All Posts by Hana LaRock

About the Author

Hello! My name is Hana and I am the content writer for Smeester & Associates. I was born in raised in Long Island, New York, but I have lived abroad and traveled many places over the last four years. I currently reside in Mexico City. It's been an exciting challenge to write about topics associated with the importance of cyber security in small business. Every day, I myself am learning more about this industry and what it can do for small business owners around the country. I have years of content writing experience and I have been published on both print and web. Any topics you want to see discussed here? Shoot me an email at info@smeester.com.

cyber security add-ons
May 16

5 Add-On Tips to Ensure Your Security is at Its Absolute Best

By Hana LaRock | Security

When it comes to securing your network, there is never really such a thing as “too much.” That being said, a lot of the time people who believe they have a stable security system will neglect it after a while, especially if they’ve hired someone to look after it.

But, security isn’t just something you install and leave. In order to get the most out of your security program, it must be constantly monitored. Whether you’re doing the monitoring or someone else is doing it, these add-ons will help ensure your security is at its absolute best.

1. Add More Authentication Stages

Most of us know that a two-step verification process is a smart way to keep your systems secure. Unfortunately, as much as people know the importance of this, they still are not implementing it where they should. These days, hackers are still finding success by stealing passwords or just by guessing them.

Adding a little more authentication, such as MFA (multi-factor authentication) will help you put up more of a wall on your systems. MFA makes users present multiple forms of evidence in order to gain access to the network. This could be anything from answering personal security questions to providing two separate and unique passwords.

2. Add a Web Application Firewall

Companies and individuals alike should not rely only on a firewall to secure their system. Firewalls are easy to surpass and don’t have the capacity to block out the really serious stuff. That being said, firewalls are still good to use as long as they are combined with other forms of security.

A web application firewall is a type of firewall that can help filter out common web application attacks that are affecting security systems, like SQL Injection attacks. Of course, the best way to be sure this firewall is working properly is to change your settings to only allow apps you trust, and by checking frequently to see if blunt force against an attack would be a necessary added component thereafter.

3. Add More Security Scans and Filters Overall

When you have a lot of traffic coming into your site, that’s a good thing for business. But, it’s not really a great thing for security. Bad sites have a way of sneaking into your regular traffic stats, posing as an ordinary user. The problem is, this won’t be an ordinary web user that you think it is, but some form of Malware that can be easily overlooked.

To help prevent this, you can first add a filter to block off the URLS of these bad sites. You also need to look beyond the traffic and proceed with caution when you receive emails that include suspicious-looking links.

4. Add an Approach That Works Worldwide

In this day in age, many companies have employees that work remotely. These employees need to have the ability to access your company’s network without any hassles. But, finding a solution that lets employees log on easily while maintaining the security of your network is a bit of a challenge. Fortunately, all you need to do, in addition to using a VPN, is make sure data is encrypted at every point of the network. And, make sure your employees are being careful if and when they ever use a public Wifi network.

5. Add On the Best Security Staff There Is

When it comes to your network’s security, you can’t do it alone. Even after you implement all these add-ons, the most important thing is that your security is left in the right hands. Having an educated IT team is a start, but IT, especially one IT guy, isn’t always as prepared for such a situation as a third party provider would be. Whatever route you decide to go, it’s essential that you leave your security with the experts if you’re not already doing so.

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

URL
May 09

Phishing Scam: What to Ask Yourself Before Trusting That URL

By Hana LaRock | Cyber Scams , Security

These days, most people would say that they can tell the difference between a good URL and a bad one. In fact, most people may not even consider the fact that a URL could be ‘bad’ in the first place. The only time anyone might second-guess a URL is because it would have a lot of strange numbers or characters. However, hackers know that most people are aware of this, which is precisely why they’ve gotten more sophisticated on creating URLs that will trick people.

Whether you’re a personal user or you’re the CEO of a company, here’s why you should think twice before trusting a URL, and how to recognize the signs of a hack.

