Dark Web, How Does it Impact Small Businesses?

Dark Web is a term that has surfaced in recent years in connection to cybercrime and cyber security.  Identity theft is an unfortunate occurrence that is all too familiar with most business owners, but do those individuals know where the compromised data will end up? Often, these business owners are unaware of the virtual marketplace where stolen data is purchased and sold by cybercriminals; a place known as the Dark Web.  An article on Lexology explores what the Dark Web is, what information is available for purchase there and how it impacts small businesses.

What is the Dark Web?

The Dark Web, which is not accessible through traditional search engines is often associated with a place used for illegal criminal activity. While cybercriminals tend to use the Dark Web as a place to buy and sell stolen information, there are also sites within it that do not engage in criminal activity. For many, the most appealing aspect of the Dark Web is its anonymity.

What is for sale on the Dark Web?

Information sold on the Dark Web varies, and includes items such as stolen credit cards, stolen account information from financial institutions, forged real-estate documents, stolen credentials and compromised medical records. Even more alarming, the Dark Web contains subcategories allowing a criminal to search for a specific brand of credit card as well a specific location associated with that card. Not only can these criminals find individual stolen items on the Dark Web, but in some cases, entire “wallets” of compromised information are available for purchase, containing items such as a driver’s license, social security number, birth certificate and credit card information.

What is stolen personal information used for?

When stolen information is obtained by criminals, it can be used for countless activities like securing credit, mortgages, loans and tax refunds. It is also possible that a criminal could create a “synthetic identity” using stolen information and combining it with fictitious information, thus creating a new, difficult to discover identity.

Why are stolen credentials so valuable? 

Stolen user names and passwords are becoming increasing popular among cybercriminals, but why? Identity thieves will often hire “account checkers” who take stolen credentials and attempt to break into various accounts across the web using those user names and passwords. The idea here is that many individuals have poor password practices and are using the same user name and password across various accounts, including business account such as banking and eCommerce. If the “account checker” is successful, the identity thief suddenly has access to multiple accounts, in some cases allowing them the opportunity to open additional accounts across financial and business-horizons. 

Why should small businesses be concerned about the Dark Web?

Since the Dark Web is a marketplace for stolen data, most personal information stolen from small businesses will end up there, creating major cause for concern. With the media so often publicizing large- scale corporate data breaches, small businesses often think they are not a target for cybercriminals, however that is not the case. Cybercriminals are far less concerned about the size of a business than they are with how vulnerable their target is. Small businesses often lack resources to effectively mitigate the risks of a cyberattack, making them a prime target for identity theft as well as other cybercrime.

At a recent Federal Trade Commission (FTC) conference, privacy specialists noted that information available for purchase on the Dark Web was up to twenty times more likely to come from a company who suffered a data breach that was not reported to the media. The FTC also announced at the conference that the majority of breaches investigated by the U.S. Secret Service involved small businesses rather than large corporations.

How can you reduce the risk for your small business?

To reduce the risks of a cybercriminal gaining access to your company’s information/network, you must ensure you have proper security measures in place. The FTC has a webpage that can assist with security options for businesses of any size.  In addition, it is crucial that your employees are properly trained on security, including appropriate password practices. There is also talk of a government-led cyberthreat sharing program which would help enhance security across all industries by sharing cyberthreat data.


Wirelss signals around a city.

Wave 1 and Wave 2 Wireless: A Comparison

Gartner predicts that 20.4 billion Wi-Fi connected “things” will be in use by 2020. With all of these devices, businesses and homes are likely going to need a more robust wireless solution.

The majority of users are now using a Wave 1 wireless connection. And don’t get us wrong, that’s not bad. Actually, it’s pretty good. Unless the majority of your organization is using its Wi-Fi network for gaming, streaming, and the processing of large files, Wave 1 is perfectly fine. However, as more devices begin joining wireless networks, the need for a more powerful solution will increase.

In the interest of comparing capabilities, we’ve put together a list of the three areas in which Wave 2 Wireless has a larger advantage than Wave 1.


