Five Ways SMBs Can Minimize Data Loss

  1. Enforce Data Security – This is more or less the managing of the “human factor.” CIOs and those in SMB management roles must communicate data protection policies to staff and ensure their implementation. Rules must be set, particularly with personal devices, to enforce security policies. It can be as simple as sending reminders to not open email attachments from unknown sources, requiring passwords be reset every few months or the banning of specific file sharing or social networking sites. In May of 2012, security concerns led to over 400,000 IBM employees being banned from using the cloud storage service Dropbox and Siri – the iPhone personal assistant. While far from an SMB, if IBM can go that far and make such a demand to so many employees, an insurance agent can certainly remind his or her marketing representative to not play Farmville on Facebook if they’re using a laptop containing company and customer/client data.
  2. Stress the consequences – both personal and business – of not properly protecting confidential data. Encourage employees to make passwords difficult to crack. Patch holes in the infrastructure’s walls by identifying the most critical data. Perhaps a trusted IT advisor can help implement processes to better protect that data’s security perimeters.
  3. Mobile Device Management – Mobile Device Management grants SMBs a semblance of control over the mobile devices used within the company. Devices tapping into company system are identified and remotely monitored and managed 24/7. More importantly, they are proactively secured via specified password policies, encryption settings, and automated compliance actions. Lost or stolen devices can be located and either locked or stripped of all SMB-related data.
  4. Snapshots – Fully backing up large amounts of data can be a lengthy process. The data being backed up is also vulnerable to file corruption from read errors. This means sizeable chunks of data may not be stored in the backup and be unavailable in the event of a full restore. This can be avoided by backing up critical data as snapshots, which are read-only copies of data frozen to a specific point in time and stored using minimal disk space. These virtual snapshots are immediately available for restores in the event of data loss.
  5. Cloud Replication and Disaster Recovery Services – The cloud provides SMBs who consider data backup to be too costly, time consuming and complex with a cost-effective, automated off-site data replication process that provides continuous availability to business-critical data and applications. Cloud replication can often get systems back online in under an hour following a data loss.

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CLICK HERE for a free network assessment.

Decreasing Business Costs and Risks of Costly Data Loss

4 We live in a 24/7 global economy that is more dependent than ever on technology. Even the technology of small and medium sized businesses (SMBs) houses sensitive digital data – employee and customer information, internal emails, documents and financial records, sales orders and transaction histories. Not to mention applications and programs critical to daily business function and services. Employees at SMBs require continuous access to the critical business data needed to meet the demands of the customers or clients they service. They even want this access while they’re at home or on the go running errands. To satisfy this demand, many companies and organizations now allow employees to BYOD (Bring-Your-Own-Device) and “do business” using their personal laptops, tablets and mobile phones. The web, Wi-Fi networks and mobile devices with robust memory and battery life have made this constant access to a SMBs back office infrastructure a reality. Regrettably this flexibility and freedom is accompanied by an ominous risk of data loss.

Just a single data loss or breach can be costly to SMBs. Data losses and leaks come with lingering continuous costs that many SMBs cannot easily shake or overcome. Revenue is lost if employee productivity and customer accessibility/service are stalled by data loss. The expenses associated with internal research and investigation, system repair and maintenance, and data security protection are another heavy price SMBs must pay. If cybercrime is involved, affected customers must be notified, the potential exists for litigation, and many customers will likely never return due to mistrust.

While corporate-level data losses are well publicized, many SMBs mistakenly believe their data isn’t at risk. This mistake can prove to be a costly one.

3 Why C-Suite Management at SMBs Can No Longer Ignore Data Loss

  • Following a significant data loss, it is estimated that SMBs can lose up to 25% in daily revenue by the end of the first week.
  • According to the National Archives & Records Administration in Washington, 93% of companies that have experienced data loss, and prolonged downtime for ten or more days have filed for bankruptcy within twelve months of the incident. 50% wasted no time and filed for bankruptcy immediately. 43% of companies with no data recovery and business continuity plan actually go out of business following a major data loss. How quickly can your business be restored if critical data is lost? When was the last time backup processes were tested to ensure all data is recoverable and business operations are quickly restored?
  • A survey conducted by Symantec SMB revealed that fewer than half of SMBs surveyed backup their data each week. Only 23% of those surveyed said they backup data every day and have a business continuity plan in place.
  • The percentage of cybercriminal attacks targeting businesses with fewer than 250 employees doubled in 2012. The vulnerabilities of naïve small business owners have been noted, and hackers have now placed the proverbial bull’s-eye on these perceived weak links.

