Microsoft and Google are two of the most common technology foundations. Which one you choose can fundamentally change the way you and your employees operate. The decision is a big one and will impact your company for years to come.
Anderson Technologies reports on a wide variety of topics to help keep you and your business’s technology safe from harm. But sometimes preventing trouble isn’t about the hardware or software you deploy—it’s about the people you employ.
The year 2020 has been host to worldwide climate disasters, a global pandemic, and political and social upheaval. Bad actors take advantage of chaotic times and prey on those most vulnerable. Whether you consider yourself tech-savvy or not, it’s more important than ever to be vigilant about your digital communications.
We all know someone who has fallen victim to a phone or email scam. Some of us might have received a desperate call from a friend or family member trying to undo an unknowingly self-inflicted intrusion on their personal or financial information. Members of the Anderson Technologies team have received such calls, one of the more memorable being, “The Russians have hacked into our computer, and we’ve been on the phone for a half an hour or so with India. The guy’s helped me reestablish my password, but he thinks we should do some further work and maybe take the modem to the Apple store.”
This is so common that it’s become part of our cultural understanding, and it’s likely that you have even joked about “Nigerian princes” or romance scams that target people just looking to connect with others. Why would the Russian government want to hack your personal home computer? Why would a Nigerian prince choose you to receive their inheritance? Thankfully, in many cases, experts are involved before permanent damage is done.
What you might not know, however, is that even the corniest scam could have a network of planned, patient individuals behind it. Scammers target unsuspecting users and gather data publicly available on the web or sold in data breaches to build trust and elicit the missing pieces needed to access private account information. But how do these choreographed schemes apply to your business?
It’ll Never Happen to Me
Who do you picture when you hear the words “scam victim”? Several stereotypes may come to mind: blue collar workers, bored housewives, or older folks, to name a few. But if you don’t fall into those categories, it’s too soon to consider yourself safe! Thinking scammers won’t attack because you’re an improbable target leaves you exposed and off guard.
For this, we can blame optimism bias, which is the tendency for individuals to believe they are less likely than others to be vulnerable to negative events. Even when the Better Business Bureau (BBB) or the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) releases accounts and warnings about the thousands of scams reported each day, in-the-know readers might react by thinking these threats don’t apply to them. Aren’t you too smart to be fooled? What would you have that a hacker would want anyway?
Money and data are the driving forces behind nearly every cyber scam. Whether that scam affects an individual or an entire business, any instance of a bad actor getting past cyber security safeguards runs the risk of damaging your business. And when you consider the inaccurate stigmas surrounding scam victims that is pervasive in our culture, it’s even more difficult to stop the problem at its source.
“We often don’t want to acknowledge to ourselves that we’ve been conned. It’s crazy how often you have people who, even when you present them with evidence that they’ve been the victim of a scam, refuse to believe it. The other thing is even if we do realize we’ve been scammed, we often don’t want to let other people know, because we’re embarrassed.” – Maria Konnikova, author of The Confidence Game: Why We Fall for It … Every Time, in an interview with The Cut
But We Have a Firewall!
Personal consumer or romance scams may not seem like they’re much of a threat to your business. Like any physical crime, cyber criminals can’t gain access to your business unless there is a vulnerability or breach of some sort, such as when someone opens an email or answers the phone. Who your employees share information with on their own time may not seem to be your concern as a business owner, but good personal practice translates into a stronger, safer business.
Phishing and spear-phishing campaigns are some of the most commonly-encountered scams, and they’re now more dangerous than ever. Business email compromise (BEC) has consistently been one of the leading dangers to cyber security infrastructure in nearly every sector. No business, large or small, is safe.
Hacking into your business’s hardware systems or networks is only one way to gain unauthorized information. Dedicated spear-phishing tactics use data mined from public accounts and web activity to target specific departments or employees. The only thing that separates personal consumer scams from business scams are the lies the criminal uses to try to break down your barriers.
Scammers often take advantage of brand familiarity and emotional response. Unexpected messages from a random email address or blocked phone number are much easier to ignore than a seemingly safe communication from Microsoft or UPS.
One scam that aims directly at businesses is the “Directory Scam.” Employees receive a call from a well-known or non-existent agency requesting business information to update their directory. When your employee provides them with your business’s address and contact information, they send a fake invoice for the “service” and, if questioned, often fire back with edited audio from their previous call that “proves” your employee accepted the charges.
Another targeted hustle that’s gained steam over the last couple of years is known as the “Grandparent Scam.” In the linked case study, the victim receives a call from a scammer who claims to be his grandson needing bail money. This scam may seem ridiculous, but many have fallen victim to it because the caller knows the names of the grandparent and child as well as other personal information that would encourage one to believe they’re telling the truth. The scariest part about this scam is that the scammer called this victim at his place of work, further illustrating that public data on the web is available to anyone with the knowledge to find it.
