Educating Employees on Cyber Security: Password Security

username and password security

Username and Password Security – Make sure your employees are not making access way too easy for hackers.

Although it should be common sense, employees need to understand password security and avoid the use of passwords that are easy for hackers to guess. Among the top ten worst passwords according to www.splashdata.com are those that use a series of numbers in numerical order, such as <123456>. The names of popular sports such as <football> and <baseball> are also on the list as are quirky passwords such as <qwerty> and even the word <password> itself.

Emphasis should also be placed on the importance of avoiding common usernames. In analysis conducted by the information security firm Rapid7, hackers most often prey upon these 10 usernames in particular3:

• Username • administrator • Administrator • user1 • Admin • Alex • Pos • Demo • db2admin • Sql

How Attackers Exploit Weak Passwords to Obtain Access

While most websites don’t store actual username passwords, they do store a password hash for each username. A password hash is a form of encryption, but cybercriminals can sometimes use the password hash to reverse engineer the password. When passwords are weak, it’s easier to break the password hash.

Password Security Hazards

Here is a list of common word mutations hackers use to identify passwords if they feel they already have a general idea of what the password might be:

  • Capitalizing the first letter of a word
  • Checking all combinations of upper/lowercase for words
  • Inserting a number randomly in the word
  • Placing numbers at the beginning and the end of words
  • Putting the same pattern at both ends, such as <foobar>
  • Replacing letters like <o> and <l> with numbers like <0> and <1>
  • Punctuating the ends of words, such as adding an exclamation mark <!> • Duplicating the first letter or all the letters in a word
  • Combining two words together
  • Adding punctuation or spaces between the words
  • Inserting <@> in place of <a>

Educating end users on these tactics underscores the importance of creating long passwords (at least 12 characters) and applying multiple deviations, rather than something simple like just capitalizing the first letter.

 

Nine Tips to Better Password Security

  1. Change passwords at least every three months for non-administrative users and 45-60 days for admin accounts.
  2. Use different passwords for each login credential.
  3. Avoid generic accounts and shared passwords.
  4. Conduct audits periodically to identify weak/duplicate passwords and change as necessary.
  5. Pick challenging passwords that include a combination of letters (upper and lower case), numbers and special characters (e.g. <$>, <%> and <&>).
  6. Avoid personal information such as birth dates, pet names and sports.
  7. Use passwords or passphrases of 12+ characters.
  8. Use a Password Manager such as LastPass where users need just one master password.
  9. Don’t use a browser’s auto-fill function for passwords.
  10. An advanced and under-used password security tip to consider is two-factor authentication, which is a way for websites to double confirm an end user’s identity. After the end user successfully logs in, they receive a text message with a passcode to then input in order to authenticate their ID.
  11. This approach makes sure that end users not only know their passwords but also have access to their own phone. Two-factor authentication works well because cybercriminals rarely steal an end user’s password and phone at the same time. Leading banks and financial institutions enable two-factor authentication by default, but if not, the service can often be turned on by asking the website to do so. More and more non-financial websites are now offering two-factor authentication as well.

Next blog: Mobile Security

For more information on keeping your small business secure call 678-389-6200 or contact us online.

Educating Employees on Cyber Security: Email Security Threats

email security

What You Need to Know About Email Security

You may have email security measures in place, but every employee needs to understand that there are cybercriminals out there who are masterful at deceiving people into giving over secure information.

Social Engineering Inboxes and VoiceMail 

Social engineering is non-technical, malicious activity that exploits human interactions to obtain information about internal processes, configuration and technical security policies in order to gain access to secure devices and networks. Such attacks are typically carried out when cybercriminals pose as credible, trusted authorities to convince their targets to grant access to sensitive data and high-security locations or networks.

An example of social engineering is a phone call or email where an employee receives a message that their computer is sending bad traffic to the Internet. To fix this issue, end users are asked to call or email a tech support hotline and prompted to give information that could very likely give the cybercriminal access to the company’s network.

Phishing Email Compromises

One of the most common forms of social engineering is email phishing—an attempt to acquire sensitive information such as usernames, passwords and credit card data by masquerading as a trustworthy entity. Phishing is likely the #1 primary email security threat employees need to focus on.

Such emails often spoof the company CEO, a customer or a business partner and do so in a sophisticated, subtle way so that the victim thinks they are responding to a legitimate request.

