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January 20th, 2017

2017January20_Virtualization_CBefore some of our clients have even had a chance to wrap their heads around what virtualization is and how it works, hackers have already started attacking the new and exciting technology. By updating a virus from several years ago for virtualized environments, hackers hope to totally wipe the data off your hard drives. If you utilize any sort of virtualization services, it’s imperative that you know how to steer clear of this threat.

What is it?

Back in 2012, a brand new virus called “Shamoon” was unleashed onto computers attached to the networks of oil and gas companies. Like something out of a Hollywood film, Shamoon locked down computers and displayed a burning American flag on the display while totally erasing anything stored on the local hard disk. The cybersecurity industry quickly got the virus under control, but not before it destroyed data on nearly 30,000 machines.

For years, Shamoon remained completely inactive -- until a few months ago. During a period of rising popularity, virtualization vendors coded doorways into their software specifically designed to thwart Shamoon and similar viruses. But a recent announcement from Palo Alto Networks revealed that someone refurbished Shamoon to include a set of keys that allow it to bypass these doorways. With those safeguards overcome, the virus is free to cause the same damage it was designed to do four years ago.

Who is at risk?

As of the Palo Alto Networks announcement, only networks using Huawei’s virtual desktop infrastructure management software are exposed. If your business uses one of those services, get in touch with your IT provider as soon as possible to address how you will protect yourself from Shamoon.

On a broader scale, this attack shows how virtualization's popularity makes it vulnerable. Cyber attackers rarely write malware programs that go after unpopular or underutilized technology. The amount of effort just isn’t worth the pay off.

Headlines decrying the danger of Shamoon will be a siren call to hackers all over the globe to get in on the ground floor of this profitable trend. It happened for ransomware last year, and virtual machine viruses could very well turn out to be the top security threat of 2017.

How can I protect my data?

There are several things you need to do to ensure the safety of your virtual desktops. Firstly, update your passwords frequently and make sure they’re sufficiently complex. Shamoon’s most recent attempt to infect workstations was made possible by default login credentials that had not been updated.

Secondly, install monitoring software to scan and analyze network activity for unusual behavior. Even if legitimate credentials are used across the board, accessing uncommon parts of the network at odd hours will sound an alarm and give administrators precious time to take a closer look at exactly what is happening.

Ultimately, businesses need virtualization experts on hand to protect and preserve desktop infrastructures. Thankfully, you have already found all the help you need. With our vast experience in all forms of virtualized computing, a quick phone call is the only thing between you and getting started. Call today!

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

January 12th, 2017

2017january12_security_cAs cyber attacks continue to rise, businesses large and small need to stay one step ahead with IT services that keep them protected no matter what. What once were minor nuisances have now become advanced threats that can actually put you out of business. In fact, these cyber attack statistics will prove to you that you need managed services from a technology provider to remain safe and competitive.

The numbers

Small businesses are not at risk of being attacked, but worse, they’ve already fallen victim to cyber threats. According to Small Business Trends, 55 percent of survey respondents say their companies have experienced cyber attack sometime between 2015 and 2016. Not only that, 50 percent reported they have experienced data breaches with customer and employee information during that time, too. The aftermath of these incidents? These companies spent an average of $879,582 to fix the damages done to their IT assets and recover their data. To make matters worse, disruption to their daily operations cost an average of $955,429.

The attacks

So what types of attack did these businesses experience? The order from most to least common are as follows: Web-based attacks, phishing, general malware, SQL injection, stolen devices, denial of services, advanced malware, malicious insider, cross-site scripting, ransomware and others.

Why managed services?

Managed services is the most effective prevention and protection from these malicious threats. They include a full range of proactive IT support that focuses on advanced security such as around the clock monitoring, data encryption and backup, real-time threat prevention and elimination, network and firewall protection and more.

Not only that, but because managed services are designed to identify weak spots in your IT infrastructure and fix them, you’ll enjoy other benefits including faster network performance, business continuity and disaster recovery as well as minimal downtime. One of the best things about managed services is the fact that you get a dedicated team of IT professionals ready to assist with any technology problems you might have. This is much more effective and budget-friendly than having an in-house personnel handling all your IT issues.

