St. Louis IT Company Data Security

Equifax Hack Updates: What You Can Do NOW to Keep Your Credit Safe

It has been over six months since the massive hack of credit monitoring company Equifax, and over three since the attack was disclosed. We now know that 145 million Americans (and 15.2 million Europeans) have been affected.

Due to the data stolen—names, social security numbers, addresses—the victims  of the Equifax hack must be wary of their credit for the rest of their lives. Attackers can use leaked data to create profiles for spear phishing attacks or round out existing profiles, making identity theft even easier to perpetrate.

We covered the data breach in a previous blog post, “Equifax Hack 101: What You Need to Know to Keep Your Credit Safe,” but the news hasn’t stopped rolling in. In this post we address new developments, and additional actions you, as an individual or as a small business owner, can take to mitigate the hack.

Protecting Your Personal Data

Our initial post details credit monitoring and credit freezes. Some agencies recently introduced a “credit lock,” which they claim is easier and less expensive for the user while also more effective. The difference between a lock and a freeze is that a freeze is state-monitored, and a lock is controlled by the company only. “I take strong exception to the credit bureaus’ increasing use of the term ‘credit lock’ to steer people away from securing a freeze on their file,” says Brian Krebs of Krebs On Security. Don’t be fooled by credit lock offers.

You can also talk to lenders (mortgages, banks, etc.) about what steps they are taking to prevent someone from misusing leaked information. Challenge these organizations to take additional steps like providing internal credit monitoring alerts to keep customers safe.

Tax return filing fraud is one thing that credit freezes or monitoring cannot protect. File as early as possible to prevent your refund from going to a scammer. This is not a new problem. The IRS recently issued reminders and new alerts regarding tax fraud.

While most of the information obtained from the Equifax hack was actually already in the hands of tax fraudsters, remain vigilant because criminals are continuing to adjust their tactics. The IRS even reports instances of fraud targeting hurricane victims and tax professionals in addition to the average citizen.

The Troubling Behavior within Equifax

The hack itself isn’t the only problem with Equifax.

After a data breach, many companies are able to save face by being upfront with customers, providing adequate solutions, and cracking down on security. Unfortunately, Equifax missed these cues.

Even after fixing the questionable language in the Terms of Use initially included, in their TrustedID program Equifax continues to come under fire. Initially, the PIN numbers granted to customers seeking a security freeze consisted of the date and time the freeze was granted. This has since been corrected, but what an oversight! Many users have also had difficulty contacting the company to change their PIN.

The site Equifax set up for customers to check if they were affected by the hack continues to cause problems. Because Equifax failed to secure similar domains it was susceptible to phishing scams. Thankfully, the third-party sites (one actually directed to by Equifax itself) were benevolent—pointing out how easily scammers could use a similar domain to obtain your information. Then, in early October, Equifax temporarily took down a page about the hack because it, too, had been hacked. Criminals injected malicious code to trick users into downloading adware from fraudulent links.

As of November 3rd, Equifax’s internal investigation into allegations of suspicious trades made by top Equifax executives concluded that none of their employees were guilty of insider trading. These allegations are still under investigation by the House Financial Services Committee.

Moreover, Equifax was allegedly warned about the vulnerabilities to its systems one year ago in December by a security researcher. “These allegations, if accurate, reinforce indications that Equifax—which has a significant business selling data protection tools—was shockingly negligent and incompetent when it came to security,” says Jeff John Roberts of Fortune Magazine.

These problems have been a cause of concern for many consumers, however it is important to note that Equifax is continuing to offer credit freeze at no charge through January 31, 2018, and, through TrustedID, offers free credit monitoring and up to $1 million in identity theft insurance.

Can We Expect Any Changes to the Industry?

Beyond being proactive with your personal protection, customers must look to Congress and other government agencies to implement changes. Speak to your representatives about your concerns for the future. Many are already investigating reasons why the Equifax hack was possible and ways to prevent hacks like it in the future.

Laws also need to change regarding reporting compliance. Lawmakers and industry leaders agree that consumers should have been alerted to the Equifax hack far earlier.

