Posts tagged hackers

a hand points to a secure node in a network that is safe from cybercriminals.

Keeping Your Network and Applications Safe from Cyber-Attack

a hand points to a secure node in a network that is safe from cybercriminals.

The key to keeping your networks safe from cybercriminals is to keep your virus protection updated.

Keeping your network safe from potential attacks by cybercriminals is a top priority for any business owner or manager who wants to avoid the disasters which might develop if a network were compromised by a clever cybercriminal. As the Internet, itself has grown, and businesses around the globe have increasing tied their fortunes to it, so too has criminal activity increased, because there are so many more opportunities to exploit businesses for monetary gain.

With every new safety measure developed by security experts, determined cybercriminals learn ways of circumventing those new safeguards, so that they can continue their money-making schemes by living off businesses developed by others. There is no such thing as an entirely safe business enterprise these days, simply because there are so many cybercriminals plying their trade, and because so many of them are extremely clever and skilled at what they do.

However, there are a number of precautions you can take which will at least limit your exposure to such attacks, and give you fighting chance of avoiding disaster by having your data, applications, or network infrastructure breached by a cyber-attack. Of course, there are some very expensive security measures you can have installed for extra protection on your network, but even those are not guarantees of safety. That being said, here are some very common precautions you can take, which will increase the likelihood that you can avoid the depredations of a cyber-attack.

Do Regular Backups to Stop Cybercriminals

One of the best things you can do to avoid having your data or applications held hostage, is to back up your data files and your applications every day. If a cyber-attacker should somehow gain access to your data and encrypt it so that it is unusable unless you pay for an encryption key, you would have no recourse but to pay the ransom amount, unless you had been backing up your data every day.

A recent survey conducted on the question of backups discovered that only 50% of small businesses routinely back their data up on a weekly basis, and that percentage shrinks to less than 23% for daily backups. When you have a backup of yesterday’s data, that insulates you against a hijacking of your data today, because all you have to do is restore yesterday’s backup and you have current data again, minus any transactions which may have occurred today. A cyber-attacker would be defeated.

Check Backup Processes Regularly

Having a regular backup routine is great, but in order for it to have any value, you have to be sure that it’s doing what you intended it to do, i.e. saving all your important data to a storage medium, from which it can be readily retrieved. Many small business managers have found that their backups weren’t really functioning properly when the time came that data needed to be restored.

When a data restore becomes critical is not the time to find out that you’ve had a problem for several weeks or several months, because crucial data may have been lost. You should also make a point of having a full understanding of exactly what is getting backed up. Obviously, the focus should be on business-critical data, but these days it’s sometimes also important to backup data which is resident on employees’ laptops because that can be just as important to business operations.

A collection of back up drives used to keep data safe from cybercriminals.

Regularly backing up your data will keep company information safe from cybercriminals.

Keep Virus Protection Updated

Your first line of defense against cyber-attack is generally your firewall, so make sure your firewall is functioning properly and that it’s always enabled so that it can deflect any casual cyber-attacks. It’s also very important to make sure that your protection against viruses is as current as possible. Every time you get a security update from a software vendor, or from your operating system provider, those updates need to be applied promptly.

Since many of those security updates include protection against newly discovered viruses and security threats, they need to be applied to your system as soon as possible. Updating employee passwords regularly is also a good idea because passwords which go unchanged for long periods of time become vulnerable to interception by cyber attackers.

Check Your Transaction Logs Regularly

You should always make a practice of checking transaction logs daily for any unauthorized activity, either internal or external. It happens frequently enough that businesses which have suffered a cyber-attack could have prevented the fatal breach by regularly consulting transaction logs to discover previous break-in attempts. This should be done as a matter of routine just for normal business operations, but it can also be your first warning of an impending major cyber assault.

Indoctrinate Your Employees

It has rightly been said that in many cases, your employees are your weakest link in the security chain because they are the most exploitable. Employees who are not trained to use safe business practices and avoid security breaches are constantly being targeted by cybercriminals who are aware of the potential for exploitation.

Employees should be trained to be very cautious about opening email attachments, about providing passwords or other important company information in emails or via the social media, and they should be encouraged to change passwords monthly to protect against interception.

A computer monitor is juxtaposed with a fishing hook to illustrate the nature of phishing attacks.

Real World Phishing Attacks

A computer monitor is juxtaposed with a fishing hook to illustrate the nature of phishing attacks.

Phishing attacks can occur when an email opened by one of your personnel triggers the release of a virus.

If you’ve been thinking that phishing attacks only happen to someone else and that the employees of your company are relatively immune from such attacks, you might want to reconsider, because phishing attacks can and do happen in the real world to companies of all sizes, and in all industries.