It All Starts with Language

The first step in being able to identify a bad URL is by understanding what a URL is. A URL is, of course, letters that are put together to make words (or made up words) to lead you to a place on the Web. Maybe you’ve never realized it before, but, almost all URLs on the web are made of English characters. That’s because the Internet was designed initially for an English-speaking audience.

The problem is (or, rather, the benefit for hackers) is that there are many letters in the English language that look exactly the same as letters in other languages. Although these letters don’t hold any of the same phonemic significance, they can be manipulated to make fake URLS that are a mix of letters in other alphabets and English letters. This is known as an “IDN Homograph Attack.”

How to Prevent a Homograph Attack

The reason these fake URLs are able to be created is because the phisher on the other side of the screen has found a website that has let he or she create a domain in which they can take characters from different languages. While a lot of these sites are cracking down on this behavior, it’s pretty much possible to find anything on the Internet. So, one of the easiest ways to stop an IDN Homograph Attack is by restricting IDNs under your browser settings. If this isn’t an option for your company, (maybe because you work with many international businesses) new technology is coming out in various browsers that when updated, will help protect you against such attacks.

Other Ways to Detect Danger

Homograph attacks aren’t the only ways in which people are tricked into opening bad URLs. As long as you know what to look for, you can detect danger and put a halt to it before being affected.

  • Is the Site You’re Going to Secured?: Most browsers will let you know if a website is “unsafe” before continuing. If you see a warning but you’re fairly confident that it is safe, check if the site has security seals. Something as simple as seeing that green address bar can help you be sure.
  • Are the Letter Cases Different?: Typically, letter cases don’t make much of a difference when you’re trying to visit a website. But, checking the letter case on a URL, especially if it was sent to you via email, can help prevent an attack. If something looks out of place, exercise caution, and instead, type in the URL on the address bar as you know it.
  • Is the SSL Certificate Up to Date?: If the website’s SSL Certificate is expired, this could be a red flag. It may not be that the website is being run by a hacker, but it could make the site itself more vulnerable to hackers who want to use it as a bridge to get to you.

Cyber scams can be hard to detect. If you want to protect your company, knowing the signs of such attacks like these are important. Next time you click a new URL, stop and follow these steps.

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

May 02

Will You Be Able to Recognize Executive Impersonation Fraud?

By Hana LaRock | Cyber Scams

There are all different kinds of ways for a hacker to breach a system, and it seems like once we figure out how to prevent one of them, another one arises. Whether it’s Malware or Phishing scams, it’s hard to predict what the next one will hit and when it will be.

But, right now, there’s a new scam on the rise, and it’s just as concerning as it is clever. Executive impersonation fraud is becoming more and more prevalent and harder to catch. Will you be prepared if it’s used against you?

What is Executive Impersonation?

An Executive Impersonation is yet another type of Business Email Compromise scam. While it may seem like the type of hack anyone could attempt, it’s in fact, very sophisticated. Hackers who do this go to great lengths to pretend to be an executive of a company and seek the information they are looking for. Therefore, it’s one of the hardest scams to recognize.

In an Executive Impersonation hack, hackers target businesses that frequently do wire transfers. These hackers, or impersonators, “take the place” of a CEO, attorney, or trusted vendor with a leadership position; someone who has the power to initiate a bank transfer. Needless to say, these hackers can get their hands on all kinds of sensitive information and use it to their benefit.

Who are the Scammers?

Though many of us tend to fear the biggest threat actors when it comes to data breaches, an Executive Impersonation attack doesn’t need to be carried out by a whole country. Like many other scammers out there, it could just be a random individual. That being said, it does take a lot of research to impersonate a high-powered executive, and we can assure you that these hackers read up.

Which brings us to our next point…

Why Do People Fall For It So Easily?

These days, when you can hide behind a computer screen, you never really know who you’re dealing with. You may wonder how someone could so easily fall for one of these Executive Impersonation scams, but what you really should be asking is, “How can you not?”

