Why Your Business Needs a Firewall With Unified Threat Management

Unified Threat ManagementUnified Threat Management (UTM) is a special kind of firewall solution focused on proactive protection. Consider it like a team of virtual bodyguards that stand at the door between your business and the internet, keeping trouble out while your legitimate traffic can come and go normally.

With the increasing number of connected devices in your business network and the different ways your employees can now connect, it is more important than ever to set up dedicated security systems that give integrated protection. UTM is a series of solutions that work together, simultaneously layering your protection across the board. We’ll cover the four main inclusions here and show exactly what they can do for your business.

Robust Firewall

Put simply, a firewall keeps an eye on all the data coming in and out of your network and looks for anything abnormal. While every home PC comes with a software firewall built in, those ones pale in comparison to what a UTM firewall can do. Remember the team of virtual bodyguards? Imagine the home firewall asking nicely if the data should be doing that, while the UTM slams the data to the ground and demands answers. Its job it to make sure the data entering your network is safe, that it is not part of a cyber-attack, and that in the rare event your network becomes infected, your servers aren’t being used to attack another business.

Anti-virus Where it Matters

With so much new malware being released daily, it’s easy to fall behind in updates and discover you’ve been infected. Your employees are likely doing their best, but manually scanning each file can be exhausting and time-consuming. Your UTM anti-virus is built into the firewall, ensuring known or suspicious malware is stopped at the door removing any risk. Clearly that is the best outcome possible and will allow your employees to work at maximum efficiency, while you can run your business with confidence.

Spam Blocking

Most cyber-attacks come via email these days, with either an attachment or a link. Once clicked, the malware wreaks havoc in your network. Obviously, your employees are smart enough not to open random attachments/links, so hackers use phishing emails. These are emails that look legitimate and may refer to vendors you use, financial services you have accounts with or even seem to be from other employees. Your UTM strips down each email and checks it against high-tech legitimacy markers. If it sees anything suspicious, the email is marked as spam and either held for review or bounced away.

As the phoney emails are blocked, your employees never see the emails so they can’t accidentally open up the network for attack. While the UTM is monitoring for phishing/fake emails, it’s also culling out the general spam that clogs up inboxes. Employees will no longer have to spend precious minutes each day wading through the junk, and the likelihood of missing an important customer email has greatly dropped.

Content Filtering

In a perfect world, your employees would only access work-related sites and do work-related things online. Content filtering can help you limit the risk they’re bringing into your business via their Internet browsing. Your UTM can be set to restrict sites that infect computers, such as adult content, gambling or illegal downloads. It can also be used to restrict access to social media sites like Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest, either during work hours or completely. It’s up to your policies how much you’d like to filter and whether to add any flexibility. Some businesses allow social media during lunch breaks or have special reward hours each week. Simple tweaks like this can increase productivity overnight and give you the security you’re looking for.

You can see how a layered security solution like UTM provides a space for your business to thrive, where systems are secure, employees are able to maintain efficiency, and cyber problems stay outside the doors. The way the layers work together is more effective than a patchwork of separate systems, and a UTM is much easier to configure and maintain.

We can find the right UTM solution for your business. Call us today at 08 8326 4364 or support@dpcomputing.com.au!

Why You Shouldn’t Let an Amateur Loose on Your Network?

Amateur Computer TechnicianMost of us know a fair amount about computers, even kids are soldering electronic circuits and doing programming courses in schools – but does that make everyone an IT guru? Most workplaces have an employee they can turn to for basic computer troubleshooting. Yes they have skills, but they often know just enough to be dangerous if let loose on your business network.

Casual IT skills are learned on home computers which are very different to a professional business setup. When something goes wrong on a home computer, there is no drastic impact if parts need to be replaced, data is lost or it stays down for a week or two. In a business setting, every problem costs time and money and can create a domino effect throughout the entire network. Would you gamble the success of your business with a non-professional who did a quick Google search? You wouldn’t let someone be your lawyer purely on the fact that they can deliver a good argument, nor would you let someone perform surgery just because they saw it in a video on YouTube! Businesses have unique, specialist IT needs that to go beyond amateur computer skills and there is always a lot more money and time at stake.

Designing a custom backup solution for your business is a particularly interesting area. While most home users skip this part entirely, an IT professional has seen (and recovered) all manner of situations and will use that knowledge to ensure that if the worst happens to your business, you are safe and the data can be recovered. This could mean anything from having a complete copy of your drive stored securely in the cloud or drilling down to backup only the most important data. An IT expert is equipped to help you identify the value in each piece of data and implement a plan so robust that if your business is ever hit by disaster or breach, downtime and any losses are kept to a minimum.

If a disaster ever does occur, like fire, flood or theft, would an amateur know what to do? Who to call? These situations are so charged with tension and panic and making a wrong moves can lead to more damage. A professional helps design continuity / disaster plans, which show exactly what should happen, who should do it and in what order. It takes out the guesswork during the mayhem when issues occur and minimizes downtime. Perhaps more importantly, the expertly written disaster plan will include a complete risk analysis so that you know in advance in what areas to strengthen your protection. It also includes a business analysis so you know which systems are dependent so you can stop the domino effect, plus know the legal / contractual & financial impacts and so on.

