Ransomware Evolves Towards a Targeted Approach

Ransomware evolves, attacking continues to be on the rise, and companies are scrambling to add technical safeguards, policy-level protection and employee education to fight the threat.

Like most cyber-threats, ransomware is evolving in sophistication, and one of the latest techniques, known as “spear phishing” is on the rise.

Up until recently, ransomware tended by launched through emails sent indiscriminately — essentially, infected spam. But instead of trying to convince the recipient to buy something, ransomware emails masqueraded as routine business emails (the most famous is a bogus UPS tracking email), and the links or attachments contained the malware.

This latest approach is more targeted. The emails are spoofed to appear to be coming from a trusted sender (often a principal within the company). In some cases, the approach is even more layered – an email asks for a response, and then the recipient responds, the next message contains the infection, as part of an email thread the recipient seems to trust.

This all underscores the need for multi-layered defense against ransomware, consisting of technical tools, policy-level controls, employee education and a plan for rapid recovery in case of infections.

Clare Computer Solutions is offering on-site training to selected companies in the San Francisco Bay Area. They provide information on technologies that can help prevent ransomware, or detect it very early, and a process for post-infection recovery. In addition, they provide user training to educate network users how to be better prepared to spot suspicious email, whether they are obvious or not.

To learn more and request the ransomware training for your company, see http://www.clarecomputer.com/resources/events/ransomware-survival-guide/

Cloud-Based Email vs. On-Premises Email

Cloud-based email is one of the fastest growing segments of cloud computing, and it’s easy to understand why. Email is such a ubiquitous part of modern communication (How long has it been since someone in business told you they don’t have an email address?), that a new solution that promises wider access, simplified management and subscription-based licensing is attractive to many companies.

But the move from an on-premises email service to a cloud-based solution (such as Office365) is not as easy as flipping a switch, and some companies have had very frustrating experiences when trying to make the change. Here are some things to consider when considering migrating to a cloud-based service, to help make that transition go as smoothly as possible.

How Much Storage Are You Using?

The amount of stored emails companies have on their email servers is often taken for granted. In general, the common practice is to save everything, to be on the safe side. But when it comes time to move all that data, it can add considerable complexity to the task. This is just one of several “hidden” aspects of the email environment that must be addressed for a successful migration.

Public vs. Private Folders

We all grow accustomed to having access to the resources we need, but it’s easy to forget that the permissions for each user’s access can vary quite a bit, and it takes some investigation and planning to successfully transplant that combination of permissions to a new platform.

Calendars

Outlook users benefit from the ability to view their own calendars, and those of selected colleagues, and the view they see while in Outlook can make it seem deceptively simple. But behind that view is an interactive combination of permissions and this, too, requires careful consideration to be successfully migrated with the user environment intact.

Consider Migration Costs in Your ROI

When comparing the costs of cloud-based email to having your own in-house email server, factor in the costs of migrating to the cloud-based solution. The considerations shown above may have a profound effect on the time it takes to get a return on the investment.

The promise of cloud computing in general, and cloud-based email n particular, is real. It’s just important to get expert advice to ensure those benefits are properly realized.  Clare Computer Solutions has the expertise to understand your business, its IT environment, and the emerging cloud solutions – we can help you make the right choices, and fully realize the power of these technologies!  Contact us today to get started.

Technology Update: The End-of-Sales Date for Windows 7 & 8.1 is 10/31/16

Windows 7 & 8.1 Sales Will Soon Be Coming to an End!

Microsoft has announced that official end-of-sales for PCs running the Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 operating systems is Oct. 31, 2016.

What exactly does this mean for your company and you? It means after that date, you will no longer be able to purchase new systems from Microsoft or a third party with the older version of the operating system preinstalled.

However, certain businesses can find a way around the deadline. After Oct. 31, 2016, organizations participating in the Volume Licensing program may leverage Software Assurance or downgrade rights to switch from Windows 10 to Windows 7 on new PCs.

Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 are still being supported by Microsoft for several more years (See the Fact Sheet Here for exact dates), so this news doesn’t mean it’s critical to make any immediate changes.

If you prefer a homogenous environment for your network users, however, it would be wise to start working on a plan to upgrade user machines to Windows 10 –providing all your applications will work with that newer operating system.

Clare Computer Solutions understands that every company, and every IT infrastructure is different. We can help you create a technology refresh roadmap to ensure your technology will stay up to date and running at optimal levels. Contact us today to get started.

Don’t Think Disaster Recovery – Think Business Continuity

When we hear the word “disaster”, we think of the events that make the news – floods, fires, hurricanes, earthquakes.  But for a business, a disaster is anything that disrupts the ability to do business. The newsworthy disasters mentioned above qualify, but so do events that would not make the news: a crashed server, a broken water main, interruption in electricity to your facility, even an accidentally deleted file.

To protect your business, think of these events in terms of what you will need to do to resume business operations quickly after such an event. This is called Business Continuity and it encompasses more than just disaster recovery (BDR).

Many businesses don’t address this larger issue when setting up disaster recovery (BDR) measures. Backing up data is smart, yes, but have you planned how you will restore that data if needed? What if your office became unavailable? How quickly could you resume operations with that data restored to another site?  How would you notify your employees, your clients and your suppliers if you were going to be down for any length of time?

There are tactics and technologies that can help your business be prepared for a number of eventualities, from minor interruptions to large scale infrastructure issues. Implementing a workable business continuity plan is within reach for small-to-medium size enterprises now.

Let Clare Computer Solutions Show How You Can Prepare

Clare Computer Solutions is hosting a lunch’n’learn event in Oakland, California on October 27th, 2016 on this important topic. Please make plans to join us – your business is too important to risk losing clients and money due lack of disaster response preparation.

To register for this event, go to http://www.clarecomputer.com/resources/events/disaster/

If you can’t make it to this event, please contact us to discuss your business and devising and implementing a business continuity plan – we can meet with you and get started on making your business disaster-proof!