Concerned About Email Spoofing and Phishing? 3 Tips to Avoid Being a Victim

Anti-malware software has become more sophisticated and as a result, cybercriminals are resorting to new tricks, hoping to enlist the help of users on your network to launch their malware. Two of the most common are “spoofing” and “phishing”.

A “spoofed” email is one that seems to come from an address you might recognize, but it Phishingmay have attachments, that, when opened, launch harmful malware within your system. The most notorious example is Cryptolocker which is often sent as a PDF attachment to an email that seems to be from a “shipping company”. The recipient sees it, thinks they’re checking on a package, and by opening the attachment (or clicking a link) the ransomware is launched.

“Phishing” is similar in that the “from” address shown is usually fake. Instead of enticing the recipient to open attachments, the email lures the reader into clicking links to verify their identities, and provide personal information. However, the websites are not what they claim to be, linking to shell URLs which are owned and operated by cybercriminals.  These “phishing” attempts can be very clever, dressed up as emails from banks, the government or even healthcare companies.

CCS Tips to Avoid Being a Victim of Phishing and Email Spoofing

Systems

If your company network has up-to-date antivirus and antimalware protection, many of the spoofing and phishing attempts will not even reach your Inbox, or if they do, they typically come with a warning. Cybercriminals never stop innovating, so it’s important that the company’s defenses against cyber threats are consistently updated.

Having an active data backup system in place is vital, just in case malware gets through the edge defenses. Make sure that system images are backed up as well as data. If a PC gets infected, it may be possible to reimage the PC from a backup saved just prior to the infection. This will keep your company downtime to a minimum and your productivity at its peak.

Education

The reason spoofing and phishing scams work is because people get a lot of email on a day-to-day basis, and they’re often in a hurry to read them. However, it is possible to learn to spot these scams. If an email seems “wrong” in any way – the body of the message doesn’t seem to match your expectations of the sender, or you get a completely unexpected message with an attachment – hesitate. If you think you know the sender, take a moment to call them to ask if they sent it.

Phishing is actually easier to spot if you know these three things:

1)    No bank or legitimate enterprise is going to ask you to verify sensitive information (social security number, credit card info, passwords) from an emailed link.

2)    When viewing a link in an email, if you hover your cursor over the link, you will see the actual destination address at the bottom of your screen. If the email says it’s from Bank of America, but the link goes to another address don’t trust it.

3)    Pay attention to the destination’s root domain (the letters just to left of the dot) – this can’t be faked, while subdomains can be faked. For example, http://login.amazon.com would be OK (if you’re expecting to get to Amazon), but http://amazon.bizsites.com is suspicious.

The last line of defense is you – the email recipient. Learn to be in tune to messages that are suspicious, because of the wording, what they’re asking or what they’ve sent you. Avoid having personal messages sent to your business email. And take your time to look at a message carefully before opening attachments or clicking links. If anything seems wrong in any way, bring it to the attention of your IT department.

Here’s a link to a fun Phishing Quiz from a company called OpenDNS – can you pass?

Clare Computer Solutions has been helping companies protect their networks for decades, and we can help your company, too. Contact us to get started.

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3 Myths About IT Managed Services

We’re at least five years into the managed services revolution in IT support, but there arenetcentral_logo_web still a lot of misconceptions about what managed services can or can’t do for a business. This is due to a combination of mixed signals from industry media and some bad experiences with IT services providers who don’t understand managed services yet. Clare Computer Solutions has been providing IT managed services for over a decade, so we would like to dispel these 3 myths surrounding managed services.

Myth #1: If I Get Managed Services, I Won’t Know What’s Going On With My IT

This one is a direct result of IT providers who don’t understand how to do managed services. The idea of managed services is to take over the responsibility of managing a client’s network, but it should never be at the expense of transparency. A proper Managed Services Program should include knowledge transfer, and regular reporting – the network belongs to the client, and the client has the right to know what’s happening there. And it’s the managed services provider job to make sure the client has access to all that information, whenever they want it.