In fact, criminals who carry out these phishing attacks have begun focusing more on small to medium-size businesses recently, simply because there are so many more of them, and because employees at small businesses may be more vulnerable to exploitation. Large corporations tend to have programs in place which indoctrinate their employees about the dangers of phishing and other social engineering attacks, and that training helps to minimize the number of successful phishing attempts.

Small businesses, on the other hand, tend to have the attitude that they are flying under the radar and that they are not suitable targets for cybercriminals. It’s this kind of indifference and unpreparedness which makes many small businesses ideal targets for phishing attempts.

What Exactly is Phishing?

Phishing is a form of social engineering in which emails are used most commonly to obtain personal information from employees, by some individual who is posing as a manager or other person known to the company and is considered to be a trustworthy source. By impersonating a known company employee or manager, or some other company which does business with your own company, some level of trust is established as a basis for extracting information.

The object of a phishing attack is to dupe the email recipient into taking some kind of action as directed by the attacker, for instance providing login information or passwords, and sometimes even sensitive information about the company. Once the desired information is obtained, it is then used by the attacker to carry out some other malicious attack on the company which results in a monetary gain.

A Typical Real-World Phishing Attack

In a typical real-world phishing attack, a cyber-criminal might send an email to a company employee which directs that employee to pay an invoice amount to a company which has recently done business with the original company. It looks completely legitimate because an invoice would be attached, and the invoice would include details of products or services that your company would legitimately deal in.

The email is also signed by a manager or other employee who actually does work for your company, and who might typically be expected to send such emails requesting payment of certain invoices. An unsuspecting employee would, of course, be drawn in by the legitimacy of having a real-world supervisor request this invoice payment, and would then open up the invoice attachment to begin the process of arranging a payment.

In the meantime, the act of opening up the attachment could very well trigger the release of some virus which infects the employee’s computer, and by virtue of that computer’s connection to the network, the virus then is released into a much wider area, where more important information can be obtained. Of course, it would be an added bonus if the employee actually does send out the payment requested to the bogus company listed on the invoice, and that check would then be cashed by the cyber attacker who organized the phishing attempt in the first place.

A laptop screen is filled with popups from malicious processes which were installed during a phishing attack.

Phishing attacks can result in a malware infection which causes undesired processes to occur on all of your networked computers.

How to Avoid Phishing Attacks

As you can see from the above, there are some real-world dangers associated with phishing attacks, and the harm they cause can be more far-reaching than an embarrassment to a single employee. The fact that an entire company can be affected if a virus does get installed and becomes enabled, should be all the justification you need for implementing procedures to guard against phishing attacks to whatever extent is possible.

Here are some of the best ways to protect yourself and your company against phishing attacks by cybercriminals:

  • don’t use departmental emails – it’s never a good idea to use departmental emails such as Payroll Dept, Human Resources, or Accounting Department. Using these email ID’s allows the cyber-attacker or to know that the emails are being sent to the right person and that it’s much more likely the phishing attack will be successful.
  • change payment language regularly – when requests for payment are issued between company personnel, the language used should be slightly altered periodically, with important keywords being subtracted out or added in. Department personnel can then be instructed to never carry out any fund transfers unless the expected keyword is contained within an email message. Since successful phishing attacks are all designed to catch an employee off guard, this kind of focus on keywords within the text will derail any phishing attempt.
  • use anti-phishing software – there are a number of good anti-phishing tools available which you should consider implementing at your company. The way some of these tools work is that you can send fake phishing attempts to employees all around the company, so as to identify who is most vulnerable to falling prey to phishing attacks. This can let you know the scope of the problem you may have and can alert you to the necessity for conducting widespread training so that your employees are less susceptible to phishing attacks.

The Truth About Phishing

The unpleasant truths about phishing attacks are that they are successful far more often than they should be, and the reason for that is that the human element in any company is usually the weakest element. Businesses need to adapt to these real-world situations, and train employees to spot such phishing attacks, and to alert the appropriate personnel when one is identified. When company employees become aware of the possibility of phishing attacks, they are far less likely to be caught off guard and then become victims of those phishing attacks.

A hand holds a glowing lock at the center of a vast digital network. the key to keeping your networks secure is making sure your employees are properly trained.

Cyber Security Guide for Employees

A hand holds a glowing lock at the center of a vast digital network. The key to keeping your networks secure is making sure your employees are properly trained.

Make sure your business is secure by properly training your employees on good cyber security habits.


One of the most urgent priorities for all businesses connected to the Internet is making sure that all employees and staff members are trained to avoid the possibility of data breaches. The following guide will include some of the specific practices which all employees should be trained in or which they should put into practice, in order to bring about desired results.