If sensitive customer data is leaked, SMBs may face overwhelming financial liabilities, which could include reimbursing affected customers and legal fees.

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Businesses today are playing on a much bigger playing field than they were two decades ago. Any SMB that trusts the security and backup of critical business data with a limited and overburdened in-house IT team, or forsakes internal IT support altogether for emergency on-call help when things go bad (Break/Fix Mentality), is playing with fire and begging to be burned.

Any disruptive or invasive technological event – even the smallest of incidents – can have an amplified impact on day-to-day business and profitability. Being proactive with data recovery solutions, and having emergency response procedures in place prior to a disruption or data disaster, is the only way to get critical data restored immediately to the data center, minimize downtime, protect customer and client data and soften the impact of such events.

Don’t let this happen to you. CLICK HERE for a free network assessment.

5 Things SMBs Can Do Right Now To Preserve Their Network and Systems

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1 Backup Files Every Day – The number of businesses that never backup their network is astonishing. According to the Symantec SMB data, only 23% of SMBs are backing up their data daily. Fewer than 50% are backing up data weekly. A number of events can result in data loss. The importance of frequently backing up your network cannot be overstated.

2 Ensure Backup Procedures Are Checked Regularly – Many times business owners think they have a backup system in place only to find out when its too late that it hasn’t been working properly. It may seem like files are being backed up daily, however, the backup has become corrupt or huge chunks of critical data aren’t backed up. Check backup procedures regularly to make sure they are working properly. Be sure that ALL data can be recovered. In this age of BYOD (Bring-Your-Own-Devices) it is also important to frequently backup data on the personal laptops, iPads or Blackberrys of employees.

3 Make Sure Updated Virus Protection and Firewalls Are Always Enabled – Far too many companies either have no virus protection software installed, expired virus software licenses, or disabled virus programs that aren’t running at all. This makes their business technology vulnerable to virus attacks from emails, spam, data downloads, and other web sites. Files corrupted by a virus won’t only bring down your network but if the virus is somehow spread to customers and e-mail contacts it’s a surefire way damage your reputation as well. Roughly 40% of small-to-medium sized businesses will have their network compromised by a hacker. Chances are, they will have no clue whatsoever that they were attacked. Hackers look online for unprotected and open ports and then infiltrate whatever space they can with malicious code and files. If this malicious code cannot be removed, the hard drive will have to be reformatted and all files could potentially be lost. This is another reason why file backup is so critical in today’s business world. Updating critical security patches and changing passwords on the departure of employees are also necessary to deter hacking attempts.

4 Monitor Server Drives – Dangerously full server drives can bring on a slew of problems, ranging from program and server crashes to sluggish email delivery. Some proactive monitoring and maintenance of the server can spare businesses a lot of problems down the road. 5 Regularly Check Critical Built-In Logs – Very few tech problems emerge suddenly overnight. They typically progress and worsen over time into a more serious problem. Frequently reviewing the critical built-in log files can often indicate something is amiss before it becomes a major problem that wrecks havoc on your business infrastructure.

Security Risk! Windows XP And Office 2003 Pose A Dangerous Threat To Your Business.

XP security alert

Security Alert for Windows XP. If you’re using Windows XP or Office 2003 you only have until April 8th before hackers may attack.

 

 

As a Microsoft Certified Partner, Cognoscape LLC, a Dallas based IT Security Company, would like you to know that you may very well be at risk of serious cyber attacks. Microsoft has announced that it will stop support for the XP operating system and Office 2003 software suite on April 8, 2014. Your entire business will be exposed to serious cyber attacks that can take control of your network, steal data, crash your system, and cripple your business. Many companies that we meet with don’t think they still have XP in their environment. However, what we have seen time and time again after a network review is that we typically find instances where XP still exist on their network. Postage machines, machines set up for printers, work-group machines etc. are all examples of possible security risk in a companies defense. The code has already been written… hackers are lining up right now waiting just waiting for the date.