The “Nigerian prince” scams that often get joked about really did happen in the 90s, but this grift now encompasses a more extensive network than traditional romance scams of the past. Previously, organized groups known as Yahoo Boys would target susceptible victims and forge an online “relationship” with an individual. The fraudsters, named after the popular search engine, spend weeks or months keeping these scams going, until the scammer creates a convincing story about needing money from their online partner.
Now, COVID-19 has blurred the line between BEC and individual-targeted scams like those from the Yahoo Boys. Many people currently feel lonely, isolated, and desperate to make connections during what may be one of the scariest and most stressful periods of their lives. Higher numbers than ever have transitioned to permanent or semi-permanent remote work situations. This means that your business networks are now at risk in new ways, such as if an employee accesses a business connection from their home office and uses it to check their personal email. A bad actor can potentially find a weakness in the remote work environment that leads them right into your business.
“People who are going through times of extreme life change, for instance, are very vulnerable to con artists because you lose your equilibrium.” – Maria Konnikova
Scammers who’ve spent time learning about their target may have information that allows them to guess passwords or use public data available to anyone with the knowledge to find it. A simple personal scam can become the first step in a BEC attack that affects your entire business.
What Steps Can I Take to Protect My Business?
Bolstering the human side of your cyber security strategy is your business’s best shot at breach prevention. BBB is one of many organizations to provide a checklist of ways to educate yourself against common scams. While most of the lists aren’t geared towards business owners, many of the habits suggested can perform double-duty in both your professional and personal life. Anderson Technologies has a few tips for applying that knowledge specifically to your business networks:
- Keep an open dialogue with your employees and vendors about cyber security practices. Educating employees protects their well-being as well as your business’s. Anderson Technologies has covered employee cyber security education in the past and takes it very seriously.
- Educate yourself about what kinds of scams you or your business might encounter. The BBB has compiled a thorough list here.
- Be wary of email attachments. If you didn’t request it, you probably shouldn’t open it.
- Use technology to your best advantage. Know how firewalls, anti-malware software, secure browsing, and network safety can benefit your business.
- Secure your remote connections. Make sure all employees understand and follow best practice guidelines while working from home. Provide company-owned and -protected devices for remote work.
- Ask your IT provider about resources that can keep you safe. There are many programs that do some of the background work for you: NoMoRobo, LastPass, HTTPS Everywhere, Proofpoint, and so many more! Some of them are even free. Talk to a professional to determine the best investment for your business.
- Question everything. Zero-trust practices can be employed over time, making universal authentication easier for everyone involved.
- Any accounts with access to sensitive data need to be protected with MFA. Multi-factor authentication is a key method for stopping criminals in their tracks.
- Never grant users administrative access. Only qualified IT professionals should have administrative powers and these should be used only when required.
The Yahoo Boys example mentioned earlier in this article is only one of hundreds of scams permeating every demographic, consumers and businesses alike. This is only one part of a concerning trend in 2020, in which cyber criminals and organized groups are taking advantage of global turmoil to target new vulnerabilities. Countless COVID-19 scams continue to emerge and threaten businesses, so it’s more important than ever to stay on top of every potential vulnerability, including employees you may not see every day.
Email is fast-paced and an essential part of work communication. It is also one of the biggest vectors for cyber threats. How can you sort the scams from legitimate emails?
With the coronavirus in the news, more businesses than ever are considering whether telework is a viable option for their company and employees. But with new cyber threats and data breaches constantly reported, business owners have to ask themselves,
How do I maintain my cyber security when my employees work remotely?
Whether you have one employee working on a mobile device while on a business trip or your entire staff telecommuting from home, your cyber security shouldn’t be sacrificed for convenience. By understanding your options and working with a quality IT services provider, you can safely navigate the cyber world and keep your business protected.
Cyber Security and Telework
Maintaining your cyber security while allowing your employees to work remotely can be a challenge, but it can be accomplished with minimal risk if you plan ahead and choose the right options for your business. If you don’t expect someone to infiltrate your network, you won’t be protected when someone tries. Always prepare for the worst-case scenario.
Assume that communications on external networks, which are outside the organization’s control, are susceptible to eavesdropping, interception, and modification.”—Guide to Enterprise Telework, Remote Access, and Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) Security (NIST 800-46r2)
How Do You Prepare for Telework?
Start by choosing the best telework option for your business’s needs and budget. There are four basic ways to secure your network while allowing remote access to employees.
- VPN Gateway: Virtual Private Network (VPN) gateways create secure access from the employee device to the VPN gateway and onward to your internal network. In this way, your enterprise-level cyber security measures are extended to the VPN, which acts as a secure tunnel for employees to work through. Some VPN gateways can even extend your business’s firewall rules to the employee computer no matter where they are working through the use of a portable device—a great advantage when travelling on business.VPN gateways offer several great telework features, but while communication is protected through a VPN gateway, the employee’s computer could still be at risk of transmitting infected data if the computer itself is compromised. VPN gateways should only be used in conjunction with properly configured, company-owned hardware to maintain high security standards and minimize the risk to the internal network.
