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.

 

Business development concept, light bulb as a symbol of the new idea and different stages of managed IT services.

Staying Ahead of Cyber Attacks

Technology is a giant juggernaut ameba growing and evolving at an exponential and unstoppable rate. Trying to keep up with just everyday tech can be overwhelming. What iPhone number are we on now? And what exactly is a ChromeBook, anyway? Keeping up with the Joneses is one thing; staying up to date with and ahead of cyber attacks is a monster all its own. It seems like every week another company makes national headlines for falling victim to a cyber attack. Yours doesn’t have to be one of them.

Stay Proactive

Cybercriminals are always learning, adapting, and evolving new ways of cracking cybersecurity. Staying proactive with your approach to cybersecurity is the first step towards getting ahead of potential cyber attacks. Fortunately, Cognoscape can help you take an active approach to security. We can help you create a Technology Roadmap to plan for the future and stay ahead of whatever those pesky hackers think of next. We can help train you and your employees on how you can strengthen your daily workflow and what precautions you can be taking with each email and keystroke.

Use the Buddy System

If the Joker stepped into your server room and started tinkering around, you wouldn’t go in there alone. You would light up the bat-signal to call Batman. Don’t face cyber attacks alone. Buddy up with a Cognoscape consultant. Our consultants have years of experience staying up to date and ahead of the technology driving cyber attacks. You will be able to focus on the core of your business, while we race ahead of the latest cybercriminal technology to protect your company’s most precious digital assets. Your consultant will be there by your side to help create a custom strategy on how to best fend off and recover from whatever comes your way.

Don’t risk your company’s future by tackling your network security alone. Contact us today to start putting together your Technology Roadmap.

 

 

Hacker is infiltrating a business’s network system from a remote location

Brief History of Information Technology Security

People are fiercely driven by ‘what is going to happen’ rather than ‘what has happened’. Due to the growing concern of intellectual property vulnerability, people have begun to investigate further into the past. By understanding the history of technology security you might be able to safeguard against potential threats. Information technology security protects sensitive assets and property through the use of technology processes and training. High concerns that stem directly from information security are protection of confidentiality, integrity, and availability.

“The more you know about the past, the better prepared you are for the future.” -Theodore Roosevelt

The Early Years

Despite the efforts of the “CIA Triad” (or more commonly known as the Parkerian Hexad) on confidentiality/control, information integrity, authenticity, availability, and utility, they were not able to guard against all threats. Early mainframes used by the military were connected to phone lines called ARPANET (precedent to today’s internet), which allowed integration of information between government data centers. A special ARPA squadron began to determine additional steps for better security by studying the unsecure points between the data centers and the public. Their studies jump started the first few precautions focused on mainframe operating systems. MIT, Bell Labs, and General Electric were the first pioneers to build multiple security levels and passwords into their mainframes.

The Boom of Hacking

Computer system hacking began in 1970’s with the boom of emerging telecommunication technology. Ready to ‘stick it to the man’, a group of hackers found a way to infiltrate the telephone and computer networks in order to make free long distance calls. Also known as “phreakers”, these groups were pioneers for organized crime against unsecured networks. After Ian Murphy’s crime of stealing information from military computers in 1986, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act was created. The Emergency Response Team was created to alert computer users of network security issues after Robert Morris unleashed the Morris Worm to thousands of defenseless computers.

The Growing Concern

Although public use of the Internet is barely 20 years old, malicious Internet activity has turned into a major criminal enterprise for over a decade. Businesses are now under attack by big threats that can leave them defenseless and exposed. Growing concern for the safety of personal/business information comes from the accelerated worldwide use of electronic data and the heavy amount of business conducted over the internet. With this expedited advancement and expansion, more and more people are putting their personal information online, making them vulnerable for an attack. In 2010, a group of the nation’s top scientists concluded in a report to the Pentagon that “the cyber-universe is complex well beyond anyone’s understanding and exhibits behavior that no one predicted, and sometimes can’t even be explained well.”

We recognize that monitoring technology activities are important to continue to protect the safety and security of your business. If you have any questions or concerns about your technology contact Cognoscape today.  

PCI-Compliance-IT-Security

4 Signs that You’re Out of PCI Compliance

Compliance with the standards set by the Payment Card Industry (PCI) Security Standards Council can be cumbersome and flat out difficult. And the punishment for non-compliance can be stiff penalties and fines – or even worse, non-compliance could allow a hacker or data thief to get into your company’s systems and steal critical data from you or your customers. To avoid these unsavory outcomes, it is best to make sure that your business gets PCI compliant and maintain that compliance status. It is critical that you know if your company is PCI compliant so that you can keep your business protected from fines and hackers alike. Here are some of the ways that you can know if your business is not compliant. If any of these signs describe your business, then it is time to make a change and get back into compliance.