Being proactive when it comes to cyber security is the only way to protect what you’ve worked hard to built. If you’d like to know more about how managed services can benefit your business, just give us a call, we’re sure we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
January 11th, 2017

2017january11_business_cWhen disaster strikes, organizations need to put their business continuity plans into action and recover their IT systems as quickly as possible. Failing to do so can mean serious financial and reputational repercussions. Despite this, investments in disaster recovery are set aside each year for high-tech IT investments, and every year companies and employees continue to suffer for it. Here are some reasons why disaster recovery is well worth your time, effort, and resources in 2017.

DR isn’t a huge investment A common misconception about disaster recovery is that it’s a large, bank-breaking investment. Expensive secondary data centers, networks, and server maintenance usually come into mind when a business owner is confronted with the idea of business continuity. And while that may have been true in the past, establishing a strong disaster recovery plan today is as simple -- and as cheap -- as going to a cloud-based disaster recovery provider and paying for the data and services that your business needs. Subscription pricing models are actually incredibly low, meaning you can have minimal downtime while still having enough to invest in new tech.

Onsite backups just won’t cut it Although you might feel secure with a manual backup server down the hall, it is still susceptible to local disasters and, ultimately, does very little in minimizing company downtime. When disaster recovery solutions are hosted in the cloud or in a virtualized server, restoring critical data and applications only take a few minutes.

Business disasters can be man-made, too Even if your workplace is nowhere near frequent disaster zones, cyber attacks and negligent employees can leave the same impact on your business as any natural disaster can. Setting a weak password, clicking on a suspicious link, or connecting to unsecured channels is enough to shut down a 5-, 10-, or even 50-year-old business in mere minutes.

Sure, installing adequate network security is a critical strategy against malicious actors, but last year’s barrage of data breaches suggests that having a Plan B is a must. A suitable disaster recovery plan ensures that your data’s integrity is intact and your business can keep going, no matter the malware, worm, or denial-of-service attack.

Downtime will cost you A business without a DR plan might come out unscathed after a brief power outage, but why risk the potential damages? Either way, downtime will cost your business. First, there’s the general loss of productivity. Every time your employees aren’t connected to the network, money goes down the drain. Then there’s the cost of corrupted company data, damaged hardware, and the inevitable customer backlash. Add all those variables together, and you end up with a business-crippling fee.

So, if you want 2017 to be the best year for your business, make the smart choice and proactively take part in creating your company’s business continuity plan. Your business will be in a better position financially with it than without it.

Keep your business safe, recover from any disaster, and contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic business
January 10th, 2017

2017january10_socialmedia_cSkype used to dominate an area of VoIP communications that serves a special function: group video calling. With apps like Snapchat, WhatsApp and, most recently, Slack nipping at its heels, it comes as no surprise that social network behemoth Facebook takes a slice of the cake with its recently rolled out desktop group voice calling. With this functionality, anyone who has ever participated in a Facebook-enabled conversation should embrace this new development.

No one gets left behind

In group chats, there’s always that one person who gets the joke last, or reads it last, and so feels left out. With Facebook’s group video chat, this never has to happen as every participant in the group can be connected at the same time. The functionality is still in the “small test” phase, which means certain details are still being ironed out. When it fully launches, though, expect a considerable portion of Facebook Messenger users to consider moving their Skype group video conversations to Facebook.

Potentially compelling benefits

Since introducing its audio calling capability in 2013, Facebook has worked hard to keep up with the competition. Facebook’s introduction – and potential domination – of desktop group video calling might signal the end of times for Skype and other players. For one, Facebook and social media user growth hasn’t shown signs of slowing down. Moreover, most users of internet telephony might inevitably see the advantages of using a single platform for their social media activity and online communications.

Possible user reservations

Users who prefer a communication tool that creates zero distractions in their chats might not opt for Facebook when conducting group video conferences. Facebook is, first and foremost, a social media platform, which serves as a springboard for important news updates, personal anecdotes, and funny cat videos. Not everyone will prefer all those distractions while in a business meeting.

Those looking for a clean communications tool might find the wealth of content a bit overwhelming. In addition, employees of small companies in need of a free communications tool might not immediately warm up to the idea of surrendering their Facebook profile as an official point of contact.

