September 2013

Computer and Website Security

We recently experienced the dreaded hacking incident on our servers, well actually less an incident and more of a pain in the keyboard. We maintain a fair number of websites for companies and individuals so we have the responsibility of overseeing any problems. While we were fairly lucky this time, it still took us about 10 straight days to go through all of our Client’s websites to make sure things were set back in the right place and that they were clean.

 The situation reinforced what we have said all along about computer security. Make sure your computer(s) are secure, updates are current for all programs, and make sure you have clean backups for all your files. Have a strong antivirus and anti–malware program on all of your computers.

 Since this happened, we decided to expand our backup system to include a set of CD-R/W for every website we maintain. This way, if something really drastic happened, we still have the websites we can upload quickly and cleanly. Then our Clients won’t have to wait for days to have their website available again.

The comparison in cost of having to check all of the websites to simply reloading the websites was about $130 for fifty 700Mb CD-R/W disks and ten 4GB flash drives to accommodate the larger websites to the 40+ hours of time it took, an estimated cost in time of about $1,500.00. That is a big cost savings, if you have that amount of time used up and not getting paid for it, and especially if your customers can’t do business with you until things are cleaned up.

 For a small business, that can get expensive very quickly given that hackers target 31% of small businesses and it is steadily increasing with more severity. All it takes is for one employee to open that one bad email or visit that one website and have a Trojan or virus downloaded onto your business computer. Then it spreads out to your other computers and possibly to your customer computers.

 A good anti-virus program, it will usually tell you when there is a problem, at that time, and will also quarantine the varmint. Yes, you have to keep that program up to date as well, and run it. Most you can schedule to run overnight, so you have a safe computer to come to in the morning. We aren’t saying you have to but we have ours scheduled for every night.

Our Clients depend on us to keep them running. After all, we do owe our business to them.

Operating System Updates

Previously, we reported that Microsoft is stopping or has stopped support for various Operating Systems, as shown below:

  •  Support for Windows Vista without any service packs ended on April 13, 2010.
  •  Support for Windows XP with Service Pack 2 (SP2) ended on July 13, 2010.
  •  Support for Windows Vista with Service Pack 1 (SP1) ended on July 12, 2011.
  •  Support for Windows XP is ending on April 8, 2014.
  •  Support for Microsoft Office 2003 is ending on April 8, 2014.

What this means is if you do not upgrade to at least Windows 7 by the date shown above you will no longer get operating system updates for Windows, which means you also won’t get the security updates for those systems.

Even if you have an unsupported version of Windows XP or Windows Vista without any service packs, your Windows operating system might continue to start and run as usual.

While Microsoft will tell you about operating systems that will no longer be updated, it doesn’t mention what could happen with your computer.

You might run into problems with other programs on your computer. If you upgrade those other programs, or simply update them, they might stop working on your older operating system.

We did some research and found that hackers and spammers have found a way to “insert” their little infections by targeting computers with older operating systems. They can insert infections on your computer without you knowing about it. They can also use your computer to send out spam email or send out the same or more infections to other computers.

It can also cause you to lose files, or allow the hackers to obtain your personal information. You could also give up all of your contact information as well, which in turn gives them more computers to infect.

You might think that having an antivirus program will keep them from doing this and in most cases you might be right. However, you have to remember that there are hundreds of new malware, spyware, trojans, etc., that are showing up on a daily basis, and the protection software is only good for those things it already knows about, not what is coming out in the future.

We know because we just ran into that problem ourselves and had a time of it trying to get things right again. (It only took 3 days of cleaning files and backups and we have Windows 7 with plenty of computer protection software running. It could have been worse.)

Since we know the trend is most people do not run antivirus programs on a daily basis, this leaves you vulnerable the other 6 days. Keep in mind, the hackers know this. The trend is also that most do not run backups of their computer – but that is a different post.

So, while it may be a pain and inconvenient to have to upgrade your operating system, it can stop you from having all kinds of expensive problems in the future, especially if you run a home business.