- Portals: In this method, telework employees access company data and applications through a browser-based webpage or virtual desktop. All applications and data are stored on the portal’s server and cannot be downloaded or saved on an employee’s device without permission. This is a good way to keep control over who is accessing your data and how it is used.The danger with portals depends on what permissions the employee has while accessing the portal. If the portal allows an employee to access other areas of the internet while connected, it could provide an unintended avenue for criminals to access your network. It’s safer to restrict employees’ access to other programs while the portal is in use. The more access an employee has, the less secure the connection becomes.
- Remote Computer Access Service: Remote computer access services allow an employee to remotely control a computer physically located at your business via an intermediate server or third-party software. When the two computers are connected, applications and data remain on your office computer, and your network’s cyber security measures are enforced. Your remote device acts as a display for the work performed on your office machine.Due to the direct access, remote desktop connection is considered high risk in cyber security terms. Proper configuration is critical. When set up correctly, communication between the two computers is encrypted for the data’s protection, but it is also encrypted from the organization’s firewalls and threat detection. No matter how good your cyber security measures are, if the employee’s home computer doesn’t have the same protections as the office workstations, malicious data can slip into your network unnoticed during a remote desktop connection.
- Direct Application Access: Direct application access is probably the lowest risk to your cyber security measures out of all the remote access methods because it is best used only with low-risk applications. In this method, employees can remote into a single application, usually located on the perimeter of your network, such as webmail. The employee doesn’t have access to the entire network, allowing them to work on select applications without exposing your internal network to danger.Though there is much less danger posed by direct application access, it generally doesn’t allow for extensive work to be done. There is very little connection to data on your network, and little ability to take data to another application if needed. It is best used when traveling or on a mobile device where complete access to the network is not necessary.
The type of telework you offer may also depend on governmental regulations requiring a certain level of security. Those working in the healthcare sector should consult with their HIPAA Security Officer to make sure any telework is performed according to HIPAA guidelines.
Using company-owned and maintained hardware is the best option when working from home or on the go. Properly-maintained company laptops reduce the risk of unpatched or out-of-date software connecting to your network and often have more robust anti-virus/anti-malware protections than personal computers.
For many small and medium businesses (SMB) though, providing all employees company devices is not financially feasible or practical, especially if the need for remote work is temporary. The best choice for SMBs is either establishing a site-to-site VPN connection or using a secure remote desktop service to connect to their office computer. SMB should be aware of and willing to accept the added cyber security risks of using personal devices before implementing this type of work-from-home policy.
Are you looking for a partner in implementing work from home for your small business or organization? Contact Anderson Technologies today for a free cyber security audit or to start the consultation process!
Telework isn’t the only way employees access your network. Mobile devices have become ubiquitous for work on-the-go, but if you fail to protect these devices, your business and clients may suffer. There are basic security recommendations for securing any mobile device, including thorough employee training in cyber security, strong encryption, keeping software up-to-date, and supplementing your security with third-party anti-malware/anti-virus software. While these fundamental methods keep the average device secure, if you’re dealing with sensitive or confidential data on your network you may need additional safeguards.
Given the similarity between the functions of mobile devices, particularly as they become more advanced, and PCs, organizations should strongly consider treating them similar to, or the same as, PCs.”—Guide to Enterprise Telework, Remote Access, and Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) Security (NIST 800-46r2)
NIST’s Guide to Enterprise Telework offers detailed suggestions for protecting any business when it comes to mobile and telework access, including:
- Turning off networking capabilities (such as Bluetooth) when not necessary for work.
- Turning on personal firewalls, if available.
- Requiring multi-factor authorization before accessing your business’s network.
- Restricting other applications allowed on the device.
Since loss or theft of hardware is far more likely with mobile devices, it is beneficial to use a mobile device management (MDM) solution to maintain control of a mobile device in case of theft or accidental loss. With an MDM, you can locate, lock, or remotely destroy any data on the mobile device. This way your sensitive information won’t fall into the wrong hands, even if the device itself can’t be recovered.
Best Practices for Maintaining Cyber Security
Regardless of the type of remote access you decide on, there are a number of opportunities to shore up your cyber security defenses:
- Establish a separate, external network dedicated solely to remote access. If something does infect the server, it won’t spread to other parts of your network.
- Establish a site-to-site VPN connection or use a secure remote service.
- Use encryption, multi-factor authentication, and session locking to protect your data.
- Keep your hardware and software patched and updated, including your employees’ remote computers.
- Enforce strong password policies and have employees use a password manager.
- Set up session time out on all teleworking connections and automatic screen locks on all computers.
- Manually configure employee computer firewalls and anti-malware/anti-virus software.
- Add additional security authentication layers to company data on mobile devices.
- Set up restrictions to keep unknown or unnecessary browser extensions from being installed. Many have tracking codes the user doesn’t know about, while others are used to spread malware. Stick with trusted and needed browser extensions only.
- If possible, physically secure computers with locking cables in any untrustworthy place, such as hotels or conference areas.
- Consider providing company-owned devices for employees to use that can be maintained and secured by in-house IT-staff or your MSP.