Wave 2 Wireless is, without a doubt, much faster than Wave 1. The newer solution has speeds up to 6Gbps, far outpacing Wave 1’s max speeds of 1.3Gbps. Additionally, Wave 2 has four spatial streams compared to Wave 1’s three. Device speeds are proportional to the number of spatial streams they have, meaning Wave 2 is much faster. Higher speeds mean that end users can process large files and access data more quickly, increasing productivity and eliminating lag time.


Bandwidth essentially means the rate at which data passes between two devices. The larger your bandwidth, the faster you’ll be able to download or stream larger files. Wave 1 Wireless uses 20, 40, and 80-MHz bonded channels in 5-GHz bandwidth, while Wave 2 Wireless uses 160-MHz on the same bandwidth, supporting additional bonded channels. For large organizations, larger bandwidth means that more devices are supported with better overall Wi-Fi performance. Think of adding more bandwidth like adding extra lanes on a highway. The more lanes (or in Wi-Fi’s case, channels) there are, the more people can get where they need to go.

Device Support

Wave 1 Wireless (otherwise known as the first version of 802.11ac) was created largely with laptops in mind. It uses SU-MIMO, which means that multiple streams of data can only be sent or received between one device at a time.

Wave 2, on the other hand, is more suitable for the demands of mobile devices as it has multi-user MIMO capabilities. This is an advantage because a wireless connection can be used to support dozens of devices all needing a high-bandwidth connection. These devices will also be able to get on and off of the wireless network more easily. Those advantages are especially useful in a business or university setting.

Next Steps

There are many advantages of switching to Wave 2 Wi-Fi: faster speeds, increased bandwidth, the ability to use more devices on a single network. All of these perks will allow your company to be more productive and host more end users on its wireless network, maximizing your ROI.

If these sound like benefits that you’re interested in, please reach out. We can help you determine if this solution is right for your business, and make the switch if it is.


Phone applications.

7 Cool Things You Can Do with a Wireless Connection

Wireless is commonplace for both businesses and homes alike. Essentially, it lets you ditch wires and connect to the internet anywhere within your router’s range. This means greater flexibility and freedom, which in turn boosts productivity. While these benefits alone are awesome, there are some other pretty neat things you can do with a solid wireless connection. Here’s are seven of them:

1. Listen to Music

You’re probably thinking, yeah… I can listen to music without wireless. Come on. And you know what? You can. BUT, you can’t listen to music anywhere on just about any device without wireless. With Bluetooth, you can stream your jams through high-quality, portable speakers on a camping trip, a hike, a day at the lake, and pretty much anywhere else.

2. Transfer Photos

While it’s not SUPER time consuming, it can be annoying to put your SD card into your computer’s card reader and wait for your photos to transfer. Even more annoying? When you forget the card in your machine and don’t have a backup on you. Looks like you won’t be capturing awesome sunset pics with your DSLR tonight, after all. Good news, there are now SD cards that have wireless technology built in so you don’t even need to take them out of your camera to transfer those pics, saving time and an “oh crap” moments later.

3. Stream Media

You could have a giant collection of DVDs (that’s a pain to sort through every time you want to watch a movie) and rely on your DVR to keep up with TV shows and hope to the network gods that your DVR box doesn’t run out of space halfway through recording your favorite show. OR, you could get with the 21st century and get a subscription to a streaming service like Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime! Once you do that, your super fast wireless will allow you to stream thousands of shows and movies over Wi-Fi to a variety of devices. Score.

4. Boost Security

Wi-Fi can help you boost your at-home or business security. You can set up a basic security camera on a wireless network to detect motion (check out the YawCam app). With an app like Growl, you can set it to send you text or email alerts when it detects motion.

5. Game Without Delays  

Possibly the most obvious thing you can do with crazy fast wireless is getting your online game on. Gamers typically use an ethernet connection to the internet because, in the past, wireless has been slow and unreliable. It’s no fun to be in the middle of a raid or fighting off a group of angry fire elementals and have your connection crap out. Newer routers, with higher transmission speeds, minimize connection loss and let you game on, sans unnecessary interruptions.

6. Monitor Spaces

A wireless security camera isn’t exactly a replacement for in-person child supervision (please, please do not leave your young child unattended). But, you COULD use a wireless security camera to keep an eye on your sleeping baby after you put them to bed. Or to figure out who’s been eating all of those midnight snacks. Your choice.