Get Employee Buy-in

There are, of course, some things you can do to deflect viruses, and there are software measures which can be taken to take advantage of the latest security protections. However, the most effective tools at your disposal for maintaining cybersecurity are those used to obtain employee buy-in for security measures.

It’s essential for you to convince your employees of the need to be vigilant against the possibility of cyber-attack because it will impact them personally. Employees need to understand that they could have their own data compromised and that if serious harm is done to the company, that could result in an interruption of work, if not a total cessation.

If the company’s reputation is damaged by a security breach, that could lead to declining fortunes of the company and in a worst-case scenario, even bankruptcy. Making employees understand how all this affects them personally is a very important point to use as a means of obtaining their buy-in to cybersecurity.

Make Sure Employees Understand Their Roles

Employees need to understand that the majority of cyber-attacks these days are perpetrated against humans, and not through the exploitation of weaknesses in firewalls or other preventive measures. Humans can easily be duped by phishing attacks and other social engineering techniques which seek to exploit their general unpreparedness against security breaches.

Train all employees to avoid sending sensitive emails to external sources, not clicking on files which are un-validated, being tricked by phishing attempts, using the social media carelessly, and connecting to Wi-Fi with a work laptop.

Three employees stand next to each other and peer at a computer monitor. They have good networking habits and their company servers stay secure.

Making sure your employees have good internet and network habits can make the difference between a secure network and a massive data breach.

Implement Digital Precautions

If your company deals with financial transactions, these should always occur with safety in mind, and every possible means of data protection should be implemented. First of all, transactions need to be conducted over a secure network, rather than using open source software for transaction processing, since you can’t be sure of software security.

If any devices or appliances in your office workplace are connected to the Internet of Things (IoT), make sure that passwords are regularly changed, and that these are strong passwords. Already, numerous attacks have been made on devices connected to the IoT, for instance transforming them into gateways to company networks.

Keep antivirus subscriptions up to date, as well as any malware subscriptions you have, and as soon as you are supplied with patches by your vendors, make sure that those patches are scheduled for the application.

Everything possible should be done to make access to your data files extremely difficult, especially information which is considered a business-critical or high priority. Create an environment where it’s easy for your employees to report suspicious activity, such as emails that don’t seem legitimate. By encouraging an open environment which emphasizes security, you can have all of your employees on the alert, and inclined to report anything suspicious at all.

Employee Training

Employee training should be conducted at least twice a year so that all the information provided is reinforced constantly. It may seem like a bore to employees, but that repetition will be well worth it if it thwarts a serious cyber-attack. Make sure no one is exempted from the biannual training, and that it’s tailored to specific groups within the company that has specific responsibilities because these could be subject to different kinds of security attacks.

Try to keep training sessions simple, so that they become very memorable to employees, and so the practices become more implementable. In between formal training sessions, it’s a good idea to post safety reminders at strategic locations throughout the company.

Cyber Security Reviews

It’s a good idea to review communication processes used by the company every three months or at most every six months and make sure that all company employees are receiving the security messages which are being broadcast. Make sure that you have a reporting system which identifies any security breaches, and is sure that the statistics are trending in the right direction.

Long-Term Training

There can be a lot involved with keeping employees trained to avoid cyber-attacks, and all the work involved should not be left up to the I.T. department, because typically these individuals already have plenty on their plates. If the training program is to be successful, there should be dedicated personnel to conduct the training, and there should be a formalized plan which covers several years.

In the first year of the training program, it might be advisable to keep things simple and just get training guides issued and implemented. The next year, a deeper cut can be made at instructing employees, possibly by tailoring security content to specific groups of employees and individual departments.

After those initial years, your training program might focus on quality control, obtaining employee feedback, and developing more sophisticated methods for delivering your safety messages. Throughout the entire training process, for as long as it’s conducted, all changes in the cybersecurity environment should be monitored, and it should be verified that training is kept current.

If you can provide this kind of in-depth training to your employees on a regular basis, and make sure that the content is actually useful and relevant, you will go a long way toward protecting your computing environment from attack by the criminal-minded.

Close-up of a phone with different icons branching out: representing the different aspects that small business cyber security will protect.

Why Cyber Security Is Still Important for Small Businesses

Cyber attacks of recent years have grown in number and size, making it crucial to alert the computing world at large of the need to protect data assets and network infrastructure. Large corporations, small businesses, and even private individuals are all subject to attack from criminal-minded hackers who are bent on profiting from illegal penetration into your computing system.  Many of the most high-profile cyber attacks of recent years targeted large corporations, simply because of the potential for extracting more substantial sums of money from them in exchange for the safe return of business assets (ransomware). While attacks against small businesses (SMB’s) have not garnered the headlines nor the high visibility of major attacks against big corporations, that doesn’t mean they aren’t taking place. In fact, small businesses now are being hit much more frequently because hackers have realized that, all those small profits from SMB’s do add up to big money in total. Statistics show that over the past several years, more than half of small businesses have had network security breached in some way by hackers. This alarming development should clearly point out the need for small businesses to be on the alert, small business cyber security should be taken seriously.

