Smile Station Dental Managed IT Services

Client Story: What Managed IT Services Means to This St. Louis Dental Office

Nearly every small business can benefit from managed IT services, but for dental offices, IT support is particularly important. Dental practices, like all companies entrusted with private client information, are prime targets for cyber criminals, and no small business can afford a data breach. Discover how managed IT services helps this St. Louis dental office keep running smoothly and securely.

Jo Ann Emery, business manager at Smile Station Dental, a dental office in St. Louis, Missouri, understands that cyber crime is a real and growing threat for small businesses. “We know friends that have been victims of ransomware. They run small dental offices, too. Why would cyber criminals go after them and not us? It is because we are better protected,” she says.

Smile Station Dental’s peace of mind is thanks to a long-term partnership with Anderson Technologies, a managed IT services provider based in St. Louis. The Anderson Technologies team understands dental IT support and the unique needs of this space. Earlier this year, it even provided free cyber security training for dentists, in partnership with the Greater St. Louis Dental Society.

Emery is right to recognize the explosion of data breaches. Cyber criminals see the growing adoption of healthcare IT as an opportunity, particularly since healthcare organizations typically spend less of their IT budgets on cyber security than other high-risk industries, like finance and the federal government. In the fourth quarter of 2016, there were more than 700,000 hacking attempts per minute against healthcare organizations.

“A security breach has such financial repercussions. Dental firms aren’t just handling financial information—they have healthcare information, too, which means if we are hacked, we could also face HIPAA violations,” explains Emery.

Anderson Technologies makes sure the dental office takes all possible steps to protect itself from ransomware, cyber crime, and other forms of data loss. It also implemented a process for backing up business-critical data, providing the office with a quick and easy way to get up and running again should disaster strike.

Emery appreciates having a managed IT services partner for troubleshooting IT issues. She can call Anderson Technologies with questions or concerns anytime. The team is always responsive. “This is helpful because it means I don’t have to drop what I am doing to try to fix a problem—a problem I probably don’t even understand, because I am not a computer expert,” she says.

Managed IT Services When You Need Them

When Smile Station first became a managed IT services client of Anderson Technologies, it was having trouble with its network speed and internet connectivity. “We were being intermittently dropped by our ISP [Internet Service Provider]. The internet would come back on, but it was happening frequently and just enough to disrupt us,” recalls Emery.

She tried troubleshooting the issue, but the ISP, after conducting numerous line tests, claimed it could detect nothing wrong. “Mark [Anderson] and his team were able to monitor our network and note the exact dates, times, and durations of the outages. They then got on the phone on our behalf and solved the problem.”

“At first it was a round robin with no apparent solution,” explains Anderson. “Smile Station wasn’t getting reliable service, but the ISP couldn’t seem to see the problem. We collected data over a multi-month period and then, armed with that data, worked our way up the chain with the ISP until they finally acknowledged they had an issue and resolved it.”

If you are in the market for managed IT services, Emery suggests asking potential vendors about their approach to service: “Ask them, ‘If I call you with a problem, how long before that problem will be addressed?’” She adds that when it comes to IT issues, problems tend to be urgent and need attention immediately, not in a few days or whenever the managed IT firm can get around to it.

Case in point: On December 30, 2015, Smile Station faced a potential flood. In response, the Anderson Technologies team jumped into action, securing the office quickly and calmly. The office manager even called Anderson “a tech angel.”

From floods to cybercrime to everyday IT issues, the right IT partner can help your dental office handle it all. Anderson Technologies is a managed IT services firm in St. Louis that is committed to providing timely and attentive service to all its clients. For more information about our approach to service, or about dental IT support, email info@andersontech.com or call 314.394.3001 today.

KRACK wireless security

KRACKed: The Fissure in Wireless Security

Internet surfing on mobile devices has seemed relatively safe since the 2001 Wi-Fi security protocol update and the advent of wireless data encryption. The WPA2 encryption standard mostly shielded us from being hacked on our private networks. However, new research from Belgian cyber security expert Mathy Vanhoef exposes a threat that proves our false sense of security is coming to an end thanks to the Key Reinstallation Attack (KRACK) vulnerability.