7. Livestream Yourself

The internet combined with Wi-Fi enabled recording devices has created a boom in live streaming. Today, anyone with a smartphone can live stream themselves doing just about anything. Not to say everyone’s going to want to watch, but they might! 81% of people watched more live video in 2016 than 2015, and that number is continuing to climb. Live streaming is also a great move for companies, as 82% of people would rather watch a live video from a brand than scroll through their social posts. Looks like live video is here to stay.

If you’re interested in learning how to optimize your company’s wireless connectivity, give us a shout. We’d be happy to show you how updating your wireless solution can boost your organization’s speed, freedom, and flexibility.

Wireless tower in a city.

The Benefits of Going Wireless

There’s no doubt about it, wireless technology is mainstream. The number of people making the switch to wireless is increasing every day. By 2020, it’s there will be over 50 billion Wi-Fi connected devices worldwide. That’s a lot of radio waves!

There are many reasons why people are converting to wireless. This blog post is going to explore some of the best ones.

Less Hassle

Let’s be real. Wires are cumbersome, to say the least. They are messy, you trip on them, breakable, never long enough, and tangle easily. They’re essentially the worst thing about technology.

Going wireless means that you can greatly cut down on the use of wires in your business. Everything from mice, keyboards, printers, speakers, headphones, and phones are now wireless. Not only that, but they’re easy to use and many are hold a charge for a long time.


Ever wanted to move to a quieter area of the office while continuing a call with a client but you couldn’t because you were wired-in? How about wanting to take your laptop outside and enjoy the sun while typing up a report only to be stopped by lack of a wireless connection?

Fact is, wires limit how you use your devices. Going wireless allows you to roam without losing your connection while working from a variety of locations.

Another way to increase mobility in your office (and beyond) is to ditch the on-premise server and switch to the cloud. According to North Bridge, “90% of organizations use the cloud in some way, with 50% using cloud service as their preferred solution.” Adopting a cloud solution is cost-effective and increases collaboration among employees. Now, combining wireless connectivity with the power of applications and data delivered via the cloud takes mobility to the next level, and that’s a win-win-win.


Going wireless makes it so much easier to reconfigure the office or set-up work areas when new employees join the team. It’s a hassle to move wired devices around and the possibility of mixing up wires or breaking them is always there.   

Being a wireless office means that you’re, quite literally, no longer tied down. Thus, you can use the valuable time you’d spend untangling, unplugging and plugging back in on more important projects.

Guest Access

Going wireless allows you to give secure guest network access to customers and business partners visiting your workplace. Gone are the days where the only place you could get an available wireless connection was a coffee shop. Customers these days expect many businesses to offer a free, stable wireless connection for the purposes of convenience and productivity.

Bonus. If you do offer wireless, customers consider this a value-add and another reason to do business with you over your competitors.   

Next Steps

No matter what industry you’re in, you can enjoy the benefits of going wireless. In a world with so many wireless devices and solutions, it just makes sense.

If you’re interested in learning more about how your company can take advantage of wireless technology, reach out to us. We’d love to talk to you about how we can improve your organization’s productivity by helping you go wireless!


computers in backup

4 Simple Data Loss Prevention Tips

As a business professional, you need to protect your data. Your clients and employees depend on you to keep their sensitive information safe, so data loss prevention is a key element of customer confidence. Luckily, there are ways to be proactive in protecting all your company’s valuable data. Here are four of our favorites:

Archive Files

It feels good to empty your recycle bin. Getting rid of an unneeded document means you’ve checked another project off your list. However, once a file has been permanently deleted, it can be nearly impossible to recover.

Good news. There’s an easy way to avoid the horrible, sinking feeling of being unable to find an important file: archive your documents instead of deleting them. Simply create an archive file on your server and put documents you’d usually send to the recycle bin here. Then, if you find yourself needing that one report from six months ago, it’ll be available for reference or compliance checks or even an account question. Not lost in oblivion.