- Consider end-point detection and response or remote access logging to monitor what is happening on your IT systems.
Regardless of how many security protections are used, it is simply impossible to provide 100 percent protection against attacks because of the complexity of computing. A more realistic goal is to use security protections to give attackers as few opportunities as feasible to gain access to a device or to damage the device’s software or information.”—User’s Guide to Telework and Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) Security (NIST 800-114r1)
Privileges, Privileges, Privileges!
No telework operation should ignore the danger of not setting the correct privileges on employees working from home. This step is essential to maintaining a secure, partitioned IT environment.
Implementing accurate and reasonable privileges provides two major benefits to your company.
- It keeps employees from accessing data or programs that they shouldn’t have access to.
- It keeps cyber criminals from infiltrating your entire network through a single compromised machine or account.
There is no reason a sales rep needs the same access to your company data as the CEO, so why would you give them unrestricted access? Job-specific privileges keep company data safe from insider infiltration while providing each employee with the tools and data necessary to complete their work. The Zero Trust IT model utilizes segmented permissions as the core tenet of its security architecture.
When creating user privileges, keep in mind:
- Never allow users admin access. The only people who should have admin access to your systems are the IT personnel who maintain them, and even then, they should use an admin account only when performing work requiring it. All users should have a standard, limited user account that cannot alter system settings or privileges.This is especially important when employees work from home on their personal computers. Without the security of an enterprise hardware firewall and business-grade cyber security protections, employees’ personal computers are at a higher risk of being compromised. If their computer is infected and they have admin level access, cyber criminals can use that unrestricted access to infiltrate your entire system, change permissions, and steal or encrypt data for ransom.
- Need-to-know access only. It takes a bit of technical know-how to set up appropriate user access privileges, but it’s worth the effort. Besides keeping data secure within the company, segmentation of privileges also means that if a computer is infected with malware or an employee account is compromised, the access cyber criminals have to your company and its data remains limited.
- Use multi-factor authentication. It’s not enough to limit permissions, you need to verify the person signing in is who they say they are. A quick visit to Have I Been Pwned will show how many accounts are already compromised. Multi-factor authentication prevents a compromised account from being used by cyber criminals to access your systems. While security tokens and third-party authenticator apps like Yubikey or Google Authenticate are preferred, any type of multi-factor authentication (email, SMS) is better than no authentication.
Employees need to know more than just how to use the telework programs. Train your employees on cyber security before they go home to work. This is especially crucial if they use their personal computers to telecommute.
Employees should know how to spot and respond to unusual computer activity, which can be an indicator that malware is present. They should also be prepared for phishing and social engineering attempts to gain user account access. Train them on who to contact for IT support and how to verify the person asking for access to their computer is the correct person.
Your employees’ home computers will be the weakest link in your cyber security, so verify they know how to keep their computer safe and how to securely access your systems. Doing so protects them and your business from malicious actors.
Telework comes with risks, but with strong security policies and the right cyber security in place, it is worth the investment. A good managed IT services partner can walk you through the process and make sure your business is safe and productive anywhere. For help setting up a telework network, contact the experts at Anderson Technologies by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 314.394.3001.
Looking for more guidance on how to keep your work from home systems secure? We’ve got some essential tips on a new blog post, “Working from Home Due to COVID-19: Keep Your Company Data Protected.”
Even managed service providers receive scam emails and phone calls.
These serve as a reminder that education on phishing, scareware, and ransomware is an ongoing process, one that even IT experts need to stay sharp on.
But let’s assume you aren’t an IT expert. How can you best determine the validity of these messages and if they have malicious intent?
As with any learning process, practice is important. You may want to start with our phishing quiz. Know where you stand with gut instinct and some important clues.
Whether the attempt is made by email or phone, there is always something just a bit off about a phishing attempt. The phisher may have some accurate personal information—like your name, or the fact that you have Yahoo! email or an AT&T phone account—and see if you’ll take the bait.
It is easy to panic at the threat of suspension or an overdue bill and put aside any unease because of the urgent matter apparently at hand. This is exactly what phishers and scammers hope will happen.
The goal of these calls or emails is to collect even more information about you, fleshing out a profile for future scams, which the phisher can sell to other scammers, or—the jackpot—to collect banking or credit card information and cash in.
Because these phishes do have some truth mixed in, many do fall victim.
It might sound like an episode of Black Mirror—in fact, the tactics used in this blackmail email are eerily similar to those dramatized in a recent episode of the Netflix series depicting fictional futures—but scammers are now using direct emails as a method to extort information or Bitcoin from unsuspecting users.
About a month ago, Mark Anderson, Principal of Anderson Technologies, received a blackmail email scam. “As you could probably have guessed, your account was hacked, because I sent message you from it,” the scammer began in broken English. They first boasted by showing an unencrypted old password—probably acquired from Yahoo’s 2013 data breach.
The email continued to outline the threat. “Within a period from July 7, 2018 to September 23, 2018, you were infected by the virus we’ve created.” This virus, they suggested, gave them access to “messages, social media accounts, and messengers.” This apparently wasn’t enough intimidation for most scam victims, because the email then amped up the threat.
