Department of Homeland Security Offers Tips For Secure Online Shopping This Holiday Season

The U.S. Secret Service and the Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency, (both are under the oversight of The Department of Homeland Security) are offering their annual tips for staying secure online this holiday season. With U.S. retail e-commerce spending expected to top $135 billion this season, online criminals will be looking to take advantage of unprepared consumers and businesses alike.

Tips For The Consumer

  • Keep operating systems and antivirus software up-to-date.
  • Change passwords for online retailers regularly, and take advantage of multi-factor authentication if available.
  • Use credit cards online instead of debit cards – credit cards typically offer better fraud protection to the consumer.
  • Never shop online using public wifi.
  • Avoid opening attachments and clicking on links from senders you do not recognize.
  • When shopping from your phone, use only apps from trusted businesses, and only download apps from your device’s designated app store.
  • As always, if it’s too good to be true, it probably is.

For The Online Merchant Or Business

In addition to utilizing the above recommendations for the consumer, be sure to:

  • Segregate your payment system processing from other network applications such as email
    and non-payment system related processes.
  • Use firewalls and properly configured and monitored intrusion prevention and/or detection system for added defense of your network.
  • Remote access into your network should be limited, secured and monitored for unusual activity.
  • Utilize Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards (PCI DSS) protocols for your online
    transactions. This includes encrypting (SSL encryption) your customer’s payment card data whether it is being stored, processed or transmitted. In addition, verification of the cardholder’s address and requiring the Card Verification Value 2 (CVV2) code (3 or 4 digit number on the front or back of the card) can help authenticate the transaction and validate the cardholder and account.

Online holiday shopping is fun and convenient –– as long as you don’t put yourself or your business at risk! For more information about keeping your information secure, call us at 678-389-6200 or contact us online


You Can’t Afford To Skip A HIPAA Risk Assessment

Neglecting to conduct a HIPAA risk assessment could cost you.

In the first week of November, the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) announced two big HIPAA penalties.

  • A $3 million settlement with the University of Rochester Medical Center for HIPAA violations in 2013 and 2017.
  • A $1.6 million civil penalty imposed against the Texas Health and Human Services Commission for HIPAA violations between 2013 and 2017.

In both cases, the organizations failed to perform an adequate risk assessment beforehand, according to the OCR’s parent department, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Failure To Comply Results In Big Penalties

The Texas Health and Human Services Commission is of particular interest.  A data breach occurred when one or more employees moved an internal application from a private, secure server to a public one. The application included a security flaw and the ePHI (electronic protected health information) of more than 6,600 patients. When moved to a public server, the flaw exposed those records to the world.

The department responsible for the breach filed a report with OCR in 2015. This triggered an investigation, which revealed the organization also failed to:

  • Conduct an enterprise-wide risk analysis
  • Implement access and audit controls as required by HIPAA

These are costly, time-consuming, and embarrassing mistakes – and they erode trust with clients and patients. Luckily, an ounce of prevention goes a long way toward avoiding these violations.

Free HIPAA Risk Assessment Tool

OCR recently announced an update to its HIPAA Security Risk Assessment Tool. This tool is designed for small-to-medium sized businesses and is free to download.

It walks users through a series of modules and questions to help evaluate and document potential threats and vulnerabilities to ePHI in their organizations.

Users enter lists of important items, such as assets, vendors, and business associates. Items can be entered manually or uploaded via CSV.

A series of questions walk users through the process of identifying threats and vulnerabilities, scoring their likelihood of occurring, and their impact if they occurred.

A summary report provides risk scores, areas for review, and a total number of vulnerabilities identified as applicable to the organization.

The tool is worth a look – especially for smaller healthcare organizations and their IT providers.

One way or another, you must complete a security risk assessment to comply with HIPAA. For more information, call us at 678-389-6200 or contact us online

FBI Warns: The End Of Confidence In HTTPS

https fbi warning

Hackers Are Now Using HTTPS To Scam Victims

Everything you’ve heard about the safety of https sites is now in question. According to a recent FBI Public Service Announcement, hackers are incorporating website certificates (third-party verification that a site is secure) when sending potential victims phishing emails that imitate trustworthy companies or email contacts.

These phishing schemes are used to acquire sensitive logins or other information by luring people to a malicious website that looks secure.

What Should You Do?

Be Suspicious of Email Names and Content

Unfortunately, you can no longer simply trust that a website with “https” and a lock icon is secure. The FBI recommends that users not only be wary of the name on an email, but to be suspicious of https links in emails as well. They could be fake and lead you to a virus-laden website. Users should always question email content to ensure authenticity:

  • Look for misspellings or the wrong domain, such as an address that ends in “com” when it should be “org.”
  • If you receive a suspicious email that contains a link from a known contact, call the sender or reply to the email to ensure that the content is legitimate.
  • If you don’t know the sender of the email, the FBI warns that you shouldn’t respond to it.
  • Don’t click links in any emails from unknown senders.

