Got a call a couple weeks ago from a local church:
“we came in and open the computer and we have ransomware on there. We can’t even get to any of our stuff. It’s telling us to email somebody and so that they can free up the computer.”
How does this happen?
Generally these things happen because people click on things they shouldn’t. Whether in an attachment in email from someone they don’t recognize, a link in social media that sounds too good to pass up, or an advertisement for something they can’t live without. Once the user gives permission for something to open or run on their computer the game is over and the hacker wins.
What to do when it happen?
Stop using the computer.
Leave the computer alone! Do not carry out any further commands, including commands to Save data.
Do not close any of the computer’s windows or programs. Leave the computer alone.
Leave everything plugged in and do not turn off the computer or peripheral devices.
If possible, physically disconnect the computer from networks to which it is attached.
Call us immediately. Write down any unusual behavior of the computer (screen messages, unexpected disk access, unusual responses to commands) and the time when they were first noticed.
Write down any changes in hardware, software, or usage that preceded the malfunction.
Do not attempt to remove a suspected virus! Let the professionals do the dirty work.
How to prevent this from happening?
Layers of protection is the simple answer. A good antivirus installed to stop the bad programs from running, DNS filtering to keep users off of bad sites / advertisements, a good backup of all data to recover when this does happen, and most important of all EDUCATION – teaching users what safe internet usage looks like and having policies in effect to train them can mitigate 60-70% of infections.
If your company is would like to discuss the layers of security you have in place, then contact us for assistance.
NIST is the National Institute of Standards and Technology. It acts as the defacto baseline that all other security and compliance organizations use to construct their standards. Reading their publications is like reading any other government document – extremely long and not interesting. Farmhouse Networking recently became aware of one such document called NISTIR 7621 aka Small Business Information Security: The Fundamentals. We took the time to distill out the main points here:
The Fundamentals aka Best Practices
Identify: Who has access to the network, who has access to the data, and what do they have access to. This includes background checking employees during the hiring process, taking an inventory of data to see who needs access to what, requiring that each user have their own login, and company policy creation.
Protect: Protection starts with separating data into shares then giving access only to those who really need it. It also includes protecting hardware with uninterruptible power supplies (UPS) and protecting software with regular updates. Protecting the network includes setting up a proper firewall, separate wireless for guest access, and VPN only access for remote users. Web filtering, SPAM filtering, file encryption, proper disposal of old equipment, and employee training are also mentioned.
Detect: Having a centrally managed antivirus software on each workstation is a must. This includes the ability to look back in time via log files or monitoring system to find the root of the security breach.
Respond: Have a disaster recovery plan and security incident response plan in place.
Recover: Need full backups of all important business data, invest in cyber insurance, and regularly access your technology to find timely improvements.
If your company does not meet these fundamentals, then contact us for assistance.
“In a new stunning example of the scale and sophistication of online cybercrime, just before the holidays, DOJ charged two hackers with stealing hundreds of gigabytes of data—including sensitive intellectual property, confidential business data, and personal information from companies and government agencies around the world—as part of a multi-year cyber-espionage campaign that targeted managed service providers (MSPs) directly, bypassing the protections of client systems. This indictment is the latest example of the U.S. government’s use of the criminal justice system to crack down on state-sponsored economic espionage.
As alleged in the indictment, the hackers belong to what is believed to be an elite, Chinese government-sponsored group known within the cyber-security community as Advanced Persistent Threat 10 (APT10). The targets of the hacking campaign included companies in the aerospace, health care, biotechnology, finance, manufacturing, and oil and gas industries, as well as U.S. government agencies, such as NASA and the U.S. Department of Energy.”
The indictment alleges that APT10’s MSP Theft Campaign began in 2014 and involved three stages.
The hackers gained unauthorized access into the MSPs’ computers and installed malware allowing APT10 to remotely monitor the computers and steal login credentials.
The group then used these stolen credentials to move laterally into each MSP’s network and the networks of their clients, further spreading the malware infection.