Users all over the internet report similar threats; the scammer creates a scenario that, if true, would serve as ample motivation to give in to their demands. The scammer says that video of the user was recorded while visiting “adult websites,” and that, unless 700 dollars is transferred to the scammer’s Bitcoin wallet within 48 hours, this footage would be released and they would “show this video to your friends, relatives, and your intimate one…”
So, with a relatively low payout amount, and a previously accurate (but very old) password, how did Anderson know this threat was a scam? He knew what they’d accused him of was false, not to mention he didn’t have a webcam as they’d suggested. But other clues included:
- While the email appeared to be sent from Anderson’s old account, this can be accomplished through spoofing.
- The password they listed was not the current (or even recent) password for that account.
- Broken English isn’t always a giveaway but combined with the generic threat, it seemed like a form letter.
- Googling some of the email text brings up threads of other users exposing the scam. We’ve censored some of the less savory aspects of the original email, but the full text and break down can be read online.
If you receive this email or a similar threat, your first step should be to research the threat online or reach out to an IT expert. Never pay a blackmail, ransom, or other request for money. Instead, update your passwords, run anti-virus and anti-malware scans on affected devices, and consider implementing multi-factor authentication on your accounts in order to bolster your security profile.
Phishing and spear-phishing emails are an ever-present problem to businesses, and the criminals are only getting better at fooling people. Understanding and being able to spot phishing and spear-phishing emails is a vital part of employee training at Anderson Technologies. But reading about how to spot them and actually spotting emails are different things.
Worse yet, the phishing websites those email links go to often appear legitimate, right down to having the secure lock icon in the browser. In their 2018 1st Quarter Report, the Anti-Phishing Working Group notes that “more than a third of phishing attacks [reported to them] were hosted on web sites that had HTTPS and SSL certificates.” They attribute this in part to the fact that consumers believe they can trust all HTTPS sites, or they at least recognize a site without encryption asking for personal or financial information is not secure.
It’s vital to know whether your email is a legitimate business interest or a scam hoping to trap you, but how confident are you to do so? Take our quiz to see if you can tell the difference between a legitimate email and a fake one.
Hopefully you were an expert phisherman, but if not, it’s not too late to brush up on some basics.
- Know what you’ve ordered and who your vendors are. If you didn’t order anything from the person, don’t trust their emails.
- Always check the sender’s address before clicking on links or attachments, even if it looks like a company you trust.
- Read the email completely before clicking links. Poor grammar or obvious spelling/branding mistakes are key signs of phishing emails.
- If you’re unsure if an email is really from a company you trust, go to their website manually, not through a link provided in the email. If it’s real, you can look up the information through your account, and if not, you’ve just protected yourself.
- Don’t panic! Urgent calls for action to avoid loss of service or legal action are meant to upset you. Don’t let them. Read everything carefully and verify there’s a problem by using the service mentioned or calling the company using the number on their website, not in the email.
- If all else fails, Google it. These emails are widespread and a quick Google search will most likely bring up a hundred different people receiving the same fraudulent email.
If you’d like a refresher course on e-mail safety, contact Anderson Technologies to schedule an employee cyber security training seminar. Reach us by email at email@example.com or by phone at 314.394.3001.
Email-delivered threats have increased drastically over the last few years. Even businesses with enterprise-level email services and employee training can fall victim to creative manipulation. To battle this, Anderson Technologies offers a solution that protects email when other systems fall short.
Imagine turning on your work email to find a message from your biggest client. “If we get one more spam email from your accounts, we will stop doing business with you.”
How can this be? You pay for managed services, educate your employees on email security, and even recently upgraded your email services. How could something like this happen? Sure, your employees have received some suspicious-looking emails in the past, but there’s no way that could seep into your client interactions.
Except that’s exactly what happened to Intrante.*
According to Farica Chang, director at Anderson Technologies, the system administration team was able to trace the outgoing spam to a single “malicious phishing email that successfully executed code inside two employee Outlook applications.” The malware set up email rules that “hid its behavior from the users and began spamming everyone in their address books with email sent through their accounts.” Those emails not only went out to every internal company inbox but also to many clients and vendors.
Intrante couldn’t afford for this to happen again. Imagine this happened to you. What would you do?
Upon learning of the spam coming from Intrante’s accounts, senior systems administrator at Anderson Technologies, Luke Bragg, immediately took action. “The first thing we did was reset the passwords for the suspected accounts that were compromised,” he said, thus cutting off further access from cyber criminals. “From there we started digging into the accounts to see what other data or settings had been maliciously modified.”
Once the scope of the incident had been uncovered and repaired, Bragg and his team needed a stronger email spam filtering solution to implement to prevent a similar incident from occurring in the future.
