Will You Be Ready When Ransomware Attacks?

As a MSP, we’re all too familiar with frantic calls from prospects whose hardware have been infected with Ransomware. You can hear the panic in their voices as they ask for immediate help. Though they want us to rush in like the A-Team of IT and fix their problems, we always make sure we have a conversation first. The reason being? We want the client educated on the probable outcome before they spend any money on ransomware removal. 

Ransomware Is a Serious Threat

We’ll start by giving you some perspective. Ransomware has been on the rise. In Q1 of 2016 alone, there was an increase in ransomware attacks by 165 percent. And cyber security news this year is abuzz with reports of businesses falling prey to these malicious threats. Hospitals and other healthcare institutions have been attacked and computer systems have been held for ransom to the sum of $17,000 or more.

In fact, the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center received 992 complaints about the CryptoWall ransomware last year. Ultimately, victims reported more than $18 million in losses. The situation is often so bad that the FBI advises businesses to “just pay the ransom” rather than attempt ransomware removal. The FBI! If that tells you anything about the situation, it’s clear that you need an exit strategy before you even begin.

Why Ransomware Removal Is So Tough

The newer ransomware is deceitfully very good software. It locks you out of your data and then goes looking for more victims on your network. If you’ve got one infection, you are likely to get more.

Our best solution, rather than ransomware removal, is to restore from a good backup, but then we find out frequently the client was just protecting their servers, not the PC’s data.

Sadly, no one is safe. Large and small businesses get hacked with the same frequency. Even family photos and personal information can get swept up in a ransomware attack. It’s always sad when our clients lose personal memories. Though their business data might be safe on a protected server, their personal files are usually not and are lost when we have to fully wipe an infected PC. Worst of all is this can be prevented.

Avoiding the Threat from Ransomware Attacks

Staying one step ahead of ransomware attacks takes preparation. Backing up your critical data is one of the most important steps you can take. Ask your MSP which tools they use; a multilayered approach is required for security as no single vendor can or should “do it all” when critical data is involved.

Additionally, make sure your staff recognizes there are simply some emails they shouldn’t open. If you get an attachment from an unknown sender, you should delete it. Train your staff to be careful, but also block websites you know are malicious. Since removing ransomware isn’t an option, you can’t take any risks.

There are also solid security tools and business processes to protect your organization. Have a frank conversation with your IT provider. I’ve said it 100 times before, but with data security an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. It may be the only thing between you and total data loss.

So before you have to pursue ransomware removal, take care of your backup solutions. At ECMSI, we can provide you with business continuity that prevents you from ever losing your livelihood to ransomware attacks, system failures, or even natural disasters. Check out our backup solutions and prevent your company from being held hostage by circumstances outside your control.

How to Avoid Becoming the Next Hacking Victim

Cyber attacks are so common now that hardly a week passes without news of another major network security breach involving a high-profile company. Well-known brands like Target, Sony and Yahoo have all fallen victim to security breaches in the last few years.

But hackers don’t just limit themselves the market’s major players – they will, and do, attack companies of all sizes, exploiting their weak defenses to infiltrate and steal valuable corporate data. In fact, smaller businesses are seen as much easier targets, because they usually lack the robust defenses that large enterprises routinely use.

So why should you worry about being next? The costs of a network security breach can be enormous, sometimes even crippling. One study from the National Cyber Security Alliance reports that around 20 percent of small businesses fall victim to a cyber attack each year, and of these, just 40 percent are still around six months later.

Can your business foot the bill from a major cyber security breach? Not likely.

Keep the bandits out

At ECMSI, our overriding goal is to help your company thrive, but you won’t stand a chance of doing that if your servers are leaking corporate and customer data all over the place. That’s why we make your network security such a big priority. We want to see our customers to succeed — and enjoy longer-lasting relationships with them.

As one of the leading Managed Services Providers, we’ll strive to protect your network against everything attackers can throw at it.

Our big secret is that unlike other MSPs, we take time to get to know our clients and help them understand how to take full advantage of their technology.

When we uncover your unique risks and concerns, we prepare a plan to help you defend against the wide variety of cyber threats that could slow down and damage your business — and your reputation — including ransomware, insider attacks and other viruses.

And we go further to proactively avoid these threats by teaching you best practices to minimize the risk of becoming a victim in the first place. We’ll also help get you up and running with the latest antivirus software, firewalls and threat detection software to ensure your network security is as tight as it’s possible to be.

Your depend on your business technology to be successful, that much you know already. But it can also become your Achilles’ heel if your network defenses aren’t up to scratch. Contact ECMSI today and we’ll show you how to avoid becoming headline news for the wrong reasons.

The Do’s and Don’ts of Cutting Communication Costs

Every business owner wants to cut costs. But before you go on a communication costs cutting spree, consider this. There are good ways to save . . . and some not-so-good ways.