APT10 identified data of interest on these compromised computers and created packages for exfiltration using encrypted archives, allowing the hackers to move the data from one system to another before ultimately transferring it to APT10’s computers.
This sort of breach calls into question the operating procedures of MSPs everywhere, their security practices, and moral compass. If IT support staff are not trained in best practice and cannot keep from being infected via websites or emails, then what business do they have managing larger network systems with sensitive data.
If you are unsure of your MSPs practices and would prefer a company with transparency, then contact us for assistance.
Phase 1: Break-In: Hackers are still using phishing emails, bad passwords, social media links, and poorly patched systems to make their way in with the initial infection. Employee training is the first step towards preventing breaches for 9 out of 10 companies now (and it is included in the price for all our monthly clients).
Phase 2: The Inside Man: Once inside the hacker will scan the network for further vulnerable systems, employees with more access rights than they need, and systems that allow access into other parts of the network. Having systems in place that detect strange or malicious activity are key to stopping an infection in its tracks.
Phase 3: Spread Out: This is where the hacker has all the access they need and start to find the data that is worth selling. Hackers will usually start moving data to places it doesn’t belong on the network then downloading it to their computers for resell. This is where strong access policies that are clearly defined and enforced make the greatest impact to protect sensitive data.
Phase 4: The Long Con: Once a hacker has taken all they need for the short term payout, they will setup remote access back doors to allow for future access whenever they want to. It almost pays to assume that a breach has already occurred and continually scan the network for these kinds of activity to catch the hackers in the act.
Take the time to read this article, it is a wake-up call on security.
If you would like to learn more about creating an effective cyber defense strategy and mitigating risk, then contact us for assistance.
It’s an unfortunate reality but our workforce can often times be our worst enemies, often creating vulnerabilities and leaving our systems open to hackers, viruses, data breaches and data loss. More often than not, we do this through completely harmless, everyday activities like opening compromised emails and links.
As a leader in your organization it’s your role to monitor your team and arm them with the knowledge of good security practices. Without implementing a company-wide security training program, you leave your systems vulnerable to a host of attacks.
Another crucial step in preventing system attacks, is to configure a firewall to monitor user activity and website visits throughout your organization. An Acceptable Use Policy is helpful in establishing what your organization will and will not allow from its employees.
Curious how we can help you establish a more secure company infrastructure?
Did you know that malware accounts for 20% of all security incidents?
And that’s just one threat! Your data, no matter how proactive you are from a security standpoint, is constantly vulnerable to a multitude of security threats, the list of which is constantly growing. From ransomware, worms and phishing attacks to human error, your data needs to have a multi-layer defense in place to not only prevent downtime but recover quickly in the event that disaster strikes.
The following are just a few staggering facts about just how vulnerable our systems are to attacks and outages:
• According to Microsoft, the potential cost of cyber-crime to the global community is a $500 billion, and a data breach will cost the average company about $3.8 million!1
• A whopping 1 in 131 emails contain malware2
• 230,000 new malware samples are produced every day, and that number is projected to continue growing3
• It will take the average business about 197 days to detect a breach on their network4
It is official – the month of September marks three years in business for Farmhouse Networking. We have been truly blessed by God to have been able to serve the Grants Pass and surrounding business communities by providing exceptional IT managed services. We look forward to many more years of giving you the highest level of support possible so that you can focus on getting business done. With this anniversary we plan on rolling out some enhancements to our monthly service offerings:
Enhanced Monthly Maintenance
Standard Maintenance: For those who are not current managed clients, these basics have always been a part of our service offering:
5-year Technology Plan & Budget
Full Network Inventory
Hard Disk Checkups (Bi-Monthly)
Hard Disk Defragmentation (Monthly)
Temporary File Cleaning (Weekly)
Anti-Virus Software (Constant Monitoring)
Operating System Updates (Weekly)
Error Log Monitoring (Constant Monitoring)
Power Settings Management (Constant Monitoring)
Windows Services (Constant Monitoring)
Continued Improvements: Over the past 3 years we have also added the following features to our service at no additional costs:
Ticketing System Portal
Email Support to Create Tickets
Security Incident Response Plan
Vendor Information Tracking
Third-Party Software Updates (Monthly on Firefox, Chrome, Acrobat Reader, ….)
