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

Sep 29

IT Management Vs. Vendor Management: What’s Right for Your Company?

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

When it comes to protecting your company’s network, there are a lot of questions you need to ask yourself. What type of approach is right for your company? Should you choose the hands-on IT management, or the remote and resourceful vendor management?

The two are very different, and depending on various factors, like the size of your company or what kind of company you have (like e-commerce), makes a difference as to which type of management will be right for you.

If you’re having trouble deciding, then this is what you’ll need to look at.

What’s the Difference?

IT management is a type of network management that’s in the hands of one individual, or in some cases, an IT team. It’s the actual management of network resources, including, but not limited to, patch management, service pack updates, or just any quick adjustments that need to be done. Their expertise is more general.

Vendor management, on the other hand, happens remotely. The vendor is managing and monitoring your backups, mobile devices, and your security. The vendor has all the resources beside them to deal with a whole array of network issues. They are able to do this because they know the specific products and networks they are dealing with and can leverage them effectively.

Which Type is Better for Which Company?

IT Management

IT management is hands on and it usually involves one IT person at a company. In IT management, your network resources are being managed as best as they can. When those are confirmed to be working well, then business should run smoothly. An IT person checks on your software, your firewalls, your devices, and any other type of network resources your company is currently using, to make sure they’re working correctly.

If you are a small company or you’re just starting out, then IT management is a good way to go. It’s best for companies that just want to be sure everything is working how it should be; that nothing gets in the way of you interacting with your customers or managing your website.

Vendor Management

Vendor management is essentially when your management is outsourced to one person or group who can help you remotely. A vendor typically has better resources than your company’s IT management, simply because this is what they specialize in. They are therefore able to manage each thing in your company that needs to be managed, one at a time, and with precision. They can do what they need to do from the back-end, without interrupting your flow of business.

Vendor management is, therefore, better for small and medium sized companies, if they are able to switch over.

Make Your Choice

Still not convinced?

We are. Having a vendor to manage your network is just more reliable and consistent than a single IT person. While having an IT person around is certainly a nice thing, as companies grow, they simply can’t manage it all alone. With vendor management, you simply won’t have to worry because they have EVERYTHING covered.

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!

Sep 23

This Is The Best Way to Overcome Ransomware

By Hana LaRock | Ransomware

Ransomware can happen to anyone, though many people tend to think it will never happen to them. Unfortunately, if you fall victim to ransomware, you could end up paying a hefty amount; a ransom, to get back your files. Ransomware occurs when someone hacks your system, corrupts your files, and asks for at least $500 in bitcoin. In case you don’t know, bitcoins are not an easy thing to get your hands on.

For those who have the money to pay up, maybe ransomware is not such a problem for you. But, for most people, ransomware can be a very scary thing to have to face.

Luckily, there are solutions when it comes to fighting off ransomware, but it all starts with you. If you want to make sure this cyber-kidnapping doesn’t ruin your network, then here’s what you can do.

Be Careful with Who You Trust

This goes without saying. If you see an email or something suspicious on your system, don’t click on it. Delete it, and if possible, advise your IT person or CIO about what you saw.

Know What You Need to Protect

As with any form of cyber security, it’s essential you know what it is that you need to protect from potential ransomware. Do you have customer credit card information? Intellectual property? A list of email addresses of potential leads? Decide what it is you need to protect and make sure everyone who’s dealing with it is aware as well.

Backup Your Information Regularly

This is the most important thing you can to do when it comes to protecting yourself from ransomware. The people behind these attacks will take your files, lock them, and only give them back to you once you pay.

Therefore, in order to always be prepared for a ransomware attack, it’s essential that you’re constantly backing up your information. The main goal of these people is to get money from you, so while you should be concerned about what they have, there’s not too much to worry about it.

Make sure you are backing up your data as much as possible. It’s good to also back it up on an external hard drive, as ransomware can get into your cloud. While backing your data up everyday may be a bit overboard, it’s really not. Imagine the one day you don’t do it is the day you get hit with a ransomware attack. But, if doing it everyday is too much for you, then just make sure you at least do a backup whenever you have new important data.

Don’t Pay a Dime

When you find out that you’ve been a victim of a ransomware attack, you’ll know pretty quickly. When you try to access your files, it will ask you to pay up by buying a bitcoin (or several). The first rule and the only rule is to not pay. If you’ve backed up your information, you’ll have nothing to worry about.

