Ransomware is a when cybercriminals kidnap your data (via encryption) and then demand money so that you can decrypt your own data. It sounds scary and it certainly is! Here are the top seven things you need to know about ransomware. Continue reading
“Your computer has a virus.” Such a dreaded phrase!! With a “human” virus we can feel awful and miss work but when a virus hits our computers, we can lose valuable information and be vulnerable to attack. Continue reading
Most Apple Mac owners believe their computers are immune to viruses and malware. Even Apple has run advertising campaigns promising that its computers “don’t get viruses”. Those who have owned a Mac for years, decades even, are particularly prone to believing that it indeed the case – after all, nothing has happened to them yet! Regrettably, Macs do get viruses and the threat is getting even larger. Continue reading
What is a virus and is it the same as malware?
Malware describes software designed to act maliciously on a computer. The name ‘malware’ is a shorthand for ‘malicious software’ and describes exactly what it is. A computer virus is a single type of malware that can cause harm to your PC, but it is only one of many. Other types of malware are listed below.
Short for advertising-supported software, adware is a type of malware that delivers adverts to your computer. These advertisements often pop-up and are intrusive, irritating and designed to trick you into clicking something you don’t want. A common example of malware is pop-up ads that appear on many websites and mobile applications.
Adware often comes bundled with “free” versions of software that uses these intrusive advertising to make money. Commonly it is installed without the user’s knowledge and are purposely made to be difficult to remove.
Spyware is designed to spy on the user’s activity without their consent or knowledge. Spyware is often installed in the background, collects keyboard input and can harvest data from the computer, monitor web activity and more.
Spyware typically requires installation to the computer. This is commonly done by tricking users into installing the spyware themselves instead of a software application that they thought they were getting. Victims of spyware are often be completely unaware of its presence until the stolen data is used elsewhere (ie in a fraudulent bank transactions or stolen online accounts).
A computer virus is a form of malware that is installed inadvertently, causing damage to the computer and / or user. A typical virus may install a keylogger to capture passwords, logins and bank information from the keyboard or it might steal or delete data, interrupt programs or cause the computer to crash.
Modern virus programs commonly use your computers processing power and internet bandwidth to perform illegal tasks remotely for hackers. The first sign of this can be when the computer sounds like it is doing a lot of work when no programs are running. A computer virus is often spread through installing unknown software or downloading attachments that contain more than they seem.
Ransomware is a very malicious variety of malware that prevents the user from accessing their own files and data until a ransom is paid. Files within the system are often encrypted with a password that won’t be revealed to the user until they receive money usually in the form of bitcoin.
Instead of accessing the computer as normal, the user is presented with a screen which details the contact and payment information required to access their data again.
Ransomware is typically downloaded through malicious file attachments, email or through a vulnerability in the computer system.
Another type of malware is the computer worm. Worms spread across computer networks by exploiting vulnerabilities within the operating system. Often these programs harm their host networks by consuming large amounts of network bandwidth, overloading computers and using up all the available resources.
While similar to a virus a worm is able to both copies of itself and spread independently. A virus must rely on human activity to run a program or open a malicious attachment while worms can simply spread over the network without human intervention.
If you would like to make your business secure from malware, give us a call at 08 8326 4364 or via email on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Unified 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.
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.
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.
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 email@example.com!
Fifteen years after the Internet world united to crack down on spam emails, we are all still struggling with overloaded inboxes. All that unwanted email continues to flood the internet, much of it targeted towards small businesses and the impact goes wider than you might think. Here’s the breakdown of how modern spam works and how it is hurting your business.
What is spam?
Spam is any unwanted message that lands in your email, comes via text, social media messaging or any other communication platform. It might be sent to your main business account, eg your ‘contact us’ email or directed to your employees. Most of the time, spam are annoying but relatively innocent messages from another business inviting you to buy, do or see something. They are newsletters, reminders, invitations, sales pitches, etc. You may know the sender and have a previous relationship with them or they might be a complete stranger. Spam may even be part of a cyber attack.
Why you are getting spammed.