First of all, when a CEO gives any type of order, it’s usually respected. Most people, when given a request by someone in power, will automatically say “yes.” The scammers make sure to use that factor to their advantage while replicating business practices unique to the company they’re hacking. To carry out this type of hack, they will ultimately conduct wire transfers on unauthorized funds by compromising email accounts.

Preventing Attacks

The first step to preventing attacks like these is simply being aware. The more your company is up to date with what’s out there, the higher chance you’ll have for keeping yourself safe.

Who is a Target?

If you think just because you’re a small business you won’t be a target for an Executive Impersonation hack, think again. Smaller businesses tend to be the most vulnerable since often times they’ll put their cyber security on the back burner. Therefore, making sure you take as many precautions as possible, like practicing two-step verification and strong passwords, will help you stay safe.

Know The Different Ways Hackers Carry Out the Attack

In Executive Impersonation attacks, there are three main ways in which the hack is carried out:

  • Executive/Attorney Impersonation: When the hacker pretends to be an attorney asking for money for a time-sensitive transaction for whatever reason. Usually, the “attorney,” or the account that’s hacked, is a person in which the company already knows and trusts, and would have no reason to question the request.
  • Data Theft via Human Resources: This is when the hacker impersonates the CEO by compromising his or her email, then contacting someone in HR, Finance, or any other department that deals with the payroll. That employee will then send the “CEO” the payroll or sensitive information requested without second-guessing it. Then, the hacker will use this info to get what they want.
  • Executive Money Transfer Request: This is when an Executive Money Transfer Request is put through when the hacker compromises the executive’s email. They will contact the person who handles money at the office (again, HR or Finance) to submit a direct transfer to a “vendor” or “customer” account.

No cyber attack can be a 100% prevented. However, if you know the signs of an Executive Impersonation attack while making sure your systems are secure, you should be in good shape.

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.

Apr 25

Are You a Small Business with Big Clients? Your Cyber Security Better Measure Up

By Hana LaRock | CEO Best Practices , Security

If you work in the distribution/manufacturing industry, then it’s likely a lot of your clients are pretty big names. They need your services to help them run their businesses, which could very well be large, powerful companies. Therefore, these clients will have very high expectations of your company’s security and expect certain standards when you collect their sensitive information.

If you’re a small business with big clients, your cyber security better measure up. Here’s why:

You Should Provide Your Client With a Huge Sense of Security

If you work in manufacturing or distributions, then you need to have tight security on all levels. Even if you’re a small business, it’s likely you could be doing work with a lot of different clients.

From the time a new client walks in the door (or sends you an email inquiring about your services) their information needs to be 100% secure. They’re already well aware of the consequences if your systems are non-compliant.

Are you?

Don’t even give them a chance to wonder. Pride yourself on letting your clients and future clients know what steps you’ve taken to make sure their information is safe with you.

Word of Your Security Situation Can Spread Quickly

If you’re the business that big-name companies come to, you’re most likely a household name in those industries. Clients are quick to recommend their friends to a company like yours. If you’ve been around a while, a lot of people probably know you.

But, there’s also a chance that if you’ve been around a while, cyber security may not have been such a concern ten or fifteen years ago. People are going to want to know you’ve stepped up your game to accommodate them. If someone knows you’re not taking those measures seriously, people will know.

You don’t want people saying, “Be careful with that guy.” Instead, you want them saying, “You’ll never have any issues with him!” Most of all, it’s important to remember that if you’re the leader of your company,

Most of all, it’s important to remember that if you’re the leader of your company, you’re ultimately responsible if a data breach occurs. You definitely don’t want that to happen to you and your company’s overall reputation.

