threat actors
Feb 18

These Nation-States Are The Top 3 Threat Actors in the Cyber Security Game

By Hana LaRock | Cyber Scams , Security

Threat actors can be responsible for seriously impacting another organization’s security. Experienced threat actors with the right resources can hack an organization either externally, internally, or as a partner. Theoretically, a threat actor can really come in any kind of form, but in this case, the biggest actors usually act has whole governments or nation-states.

It’s very important for people to read the news once in a while and be aware who the biggest threat actors are. Whether you’re just an individual who surfs the web on occasion or you’re a huge company that does business globally, you can still be at an equal risk. These groups only need to possess the ability to potentially cause impact in order for them to be considered a major threat actor.

So, who are the biggest threat actors in the cyber security game that you need to look out for? Read on.

1. China

China is neither an ally or an enemy of the U.S. But, when it comes to cyber security, the United States can’t be too careful. That’s because according to comments made by FBI director James Comey, prior to 2015, the Chinese had been the most industrious nation responsible for cyber attacks. One of the biggest threat actors, China has been reported to conduct complex intrusion campaigns to obtain sensitive information that would have supported their state-owned enterprises.

This type of data theft is one of the driving factors that led to the U.S./China agreement over the theft of intellectual property. It’s believed to this day that China was involved in two major breaches, the Anthem Breach, and the OPM Breach. In addition to that, the FBI released a study of 165 companies that experienced data breaches, and 95% of those breaches had come from China. Though it’s believed that the prevalence of attacks from China have somewhat decreased, U.S. companies still need to be aware of how this threat actor could affect them.

2. Russia

Coming in second place is the sanctuary for asylum-seeker Edward Snowden, Russia. It seems as though the Kremlin is always making headlines for cyber security hacks, most recently for their involvement with the DNC and the White House. But, even before then, it’s no question that Russia has consistently played a huge role as one of the biggest threat actors in the world.

And, when it comes to Russia’s involvement, they’ve proved that there is really nothing too big or too outlandish for them to hack. As if the U.S. government isn’t enough, they’re also known to have hacked the medical records of U.S. athletes- Olympic athletes- who had participated in last year’s games in Rio.


Number three may be a tie between several countries or groups, but because of its uniqueness, ISIS is at number three on this list. ISIS is named a huge threat actor because of its attacks in 2015 and 2016 on the European Union. They also made news for their attack in 2016 that targeted close to 3,000 New Yorkers. Though these New Yorkers possessed nothing in particular that would have made them targets, it’s yet another reminder that you don’t need to be a large company or organization to have your private information hacked.

What These Threat Actors Mean for You

Of course, no one can forget the hack North Korea pulled last year on SONY, which caused the movie to be pulled out from theaters entirely. That was a sophisticated hack the likes of we’ve never seen before. We’ve also seen hacks from Iran and Syria. And, there’s no telling who we may be able to add to this list in the future.

You might be thinking, “How would these nation-state threat actors even get to me?” Well, the thing with these hacks is that they usually occur on such a large scale and are often very complex. It can be months before a company even knows they’ve been hacked. Most of the time, they won’t even notice the breach themselves. It’s not until the government or a third-party, like a cyber security blogger, reveals the hack occurred, that the company would be able to do anything about it.

An attack from one of these major nation-state threat actors could happen to you. Does your company have the tools to detect one of these attacks if it occurs? The more time goes by without you knowing about the breach, the more damage can be done.

Here at Smeester & Associates, we can answer your questions about threat actors and let you know if you’re at risk. Make sure you take our RiskAware™ Cyber Security Scan & Report to see where your cyber security efforts currently stand.

cyber compliance
Feb 09

Unbiased Assessments: The Evidence You Need for Cyber Compliance Audits

By Hana LaRock | CEO Best Practices , Security

Cyber security is important for everyone, whether you run a multi-million dollar company or you’re just a regular individual who occasionally buys things online. That being said, there are some companies that need to take cyber security more seriously than others, because they are required to deal with cyber compliance. If these companies don’t comply, they can have serious problems down the road that can cause chaos and even irreversible damage for themselves and their customers.

If you work in one of these industries and you require cyber compliance, it’s imperative that you have the evidence you need for when a cyber compliance audit comes knocking at your door.