Back It Up

As wonderful as technology is, it does grow old. You can’t always foresee a hard drive or server dying. Even if you take better care of your hardware than you do of yourself, you can’t always prevent a server’s demise. It can and often will fail without any advance notice.

But you can prevent data loss when your hardware kicks the can. That’s why it’s imperative to keep your sensitive information backed up in multiple places. Following the 3-2-1 backup rule is a good place to start. Have three copies of your data located on two different kinds of storage solutions with one stored offsite. Performing this kind of backup every couple of weeks is a good habit to establish. It also doesn’t hurt to be proactive and replace or upgrade your hard drives every few years.

Secure Your Network

In a world where “50% of small SMBs reported suffering at least one cyber attack in the last year,” it’s essential to make network security a top priority. Ransomware, malware, viruses, trojan horses, and the like are all potential data loss disasters waiting to happen.

As the saying goes, the best defense is a good offense. Establishing a rock-solid security strategy is critical in protecting your data from outside intruders looking to steal it. Installing data loss prevention software, establishing user role and policy management, encrypting your data, frequently updating your passwords, and setting up a strong firewall will help prevent your data from being lost, stolen or compromised.

Educate your Employees

Accidents happen. That’s a fact of life. In a hectic and mobile business environment, it’s important to be aware of the risks, learn from other’s mishaps and work together to prevent them from becoming your own.

According to a survey done by Haystax,“74% of organizations feel vulnerable to insider threats,” while “60% of companies felt that a lack of employee training and expertise were obstacles in managing these kinds of threats.”

The solution is simple: adopt protocols proven to reduce insider data leaks and train employees how to correctly follow them. Revisit this training periodically as a refresher, when new threats arise or when procedures change.

Threats to your data come from outside and within. It’s not always possible to avoid them, but these four guidelines will help you become proactive in their prevention. To learn more about protecting your data, contact us. We’d love to show you more ways to safeguard your company’s sensitive information.

hardware in trash can

Data Loss Examples: 4 everyday threats to your data

Recently, we covered five real-life data loss nightmares. From online dating and government agencies to hardware manufacturers and news agencies, these five data loss examples span a variety of industries.

The consequences of the data loss that stemmed from these five examples were devastating, crippling reputations, pocketbooks, and futures. However, these examples still might not be enough to showcase the “everyday” reality of data loss for working professionals.

So let’s take a moment to discuss 4 everyday threats to your data.

Lost Devices

Like with the Daily Mail incident (a lost laptop) and even with the situation involving the English prison system (a lost USB drive), a lost (or stolen) device won’t just set you back financially. In reality, this is one of the simplest ways for your company to fall victim to data loss.

When you consider the number of employees using personal devices to access work data, this threat of potential data loss becomes even greater and in turn, even scarier. Lose the wrong device with the right data on it and your business could suffer from data loss that is either impossible to recover or that eventually exposes the sensitive information of partners, clients, employees, or all of the above.

(P.S., It’s not just devices you have to worry about losing. What happens if you misplace a sensitive document?)


At the end of the day, losing a device is an accident. But that’s not the only type of accident that leads to data loss.

Have you ever accidentally deleted something? Maybe that time you were able to recover the lost data … but what about next time? Or the time after that?

Accidents are a leading cause of data loss in the professional world because you can’t always hunt down a deleted document in the Recycle Bin. In most cases, this data is dumped after a few months and overwritten by new data.

For example, what if someone unknowingly deletes a sensitive work document? Let’s say that a few months later, another person requires that deleted document for an important task. What happens then?

At this point, the data is already long gone and overwritten — which means that, unfortunately, that person is out of luck.

Hardware Malfunctions

Hardware isn’t always reliable. More specifically, hard drives stop working all the time, making loads of data inaccessible in the process.

In fact, malfunctioning hardware isn’t just a leading cause of data loss; it’s the leading cause of data loss. Because of this, keeping hardware healthy and in prime condition has become a necessity for many companies across the world.

This being said, hardware malfunctions can’t always be avoided. Some are inevitable and can be the direct result of a water leak, power outage, or even a tiny bump.