In our initial article, we noted that several class-action lawsuits were being filed against Equifax; however, after an October 24 vote by Congress to disallow class-action suits against banks and credit companies, the future of these cases is unclear.

After initially trusting Equifax with a “bridge” contract for work on the IRS’s Secure Access program, the Government Accountability Office rescinded the contract, at least temporarily. They may work with another credit monitoring agency on the project, but some members of Congress are questioning the rationale behind trusting any credit bureau with so much data.

It’s possible we may be looking at the end of the social security number—or at least moving away from the strict reliance we now place on SSNs for identity. The best identity theft protection may be to stop using easily hacked information.

Tips for Small Businesses

Small businesses should look at the response from Equifax and at the controversy surrounding it and wonder what they can do differently when dealing with private information.

The first step for small businesses should be a thought experiment. Think about potential risk as well as known and unknown vulnerabilities in your internal network. Do you trust your current cyber security company to protect your data from a data breach? What are the consequences of a data breach like the Equifax hack in your company? What would the cost to your company be?

For many small businesses, investing in stronger cyber security protection is a clear solution. Your IT department or an outside cyber security company can help analyze your systems. If personnel are constantly putting out fires, as seems to be the case with Equifax, they may not be able to keep everything else up to standard.

Invest in security that provides monitoring, analysis, and dedicated attention. At Anderson Technologies, a St. Louis IT company, we often start with a full network audit, helping clients identify areas of concern and providing the path to a more secure network.

Beyond your network, take time to train and retrain employees on the technology used and best practices for staying safe, both online and off. The best identity theft protection is education. Get a free eBook from Anderson Technologies to teach your employees the foundations of cyber security safety now!

Anderson Technologies is a St. Louis cyber security company that specializes in protecting client data. For more information on our services, email info@andersontech.com or call 314.394.3001 today.

Wired Wireless network managed services

Three Critical Reasons to Choose a Wired Network for Your Small Business

You may be sacrificing speed, security, and stability if you’re running solely on a wireless network. Traditional wired internet has many advantages for small businesses.  

When it comes to network security and speed, it’s important to start from the ground up. Is the network for your small business wired, wireless, or a combination of both? On what equipment does the network run? What’s the difference between wired and wireless networks? While wireless networks have advantages, Anderson Technologies recommends a wired connection whenever possible. Here’s why.

Speed

One of Anderson Technologies’ clients experienced dramatically slow speeds on its wireless network prior to signing up for managed IT services. While the business paid for a 300-megabit connection, its laptops only accessed 1 to 12-megabit speeds! Its internet service provider was more than happy to increase bandwidth on the wireless router, but this added expense didn’t improve the usability of the network.

The Anderson Technologies team analyzed the office’s wireless network and discovered it broadcasted on a frequency with considerable interference from competing devices in neighboring offices. They upgraded the router and firewall hardware, which enabled the network to broadcast on unused, clear bandwidth.  As a result, the client’s speed is now far closer to the 300-megabit connection it pays for.

Wireless networks are constantly competing against natural phenomena like lightning, other wireless networks in the area, and radio interference.  All of which affect speed and performance. One of the biggest disadvantages of wireless networks is that they lose speed when the number of competing devices increases.  With the expanding utilization of the Internet of Things, this problem will only continue to grow.

The Internet of Things (IoT) offers convenient features for security systems, lighting, and even appliances. However, these gadgets depend heavily on your wireless network. Have you ever noticed a loss in network speed around internet-connected devices? This is a common problem.  Small businesses are increasing their reliance on IoT for the accessibility they provide, but the investment may be hurting their wireless network speeds.

Ultimately, wired networks are significantly faster than wireless ones. While Anderson Technologies’ client was happy to approach the 300-megabit speed for its wireless network, hardline wires can run at gigabit speeds. No matter what the provider-rated speed of a wireless connection is, real-world speed is always slower due to overhead, competing devices, interference, and network traffic. The advantage of a wired network is that it guarantees a faster speed from the beginning, and unlike a wireless network, it won’t lose speed when exposed to interference.

Stability

Compared to a wireless connection, a wired line isn’t affected by nature, equipment, and competing devices. Once installed, a wired network rarely breaks. This stability is vital to small businesses.