Does Your Industry Need To Be Cyber Compliant?

If you fall into this category, you probably already know you do. But, just to be sure, companies that need to deal with cyber compliance on a regular basis include medical and dental practices with HIPAA laws, retail companies or other companies that need to follow PCI (Payment Card Industry) compliance, as well as legal offices, etc.

If you ever collect private or sensitive data from your customers, whether it be social security numbers or your client’s intellectual propery, then guess what? You need to make sure you’re cyber compliant.

Start Taking the Necessary Steps

So, you know who you are. Great. Now it’s time to learn more about yourself and whether or not your company is at risk of a cyber breach. But, where to start? You could be an expert at running your business, but cyber security may not be something you’re exactly familiar with. You need a professional that can help.

Hiring an unbiased third party that can teach you about your company’s exposure and whether or not you have any holes in your network is the first step. Why do we say “unbiased?” Because you don’t want someone who is personally invested in the company to create a conflict of interest. Whether that conflict of interest is due to work related reasons or financial reasons, you wouldn’t want that to play a factor in having your compliance check done correctly.

Furthermore, learning about your exposure is the first step in taking serious cyber security precautions, to try and prevent a dangerous hack from impacting you and your customers. Because, as we all know, any cyber breach can cause huge costs for a company.

If a hack ever does happen, at least you’ll have proof that you took the steps necessary to make sure your company was cyber compliant. Believe it or not, that can help you a lot in the long run. Now, you’ll be prepared when those cyber compliance audits start rolling in.

You Decide To Hire a Professional. Here’s What To Expect

After you’ve made the decision to hire a professional for your cyber compliance, here’s what you can expect to happen next. First, they will see where there are some inconsistencies or problems in your network. They’ll patch up any current IT problems, then they’ll do another assessment to make sure the work we did was effective.

First, they will see whether or not there are inconsistencies or problems in your network. If there are problems, they’ll patch them up, and then do another assessment to make sure the work done was effective.

Afterwards, you’ll be issued a very important document. This is your solid piece of evidence proving your company has taken all the necessary steps for cyber compliance. It shows you’ve gone through professionals and everything checks out. As far as everyone is concerned, (including the auditor) there are no present risks.

This document is something that’s so important to have in your industry, not only for peace of mind for you and the customers that trust you, but to keep your back covered at all times.

The team that issued you this document should then continue to stay in touch and conduct a semi-annual or quarterly assessment to make sure you’re still compliant. Their job is to regulate that compliance. Therefore, if something comes up, they can fix it again and make sure you’re still following standards.

You’ve Got Nothing to Lose!

Why wouldn’t you want to protect yourself?

At the end of the day, there’s no arguing when it comes to your company being cyber compliant. If you fail to be compliant and a breach occurs, guess who will be at fault? Do yourself a favor. Do what you need to to look out for the best interest of your company and your customers.

Also, you never know when an auditor might come and ask for that necessary document!

Not sure where to get that unbiased assessment you need? Smeester & Associates can help. Just get in touch and we’ll take it from there. We’ll also issue you a cyber compliance document when we’re finished. In the meantime, to see if you have any potential risks in your network, take our RiskAware™ Cyber Security Scan & Report.

CEO, technology stakeholder, IT
Jan 28

So, Who Is The Cyber Risk Stakeholder at the Executive Level?

By Hana LaRock | CEO Best Practices , IT Best Practices

“With great power lies great responsibility.”

Even in the smallest of businesses, there is a certain hierarchy of power. And, despite what could potentially go wrong at each level, either by a team or an individual, the question is, who should take the blame?

Ultimately, there can be a lot of things a CEO has to take responsibility for, even if something which occurred wasn’t technically their “fault.” While it may feel good for a CEO to point fingers at his or her employees, that would be doing him or herself a huge disservice. And, at the end of the day, it doesn’t fix the problem.

If you run a small business, remember: You are the cyber risk stakeholder at the executive level. If you can’t accept that awesome responsibility, then maybe this isn’t the job for you.

When Common, Not-So-Serious Cyber Threats Come Through

Cyber threats nowadays can happen at any moment. We’re talking everything from entire system shutdowns to unexpected data breaches. While certain problems are more likely to happen at a small business than opposed to a larger business, if you’re business is onto something good, then hackers may be onto you, too.