Malware and Hackers

While completely losing your data to hackers and malware isn’t exactly considered an “everyday” occurrence, having it breached is a different story. At this point, your data isn’t exactly lost, but it’s certainly been seen and handled by malicious actors — like it was a few years ago with Ashley Madison and like it currently is with Equifax.

But then again, we now have ransomware to consider. Now this is a form of malware that will take your data and make it inaccessible, resulting in true-to-form data loss. Sure, if you pay the fine, you might get your data thing — but that’s not a definite reality. It could be gone forever.

If you’d like to learn more about data loss and it how happens to businesses, then check out our report on 5 Data Loss Nightmares. You’ll pick up some interesting facts and learn how to better protect your data in the process.

secure mobile data

4 simple ways to secure mobile data when you’re on the go

Over the years, working on the go has become the norm for business professionals everywhere. But at this point, it’s more than just the norm … it’s critical to success.

If your team isn’t mobile, then everything from productivity and employee morale to customer service and efficiency will suffer.

And ultimately, this suffering will only hurt your competitive edge and damage your company’s reputation.

This being said, mobility doesn’t come free of risk. In fact, the more mobile you are, the more at risk you are of data loss, security breaches, and cyber threats. Which means you have a major dilemma on your hands.

So naturally, the question becomes: How can you successfully secure mobile data when you’re on the move?  

Let’s break it down, shall we?

Lock thy device

First and foremost, lock your devices. And this doesn’t just mean your cell phone. This includes your tablet, laptop, and yes … even your home computer.

No device should ever be left wide-open, and no passerby should ever have the ability to open your device and immediately start snooping. You must make it as hard as possible for criminals to get into your devices — because remember: the easier it is to get into your devices, the easier it is for criminals to snatch your mobile data.

However, just because logging into your computer might feel significantly different than logging into your online banking account or email, this doesn’t mean you should drop traditional password-building strategies.

While your phone or tablet may have limitations, your computer and laptop usually don’t. Keep these passwords just as strong as any other password you would create.

Public vs. Private

Unfortunately for every coffee shop-loving person out there, public connections aren’t always the safest things on the Wi-Fi block. In fact, there is such a thing as a fake Wi-Fi hotspot. If you hop onto a connection like this, you might be infected with a nasty virus.

Or worse … a criminal may have the ability to track everything you type and everywhere you go. And if you’re worried about the security of your mobile data, then this is one thing you should probably avoid.

If connecting to public Wi-Fi can’t be avoided, just make sure you aren’t accessing anything sensitive. And keep in mind, this doesn’t just involve sensitive business data … this should also account for personal messages, banking information, and things of that nature.  

2FA is where it’s at

Wherever possible, consider using 2FA for your online accounts (otherwise known as two-factor authentication, two-step authentication, or multi-factor authentication). 2FA is especially critical for apps or sites that directly (or even indirectly) include banking, health, legal, or communication information.

2FA is typically very simple to implement, and the added security it provides makes the “second factor” worth it. This second step may include an email asking you to verify the login (which may only be sent to you if it’s an unrecognized browser) or it could be a password and a security question.

Usually, 2FA involves: something you know (like a password or question), something you have (like an email or text message), or something you are (like a fingerprint).

An expert knows best

That’s right. You can’t do everything alone — especially when it comes to business security.

These days, the majority of Managed Service Providers offer some form of on-the-go data protection. They can help you manage mobile devices or provide your company with a business-grade solution for file-sharing.  

Adding features like these to your traditional security solution can mean the difference between a completely secure business and one littered with vulnerabilities and holes.

These tips are only just the beginning. Securing your on-the-go data requires dedication and an ever-evolving security solution. If you’d like to learn more about securing your mobile data, then give us a call or send us a message today. We’d love to chat.

How an MSP Partner Is Like a Scout Helping Make Your Hunt a Success

Growing your business is a little like planning a hunting trip. You need so much there to be successful: the right equipment, the right training and the right skills… but what if you could add an extra partner to the equation?

Think of your managed IT service provider as the scout on your hunting trip.

What do scouts do? They go ahead and check out the lay of the land. They clear the path for you and point you in the right direction.

An MSP can be your scout on your hunt in business to help you be a success. We at Cognoscape provide our clients with a custom IT road map so they know what may lie ahead for them, and what direction they should take to be the most successful.

