The 12 Tricks to You Succeeding in Managing Office 365

Although it’s never recommended, some local businesses have taken their chances at managing and manipulating Office 365 configurations. With so much knowledge needed before making any moves, most of the time we only hear the horror stories from how things went from bad to worse. When it comes down to Office 365 management for your business, you need someone with a proven track record of knowing how to monitor, manage and grow your Office 365 tenant effective, this includes not OVER sizing/charging.

If you’re serious about managing more seats and growing your business, the time spent can quickly add up. Luckily for you, with a time-tested procedure, your business can take the pain out of managing mutilate Office 365 tenants or sites. I would not advise anyone, without expert knowledge of these products to tinker with the settings, so our team has pulled together a list of the 12 tricks to you succeeding in managing Office 365. Read more

Phishing: Even Without a Click, Your Employees Can Assist the Bad Guys

Employees can still assist the bad guys in compromising the overall safety of your organization. Over the years, we’ve reinforced these security ideas in our blogs and social media with the idea that clicking or interacting with these criminals only continues to broaden your vulnerability, making your risk of attack that much greater. These criminals are constantly adapting with every failed attempt. The criminals appear to have wised up again, as they have begun focusing more on getting employees to reply.

By drawing people into some form of back and forth email exchanges, employees begin unwittingly training these criminals, through what warrants a potential reply. One of the ways they learn to phish companies is by learning how your employees work. Read more

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Back 2 Basics: Prevent Data Breaches with Stronger Authentication

Identity security is one of the most significant challenges that IT organizations face. An identity compromise can ruin an organization, and it is the number one attack vector for hackers. Your traditional, not so secure way to log in, consists of entering your username, and that familiar password. You know, the one you probably use […]

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 then 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 tactic’s 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 business’ 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.

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July Patch Updates: Correcting the Windows 10 Operating System’s Baseline Security

One of the focuses of the Windows 10 operating system was its improved security overall. While it does still dwarf it’s older versions in comparison; one aspect even your Operating System can’t fix by itself is – user behavior.

That’s right, your operating system, can only assist, guide, or require you to change your password, never focusing on its complexity. Microsoft has long stood-by their policies, that passwords should expire after so many days, to prevent compromised credentials. Having done numerous studies, when push comes to shove in most cases employees are forced to change passwords, they make a small alteration to the existing password and hit save. For many, this includes symbols and numbers tagged to the begging or end of our credentials, to fulfill this task, before beginning our work.

In Microsoft’s latest release Feature Update #1809, they’ve updated password policies in the operating system’s including many changes to native application’s security baseline, making ALL passwords expire by force. Although this doesn’t impact password length, history, or complexity we’re moving towards much more secure environments. As many of these vulnerabilities, 77 in total related to business-line products used in our everyday working life. These won’t be the only changes, those utilizing the following Microsoft Solutions will receive security updates for two zero-day events: Internet Explorer, Microsoft Edge, Microsoft Office, Azure DevOps, .NET Framework, Azure, SQL Server, ASP.NET, Visual Studio, and Microsoft Exchange Server.

Business’ and their employees should always focus on having a security-focused mindset, whether from Security Awareness Training, or just knowing what role passwords play in an attack. To sufficiently secure your data, organizations seek updated security tools to address their concerns and look towards in-house experts and close working relationships to build the latest guidance for securing employees and business data.

  • Banned Passwords
    Built to battle simple passwords, sticking with default passwords, makes it much less frustrating to hackers. By stopping employees who are using passwords like “123456” and “1Password!!” your organization can block the use of these commonly stolen credentials, making it more secure for the employees.
  • Multi-Factor Authentication
    Known by many as “MFA,” it’s grown common practice for most industries to require every employee within the organization to utilize more than one path for authentication. This company stance should be leveraged across your entire business, even if they ONLY have access to email.

By employing the use of these alternative controls, businesses can begin leveraging employees as their first line-of-defense. Begin to offset the potential for increased security vulnerabilities and risks, commonly seen today, educating your employees on proper password hygiene, length, and complexity, your business can easily meet the security needs of your customers and your employees.

Want the experts to educate your staff and assist your network hygiene efforts – give us a call today!

Close operating system exploits and vulnerabilities

Microsoft Patching Addresses 88 Vulnerabilities & Risks Found in Systems Today

Patching can prevent many of the most-used exploits, risks, and vulnerabilities are seen in major applications, software, and even operating systems. These patches typically contain updates to your current software suite. In recent years, Microsoft has transitioned they focus from new features and updates to focusing on the vulnerability of business’ and employees utilizing the Windows Operating System.

Microsoft releases updates to address and fix 88 security risks and vulnerabilities in it’s Windows Operating Systems, specifically relating to software and applications. The most lethal of these include 4 vulnerabilities, that exploit code has already been created and distributed on the Dark Web. It’s these bugs that can affect ALL versions of Microsoft Office and trigger malicious links, including what feels like too many, as a customary security update for Adobe’s Flash Player.