Another Anderson Technologies client previously experienced poor performance on its wireless network. In the middle of important tasks, the network would drop and then slowly come back online, requiring multiple restarts a day—losing valuable time and energy.

When Anderson Technologies performed a preliminary audit of the environment, the team immediately discovered the problem: poor equipment. The client was running the entire network on barely home-grade wireless access points (WAPs). On top of that, the WAPs were not situated optimally to provide wireless for the entire office.

Enterprise-level equipment is important for every small business network but especially for wireless connections. This technology is already running at a disadvantage, and subpar hardware won’t provide the wireless network a business needs.

If your business runs mostly on portable systems like laptops and other mobile devices a capable wired network is still possible. Investing in a dock for laptops is a great solution. They aren’t costly, and when a laptop is docked, it can access the advantages of a wired network.

Security

Wired networks also outperform wireless when it comes to security.  As seen in the recent KRACK threat, wireless security isn’t as robust as we once believed. With a wireless connection, web traffic travels via radio waves, and even encrypted traffic can be captured with proximity and the right malicious tools. It is more difficult for a criminal to access a hard-wired network.

Out of 600 small and medium-sized businesses surveyed for the 2016 State of SMB Cybersecurity Report, half had been breached in the past 12 months. While bigger targets make the news, this trend means the chances of your network coming under fire are high. Small businesses dealing in confidential internal and client data can’t afford to be hacked.

With threats to small businesses on the rise, many still don’t consider themselves vulnerable. Half of the small businesses surveyed at a recent conference said their wireless networks were not partitioned from visitor access. That means clients waiting in the foyer—or cyber criminals—were accessing the same network that housed confidential client data. Data sent on public wireless networks is simply not as safe as when a wired network is used.

Optimize Your Wireless Internet

If you do choose to go with a wireless network, here are some tips for getting the most from your connection:

  • Identify busy wireless frequencies, and broadcast your network away from that traffic. This can help your network obtain the speed you pay for.
  • Keep public and private access to your network partitioned. Visitors and users off the street don’t need to access private data vital to your business. Partitioning your network provides the customer service of a wireless network while keeping your business safe.
  • Consider using a wired connection for stationary desktops and install docking stations for laptops. This allows fast, secure, and stable access to the wired network, while keeping a wireless connection available for mobile work.
  • Update network equipment regularly.
  • Use enterprise-level equipment.
  • Contact an IT provider for tips catered to your business’ specific needs and goals

Anderson Technologies is a St. Louis IT consulting firm. Let us help you weigh the options of wired vs wireless networks for your small business. To see if you qualify for a free network audit, email info@andersontech.com or call 314.394.3001 today.

SBM Best in Business 2017

Small Business Monthly Recognizes Anderson Technologies as One of the Best IT Firms in St. Louis

In November, Small Business Monthly awarded Anderson Technologies as one of St. Louis’s Best IT Firms. Small Business Monthly is a St. Louis magazine that highlights local small businesses. We are proud of the recognition in the Best IT Firms category, and we are grateful to serve you!

Our team strives to bring professionalism, honesty, and responsiveness to other small businesses with the goal of achieving safe, secure, and economical IT solutions. The experts at Anderson Technologies know what it takes to keep your business running smoothly.

Local small businesses have varied needs in the areas of managed IT services, hardware and software consulting, cyber security, and more. Our technology experts provide long-term solutions for your IT needs.   Your business is our business. We approach technology from a business owner’s standpoint to find the best results for you and your needs. Our team delivers long-term, enlightened IT solutions, now and in the future.

Being awarded as one of the best IT firms in St. Louis in 2017 is a great honor. We look forward to expanding our business and continuing to serve the St. Louis area. Thank you for your appreciation and support!

If you would like free IT consultation or if you are in need of a cyber security or data recovery audit, please call us at 314.394.3001 or email us at info@andersontech.com.

How to determine if you need a computer security audit

Quotables: How to Determine If You Need a Computer Security Audit (Lady Boss Blogger)

Check out Amy Anderson’s recent guest article on Lady Boss Blogger providing readers with advice on how to determine if they need computer security audits!