Managing the Risk of Cyber Attacks Against Small Businesses

In addition to the cumulative appeal of profits from small business attacks, there is another reason why criminals have been turning their attention to SMB’s. With fewer resources allocated to cybersecurity, and less formalized training and education against the potential for cyber attacks, small businesses often present very inviting targets for the criminal-minded.

It’s also true that limited budgets make small businesses cyber security not as readily accessible. However, even with limited resources, there are at least a few necessary steps that all small businesses can take, which will reduce the likelihood of an attack, and at least provide some measure of security for valuable business assets.

For instance, at least one person in every small business can be designated to stay abreast of all known cyberattack threats, so that it’s at least possible to take preventive measures against specific threats and risks. This would typically be an I.T. person who’s also responsible for keeping system software updated with any security patches made available by vendors. Soon after the newest cyberattacks appear, software gurus are at work developing fixes to patch whatever weakness allowed the attack to take place, and these should be applied to your software system as soon as they are made available.

It’s also imperative to take regular backups of business-critical data so that in the event of an attack like ransomware, there is always a safe and current version of data to fall back on, without surrendering to the demands of a hacker.

A person with a laptop and phone: representing the implementation of small business cyber security.

To implement effective small business cyber security, it’s important to train all employees on different types of cyber attacks and how to resolve them.

Education and Training on Small Business Cyber Security

It’s fair to say that the biggest vulnerability for small business cyber security is the lack of employee education and training. This, of course, is not limited to SMB’s, because even corporate giants are frequently exposed to cyber threats by the weakest point in their networks, which is the actions of employees.

Hackers are naturally aware of this, and much of their time and effort is spent trying to dupe unsuspecting company employees into providing them with crucial information like passwords or account data which will allow them to carry out attacks against the company network. All this should make it clear that one of the top priority investments in small business cyber security is to properly educate and train employees about cyber threats, and how they’re carried out and resolved.

Every employee needs to be aware of the potential for cyber attacks and should treat anything suspicious with extreme caution. At the bare minimum, all employees should be educated about the necessity for safeguarding passwords, credentials, and account information. Such attacks can be carried out through email phishing scams, or possibly social media, where cyber attackers are known to be listening, and waiting to exploit unsuspecting employees to obtain vital security information in a seemingly harmless environment.

Hackers can also obtain business details information from employees via social engineering, wherein cyber attackers manipulate employees by pretending to be clients, banking institutions, or other characters of authority or importance. Some of these attacks are made through phone calls where a supposed colleague requests to know changes made to account information need to be reminded of specific passwords to gain access to system software. Hackers posing as managers from other departments have also exploited unwary employees with phone calls asking for similar information, which can then be used to breach the computing system and hijack valuable company data assets.

Some small businesses in the country have gotten the message, and have taken whatever steps they can to prevent cyberattacks, or at least reduce the potential for them. If awareness is the first big step toward improving your small business cyber security, educating employees about cyber attacks can be said to be an essential second step. Hackers these days are determined to victimize small businesses as well as corporate giants, and that means SMB owners and managers have to be just as committed to preventing those attacks.


Text with highlighted red words reading "data breach" and "cyber attack", related to a security breach.

Why a Security Breach Could Destroy Your Brand

A study recently conducted by RiskVision, a respected developer of Risk Management software, determined that more businesses today are concerned about company reputation than they are about potential breaches of security which might impact them. It has long been known that companies consider a brand name to be one of their most significant assets, even though it’s an intangible that has value to no one outside the company itself.

In this survey, damage to a brand name was considered to be potentially more damaging than security breaches, even though the two often go hand-in-hand today. Hackers who successfully penetrate into a company’s computing network often do inflict serious damage to the reputation of the business, and subsequently its brand name. It should, therefore, be kept in mind by all business owners that security breaches need to be taken seriously, to prevent damage to the company brand-name, as well as all the usual financial ramifications.

How a Security Breach Can Damage Your Brand Name

Typically, the first thing a customer considers when thinking about brand names, about products or services, is whether or not the product or service provides quality and value, and whether the cost is in line with the levels of quality and value delivered. However, any company which has suffered a known security breach often falls into an entirely different frame of evaluation.

Consumers will often think that any business which has allowed itself to be hacked by criminals is not worthy of their trust and patronage. After all, if their business practices were lax enough to permit the cyberattack in the first place, that may be a sign that other important aspects of the business are also conducted with inadequate attention to detail. This fact is borne out powerfully in a poll jointly conducted by CSO and OnePoll, which attempted to determine the connection between insufficient security and a company’s brand name, as perceived by consumers.