Maybe you or your employee signed up for a newsletter or bought a raffle ticket to win a car. Perhaps you got onto the mailing list accidentally after enquiring about a product, not knowing that simply getting a brochure sent through would trigger a spam avalanche. Often there is fine print that says they’ll not only use your details to send you their marketing, but they’ll share your details with 3rd parties so that they can send you messages too. That single email address can be passed around the internet like wildfire and before you know it, you are buried under spam. Sometimes your details are found through a hacked website, like the recent LinkedIn leak. More often though, your email is simply collected by a computer ‘scraping’ the internet – scouring forums and websites for plain text or linked emails and selling them to spammers. It is easy to see now, how individual office employees receive an average of 120 emails daily, over half of which are spam!
More than annoying.
We all know spam is annoying but did you know it’s also consuming business resources? Your employees are spending hours each week sorting their email, assessing each one for relevance and deleting the spam. Your email servers along with your Internet links are getting clogged with the spam flowing into your business. Too often, legitimate emails from clients and customers get caught up and are accidentally deleted. Plus the temptation to read the more interesting spam emails and productivity drops to zero. On the other side of the business, your email server might be dedicating storage and processing power to spam emails, occasionally to the point where inboxes get full and real mail is bouncing out. While most spam is simply an unwanted newsletter or sale notice, there is also the risk that any links may be a cyber-attack in disguise. Remember one click can open the door to viruses, ransomware, phishing or other security issues which a hacker can then take advantage of.
How to stop the spam?
Take control of your email and talk to us about your anti-spam protections. Call us at 08 8326 4364 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
As an IT Expert, I get client calls and emails asking me about various emails they receive and whether that particular email is fake or real – almost all time the emails are fake.
To help my clients and others in a similar situation I’ve put together a video that goes through some security tips on how to protect your self from hackers and phishing attempts. The video goes through:
- First alerts of being attacked.
- How scammers and hackers try to fool you.
- How to tell if an email is fake or not.
- The Do’s and Don’ts.
- How to tell if you’ve been hacked.
- What to look for after you have been hacked.
- How to prevent and protect from hackers.
- What is 2-step and MFA?
- What to do after you’ve been hacked.
- Screenshot examples of phishing emails.
Check out the video below and leave any comments in the fields below.
Ransomware and most malware attacks start in two main ways. A booby-trapped email with a malicious attachment or via a compromised website; which then work their way down to your endpoints and servers.To stop these attacks, it is critical that you have a multi layered approach to security.
This starts with a training your employees and patching your devices right through to cloud based malware filters, dedicated hardware firewalls and corporate grade security applications on each device.
The eleven best security practices to apply now are:
- Employee training
Regular training for employees is essential. Employers need to inform their staff on what to look out for and don’t trust the contents of every email they receive.
- Patch early, patch often
The sooner you patch Windows the fewer holes there are for ransomware to exploit.
Backup regularly and keep a recent backup copy off-line and off-site. Offline and off-site means ransomware can’t get to it. With recent backups data loss can be minimized.
- Implement corporate grade security software
A free antivirus program might be ok for home use but do you really want a free program protecting your confidential business data and financial information?
- Install a firewall or UTM
You probably don’t just rely on a cheap door lock on the front door of your house so why rely on a basic firewall on the electronic entrance to your business?
- Enable cloud based email filtering
Don’t rely on your local antivirus software detecting and stopping malware within your email application. Block it before it even enters your network by using using a cloud based filter – one that uses multiple filters is even better.
- Enable file extensions.
Enabling extensions makes it much easier to spot file types that wouldn’t commonly be sent to you.
- Disable Macros
Don’t enable macros in document attachments received via email. A lot of infections rely on persuading you to turn macros on, so don’t do it!
- Be cautious about unsolicited attachments
If you aren’t sure – don’t open it. Check with the sender if possible.
- Admin Login Rights
Don’t have more login power than you need. Having administrator rights may bake things easier for administration but they also give malware free ranges on your computer and network. An infection which may be able to be contained to one device could become a network disaster is the malware exploits admin rights.
- Keep applications up to date.
Stay up-to-date with new security features in your business applications
For example Office 2016 now includes a control called “Block macros from running in Office files from the internet”.
Sometimes computers do crazy things that ring alarm bells and make users think it is a virus. Next thing you know the boss is telling everyone to run scans and demanding people come clean about their browsing habits. Fortunately, not all weird occurrences are viruses related – sometimes your computer is simply overloaded, overheating or in desperate need of a reboot.
