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3 New Year’s Resolutions for Technology Minded Business in 2020

There is something special about flipping the calendar over to the peak of a new year. For many personally, this means new years resolutions, for businesses it means fresh opportunity, a change to complete the things you missed in 2018! Like many, we’ve found businesses have a hard time considering what information technology goals they should have for the new year. Take this kick-starter for 3 New Year’s resolutions for your business to consider in the coming year. Read more

Hackers Execute Ransomware Attack & Encryption on SF Asian Art Museum

In the wake of destruction from an ever-growing threat of cybercriminals, many major municipal branches in Baltimore and Atlanta fell victim to encrypted systems and were extorted for millions. Soon after, the major targets became local school districts and colleges, but it would appear the targets have changed once again. This time to an industry that will surprise many, who think this could NEVER happen to them.

Museums? That’s right, last Tuesday it was reported that the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco was hit with a ransomware attack back in May. Initially, when I heard this, I was as surprised as you were, why would a Museum be hit with Ransomware? Why would someone search out cultural institutions to attack? The answer lays closer than we think, dealing in lower monetary value, museum donors’ personal information, can be easily stolen, alongside the typical digital footprint of email, phone number, first name, last name, etc.

It sounds like something out of an action movie, the hacking of a museum in San Francisco, came to the surface when the Asian Art Museum refused to pay the demanded ransom, sticking with the city’s official “no-negotiation policy.” Although everyone at the Asian Art Museum has been tight-lipped about the tactics used against them, we do know the data was recovered, by utilizing a trusted backup system. Always making sure technology partners are checking in, and running tests periodically, making sure systems built for fail-over are fully operational, and providing the museum the confidence needed to NOT PAY the ransom, knowing they can easily restore data, giving everyone at the Asian Art Museum, peace of mind.

Don’t be taken by surprise, protect your business with these five tips to better your data protection:

  1. End-Point Protection – To protect employees and businesses from cyberattacks and encryption, it’s critical to your success to employ up-to-date End-Point Protection (EPP) and Malware Alerting on high-value targets like servers or domain controllers.
  2. Gone Phishing – The human element is what gets most people, and it’s because these phishing examples have been developed to simulate a popular brand or coworker email. Without successfully phishing someone to gain access, the doors on your network can remain closed. Be warry, as social networks have been hit hard with email spoofing.
  3. See Something, Say Something – One of the most important things to teach employees within your network, is if they see a ransomware pop up, you should immediately disconnect this machine from the network. This will prevent the infected system from communicating with other nods on your network, damaging more of your data, and encrypting more technology.
  4. Group Policy Controls – Generate access controls or Group Policy, in case someone does get into one of the computers, they won’t be able to remote into someone else’s PC or system. Making it critical to prevent the spread and damage of further entities.
  5. Prioritize your Vulnerability – How much of a threat can your business take on, with information everywhere on the network, it grows impossible to secure everything, making it imperative to create a layered approach – to further secure financials and company email that could contain personal information.

In today’s cybersecurity landscape, ransomware poses a serious risk to every business. Taking a proactive approach is the key to reducing your risk. You can learn more about disaster recovery planning and reliable backup solutions by consulting a technology partner who understands your organization’s unique needs. Contact a Clare Computer Solutions Consultant today to determine your risk.

What Exactly Is a Security Posture & What Does It Mean to Your Business

Our business ecosystems have begun rapidly changing, with cybercriminals evolving rapidly, a new vocabulary is developing. A new addition to the lexicon of many is the concept of “Security Posture.” Another techy-word, referring to the strength and security of your IT infrastructure. Putting an increased presence on internet-born vulnerabilities for business technology. How you manage current hardware and software purchases, policy & procedure generation and controls.

What Makes-Up Your Security Posture

Any of these singular aspects are defined under cybersecurity, your security posture develops the likelihood of a breach, and what it would take for hackers to gain access to these critical pieces of network technology, but also the state of your employees, and if they can spot similar threats, making these difficult for many to observe.

In the context of managing cybersecurity, larger organizations, including Directors of IT, Chief Technology Officers, and any compliance officer, must make decisions based on the deliberation and analysis of their security posture. Generating a better understanding surrounding certain aspects of your cybersecurity approach, but this is simply not enough anymore. In today’s connected age a more holistic approach is needed to meet regulations and compliance. Read more

The Scariest New Ransomware Strain Taking Business Networks by Storm

Several security teams have recently discovered the scariest new strain of highly sophisticated ransomware called MegaCortex. Although this new strain sounds like something out of this world, MegaCortex is a purpose-built threat used to seek and destroy corporate networks, as a whole. Yes, you read that correctly, ENTIRE NETWORKS. What makes this strain on ransomware so unique, is once penetrated, attackers will begin releasing various payloads, infecting your network by rolling out malware to servers, and workstations using your very own domain controller or “DC,” as many know it today.

These attacks have already been detected in the United States, Italy, Canada, France, and a few other European Union (EU) nations. This comes to many in the cybersecurity community as a recently discovered strain, meaning not much is known about how its encryption works, or how they are getting in. Worst of all, we don’t know if the ransom payments are being honored as of yet. This is everything we know about MegaCortex ransomware.