In the survey, a whopping 86% of customers declared that they were unlikely to patronize a company which had suffered a severe security breach, especially if the breach was related to customer information. This represents a definite shift in consumer thinking from the early days of cyber attacks when businesses were perceived as victims entitled to understanding and sympathy from the public. In the now-famous cyberattack against department store giant Target, sales for the entire quarter after their security breach dropped like a rock, falling almost 50% from the prior quarter.

A red button on a keyboard reading "data protection," as related to preventing a security breach.

Keeping your customers’ and clients’ information safe should be your top priority, since it affects the way the public perceives how trustworthy your business is.

Impact of Security Breaches on Small Businesses

Major security breaches perpetrated against small companies can have an enormous effect and can cause irreparable brand-name damage from which recovery is either very difficult or downright impossible. In 2016, a study was conducted by KPMG which determined that almost 90% of small businesses had suffered serious brand name damage in the immediate aftermath of a security breach.

In a white paper published by the National Cyber Security Alliance, figures were released which showed that as many as 60% of all small businesses completely collapse less than six months following a significant cybersecurity breach. Interestingly, both of the studies referenced above reported that less than one-quarter of all small businesses considered cybersecurity to be a top priority. The fact that there has historically been relatively little concern about cybersecurity breaches may account for the often devastating impact that attacks have had on those business entities.

Taking Steps to Secure Your Business

A cyber security plan doesn’t need to be especially elaborate, and it doesn’t need to be funded to the hilt, with every conceivable kind of virus detection software. There just needs to be a well thought out plan for cybersecurity, and a legitimate effort to enforce that strategy. There are some straightforward but very cost-effective measures which can be adopted to thwart the vast majority of cyber attacks.

Using strong passwords on all company computers is a good start, followed up by installing security software on company devices. It’s always best to keep hardware and software updated with the latest available security patches and to periodically back up business-critical data. The weakest point of any company’s network should not be overlooked, which means employees need to be educated about the risks of cyber attack.

The important thing to remember about any cybersecurity policy is just to implement as many of the simple steps listed above as possible and to do it immediately so that your system is not left vulnerable to penetration by cyber attackers. As some of the survey results mentioned above make clear, every kind of business from the corporate giant on down to the mom-and-pop retail outlet must take all steps possible to avoid the possibility of major security breaches. Failing to do this can cost you a lot more than money – it can cause irreparable harm to your company’s reputation.

A Wi-Fi symbol with computer binary code in the background, to signify the hackers who exploit insecure networks via key reinstallation attacks.

What You Need to Know About Key Reinstallation Attacks

If you haven’t heard about key reinstallation attacks yet, they’re the most recent form of Wi-Fi hacking. It’s also possible that you actually have heard about them under their media nickname, which is ‘Krack Attacks.’

Regardless of the nomenclature, key reinstallation attacks are attempts to exploit a flaw in the Wi-Fi encryption protocol which permits hackers to hijack all kinds of personal information, including photos, passwords, and account numbers. The first thing to know about key reinstallation attacks is that they’re not specifically targeting any particular hardware, but rather a weakness in the Wi-Fi protocol itself.

This means that all smartphones, mobile devices, routers, and desktop machines are subject to attack, and any or all of your personal data may abruptly come into the possession of someone with criminal intent. Today, we’re here to discuss what you should know about this new threat.

How Key Reinstallation Attacks Work

Researchers have uncovered a flaw in the WPA2 Wi-Fi protocol which allows hackers to replicate a user’s network entirely, and by falsely representing the Media Access Control (MAC) address, which is a device’s physical address, it can actually cause a switch in Wi-Fi channels.

When a bogus network is set up in this way, it can actually intercept signals from any remote device attempting to connect to the original system, causing such attempts to bypass the real network, and instead connect to the rogue.

The way WPA2 encryption is supposed to work, it would require a unique key for any encryption request, but the flaw uncovered in the WPA2 protocol does not always need that specific key, and instead, reuses a previous one. The problem is particularly acute with Linux and Android, because of the way they make use of the WPA2 protocol. In these operating systems, a unique encryption key is not demanded every time an encryption request is made, leaving the system vulnerable to hacking.

In layman’s terms, the Wi-Fi protocol can be exploited when hackers can find a vulnerable network and take advantage of the WPA2 weakness, ultimately directing users to the rogue network for data hijacking.

Little people browsing the internet on their laptops, perched on a laptop. Key reinstallation attacks take advantage of how ubiquitous Wi-Fi is.

Key reinstallation attacks take advantage of the fact that most of our world now runs on Wi-FI so it’s important to take precautions before connecting to an unfamiliar Wi-Fi network or an insecure one.