You Store Cardholder Data

Storing cardholder data means that you have highly sensitive information that can be stolen on your systems. To maintain PCI compliance, you should not save or store any cardholder data, whether in digital or written form. To avoid storing cardholder data, you can use a card reader, POS terminal, or a payment processor that doesn’t retain that information. That way, you don’t have to think about protecting or encrypting that data on your systems.

You Don’t Have A Separate Network For Payment Processing

PCI compliance can put extra pressure and security measures on your network. That’s why it is a good idea to have a separate system for your regular business connection just for payment processing. This is especially relevant if you are using IP-based credit card terminals.

You Don’t Automatically Log Customers Out

When your customers log in and make a purchase, they might be doing so on a public computer or at a public kiosk. When they leave that computer, they might forget to log out, allowing another person to stumble upon their open session and make unauthorized purchases. Make sure that you avoid these kinds of scenarios by automatically logging your users out of their sessions after a set period. If for example, users are automatically logged out after five minutes being idle, you have a significantly higher chance of stopping unauthorized purchases.

Your Employees Don’t Have Unique Login Information

To be PCI compliant, all of your employees need to have their unique login information for sensitive systems. That way, if there an issue, you know which employee was responsible.

Network Security

Benefits of Network Security

You’ve spent countless hours, days, months, maybe even years building your business…what if everything you had worked for was ruined because of a security breach? All it takes is one bad security breach and you’re out of business. This is why your company needs CognoSecurity. Let’s look at the benefits of network security.

Reduced Stress

With CognoSecurity you will never lose sleep over stressing about your business’ security. We will handle everything so that you don’t have to. Now you have more time to focus on making your business even more successful, because you know it’s safe with CognoSecurity.

Decreased Risk

Think about all of the risks you’re taking without having your business protected by network security. Are you willing to risk your business’ reputation? What about your data? Or even your entire company? If not, you need network security to make sure none of these things are put at risk.

Disaster Recovery

Unexpected things happen – that’s just life. But wouldn’t it be nice to be prepared for the unexpected? Well, with CognoSecurity you can be. When disaster strikes, CognoSecurity will help your business recover quickly, whether you’ve suffered a security breach, natural disaster, or anything else that might happen.

Increased Productivity

When you aren’t stressing over network security issues and security breaches, you and your employees can focus on the business’ success. You’ll become more productive and you’ll also save your hardware and software from any potential harm caused by security breaches.

Ready to protect your business from harm? Let’s talk today about your business’ security needs.

Don’t get caught by this holiday email scam!

The holidays are a busy time for all of us and with the advent of online shopping to avoid the crowds we are becoming conditioned to receiving purchase related emails from a variety of sources.

The cyber crime community is well aware of this and a new trend in cyber crime using fake order confirmation and other typical purchase-related emails has been noticed, as reported by internet security company Malcovery. The primary payload of these emails is the malware known as ASProx, a particularly nasty trojan that collects email addresses and passwords from it’s victim’s computers, then turns the infected machine into a botnet relay allowing spam messages to be passed through it.

Malcovery reports that in December 2013, spammers used ASProx to deliver fear in the form of a Failed Delivery email from CostCo, BestBuy, or WalMart.  Malcovery analysts identified more than 600 hijacked websites that were used as relays to prevent detection by causing the spammed links to point to websites that had been “white listed” until the very day of the attack. People responded because the email told them their Christmas gift shipment had been delayed and the only way to get a refund was by clicking the (infected) link.

This year the scammers are getting even craftier and their tactics have changed. Fake order confirmation emails appeared after cyber Monday with titles like “Thank you for your confirmation,” “Order Confirmation,” “Thank you for buying from [company name],” “Acknowledgement of Order,” and “Order Status.”. The email content now targets people’s greed by saying that a delivery (that they didn’t order) is waiting for them:

“We are happy to inform you that our online store HomeDepot.com has an order whose recipient details match yours.  The order could be received in any Local Store of HomeDepot.com within the period of 5 days.  Open this LINK to see full information about your order.”

Opening the link infects the victim’s machine.

Another trend is with hijacked credit card numbers. Instead of charging several hundred dollars on a single credit card – which is immediately noticed and blocked – online thieves are now content to charge several thousand people $20 – $30 each, which is less likely to be noticed by either the bank or the victim.