Your IT professional will also help ensure your business is meeting any regulatory requirements. Many businesses are subject to strict data rules set by the government. These regulations change often and demand increasingly more attention to data security, with hefty penalties for businesses that fall behind. Professionals are constantly in the loop around upcoming revisions and how to best comply with little to no disruption to your daily business. Part of ensuring your business is safe means staying on top of security, software updates and patching multiple computers at the same time.

The best option is to run the updates before employees arrive for the day, and since the process can take a few hours and be quite fiddly, it is generally not something amateurs will prioritize and thus they can tend to forget them. Unfortunately, as we’ve seen with recent cyber-attacks, delaying a security update can lead to disaster. Engaging an IT professional is a cost-effective solution that keeps your business running, growing and earning.

Let the professionals manage your tech the right way by calling us at 08 8326 4364 or at support@dpcomputing.com.au.

Should You Pay for a Ransomware Attack?

RansomwareGetting hit with a ransomware attack is not fun, cybercriminals encrypt your data and you are left having to decide: should we pay to get them back? It is a scene that’s played out across the world with 70% of businesses saying “yes” in 2016 alone. Here are six factors to consider if you are ever in this situation.

1) Do you trust them?

Remember that they are criminals holding your data hostage, how confident are you that they will send you the decryption key and that the key will decrypt all your data? The attackers demand you send the payment via untraceable Bitcoin, so you have no recourse if you never hear from them again. You are also equally trapped if they decide to come back with increasingly higher demands. If they do send the decryption key, be aware they still have access to your systems and can hit you again at any time until your network is fixed by experts. Businesses don’t exactly want their breach publicised, so many don’t admit to paying the ransom, whether it went to plan or otherwise.

2) Can you manage the impact?

The best case scenario is that you can wipe the affected drives and restore from a clean backup without paying the ransom. You may even decide that the encrypted files aren’t that important and simply let them go and just wipe the infected machine. On the other hand, if your data management comes under any special regulations, like health or legal, you may find that the attack has a much wider impact. The attacker will also motivate you to pay the ransom quickly with a countdown and a threat of total deletion when it hits zero. Remember that if the data isn’t that valuable, or you have confirmed backups, this urgency should have no effect on your plans. T

3) How much do they want?

Cybercriminals rarely send out attacks with set amounts, instead, they prefer to customize the ransom based on how much they think you can pay. Large corporations and hospitals are hit with very high demands, while small business demands are more modest. Different countries or regions are also charged differing amounts. They may be “bad guys”, but they are smart people who know your financial limits. They also consider how much similar businesses have paid previously and expect you to follow suit.

4) Are your backups any good?

Always check your backup to confirm that they are working, that the correct data is being backed up and that you can recover the data from them. Many businesses are discovering too late that their backup systems are not robust enough. Either the backup has become infected too, they weren’t up-to-date or they backed up the wrong data. It is imperative that you at least do some quick backup checks to ensure you can recover all your data in case the unfortunate happens.

5) What are you policies?

Businesses are now adding ransomware to their disaster recovery plans and have predefined actions mapped out. Seemingly simple inclusions like who has final say over the payment decision can stop chaos in its tracks. Employees and management alike can then approach the situation calmly and make the best decisions for the business.

6) Stay safe in the first place

Ransomware is not slowing down and all factors say it will increase. As more businesses pay the ransom the cybercriminals are steadily launching new attacks and making it their full-time job. Most of the attacks come via phishing emails – those emails that trick employees into clicking a link – and they can be extremely convincing. While training staff helps, it’s no guarantee. We recommend using business-class spam filters to catch these types of emails before they land in your inboxes so that triggering a ransomware attack becomes something that happens to other businesses and not yours.

Secure your data systems and check your backups now. If you need help, contact us on 08 8326 4364 or support@dpcomputing.com.au.

What’s Best for Your Computer: Shut Down or Sleep?

Off or Sleep?Most offices and homes are trying to reduce power costs by turning off lights and appliances, but do the same rules apply to computers? After all, it requires more than flicking a switch on your way out the door. Some people believe you should shut down your computer after every use to save wear and tear, others believe you should never shut down your computer – ever. While others simply want to make sure the programs and documents they left open are still there waiting for them when they return. So, who is right and who is wrong?

Back when computers were huge behemoths that took a long time to start, you’d go nuts at the person who shut it down when it was your turn. If you have an older computer you may still do! Modern computers actually have two options for their downtime: Shut down or sleep.

When it shuts down, the system goes through and closes any open programs (often prompting you to save first), then gradually cuts power to all components. It is a  process that seems quite fast to us but is actually made of 1000+ intentionally ordered steps. If there’s a sudden blackout or you hold the power button until it turns off, these steps aren’t followed and damage may occur. The second option is to put your computer to sleep. This can be triggered by an automated timeout or a user click. Your system uses a special type of memory called RAM to hold all your running programs exactly as you left them but using minimal power. The hard drive stops spinning, the graphics card lets the screen go black, and even the system fan slows to become almost silent. When you wake it by moving the mouse or pressing a key, it ‘wakes’ again almost instantly.