What Is the KRACK WPA2 Hack and How Does It Work?

WPA2 (or Wi-Fi Protected Access 2) is one of the current wireless security standards. Unlike its predecessors, it securely encrypts web traffic by way of a “four-way handshake” process that randomly generates an encryption key every time a device with matching credentials accesses a wireless network. This handshake protects your private home and business networks different with four authentication exchanges, ensuring information you send back and forth over the network is safely encrypted.

The KRACK vulnerability interferes with the four-way handshake by way of the encryption key; KRACK records the key and reinstalls it to be used multiple times. This allows the attacker access to communications between your device and wireless access point, as well as any information that isn’t otherwise encrypted. Hackers could potentially view and steal your credit card information, passwords, shared files, and any other private information sent across the web.

One caveat of the KRACK vulnerability is that hackers need to be within the range of your Wi-Fi network. This means that your personal information is safe from hackers on the other side of the world, but anyone in close proximity could gain access to your network traffic if they have technical skills. And even though a hacker must be in range to exploit this vulnerability, it’s possible KRACK could be used for packet injection (explained here) or inserting malware or ransomware into websites.

How Can I Protect My Network Privacy?

 Though KRACK is disrupting our WPA2 sanctuary, there are many ways to ensure you’re safe—or as safe as you can be—until the WPA2 protocol is updated to prevent these attacks.

  1. Update Your Router

Most people don’t think about updating their router in the same way you update your phone or laptop software, but this is a vital step to protecting your wireless network from KRACK. You can find instructions to update some of the more common manufacturers’ router firmware here. If your router doesn’t belong to one of the companies that has released a firmware patch, you should contact your internet service provider.

  1. Update All Devices with Wi-Fi Connectivity

Thanks to Apple and Microsoft’s specific implementation of WPA2, they aren’t as vulnerable as other devices. However, that doesn’t mean your iPhone is safe. Mathy Vanhoef’s blog publicizing the vulnerability includes a demonstration of an attack on an Android device and links to examples of bypassing encryption in Apple operating systems, as well as other common encrypted applications. Any device with Wi-Fi capabilities needs to be updated as soon as patches are released. In the meantime, use Ethernet or cellular data on your mobile device if possible.

  1. Utilize Other Methods of Encryption

Even when this WPA2 vulnerability no longer exists, you should make sure you’re communicating with websites securely. Many websites use HTTPS, which you may have noticed during browsing sessions. Thankfully, most websites that handle sensitive personal information (banking and financial sites, etc.) already default to secure browsing, which encrypts private data. Browser extensions like HTTPS Everywhere will force sites to browse securely when the option is available. Communicating over a virtual private network (VPN) also encrypts all traffic, rendering it safe from KRACK. However, be aware that VPN providers may store your data in other ways, so make sure to research and select a trusted company.

  1. Take Stock of Your IoT Devices

The Internet of Things, while still new technology, is notorious for its inherent security weaknesses. Any IoT devices you have connected to your wireless network may need to be disconnected until patches are available. Information from most IoT devices is probably harmless even if hackers were able to gain access to it, but unless each device encrypts traffic, your privacy could still be compromised.

Thankfully, this vulnerability is getting much publicity. The US Computer Emergency Readiness Team continues to update its list of over 100 vendors and their software updates, and none of the indexed vulnerabilities are yet known to be used outside of research. It’s unlikely that an everyday WPA2 user has been affected by this breaking vulnerability, but it would be wise to exercise caution until more information and software updates are released. Be wary of any unfamiliar wireless networks, and keep an eye out for any notices from your hardware and internet service providers.

For more help keeping your network safe from KRACK and other threats, contact the experts at Anderson Technologies at 314.394.3001 or info@andersontech.com.

WebDesign-1

A Behind-the-Scenes Look at a St. Louis Web Design Process

Thinking about launching a website for your business? St. Louis web design services vary in scope and level of service. Here’s what you need to think about.   

These days almost every business can benefit from a website. Even if you have a brick-and-mortar store or a sales process built on referrals, customers and prospects expect you to have a digital presence.