He looked to the August 2017 study from SE Labs, which analyzed email threat protection services. This data made it clear—while many popular email services catch spam and phishing attempts, messages still slip through the cracks. Three email filtering services analyzed by SE Labs received their “AAA” rating: Mimecast, Forcepoint, and Proofpoint Essentials. While all three provided excellent coverage, only the last service achieved a 100% accuracy rating.
Proofpoint inspects both inbound and outbound emails. According to the SE Labs study, not only does Proofpoint quarantine or send threats to junk mail, it stops or rejects threats before they reach the user. If URLs are present in an email, Proofpoint’s system opens every link inside a controlled sandbox environment. “This action and analysis allows it to determine if the link is legitimate and safe before it releases the email to the recipient,” said Chang.
In addition to its stellar record, Proofpoint’s four subscription tiers also offer features that many clients of Anderson Technologies request. An Essentials Business account gives access to most of Proofpoint’s features, but the Advanced and Pro levels include email encryption (and along with that, HIPAA and PCI compliance) and social media account protection. Pro also offers a tamper-proof, off-site, unlimited (10 year) email archive.
With this distinctive solution, Anderson Technologies’ managed services team brought their answer back to Intrante.
According to Bragg, “email threats are extremely common, and probably one of the most targeted systems.” Email is the perfect delivery system for malware, spam, and phishing campaigns, all of which saw an increase in 2017, according to Symantec’s Email Threat Report. Email can be utilized by bots, entities with malicious intent, and acts (unintentional or intentional) by authorized users to spread these threats.
Even educated employees can miss the subtle tricks of an effective spammer.
Phishing emails may look and feel like they come from a well-known company, like Amazon, Apple, PayPal, or UPS. Frequently, these attacks ask the reader to “click here to log in to your account,” providing login information to a wolf in sheep’s clothing. These attacks are easy to mass generate and make money for the perpetrators even if only 1 in 100 falls for the trap.
According to Symantec’s Email Threat Report, “one out of every nine email users encountered email malware in the first half of 2017!” These emails typically offer an attachment disguised as an invoice or other important document. These may appear to be sent from other employees and may even be routed through their real email addresses.
Malware-spreading emails typically urge the reader to act NOW, inhibiting the thought process through urgency.
Another vulnerability tied to email is information hacking.
Even comparably low-value targets can provide lucrative information to hackers—information like other user names, passwords, client information, industry secrets, or proprietary data. Email is as insecure as a postcard. As long as it is only read by the intended recipient, your message is moderately safe. Even so, never send passwords, financial credentials, Social Security numbers, etc., in a plain-text email. Once in the wrong hands, unencrypted email is easy to read.
Don’t be fooled. “Even with additional layers of filtering and security,” says Chang, “there will always be malicious emails that get through. Teaching employees to be wary and practice caution is the best defense.” Take advantage of education services like free seminars, or Anderson Technologies’ free ebook on cyber security.
Email may be the perfect vehicle for bad actors to find their way into your network, but you and your business don’t have to be a victim. With spam monitoring and encryption services like those offered by Proofpoint, a mistake or foolhardy action doesn’t have to mean the destruction of your business.
Anderson Technologies strives to ensure the IT products and tools it recommends are fully vetted and employed internally first. Principal Mark Anderson reports that after implementing Proofpoint Essentials, his junk email count has dropped by over 90%! According to Symantec’s Email Threat Report, an estimated $1,177.42 annual cost for the time one employee spends managing spam.
Bragg recommends a layered approach to email security. The first layer being perimeter protection with a good hardware firewall that has additional malware and intrusion defense capabilities. From there, Bragg notes the importance of enterprise-grade anti-virus software on all workstations and servers. It is important that this software be closely monitored and updated to truly be effective. The final layer is spam filtering, and for that, Anderson Technologies recommends Proofpoint.
Of course, there is also user training, which is “challenging,” according to Bragg, “but necessary.” Even for businesses that are confident in their employees’ cyber security training regarding email, Proofpoint brings operations closer to a Zero Trust mindset, truly making your operations secure.
*Names have been changed to protect the identity of the business and its executives.
How often have you struggled to keep up with software vital to your day-to-day business dealings and wished there was an easier, and cheaper, way to upgrade? The Microsoft Office applications we know are now cloud-synced and accessible from any device, so you’ll never be without them again.
Not all office resources give your business the same functionality. Using outdated software can slow your employees, cause confusion, and impact your productivity, ultimately affecting your bottom line.
Anderson Technologies hears many first-hand accounts of clients struggling to cope with sub-par yet well-known applications. If you’re fighting poor cloud services and incompatible programs, consider Microsoft Office 365 Business to make your company’s operations cohesive and your applications more integrated.
What Does Office 365 Offer?
Depending on your business software needs, Microsoft offers several license plans to fit your budget.
Here are three popular choices for small businesses:
- Business Essentials provides users with business email and other collaborative services such as Skype for Business, Microsoft Teams, SharePoint intranet, and OneDrive cloud storage and sharing. It is meant to help your team members work together effectively from many different locations at a reasonable price point but does not include ongoing licensing for standard Office products like Word, Excel, etc.