If Their Data isn’t Protected, You Could Face Legal Consequences

If you’re taking any payment card information or other sensitive information from your clients, then you must be held to certain standards. If those standards aren’t met, you don’t even need to have a data breach in order to be fined. But, if you do experience a breach and the information of your “VIP” clients gets leaked, you could easily face tough legal consequences. The price you’d have to pay could wipe out your business entirely…if you’re lucky.

Nowadays, Expectations are High for Everyone

While manufacturing and distribution companies should, for these reasons, take more precautions to keep their customers’ data safe, they aren’t the only ones. Small businesses like these need to take extra care in protecting their data from the get-go, as they can be easier targets with fewer resources to handle such a thing.

But, it’s not just about small businesses, big businesses, or the type of industry you’re in. These days, customers everywhere are well aware of what can happen to their information in a data breach, and how easily hackers can get their hands on it. Therefore, expectations are high for EVERYONE, no matter what kind of business you’re in.

Don’t be the company who loses business because you thought you could take the chance. Trust us, it’s not worth it.

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.

Apr 18

Here’s a Secret: How To Save on Your Cyber Insurance Premium

By Hana LaRock | CEO Best Practices , IT Best Practices , Managed Services , Security

For company leaders that are already investing in cyber security, you don’t need a reminder of why it’s so important. You’re probably well aware of the seriousness and frequencies of data breaches these days, and you, therefore, want to make sure you’re protected at all costs. But, for those who still haven’t taken that budget leap, know that a cyber insurance plan can help offset major costs associated with any type of data breach.

Is that still not enough of a reason to allocate your budget to insurance? Then consider this. What if you could save money on your cyber insurance premium, just by being proactive? Would that be enough to push you to make the right decision for your company?

We’ll tell you more:

The Costs of Cyber Insurance

Cyber insurance isn’t cheap per se, but it can be affordable. And, when you consider how much it would cost to make “repairs” after a data breach, (often thousands upon thousands of dollars, depending on the size of your company and the extent of the damage) it’s definitely worth the price.

Like any other type of insurance, you pay a premium every month, and you can be covered for A LOT. This can be anything from privacy liability to lawyers, plaintiff lawsuits, forensic investigations, PR, penalties and fines, etc. Does that sound expensive already? We’re only scratching the surface. But, what if you could clear all the anxiety about the “what ifs” just by paying a premium every month?

Cyber insurance policies can be customized to your needs. You can go based on the size of your company, what industry you’re in, and ultimately what the stakes would be. No two policies are the same. Some premiums can be as low as $1,000 per year, while others can be as high as $50,000. But, don’t worry. It’s typical that the premium you pay is relative to what your company earns.

Still, that’s a lot of money, especially for a start-up. 

This is usually the biggest factor that deters people from taking out cyber insurance in the first place. They just don’t see that it makes sense to add something onto the budget that hasn’t even happened yet.

IT companies who specialize in cyber security understand this. So, we’ll let you in on a little secret. One that only professionals know about.

You can actually save a huge amount of money on your policy premium if you just take a few steps, first. We’re talking around 60%. Here’s how:

How to Save on Your Cyber Insurance Premium

For company leaders like you who understand the importance of cyber security, but still want to save, there’s a way to have the best of both worlds.

All you have to do is be proactive. How do you do that? It’s easy. Get yourself a network assessment from an unbiased third-party. These professionals will analyze and evaluate your system for any vulnerabilities. If they find something that makes your security weaker than it should be, they’ll let you know and fix it up for you. Then, they’ll issue you a document proving you’ve done the assessment. This document will say that you’ve taken all the precautions you can on your end to make sure your system is as secure as possible.

Of course, even if you take those steps, hackers can still find a way in. That’s why it’s important to have cyber insurance, so you’re covered no matter what. However, we can understand how frustrating it can be to spend money on an assessment that’s supposed to clear you, but then having to spend more money on insurance, anyway.

So, here’s how you save. Just bring that assessment to wherever you’re purchasing your cyber insurance plan from. Show them the measures you’ve taken (again, all explained in that assessment overview). More often than not, you can get a huge discount on your policy premium just with that paper. If they’re not eager to offer you that discount, then tell them what you now know!