If there’s anything Facebook has proven, however, it is the ability to improve upon previous versions by adding or removing details to enhance user experience. Users may not always be pleased with the updates, but that hasn’t slowed down the billion-user company’s popularity. If the newly introduced desktop group video calling function proves efficient, Facebook might persuade even more users to lean towards its messaging tool.

With many options to choose from, the only thing left for people to do is discern which platform best serves their communications needs. For advice on which VoIP platform is best for your business, contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
January 5th, 2017

2016december26_hardware_cConsumers purchase millions of dollars in new software and hardware every year. Many of the products they buy stay current only for a short period of time, but the money that passes through the economy cannot be under-appreciated. If you have come up with the perfect software or hardware, it is tempting to work on licensing it right away and get your piece of the proverbial pie. But not all products should be sold off to general consumers. Read on to find out when licensing makes sense for your company and when it doesn't.

There is a fine line between successful licensing and a failed attempt. You certainly don't want to risk selling prematurely, when the software doesn't yet have enough appeal in a large market to succeed. On the other hand, you don't want to "lose" the market altogether by selling the sale rights to someone else who will “overtake” the product.

Questions to Ask Before you Commit to Licensing Anything

Before you make the decision to take your hard-earned product and send it to the masses through licensing, consider:

The value of your new product and its potential

If you believe you have a truly unique software, it may be best to keep it under wraps and exclusive to your company. However, if it is a product in a highly competitive area wherein technology changes quickly, it may be worth thinking about how best to capitalize on the changing market.

Its fit on your business market

If your software is a time management program and you run an internet security firm, there's a chance that you may have to spread yourself thin to market the new product and maintain your own business focus. In this case it might be smart to find a company to license your product that is more aligned with the product's purpose.

The levels of licensing

It is possible to allow a company to license your product on a non-exclusive basis, which will allow you to maintain control of the product in some form. The decision to pursue licensing of a software or hardware should be made carefully.

If you need advice on what to do with a new software or piece of hardware created by your business, give us a call. We can help you maximize the benefits of your design.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Hardware
January 4th, 2017

2016january4_virtualization_cManaged IT services providers recommend virtualization not because it is an IT business trend that everyone simply must ride, but because it is, quite, a smart way of managing your IT resources. Your organization needs to be more efficient and should be willing to move to the cloud to achieve it. But, if you do it, would your current resources, and budget, allow for a seamless transition? Allow us to present the advantages of a large-scale cloud migration.

Preparation for migration

  • Is everyone within the organization on board with this major move? Are your employees adequately equipped with knowledge about the cloud? And, since large-scale transfers involve big data, would your security framework be able to deal with potential security threats during the transition? Can your company handle the inevitable expenditure that goes with investing in the cloud? These are just some of the points you have to consider when preparing for large-scale migration.

Reasons for migration

  • One of the most compelling reasons to virtualize tech capital is the need to meet your business’s increasing demand for efficiency, which could lead to greater profitability. Other reasons could include change of organizational leadership or a shift in business structure that necessitates storage recalibration. Regardless of your reasons for migrating to the cloud, you as a business owner should have a clear understanding of why you’re doing it, and make sure everyone understands why it is so important.

Size of resources to be moved

  • Using Amazon Web Services’ cloud storage gives you the benefit of eliminating the costs of buying your own storage infrastructure and it introduces an element of anywhere-anytime access to your business’s data and/or applications. That said, you must consider how much you’ll be transferring, and use it as your basis for moving. Knowing the amount of IT resources you’re freeing up lets you allocate more cost-effectively and allows your technology staff to focus on more innovative pursuits.

Migration requirements

  • Which specific data, servers, or applications need to be migrated? Does your company need large-scale migration, or can it survive on moving only a small part of your resources to the cloud? Perhaps, a subsidiary could survive without having to be moved to the cloud. When migrating to the cloud, you’d be remiss not to think of these tiny details.