Reasons to Shut Down

A switched off computer isn’t drawing power which is great for the environment. But shutting down is about more than saving power. It can sometimes give improved stability over a machine that’s been running for days/weeks. This is because every time you shut down, you give your computer a chance to clear out all temporary junk files it’s been carrying in memory. It also triggers various health checks on startup that may otherwise be missed, important routines like checking for updates or scanning for viruses. It’s certainly more convenient to spend an extra minute booting up than lose everything to a system failure or cyber-attack. For older computers or those under heavy strain like gaming or video editing, shutting down also provides a necessary chance for the components to cool down.

Reasons to Sleep

Speed is the big selling point here. You can literally sit down and start working where you left off without the delays of bootup, finding your program, opening your saved files, scrolling down… it’s all right there and ready. You can even tell it how long to wait before putting itself into sleep mode, just in case you get called away and forget.

The best method is….

Since the whole point of having a computer is that it’s ready to work when you are, we recommend shutting down at night when it’s definitely not in use but using sleep mode during the day. Updates will get all the rebooting they need, memory is refreshed for the new day, and you’ll get the best of both worlds – speed and stability.

 

We can help give your computer a service and improve your computers boot time, give us a call at 08 8326 4364 or support@dpcomputing.com.au.

How Fast Is My Internet?

Internet SpeedWith more and more people either moving onto the NBN or thinking of moving onto the NBN, one of the questions I often get asked is “how do I test the speed of my current internet connection?”.

Well the easiest way is to go to one (or both) of these popular speed testing websites:

SpeedTest by Oookla – www.speedtest.net
Fast by Netflix –  www.fast.com

A few things though before you perform the tests are:

  • Reboot both your router and computer.
  • To get the best results plug you device straight into your router via cable. You can test via wireless but your wireless connection may be slower than your Internet connection.
  • Perform the test multiple times over a few days and at different times of the day.
  • Make sure that no one else is using the Internet at the same time as you are doing the test.

Hope these tips help you out and if your tests don’t match the speed you are expecting contact your ISP.

How To Survive A Hard Disk Crash

How To Survive A Hard Disk CrashThere’s been a massive digitization within businesses but with that comes one gaping flaw – a hard drive crash could wipe out all your data in an instant. Nobody and no data is immune – accounts, quotes, documents, email etc. are ALL at risk.

If you’ve ever lost your data or had your computer stolen, you know the panic and rage that follows…turning your business upside down, hoping desperately to find that USB drive that might contain a backup of data…before collapsing onto the floor as it sinks in: it is all gone.

Currently your hard drive is probably still in a good shape but surprise failures do happen. The mechanics don’t last forever, and even brand-new drives can be blitzed by a power surge. Theft is always a risk, as is user error like deleting files accidentally, or even getting hit by a nasty virus that destroys or holds your files for ransom. Some businesses are using apps like Dropbox, iCloud or OneDrive as their backup, thinking if their hard drive crashes or gets stolen, they’ll just download the files from there. Unfortunately, those very handy apps are no help if you’ve been hit with ransomware. Almost instantly as the malware encrypts your local files, those sync apps upload the infected versions. Older, safe versions of the files no longer exist, as these apps are designed to give a constant mirror of your drive, not a proper backup.

Stop for a moment and think about what you’d lose right now if your hard drive failed. What’s on there? Accounts, orders, client details, financial records, tax info, photos, videos – your entire business. It’s not a feeling we would wish on anyone!

What You Can Do

Backing up at data used to be something only tech geeks did, but like everything cool, it has gone mainstream. We recommend at least a 3-2-1 approach: 3 copies of your data, with 2 local at your office and 1 offsite.

Typically, this means keeping your regular hard drive where your data is now, one copy of precious files on at least one (preferably 5 – one for each workday) backup USB drives, and one that automatically uploads to the secure cloud as you add new files. That way, the USB drives protects your data if your computer dies, and the cloud copy protects you if something happens to the computer and your USB drive, like fire, flood or theft. It’s a good idea to make sure you unplug that backup USB drive afterwards and lock it away in a fireproof safe or even better, taken offsite – as connected devices can easily become infected during an attack or stolen during a break-in.

Two of these methods require you to actually pay attention, which is where many businesses struggle. Not that it’s tricky, but unless you’re one of those cool geeks it’s pretty boring and not a high priority after a long day! That is why we recommend a cloud backup solution and also an automated local backup.

You’ll be able to retrieve files at will, without having to roll back your entire drive, and know your solution has caught even the smallest file change without you needing to flag or mark it in any way. Even better, because there is a copy in the cloud, you can access your secure backup from anywhere. So if the unfortunate happens (ie a fire or flood) and you can’t access your office at least you have your files safe backed up in the cloud.

We are able to get you set up with the perfect backup solution that meets your needs, both now and in case of emergency.

If you’re ready to protect your data before you lose it, give us a call at 08 8326 4364 or support@dpcomputing.com.au.