If you haven’t backed up your data, then that’s another story. Your options are a bit more limited. However, if the information they have isn’t so vital to you continuing on with your routine matters, then forget about it. After all, giving these guys money just enables them to keep doing what they’re doing. Also, there are occasions where people pay the ransom, only to find the files are inaccessible. Don’t fall into that trap.

The Bottom Line

Ransomware can happen to anyone, as can any other kind of cybersecurity attack. Of course, each type of attack has different ways of preventing it. But, when it comes to ransomware, the best way to prevent any attack is simply by backing up your information at all costs.

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!

Sep 16

Zero Trust Level – When It Comes to Your Network, Never Be Too Trusting

By Hana LaRock | CEO Best Practices

Can you ever really trust anything 100%?

Perhaps you feel like you can, but the answer is no. When it comes to your network, you should never trust any device or any person without checking things first. What happens when an intruder who looks like someone or something you recognize gets in? Instead of kicking yourself for being so trusting, why not put that fence up from the very beginning? 

This is known as “Zero Trust Level.” When companies are looking to install new devices, software, or even allow access for certain individuals at a company, absolutely everything should be verified first. It only takes one thing, one time, to breach your cybersecurity.

It’s Safe to Assume That Nothing is Trustworthy

In the real world, making assumptions about something is never a good thing. But, in the cyber world, it’s quite the opposite. As an administrator or an IT professional at a company, it’s imperative that you assume any device or person wanting to access your network has malicious intentions. While this may not always be true, if you don’t look at it this way, you could be making your company extremely vulnerable to an attack.

Welcome to the world of where assumptions get you ahead in life. The Zero Trust Network. If you ever get pop-ups or warnings every time you want to download an app on your phone, then you know what we’re talking about. Of course, when it comes to your company’s entire network, it’s a little bit different…a little bit more serious. The warnings you want to have may not always be there, and therefore it’s your job to protect your data as best you can, even when you’re not around to do so.

Understand the Roots of the Zero Trust 

Zero Trust Level was started when perimeter-centered security strategies were no longer effective. This kind of approach became quickly outdated, and networks with information to protect needed something to keep up. Not too long ago, it seemed as though the people or devices you let in were trustworthy enough. However, we’ve seen over time that that’s not quite the case. That being said, there are always hackers that can pose as the most trustworthy of people or devices.

Zero Trust was started by Forrester Research. It’s guiding principle is that there is no default trust for any entity, whether it be a living or non-living thing. With Zero Trust, you can reduce the exposure of vulnerable systems. This program understands your network specifically and everything involved within that network, unlike a VLAN, which can’t inspect your traffic for threats.

How to Set Up a Zero Trust Network

“Never trust-always verify.” You remember this, you’re already on the right path. The Zero Trust idea is actually a form of architecture that if you follow correctly, will help protect your data to the fullest. However, there are certain steps you need to follow.

Step One: Identify what portions of your network you need to protect. Don’t leave anything out. There’s no right or wrong here. If you think something is valuable enough to protect, then you better do so.

Step Two: Develop your trust boundaries. Decide at what point someone or something has essentially “broken your trust.” This could be something like attempted access from “countries of interest.” When those boundaries are crossed (or before they are crossed), IT teams can deploy Zero Trust segmentation gateways to the right places before a breach occurs.

Step Three: Implement and grow. Once you implement your Zero Trust program, it’s crucial that you keep an eye on your data at all times. Networks always grow and change, as do the people and devices who may or may not have access to that intellectual property. Always watch what’s going on around your network so you can make sure Zero Trust architecture is there to protect you whenever.

In other words, you need to help it to help you. 

The fact of the matter is, you can never trust anyone or anything fully, especially when it comes to your information. Live by the Zero Trust Level policy, and you’ll be alright.

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!

Sep 09

Are You Running Enough Security Assessments? You Will Be After This

By Hana LaRock | Security

Whether you think so or not, all the data your company possesses is sensitive information that needs to be protected. It doesn’t matter if you’re a small business or a multi-billion dollar company. A data breach of any kind can cause seriously problems.