If You Run A Business, Ask Your IT Service Company About Security Awareness Training For Your Employees

Security Awareness Training offers many benefits to get your employees up to speed on the latest threats and how to protect themselves and their company:

  • Sends Phishing Security Tests to your employees to take on a regular basis.
  • Trains your users with a comprehensive library of security awareness training content, including interactive modules, videos, games, posters and newsletters, and training campaigns.
  • Phishes your users with best-in-class, fully automated simulated phishing attacks, and hundreds of templates with unlimited usage, and community phishing templates.
  • Uses Advanced Reporting to monitor your users’ training progress, and provide your phish-prone percentage so you can see it reduce as your employees learn what they need to know.  It shows stats and graphs for both training and phishing, ready for your management to review.

Your employees will get new learning experiences that are engaging, fun and effective. It includes “gamification” training, so they can compete against their peers while learning how to keep your organization safe from cyber attacks.

Add Security Awareness Training To Your Current Employee Training

The use of https is just the latest trick that hackers are using to fool victims into falling for malicious emails – hackers have many more up their sleeves. This is why regular, up-to-date Security Awareness Training is so important for any organization.

Call us at 678-389-6200 or use the contact form for more information on keeping your network secure.

How to Create a Strong Password You’ll Remember

Nearly every site or service we use online requires a username and password. Remembering hundreds of unique passwords is just about impossible, and reusing passwords across multiple sites can be dangerous. If one account is compromised in a data breach, any other account using that same password is at risk.

Password Changes

Today’s username and password convention is a difficult system to manage well, but it remains important to create strong, unique passwords for your various accounts. Here are a few ways to create unique passwords that are strong and memorable.

Base Your Password on a Familiar Phrase

One way to make a password easier to remember is to base it on a phrase or term that’s familiar to you. Notice we didn’t say to use a term that’s familiar to you: “ilovesarah”, “sparky”, and “gocowboys” are all terrible passwords because they’re easy to guess. Anyone who knows that your wife’s name is Sarah, that your dog’s name is Sparky, or that you love the Cowboys might guess these easily.

Instead, come up with something creative, but that still has a connection to something you won’t forget. Something like “G1antsRool!” would be hard to guess since it runs counter to your actual interests, and it would be hard to crack due to the character variations. You’ll have an easier time remembering it, though, since it connects to one of your true passions.

Another variation on this theme is to take a poem or song lyric that’s meaningful to you and turn it into an acronym. “Row, row, row your boat gently down the stream” could turn into “RrrybGdtS”, for example. Easy to remember; hard to guess.

Use Long Passwords

Long passwords are hard to guess, but they’re even harder to crack using hacker tools. Use a memorable phrase in its entirety, or choose a series of seemingly unrelated words that mean something to you. You’ll create a password that’s easier to remember than the previous method and that’s even harder for a computer to crack.

Use Two-Factor Authentication Wherever Possible

You should enable two-factor authentication (2FA) on any site that offers it. 2FA adds a second method of authenticating that you’re who you say you are. Most 2FA methods involve sending a numeric or alphanumeric code to the account owner (that’s you). This code can be sent via email, text message, or even be displayed on a physical key fob. The code is only good for a short window (usually 1, 2, or 5 minutes). After supplying your username and password, you’ll be asked for this code.

Most consumer applications of 2FA involve sending the code via text message. Unless a hacker has stolen or cloned your phone, they won’t be able to view this code and thus won’t be able to log in to your accounts—even with your username and password.

Change Your Password Frequently

Changing your password frequently is another way to stay ahead of information thieves. A stolen password is only useful until you change that password to something else. It’s good practice to change your passwords frequently, such as every 3 to 6 months. We realize that can be a lot of work. Changing only your most sensitive passwords (financial, social, and email) is better than changing none.

Use a Password Manager

All this sounds like a lot of work, and it is. Thankfully, there’s a better way. Using a password manager, you can create long, unique, complex passwords for each account — but you don’t have to worry about remembering them! All your passwords are stored in the password manager. All you need to remember is the strong master password you create for this utility. Apple users have access to iCloud Keychain, Google offers a free password manager, and there are a host of paid, feature rich applications available such as Dashlane and LastPass.

For more information about staying safe online, call us at 678-389-6200.

No quicker way to let ghouls into the network 👻

Ghosts, ghouls, and monsters, OH MY…

Are you planning to let them into your network?


Cybercrime is rising at an incredible rate.

A network is attacked every 39 seconds.

Windows 7 Upgrade

What’s the quickest way to let these bloodcurdling creatures into your network?

Run outdated technology, that’s all.

Windows 7, Windows Server 2008, and Windows Server 2008 R2 will no longer be supported come January 14th, 2020.

No more security patches or bug fixes = a gravesite filled with the WORST of the worst.

Get outta there before it’s too late!

RUN, FAST. (but don’t forget to call us to start phasing these technologies out!)

Questions? Give us a call or send us an email.

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