You Must Migrate from XP and Office 2003 Before April 8, 2014. By law, all medical and financial service companies must upgrade any and all of their computer systems running XP or Office 2003. Firewalls and anti-virus software won’t protect you. According to Tim Rains, Director of Microsoft Trustworthy Computing: “XP has been a beloved operating system for millions and millions of people around the world, but after 12 years of service it simply can’t mitigate the threats we’re seeing modern-day attackers use.”—USA Today. Cognoscape, Dallas area IT Services company is offering area businesses a complimentary Security Audit. We will provide you with a comprehensive executive report detailing possible security risks and advice and recommendations on how to fix them. CLICK HERE to sign up for your Security Audit. 

Be Aware and Prepared… Not Overwhelmed

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Be Aware and Prepared…

Not Overwhelmed While the threat of data center loss and downtime is acknowledged, ask a group of SMBs how much they lose annually from network and system failure and you’re likely to be met with many blank stares and wild guesses. Perhaps they can sound off the hourly rate they’ve been charged for IT services, or what they’ve recently paid to repair or upgrade software and hardware, but very few can even venture to guess how much is lost in productivity, revenue, services and customer goodwill. The Aberdeen Group (an IT research firm) recently projected the estimated annual cost of downtime to be $25,806 for every small business employing less than one hundred people. Medium-sized businesses, employing anywhere between one hundred to one thousand employees, were hit even harder by failed technology at an estimated $880,600 per year.

Is it any wonder why many smart business owners these days aren’t sleeping soundly at night? They’re stressing over something they feel powerless to address – the stability and efficiency of their IT system and network.

But you aren’t powerless as you may think. Most IT system failures can be totally avoided, or reduced in severity, quite easily and inexpensively. All it takes is some risk assessment, a plan, proactive maintenance and the right sizing of your legacy IT budget.

Are SMBs Keeping Sensitive Data Safe in Bring-Your-Own-Device to Work Era?

Keeping Sensitive Data Safe The global research firm Forrester recently projected that by 2016 there will be over 200 million employees using their own smartphone for work. That’s right, the BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) movement is upon us. While BYOD has undoubtedly enabled businesses to better accommodate an increasingly mobile and dispersed work force, how secure is sensitive customer and corporate data in the modern era of work-life integration? Are SMBs doing enough to ensure that networks aren’t threatened by the risk of malware being spread from personal mobile phones? Find out how you can be prepared – Download the eGuide – “Now You See It, There It… Stays: Decreasing the Business Costs and Risks of Data Loss What You Will Learn From this E-Guide Two very common sources of data loss and leakage How new technology can expose your business to data loss and disruption Four critical steps to better secure and backup sensitive data According to the Gartner Group, only 6% of small businesses survive a major data loss. Any small or medium sized business without a data back-up and recovery plan must act now before it’s too late!

Thoughts of families, friends, folks and oh yeah, business too…

Tornado data loss

With yesterday’s real world tornado examples in the DFW area, we give thought to our families, friends and folks in general.   We hope you are all well and were unaffected by the storm.   This is, of course is the most important of considerations.   At some point your thoughts as a business owner, partner or executive will turn to what effect something like this might have had on your livelihood.   Although secondary to wanting our families to be safe and secure we also want our business to be secure from catastrophe if it can be avoided.   With advances in Cloud Technology and Cloud Hosting Services you can be covered with redundant or failover data sites and Backup and Disaster Recovery solutions.

In light of the recent storm, we’ll provide free Business Continuity, Data Disaster and Backup and Disaster Recovery assessments for companies from 50 – 500 employees in the DFW area. This is a value we want to provide to the community at no cost. Something we can offer that could make a difference in the future of your business.