Fortunately, there are ways to make your company’s data more secure by taking preventative measures. One of these measures involves running security assessments every quarter. If you’re not doing this already, then you’re making a mistake. Here’s why.

 There Are Too Many Ways for a Network to Be Compromised

There isn’t just one way for a security breach to happen in your company’s network. Nowadays, companies are way more at risk than ever before. Viruses can come from all kinds of places and people, and they often go unnoticed or are untraceable. They can come in the form of emails, trojans, worms, malware, “command and control” and others. It’s really not possible for one company to try and stay on top of every potential risk. That’s why you need to run security assessments often.

Constant Security Protects Your Business

If your company’s network and data gets damaged, that’s one thing. But, these are not the only reasons why a company should be frequently running security checks. There are also business reasons. It’s important to monitor employee activity, to make sure no one is exposing the company to risks. It’s also important to make sure your system isn’t being slowed down by bandwidth abuse, or that pirated software isn’t being downloaded.

Firewalls and Other Tools Alone Simply Aren’t Enough

Yes, most computers come with tools that help block off these risks, but it’s just not enough. Why? Because every tool you use, even if it’s extremely reliable, needs to be constantly monitored. Once one problem is attacked, it’s likely another will appear very soon. A security check up every quarter helps to make sure everything is working properly, regardless of the specific tools you’re using. 

The Assessments We Do Are Always Detailed

We get it. Even if you run security assessments as often as you’re supposed to, all that mumbo jumbo can be rather confusing for companies who don’t have the resources to understand it. Luckily, the assessments we provide are extremely detailed. They provide reports on security risk, security policy, share permission, outbound security, and external vulnerabilities. If that’s overwhelming for you, don’t be alarmed. We’re here to help you analyze all of this.

Running Security Assessments Helps Your Business Run Smoothly

Dealing with a security breach after it’s already happened can cause major losses for your company. By preparing your company to take on risks before they come, you’ll be helping yourself out tremendously. Running security assessments frequently, prevents any surprises from happening. You’ll be able to catch things as they come, and significantly minimize the chances of those losses from happening.

The Risk of Not Doing It Costs More Than Doing It

One of the biggest reasons companies don’t invest more in cybersecurity is because they just don’t think it’s necessary. This may because they don’t feel like they have much at stake to lose, or they feel their money should go elsewhere. Other companies see it as something they’ll deal if and when it happens.

But, we say, why take the risk? Running security assessments every so often will save you a lot of money in the long run. Here at Smeester & Associates, we offer recommendations and services to make your data more secure, at a price that’s affordable. The rate we offer is not even comparable to what you’d pay if you had a breach that could have otherwise been caught beforehand.

Don’t take any risks. Your company’s data needs to be protected. Run a security specific assessment every quarter, and take on those red flags before they hit you.

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!

Sep 02

Why You Should Ditch Using the Break/Fix Model Immediately

By Hana LaRock | CEO Best Practices

Ah..the old “break/fix” model. The one where customers call up a service when they have a problem, so they can be helped  over the phone or eventually have the service visit their office. This is the model that is completely counterproductive. The model that no longer makes any sense to keep using. The one that should never be used again if you’re an IT decision maker at your company.

If you’re still relying on the break/fix model at your business, it’s time to dismiss it and swap it for something way more useful. Here’s why.

It’s Reactionary and That’s Not Good

The break/fix model wastes time, and as most businesses are fully aware, time is money. Every time you have an IT issue and you have to call someone up to help you troubleshoot a problem, your business is at a standstill. Nothing can be done until the problem is fixed. Whether it’s because you can’t access a file in your system or your whole network is down, it’s affecting your business minute by minute.

Ultimately, the break/fix model is outdated. It’s reactionary. It once worked well, but now with more advanced technologies, more complex problems can arise. That being said, there are many IT services companies now have the ability to fix these kinds of problems before they even occur. They work on a preventable basis, making repairs before “the lights go out,” usually without anybody knowing a problem occurred.

After all, why would you take the car when a train is way faster and less expensive? Catch our drift?

It Doesn’t Look Good for Your Customers

Companies who are still using the break/fix model can be causing a lot of tension between themselves and their customers.  Let’s say you’re a doctor, and all of a sudden, your system is down. You can’t access your patients’ files. You can’t send over a prescription for a patient who is calling in with extreme pain. While not every business is a doctor’s office, you can see how a small IT problem can quickly cause your customers to suffer. Now, you need to wait on the phone for someone to help you. All this time wasted can really make your customers think less of you, despite it not being your fault.