St. Louis web design services vary from expensive custom web design companies to cheap, do-it-yourself options like SquareSpace or solutions offered by web hosting providers like Frontier.

Anderson Technologies, a St. Louis web design company, falls in the middle. It caters to small businesses that need professional websites but want to avoid the cost of complicated custom builds.  These companies want to focus on their clients and don’t have the desire, time, or expertise to tinker with do-it-yourself web design tools.

If you are building a website for the first time, or updating an existing one, it is important to realize that it is a process, whether you go it alone or with a partner.

The Importance of Discovery

A website is often a business’s first impression. At the very least, it is a digital representation of your brand. It’s important that it accurately represents your company and conveys the right message to your audience.

Farica Chang, director at Anderson Technologies, explains that she kicks off every web design project with a general discussion in which she asks important questions to understand the client’s general design aesthetic, likes and dislikes, main messaging, and goals for the site.

“Every client is different. We want to take the right direction from the beginning, rather than discovering a major issue in the middle of the development process,” she explains. The initial conversations make creating a digital presence easier for everyone and ensures clients end up with a site that serves their objective.

Kelley Vonarx, CEO, Operations & Marketing, of VonArx Engineering, a civil and structural engineering firm based in St. Louis, recently partnered with Anderson Technologies to build her company’s first website. “Most of our competitors and colleagues have a website, so we wanted to be right there with them,” she explains. “A lot of our work comes from referrals, but personally, even if I get a referral from someone, I still get on the internet to check out the company before I do business with them.”

When choosing a St. Louis web design services partner, Vonarx notes the importance of picking someone you have a good rapport with. “Working with Farica, the whole process was really easy. She made it that way!”

Vonarx says the discovery meeting was valuable, and that Chang’s questions helped her think about things she otherwise wouldn’t have. “Then we watched things come to fruition. We got to see a mockup of the homepage, which was really exciting. Throughout the whole process, we communicated with Farica. We would share information, and she would give suggestions and make sure we were on track,” she says.

The end result was even better than Vonarx expected: “We are a small company so doing something like this was big for us. Seeing it launch was really exciting and even better than we thought it would be.”

The Benefits of a Professional Web Design Partner

For many small businesses, especially those without tech experience, it makes sense to find a St. Louis web design service that is a “friendly medium between custom development and doing something by yourself,” says Chang.

She explains that although Anderson Technologies has resources with deep technical knowledge and custom web design, development, and hosting capabilities, it also leverages third-party platforms like WordPress, which make it easy to build sites without starting from the ground-up. This saves clients time and money.

Vonarx “highly recommends” partnering with a web design expert to save time and improve quality. She has strong tech skills, including experience with HTML, but when Vonarx experimented with a free do-it-yourself tool before reaching out to a vendor, she wasn’t happy with the results.

Another advantage to partnering with a web design expert is that it should ensure your site is optimized for performance so it loads quickly.  Your developer should keep search engine optimization (SEO) in mind, meaning the site content is Google-friendly so people can more easily find it. A professional St. Louis web design partner should also always make sure your website functions properly across all devices and screen sizes, from mobile phones and tablets to desktop computers.

Are you thinking about creating a website for your business? Anderson Technologies is a St. Louis web design company that specializes in providing friendly web design and development services that don’t break the bank. We work to make the process simple and even fun! For more information on our services, email info@andersontech.com or call 314.394.3001 today.

Inc-Magazine-Logo

Quotables: The Biggest Cyber security Threats for Small Businesses (Inc. Magazine)

We’re proud of Mark Anderson’s recent expert IT consulting advice for an Inc. Magazine article about cyber security threats for small businesses!

Read the full article on Inc.’s website:

https://www.inc.com/thehartford/the-greatest-cyber-security-threats.html

Are you in need of expert IT consulting?  Anderson Technologies is a St. Louis IT consulting firm that specializes in system administration for small businesses.  Let us help you today!  Give us a call at 314.394.3001 or email us at info@andersontech.com.

What are Quotables?  This is a category in our posts to highlight any professional publications that benefit from our expert IT consulting advice and quote us in articles for their readers.