Contact us for your free assessment at 214 377-4884 or sign up on our website at https://www.cognoscape.com

Most people don’t realize how much they have invested in their data. The data you’ve accumulated over the years is one of your most valuable business assets. From customer contact information to accounting information to inventory, you need your data to operate your business.

Statistics show that on average, over 40% of businesses that do not have a Disaster Recovery Plan go out of business after a major loss like a fire, a break-in, a tornado, or sabotage.

 A successful data recovery in the least amount of time ensuring that your business continues is only achieved by a sophisticated “dual-method” backup and recovery system.

Windows 7 Backup and Restore

Here’s a good article by Microsoft on Windows Backup and Restore.   This is specific to Windows 7 and it’s features  with Windows Backup Restore capabilities.   Check it out.  http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows7/products/features/backup-and-restore

Backup and Restore—improved for Windows 7—creates safety copies of your most important personal files, so you’re always prepared for the worst.

Let Windows choose what to back up, or pick individual folders, libraries, and drives yourself. Windows can back up files on whatever schedule you choose—just set it and forget it.

You can back up to another drive or a DVD. And if you’re using the Professional or Ultimate editions of Windows 7, you’ll also have the option of backing up your files to a network.

To back up your files

  1. Open Backup and Restore by clicking the Start button, clicking Control Panel, clicking System and Maintenance, and then clicking Backup and Restore.
  2. Do one of the following:
    • If you’ve never used Windows Backup before, click Set up backup, and then follow the steps in the wizard. If you’re prompted for an administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.
    • If you’ve created a backup before, you can wait for your regularly scheduled backup to occur, or you can manually create a new backup by clicking Back up now. If you’re prompted for an administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.

Notes

  • We recommend that you don’t back up your files to the same hard disk that Windows is installed on.
  • Always store media used for backups (external hard disks, DVDs, or CDs) in a secure place to prevent unauthorized people from having access to your files—we recommend a fireproof location separate from your computer. You might also consider encrypting the data on your backup.

How Do I Remove a Virus?

We often get asked about virus removal. Here’s a great article from Microsoft to get you on the right path…

http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/Windows7/How-do-I-remove-a-computer-virus

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[styledbox type=”information” ]For more help on virus removal, or prevention, schedule our Network Health Check / Security Audit.[/styledbox]

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How do I remove a computer virus?

If your computer is infected with a virus, you’ll want to remove it as quickly as possible. A fast way to check for viruses is to use an online scanner, such as the Microsoft Safety Scanner. The scanner is a free online service that helps you identify and remove viruses, clean up your hard disk, and generally improve your computer’s performance.

If you’re not sure whether your computer has a virus, see How can I tell if my computer has a virus? to check for some telltale signs. To try a different online scanner, follow the links to other companies that provide them on the Windows Security software providerswebpage.

If you can connect to the Internet

If you can reach a website using your web browser, run an online scan.

To run the Microsoft Safety Scanner

  1. Go to the Microsoft Safety Scanner webpage to download the scanner.

  2. Click Download Now, and then follow the instructions on the screen.

If you can’t connect to the Internet

If you can’t get to the Microsoft Safety Scanner online, try restarting your computer in safe mode with networking enabled.

To restart in Safe Mode with networking enabled

  1. Restart your computer.

  2. When you see the computer manufacturer’s logo, press and hold the F8 key.

  3. On the Advanced Boot Options screen, use the arrow keys to highlight Safe Mode with Networking, and then press Enter.

  4. Log on to your computer with a user account that has administrator rights.

  5. Follow the steps above to run the Microsoft Safety Scanner.

For more information about different startup modes, see Start your computer in safe mode.

If you still can’t access the Internet after restarting in safe mode, try resetting yourInternet Explorer proxy settings. The following steps reset the proxy settings in theWindows‌ registry so that you can access the Internet again.

To reset Internet Explorer proxy settings

  1. In Windows 7, click the Start button Picture of the Start button. In the search box, type run, and then, in the list of results, click Run.

    -or-

    In Windows Vista, click the Start button Picture of Start button, and then click Run.

    -or-

    In Windows XP, click Start, and then click Run.

