Monday, June 12, 2017

Lowlife Ransomware Hackers Now Asking for More Than $1k Per Attack

Ransomware remains a very real threat, and is arguably only getting worse. Attacks are now able to come more frequently, and there are opportunities for even relative amateurs to level an attack against some unfortunate victim. However, this is not to say that there is nothing you can do to keep your business from becoming another cautionary tale.
Ransomware, in review:
First of all, it’s important to understand exactly what ransomware is. A form of malware, ransomware will infect your system and encrypt your data. It gets its name from the fact that the attacker will demand a ransom in order for your data to be decrypted. What’s worse, if you pay, you’re taking the distributor at their word that they will decrypt your data once the money has changed hands.
Understandably, this form of ransomware can be a highly potent weapon against many users, who simply won’t know how to handle the situation beyond paying and hoping for the best. Of course, since the motives behind ransomware are financial, a lot is directed towards business targets, as they not only have more funds available but are also heavily reliant on their data to function.
Ransomware repercussions
The nature of ransomware means that those that distribute it can usually name their price for the decryption key. After all, it isn’t as though victims have anywhere else to turn other than the hacker (or so the hackers want them to believe). Due to this, ransoms for encrypted data have shot up--in 2015, the ransom to decrypt an infected computer would cost about $294, on average. That price had jumped to average $1,077 per computer in 2016.
In addition to this increase in ransom demands, there was a 36 percent higher rate of ransomware attempts between 2015 and 2016, 68 percent targeting consumers. This left a still-considerable 32 percent being leveraged towards businesses.
Does it get worse? Sure does.
As if it wasn’t bad enough already, ransomware is now able to be utilized by just about anybody who has a grudge or a desire for some extra cash. Ransomware is now offered as-a-Service, allowing an attack to potentially come from far more sources than before. Some variants of ransomware, such as Karmen, will only cost an aspiring cyber criminal $175 to cash in on.
Thankfully, there are steps being taken to eliminate the threat of ransomware. For instance, there are decryption tools to help undo the damage that Karmen can cause because it was derived from the open-source ransomware project Hidden Tear. Other tools and resources are available to help identify which ransomware has infected a given system, like this one from security researcher Michael Gillespie.
However, there are also steps that you can take to avoid a ransomware infection, like following best security practices and computing mindfully. Net It On is here to assist you in putting these procedures in place, as well as helping you recover should ransomware strike. Give us a call at (732) 360-2999 today.

Tip of the Week: Did You Know Microsoft Word Calculates Math Equations?

You know Microsoft Word as a word processor that lets your organization compose documents. Yet, you may not know the extent to which you can use this application. You might be surprised to hear this, but you can even perform mathematical calculations using Microsoft Word!
First, you’ll need to open up a new document in Word. This will be your playground throughout the duration of this blog article, so feel free to try out this process as we walk you through it.
Look in the All Commands tree for the Calculate command. You can find it in File by navigating through Options.
The next step is to use the Quick Access Toolbar to find All Commands. You want to add the Calculate command to the Quick Access Toolbar for easy access.
Once this has been done, you’ll be able to solve an equation that you’ve typed out. All you have to do is highlight it with your cursor.
To put this new mechanic to the test, just type something basic like =4+4 into the document. Once you’ve highlighted the equation with your cursor, click the Calculate command that’s now located in your Quick Access Toolbar. You’ll now see the result of the calculation at the bottom of the screen in the left-hand corner, where you would normally see the number of words in the document.
That’s about as simple as it gets. This lets you stay in your Microsoft Word document without exiting just to go to your calculator application. In fact, many other apps that you have will also have hidden features that let you do more than meets the eye. For example, Microsoft Excel can also perform a variety of mathematical functions within its spreadsheets. All of this cross-functionality is one of the main reasons why a productivity suite like Microsoft Office 365 is so helpful for SMBs.
What other hidden tricks found in Microsoft Word can you think of? Let us know in the comments, and be sure to subscribe to our blog for more great tips.