And, if you’re a small business, you most likely have an IT guy or an IT team helping you to avoid these cyber threats. Though sometimes, the occasional virus will get in or someone may accidentally delete important files.

Like any employee, IT people put in a lot of time and effort into making things go right, and likewise, you as the CEO put a lot of trust (and money) into them, too. In these cases, certain cyber threats may not be too serious, and more often than not, both the CEO and the employees can move forward as one powerful entity.

However, it’s not always that easy.

When a Serious Cyber Threat Succeeds in Breaching Your System

Hackers work in all different ways, as do hacks and the way they affect your business. Sometimes, a hack can really set a small business back. It can cost you a lot of time and money when it comes to making repairs.

These are bigger, more serious cyber threats which lead to complete data breaches and ransomware. Sometimes, they can’t be solved, and the damage has been embedded way too deep to even try. In these cases, it’s less likely a CEO is going to be empathetic to their IT team, or design team, or content team, or whatever team it was that was ultimately the one to “click the big red button.” It may cause a lot of frustration. But, it happens. And, again, as the CEO, it is your sole responsibility as the cyber risk stakeholder to take the blame. If customers’ information gets leaked, you’re not going to say, “Yes, I’m sorry, but it was my IT teams’ fault, and they will pay for it.” Nope. You speak for your entire company, and you better do it with some dignity.

Of course, that being said, there will be circumstances where you may need to let an employee go for too many mishaps. But, that’s up to your discretion. If you start seeing a pattern with “bad employees” though, it may not be them who are the problem. But more importantly, who ultimately pays the price? You!

CEOs: It Better Be You

With start-ups or small businesses, there is a lot of “figuring out” that a company needs to do together. Problems will come along that no one could have predicted. But, for you as the CEO to point fingers at your IT department for every single one of those cyber threats, you’ll see it will cause more damage than there was to begin with. Not only are you putting in less faith to your IT team which will entirely discourage them from doing the job correctly, you’re also not fixing the problem. Understanding that aspect of it is imperative for any small business. In order to grow, you must face problems together so you can flourish as a company.

Smeester & Associates can help CEOs like yourself make the right decisions for your company, whether those involve cyber threats or other concerns in your IT department. To see if you’re at risk of a security breach, take our RiskAware™ Cyber Security Scan & Report today.

free public WiFi, Travel, cyber security
Jan 11

The Risks of Free Public WiFi and How To Stay Protected During Travel

By Hana LaRock | Security

So, you’re traveling for business and you’re going to have to do work whenever you get the chance. You’re thinking you’ll find tons of trendy cafes, airport waiting rooms, hotel lobbies, and who knows what else…maybe even food courts and mall restaurants, to do your work at.

As you already probably know, connecting to public WiFi networks is a risk for anyone. It doesn’t matter if you work for a big or small company, or if you’re just surfing online for your own personal business. Someone who wants to get in will do it, and it won’t be hard for them to do so. But, when we see that there is a free network for us to connect to, we get excited. Free?! How great.

Well, not exactly.

Why would you make it easier for hackers to get to you?

Putting a little money into making sure your network is safe and secure while you travel is certainly worth it. But, we also understand that you want to save where you can.

So, here are some alternatives to that public WiFi.

To Avoid Sensitive Info Getting Stolen, Get a VPN

Connecting to a free public WiFi network makes it easier for someone to take your sensitive info without you even knowing it. You could be going to make a transaction or be collecting information from a customer when someone can just slip right in there.

However, this can be solved by getting a VPN, which makes it safe to do transactions over a public network. So, if there is no way to avoid using the free network at the airport or a hotel, then this is the route you want to take.

A solid VPN shouldn’t set you back too much. You can find some VPN services as low as $4 a month.

To Stay Safe, Stick to One Device

One way to be more susceptible to hackers is by using a mobile device. While it’s tempting during travel to use tablets, phones, and anything else that’s essentially “mobile,” this can put you at risk. For one, setting up security systems on a phone is definitely more of a puzzle than doing so on a computer. Second, it’s a lot harder to tell with a mobile device if you’ve been hacked or not.