Email Blacklist Checking (Daily)
Warranty Checking (Monthly on All Major Brands)
Operating System Intrusion Detection (Constant Monitoring)
Support for MacOS & Linux (Constant Monitoring)
Server Applications (Constant Monitoring)
Hardware Events (Constant Monitoring)
Enhancements to Come: In September, we will be adding these new exciting features to our service:
DNS filtering – this will further protect your network from external threats by stopping accidental surfing to malicious sites. It also can increase productivity and network speeds by limiting wasteful frivolous surfing during company time.
Dark Web Scan – Each monthly client will have the “Dark Web” scanned to see if any email addresses connected to the company have been involved in a previous password breach.
Weekly Security Newsletter – Farmhouse Networking is partnering with a national security non-profit to deliver up-to-date news and information about how to stay safe online. These weekly newsletters will be packed with valuable information and delivered to everyone in your organization.
As our service offering has expanded, we have deepened our ability to monitor our customers networks to proactively respond to alerts before they become problems. We have continued to add levels of protection to make sure that our clients systems are safe from the ever-expanding list of threats. All this has been done at no additional cost, despite inflation, up to this point. To continue offering this high level of service, Farmhouse Networking is making a couple small changes to its prices that will be effective September 1st, 2018.
Monthly Maintenance Clients – our services are based on a per device basis and the cost per workstation will be $25 per month for remote maintenance and $50 per month for full service maintenance. All other prices will remain the same for every other device on the network. This will only effect clients whose contracts are renewing after September 1st, 2018 – any renewed before that will keep their prices the same for the next 12-month term.
Small Business Clients – those who do not have a server and have less than 5 workstations, our hourly rate will be $80 per hour for on-site service and $40 per hour for remote service (billed in 15-minute increments). That is only $10 more for on-site support and $5 more for remote support.
Standard to Medium Clients – those with a server or more than 5 workstations, our hourly rate will be $120 per hour for on-site service and $60 per hour for remote service (billed in 15-minute increments). That is only $10 more for on-site support and $5 more for remote support.
Tier-3 Clients – those technology companies that utilize our advanced expertise to better serve their clients, our hourly rate will be $40 per hour for remote service (billed in 15-minute increments). That is only $5 more for remote support.
Charity Clients – those non-profits that pay for support, our hourly rate will remain at $70 per hour for on-site service and $35 per hour for remote service (billed in 15-minute increments).
For all our monthly maintenance clients, we will be calling to schedule our semi-annual meeting to check-in with you during the month of September. At that time we will be performing another network inventory to insure that all network assets are covered properly under your current contract. We cannot thank all our clients enough for your continued use of our IT services. We look forward to continuing to serve you.
Know the state of your flocks, and put your heart into caring for your herds, for riches don’t last forever, and the crown might not be passed to the next generation. After the hay is harvested and the new crop appears and the mountain grasses are gathered in, your sheep will provide wool for clothing, and your goats will provide the price of a field. And you will have enough goats’ milk for yourself, your family, and your servant girls.
Working with a webhost to tighten their security settings to get PCI compliant. In doing so we ended up breaking many of their clients email access by turning off SSLv3 and TLSv1.0. I was given the task of helping all the clients fix this issue (see seperate blog post for the fix). One in particular ended up not having issues beyond the normal problems with TLS and it turned out being ESET Antivirus. Here is the story:
Unable to Access Website:
The client first mentioned that they could not access a particular website that they needed to submit government paperwork. The error was related to the certificate being out of date. I checked the site on my own computer and it came up just fine, so looked at their certificate and it was current with plenty of time left before expiring. Cleared the cache and all the normal troubleshooting steps to no avail, so had to dig deeper. Remembered that some antivirus programs scan HTTPS traffic by putting their own certificate in place of the actual certificate from the site. Looked inside ESET Antivirus and found the culprit. Under Internet Protection > Web Access Protection I turned off the HTTPS Scanner. Restarted the browser and was able to surf to the site without issues.