The Fallout From Data Loss Isn’t Pretty

Data loss: it’s not a fun term for any business to hear. However, when one considers all of the ramifications that data loss can have upon a business, it swiftly transitions from “not fun” to “alarming.” Have you taken the time to think about what losing your business’ data would really mean for your company?
Downtime
There’s a reason that ‘downtime’ is considered a dirty word in an IT professional’s vocabulary. A loss of productivity is quite literally the opposite of what a company’s IT solutions should deliver. However, if a data loss incident were to occur without any mitigating measures in place, downtime is essentially guaranteed--along with all the negative consequences that it brings along with it.
These consequences include the financial impact that downtime will have on your business directly. After all, your business will not be able to generate revenue throughout the downtime incident, which means that the total amount you would have otherwise earned can be considered a cost. Combine that with the financial amount it takes to return to operations, as well as the potential business that has now been lost due to the downtime incident, and the sum total quickly becomes considerable.
Data Leakage
Of course, when considering data loss, the “why” needs to be established. If the answer involves your data storage being compromised by an outside party, you need to consider what data was lost. If it just so happens that personnel records were breached, exposing your employees’ personally identifiable information, or your customers’ financial data, you will almost certainly have some major problems on your hands.
Destroyed Reputation
Look at it this way: would you trust a company that had allowed your personal data to be stolen, putting your livelihood and good name at risk? In fact, would you trust a company that had allowed anyone’s personal data to be stolen? Probably not, and guess what? Your potential clients and customers feel the same way.
Whether they’re an existing client whose data was breached, or a prospect who heard about your issues with data security, there’s a good chance that they will lose any faith in your ability to protect their information. Therefore, existing clients will jump ship, and prospects will quickly turn to other options. Perhaps worse, those who were affected by your data loss will likely vent online, preventing many from ever approaching your business afterwards. While there are ways to mend fences with these clients, they are all expensive.
Clearly, data loss is something that no business is truly prepared to experience, which is why we’re here to help prevent it. To learn more about how Net It On can help protect your company’s data, give us a call at (732) 360-2999.

2-in-1 Mobile Devices Give Businesses the Best of Both Worlds

As computing and business have become more intertwined, it has become more important for software solutions and other business-essential tools to be ready at a moment’s notice. This tendency has contributed to the rise of mobile solutions, although there is still a need for the power a desktop provides. That’s why we are big fans of convertible ultrabooks, or 2-in-1 devices.
These versatile solutions offer the best parts of both mobile and desktop computing experiences, and are right for the business user.
Consolidation and Cost Savings
Perhaps most important to many business users is the potential cost savings that a convertible laptop brings with it. Since it serves as both a laptop and a tablet, you can avoid shelling over additional funds to supply your workforce with both solutions. Plus, since it can serve as a desktop workstation when it has been docked, a single device could foreseeably fulfill every computing need your employees have.
Functionality
Windows 10 was specifically designed to work with 2-in-1 devices. This is why the transition from laptop to tablet is comparatively seamless, and running multiple applications is equally simple. It also should be said that these devices have the power to do anything that a typical laptop can handle.
This does mean that most 2-in-1s won’t meet the standards that serious graphic designers, video editors, or similar occupations will demand of them, but there are even a few options that will fit the bill for this level of use. Some 2-in-1s will include a built-in stylus for exactly this purpose.
In addition to the abilities that the devices themselves boast, they also permit the user to interact with them in the way that the user prefers--namely, whether to use a mouse or the touchscreen. This is especially important, considering the prevalence of touchscreen-based devices in everyday life. This functionality in a 2-in-1 solution means that habits from the rest of life are more easily translated over to work computing, boosting productivity and enhancing efficiency.
Flexibility
This benefit is a pretty straightforward one: a 2-in-1 device can adapt to serve pretty much any purpose you could have in the office environment. Whether you need a laptop to type at or a quick video screen to showcase a presentation, these devices can do it all, and then some.
If you agree with us and think that 2-in-1 devices may just be the best choice for your business, give us a call at (732) 360-2999.

Tip of the Week: Looking to Free Up Hard Drive Space? This Free Tool Can Help

No matter how much we wish it weren’t so, all PCs have limited amounts of storage space on them. This means that the user will eventually run out of space, and they will have to find a way to resolve this issue as soon as possible so as to avoid unsaved work. Plus, your performance will take a hit, so it’s best to look for a way to resolve this issue. Thankfully, a free tool like WinDirStat can help you free up space by identifying where all of your free space is being taken up, and how you can make some wiggle room with your PC’s largest files.
Before we dig into the details, we want to add a disclaimer about deleting any large files that might be on your company-provided computer. Users should always check with a company’s IT administrator before deleting anything large like this on their PC. By doing so, you could avoid accidentally deleting files and apps that are crucial to your organization.
The Windows Directory Statistics, or WinDirStat, is a tool that lets you see a visual “treemap” of how the space on your hard drive is being used. To download this free app, just go to the developer’s website: https://windirstat.net/download.html
When you first open up WinDirStat, the program will read your drive’s directory tree and show you three displays:

  • Directory List: You’ll see what looks like a tree view of Windows Explorer, but it will be sorted by file type and subtree size.
  • Treemap: You’ll be shown the entirety of the directory tree.
  • Extension List: This shows statistics regarding file types.
Each of these files are represented by colored rectangles, and the size is proportionate to the file’s size. You will notice that these rectangles are arranged by directories and subdirectories. Therefore, the rectangles will be proportionate to the size of the subtrees. Additionally, the colors of the rectangles will indicate file type, and you can use the extension list to find the color that you’re looking for.
With this knowledge in mind, you’ll be able to make the best decisions possible regarding which files you want to delete to free up space for other uses However, you still need to be wary that deleting this files isn’t the only option at your disposal. Deleting large files that could hold value, like a video, simply because you don’t access it frequently, would be foolish. It’s ideal to simply get it removed from your drive through the use of an external drive, a network drive, or the cloud.
Granted, if your goal is to free up hard drive space and improve the way that your PC functions, you’re better off reaching out to professional technicians like those at Net It On. We can help your organization get the most out of its technology solutions, including your data storage procedures, reach out to us at (732) 360-2999.