How MegaCortex Strikes

Many security and analytics companies have begun diving deeper into this strain of malware. Findings include similar actions to the RYUK Strain, where attackers use Trojan operators to access infected systems. What this means specifically is, if Emotet or Qakbot Trojans have been present on network devices, there is a growing concern, this could be potential network backdoors.

How MegaCortex Uses Your Own Domain Controllers

Although this case isn’t clear how the bad guys are getting into your network, many victims have reported numerous attacks originating from a compromised domain controller. On the domain controller, Cobalt Strike is being dropped and executed to create a reverse shell back to an attacker host.

Using this shell, attackers take control of your domain controller configuring and distributing a copy of the malware executable and batch files across your network. This file then executes 44 different processes, including disabling Windows Services.

During the encryption of your system, ransomware will append extension file names, including “.aes128ctr.” We do not know if these extensions are static or created dynamically by each infection, including a secondary payload.

Secondary Payload? What Gives?!

In an effort to deliver the most accurate information, security researchers have also identified what would appear to many as a Secondary Hit, or Secondary Main Component. In plain English, this means its delivery system is multi-staged and uses multiple payloads on a single device. We are still unclear at this time if the malware is dropping MegaCortex or if it’s maliciously installed.

How to Block MegaCortex Infections All Together

It’s recommended for many and Clare Computer Solutions’ best practice to have a weapons-grade backup solution, either off-site or in the cloud. As many strands of ransomware target these backups first, and foremost.

In this article “Locking it Down: Remote Desktop Protocol,” we highlighted the need for many businesses to secure RDP Services that are publicly accessed via the internet. If your machine MUST run RDP, make sure it’s placed behind a firewall, and only made accessible via a VPN tunnel.

Although this ransomware isn’t being spread by email spam, it’s possible the Trojans listed above, can and will. That is why it’s crucial to always identify and inform you of this phishing, and social engineering attacks, to build greater awareness.

Does It Feel like I’m Speaking Another Language?

If you’re unsure where to begin, our security specialists can help! With over 30 years of experience in information technology, our staff knows what it takes to meet security standards. Get ahead of the bad guys, with a Security Posture Evaluation.

 

Tax Season is Ending, Clean Up Your Sensitive Information Before the Criminals Do

If you’re anything like me, your tired of picking up the phone just to hear someone’s terrible recording of a tax collector, IRS agent or CPA demanding some outrageous sum of money. According to the IRS, in their latest security bulletin, they have formulated 2019’s “Dirty Dozen.” Keeping employees and end-users in mind, many will have sensitive data leftover on their devices, making your business a prime target.

With highly targeted attacks plaguing many of us today, it’s not uncommon to see Business Email Compromised or more-commonly, CEO Fraud. Reaching $12.5 Billion in total known losses, these attacks have bad guys trying to convince end-users, typically in Accounting, Receiving, HR, and sometimes IT to release information or funds based on their faked email address or title. Typically, this results in many unknowing employees making some form of payment or releasing the information as they view their job could be at stake.

We’ve even seen these “Fake CEOs” attempt to send out emails regarding W-2 issues. Once opened, the payload can be delivered from these attacks at any point in time. In most cases, we’ve witnessed malware laying low in systems for 90 days. With tax season closing, we wanted to shed some light on the technology aspects of the “IRS’ Dirty Dozen.”

Here’s a recap of this year’s ?Dirty Dozen? scams:

1. Phishing: Business’ filing on their own behalf this year, should be alert to the potential for faked emails or websites looking to steal personal information. The IRS notes, “The IRS will never initiate contact with taxpayers via email about a bill or tax refund.” Don’t click any links or attachments from someone claiming to be from or on behalf of the IRS. For more information from the IRS website see here: (IR-2019-26)

2. Phone Scams:?Phone calls from criminals or on behalf of them impersonating IRS agents remain an ever-growing threat to end-users during tax season. It’s these same calls your employees receive that contain outlandish threats including police arrest, deportation, or my personal favorite license revocation. For more information from the IRS website see here: (IR-2019-28)

3. Identity Theft: During tax season, businesses will have taxpayer information on-hand for one of the few times all year. This means for the period between March to May, the IRS warns that identity theft will rise, although the security industry has made several large strides in protecting employees currently. The IRS warns business’ as they continue perusing these criminal actions. For more information from the IRS website see here: (IR-2019-30)

6. Tax Return Preparer Fraud: Unfortunately for some business’ the amount of fraudulent Tax Preparer has also grown in stride. As we all know, the vast majority of tax professionals are there to provide honest, high-quality services but others will operate during the filing season and it’s these scams that continue to push refund fraud and identity theft further. For more information from the IRS website see here: (IR-2019-32)

8. Inflated Refund Claims: Alert the IRS or the police of anyone whose promising inflated refunds or credits. Be alert to anyone promising large returns or asking for credits. This falls on local law enforcement to assist as these frauds will use flyers, fake storefronts, and community groups to infiltrate your trust. For more information from the IRS website see here: (IR-2019-33)

Continue staying diligent, as the typical end-user and employee has sensitive information nearby. Maybe it’s an email of your tax return or that W-2 from human resources. Regardless, having it near anything business related can be an area for concern, for cybercriminals and frauds they will have hit the jackpot.

Learn how to secure your end-users and employees, educating them on how to handle sensitive information, how to interact with strange emails.