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Does Your Workforce Create Strong Passwords?

Keeping email passwords secure

As the old saying goes, “a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.” Unfortunately, the new saying is that a business network is only as secure as its employees’ passwords.

Despite widespread knowledge that hackers exploit weak passwords to breach entire systems, trusted workers still use ones that are easy to guess at and repeat them across platforms. If that seems counterintuitive, business leaders may want to consider these statistics.

  • The two most commonly used passwords remain “iloveyou” and “sunshine.”
  • Approximately 23 million people use the password “123456.”
  • More than half of workforces use the same password for personal and business purposes.
  • Upwards of 57 percent of phishing email scam victims do not change their password.
  • One-third of people stop doing business with organizations responsible for compromising their credentials.

What seems stunningly illogical about rampant password protection failures stems from this statistic: Approximately 90 percentof internet users say they are worried about getting hacked due to a compromised password. Industry leaders may be left scratching their heads. But as a decision-maker responsible for ensuring the integrity of digital assets, something needs to be done. You can set company policy that educates team members about how to create and remember strong network passwords. If that doesn’t work, there’s always Plan B.

How To Educate Employees About Strong Passwords

Getting workers to create powerfully secure passwords may not be that difficult. Insisting on a series of unrelated letters, numbers, and characters will fend off most hackers. On the other hand, team members will likely lose productivity, resetting a difficult-to-remember login profile. Fortunately, a happy medium can be achieved without too much difficulty.

Passwords do not necessarily need to be obscure. They just need to be difficult for hackers to unveil. A password employing 8-10 characters can be hard to crack if done cleverly. For example, the too common “iloveyou” can be tweaked to “iLuv2Make$,” which could be a tough one. That’s largely because it uses untraditional “Luv” in place of the spelled-out word, employs uppercase letters, a symbol, and a number. All an employee has to do is remember the phrase “I Love To Make Money” as a trigger.

Repeated passwords also need to be addressed. Consider training those under your leadership to make variations on one primary password. In this case, it could include “uLuv2Make$2” or “iH82owe$.”

It’s also important to share the reason that complex passwords are necessary. Hackers have a toolkit at their disposal that typically includes brute-force and dictionary techniques. When brute-force attacks try to run every conceivable combination of letters and characters possible. This tends to be time-consuming, and digital thieves are likely to give up when faced with strong passwords. Dictionary attacks run common words at the profile. If your worker’s password is “sunshine,” consider your network breached.

How Can Business Leaders Implement a Plan B?

Practical business leaders learn that human error ranks among the top reason things go sideways. Cybercriminals send out thousands of scam emails, knowing someone will open one, download a malicious file, or respond with critical information. Someone will make a mistake. Given that your financial future can be one mistake away from ruin, organizations are using multi-factor authentication as a fallback defense.

Multi-factor authentication requires employees to receive and enter a secondary code before gaining access to the network. This may be sent to another device that hackers cannot access. In some instances, an email alert is sent that must be approved. Even if someone foolishly uses “password123,” a cybercriminal would still need to know the authentication code or approve login access to upend your network.

If you are concerned about password security, give us a call at 678-389-6200 or visit mPoweredIT.com.

What Is PCI Compliance?

What Is PCI Compliance?

You’re probably reading this because you looked up information on PCI compliance. This article explores how you can meet PCI requirements and secure your clients’ sensitive cardholder data.

Today’s business world is highly regulated, and while this has its upsides, there is a great deal of pressure on businesses to stay compliant with all the relevant standards. If your business processes, stores, or transmits credit card information, you need to ensure you meet all the PCI requirements.

PCI non-compliance poses a frightening host of risks such as:

  • Compromised data that can harm your clients and business
  • A severely damaged brand image
  • Account data breaches that could result in lower sales, and destroyed relationships
  • Lawsuits, government fines, insurance claims, payment card issuer fines

If you aren’t PCI compliant, don’t panic just yet. Our team has assembled this article to share what you need to start your journey towards PCI compliance. Let’s first define some important terms.