Because Busy Business Owners Shouldn’t Have to Worry About Technology

A business without its own IT department will expend vast amounts of time and resources to manage its technology. Tasks like managing your email solution, upgrading or managing your desktop infrastructure, or securing your network from threats, can be draining. If you don’t have time to perform these tasks, then it’s worth it to invest in an outsourced IT provider for your technology needs.
Many organizations are faced with an increasing need for technology maintenance like never before, and they are turning their attention toward third party technology management brought to them by managed service providers. At first, this proposition might sound a bit strange. It’s difficult to justify purchasing services when you can just do them yourself. However, you’ll find that the long-term cost savings will far outweigh any costs associated with managed IT, and you’ll save both time and resources that can instead go to better purposes.
In other words, rather than spend time managing your organization’s technology, you’ll be able to focus more on running your business.
Granted, there is the option of hiring an internal IT department. Although, after looking closely at this expense you may find that this move could eventually become much more of a long-term cost than investing in an outsourced managed service provider. Paying multiple salaries could easily become much more of a problem for your budget than a simple monthly payment to a managed service provider. It’s a simple choice, but you need to consider your business’s unique needs before making it.
Some organizations believe that managed IT means giving up control over your IT infrastructure, but this is simply false. A good managed IT provider like Net It On will make every effort to create a transparent, trusting relationship with your organization. We believe that cooperation is the key to unlocking your business’s full potential, and a proper technology strategy is the best place to start. A proactive technology policy will be able to help you keep your operational infrastructure in proper working order.
As a managed service provider, Net It On offers the following services for your business:

  • Network security management
  • Email management
  • Hardware and software procurement
  • Remote maintenance and management
  • Backup and disaster recovery
  • Help desk support
  • And more!
Does your business want to leverage technology to the best of its ability? If so, reach out to us at (732) 360-2999.

Sadly, the WannaCry Ransomware Disaster Could Have Been Easily Prevented

On May 11, 2017, the WannaCry ransomware spread around the globe like wildfire and disabled computing infrastructures belonging to organizations of all shapes and sizes. As the world watched the news unfold, it seemed as if practically no business was immune to this ultra-powerful ransomware. Yet, many quick-thinking organizations were. All because they had the foresight to follow IT best practices.
What made the WannaCry ransomware particularly potent was the fact that its delivery method borrowed from recently stolen cyberspying tools developed by the NSA. Such a high-level attack caught many organizations off guard--except for the ones that applied a security patch issued by Microsoft in March, almost two months prior. These security patches were designed specifically to address the vulnerability exploited by the ransomware hackers. Basically, hackers were counting on organizations being slow to apply the security patches. Obviously, these hackers have enough knowledge about how businesses conduct their IT operations to know that such a gamble would pay off, handsomely.
The average PC user may not be aware of how a large business, especially one entrusted with sensitive data, could fail to apply important security patches in a timely manner. After all, many users simply have their PC set to automatically update. For these PC users, the patches from Microsoft are downloaded and applied quickly and painlessly. However, what the world needs to be aware of is something that hackers understand all too well is that many businesses and organizations do not immediately apply patches when they're published. Instead, organizations prefer to have their IT teams test the patches before applying them to the company network to ensure the patch does not impact operations.
For a business that relies on software to keep operations moving forward, making a change or even a slight adjustment to a system that’s working can be a big risk. What if upgrading to a new version of software means that new features aren’t compatible with established processes? What if a new security patch changes an OS in such a way as to disrupt day-to-day operations? This is why businesses make the choice to test all new software, upgrades, updates, and patches - even the major, security ones from Microsoft - before applying it to the network. The larger and more complex the company and its network, the more time and resources it will take to perform such a test. This is why the WannaCry ransomware was so much more effective against larger organizations than smaller businesses or PC users which had the ability to apply the patches in a more timely manner.
The companies that fell victim to the recent round of ransomware attacks aren’t completely off the hook. Between the time Microsoft issued its patches (March) to the time WannaCry hit (May), IT teams had ample time to test and apply the provided patches, which would have saved them a world of hurt. Therefore, for companies wanting to safeguard themselves from another worldwide ransomware attack (or even lesser attacks), it's vital to prioritize in following best practices like applying patches.
If you or your IT team has so much going on that it’s difficult to handle IT maintenance responsibilities like applying patches, then you can call on Net It On for assistance. Routine tasks like applying security patches can be outsourced to professionals, and for many IT tasks, they can be accomplished remotely. By outsourcing your IT to Net It On, you can rest assured that your systems are up-to-date and safeguarded from the latest threats, which means you won’t “wanna cry” should another round of ransomware ravish the world.