Cognoscape is committed to your security

There are a few simple rules to follow whenever you open your inbox:

  • Ask yourself: Were you expecting this email?
  • Check the sender’s address – hover over the address to verify the sender
  • Check the link address – hover over the link to read the address it is sending you to. Does the domain name look valid?
  • Learn to spot fake domain addresses
  • If you have any concerns DO NOT click the link, instead type the address into your browser and access the information from there
  • Review your credit card statement regularly for fraudulent transactions
  • Remember scammers target people’s greed – if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!

Would you like to learn these techniques and have them taught to your colleagues? Cognoscape are now providing a series of lunch and learn presentations to avoid phishing scams and keep you safe from these attacks. Fill in the “Request a Consultation” form to the right of this blog post if you would like more details.

Don’t forget your friends need to know about this too – please share this post!

Top 5 Reasons You Need Network Security At Work

Conducting day to day business can be consuming and stressful. Making sure that your company network is secure does not always rank number one on your list of things to do. There are so many things that need to be tended to! Here are the top 5 reasons why network security should be your top priority:

1. First and foremost, without network security at work your livelihood is at stake. As a business owner, most of your important documentation and records are stored on a computer. Leaving your network unprotected means that at any time your system could be infiltrated by unwanted viruses, trojans or even worse – malicious hackers who could obtain and distribute personal information.

2. Not only can your vital company information can be compromised, your identity could be stolen and used. Different types of computer viruses and trojans do different things. If a virus relays information to a third party your identity could be used by that person or worse. It could be sold to other people.

3. If losing your identity isn’t bad enough, it can get worse. Without network security you could unknowingly provide internet predators with your customer’s information. This means that your reputation as a company is at stake. Any business owner would agree that a good reputation is your best asset and a bad reputation could mean your demise.

4. By having a good network security system in place, you will be saving money in the long run. Companies that are constantly putting out fires and spending unnecessary money to fix problems as they occur. Each time they pick up the phone to call an IT specialist money flies out the door. By being proactive you will keep your budget minimal.

5.  Using network security guarantees that you will be successful in your endeavors. By protecting your assets you will be able to focus on what you do best. Safeguarding your network allows others to trust in your ability to conduct business and do what is best for everyone.

Network security at work is beneficial in many ways. It helps you to save money. It also offers security to your team of employees and customers. Network security prevents unexpected problems. In conjunction with these benefits, network security is necessary to safeguard your personal information and that of your affiliates. Without network security your business could be in serious jeopardy.

Why SMBs Must Proactively Address the Threat of Mobile Hacks

70More cyber criminals are targeting small-to-medium sized businesses. One reason for this is too many workplaces have insufficient bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies in place. Some have none at all. Although firms are generally more knowledgeable about network security risks than in years past, they still woefully underestimate the security vulnerabilities linked to mobile devices like smartphones and tablets.

This is a real cause for concern since data breaches have the ability to put many already financially challenged SMBs out of business.

If customer/client data has been breached, there could be potential litigation costs, and naturally, lost goodwill and an irreparable hit to brand or company reputation.

Don’t Just Say You’re Worried About the Bad Guys… Deal With Them

SMBs say they view network security as a major priority but their inaction when it comes to mobile devices paints a different picture. An April 2013 study found that only 16% of SMBs have a mobility policy in place.

Despite the fact that stolen devices are a major problem in today’s mobile workforce, only 37% of mobility policies enforced today have a clear protocol outlined for lost devices. Even more troubling is the fact that those firms who have implemented mobility policies have initiated plans with some very obvious flaws.

Key components of a mobility policy such as personal device use, public Wi-Fi accessibility, and data transmission and storage are often omitted from many policies.

Thankfully, most SMB cybercrimes can be avoided with a comprehensive mobility policy and the help of mobile endpoint mobile device management services.

A Mobility Policy Is All About Acceptable/Unacceptable Behaviors

Your initial mobility policy doesn’t have to be all encompassing. There should be room for modifications, as things will evolve over time. Start small by laying some basic usage ground rules, defining acceptable devices and protocols for setting passwords for devices and downloading third-party apps. Define what data belongs to the company and how it’s to be edited, saved, and shared. Be sure to enforce these policies and detail the repercussions for abuse.

Features of Mobile Device Management Services

MDM services are available at an affordable cost. These services help IT managers identify and monitor the mobile devices accessing their network. This centralized management makes it easier to get each device configured for business access to securely share and update documents and content. MDM services proactively secure mobile devices by:

  • Specifying password policy and enforcing encryption settings
  • Detecting and restricting tampered devices
  • Remotely locating, locking, and wiping out lost or stolen devices
  • Removing corporate data from any system while leaving personal data intact
  • Enabling real time diagnosis/resolution of device, user, or app issues

It’s important to realize that no one is immune to cybercrime. The ability to identify and combat imminent threats is critical and SMBs must be proactive in implementing solid practices that accomplish just that.

