need to get home.spam email

Don’t believe it, and don’t share anything: the most tell-tale sign of a scam email is a request for some sensitive information. Simply put, no legitimate company or organization is going to ask for your social security number, tax info, credit card info, or similarly sensitive information over email, especially not an unsolicited email. Your friends and co-workers don’t need that information either. (Unless your friends and co-workers are, in fact, phishing scammers. In which case, get some new friends!)

Of course, some scammers won’t request info but instead will send a link to click or attachment to download. Typically, taking any action can lead to your system and network being invaded by a virus or ransomware. These types of phishing emails can be tougher to detect, so before you take any kind of action, check for other signs that the email may not be legit.

2. Suspicious Email Addresses

When you open your email box, you’re used to seeing new messages from friends or co-workers, as well as promotions from favorite companies. But if you click into one of those emails and something seems off, check the email address of the sender. Is it different from what you might expect in some way?suspicious email addressScammers are now able to make it appear as though their messages are coming from your contacts or businesses you trust, but the truth lies in the actual domain email address. If it’s from a business, does it have extra numbers? A spelling mistake? Does it seem to have no connection at all to the business it’s purportedly from? Then chances are it’s a scam.

Emails from contacts can be spoofed, too. But you know your friend’s email addresses (or should be familiar at least) – is this email from a different address than normal? Or if it’s from a co-worker, is the email coming from their typical work email, or is the owner of your company suddenly emailing you from a Hotmail account? If anything seems off, it’s best to proceed with extreme caution.

3. Awkward Language and Spelling Errors

phishing email languageWe know that writing can be tough (not everyone can write IT company blogs, cough cough), but when you see an email with numerous spelling mistakes, missing words, and odd phrases, it’s fair to assume that something might be awry. Though scammers are getting better at writing convincing emails (or utilizing increasingly sophisticated AIs), phishing emails are typically full of obvious errors.

After all, a major corporation will likely ensure that its email correspondence is clean and typo-free. And while your acquaintances or co-workers may not have the luxury of copy editors checking their work, if their email is filled with phrases or language they don’t typically use, you can rightly suspect it may not be their words.

Get Extra Phishing Protection from BITS

It’s true that some of these signs may seem obvious. But with the amount of correspondence we tend to get each day, it’s easy to let your guard down and click a link or download an attachment from a scammer. It can, and does, happen.

One thing that can help is a service called KnowBe4. It can send out emails designed to resemble standard phishing scams, meant to tempt employees to click. If they do, they can receive training from KnowBe4’s experts to help them recognize scams.

Even with that extra layer of protection though, the worst can occur. Fortunately, even if it does, you don’t have to be on your own. With cybersecurity from Beacon IT Services (BITS), you’ll have safeguards and firewalls set up to prevent scammers from causing too much damage. In addition, our data recovery services can help you get you back on your feet after an attack with minimal downtime for your business.

Contact us today to get started on securing your network. After all, you never know what’s lurking in your email inbox.

(Oh look! An email from Amazan.com. My package shipped but they need me to click a link to confirm my address… oh, wait a minute… something’s not right here…)

By | 2021-08-27T06:36:35+00:00 August 27th, 2021|Cyber Security, IT Services, phishing email|

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|

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|

Why Cheap Threat Protection Isn’t Saving You Money

Today’s digital landscape is fraught with security pitfalls. In the pioneer days of the internet, hackers mostly went after digital conquests to gain notoriety or for the thrill of getting past the most advanced security setups of that early digital period. In 2018, however, that hacker mentality has long been replaced by a different ethos.

Cyber criminals now are less likely to take pleasure in simply penetrating your digital security perimeter and taking a look around. If your organization suffers a breach, the consequences are much more dire.

Whether you work for a large, multinational corporation, or run a small business, once a security vulnerability is exploited on your network, all of your data, operations and business processes are at risk for exploitation — be it out-right theft, blackmail, sabotage, etc.

There are some stark numbers out there when it comes to cyber security:

  • 61% of organizations worldwide have been impacted by ransomware
  • 1 in 6 businesses lose more than 25 man hours following a security breach
  • 6 out of 10 small businesses that suffer a cyber attack close their doors within 6 months

Here are a couple more startling statistics: 65% of consumers lose trust in an organization following a security breach, and 31% cut off their relationship with the brand entirely.

Despite the growth in the sophistication and complexity of cyber exploits, and the threat to consumers, many organizations still operate under a “if it ain’t broke…” mentality. If they haven’t been hit with an attack recently, many are happy to roll with the same cyber security protocols they’ve been using for years.

Some may rely on security features embedded in their preferred browsers — Windows Defender, for example — or place their trust in the security features of trusted applications, like WordPress.

To be sure, the less-is-more approach does not work for cyber security. In fact, it’s a good way to lose your customers.

Windows Defender

Microsoft, like a number of other providers, offers a complimentary anti-virus, security software. The free Windows Defender is billed as “comprehensive, built-in and ongoing security protection.” However, Microsoft supplements the free version with the more robust Windows Defender Advanced Threat Protection (ATP) that consumers have to pay for.

On its own, Windows Defender can stop most viruses and digital threats (it does have to be updated fairly regularly). However, ATP offers “a unified platform for preventative protection, post-breach detection, automated investigation, and response.”

The advanced version of the software speaks to a more sophisticated threat landscape and the need for strategic planning and professional protection.

WordPress Vulnerabilities

Many businesses turn to the WordPress platform to build and host their websites — one of the draws being affordability. Of course, the site provides security for their customers, including encryption, firewalls, security monitoring and data backup and recovery. WP also has a team of cyber security professionals on staff “to address potential security risks.”

Nonetheless, the site acknowledges that no means of data exchange is perfectly safe, and that it “can’t guarantee absolute security of your site.”

Indeed, security of WordPress sites is a muchdiscussed topic — both because nearly 25% of websites run on the open-source platform and due to the prevalence of attacks. In fact, some of the vulnerability of WP is due to its popularity. While the WP security team does all it can to protect users, users themselves (especially those not well-versed in cyber security protocols) are security vulnerabilities as they can (sometimes easily) be targeted for exploitation. A good chunk of WP vulnerabilities are exploited through third-party plug-ins and themes that customers download themselves, a consequence of open-source coding.

For this reason, Beacon offers SITEXPRESS, our own, closed-source website platform.

BITS: Professional Approach to Data Security

It is certainly possible to create and execute an in-house digital threat prevention program on your own. However, if you are short on time, staff, or the required level of expertise, it’s best to trust your data security to a dedicated and professional team. For guidance on your threat prevention efforts, give the experts at BITS a call at 336.365.7703.

 

By | 2018-09-25T04:57:59+00:00 September 24th, 2018|IT Services|