Among the reasons these scams succeed are the appearance of authority—staffers are used to carrying out CEO instructions quickly. That’s why phishing can be so easy to fall victim to.

Four Common Phishing Techniques

The scope of phishing attacks is constantly expanding, but frequent attackers tend to utilize one of these four tactics:

  • Embedding links into emails that redirect users to an unsecured website requesting sensitive information.
  • Installing Trojans via a malicious email attachment or posing ads on a website that allow intruders to exploit loopholes and obtain sensitive information.
  • Spoofing the sender address in an email to appear as a reputable source and requesting sensitive information.

Attempting to obtain company information over the phone by impersonating a known company vendor or IT department.

Email Security Best Practices—Five Ways to Block Phishing Attacks

Employees should always be suspicious of potential phishing attacks, especially if they don’t know the sender. Here are five best practices to follow to help make sure employees don’t become helpless victims:

  1. Don’t reveal personal or financial information in an email—Make sure employees also know not to respond to email solicitations for this information. This includes clicking on links sent in such emails.
  2. Check the security of websites—This is a key precaution to take before sending sensitive information over the Internet. <http> indicates the site has not applied any security measures while <https> means it has. Also consider if employees are practicing safe browsing habits. Sites that do not serve a legitimate business purpose are also more likely to contain harmful links.
  3. Pay attention to website URLs—Not all emails or email links seem like phishing attacks, so employees may be lured into a false sense of security. Teach them that many malicious websites fool end users by mimicking legitimate websites. One way to sniff this out is to look at the URL (if it’s not hidden behind non-descript text) to see if it looks legit. Employees may also be able to detect and evade the scheme by finding variations in spellings or a different domain (e.g.,.com versus .net).
  4. Verify suspicious email requests—Contact the company they’re believed to be from directly. If an employee receives an email that looks odd from a well-known company, such as a bank, instruct them to reach out to the bank using means other than responding to the suspicious email address. It’s best to contact the company using information provided on an account statement—NOT the information provided in the email.
  5. Keep a clean machine—Utilizing the latest operating system, software and Web browser as well as antivirus and malware protection are the best defenses against viruses, malware and other online threats. It may be difficult for employees to do this, so the business may want to invest in a managed IT services provider who can also be a trusted advisor for all IT needs.

Next blog: User Name and Password Management

For more information on keeping your small business secure call 678-389-6200 or contact us online.

Educating Employees on Cyber Security: Beware the Messy Desk!

It seems so simple, but keeping a clean desk is often overlooked when talking about data security. It’s also the perfect place to start the discussion with employees.

Employees that keep a cluttered desk tend to leave USB drives and smartphones out in the open. They also often forget to physically secure their desktops and laptops so someone can’t simply walk off with them.

A messy desk also makes it more difficult to realize something is missing such as a folder with hard copy print-outs of customer lists. In addition to increasing the likelihood of something being removed, a cluttered desk means that the discovery of any theft will likely be delayed—perhaps by days or even weeks if the employee is out of the office. Such delays make it more difficult to determine who the perpetrator is and where the stolen material might now be located.

 

11 Common Messy Desk Mistakes to Avoid

The following list presents 11 “messy desk” mistakes employees are prone to commit and which could cause irreparable harm to the business, the employee, fellow employees, customers and business partners. These are all bad habits for which to educate employees to stop:

  1. Leaving computer screens on without password protection: Anyone passing by has easy access to all the information on the device. Be sure to lock down screen settings.
  2. Placing documents on the desk that could contain sensitive information. It’s best to keep them locked up in drawers and file cabinets.
  3. Forgetting to shred documents before they go into the trash or recycling bin: Any document may contain sensitive information; it’s best to shred everything rather than taking a risk.
  4. Failing to close file cabinets: This makes it easy for someone to steal sensitive information and more difficult to realize a theft has occurred.
  5. Setting mobile phones and USB drives out in the open: They likely contain sensitive business or personal information and are easy to pick up quickly without being caught in the act.
  6. Neglecting to erase notes on whiteboards: They often display confidential information on products, new ideas and proprietary business processes.
  7. Dropping backpacks out in the open: There’s often at least one device or folder with sensitive information inside.
  8. Writing user names and passwords on slips of paper or post-its: This is especially important given that user names and passwords are typically used to log in to more than one site.
  9. Leaving behind a key to a locked drawer: This makes it easy to come back later—perhaps after hours when no one is around—and access confidential files.
  10. Displaying calendars in the open or on the screen for all to see: Calendars often contain sensitive dates and/or information about customers, prospects and/or new products.
  11. Leaving wallet, credit cards or security card out on the desk: This is more likely to impact the employee, but wallets may also possess corporate credit cards and security badges.