Here are some of the tell-tale signs that your computer maybe infected with malware:
Strange Error Messages
Does your computer have messages popping up from nowhere that make no sense, are poorly worded or just plain gibberish. Take note of anti-virus and security warnings too, check that the warning is from YOUR anti-virus software and looks like it should occur. If a message pops up that isn’t quite right then don’t click it – not even to clear or cancel the message. Close the browser or shut down the computer, then run a full virus scan.
Suddenly Deactivated Anti-virus / Malware Protection
The best way past a security guard is to sneak it when they are not around. Certain malware infections are programmed to disable the security systems first, leaving your computer open to infection. If you reboot and your protections are not enabled you may be under attack. Attempt to start the anti-virus manually and if that doesn’t work, backup your data and try and reinstall your security software.
Social Media Messages You Did Not Send
Are your friends replying to messages you never wrote? Your login details may have been hacked and your friends could be tricked into giving up personal information or money. Change your password immediately and advise your contacts of the hack.
Web Browser Acting Strange?
Perhaps your homepage has changed, it is using an odd search engine or opening/redirecting your to unwanted sites. If your browser has gone rogue it is definitely malware which could be trying to steal your personal or financial details. Skip the online banking and email until your scans come up clear and everything is working normally again. Once you are certain your machine is clean, change all your passwords.
If your computer speed has slowed, boot up takes an eternity and even opening programs takes forever, it is a sign that something is wrong. It is not necessarily a virus though. Run your anti-virus scan and if that resolves it, great, if not, your computer may have a hardware issues or your computer needs a tune-up or service.
Constant Computer Activity
You are not using the computer but the hard drive is going nuts, the fans are whirring, and the network lights are flashing like a disco? It is almost like someone IS using the computer! Viruses and malware attacks use your computer resources, sometimes even more than you do. Take note of what is normal, and what is not and seek help if it looks like something is amiss.
If you have a virus that you can’t get rid of or need a service on your computer give us a call at 08 8326 4364 or at email@example.com.
Writing a computer program is hard and writing a virus is even harder (BTW you don’t even need programming skills as viruses templates can be bought online), so why do people do it? In the majority of instances it comes down to 3 reasons:
- Bragging rights
- Simply being a jerk.
While bragging or being a jerk is pretty self-explanatory, the money side is more interesting. Here are some of the ways people make money with viruses:
Bank account theft: As with real bank robbers virus creators are more than happy to help themselves to the money in your bank account. Once they have your login details (obtained via a key logger) they simply transfer your funds away or use your credit card details to go on a shopping spree. Sometimes they’ll leave the fun to another person by selling your details to the highest bidder.
Ransomware: Sometimes a virus will encrypt your files and demand money for a key to unlock you own data. Without a true backup procedure in place you are at their mercy. Once you have paid the nightmare may not be over as they now know you are an easy target and request even more money.
Ad swappers: A very cheeky technique which you may never know is happening to you. This scam is when a virus puts annoying ads on websites you visit or places affiliate codes on pages. When you buy something legitimately – eg, from Amazon – the affiliate codes allow the hacker to get a percentage as a ‘referral fee’. Their kickback doesn’t make your purchase cost more and you may not even know you are infected.
Bitcoin mining: You have heard of digital currencies being used for payments but did you know you can also earn money via bitcoin mining? You can earn this money by running specialized software on your computer but sometimes this means paying more in running costs than you would actually make – unless you were very clever and sneaky, and used a virus to use the processing power on other people’s computers.
Botnets: If infected with a botnet, a computer can be remotely controlled to do whatever the virus creator wants. In most cases they’ll usually set the infected computers to overwhelm a target computer and blackmail the owners of that computer – the ‘Botmaster’ says “pay me thousands of dollars or I’ll crash your computer.”
Account stealing: Subscription accounts like Netflix and Hulu are often hijacked allowing other users a free ride by using your accounts. Gaming accounts open up another world of financial incentives with those digital items that people work hard for in the games worth a pretty penny on the black market.
These are just a few of the ways people make money through viruses and malware. If you know of any others please leave a comment below.
Give us a call at 08 8326 4364 to make sure your computer is secure and protected.