- Business is for those who want cloud licensing for applications such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook, but not business email or many of the collaborative options. It also offers OneDrive cloud storage and sharing services. With this option, you receive both installed and web-accessible versions of the Office product family.
- Business Premium includes everything in Business Essentials and Office 365 Business, as well as extras such as Microsoft StaffHub and Business Center.
Office 365 works well for a business that needs a variety of applications and team tools or one that merely wants reliable email and cloud storage. For a reasonable monthly cost, users receive access to a suite of applications and tools, making it easy for your business to begin collaborating with ease no matter where you work.
Why Should You Consider Office 365?
Office 365 provides:
- Full productivity, email, and applications in one integrated account
- Streamlined mobile access from anywhere on any device
- Continually updated software
- Functionality with minimal glitches or lag
Anderson Technologies works with Box as well as other providers and believes Office 365’s OneDrive/SharePoint offering provides an integrated solution for cloud services and document sharing. Some cloud services suffer from routine glitches in file sharing and lags in uploads, downloads, or collaborative real-time work. Clients who switch to Office 365 report a more satisfying and efficient user experience.
Like Google Docs, Office 365 keeps the most recent version of your document up to date and marks the location of each active user in a file so you can work together collaboratively at the same time without worrying about overriding data.
All the applications in Office 365 are designed to be used together, which saves time otherwise spent ensuring various software functions effectively together. Since Office 365 provides you with the most up-to-date version of applications, you can ensure all members of your team are saving to the same compatible file formats.
In addition to these tools, it’s wise to have an IT professional assist with the transition. A managed services provider like Anderson Technologies can make this transition as seamless as possible.
The Hidden Gems of Office 356
While the features listed above make up the bulk of Office 365’s usefulness, there are a few aspects you may not be aware of that can save your business money and hassle.
- Nonprofits: If you’re a nonprofit organization, Office 365 should be on your radar. Microsoft offers 510(c)(3) non-profits free email services and a considerable discount on all other business-related products. These are the same enterprise-grade applications and services for a fraction of the cost.
- Compliance: Ensuring private data meets federal privacy standards can be a daunting task, especially when you want to move your information to the cloud. Microsoft works to make its offerings complaint for a variety of regulations, including FISMA, HIPAA, and HITRUST.
- Privacy: Microsoft explicitly states that they are “the custodian or processor of your data.” This means that you are the sole owner of your data and Microsoft will use it only “for purposes consistent with providing you services you pay [them] for.” There is no worry that Microsoft will access your data, use it for marketing information, or hold it hostage should you chose to leave. They also offer complete control to determine who in your organization is allowed access to the data you store.
Figuring out what products work best for your business is a decision you shouldn’t take lightly. Software and cloud storage solutions are an investment, and you should consult your IT department or managed services provider before moving forward with any major purchase. Office 365 works well with other vendors, and we recommend switching if you’re not happy with your current services.
This St. Louis business enlisted Anderson Technologies to migrate its email hosting to the cloud and to provide ongoing managed IT services so it could have more peace of mind.
D. R., director of operations at a leading distributor of raw plastic materials and biopolymers based in the St. Louis area with a distribution center in Mt. Vernon, Indiana, first learned of Anderson Technologies when she received an invite to one of its free cyber security trainings, which it hosts for local businesses and community members.
Last spring, D. R. began meeting with companies so she could choose a partner to help with an Office 365 email migration and to provide managed IT support. She invited Anderson Technologies to submit a proposal.
In the end, D. R. chose Anderson Technologies because she was impressed by its people and setup, and she appreciated that it was a family-owned, local St. Louis business. “We were looking for a partner that would be proactive and make suggestions and recommendations before problems arise. Anderson Technologies seemed like a good fit,” she says.
Anderson Technologies kicked off the partnership by conducting a network audit, in which it examined the distributor’s IT infrastructure and made recommendations for improving security and performance. The office had been having trouble with its email reliability and connectivity, and its team was interested in moving to a cloud-based solution.
“Our email system went down every time we lost power,” explains D. R. “This was detrimental to our sales team. It was hard for them to perform their job when they couldn’t send or receive email.”
After assessing their architecture and needs, Mark Anderson, principal of Anderson Technologies, suggested migrating to a Microsoft Exchange Online Plan, which is part of the Office 365 product suite. With Office 365 services, email is hosted in the cloud, rather than on a physical server onsite. This means email services aren’t disrupted if the building loses power or its connection to the internet. It also adds a level of security since emails are backed up in the cloud and makes it easier to access email remotely.
A Fast and Secure Approach to Better Email
Before Anderson Technologies began the Office 365 email migration, it suggested improving backup processes. “They found the fastest and best option and ensured no data would be lost during the migration,” says D. R.
Anderson Technologies had to make sure all users had updated versions of Microsoft Office prior to the Office 365 email migration since some versions are not compatible with Office 365.
Securely migrating all email, contacts, and miscellaneous data was a massive undertaking. The Anderson Technologies team worked “extremely hard to minimize downtime during the transition,” says D. R. “Luke Bragg [senior systems administrator] did a great job of explaining technical issues in a way that made sense to non-technical people.”