Read more

Flipboard News gets hit by data breach in IT Support Blog Clare Computer Solutions

Read Between the Lines: What Your Business Could Learn from Flipboard’s Recent Data-Breach

According to Flipboard, hackers were able to tap directly into the databases where the app-company housed customer information. The information stolen, including customer names, user names, hashed passwords, emails, and digital tokens or API tokens for your favorite social media apps. Although Flipboard does not know how many accounts hackers infiltrated, nor have they fully-assessed the damage, one thing is for sure: It’s time for many companies to begin reading between the lines. While data that was stolen is serious, it’s the number of time hackers were able to go undetected that is cause for concern. Companies need to focus on Endpoint Protection. Read more

SF Bay Area Law Firms hit by ransomware and hackers

Phishing Attacks Begin Leveraging Legal Threats From Local Law Firms

By far the most convincing email phishing and malware attacks come disguised as your “typical nastygram” from local businesses. These emails have grown in popularity with cyber-criminals. By making minor customizations to these campaigns, these phishing attacks are now being spoofed as though, local organizations are the culprits! These emails notify recipients that he/she is being sued and instructs them to review the following attached files, with a directive to respond within a specific time frame, or penalties will occur… Here’s a look at a recent phishing campaign that peppered more than 100,000 business executives. With the goal of phishing for employee personal information and exploiting data systems, by utilizing a local law firm’s system to send infected data to partners.

In May, two well-known anti-virus firms began detecting compromised files, specifically within Microsoft Word. Emails with attachments were sent with a simple variation of the message below. This exact kit is now being traded alongside others on the “dark web,” therefore we have numerous business names outlined in brackets below.

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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

Windows Server 2008 End-Of-Life Support Begins Looming as Business Scramble to Act

It seems like we just went through this with Windows Server 2003, but we’ll soon be losing yet another Microsoft flagship product. Windows Server 2008 R2 and Exchange 2010, reached it’s “end-of-mainstream support” on January 13th, 2015 but the final blow will come January 14th, 2020. The exact same date for the end-of-support for Windows 7 Operating Systems. Microsoft will officially end its support for Windows Server 2008 and the 2008 R2 editions. It’s a sad beginning but read on and I will point you towards a few transformative paths for on-site, or cloud use.

Although 2020 seems like its lightyears away, update in an IT Infrastructure is a large task, one that will be here before you know it. So, if you’re still running Hyper-V on a Windows Server R2 platform, or worse your still running Windows Server 2003, then you need to start strategizing now, to ensure your company is protected and infrastructure is secure while moving forward.

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Extended Support Dates in Effect

Windows Server 2008 and SQL Server 2008 and 2008 R2 variants are already on their extended support phase now. As of July 8th, 2019, will be the final date for SQL Server 2008, while January 14th, 2020 will come shortly after. Once these dates hit, you will be running machines at your own risk in this saturated age of cyber-attacks. The good news is the fate of these dinosaur systems isn’t as bad as it would appear. It’s true this date cannot be moved, changed or deflected, but Microsoft has opened several more, cost-effective paths for businesses to begin their infrastructure evolution.

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Little-to-No Support Leaves Your Operating System Vulnerable

You can continue to use Windows Server 2008 R2 safely in your environments, at least until the expiration date. By doing so, you stand the risk of missing out of several new features being introduced to the Hyper-V family on any Server 2012 operating systems. These features alone warrant an upgrade to your infrastructure prior to the end-of-life support dates.

Remember that once a product reaches its end-of-life, no new features, fixes, or updates will occur. While Microsoft continues to provide what little help for customers with Server 2008 through extending support agreements, they too will no longer be able to receive any form of support from Microsoft come January 14, 2020. Leaving many business systems open and exposed to outside infiltration. All three Windows Server 2008, 2008 R2 (Datacenter, Enterprise, and Standard) will be affected, also including the Hyper-V role.

Post-Upgrade Solutions for Managing Your Old Servers 

  • Path #1:  Seen by many as the traditional evolutionary path, upgrading to a newer version of Windows Server, and SQL Server. This is where you get the most updated features in today’s security landscape. The latest version of Windows Server 2019, and SQL Server 2017.With the only caveat being to host on-premises versions or move to the cloud.
  • Path #2:  Not interested in upgrading to the latest server versions for some reason? We’ve got you covered, with a few options for those who wish to continue using Windows Server 2008 and 2008 R2. To save you money, you could move these workloads into the Azure cloud, using Azure’s Hybrid Use Benefits. The only cost incurred is the computing instance and infrastructure. With the use of Azure Reserved Virtual Machine Instances for Windows Server, you can save further on computing costs.
  • Path #3:  The last path is the most grim for many, it’s the choice to not evolve at all. This leaves many servers including file, or database to receive the updating needed to stop cyber-attackers. For business’ that have already purchased “Software Assurance or Enterprise Subscription,” will receive security updates for a prolonged period of time. We should note, Microsoft has discontinued its assurance agreements, but with more than 90% of affected business’ operating under a “Standard License,” this path doesn’t work for the vast majority of businesses. Once again leaving many without a clear-cut choice.

This is still YOUR Choice

We hope all the information from Clare Computer Solutions, will assist in making sense of the dynamic landscape in technology. If your business wants a second opinion or just a helping hand, any of our team members would be happy to assist you with making your transition as smooth as possible. Reach out today to begin discussing your options in greater detail today.