To stay safe while you’re traveling, do yourself a favor and stick to just one device. Sure, you might bring your phone and tablet along for the trip. But, if you’re going to be doing any work or personal stuff, then keep it all to your computer or another device that’s already secured for these kinds of connections.

Watch Where You Plug in Your Devices, and Carry Your Own “Outlets”

Have you ever noticed at airports or malls that there are charging stations? What about USB outlets in a rental car? While this may not be quite the same as a free public WiFi network, it’s similar in that it’s something convenient that can present huge consequences. Of course, not everything is a risk, but it’s nice to be aware of these things.

If you really need to charge your device, consider getting your own power bank, or charge up in safer places.

Substitute Free Public WiFi Networks for Your Own Hotspot

Nothing is ever 100% safe, especially when it comes to protecting your sensitive information. Even when you have to “pay” to use a public network (like buying a cookie at a cafe to get the password) there are still no guarantees. There are also no guarantees that the WiFi you connect to will be strong enough to allow you to conduct business.

So, to fix all of those potential problems, consider bringing your own secure connection. Nowadays, it’s easy to find personal hotspots at mobile carrier stores that cater to your needs. You can also use your own phone as a hotspot, but like always, make sure it’s secure.

Do you need some cyber security tips for upcoming work travel? Smeester & Associates can help you get all the information you need.

In the meantime, try our RiskAware™ Cyber Security Scan & Report to see where your security currently stands.

Dec 29

10 Ways Ransomware Can Affect You if You Don’t Take Charge

By Hana LaRock | Ransomware

Ransomware is a nasty type of virus that extorts people for money by essentially blackmailing them. When it comes to major companies and even small businesses, ransomware can seriously take advantage of you and anyone else involved. And, as we all know, ransomware can affect our personal lives as well.

Unlike other types of hacks, ransomware is not easy to get rid of. Often, people need to either pay the money or risk losing all their data instead.

Don’t let ransomware take over your business or your life. Here are the ways ransomware can affect you if you don’t take charge. (And, by take charge, we mean taking all the cyber security precautions there are, including backing up your data!)

1. It can take away everything you’ve worked towards

Ransomware essentially takes your data hostage. If you’re a small company who has put in a lot of work to get your business off the ground, this is a huge disappointment. If you’re a major company, you’re going to have a lot of backtracking to do, and a lot of “‘splainin'” to do, too. No one wants to have to start back at square one again.

2. It can force you to pay up

If you didn’t back up your data and you’re not in a place to lose everything you’ve worked for, then ransomware can force you to pay up. Though the FBI discourages paying these cyber terrorists, it may be the only way to get back your important data.

3. It can ruin your reputation

If people are familiar with your company, a ransomware attack can seriously ruin the reputation you have with your customers. Sure, if you can overcome the ransomware no problem, then it may be that no one will find out and you can move on with your life. But, if your company goes down the drain or sensitive customers’ information gets leaked, you’re really in trouble.

4. It can make you vulnerable to attacks in the future

If we let ourselves get affected by ransomware one time, we’re probably going to do our best to make sure it doesn’t happen again. But, if a ransomware attack happens in the first place, it may mean you don’t have a good cyber security plan in place. Therefore, you may be vulnerable to more attacks in the future. 

5. It can take away your precious memories

When ransomware affects your work life, that’s one thing. But, when it affects your personal life, it’s another. Ransomware can get into your own personal computer and take away your precious memories, including photos, videos, writings, or even conversations you’ve saved.

6. It can take away your “evidence”

Some of us keep very important information on our computers. This can be everything from our tax documents to bank information or photocopies of a passport. In some cases, this type of information is your “evidence.” It’s proof you paid your taxes or proof that you paid a bill. Ransomware can take that away, wreaking havoc on your personal finances.

7. It can access any IoT device

Believe it or not, ransomware has started to affect SmartTVs, video game systems, cars, and other IoT devices. Despite the fact that IoT makes our lives easier, remember, the Internet can be a very dangerous place. With convenience, there sometimes is a catch. You don’t want to be trying to relax and watch TV when a ransomware message appears on your screen.