As Forbes recently observed, “when the finance or accounting department drive savings, often times they do so without seeing the big picture of how cost cutting might impact employee and customer satisfaction as well as loyalty.”

Cost Cuts That Aren’t Worth It

If you do a quick Google search for ways to trim SMB communication costs, you’ll find plenty of articles. But that’s part of the problem. An alarming number of them suggest cost-cutting strategies that are just plain stupid.

Here are some of our favorite bad ideas.

All hail Skype.

Skype is free. Why not ditch your phone system and just use Skype?

We’re not slamming Skype. It’s a great communications platform, and it does have some legitimate business applications. But it’s hardly an all-in-one communications solution.

Even Microsoft, the software giant behind Skype, doesn’t tout it as a replacement for business phone systems.

Stop making calls of any kind.

Like Skype, email is more or less free and just about everyone has it. Why not use that for the majority of your communications?

There are a couple of major flaws with this suggestion. First, customers will still expect to be able to call you. Second, text-based communication isn’t nearly as powerful (or convenient) as making a call.

While great for quick, straightforward communication, email will never replace voice conversations.

Go all or nothing on mobile.

We’ve seen both ends of the spectrum here.

Some advocate bumping employee cell phone plans to the max and pushing people to be available at all hours. Others say ditch company mobile plans and do away with company-provided devices.

Both are hard hits to employee morale, and neither does enough to lower communication costs to be worth the effort. Once again, minimal savings with a whole bunch of new headaches.

Tips That Will Actually Lower Your Communication Costs

There are far more effective ways to lower communication costs.

That said, there’s no magic bullet. Each of these will take a little work on your part. But unlike the bad advice above, these tips will actually make a difference in your bottom line.

Be strategically selective.

“Businesses lose an average of $11,000 per employee every year due to ineffective communications and collaboration.” That’s the teaser headline from a recent report published by Mitel.

Here’s the takeaway in a nutshell. When it comes to business communication, more isn’t necessarily better. Instead of rolling out every available option, take the time to be strategic.

Eliminate solutions that don’t fit and make sure everyone has adequate training in the solutions that do work. You’ll cut communication costs and improve overall operational efficiency.

Take advantage of video conferencing.

Video conferencing isn’t a fad. On the contrary, it’s a powerful communications tool with several impressive benefits. We’ll highlight just two of them.

Video conferencing makes dynamic collaboration possible, even if team members are on the other side of the world. You still get all the benefits of rich communication – tone of voice, facial expression, the ability to share visuals – without having to wait for a literal face-to-face meeting.

And it saves money. Video calls are cheaper than plane tickets and delays.

Don’t shy away from social media.

Social media isn’t the best communication tool for one-on-one customer communication. But if you’d like to communicate to your entire customer base, social media is a quick, easy and extremely inexpensive option.

Plus, if you already have a social media presence it’s basically free.

Not only that, but most of your customers are already invested in social media. You’re meeting them on their turf. They’ll appreciate that.

Audit everything.

Our final tip is the most important one. Nothing will uncover as many opportunities to lower communication costs as a full audit of your communication expenses.

Of course, few business leaders have the time or industry experience to effectively analyze their own phone bill. You’ll likely need some help with this one. That’s where ECMSI comes into play.

We’ve helped clients save thousands per month, and we’re confident we can help you lower your communication costs, as well.

If you’re serious about lowering communication costs, let us help. Give us a call today to get your free phone bill analysis. We promise we’ll make it worth your while.

Employee Internet Safety: Important Tips to Follow

We all laugh at the Nigerian email scam now, but did you know it still catches a few people a month wiring away all their money?    According to the firm http://www.ultrascan-agi.com/ over $82 Billion, yes that’s with a “B”, has been stolen from people so far within the year.  They state 800,000 online scammers are in the world and its growing at 5% a year. That’s a lot of people after your personal and corporate money.   

Ultrascan has some interesting statistics that seem counter–intuitive.  Smarter people are easier to scam and high achieving professionals are the most likely to be defrauded. Be very careful with employee Internet safety in your small business.  Let your employees know the threat is real and they should be careful about the following things on the net:

  • Be very careful when releasing any banking or personal information.  Make the requester prove they are authorized and have a real need for the information.  Verify who sent the email and ask why they need certain information.
  • Never trust a website you’ve been referred to. The fake ones are every bit as professional looking as the real ones.
  • Never trust an email or attachments. Don’t open it if you were not expecting it.  Hover your mouse over a link without clicking and see if it is really going to your bank and not some long string of characters ending up in Russia or .ru – Russia tops many fraud lists.
  • Read the messages your browser may pop up and don’t install software you are not sure of. In fact, get your IT department involved to block this bad traffic.
  • Understand 1 infected PC will try to infect others.  They are not called Viruses for no reason.
  • If you think you did something wrong, don’t hide it. Employers, be sure to have a policy allowing the employee to speak up without reprisal.  Good people make mistakes.