Today, the business’s team has peace of mind knowing its email is set up, and backed up, properly. D. R. appreciates the security of having a dependable managed IT services partner, especially since ransomware and other cyber threats are on the rise in St. Louis and beyond. She notes that from time to time, employees receive phishing emails, in which cyber criminals try to trick recipients into clicking nefarious links that would infect their computers with viruses.
“It is nice knowing you have an IT partner that has your back, and that if something did happen, they would be able to get you back up and running quickly,” she says. “I can’t imagine life without that or without Anderson Technologies.”
D. R. adds that she values the level of customer care she receives. “After the Office 365 email migration, Mark Anderson called to get my thoughts and to make sure we were taken care. I don’t think you would get that type of service from a larger company.”
Are you considering an Office 365 email migration? Anderson Technologies is a family-owned managed IT services company in St. Louis dedicated to providing quality service and exceptional care. Contact us today by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 314.394.3001.
When it comes to business technology needs, what is more critical than email? This regional dental association was having email trouble its IT vendor couldn’t solve, so it turned to Anderson Technologies, a managed IT company with a track record of helping St. Louis small businesses with their technology challenges.
For a St. Louis-area nonprofit professional dental trade association that provides networking opportunities and professional development to its members, a group of nearly 1,000 dentists—and for many small businesses and nonprofits—budgetary restraints make taking an ongoing, proactive approach to IT challenging. Recently, the association realized the benefits of doing so firsthand and discovered the risks associated with not prioritizing technology needs.
M. S., executive director of the association, was introduced to Anderson Technologies by an active member of the association that is also a managed IT services client. This member arranged a free Onsite Cyber Security Training for new dentists, an educational workshop hosted by Mark Anderson, principal of Anderson Technologies. “She raved about the level and quality of service she had received, and since we had been having technology challenges, I decided to reach out,” explains M. S.
These technology challenges included a finicky, frustrating email system in which emails mysteriously failed to send and/or be received. M. S. was working with another IT provider at the time, and although it never called itself a managed IT company, it charged a monthly fee in exchange for ongoing support. The company attempted to troubleshoot the issue multiple times but couldn’t solve the problem.
In general, M. S. and the team felt they weren’t getting the time and attention they needed. “We are small, and we have a small budget, but we still need quality customer service and support from our IT vendor. We weren’t getting that, but that has completely changed since we have started working with Anderson Technologies,” she says.
Mark Anderson and his team performed an onsite infrastructure audit to identify areas that needed improvement. He then worked with the association to prioritize issues. M. S. notes that “within half a day of working with us, Luke [Luke Bragg, senior system administrator at Anderson Technologies] was able to figure out the email issue” that had stumped her previous vendor.
Anderson Technologies migrated data from the previous email service provider to Microsoft Office 365, a cloud-based provider, and put an end to the email headaches. This required updating the association’s locally-installed Microsoft software to a newer version. “Mark went above and beyond to find the most cost-effective way to do this,” says M. S. “Since we are a nonprofit, he was able to get us software at a reduced fee, which saved us quite a bit of money.”
Saved by the Backup System
M. S. describes Anderson Technologies as responsive and professional. She appreciates that when they are trying to solve an IT challenge, Anderson provides a few solutions with different price points and walks her through the pros and cons of each option.
In addition to the email migration and software update, Anderson Technologies improved the association’s approach to cyber security and disaster recovery by establishing a dual-destination backup system for the server and other key computers. Now their data is stored in the cloud and on a local hard drive. Soon after this transition, one of the nonprofit’s hard drives malfunctioned. “Because we had completed the email migration, all of the user’s emails on the crashed drive were in the cloud safely backed up. This made the failure an inconvenience, not a disaster,” explains Anderson.
“It is never a good time to lose a hard drive, but we were thankful Anderson Technologies was onboard when it happened,” notes M. S.
What Managed IT Services in St. Louis Should Look Like
Managed IT services is not reserved for big companies. Reliable IT functions are crucial for businesses of all sizes. “You want to come in every day and have your computer turn on and work, whether you are a small company or a Fortune 500,” says M. S. “If you can’t afford to have IT support in-house, you need to partner with a solid firm that you can rely on.”
M. S cautions that her business, like many St. Louis businesses, did not put enough onus on IT, and, as a result, Anderson Technologies had its hands full when it came onboard. “This experience opened our eyes even further to the problems that can occur when you don’t make IT a priority,” she stresses.
Fortunately, this story has a happy ending. The nonprofit organization’s computers are running faster, and M. S. has peace of mind that her data is being backed up appropriately and that her systems are more secure. Perhaps most importantly, she and her team are getting all their emails.
Anderson Technologies specializes in managed IT services. St. Louis businesses of all sizes should consider the benefits of adopting an ongoing, proactive approach to managing their technology needs. For more information on what a managed IT company can do for you, email email@example.com or call 314.394.3001 today.