Myth #2: I’ll Save Money If I Just Fix Things When They Break

You don’t believe this when it comes to your vehicle, or your health, do you? Why would it make sense for your business?  Sometimes, business owners come to believe this myth if they don’t understand the true cost of network downtime. In addition to actual cost of fixing what breaks and replacing equipment is the costs due to emergency expedites for service and equipment, lost productivity and brand damage if your company appears out of operation. There was a time when “Our computers are down” was an acceptable thing to say, but not anymore.

Myth #3: Managed Services Makes Bad Technology Work Better

A well-run business has a well-run IT infrastructure consisting of quality components. This is the ideal scenario. Expecting better network management to overcome obsolete technology is not a realistic viewpoint. But managed services can prevent your quality network from ever being obsolete, by tracking all the network assets and providing consultation to create a plan to cycle out again infrastructure before it fails and interrupts your business operations.

The basic premise of managed services – IT support designed to share the risk of keeping an IT infrastructure up, as opposed to reacting to problems and charging for the repairs – is a sound one and is here to stay. It’s a paradigm that serves in-house, cloud-based and hybrid technologies.  It works for small, medium and large enterprises. Contact Clare Computer Solutions today to relieve your company of the burden of managing your company’s technology.

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Top 5 Reasons Businesses Use IT Managed Services

While many companies want to focus on their core business and have a support team available 24/7 as their primary reason to engage with a managed service provider, numerous companies have other reasons that they work with an IT company in this capacity.

According to a 2014 survey conducted by CompTIA, a nonprofit IT trade services organization, these are the top five reasons that businesses use managed services. Some of these may surprise you!

1. Improve SecurityMSPS_Article_Jan2016

2. Gain a proactive approach to IT problems/initiatives

3. Increase uptime

4. Gain access to newer technologies

5. Save costs over in-house IT

Cost remains a priority, but it’s lower on the list than you might think. Businesses are more likely than ever to see MSPs as delivering expertise that help them achieve long-term strategic goals, improve compliance, eliminate technical risk and upgrade to the cloud.

Sharing the Risk of Maintaining Vital Technology

Businesses have long understood the wisdom of partnering with experts in special areas like accounting, insurance and law – why should technology be any different? Technology is a major component of any businesses’ ability to compete and grow. A managed IT service program provides a team of experts sharing the responsibility of integrating technology into your IT infrastructure, delivering efficiency, cost control and reliability to the whole operation.

Clare Computer Solutions’ managed service program, NetCentral, can help improve and maintain your company’s technology infrastructure and network. Contact us today for a strategic conversation about your business’ IT needs.

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4 Tips to Control IT Costs at Your Business

One of the keys for success for any business is to control costs. Technology can help reduceIT Budget Planning costs through added efficiency and agility, but sometimes companies find it a challenge to control the costs of their IT department itself. Here are some tips on controlling those costs.

Keep the Current Infrastructure Up-to-Date

Even while in their normal working lifespan, network devices need to be maintained by applying security patches, operating system updates, software updates and anti-virus updates. Much of this can be automatic, but care needs to taken to ensure an update does not adversely affect installed software. One vendor’s update may have an effect on another vendor’s installed applications, so evaluation of updates and patches is a recommended practice.

Cycle Out Aging Equipment

This does not mean just replacing machines that fail. One of things that makes IT costs go up is emergency replacement of broken network components. Modern network infrastructures can be monitored to detect signs of impending failure, so that action can often be taken before it becomes a problem that affects business productivity.

In addition, equipment and software have a lifecycle, so companies can save costs by making an orderly technology refresh cycle part of their ongoing IT maintenance. Often, this can be done in phases, so that the cost of keeping the network modern is spread out and becomes a consistent and manageable part of the IT budget.

Be Prepared for Trouble

Better management of the IT infrastructure will reduce costs of unexpected downtime, but preparing for the unexpected is also wise. Loss of production due to a server crash, data loss, or other disasters (big or small) can make IT costs soar. Create a disaster recovery plan Invest in technology to enable your company to get back up and running quickly when something unforeseen happens. Back up your company’s data, and store backed up data locally, and in the cloud. Back up images too – these can be used to quickly deploy of virtual version of a downed server.

Be Strategic

Companies that successfully use technology as a competitive advantage make IT part of the corporate culture and growth plans. They understand that technology isn’t just a set of tools for the day to day operation – technology can transform the business and its operations and provide a true competitive advantage. As you make your business plans and set goals for the next year, or two, or five, consider how technology can help your company run more efficiently, achieve agility and be a leader in your market.