Impact to the business

  • Temporary downtime is something you have to be ready for. You might need more time or you might need to consider alternatives for the brief interruptions that come with migration, and of course budget can be a major factor in your decision to move. You can save your business from unnecessary obstacles by first assessing its ability to handle these situations.
Recalibrating the management of your technological resources for scalable storage solutions in a cost-saving platform is not without its challenges. Your business and its stakeholders’ call for greater efficiency cannot be ignored. After considering these factors for a large-scale migration, you might realize that despite a few minor bumps, the benefits to your organization will far outweigh the projected costs, and that there’s nowhere to go but up (in the cloud).
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

December 28th, 2016

2016december28_security_cRansomware has become a fast-track for making money for some hackers this holiday season. But instead of just demanding a small payment for the decryption code that will unlock their computers, some hackers are demanding that victims sacrifice two other friends to ensure they receive the code they need. Read more to find out what makes Popcorn Time such a devious program and how you can avoid becoming one of its victims.

Ransomware is nothing new. Cybersecurity miscreants have been taking advantage of online users for years by requiring payment to "unlock" a victim's computer. What Popcorn Time does differently is give users the option to spread the virus to two other victims in the hopes that they will pay the ransom -- a tactic that promises to double their money at the expense of your sense of morality (and at the expense of your friendships as well).

The Cost of Popcorn

When you inadvertently download this ransomware, you will be met with a screen that explains that your files have been hijacked/encrypted, and that to get them back you will need to pay one Bitcoin for a decryption key that they keep stored remotely. The Bitcoin fee is usually more than $700, a hefty price to pay during any season but particularly difficult for those infected during the holiday season.

Spread the "Holiday Cheer" and Hope they Bite

What makes Popcorn Time unique is the option victims have to take their cost away by allowing the ransomware to affect two of their friends for a chance to get a free decryption code. Of course, it works only if both friends pay the ransom, which leaves you looking (and feeling) like the Grinch.

Avoiding Popcorn Time this Season

The easiest way to avoid downloading ransomware is to stay off of sites that might contain questionable files. However, this is nearly impossible for modern users, and many hackers are getting good at making their files look legitimate. Limit your exposure to potential ransomware by keeping your software up-to-date and your computer protected with a security program from a reputable company (for example Norton or Symantec). If you need to learn more about how to avoid running into ransomware while you're online, give our professional cybersecurity consultants a call. We'll keep you away from the popcorn this season.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
December 22nd, 2016

2016december22_business_cRecently, Amazon Web Services (AWS) announced the creation of a new data analytics tool to lighten the burden on businesses when analyzing data in the cloud. This tool, referred to as “Glue,” is meant to clean up and organize data that comes into the cloud from various sources so that it can be analyzed by business intelligence software and data analytics experts. Let’s take a closer look at this service and how it can benefit you and your business.

Data analysis can be an extremely profitable arm of your business, if undertaken carefully. Much of what people consider to be data analysis for a business is actually just digital clerical work, which makes the process even more frustrating and time-consuming than it needs to be. At its core, AWS’s Glue is an app that automates this tedium, which is often referred to as ETL (extract-transform-load).

Third-party software already exists to help with this task, but the service from AWS is one of the first cloud-based alternatives to come to market. Glue is designed to work with businesses that have their own on-premises data centers and infrastructures in addition to working with AWS frameworks. In fact, if a business makes changes to on-premises data, Glue can be set up to trigger jobs and update the data in the cloud so users always have access to the most up-to-date information for use and analysis.

Essentially, AWS extracts various types of data from a wide array of sources and analyzes it, ultimately homogenizing the data to fit the business's existing database. This eliminates a great deal of work because the extremely tedious task of importing data is often done by hand. Handing this burden over to AWS allows businesses to focus on the real analysis work; saving effort, time, and money in the process.

Every day, data becomes more and more integral to building a successful company. And with such a heavy burden placed on this facet of business, falling behind on the technology that makes it possible is an expensive mistake. If you’re hosting large amounts of data on-premises or in an AWS database, contact us today about how you can eliminate costly ETL processes.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic business
December 20th, 2016

2016december20_virtualization_aVirtual containers have incrementally increased the ability of users to create portable, self-contained kernels of information and applications since the technology first appeared in the early 2000s. Now, containers are one of the biggest data trends of the decade -- some say at the expense of the virtual machine (VM) technology that preceded them. Read on to find out some of the performance differences between containers and virtual machines, and how the two can work together for your business.

When it comes to the virtual world, containers and VMs are not all that different. The VM is a good option for those who need to use more than one operating system in the course of a business project, while containers serve those who are comfortable staying within a Linux or Windows operating system without deviating. There are performance advantages to using containers, although these are counterbalanced by organizational advantages derived from a VM system.