After all, the law favors those who make an effort from the get go. Also, the more you do now will be less for the insurance provider to have to worry about when they cover you.

We want to help you save money on your cyber insurance premium. To get you started, take our RiskAware™ Cyber Security Scan & Report.

Apr 11

What You Should Learn From The Yahoo! Data Breach

By Hana LaRock | CEO Best Practices , Security

Last year, Yahoo! reported two major data breaches which were the largest data breaches the world had ever seen. The first breach occurred in 2014 and reportedly compromised more than 500 million accounts. The second breach Yahoo! reported, which happened back in 2013, compromised more than one billion user accounts. While data breaches can happen to anyone, the extent of damage in the Yahoo! case raised suspicions. How was it that so many user accounts easily got hacked, and why did it take so long before anyone knew what happened?

Now, it’s becoming more clear what actually led to such a disaster.

While many of us can sit and judge Yahoo! for its mistakes, there’s actually a lot your company should learn from the Yahoo! breach.

What Information was Leaked?

When a data breach happens, there’s no limit as to what the hackers can take. Whether you work in the PCI or in the healthcare industry, a customer’s information can be used to do all sorts of terrible things. In the case of the Yahoo! breach, although financial information was likely not taken, the hackers did get their hands on everything from names and email addresses, to birthdates and encrypted security passwords. Obviously, this information can be used to ultimately take financial information.

Who Was to Blame?

With a record number of accounts compromised, it was only a matter of time before the higher-ups at Yahoo! started pointing fingers. After all, no one wants to take the blame in such a newsworthy situation. Ultimately, Yahoo Inc. directed attention to the executives for not taking appropriate action to investigate the breach, let alone take steps to try and prevent it from happening in the first place.

A review by Yahoo!’s board revealed some concerning truths. Supposedly, there was a complete disconnect in internal reporting and management, which was probably what allowed the hackers to slip through so easily and do so much damage. The consequences for the people held responsible were life-changing. One of Yahoo!’s lawyers stepped down, CEO Marissa Mayer didn’t receive her bonus, and needless to say, their stock went down dramatically. The FBI is currently investigating the details.

So, do you think Yahoo! was right in blaming their executives, even though it could have been an IT or internal problem? Actually, yes.

The Leaders of the Company are ALWAYS Responsible

There are a lot of things that can cause a data breach. And, a report done by the Online Trust Alliance (OTA) showed that over 90% of hacks in the first half of 2014 were preventable. Whether it was an outside hacker or an error on the staff’s part, that’s a pretty shocking number. So, when it comes to Yahoo!, why couldn’t they see it sooner?

Though we don’t know all the answers yet, it’s likely that the breakup in communication allowed the hack to happen so easily, and more than once. No matter what the actual cause is, any time a data breach occurs, it’s always the responsibility of the company executive, much of the same way a captain needs to go down with his or her ship. This is why Yahoo!’s CEO had to take the blame and a pay cut as a consequence, which could have definitely been worse. At the end of the day, it’s the company executive’s responsibility to help prevent data breaches as best as possible.

Here’s How You Don’t End Up Like Yahoo!

You understand the responsibility you hold as an executive. That’s great. But, you might be feeling overwhelmed with this responsibility, as data breaches can still occur even after taking the property security measures. But, don’t be alarmed. As long as you’re taking the steps to be cyber-compliant, you have security protocol for staff, and you make sure your systems are secure as possible on a regular basis, you don’t have much to worry about!

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.

HIPAA violations
Apr 04

The Strict Penalties for Violating HIPAA Laws That You Want To Avoid

By Hana LaRock | CEO Best Practices , Managed Services , Security

If you work in the healthcare industry, then you already know how important it is to follow HIPAA regulations. Many companies who are serious about maintaining their adherence invest in a third-party expert to help them make sure their systems are HIPAA compliant. But, as we very well know, there are also many companies who haven’t taken that precaution yet. They may say it’s because of the budget, the time, or, they feel that their IT team already has it all taken care of.