Why doesn’t every company follow these 4 tips to control their IT costs? Usually, it’s because they’re too busy with running the business. This is where an IT consulting firm can have a huge impact. Engage the services of an IT consulting firm (like Clare Computer Solutions) to implement and maintain these 4 steps, and your company will fully realize the power of technology (and control those IT costs!)

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Ransomware: How to Reduce Risk and Protect Your Business

By Ralph Lawhorn

The malware known as “Ransomware” has many variants which utilize an array of Ransomwaremethods to find a series of entry points (usually an attachment to an email) to infect and encrypt a company’s servers and data. Once the virus finds an entry point, it will begin to rapidly encrypt all the drives it can quickly access within the infected system.

You will become aware that the infection has occurred when someone attempts to access a file that has been encrypted or it hits the Server Operating System. There are no tools or Data Recovery Services that can decrypt your data; it is unrecoverable in this state.

All is not lost once your system has been compromised. We have found that there are two solutions that work the best once your system is compromised. Your two options are to restore your system from the last good backup or simply attempt to pay the ransom.

The IT industry does not encourage the payment of the ransom – and doing so does have risks. Sometimes a decryption key is never sent or won’t work, and the criminals don’t have an IT support team!.

But if you have no backup process for your data or you’re unsure and cannot take a chance on an unchecked backup then you may have no choice but to attempt to pay the ransom.

Prevention is the Best Option – Use These Steps

Educate Your Staff

One of the most common causes of infection is an employee clicking on a link or opening a file sent from a legitimate source they might have corresponded with in the past. Train them to recognize “suspicious” emails

Employ Content Scanning / Filtering on Email Servers:

All incoming email must be scanned for viruses; this is the primary entry point for Ransomware.  The next is websites that are infected; this is where a web content filter should come into play.  If the website is infected the web filter will prevent its entry. 

Maintain Patch Levels for OS and Applications:

It is an industry best practice to keep the workstations, server operating systems and applications up to date and patched as this will help prevent infection to your network.

Block End Users from Executing Malware:

Newer Antivirus and Malware programs such as Symantec, Malwarebytes and Webroot have products that work well for this service.  You can configure and use “Group Policies” to implement software restriction policies to prevent the threat of Ransomware from running in the protected system areas.

Install and configure Host Intrusion Prevention:

Intrusion Detection Systems (IDS) and Intrusion Prevention Systems (IPS) solutions are very helpful but do require a certain amount of administration such as monitoring for alerts, notifications and events.

Limit User Access to Mapped Drives:

If users do not need access to drives or sharing privileges then remove them from the shared list. Group rights and login scripts will help to map drive access in your company.

Deploy and Maintain Backups:

The most important solution we constantly offer to our clients would be to constantly backup your system – we cannot stress this enough. The biggest takeaway from this article is that the best protection is a solid backup scheme. We prefer image-based backups like Datto, Storagecraft and Veeam.

This is not a complete list of all the methods or solutions that can be used; however these are the most common and cost effective methods of prevention.  Remember, doing something is better than doing nothing at all. Again, if you take nothing else away from this article please make sure that you have a solid backup solution in place and it is working.

For more information about Ransomware and how Clare Computer Solutions can protect your company, contact us or visit our website at www.clarecomputer.com to find out what CCS can do for you.

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5 Tips to Choose the Right Cloud Services for Your Company

The cloud can improve efficiency and increase flexibility for companies as it Cloud Decisionsevolves. Here are 5 tips to help you compare cloud services and systems.

  1. Consider how many people you have and whether there are licensing arrangements that might be more favorable to you
  2. Don’t forget to take growth into account. Will you get a cheaper price today only to pay a lot more several months from now after you’ve expanded?
  3. Ask about the ability to get your data out of their system and into your hands. In case the company changes its terms or is acquired, you want to be sure that you get to your own information.
  4. Are there capacity constraints that could help narrow your choice for you? If the best price doesn’t cover you, then it doesn’t matter how low it is.
  5. Look carefully at the comparative capabilities and rethink what you really need to do business today and what you might want in the future. Many entrepreneurs buy more capabilities that they need.