CLICK HERE for a free technology assessment.

Just Because You’re Not a Big Target, Doesn’t Mean You’re Safe

69Not too long ago, the New York Times’ website experienced a well-publicized attack, which raises the question – how can this happen to such a world-renowned corporation? If this can happen to the New York Times, what does this bode for the security of a small company’s website? What’s to stop someone from sending visitors of your site to an adult site or something equally offensive?

The short answer to that question is nothing. In the New York Times’ attack, the attackers changed the newspapers’ Domain Name System (DNS) records to send visitors to a Syrian website. The same type of thing can very well happen to your business website. For a clearer perspective, let’s get into the specifics of the attack and explain what DNS is.

The perpetrators of the New York Times’ attack targeted the site’s Internet DNS records. To better understand this, know that computers communicate in numbers, whereas we speak in letters. In order for us to have an easy-to-remember destination like nytimes.com, the IP address must be converted to that particular URL through DNS.

Therefore, no matter how big or small a company’s online presence is, every website is vulnerable to the same DNS hacking as the New York Times’ site. The good news is the websites of smaller companies or organizations fly under the radar and rarely targeted.  Larger targets like the New York Times, or LinkedIn, which was recently redirected to a domain sales page, are more likely targets.

For now… There is no reason to panic and prioritize securing DNS over other things right now. But there is a belief that DNS vulnerability will be something cybercriminals pick on more often down the road. Here are a few ways to stay safe:

Select a Registrar with a Solid Reputation for Security

Chances are, you purchased your domain name through a reputable registrar like GoDaddy, Bluehost, 1&1, or Dreamhost. Obviously, you need to create a strong password for when you log into the registrar to manage your site’s files. Nonetheless, recent DNS attacks are concerning because they’re far more than the average password hack.

It was actually the security of the registrars themselves that was compromised in recent attacks. The attackers were basically able to change any DNS record in that registrar’s directory. What’s particularly frightening is the registrars attacked had solid reputations. The New York Times, along with sites like Twitter and the Huffington Post, is registered with Melbourne IT. LinkedIn, Craigslist and US Airways are registered with Network Solutions. Both had been believed to be secure.

So what else can be done?

Set Up a Registry Lock & Inquire About Other Optional Security

A registry lock makes it difficult for anyone to make even the most mundane changes to your registrar account without manual intervention by a staff registrar. This likely comes at an additional cost and not every domain registrar has it available.

Ask your registrar about registry locking and other additional security measures like two factor authentication, which requires another verifying factor in addition to your login and password, or IP address dependent logins, which limits access to your account from anywhere outside of one particular IP address.

While adding any of these extra safeguards will limit your ability to make easy account change or access your files from remote locations, it may be a worthwhile price to pay.

CLICK HERE for a free network assessment and avoid cybercrime with Cognoscape.

Why it’s Time to Move on if Your Hosting Cloud Provider Won’t Sign a HIPAA BAA

68Despite new HIPAA Business Associate Agreement (BAA) regulations going into effect in 2013, many healthcare organizations are still encountering the occasional cloud service provider who refuses to sign a BAA. Although they may have a logical explanation, any refusal to sign a BAA should be seen as a red flag.

Here’s the logic from their angle. There are still many cloud vendors who view themselves more as conduits of Personal Health Information (PHI). They feel their role is more akin to that of a mailman. They’re merely transporting data to others and have no real access to the actual contents.

If the data is encrypted and cannot be read, or If they don’t touch the actual PHI data at all, the cloud service vendor will argue that HIPAA regulations do not apply to them and possibly refuse to sign a BAA.

Fair enough, right? If the data is encrypted and the vendor doesn’t hold the encryption key, what’s the problem? Well, here’s the problem.

File this in the unlikely yet not improbable category. Let’s say that the PHI data wasn’t properly encrypted before it was sent into the cloud or unencrypted data was mistakenly transferred over to the cloud service provider. If the cloud provider has refused to sign a BAA, this jeopardizes your HIPAA compliance and could potentially result in a fine anywhere from $50,000 to $1.5 million.

This is why those in the healthcare sector must move on from any cloud provider that is reluctant to sign a BAA. They are basically refusing to be complaint since the new HIPAA Omnibus Rule clearly defines a business associate as anyone who creates, receives, maintains, or transmits PHI on behalf of a covered entity. By refusing to share accountability for HIPAA compliance, they’re a liability to your organization that you just can’t afford.

CLICK HERE for a free network assessment.