Read the full article on the Lady Boss Blogger website:

https://ladybossblogger.com/determine-need-computer-security-audit/

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. 

Save Money with Investment in IT Support Services for Small Business

The End of the Tax Year Is Here: Invest in Small Business IT Support Services and Infrastructure

Investing in small business IT support services and hardware is always a good idea, but it can be an especially smart tactic at the end of the year. Now is your last chance to increase expenditures and tax-deductible purchases before we close the books on 2017. Here are the most important IT fixed assets to consider. 

With the year drawing to a close, many small business owners are looking for ways to reduce their taxable income and increase deductions. Investing in small business IT support services and hardware are good ways to achieve your tax strategy while also keeping your company secure.

Evaluating the following three critical components is strongly recommended:

  1. Your Firewall

A firewall is a vital component of your network security infrastructure. It monitors all traffic that enters or leaves your network and is configured to block dangerous traffic.

Technology evolves quickly, and new and improved firewall models regularly hit the market, providing true business value. Cyber crime is on the rise in St. Louis and beyond. Digital fraudsters work tirelessly to launch new attacks and outsmart cyber protection tools. Keeping up-to-date with advancements in cyber security is a way of staying a step ahead of cyber criminals. Plan to replace your firewall every four to six years.

Higher-end firewalls have other benefits for St. Louis businesses, like centralized cloud-based management features, advanced security options, internet content filtering, and granular reporting capabilities. They allow small businesses to easily analyze their traffic and spot ways to improve network speed and reduce risks. For example, you’d be able to see if an employee spends too much time on YouTube watching videos that eat up bandwidth. You could also block sites with a few clicks.

Contrary to a common misconception, a firewall is not a “set it and forget it” piece of equipment. If you don’t have the time or knowledge in-house, your business needs a St. Louis IT services partner to help monitor your firewall. If you have a higher-end model, it will likely handle updates automatically, otherwise this must be done manually.

  1. Your Server

The term “server” refers to the software used for processing requests and delivering data across your network and the internet and to the physical device that runs the server software. A server should not be an old PC running in the corner of your office.

Servers are categorized by the type of service they provide. For example, web servers facilitate client computers’ web browsing and other web-based activity. A general-purpose server typically supports file serving, email, databases, and anything else your business needs to function properly. Large businesses utilize multiple servers, whereas many small businesses can get by with one. It all depends on the number of users, devices, volume of requests, and data you are processing.

Servers improve network performance and reliability, make it easier to share and store data, and increase network security. Servers can also be cloud-based. In this model, you don’t own the server or keep it on-site; instead, you access a remote instance that is owned and managed by a server company.

If your small business has ten computers or more, it may benefit from installing a server, but consider having an IT services provider perform a network security audit to evaluate your infrastructure first.

  1. Your Data Backup Solution

Data is a small word with big meaning. It encompasses everything from client contact information to credit card numbers to proprietary files. Your server helps team members share data among themselves more easily, but the role backups play in protecting that data—from cyber crime, human error, natural disaster, and plain bad luck—is just as important.

As the year draws to a close, take a moment to examine and test your approach to backing up and recovering data. Are you storing files onsite, in the cloud, or both? (We recommend both for maximum protection.) How often are you running the backups? How easy is it to retrieve your files? A managed IT services provider can help you run this assessment.

Investing in your network security is more than just a way to garner tax savings. Currently 58 percent of small businesses are not prepared for data loss, but that is changing fast. According to an infographic by Clutch, 78 percent of small businesses will be backing up their data in the cloud by 2020. Don’t be one of the 22 percent who wait three years to start protecting your business. Data backup and recovery is one of the most important small business IT support services you should employ.

Anderson Technologies is a St. Louis IT services provider with a track record of protecting small businesses like yours. We work with our managed IT services clients to help them design the most effective and secure IT infrastructure for their business. If you are ready to update your network, we can help with every step of the process, from analyzing your existing infrastructure to researching and purchasing the best equipment for your needs. For more information on our St. Louis IT services, email info@andersontech.com or call 314.394.3001 today.