This technology road map is tailored to keep our clients up-to-date on all the latest IT trends in the industry that could make their hunt, their business hunt, a success. Whether it be network security, relocation, regulatory compliance, cloud computing, and much more, we act as the scout on your hunting trip.

When you’re out in the wild looking to expand your business and find new clients, there’s the potential for a lot of errors. You know that making the wrong turn could get you caught in the weeds: an issue or technology hang up that could potentially set you back days or even weeks. That’s the last thing you want to happen in the fast-paced professional landscape of today.

So why risk everything by going it alone? Bring us along as a scout with you on your hunt, and we’ll help make sure that you take the right paths and come out a success.

Zombie Apocalypse Prep, Part II: Utilizing IT Tech in Survival

It’s happened. Your worst fears have come true – the dead are reanimating, and they have one thing on their rotten minds: having you for their next meal. The world as you know it is gone. Power is out everywhere. You’ve managed to survive so far by sealing yourself and your team up in your office.

But there are loved ones out there you and your people must reach. Your office barricades are effective but weakening. Also, your food and water supplies scavenged from within the office are growing thin. You and your group MUST leave the office and brave the streets. What will you do? Here are a few tips on how you can utilize your now non-functional IT tech to prepare yourself for the journey.

Use Your IT Tech – Flat Screens Make Reasonable Shields

While you have hardly returned to the age of chivalry, the idea of a shield does sound appealing when faced with the alternative of the undead chomping into a bare arm. Remove the stand and the cord (but save it for later) and punch two holes within the screen all the way through the back. Use duct tape or cloth to strap the screen to your non-dominant arm. Now, when a creeper tries to maul you, you can give it a face full of flat screen to gnaw at while you use the weapon in your other hand to finish it off.

Routers Are a Great Diversion/Melee Weapon Combo

Before you and your team head out on your journey, grab a router or two and throw them in your bag. If you find yourself with a herd of walkers blocking your only path, pull one out and snap off the antenna (if it features one). Then, hurl it well off to the side. Thrown routers tend to make an enormous amount of noise when the hard plastic shell hits the pavement. The creeps will hear it and start shambling toward it, and away from your escape route. Also, if one of them happens to see you as you pass by, use that antenna to ventilate his noggin, then scramble away to safety.

Cognoscape’s Zombie Apocalypse Prep Series Will Continue

Who knows when or if it will ever happen? But when it does – and if it happens during work hours – you’ll know what to do, thanks to your Cognoscape survival training. In the meantime, why don’t you stock up on the latest defense and weaponry items the IT tech world has to offer? Talk to Cognoscape, and we’ll devise you a plan . . . but it will probably be an IT support plan, as it’s the best way to bide our time . . . until . . .

Group of zombie over burn city background that had no security precautions.

Security Precautions During a Zombie Apocalypse

Why would a company take the time to develop security measures for a zombie apocalypse? Because it’s not about IF it happens, but WHEN it happens. No one likes to think about the end. But those who survive are the ones that came prepared. Implementing security throughout your business might seem slightly daunting, but don’t let others misinterpret your mindfulness with paranoia. Take our advice – here are a few security precautions to implement to prepare for a zombie apocalypse.

Zombie Security

Protect Sensitive Data

The zombies will break into your business and end up eating everything or everyone. This means you need to ensure that your data is secured outside of your enterprise You must conceal your most valued information. If you have financial records, employee identification information, and financial accounts that are securely stored, then you ensure a dedicated line of protection is in place.

Secure Server Rooms

Lock yourself in your server room if the zombies are coming, and there is no where else to run. Head for the room with the highest levels of security. Your server room should have a login for those who enter and exits the room. With a dedicated surveillance camera to keep visual sights on those monsters, you should be safe – for now.  
Security measures need to be taken seriously unless you want your business to be infiltrated. The very best IT organizations report spending 6-8% of their budget on security. That is going to have to double in the short-term to counter the threat of the surveillance state, just to account for the deployment and management of encryption everywhere. If you need help planning for a zombie attack or a cyber attack, allow us to help you protect your network from breaches. Who are you going to call? Cognoscape!