Researchers Proof of Concept

Previous minor flaws had already been uncovered in the WPA2 protocol, so researchers were already fearful that some even more significant problem might be lurking within the software. The key reinstallation flaw was discovered by those researchers, who then conducted proof of concept experiments to attack a theoretically vulnerable Wi-Fi system. On an Android system, the researchers were successful in intercepting and decrypting all the test victim’s data.

According to these penetration experts, the same kind of ‘success’ could not be achieved on a system setup with HTTPS secure socket layers but would wreak havoc on sites which have been poorly set up and missing HTTPS. While Linux and Android are most severely affected because of how they use WPA2, other operating systems like Windows, MacOS, and OpenBSD would also be compromised but to a lesser degree. How serious is the issue for Android? Experts recommend that owners of Android devices shut off Wi-Fi until known fixes have been applied to close up the weakness in the protocol.

What You Can Do to Avoid Krack Attacks

One of the best things you can do to avoid the possibility of a key reinstallation attack is to look for the ‘https’ at the beginning of any URL for websites which you visit. That ‘https’ is an indicator that the site uses secure protocols, and you would be safe in visiting. You can also simply avoid using Wi-Fi for the time being, while software gurus hurriedly develop a fix for the vulnerability. This may be inconvenient, especially when you’re away from home or the office and might need Wi-Fi, but it’s much safer than having your sensitive data fall into the hands of a criminal.

One of the interesting things about these attacks is that a hacker must be within the physical range of your machine before the attack can be carried out, and while that does serve to shield many users from harm, an actual attacker can’t be identified beforehand so you know if he’s close enough. So naturally, you can’t rely on remaining safe because you aren’t within range of a criminal – after all, what does a criminal look like?

Fortunately, the fix will be relatively easy to develop in this case and should be forthcoming relatively soon. All that’s necessary is a simple change to the firmware so that during the ‘handshake’ between devices, a unique key is requested every single time, rather than sometimes relying on previously used ones which can be exploited. Get in touch with your provider and ask when fixes will be made available, and as soon as those security updates are released, make sure they are applied to all your devices.


Network security on home computers is just as important as keeping networks on work computers secure.

Network Security: Tips on Keeping Your Home Computer Safe

Network security on home computers is just as important as keeping networks on work computers secure.

Good network security practice can keep the files on your home computer safe.


Network Security on Your Home Computer

No matter how much time you spend on your work computer, your home computer contains some of your most important files.  Our personal machines help manage our finances, social relationships, and professional lives, but we often don’t put in as much effort into keeping them secure.  Our computers contain a variety of personally identifiable information (PII), and it’s important to maintain sound computer and network security to protect your files.

Connecting Your Computer to a Secure Network

A network router is your first point of contact with the Internet.  Don’t just rely on your ISP (Internet Service Provider) or cable modem to perform comprehensive security monitoring.  An Internet connection starts with your modem, connects to your router, and feeds this information into your computer. Your router should be secure before connecting to the Internet.

Here are a few tips to maintaining network defense, once you are connected to a secure network.  First off, use a web browser with sandboxing capabilities. A sandbox is an isolated environment that mimics an entire computer system, which targets suspicious programs and analyzes potential threats.

Browsers with sandboxing capabilities are especially useful for recognizing advanced persistent threats (APTs).  These APTs are designed to escape detection, breaking through conventional security barriers, and gaining access to PII on your computer.  Sandboxes help capture these viruses and clear them out.

When you own a business, you want to keep your home computers well-defended because any crossover information between work and personal machines, through email or messaging apps, can cause a data breach.  A recent study found that 60% of small companies fail due to poor network security measures.

Sandboxing can be applied to a number of different programs, such as PDF readers.  A common means for viruses to attack your computer is through embedded URLs, where malicious executables can gain entry via PDF files.

Keep Everything Up-To-Date

While this may seem self-explanatory, many malware attacks occur because personal computers are not as diligently updated as company devices.  Make sure your computer has current versions of all software you run.

Updating programs like Microsoft Office to the 2007 version or a more current iteration is a good idea, since word-processing is a common function on home computers.  Microsoft Office 2010 offers a “Protected View” that opens documents in read-only mode, which blocks any viruses embedded in unfamiliar files.

Many applications have a feature that enables automatic updates.  Updating frequently is a good network security practice, since attackers typically exploit hosts that don’t have their software applications fully patched. Additionally, evaluate which programs you use most frequently and those you never seem to use.  Do some research on the software you wish to delete, and determine if removing them is possible.   Fewer applications on your computer workstation mean fewer channels for hackers.

Man holding credit card, sitting in front of his computer. Practicing good network security techniques is important for safeguarding personal information, like credit card account credentials.