8. It can take away privacy in ways you wouldn’t believe

Amazon Echo may be helping to solve a murder, as it may have recorded the mysterious events that took place. While this is bad news for the murderer and good news for the family, it makes a lot of us wonder how private our lives really are when we invest in all this smart technology. Ransomware and other type of hacks can lead to us being watched and heard without us even knowing it. There’s no telling what or how they will use what they gather against you.

9. It can play a risk to your health

As you can start to see, ransomware can pretty much affect any device, including health technology. This could be any device to help aid a person’s health. Think pacemakers, implants, and in the future, other health machines like digital contact lessons. If hackers can go to any means necessary to make you desperate enough to pay, would you really put it past them?

10. It can cause a ton of stress

The bottom line is that ransomware is a very scary thing. It can come at a surprise and put us in a situation where we really have no idea what to do. It can cost us time, money, and a lot of hard work. This can cause a heck of an amount of stress, that will certainly take a toll on our work and personal life as a whole.

Smeester & Associates can provide you with assistance for your cyber security practices. In the meantime, see if you are at a risk of being hit with ransomware. Take our RiskAware™ Cyber Security Scan & Report to find out.

Dec 21

Can the Internet Really Be That Dangerous?

By Hana LaRock | CEO Best Practices , Security

When we talk about the Internet, cyber security, and how all those things come together, we have to ask ourselves one main question:

Is the Internet really that dangerous?

At one time, maybe not so much. After all, when something so broad and capable is invented before the security aspect of it is created, there leaves a lot of room for not-so-safe possibilities. As more and more people are hooking up to the IoT, there’s a lot of potential for dangerous things to happen. And, we’re not talking about people losing a company’s sensitive data, or a customer’s identification being released. We’re talking about cyber security risks that can actually be physically dangerous to the people involved at a company.

The Risks of Smart Devices

We are already well aware of the dangers mobile devices present. The problem is, in the history of Internet technology, it has always been the product invented first, and the issue of security worried about afterwards. We’ve seen it in computers, laptops, and companies switching over to conduct business on mobile devices. But, what about when the IoT keeps growing and growing? As things constantly hit the market, we’re left wondering if security comes with the rest of the package. And, more often than not, it doesn’t.

So, when a hacker gets into a laptop or a phone, it’s one thing. But, what happens when we start having smart cars, smart light bulbs, smart planes, etc? We already have tablets, smart watches, and virtual reality. What happens when a hacker seriously wants to do harm to certain individuals at certain companies? There are some BAD hackers out there, that will go to any extreme to do what they need to do or get what they need to get.

These hackers could make your company’s self-driving car go off the road. They can make the electricity in your building start a fire. If you run a restaurant with smart appliances, a hacker could shut off everything, risking health and safety hazards for your customers. They could make security cameras go all haywire, making you a victim of something you didn’t do. Like Ransomware, they will extort you and blackmail you for all your worth, even taking it as far as putting your life, or the life of your co-workers and loved ones, at risk.

Things like this have already started happening, and for some reason, companies STILL are not seeing the need for cyber security. What more will it take?

RiskAware™ Cyber Security Scan & Report

When Incentives are Scary, They Work

Cyber security flaws are an absolute epidemic. We’ve seen large company after company be hit with terrible attacks that were very hard to come back from. We recently saw one happen with Yahoo!, and even our own presidential election. No matter how often companies are educated on the dangers of an attack, people in power still do not believe they are at risk. The United States, for example, doesn’t even have enough laws and regulations in place to protect ordinary users. Then, how can any of us be safe?

Is scaring people into spending money on cyber security the answer?

Maybe so. When we are asked whether or not the internet can be dangerous, the answer is yes. While it may sound rather drastic, it’s certainly not unreasonable to think that human life could be at risk as the future of the IoT grows. Is that what it will take for people to start taking their cyber security more seriously? It’s discouraging that seeing others get attacked is the only incentive companies have to rework cyber security into their protocol or budget. But, if that’s the only thing that works, then we’re doing the right thing by making everyone aware of the possibilities.

What do you think? 

It’ll likely be some time before you start worrying about real Internet dangers. But, it’s never too soon to start taking charge of your cyber security, and staying away from IoT until you can fully implement cyber security on those devices.

If this has somehow got you into taking your cyber security seriously, then Smeester & Associates is here to get you on the right track.

Dec 14

Will You Be Ready for 2017’s Cyber Security Threats?