But, if you’re not cyber-compliant and a data breach occurs, you will have violated HIPAA laws. When that happens, you can expect a huge penalty. Not only that, but you will you risk losing patients and potentially your entire business. Why take the risk? If you violate those HIPAA laws, here are the penalties you could be looking at:

The Categories of HIPAA Violations

When it comes to violating HIPAA laws, there are four categories the violation can fall under. The first category is when a violation could not have easily been avoided, even with proper care, whereas the fourth category is complete willful neglect, without any attempt to repair the violation. Of course, everything in between that gets gradually more severe from level one. Depending on what category the violation falls under, it will determine how much your fine will be.

  • Category One: (Someone who did not know they violated HIPAA) A minimum of $100, maximum, $50,000.
  • Category Two: (A violation someone should have been aware of, but could not have avoided) A minimum of $1,000, maximum of $50,000.
  • Category Three: (A violation due to willful neglect, but that tried to be repaired) A minimum of $10,000, maximum of $50,000.
  • Category Four: (Complete neglect without any attempt to repair the violation) A minimum of $50,000.

So, what constitutes “willful neglect” and how are these amounts determined? In this case, “willful neglect” means “conscious, intentional failure or reckless indifference to the obligation to comply with the administrative simplification provision violated.” As far as the fines go, the Office of Civil Rights, or the OCR, determines the amount based on the nature and extent of the harm done to the individual or individuals whose information was taken in the breach.

The Chance of Jail Time

Not only does a HIPAA violation incur a monetary penalty, but it can also result in jail time. In most cases, this wouldn’t affect an ordinary healthcare office that experiences an unfortunate breach one time. Jail time would be given to someone accused of disclosing private information about patients as a criminal offense.

There are tiers to this as well. The first tier is when someone deliberately acquires someone’s information. The second tier is acquiring the information through deception. And, the third tier is using the information to make a profit. In addition to a hefty fine, jail time can be anything from one year to ten years in prison.

Remember, even if you’re not directly responsible, if you run an office, you are responsible for your staff. You never know when private information can fall into the wrong hands.

Who Does the Prosecuting?

A patient’s privacy when they walk into any doctor’s office is their right. Therefore, it’s no wonder HIPAA violations are taken very seriously. If you violate HIPAA laws, you won’t just be dealing with that patient’s lawyer. You’ll be dealing with the United States’ Government.

Those in charge of enforcing HIPAA laws include the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and as mentioned before, the Office Of Civil Rights (OCR).

Why HIPAA Compliance is So Important

Last but not least, it’s important to know that you can still be hit with a penalty even if a data breach never occurred. How? Well, if you’re not taking the steps to be HIPAA compliant and an auditor shows up at your office, they can fine you just for not being responsible.

Why wait until that happens? If you work in the healthcare industry, it’s your job to protect your patients’ privacy as well as the jobs of your employees, which could be in jeopardy if there is a breach. Being HIPAA compliant isn’t hard to do. Just hire a third-party service provider to check your system. That’s it!

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.

HIPAA cyber compliance
Mar 28

Here’s Why HIPAA Doesn’t Work Without Cyber-Compliance

By Hana LaRock | CEO Best Practices , Managed Services , Security

Medical offices of any kind already have a lot to be concerned with. Every day, these people are doing what they can to help others; sometimes, in a life or death situation. So, it’s understandable that your office may not have the time to worry about cyber security and hackers. After all, you’re way too busy helping patients, dealing with insurance companies, calling in prescriptions, and organizing paperwork to even have time to think about that.