Areas recommended for comparison of cloud systems include:

  1. Computing power, databases & networking
  2. Price
  3. Client/customer Lists (What sort of businesses are using these solutions?)
  4. Pros and cons of each system. Make a list of pros and cons for both and compare.
  5. Contract (Term lengths and other conditions vary from provider to provider – make sure the contract fits your company’s needs.)

Allow Clare Computer Solutions (CCS) to find the best solution for your business. Utilizing our experience over the course of the last 25 years, we will pick the best solution to fit your small or medium sized business while managing the implementation of the services entirely. Contact us to schedule a FREE assessment today for your business to determine what cloud based solution is right for your company.

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It’s Time to Pick Your Company’s New Year’s Resolutions for 2016

Here is a quick list of what to review with your team for 2016

  1. Business Compliance – Does your business need to meet strict business compliance regulatory requirements? Are you current? Are you sure?
  2. Security – Is your software security updated and do you have a method to monitor your network for threats before they happen or at least so you can quickly react to any issues?
  3. New Years Resolutions for 2016System Performance – Is your company’s technology infrastructure performing at peak levels? Are you operating with obsolete equipment that is slowing down your productivity? It may be time for a server upgrade or other solution.
  4. Cloud Readiness and Migration – Everything will be moving to the cloud eventually or at least there will be a predominance of Cloud and Hybrid Cloud solutions. Is your company ready to make the transition? If not why not?
  5. Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery – Have you tested your business continuity and disaster recovery program recently? We recommend running a complete test on all of your systems at least once a year. CCS provides this as a service.
  6. 3 IT Projects That Can Transform Your Business:
    1) Adopt Virtualization in the IT Infrastructure
    2) Utilize Cloud Services
    3) Institute a Business Continuity & Disaster Recovery Plan
    If you are incorporating new technology on a budget, there is nothing like mapping out a technology infrastructure plan that is phased in over time. Companies experience the benefit of a managed implementation program as well as planned expenses and costs over time.
  7. Is your company planning a relocation within the next 18 months? If so don’t forget the technology department. Moving technology requires special expertise and a minimum preparation period of 60-90 days to schedule various services and to shut down other services.
  8. Is your company spending too much time managing technology vendors? – A Managed Service Program (MSP) such as NetCentral can be an excellent approach to managing technology needs. An MSP can help you and your team get back to focusing on your core business.

If your company is asking any of these questions or has concerns about these topics, contact Clare Computer Solutions (CCS). We have helped thousands of organizations with their technology needs.

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5 Tips for Safer Online Holiday Shopping

There’s no doubt that online shopping is convenient. Shoppers have access to an Shop Safely onlineincredible selection of products and can easily comparison shop for the best quality and lowest prices. The online shopping experience is here to stay – the consumers have spoken!

With the convenience comes some risks, however, and while they shouldn’t deter shoppers from making online purchases, it’s wise to make sure you shop safely, and not become of victim of cybercrime. Here are 5 tips to help you shop safely.

1: Shop from your own device, from home

Don’t use public terminals for online shopping and avoid public wireless networks. You have no way of knowing what malware might be installed on a public machine or how secure a public wireless network is.

2: Always make sure your shopping connection is secure

The address to a shopping site should always be via a Secure Socket Layer (SSL) connection. How can you tell? Look at the address bar in your browser – the address should start with “https” instead of “http”.  Some browsers also have a little “lock” or “key” symbol that appears when you’re connected via SSL, but the “https” is the best way to be sure.

3: Try and stick to sites you already trust

It’s easy to get creative and find some unusual or special items via a search engine, but you’re generally better off shopping at sites you’re already familiar with. That doesn’t limit you to large chain stores – just businesses you already trust. Never shop at a site you found through an emailed link.

4: Keep your anti-virus and anti-malware software up-to-date

Cybercriminals are always busy finding new ways to exploit vulnerabilities in PCs, tablets and phones – make sure you’re protected before shopping.

5: Use good judgment

Don’t let “shopping fever” cloud your judgment. Avoid buying anything – even something you want – from a site that looks “wrong” in any way. You should never give up any more information than necessary to complete the transaction. NEVER give your social security number. If you have to create an account on the site to purchase, use a strong password, and never use an emailed link to go to a site to shop. If a deal sounds too good to be true – chances are it’s NOT a real “deal”.