PCI Compliance

What Is PCI Compliance?

The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards (PCI DSS) is a set of requirements designed to create a secure data environment for any business that processes, stores, or transmits credit card information. It’s a legal requirement and assigns two compliance levels for service providers (third-party vendors) and four for merchants (brands). Behind its launch in 2006 was the need to manage PCI security standards and bolster account security throughout the transaction process.

What Is PCI DSS?

The PCI Security Standards Council (PCI DSS) is an independent body that administers and manages the PCI DSS. It was created by Visa, MasterCard, American Express, JCB, and Discover. However, the responsibility of enforcing compliance falls on the payment brands and acquirers.

How Can You Achieve PCI Compliance?

PCI compliance involves consistently adhering to the PCI Security Standards Council’s guidelines (PCI DSS). PCI DSS has the following six major objectives:

  1. Maintain a vulnerability management program
  2. Build and maintain a secure network and systems
  3. Regularly monitor and test networks
  4. Protect cardholder data
  5. Maintain an information security policy
  6. Implement strong access control measures

Apart from 78 base requirements and over 400 test procedures, PCI compliance also has 12 key requirements.

What Are the 12 Key PCI DSS Compliance Requirements?

  1. Use and Maintain Firewalls: Firewalls are highly effective in preventing unauthorized access to private information.
  2. Proper Password Protections: We recommend keeping a secure device/password inventory and implementing basic precautions like regularly changing passwords.
  3. Protect Cardholder Data: By encrypting data and performing regular scans to ensure no unencrypted data exists.
  4. Encrypt Transmitted Data: Even data sent to known locations need to be encrypted.
  5. Use and Maintain Anti-Virus: This is required for all devices that interact with primary account numbers (PAN).
  6. Properly Updated Software: This includes firewalls, antiviruses, and any other piece of software.
  7. Restrict Data Access: Cardholder information should be exclusively “need to know.”
  8. Unique IDs for Access: These enhance security and reduce response time in case data is compromised.
  9. Restrict Physical Access: Cardholder data needs to be kept in a secure physical location and access locked.
  10. Create and Maintain Access Logs: You must document any activity involving cardholder information and PAN.
  11. Scan and Test for Vulnerabilities: This will help you identify potential weaknesses at any stage of your compliance efforts.
  12. Document Policies: Everything needs to be recorded, from equipment to software to authorized employees to access logs, and so on.

Need Reliable IT Support with PCI Compliance?

Our experienced team is eager to help your organization achieve PCI compliance and safeguard your sensitive cardholder data.

Contact us now to schedule your first PCI compliance consultation.

Getting Started With Microsoft Teams?

Getting Started With Microsoft Teams?

What drives workplace performance? A few years ago, a Stanford study published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology suggested that workplace performance was driven by collaboration. In fact, just the thought of collaboration was enough to improve performance. One interesting statistic: 64% of employees working collaboratively had higher success rates than those working independently.

So, what drives successful collaboration? It’s the people collaborating as much as it’s the program used to facilitate collaboration. A program that cultivates different ways to communicate, share, and grow is fundamental to success. Microsoft Teams has been proving to be critical to this end. Here’s how you get started using it.

What Is Microsoft Teams?

Microsoft Teams is a Microsoft 365 tool that allows you to meet, chat, call, and collaborate with anyone and everyone in the workplace and beyond. Microsoft Teams is more than a collaboration tool but an inclusive program with tools to create “teams” of people and content. It’s where Slack and Zoom meet, plus much more.

Though Microsoft Teams is rather new, launched in 2017, its growth has been exceptional––a testament to its unique and handy features. The number of daily active users, according to Statista, has doubled this year, “from 32 million users on March 12, 2019, to 75 million as of April 30, 2020.” Part of the growth is driven by the coronavirus pandemic but much of it, too, is simply based on the quality of the program.