Performance Nuances

VMs and containers both work from a virtual platform; therefore, the differences in performance relate to how they are configured and utilized by the people who maintain them.
  • Faster startup time: Containers don't have as much to start up, making them open more quickly than virtual machines. While it may not seem revolutionary, this can be up to a few minutes per instance -- a cost that adds up to quite a bit over the course of a year or more.
  • Resource distribution: Containers only need to pull hardware resources as needed, while a VM requires a baseline of resources to be allocated before it will start up. If you have two VM processes running at the same time, this might mean two of the same programs are pulled up even if they aren't being used.
  • Direct hardware access: A VM cannot pull information from outside of itself (the host computer), but a container can utilize the host system as it runs. This may or may not matter depending on what your users are doing, but certainly puts a point in the container column nonetheless.
Although it appears that containers out-perform virtual machines in most areas, there are uses for the VM environment, particularly for a business on the rise. With a virtual machine you have a security advantage because each VM environment is encapsulated with its own operating system and data configuration; additionally, you are not limited to the use of one operating system.

Virtualization is an incredibly tricky solution to grasp in its entirety. New avenues spring up all the time to get more use out of its benefits, and it might be tempting to take a “wait and see” mentality. In reality, one of the best things about virtualization is how adaptable it is as a business solution. We suggest you get into the game as soon as possible; give us a call so we can tell you how.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

December 13th, 2016

hackerscybersecurity-170px-03Have you had to deal with security issues in the past year? Brace yourself, as there are more to come. For this reason, security experts have become indispensable members of society, who guard tech-dependent individuals and businesses against malicious attacks that pose threats to their privacy and livelihood. As you ring in the new year, make sure you’re well armed against the following predicted cyber-crimes.

Increased threats on cloud technology

Cloud service has numerous benefits to businesses. They make data storage, collaboration, and processing more efficient; they enable employees to work faster; and they help operations flow smoother. Cloud technology’s popularity is expected to rise well into the next few years, but as demand increases, so does the dangers presented by cyber attackers.

Ransomware will be more complex

Ransomware incapacitates computer systems by locking down files and preventing access for ransom. In its 2016 Threat Predictions report, security software company McAfee predicts a peak in ransomware attacks next year. Although they also predict it to recede by mid-year, damages to vulnerable cloud-dependent infrastructures can be great and costly. Most alarming in the prediction, however, is that in the coming year ransomware attacks will be more complex due to new elements.

Ransomworms, which use advanced victimization techniques to mine further data within an already compromised network, are expected to put an even crueler spin to an already formidable malware. Doxing, on the other hand, affects avenues such as social media and any place where sensitive, easily identifiable information can be extracted to serve the ultimate purpose of extorting money. Yet another wicked ransomware to watch out for is Backup Deletion, which destroys the very mechanism that can otherwise help you recover from a compromised system or files: your backup data.

More threats to IoT (Internet of Things)-enabled devices

It is also predicted that 2017 will see attacks made on IoT-powered devices, which will make life harder for those who depend on technology that makes life easier. It targets medical devices and Electronic Medical Records, “connected cars”, basic domestic tools, and tech-driven wearables, such as smartwatches and fitness trackers. The danger posed by this intrusion is fully capable of corrupting information stored in your devices.

Advanced cyber espionage

Cyber espionage is by no means a novelty. In 2017, it’s expected to hold sway in cyber-threat prevention measures as it becomes even more complex. It encompasses all sectors of society, including individuals, private organizations, government institutions, and entire countries. Perpetrators will have the means to bypass networks by attacking firewalls and wreak havoc in their victims’ network. Fret not, for there will be measures in place to detect this threat also in the coming year.

Hackers are one of the most cunning criminals to have ever existed. While the cyber-police and the defenses they put up are no slouches, threats to security systems can still make technology-dependent individuals and businesses quiver. Although damaged networks can be repaired, compromised privacy restored, and stolen data returned, the amount of damage that hackers can cause might be irreparable and/or result in a significant dent in your IT infrastructure and budget. The value of a network security system makes itself known when you least expect it, which is why security should be a top priority.

Are your systems protected from these predicted remarkable feats of hacking? Call us if you want to discuss security services that are best for you.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security