Archive Monthly Archives: December 2016

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

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.

Can the Internet Really Be That Dangerous?

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?

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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.

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

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.

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

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