How Do You Get Started with Microsoft Teams?

To get started with Microsoft Teams, you must be a cloud-based Microsoft 365 suite customer––the program is included free of charge though you can upgrade it for a fee and receive much more in the way of features.

An Overview of the Free Version of Microsoft Teams

The features included in the free version of Microsoft Teams include:

  • The ability to involve up to 500,000 members (per organization)
  • File storage of up to 2 GB per user and 10 GB of shared storage
  • The ability to allow guests access to the program
  • Person-to-person and group online audio and video calls and channel meetings
  • Unlimited chat messaging
  • Unlimited searches
  • Background blue on video calls (to protect privacy)
  • Channel meetings––these are the groups you create
  • The ability to shared screens during video-conferences and chats
  • The ability to schedule meetings

Microsoft Teams is also thoroughly integrated with most other Microsoft Programs, including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, SharePoint, OneNote, Planner (Tasks), Microsoft Lists, and Power BI. So, if your company already benefits from Microsoft 365 (or wants to start benefiting from it), it’s time to start incorporating Microsoft Teams.

An Overview of the Paid Version of Microsoft Teams

The paid version of Microsoft Teams includes all of the above and much more.

  • Scheduled meetings that are integrated with your company’s Exchange calendar
  • The ability to involve potentially unlimited members with an enterprise license
  • File storage of up to 1 TB per user
  • The ability to record the meeting (available with Microsoft Stream)
  • The ability to make phone calls and/or audio-conferencing
  • The ability to host online events for up to 10,000 participants
  • Cool first line worker features, like Shifts, Walkie Talkie, and more
  • A set of useful administration tools, like:
    • Tools to manage users and apps
    • Usage reporting fro Microsoft 365 services
    • 99.9% financially-backed SLA uptime
    • User settings that are configurable and customizable.
  • 24/7 phone and web support
  • Additional compliance and security features

Recommended Steps to Get Started with Microsoft Teams

You may be anxious to get started with Microsoft Teams today and, as a consequence, may want to ditch the other programs you have. But you should roll out the new program with a plan, not as a knee-jerk decision.

It’s recommended that you:

  1. Prepare to sample Microsoft Teams by preparing your network, including licenses for all participants and configurations for Microsoft 365 or Offie 365 domain, Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, and OneDrive for Business
  2. Create a few teams and channels (two or three). For the sake of clarity, a team is the group of people assigned to one goal while a channel is the collaboration space within the team where members get the work done.
  3. Select a small group of people to use these teams and channels.
  4. Install both the desktop and mobile applications so that both experience and feedback are comprehensive.
  5. Monitor the members’ usage and analyze their feedback.
  6. Create a plan based on this data to roll out the program to everyone in the organization.

Starting small means you can “test” it out on certain members of your company and get a good feel of the program and all that it has to offer. This process will also provide insight into how Teams work but also how to deploy the program across the whole of your company.

Why Choose Microsoft Teams?

It’s not about choice but about performance. Today, we need tools that are functional, strategic, and cost-effective. Microsoft Teams offer these things and more. For example, rather than having to spend all morning sorting through emails that are related to a number of different projects, Teams cuts out this mindless work for you by sorting information into the appropriate channels, so all messages related to the one project are already there within the work station of that one project.

Also, as work spaces diversify and grow, Teams promote transparency. It can be a huge challenge to keep all employees or the relevant employees updated on what’s going on organization-wide or project-specific. Teams keep everyone in the loop and minimize the need for excessive and redundant emails. As such, employees can focus more on getting work done then spending time trying to figure out how to get the work done. Teams is essentially a way to optimize productivity.

To get started on Microsoft Teams, get Microsoft Office 365. If you already have it, then download the program and start implementing the benefits of it today.

