Security

Hate Spam Email? You are Not Alone.

After recently reviewing our website data, we found it interesting that most if not all of the news media are focused on hacking by Russia only, when in fact it is a world-wide event.

If you have a website and/or email, you have definitely seen an uptick of spam email. It would seem that hackers and spammers like to welcome the holidays by increasing their junk/spam/irritating email messages. We get about 30 per each of our 6 email addresses per day. Those numbers are not so bad when you consider the total email sent out each  day.

According to Talos, in the month of October, 2017, there was a daily average of legitimate email totaling 78.90 Billion, up 21.4% from September, 2017.

In the month of October, 2017, there was also a daily spam volume of 454.61 Billion, up 24% from September.

That is a lot of daily email given that according to Internet Live Stats, there are about 1.2 Billion websites. What makes the amount of email seem even larger is that about 75% of those website are “parked”, meaning inactive.

Since we have had numerous hacking attempts, we started daily monitoring our website data. From our review through our cPanel account, under “Metrics”, we found that in only 3 days, hackers have been hitting our website attempting to get through using our Word Press blog files.  One type of hacking attempt can be identified by finding a specific web app attack identified with an entry ending in “wp-login.php”).

Now back to Russia. Everyone is so concerned that Russia is messing things up that they are ignoring (or not talking about other countries where hacking attempts are coming from. The countries and/or places that we identified hacking attacks are coming from included India, Indonesia,  Dominican Republic, Moscow, Beijing, Algeria, Poland, Lithuania, Spain, Pakistan, New York, Sweden, Morocco, Italy, Chicago, United Emirates, Thailand, Serbia, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, and Dallas. A number of these had multiple attacks listed over several days.

If you want to check and see who is attempting to get into the back door of your website, log into to your cPanel account, go to the Metric section, and open the “errors”. If you see any entries ending in “wp-login.php”, then you have had an attempted attack on your website.

Talk to your webmaster about screening the IP addresses and blocking them. Just be sure not to block any search engine bots that want to index your website.

Cyber Attacks on Small Businesses

The internet is by far one of the greatest advancements of human innovation in the 21st century. For all the good that has come from it, there is one glaring issue that seems to pop up in the news more than it should: cyber security. Over the past several years large corporations such as Target, Home Depot, even eBay have fallen victim to cyber attacks. With the overwhelming majority of cyber attacks aimed at large corporations, most people would think that their small businesses or personal websites are safe given their obscurity. Think again. In 2012 alone, Verizon discovered that 71 percent of cyber attacks occurred in businesses with less than 100 employees. As frightening as that may sound, undertaking the right precautions to protect your small business can help you stay ahead of the curve when it comes to cyber security.

The most common cyber attacks on businesses target user information or data. Credit cards, phones numbers, usernames and passwords are all fair game when it comes to cyber attacks. Should this information be stolen, it is also likely that whoever is attacking your business would attempt to lock you out from accessing the information. The first step you can take to protect all your data is to back it up. Buying an external hard drive is the best thing you could do in order protect yourself from losing your information forever. However, some people believe that an external hard drive is a rather old school method of cyber security. Their preference would most likely be the “cloud”, an intangible and seldom understood form of data storage. But what really is the cloud and how effective is it at protecting information?

Cloud storage has become one of the most popular ways to store data within that past few years, yet few actually understand what the “cloud” is. Most people don’t understand what type of cloud-based storage they have or even where the servers are located. Are they within the city? The state? The country? Are the providers liable for protecting your data? These are important questions to ask if you are using low cost cloud storage like many small businesses are.  If you don’t have the answers to these questions, or are somewhat uncomfortable if you do have the answers, chances are you either need to invest in stronger cloud storage or an external hard drive.

Of course no cyber security overhaul would be complete without mentioning usernames and passwords. If you’re like most people, you probably use the same password (or some variation thereof) for most of you online accounts. That is probably the easiest mistake you can make. Cybersecurity expert Vikas Bhatia once said that “if your password can be found in the dictionary it can be hacked in 30 seconds”. Try using different passwords for social media, business accounts, even email in order to add another layer of protection against cyber attacks.

These are all simple, easy techniques that most people can use to protect their small businesses from cyber attacks. Obviously greater precautions can be taken by purchasing expensive anti-malware software or even outsourcing your businesses security, but most small businesses don’t have that sort of luxury. As the internet continues to evolve, so does the threat posed by cyber attacks. While you may not be able to stop cyber attacks from happening against your business, you can certainly make sure you are prepared if it does.

Six tech resolutions for 2015

We’re one week into 2015, and even if you’re sworn off resolutions (or have already broken a few you’ve made), there are six resolutions that you really ought to make and keep.  We’re not talking about diet, exercise, or finances (though those are good too), but resolutions to keep you on top of our ever-growing digital world.

1.  Clean your gadgets. Ever looked behind your computer at the growing dust bunny colony? Yup, me too. Time to get rid of the dust and grime which can cause your computer to overheat and can slow down performance. Don’t forget to shake out your keyboard and wipe off your mouse too!  And wipe off your smartphone – scientific studies show that the average smartphone contains more than twice as many germs as a public toilet seat.

2. Back up all your devices. This includes your computer, your phone, etc. Simple rule – if you have it, back it up! There are many options for computer backup including internal, external, network drives, online services, thumb drives, and more. Check out this comprehensive list from Consumer Reports:  http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/computer-backup-systems/buying-guide.htm .   Pick one, back up your data, and protect yourself from possible loss due to a computer crash.

Your smartphone should have a cloud-based backup system (such as Google Drive for Android or iCloud).  Make sure you’ve turned the app on and that it’s working.

3. Change your passwords. We’ve written about this before (http://www.webdesignsbylao.com/wordpress/internet-safety/) but it bears repeating.  With so much of our personal and work life going digital, password security is more important than ever. The key to online safety is making sure that all of your online accounts are protected by a unique, strong password. Having an account compromised is bad enough but if the stolen password is used on all your other accounts, the problems multiply.  Unbelievably, the most commonly hacked password is still “password.”  Change them … now.  And consider using a password manager.

4. Delete your old accounts, apps and programs. Which accounts (social media and other online accounts) are you still using? When was the last time you used Blogster or MySpace? If you’re not using them, delete them! If you are like the majority of us, your smartphone and tablet are full of apps and games that you no longer use or need. Take a few minutes and erase the one’s you don’t need and free up space for the latest apps.

5. Protect your computer (and smartphone) with antivirus software. No computer system is immune from malware, viruses and trojans. Reduce your risk with a good antivirus program.  There are several decent free programs that should be adequate for the average user.  Consider Microsoft Security Essentials, Bitdefender or AVG Essentials, at a minimum.

6. Don’t use any browser released before 2013. Yes, I’m specifically looking at those of you still using Explorer 8 (released in 2009), Explorer 9 (released in 2011), and Explorer 10 (released in 2012). This is as much about your web experience as anything else. If you’re not using a modern browser, you might be missing out on something good. Outdated browsers will attempt to load pages, but might not render them as the creator intended. And forget support for any problems you might run into.

So that’s our list for 2015 technology resolutions.  Any others you can think of?