By Hana LaRock | CEO Best Practices , Ransomware , Security

As this year comes to an end, we have yet to see any type of decrease in cyber security threats and attacks. In fact, cyber attacks continue to grow at an alarming rate.

However, as we hone in on the types of attacks there are, it becomes a little bit easier to know what you’re looking for, and potentially stop an attack before it hits. That being said, hackers and the methods they use to take down even the biggest websites, like Twitter, are constantly changing. This is because when people find ways to stop attackers, the attackers find more creative methods to do what they set out to do. Just like any other vicious, drug-resistant virus.

And, as 2017 rolls around, we can expect to see different and more powerful types of attacks. So, the question is, will you be ready to fight them when they come?

The Money Motive

Most hackers are motivated solely by money and will go to whatever means necessary to get a lot of it out of your company. This can be done through the use of ransomware, which is getting more advanced as time goes on. Hackers are going to find stronger types of ransomware attacks, and they will extort businesses for way more money than ever before. Thus, companies are going to have a hard time keeping up with proactive security measures enough to “deter” the ransomware. But, we’ll get to that later.

The Use of Mobile Devices will Lead to IoT Attacks

As people are using their mobile devices to conduct business more and more, we will be seeing more attacks via those devices. Along with this, however, we hope to see people taking their mobile security more seriously than they have in the past. But, despite the desire for protection, mobile device security just isn’t up to par with its stationary counterparts. We’re looking at all different kinds of threats in 2017, from theft of intellectual property to the potential destruction of critical infrastructure. Companies won’t be able to deal with these threats in real-time due to the minimal capabilities of mobile devices to do so. This, unfortunately, can mean bigger and broader attacks across the board than we’ve ever seen.

Increase in Internal Risks and Attacks

One thing we may be seeing more of in 2017 are internal attacks. Because companies are bumping up their cyber security, hackers are needing to find more “undercover” ways to do what they want to do. This could be anything from placing actual insiders in the company to hackers deceivingly targeting your email and every move you make on your various social media outlets. These attackers will try to manipulate employees from the inside into letting in a major breach, causing a lot of serious damage in the process.

But, there is some good news…

More Security Investments and Cyber Deterrence

Despite the fact that hackers will be more innovative in the coming year, so will security vendors and software overall. One trend we’ll start to see in 2017 is that companies will be spending more money on their cyber security than in the past; something that we’ve been certainly been hoping to see more of.

In addition to more spending on security, we’re also likely to see cyber security take a new route…a somewhat Israeli, Iron Dome, kind of route. IT professionals are looking for ways to deter attacks as they happen and stop one right in its tracks. This is a trend we may be seeing more of in the next year, and you’ll want to get on board as soon as this kind of security hits the market.

Cyber security should be a huge concern for any company. But, these companies need to keep up with the times. The data world is always changing and we need to be aware of the trends so that we’re not as vulnerable.

If you want to be sure you’re keeping up with these cyber security trends, then contact us at Smeester & Associates. We have all the tools necessary for you to make the right decision regarding your security methods. Try our RiskAware™ Cyber Security Scan & Report to see your current exposure level.

Dec 08

How to Convince Your Higher-Ups the Need for Cyber Security

By Hana LaRock | CEO Best Practices , Security

Every company no matter how big or small, needs a means of protecting their data and systems. Though, while many of us already know this, others have a hard time actually implementing a comprehensive security plan. The whole, “saying it is easier than doing it” kind of thing.

If you’re one of the many individuals who works at a company where cyber security still has not been put on the agenda or evaluated in the budget, it might leave you feeling frustrated every day you’re at work. You’re constantly wondering what could happen to all the important things you’ve been working on or what could happen to the sensitive information of the customers you’re dealing with.

No matter your position in the company, you feel concerned as to why your higher-ups aren’t taking security more seriously. It seems that despite the meetings, the discussions, and even the obvious need for protection, those in power just aren’t budging.

But, you care. So, here’s how to get the leaders of your company to start making moves on the company’s cyber security.

Get close to who is in charge

If you have been vocal about cyber security for a while, it may be that the person you’ve been talking to about this really isn’t the one calling the shots. Often times at larger companies, you have to go through a whole chain of people before you get to the one person that can actually do something. Whether this person is the CIO, CFO, or the CEO, try and get to know them. Additionally, try to get others in your company on board with you.