Cybercriminals (like most criminals) are always looking for the easy victims. Keeping these tips in mind can help you avoid being a victim! Clare Computer Solutions can help your company to protect your network – contact us today to get started!

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Is Your Company Planning a Move in 2016? What You Need to know about Your IT.

While the technology portion is often the most complex part of the relocation to new relocatespace, you can minimize risk and maximize success with thoughtful planning.

1)  It’s About Planning, Planning and More Planning

Technology and office furniture will likely be the two items with the longest lead times for your new space. Make sure that you include team leaders from the technology and office management organizations on your move project team.

2)  Consider That Technology Lead Times are a Minimum of 90 Days

Even though your carrier availability may be confirmed at your new location, the time required to set up new circuits for phone and data as well as to schedule the cutover, is a minimum of 90 days.

3)  These Systems are Fragile

Company servers, SANs (Storage Area Networks), and computer equipment are powerful but delicate. Look for a technology moving company that will partner with you to perform pre-move inventory and desktop diagramming, has dedicated project management specific to your account, uses anti-static computer bags and monitor covers, will manage the disconnect and reconnect of desktops, laptops and phones, and will provide post-move inventory verification and support.

4)  Review Your Business Continuity/Disaster Recovery Plan

Consider what you will do if equipment is damaged in transit. Plan for how you will handle scheduling delays and conflicts that could occur at the last minute. Determine whether or not overlapping services at the old office and new office make sense. Make sure you have a detailed list of all providers and personnel to contact in case of an issue.

5)  Include IT Costs and Contracts in Your Move Budget

Review IT contractual agreements and understand any early termination costs (especially in the telco area) as well as budget for overlapping services and equipment for at least 30 days.  Determine whether or not office cabling costs are included as part of a tenant improvement allowance or if they must be included in your calculations. And don’t forget printers, faxes, copiers, and scanners – will you purchase new equipment for the new office or move what you already have in place?

6)  Is it Time to Upgrade Your IT and Improve Your Strategy?

An office move is a good time to review your technology and consider changing processes such as moving to the cloud or changing copier suppliers and support. Ensure that any new technologies implemented during this change are done prior to the move to minimize disruption.

7)  Allow Time for Testing

Plan for telecommunications testing to take place in advance of your move to ensure there are no surprises on moving day! Your testing checklist should every aspect of your phone system. (Make sure to have the right team members available to address or escalate any issues.)

A successful move is the best way to welcome your employees to their new space.

Clare Computer Solutions (CCS) has moved hundreds of companies and has the technical and project management expertise to make your move stress free. Contact us to get help.

Portions of this article and tips are from The Office Space Advisor Blog.
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Do You Have a System That Tells You When Your Technology Expires?

How can a company stay ahead of aging technology? This can be a challenge with a network consisting of components purchased over the course of several years. With 2016 just around the corner, now is the perfect time to address this and have your company Refresh Your Technologypoised to maximize the value it gets from it technology.

Document IT Assets

Networks tend to grow in increments over the years, depending on need, and many companies simply don’t know what they have.  First conduct an inventory and document the network – hardware and software. This process may also uncover any unlicensed software in use.

Assign End-of-Life Dates

Sometimes, the network “discovery” tool can also find out when each device was put into service and from there, it’s relatively simple to determine which assets are at their “end of life”.  Servers tend to have a longer life than PCs – 6 or 7 years in some cases. Operating systems and productivity suites usually have well-publicized schedules for the end of their support.  PCs are considered “old” when they get past 4 years – at that point, repairs to them might cost more than the machine is worth.

Make an IT Budget

With a current and accurate list of network assets and their expected lifespans, it’s possible to build orderly company-wide technology refreshes into the company’s IT budget. This will provide several important benefits:

  • - Cash flow is predictable
  • - Down time is reduced
  •  -Network technology is always up-to-date

Many companies don’t have the expertise to do these three steps or the time. This is where a Managed Service Provider (MSP) can help, and the cost of the service is more than offset by the benefits listed above. Clare Computer Solutions has years of experience helping companies keep their technology up-to-date and running smoothly. Contact us today for a no-cost 1 hour assessment.

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