Above all, use common sense. Don’t go to websites you shouldn’t and don’t assume that link from your bank or credit card asking you to change your password is real.

If you’d like to talk more about employee Internet safety, give us a call at 330-750-9412 or info@ecmsi.com

12 Days of Tech- Day 12

iPhone X

What:

The iPhone X is the most sought after and popular smartphone of the year. Say Hello to the future is the motto of this device. With facial recognition a full sized edge to edge OLED display and fastest processor of any other iPhone this is the most productive device on the market.  The options include a silver, or  black back with either 64GB of storage or a huge 256 GB storage space for those consistent selfie takers.

Where:

The iPhone X is available at various cellular carriers including AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon. It is also available through Apple.

For Who?

The iPhone X would really put you at the top of the list of best gift giver ever for anyone in your life that owns a smartphone.

Price: Starting at $999

12 Days of Tech- Day 11

Beats Studio 3 Wireless Headphones

What:

The Beats Studio 3 Wireless Headphones are every music lovers dream listening tool, with responsive noise block beats promises a completely immersive experience with music without any distractions.  The wireless connectivity gives you full free range to enjoy your content without all the hassle of cords. These headphones offer up to 22 hours of battery life with every 10 minutes of charging turning into 3 hours of playback.

Where:

Beats are available to purchase at any Best Buy retail location and at any Apple retail and online store.

For Who:

This would the ultimate present for any music lover you know. The wireless aspect of the headphones would be great for those that enjoy music while they work out. The headphones that will for sure turn heads at the gym!

Price: $349.95

12 Days of Tech – Day 10

iPad Pro

What:

The iPad Pro is the latest and greatest tablet computer from Apple, with their motto for the iPad being “Anything you can do, you can can do better”.  With one of the biggest and most beautiful displays, competitors are having a hard time keeping up. The iPad Pro offers a redesigned retina display with Pro Motion technology and Apples advanced A10X Fusion chip. The iPad comes in two sizes ( 10.5” and 12.9”). With the new iOS 11 software the possibilities are endless with that you can do.

Where:

The iPad Pro is available at any retail stores with a technology department, Apple retail stores and as well as online through the Apple store.

For Who:

The iPad is a very universal gift for anyone in your life. The most utilization would come from a student, or business person on the go.

Price: Starting at $649

12 Day of Tech – Day 9

Western Digital Portable Hard Drive

What:

Portable Hard Drive’s in 2017 have become a staple item for every household. If you’ve ever got a message on your laptop or phone that said Storage Memory Full, then you need one of these. Hard Drives are packed full of storage capacity from 1 TB to 4 TB at reasonably affordable prices. And for those who may not know, 1 Terabyte is equivalent to 1,000 GB.  Perfect for saving all those photos and backing up all your devices!

Where:

Portable Hard Drives are easily found at almost any retail location that sells any sort of technology. The best prices can be found online or electronic stores. Portable hard drives are always running promotions so be on the lookout for sales!

For Who:

This gift is practically universal to anyone that owns a computer or may have more digital pictures than they know what to do with. Hard Drives are a perfect organizational tool to free up space from any device and store it safely.

Price: $50-$110

12 Days of Tech – Day 8

Raspberry Pi

What:

This unique gadget is a single board computer that is small and affordable. It is meant to be used to learn programming and the basics of computer science.  A typical Raspberry Pi has a power Jack, HDMI, Micro USB 2.0 with a Quad Core Processor @ 1.2 GHz.  The Raspberry Pi was made to teach the basics of computing making it an excellent tinkering toy. For those advanced programmers it can even be turned into an old Nintendo System!

Where:

The Raspberry Pi is so unique the only place to find it is online on the raspberrypi.org through one of their vendors that sell them.

For Who:

The Raspberry Pi is perfect for that techy person in your life that can build their own computer. This is also great as a learning tool for any teacher to fascinate students with.

Price: $34.99

 

12 Days of Tech – Day 7

Meccano MeccaNoid G15

What:

This 2 foot tall metal best friend has to be one of the coolest toys out there on the market today. Built by using over 600 pieces. The G-15 is a fun social robot with over thousands of pre-programmed phrases, comments and witty comebacks, it can serve as your very best friend! The G-15  can also play games and interact in a variety of different ways.

Where:

The MeccaNoid G15 can be best found online on Amazon and Wal Mart, but get it while you can because it has become super popular!

For Who:

This toy is perfect for the constructive and extremely intelligent kid . It can also be a great parent child bonding tool because of the hands on factor! This one is truly for those that aren’t afraid to tackle on a project for an immense reward!

Price: $140.25