However, that’s no excuse to neglect the need for cyber security. As a matter of fact, those who work in medical offices are held to a much higher standard: HIPAA. HIPAA laws need to be taken very seriously, and because data breaches are on the rise, now is the time to make sure you and your patients are protected. Here’s why:

In Today’s World, Everything is Digitized

Unless your doctor’s office is still in the medieval era, it’s likely that most of the day to day work happens on the computer. Nowadays, patients’ records are usually stored on a database of some kind, that lists everything from their recent surgeries and current symptoms to their insurance information and personal address.

Electronic Medical Records or Electronic Health Records, make it very easy for medical offices to keep tabs on patients. In the past, files were handwritten and kept in overflowing cabinets. In case of an emergency, it may have been difficult for a secretary to dig out information on a patient in a hurry.  Thanks to EMR, doctors can quickly find out if a patient has any allergies or what their recent medical history is.

So, while it’s great that everything is organized this way, it can put patients at risk, as well as the offices that serve them. If a medical office is not cyber-compliant, a data breach can steal all that sensitive information. When a medical office needs to follow HIPAA laws, this could be business-ending.

There Has Been a Rise in Hacks on Medical Offices

Over the last few years, hackers have realized that there’s a lot they can benefit from by breaching a medical office. According to IBM’s Security Intelligence blog, the healthcare industry has ranked #1 in compromised records. You may recall the major breach on Anthem, Inc. that exposed nearly 80 million patient records back in 2015.

Remember, small businesses are especially vulnerable to attacks. So, if you’re a small business in the healthcare industry, your risk can be that much higher.

But, Why Would a Hacker Want This Information?

Good question. Why would a hacker want access to sensitive medical information in the first place? There’s really nothing useful for them on those forms, anyway, right?

Wrong.

Medical records or any kind of patient record can possess social security numbers and credit card numbers. But, beyond that, hackers can also use your private medical information against you to file fraudulent medical claims or even get access to prescription drugs. Additionally, hackers can use medical information to blackmail patients by using Malware. This type of hack is known as “Spear phishing,” and it’s done by referencing a patient’s sensitive information while pretending to be their employer, doctor, or someone else who would seemingly be the only person who would have access to that kind of information.

If You Fail to Comply, Expect a Lawsuit and/or Government Intervention

Without trying to scare you, it’s important to note that data breaches can happen to anyone. But, that’s precisely why protecting yourself is important now more than ever. If you run a medical office or any other type of business that’s required to observe HIPAA laws, then you must be cyber compliant.

While cyber compliance doesn’t necessarily protect you against a breach, it does protect you from a lawsuit or government action, which can almost be expected when you’re dealing with patients’ information. Hiring a validated, unbiased third party to evaluate your exposure and patch up any holes can help protect you if a hack should occur. These experts will issue you an official, cyber-compliant document that demonstrates to lawyers or government officials that you took the necessary steps to protect your office and your patients.

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.

Mar 21

How To Talk To IT About The Need For a Cyber Security Intervention

By Hana LaRock | CEO Best Practices , IT Best Practices , Security

You’re a small business who realizes the importance of cyber security. You want to do what you can to make sure you’re protected and prevent potential problems from happening later on. You already have an IT team, but you’re aware that IT and the need for cyber security are very different things.

But, does your IT team know that?

Perhaps yes, perhaps no. Either way, it’s about time you have that conversation with them, discussing the need for a separate cyber security approach. Maybe you’re afraid the conversation may be a bit awkward or uncomfortable. After all, you don’t want your IT team to feel as though they’re not doing enough, or their work is worthless. In fact, you want them to know just how important their role is when it comes to protecting your company from data breaches.

So, here are some tips on getting the conversation started.

Reveal the Facts

The IT department has a lot of responsibilities, there’s no doubt about that. They are in charge of the governance, infrastructure, and functionality of a company’s network and architecture of systems. There are a lot of jobs within those categories, but none of them really include “preventing a network from a data breach.”