By practicing good network security techniques, you can avoid phishing attacks and social engineering traps that can steal personal information like your credit card account credentials.

Social Engineering and Phishing Attacks

Some of the most common attacks are executed through email.  A social engineering attack uses human interaction to obtain sensitive information on computers with vulnerable network security.  In these infected emails, a person can claim to be an employee, cleaning service, or someone else offering qualifications that would allow them to gather your confidential information.

Phishing tactics also use emails from attackers masquerading as reliable organizations to obtain personal details.  Often, these phishers will take advantage of events in the news (i.e. fake natural disaster fundraisers) and holidays (i.e. Christmas shopping deal scams) to steal account information.  They even go so far as to pose as reputable banks to issue fraudulent warnings, hoping that alarmed card holders will hand over their account credentials.


Keeping Your Home Computer Safe From Attacks

To avoid these attacks, install anti-virus and anti-spyware software, firewalls, or email applications that filter your inbox.  Whenever you are asked for sensitive information such as your credit card number or even your birthday, verify that your information isn’t falling into the wrong hands.

If you suspect that you’ve received a phishing email, call the organization the message claims to be from.  Use the contact info on the legitimate website, and ask about the email.

In general, don’t open unfamiliar links or messages with attachments, especially from email addresses not in your contacts.  Also, find out how to build a strong password and employ those methods for all of your accounts.  Secure and complex passwords should not only be used for WLANs but also for any devices in your home and work that use web interfaces (i.e. printers, self-automated light switch systems, etc.)

When it comes to protecting your personal information, there’s no such thing as taking too many precautions.  At Geek-Aid, we specialize in every kind of cyber security.  We all rely heavily on personal computers to manage many aspects of our lives, and keeping these devices secure is a top priority.



Business man and woman using a computer.

Checking Your Computer Security

Business man and  woman using a computer.

Checking your computer security settings can keep your information safe.

Last week, we discussed a couple of habits that will help you protect your computer’s security. Hopefully, you now know how to navigate the internet better and protect your data. In order stay vigilant and protect your computer, there is more that you need to know. After all, there is only so much you can do to keep hackers from trying to access personal information. Let’s discuss how you can check if your computer’s own security methods are in working order.

Keep Your Computer Updated

Computer companies know how troubling hackers can be, for both them and their consumers. They do not want hackers infiltrating the private information of the people who buy their machines. That’s why they constantly update their computer security system to fight off all sorts of viruses, malware, and trojans. The first thing you should do is check if your computer is running the latest update. This will ensure that it is up-to-date and ready to fight off anything trying to penetrate your system.

Scanning Your Settings for Better Protection

There are plenty of useful tools that computer manufacturers release as well. These tools are able to scan your computer for potential problems like weak user passwords or if you are using all of your security features. They can also educate users on the proper security setting for protection against threats. Just remember to download this kind of software straight from your computer’s manufacturer and not untrustworthy sites.

Secure Your Internet Browser

The number one way that hackers gain access to your computer is through the internet. Accidentally opening suspicious emails, clicking random links, or browsing unfamiliar websites can leave you at risk. In order to avoid downloading something malicious, you have to secure your browser’s own security settings. You’ll find that your browser does more than just block pop-up ads. Like your computer, your browser needs to stay updated to protect your system. Your plugins need to stay updated as well. If they remain out of date, then your system is vulnerable.

Make Sure You Have a Strong Firewall

The biggest defense against hackers is your system’s own firewall. Most computers come with a built-in firewall. They block others from penetrating your computer’s files and prevent them from seeing your system online. You have to make sure this computer function is working at optimal efficiency. Try running a port test service. These services are meant to test your firewall and make sure the world cannot see your computer. If it can detect your computer, then it’s very likely that your firewall settings are not correct or that you have a virus.

Make Sure Your System Is Secure With Geek Aid

Confused? Want to make sure that your system is absolutely secure? Well, Geek Aid is your best bet. Our geeks are trained to know the ins and outs of your system. That way they can not only protect you against viruses or threats but keep your system in working order. We make house calls and service offices as well. So, call us at (877) Geek-Aid to speak with one of our geeks today.

A malicious malware symbol surrounded by the different types.

Malicious Malware Makes It Easier to Infect Your Computer

A malicious malware symbol surrounded by the different types.

Hackers have developed a new malicious malware.

It seems harder and harder to protect your computer from security threats and virus. Hackers are constantly trying to gain access to your computer system using the latest tricks and cons. We’ve discussed before how to protect yourself from malicious malware. For example, if you click on a suspicious link in an email, there a good chance you’re inviting a virus to infect your computer. However, a new report suggests it might not be enough. A new virus is now able to infect your computer the moment your mouse hovers over the link.