Of course you’re thinking – I trust my employees. Why would I need to be concerned about security of their desk area?

Trust isn’t always the issue. You have to be careful about accidental or inadvertent security vulnerabilities. For example, you sure wouldn’t want a document left on screen or on a desk pertaining to an employee review, compensation info, or termination. You wouldn’t want someone seeing a jump drive on a desk, thinking that’s the one with their project on it, and it has sensitive company information not intended for their eyes.

Sometimes it is about trust. Not all employees are as loyal as they seem. Some my be overly competitive and want to get info they shouldn’t have to advance in the company. Some may be planning to leave and take your customer lists with them.

The point is, if everyone keeps their own desk area clean and secure, you won’t have to worry about accidental, inadvertent, or malicious security breaches within your own company.

Next blog: Email threats!

For more information on keeping your small business secure call 678-389-6200 or contact us online.

Why You Need to Educate Your Employees on Cyber Security

When developing cybersecurity programs, many businesses focus on protecting their infrastructure perimeter and device endpoints. After all, that’s where cybercriminals usually first gain access and wreak havoc on a company’s digital access.

But it’s also important to consider what happens when a threat bypasses perimeter defenses and targets an employee—in the form of a malicious email or text, or even a voicemail that might prompt an employee to respond with confidential company information. There’s also the possibility of an offline attack from inside the office, where an employee or an office visitor might gain access to valuable data by quickly taking something carelessly left on a desk.

According to a recent PricewaterhouseCoopers survey, 86% of business executives expressed concern about cyber threats, including a lack of data security. In addition, 100% of IT professionalsrecently surveyed at an SMB said they could improve their cybersecurity systems. These numbers indicate that it’s clear there’s a pressing need for better cybersecurity. The issue is not going away anytime soon. If anything, it’s only getting worse.

Stronger cybersecurity has become a global priority over the last few years as hackers penetrate the IT infrastructure of government and enterprises with increasing frequency and sophistication. According to a recent government report, How to Protect Your Networks from Ransomware, 4,000 ransomware attacks occurred per day in 2016. Furthermore, the annual cost of global cybercrime damages are estimated to cost $6 trillion by 2021, according to a 2017 Cybercrime Report by Cybersecurity Ventures. Coupled with the Internet of Things (IoT) and the explosive growth of mobile devices, the threat landscape and potential for data leaks is even more significant.

In my next few blogs, we’ll explore the need for employees to practice strict and secure cybersecurity habits— not only to thwart digital attacks, but also to prevent someone from simply walking by their desk (in the office or at home) and picking up a device or document that contains sensitive information. We also present the key steps SMB business owners can take to educate their employees to help secure their company’s data and intellectual property.

We can’t stress enough the importance of security awareness training for internal employees. Educating them on what it takes to protect proprietary documents and data is critical. Any leaks— unintentional and intentional—could hurt the business in the form of information that assists a competitor, violates regulations, or harms the corporate image. Leaks can also hurt employees from the standpoint of personal information that might be exposed. Lastly, customers and business partners could be at risk, compromising the industry reputation of any business that does not properly protect confidential information. It only takes one incident to completely destroy any goodwill you established and built with your customer base.

Next blog: Physical Security Precautions…beware the messy desk!

For more information on keeping your small business secure call 678-389-6200 or contact us online.

IT Helps Dementia Patients

Dementia and Alzheimer’s are scary for both patients and caregivers. Right now, there is no cure. Scientists are trying to find ways of prolonging patient’s lives and delaying the onset of the disease. IT Technicians are finding ways to make lives better and caring for patients easier. Some remarkable work is doing things for these individuals that has never been seen or done before.