  2. Copy and paste or type the following text in the Open box in the Run dialog box:

    reg add “HKCUSoftwareMicrosoftWindowsCurrentVersionInternet Settings” /v ProxyEnable /t REG_DWORD /d 0 /f

  3. Click OK.

  4. In Windows 7, click the Start button Picture of the Start button. In the search box, type run, and then, in the list of results, click Run.

    -or-

    In Windows Vista, click the Start button Picture of Start button, and then click Run.

    -or-

    In Windows XP, click Start, and then click Run.

  5. Copy and paste or type the following text in the Open box in the Run dialog box:

    reg delete “HKCUSoftwareMicrosoftWindowsCurrentVersionInternet Settings” /v ProxyServer /f

  6. Click OK.

Restart Internet Explorer and then follow the steps listed previously to run the scanner.

Remove a virus manually

Sometimes a virus must be removed manually. This can become a technical process that you should only undertake if you have experience with the Windows registry and know how to view and delete system and program files in Windows.

First, identify the virus by name by running your antivirus program. If you don’t have an antivirus program or if your program doesn’t detect the virus, you might still be able to identify it by looking for clues about how it behaves. Write down the words in any messages it displays or, if you received the virus in email, write down the subject line or name of the file attached to the message. Then search an antivirus vendor’s website for references to what you wrote down to try to find the name of the virus and instructions for how to remove it.

Recovery and prevention

After the virus is removed, you might need to reinstall some software or restore lost information. Doing regular backups on your files can help you avoid data loss if your computer becomes infected again. If you haven’t kept backups in the past, we recommend that you start now.

To learn how to help protect your computer against viruses in the future, see How can I help protect my computer from viruses?

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[styledbox type=”information” ]For more help on virus removal, or prevention, schedule our Network Health Check / Security Audit.[/styledbox]

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Network Security tools are not always enough

Network Security tools and antivirus products do not provide complete protection from the Viruses and Malware that threaten businesses on a regular basis.  Common sense and intuition can help fill the gaps where network security tools leave off.  A recent example comes from a client who correctly DID NOT open the attachment and referred the email to our team for analysis.  Working for a lawfirm, our client knew that such a notification would arrive as a certified letter instead of just an email to a distribution list.  The email came in as follows:

From: Douglas Rosenthal – Attorney [mailto:doug.rose@douglasrosenthal.com]
Sent: Monday, August 02, 2010 3:04 PM
To: Recipients
Subject: Cease and Desist

Dear Sir

It has come to our attention that your website contains a logo thatis identical/substantially similar to our copyrighted Work.
Permission was neither asked nor granted to reproduce our Work and your Work therefore constitutes infringement of our rights.
In terms of the Copyright Statutes, we are entitled to an injunction against your continued infringement, as well as to recover damages from you for the loss we have suffered as a result of your infringing conduct.

In the circumstances, we demand that you immediately:
1. remove all infringing content and notify us in writing that you have done so;
2. credit all infringing content to ourselves.
3. immediately cease the use and distribution of copyrighted material;
4. undertake in writing to desist from using any of our copyrighted Work in future without prior written authority from us.

Attached is a list of the copyrighted material in question.

We await to hear from you.

This is written without prejudice to our rights, all of which are hereby expressly reserved

The email attachment is a Microsoft Word document named 822010.doc with a size of 112,532 bytes.  Opening the document you see what looks like a PDF file named infrige_documents.pdf with the instructions “(double click to view)”.

A quick look at the properties of the embedded file (In Word 2010 – Right Click on the file/Packager Shell Object Object/Properties) shows the embedded PDF file is really an executable named  INFRIG~1.EXE with a description of “Ufouonkt Uvadb”.  The file name was even a misspelling of INFRINGE, another clue that the whole thing is bad.  Launching this file would have launched a virus that would attempt to infect the computer.  When I tested this file, only 17% of the the world’s anti-virus engines would have flagged it as bad.

With any email or pop up message we advise our clients to either call us or forward the email so we have a chance to prevent a much bigger problem.  When in doubt, DO NOT open items or click messages when you can easily pick up the phone and get the help of an IT professional.