Organize a meeting based solely on this topic

Meetings at companies are often brief, where the higher-ups try to get the point cross as quickly as possible. There’s little time to bring up other things, or sometimes to even talk at all. Therefore, if you want to bring up the need for cyber-security, it’s necessary that you organize a PROFESSIONAL meeting based solely on this topic. Approach your supervisor and say “Hey, I know we’re really busy, so can you tell me when would be a good time to discuss this issue?”

Have the facts ready

Some companies don’t see the need for cyber security until they are staring a data breach right in the face. As much as you may be aware of the need for preventative cyber security, it’s clear that that isn’t happening. Therefore, you need to take the initiative.

Find out exactly what it is that could be impacted if there were a data breach. Who would be affected? How much would it cost for the company, directly and indirectly? How much of the budget would it really take to prevent something major from happening, and why should employees like you be concerned? Essentially, design a presentation.

If you’re worried that your higher-ups may not see this as any of your business, you may have to start the conversation casually. “Wow, did you hear what happened to (so-and-so-company?) They just had a major, unexpected data-breach, which cost them (this much) money!”

Take care of yourself

Sometimes, people are really stubborn. Unfortunately, even after trying so hard to convince someone, they’d rather go with the “break and fix” model, even if it means a huge risk for a company. What you can do in the meantime, though, is take care of yourself. If you know basic proactive security measures, like running backups on your system, using two-step verification, and being cautious of BYOD policies, use them yourself, and try to encourage others to do the same. It may be a small step, but it will help. 

If after all this it seems your company is finally ready to start talking about security, then contact us at Smeester & Associates. We have the tools and recommendations appropriate for a company who may just be getting their feet wet but may not want to jump the gun too quickly.

How low is your fruit hanging? Is that bear about to eat you or the other guy?

Discover how much risk you’re exposed to and get a complimentary RiskAware™ Cyber Security Scan & Report today!

Nov 30

4 Ways Using Your Mobile Device for Business Can Put You At Risk

By Hana LaRock | CEO Best Practices , Security

When it comes to technology, there’s no doubt that mobile devices have made both our personal and professional lives way easier. Because of smartphones, tablets, and other kinds of mobile devices, we can take our work with us anywhere and get things done on the go. We can be in constant communication with our employees, executives, IT management, and our customers.

But, while our phones help us in tons of ways, they can also hinder us in others. Conducting certain aspects of business on your mobile device can put you at a huge cyber security risk. Before you conduct any more business on your phone, read up on this.

1. Handling Money on Your Phone

Smart devices give us the incredible ability to manage money from anywhere. Whether it’s accepting money on Paypal, sending money on Venmo, depositing a check via your online banking app, or making an order on a website, there’s really no limit as to what you can do.

Unfortunately, sometimes convenience comes with a catch. The ability to do many transactions from a single device, a device that’s most likely not protected, can lead to attacks from all sides. Therefore, using your phone to handle any type of transaction can make you more susceptible to hackers and other cybersecurity dangers.

2. Having Loose BYOD Policies

Nowadays, many companies are implementing BYOD, or a Bring Your Own Device policy. It’s a way for employees to have more flexibility with their work, as they won’t be limited to what they can do, how they can do it, and when and where they can do it.

While there are many great benefits to BYOD, there are also, of course, security risks. In fact, even though company executives certainly don’t want their employees to be distracted by their mobile devices, the primary reason companies are skeptical about BYOD is because of the risk associated with it. Someone who brings their phone to work can easily connect to a network anywhere they go afterwards. And, if one of those networks isn’t secure, a hacker can get in and access anything that the employee has access too. Most of the time, without the employee even knowing about it.

3. Dangerous Apps

If there was something infecting your phone or mobile device, would you know it was there? Probably not. Detecting malware on a phone might not be easy for the ordinary user. But, it’s great for hackers who want a simple job. In general, most malware types that infect phones comes from suspicious apps. Hackers can get into the phone and easily take any sensitive information you have tied to your business. Again, this can be done without you even realizing it.