Some information you want to include in this conversation are the facts and statistics of cyber risks. Talk about how small businesses are at the same risk of a data breach, if not more, than larger companies. This is because small businesses tend to be the most vulnerable, since they sometimes ignore the need for such protection.

Worried that won’t be enough?

Then tell them how more than 50% of small companies have been hacked in the last year. Or, how the costs to repair those hacks is close to a million dollars.

Always Start with Positive Feedback

While everyone in the office is an adult, it helps to always hear the good news first; no matter how old we are. When you start having the discussion with your IT team about the need for a cyber security intervention,  make sure you lay the positives on them. Let them know how much you appreciate the work they do and be specific about what they do well. This is your chance to let them shine.

Transition Into The Need for Cyber Security

Once you’ve got the basics covered, it’s time to talk to IT about bringing in cyber security experts. Explain that the professionals that you’ll bring in to help will work side by side with the IT department to make systems as secure as possible. These professionals will not be stepping on IT’s toes; rather, coming together to make sure your company is protected against hacks on all levels and is fulfilling the legal responsibility to its clients. IT will help implement the suggestions a cyber security expert makes on a long term basis.

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

federal regulations of cyber security
Mar 14

How The Key Federal Regulations of Cyber Security Keep You Safe

By Hana LaRock | Security

Part of being safe on the Internet involves both consumers and companies to follow certain standards to ensure data protection. Of course, it’s not enough for people to be expected to do that on their own. This is why key federal regulations of cyber security exist; to implement processes and standards to make sure everyone’s information is protected as much as possible.

Are you familiar with these federal regulations? If you’re using the Internet for work or personal activities, then you should know these.

#1: U.S. Federal Trade Commission Act

The U.S. FTC Act may not get as much attention on the others on this list, but, it very well should. This act was put into play in 1914. Without it, America wouldn’t be the country it is today. Because of this act, consumers are protected as well as business owners.

The act states that there should be no unfair methods of competition. Additionally, it protects consumers from buying into services or products in cases where they are being misled by false advertisements. This act is the basis for all other acts in the last century and the new millennium. Nowadays, the act has been modernized to apply to the digital age, ensuring that businesses and consumers are protected online as much as they are offline.

#2: The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act

Also known as “HIPAA,” the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act helps protect patients who utilize official healthcare services. Tied into this is also the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Heath Act (HITECH). Both of these acts, which have been around for more than twenty years, help keep you safe when you’re at the doctor. Anything your doctor knows about you is between you and the doctor, only. (Unless you state otherwise.)

#3: The Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act

The GLBA today applies to companies that provide financial services to their clients, such as banks, security companies, insurance companies, etc. To put in plainly, the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act involves “Any institution engaged in the business of providing financial services to customers who maintain a credit, deposit, trust, or other financial account or relationship with the institution.”

Basically, any company who collects sensitive information of their customers needs to be held accountable if a breach leaks that information. Therefore, this act mandates that these financial industries follow appropriate standards in order to ensure the protection and privacies of their customers.

#4: PSI DDS

Somewhat similar to the GLBA is the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard. Though it’s not actually a law, any company that collects credit card information of their customers needs to follow certain standards in order to be cyber compliant and protect their consumers. It helps ensure that customers who make payments via a card won’t risk getting their information hacked. Though situations have happened in the past, the standards implemented by PSI DDS ultimately have kept thousands of businesses and their consumers safe.

#5: The Homeland Security Act and the Federal Information Security Management Act

If your organization is a government-backed, then last but not least, FISMA, which is a branch of The Homeland Security Act, applies to you. It requests that government organizations implement mandatory policies and principals to safeguard sensitive information. If government organizations don’t follow FISMA, they can be at a huge risk of being hacked by one of the biggest threat actors, or an independent hacker. It’s a matter of national security, and without this act, our country could essentially be in danger.

Is your company following federal regulations? And, are you sure that the companies you buy from are secure enough? Try RiskAware™ Cyber Security Scan & Report to see if you’re at risk.

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