Hidden Messages Stuck in Outlook Outbox:
The client then mentioned that some messages weren’t sending, so looked into it and found a couple messages that were 2MB+ which I told them were too large to send. We got rid of those but then messages were still stuck but were now hidden from view. I used the typical fix for read receipts that are hidden using the MFCMAPI tool but found nothing there. Tried removing the account and re-adding it to Outlook. After the clients 8,000+ emails downloaded via IMAP the same problem began occurring again. Remembering the issues with ESET Antivirus web filtering, I decided to take a look at that again. Under Internet Protection > Email client protection I turned off all the Email Clients, Email Protocols, and Antispam Protection. Restarted Outlook and the problem persisted. Had to remove the account and re-add it to Outlook. After the clients 8,000+ emails downloaded via IMAP the problem was fixed.
All that being said, these kinds of problems are another reason that I recommend Webroot to my clients for their antivirus protection. I prefer to have the Website filtering happen at the DNS level via a company like DNSFilter.com and the SPAM / Email filtering to happen via the email provider or an email protection service like Mailprotector.com.
If your company is interested in using a real layered approach to security not just putting a software band-aid on it, then contact us for assistance.
Ransomware has become a serious epidemic affecting businesses of all sizes, and protecting your company is more essential than ever before as the number of ransomware attacks continues to rise. A recent U.S. Government inter-agency report indicates that, on average, there have been 4,000 daily ransomware attacks since early 2016 — a 300-percent increase over the 1,000 daily ransomware attacks reported in 2015.
As ransomware spreads, it continues to evolve and get more sophisticated — and more lucrative. In fact, according to Internet Crime Complaint Center, ransomware victims paid more than $24 million to regain access to their data in 2015 alone.
What does all this mean for small to medium-sized businesses?
Just got done cleaning up after a security breach (aka hacking) of one of my client’s accounting workstation. They had an older method of remote access called Microsoft Remote Desktop that has known vulnerabilities without additional security measures in place. The hacker did not touch their Quickbooks data (super surprising), but installed software to send SPAM, mine bitcoin crypto-currency, and running fraudulent credit card transactions. Since there was no compromises of Primary Account Numbers (PAN) or customer data there was no need for notifying customers, but the FBI Cyber Crime division was still notified to help share with them the intelligence from the breach. This then lead to me reading through the PCI DSS regulations again and making the requisite recommendations to mitigate the current issues with the client’s network and protect against future attempts. Here is a list of applicable PCI Compliance Regulations:
Requirement 1.1.2 – Current network diagram that identifies all connections between the cardholder data environment and other networks, including any wireless networks. Requirement 1.2 – Build firewall and router configurations that restrict connections between untrusted networks and any system components in the cardholder data environment. Requirement 1.3 – Prohibit direct public access between the Internet and any system component in the cardholder data environment. Requirement 4.1 – Use strong cryptography and security protocols to safeguard sensitive cardholder data during transmission over open, public networks, including the following:
• Only trusted keys and certificates are accepted
• The protocol in use only supports secure versions or configurations
• The encryption strength is appropriate for the encryption methodology in use Requirement 5.1 – Deploy anti-virus software on all systems commonly affected by malicious software (particularly personal computers and servers). Requirement 5.2 – Ensure that all anti-virus mechanisms are maintained as follows:
• Are kept current,
• Perform periodic scans
• Generate audit logs Requirement 5.3 – Ensure that anti-virus mechanisms are actively running and cannot be disabled or altered by users, unless specifically authorized by management on a case-by-case basis for a limited time period Requirement 6.2 – Ensure that all system components and software are protected from known vulnerabilities by installing applicable vendor-supplied security patches. Install critical security patches within one month of release. Requirement 8.2.3 – Passwords/passphrases must meet the following:
• Require a minimum length of at least seven characters.
• Contain both numeric and alphabetic characters. Requirement 8.2.4 – Change user password/passphrases at least once every 90 days.
If your company has PCI Compliance Regulations that you need consulting for, then contact us for assistance.