We’re not saying don’t download apps. But, if you’re using the same mobile device that you’re downloading apps on as you do for your business, you’re putting your company at risk. Additionally, if you have malware on your phone unbeknownst to you, and then you go and reconnect that phone to your company’s main network, you can infect others in your office as well.

4. More Work for IT

Using your mobile device for business can put you at risk. Even if you’re trying to be proactive, at the end of the day, it’s more work for IT. And, that’s if you’re even running security measures on your phone in the first place. (Most companies don’t.) Your IT team or your security vendor is already doing all it can to protect your network and, most of all, the computers hooked up to that network. While adding on a couple of phones shouldn’t be too difficult, you don’t want to have IT lose their focus on the main action, just so you can bring work around with you (probably to somewhere you shouldn’t be bringing it, anyway.)

That old saying, “Don’t mix business and pleasure,” can be interpreted many different ways. But, in this case, it can’t be any more clear. Your phone may make business run smoother, but it may be only a matter of time before that changes. Sometimes, leaving your phone at home isn’t such a bad thing.

Smeester & Associates can provide you with everything you need to know in making important security desicions for your company. Like, whether or not you should run business on your mobile device. 

How low is your fruit hanging? Is that bear about to eat you or the other guy?

Discover how much risk you’re exposed to and get a complimentary RiskAware™ Cyber Security Scan & Report today!

Nov 25

How to Stay Safe on Cyber Monday (Or Any Other Day)

By Hana LaRock | Cyber Scams , Security

Nowadays, people find it a lot easier to do their shopping, especially their holiday shopping, online. But, when customers from all over the world are using their sensitive information to make purchases, there is always the risk that a security breach could occur. And, that that security breach could put you at a serious risk.

Black Friday is over, and so far, there haven’t been any major incidences. (At least compared to previous years.) While that’s all great to hear, that doesn’t mean it’s time to let our guard down just yet. The cyber threat is still prevalent and we need to be on guard.

If you plan on participating in Cyber Monday or any other kind of online shopping this holiday season, here are a few tips on keeping yourself safe behind the screen.

cyber-monday-theftAvoid Using Your Mobile Devices

Though using your mobile device to make a purchase is definitely time-efficient, it’s not always safe. There are a lot of companies that use mobile apps to cater to their users. While this is a nice thing for both the company and the user, it can also be a nice thing for any hacker who won’t even need to lift a finger to take your information. Stick to a computer that you’re familiar with.

Consider Alternative Payments

If your browser asks you if you want it to remember your card information, don’t check off that box. Even if it’s your own personal computer, this kind of thing makes it easier for anyone to take your information. And, even if you opt out of having your credit card memorized, you should consider leaving the credit card or debit card behind altogether. If you have gift cards, Paypal, or a prepaid card, it’ll keep you a little safer.

Go With Companies You Know

Maybe a lot of those third-party, out-of-country eCommerce sites have some really good-looking deals. And, while some of those sites may be very well legitimate, you should never buy from a company that you haven’t heard of. Stick to the places and the names you know and love. There’s a better chance their online shopping platform is just safer, and if a breach were to happen, that they would at least do their best to make sure you’re protected.

Trust Your Gut

Cyber Monday and the holiday season, in general, are pretty overwhelming days to be on the Internet. There are a lot of good deals out there that are really convincing. But, not all deals are what you think they are. Some are really deceiving. It may not be that there is a hacker running a fake website with fake deals directly behind the screen. But, it may mean that the website you see one of these “deals” on may not be one that’s safe to use, for one reason or another. Therefore, just remember the old advice, “If it looks too good to be true…” Trust your gut before trusting these people with your bank information.

And, if you’re a company…

If you’re a company who is selling products online on Cyber Monday, or any other day for that matter, make sure you’re taking every possible cyber security precaution there is to protect you and your users. You should also consider taking out cyber insurance or consulting with your provider about additional measures. Remember, your customers are trusting of you, and they wouldn’t want a little purchase on your website to lead to a complete loss of their identity.

Cyber Monday is just a few days away. Are you prepared? No worries! Smeester & Associates is here to help. 

How low is your fruit hanging? Is that bear about to eat you or the other guy?

Discover how much risk you’re exposed to and get a complimentary RiskAware™ Cyber Security Scan & Report today!

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