Dementia Technology

First, A Word About The Disease

According to Alzheimer’s International, nearly 44 million people worldwide have Alzheimer’s or related dementia. More than 5 million American’s are living with it, and Between 2017 and 2025 every state is expected to see at least a 14% rise in the prevalence of Alzheimer’s. Those statistics are startling, especially since Alzheimer’s disease is irreversible.

Accounting for around 70 percent of dementia cases, Alzheimer’s Disease is the most common cause of dementia, a group of brain disorders that results in the loss of intellectual and social skills. These changes are severe enough to interfere with day-to-day life. It progressively destroys the brain and ruins memory and thinking skills, and eventually the ability to carry out the simplest tasks.

A Few Other Statistics

  • In 2017, Alzheimer’s cost the United States $259 billion.
  • By 2050, costs associated with dementia could be as much as $1.1 trillion.
  • The global cost of Alzheimer’s and dementia is estimated to be $605 billion.
  • Alzheimer’s is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States.
  • Between 2017 and 2025 every state is expected to see at least a 14% rise in the prevalence of Alzheimer’s.
  • By 2050, it’s estimated there will be as many as 16 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s.
  • Every 66 seconds someone in the United States develops Alzheimer’s.
  • 1 in 3 seniors dies with some form of dementia.

Technology at its Finest

Because of these sad stats and high numbers, IT experts have come up with some amazing devices that use modern technology to aid in the care of people suffering from memory problems. Here’s a look at a few of the latest innovations.

Clocks

Clocks precisely intended for those with Alzheimer’s and dementia can help ease the stress associated with day to day life. Someone who has dementia may confuse night and day so an easy to read clock can help them to better tell the time.

Medication Management

Medication management technology created high tech automated pill dispensers which beep and open to remind caregivers and those with dementia to take their medicine. Vibrating alarms on a watch have also been fashioned to remind when it’s time for a pill. This technology serves the busy caregiver well by helping them not to forget medication time as well.

Video Monitoring

Video monitoring technology supports both care recipient and caregiver, by allowing both people more freedom. The patient doesn’t feel watched constantly because loved one can spend a little time away, and loved ones get the comfort of being able to see their family even when they’re not in the same house.

GPS Location and Tracking Devices

People with Alzheimer’s or dementia may wander. Tracking devices can be worn by the person in some way and have alert systems that let a caregiver know if their loved one has left a certain area. This type of technology can also alert emergency personnel to aid in a quick recovery.

Picture Phones

Picture phones are specifically designed for people who cannot remember phone numbers. These phones have large numbers and are pre-programmable with frequently called phone numbers. Some of the phones come with clear buttons where photos can be placed so that the person can just push the button associated with the photos to call their loved one quickly.

Electrical Use Monitoring

This device monitors a patient’s use of electrical appliances. It plugs into a wall outlet or power strip and will alert caregivers if their commonly used appliances have not been turned on or off.

Wearable Cameras

Wearable cameras and augmented reality glasses could be the next big thing in helping patients. These devices can take hundreds of pictures every day from the user’s point of view logging their lives in this way.

A Village of Care

In Kitchener, Ontario, something wonderful is happening. Facilities have been designed to be less institutional-looking, friendlier and homier. “Schlegel Villages” is one of the first of its kind and is improving the quality of life for the people that live there.

One problem they deal with though is when at-risk seniors become confused and attempt to leave. According to Schlegel’s IT director, Chris Carde, “Some seniors with certain types of mental illness can remember the door-lock code to get out but can’t remember anything else. A confused senior wandering out into a southern Ontario winter can be a serious, even fatal, incident”.

Schlegel Villages is also implementing an e-health system to replace paper charts at its care facilities. Carde states, “Nurses would have to write down a patient’s vital signs, then enter them into a desktop computer some distance away. The new system, which will use iPads and iPad minis to enter health information directly into the database, is being greeted warmly by clinicians”.

Thinking Outside of the Box

A German senior center applied the idea of using fake bus stops to keep Alzheimer’s disease patients from wandering off. Because their short-term memory is not intact, but their long-term memory works fine, they know what the bus stop sign means, and they stop. It is a huge success in Germany, now they want to bring it to several clinics in North America.

A Final Word

Thanks to these researchers and IT innovators, the future is much brighter for patients with memory diseases and their families and care providers. This is just the beginning when it comes to making life easier. Information Technology has only just begun to scratch the surface of what can be done to help in the fight against dementia and Alzheimer’s.

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