Malicious Malware Installs Banking Trojan

What’s a Banking Trojan? It’s a type of malware that is designed to break into an online bank account and move a person’s money into a hacker’s bank account. In the U.S., these trojans steal millions of dollars from business and personal accounts. Companies and organization are usually the targets of these nefarious campaigns.

Research by cyber security company Trend Micro and information security blog Dodge This Security revealed a new malware downloader is installing banking Trojans. What makes this particular malware stand out is that users don’t even have to click on anything for it to activate. All users have to do hover their mouse cursor over a hyperlink in a PowerPoint file.

These attacks were largely made against companies and organizations in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. Hackers sent PowerPoints containing the Trojan via spam email. These emails were disguised as finance-related, making the user believe they were related to a recent order or invoice.

Older computer systems are more at risk than new ones. While the malicious malware does try to automatically download onto your computer, the latest Microsoft Office will ask you beforehand. This provides the user a security measure to prevent the virus from affecting you. However, older versions of Office will execute the PowerPoint file.

Keeping Your Computer Safe

Many companies do not update their computer’s operating system or applications. Working off of older technology leaves them vulnerable to attack and without that added layer of security that they need. Unfortunately, just like we saw with the WannaCry situation, it isn’t so easy for large scale companies to update their computer systems.

A good antivirus software will help to protect your computer from an attack like this. Trend Micro was able to detect 1,444 spam emails last month. Another way to avoid becoming a victim of online theft is by looking out for suspicious emails from unknown senders. These are often the most dangerous types of emails with hackers hoping that you will download its contents.

If you are a small or big business, your computer system is a target. It is best to invest in protecting your company’s private and important information. At Geek Aid, we can assist you with business IT solutions, including:

  • Performance Enhancements on Computers
  • Crash Repairs
  • Data Recovery
  • Data Backup
  • Security From Thieves and Competitors
  • Email Setup
  • Technology Consultation

Don’t leave your company’s security system at risk. Call Geek Aid at 877-GEEK-AID for computer and technical support.

An audio spectrum representing voice hacking.

Cyber Security Finds a Way to Stop Voice Hacking

An audio spectrum representing voice hacking.

Voice hacking grants others unwanted access to your devices.

There appears to be no rest for the world of cyber security. Hackers are vigilant and in order to keep the personal and private information of the public safe, cyber security experts must be as well. A popular target for hackers are smartphones and other mobile devices. As people rely more and more on this form of technology for everyday task, the more likely they become a victim of security threats. The companies who create these devices constantly update them to prevent such events. However, hackers are crafty. For example, their newest method to hack your phone involves using cutting-edge voice hacking.

Mimicking You Through Voice Hacking

While still in its infancy, sending commands to your smartphone or mobile device via voice controls is on the rise. Digital assistants like Siri, Cortana, Alexa, and others are becoming an essential part of the user experience. Even Apple has dedicated their time to updating Siri with a better intelligence.

What’s troublesome is that hackers can record audio samples while you are engaging with these digital assistants. They are able to mimic your voice, convincing other that they are you. This malicious technology allows hackers access to personal accounts and security mechanisms.

In an interview with Forbes, Yuval Ben-Itzhak, chief technology officer at AVG, warns against using speech recognition apps, recommending that users disable them right away. “At the moment, leaving biometric technology as it is today is like leaving a computer without a password and just allowing anyone to walk by, click and take an action,” says Ben-Itzhak.

Stopping Voice Hacking in Its Tracks

The researchers at the University at Buffalo have the same thoughts as Ben-Itzhak. That’s why they’ve developed a way to detect and prevent hackers from using obtaining your voice patterns. The engineers were able to create an app that stops voice hacking using a smartphone’s existing components.

“Technology is advancing so fast; we have to think of different ways. The strategy is using multiple lines of defense. We call that defense in depth,” says Kui Ren, Ph.D., director of the Ubiquitous Security and Privacy Research Laboratory (UbiSeC) at UB, and one of the study’s lead authors.

Ren and his team’s study focused on hackers replaying someone’s voice to access a device. Hackers will use speakers to perform such a task. The app uses the following tools:

  • A magnetometer in a phone to detect the speaker’s magnetic field.
  • The phone’s trajectory mapping algorithm to measure the distance between the speaker and the phone.

The app also uses movement to detect the difference between a person and a replayed voice, the latter’s magnetic field changes when moved.

“We cannot decide if voice authentication will be pervasive in the future. It might be. We’re already seeing the increasing trend,” Ren said. “And if that is the case, we have to defend against voice replay attacks. Otherwise, voice authentication cannot be secure.”

This research is crucial to keeping digital users safe. Some technology already exists that prevent other forms of voice hacking from occurring. Hopefully, people will soon be able to add the University at Buffalo’s app to their phone’s security.

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