Or, is it? By relying on the break/fix model, you’re automatically doing your customers a disservice, even if everything is working at the present moment.

The Break/Fix Model Isn’t Helping You, Either

If your customers have to be on hold while you’re waiting for your system to be back up and running again, you are losing money and you’ve shot a good reputation. Sometimes, this “hold” can take anywhere from a few hours to a few days. Every second the clock ticks, money is being lost. In addition to that, you’re also going to have to pay money to the company that’s doing the repairs and who knows how much that’s going to cost? Nobody in business has said they prefer unpredictability!

Yes, problems happen. People aren’t perfect, and businesses are certainly not, either. Not everything is preventable. But, is the break/fix model something you think you want to keep using, or that you even have the option of using? You can help yourself by ditching the break/fix model immediately.

The Bottom Line

Because of these reasons, a majority of IT companies have switched over from the break/fix method to something much more reliable. If you’re an IT decision maker for your business, we’re here to tell you it’s time to do the same. Smeester & Associates will help manage your technology and fix problems BEFORE it happens. We do this all at an affordable rate, so you can go about your business worry-free.

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!

Aug 25

Everyone Should Know These Important Cybersecurity Basics

By Hana LaRock | Security

Cybersecurity is very complex and safeguarding data may mean different things from one company to another. In some cases, it involves hiring an entire team to take on potential attacks at every possible moment. In other cases, it involves implementing the basic necessities in order to protect your information. Security breaches happen so often that it’s imperative that companies do whatever it takes to defend their data. Unfortunately, not all companies have the budget nor the resources to do so.

If your company falls into one of those categories, then it’s important to at the very least, learn these basic steps to cybersecurity.

Educate Your Staff

Even if only some members of your staff are absolutely proficient in security language, it’s a good idea to have even the non-security folk have a general idea of what’s going on. Everyone should be on the same page when it comes to sharing files, using passwords, or exchanging information. It should be clear who the administrators are, who has access to which files, and what the procedure is when red flags show up in the system.

Be Aware of Your Data

How can you protect your data if you don’t know what it is you’re protecting? Does your company have sensitive information from your customers? A “secret” algorithm that’s your company’s money maker? Private information that’s stored on mobile devices? Whatever it is, those handling it (and even those not handling it) should know exactly what they have that’s so crucial to protect.

Take Passwords Seriously

Hackers are able to guess passwords very easily. If you don’t take password creation seriously, it could be one of the biggest mistakes your company makes. When a new software or program asks you to create a strong password, they mean it. And, don’t just choose numbers 1-9, either. Be creative and diverse with your passwords and also use different passwords for different things. Keep them written somewhere safe.

Constantly Update Your Antivirus

Most small businesses use an antivirus software when they start out. While antiviruses are good to use, they constantly need to be updated in order to keep up with the amount of potential attacks that are out there. One of the most basic pieces of advice is to not settle for the basic plan. Get your company what it needs to protect itself, even if it seems a little outrageous at the time.

Always Have a Backup Plan

It’s really great that you have a CISO to take care of everything, but what if he or she is out sick or needs to move to another state? What if a breach happens while your chief security officer is on vacation? Your company should have a backup plan or at least a certain protocol in place to deal with things if and when they happen. That being said, all companies should take the necessary measures to deal with things before they happen; something you’ll have to discuss with your CFO.

Ask Questions

Everything that there is to do with cybersecurity is pretty overwhelming for the average individual. If this topic isn’t your forte, then don’t be too shy to ask questions so that you can understand what you need to for your company. At the same time, don’t try to take complete initiative over your entire business’ security program if you’re not sure what to do. Get help from those who are professionals.

Consider Your Budget

One of the biggest problems companies face today with cybersecurity is whether or not to spend money on it. If you’re here now, then you’ve thankfully already understood the importance of allocating money towards protecting your data. However, we understand that budgeting is a huge concern for any company. But, there’s always a plan out there that’s suitable for everyone. If you need help finding yours, just ask us!

Are you familiar with the basics of cybersecurity but still need help? Then contact Smeester & Associates and sign up for a face to face meeting. 

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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