Getting Started With Microsoft Teams

MFA Bug Opens Door For Hackers To Attack Microsoft 365

New and heightened digital threats develop every day, and having standard security software may not be enough to protect your personal data and business from exploitation from malware attacks. Businesses across industries are vulnerable to new attacks, as many security software lags behind. Hackers find ways to work around the most common security platforms to find new ways into systems to gain access to all sorts of information, and the only way to ensure that you are as protected as possible is to work with an IT expert who knows how to take the preventative measures to keep up with the latest malware developments.

Microsoft 365 Bug

One of the latest bugs causing a lot of damage to businesses is a vulnerability to the Microsoft-based cloud office platform, Microsoft 365. This platform allows businesses to push their productivity almost entirely online, giving employees access to their data from literally anywhere in the world while still collaborating in real-time. The use of cloud platforms allowed businesses to stay productive during the 2020 shutdown. The use has grown exponentially in popularity as everything from law firms, doctors’ offices, and schools have shifted as much business as possible over to the virtual platforms.

Hackers recently exploited a bug present in the multi-factor authentication system for access into the Microsoft 365 platform, which meant that there was a somewhat easily accessible back door into the otherwise secure cloud system. There is a lot of damage done when a hacker can get access to your business or personal data. Information can be stolen or deleted, which could lead to costly repairs as you spend time re-collecting data or ensuring that your employees and clients are protected from additional attacks on their finances and identity based on the type of information accessed by the hackers.

System flaws happen, and typically patches are issued to fix bugs that may allow hackers into programs — especially in the case of well-funded, popular programs like those owned by Microsoft. However, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a chance of an attack before that patch being issued. Also, if your employees aren’t receiving guidance on keeping up with regular updates and maintenance on their work computers, they could be putting everyone at risk as those updates are how patches are installed. A single point of access through an outdated computer can allow hackers to access all sorts of data.

In the case of the latest vulnerability that impacted Microsoft 365, the issue was present in the WS-Trust, an OASIS standard that delivers security extensions and is used to renew and validate security tokens, thus ensuring identity. A bug in this system could be disastrous, allowing for the easy manipulation of security tokens and identity, allowing hackers in. The attacker could easily access mail, files, data, contacts, and more — depending on the amount of information stored on the cloud.

Working with a strong IT support team is the best way to ensure that you are protected from the latest developments in malware. Keep your computers up to date and your employees knowledgeable on the best ways to stay protected by having a strong IT support team to rely on.

What Is The Dark Web?

What Is The Dark Web?

Are your company’s data and network secure? Solidly secure? Or, are you worried you may have been hacked, putting sensitive data at risk? You may be wondering about the latter if you’re looking up information on the dark web and how it may impact your business. Because, indeed, if you were hacked, that information is likely on the dark web and it can deeply and detrimentally impact your business.

An ongoing study series most recently released in 2019, Into the Web of Profit by Dr. Michael McGuire, explored the Dark Web and shed light on just how serious and dangerous it is to businesses throughout the nation and the world. From bespoke malware to hacking services targeted at FTSE 100 and Fortune 500 companies, the Dark Web has gone deeper underground to thwart law enforcement as much as to share new and advanced ideas with fellow hackers on how to best to hack businesses.

So, if you are thinking that your data and network system aren’t secure enough, or––alternatively––think it is secure enough: (1) you need to get it secure immediately; and (2) you should know that secure enough won’t cut it ever again. Having a comprehensive security plan that evolves with the changes and advancements in security is key to protecting your data, your identity, your company, your company’s brand, your clients, your customers, among other things. Read more to learn about the Dark Web and how to protect yourself.

What is the Dark Web as opposed to the Plain Ole’ Internet?

The internet isn’t plain at all, and it’s made up of three parts:

  1. The surface web, also known as the clear web, which makes up the websites and webpages of the Internet that are indexed by search engines (e.g., Google, Yahoo!, Bing, Wikipedia, etc.);
  2. The deep web, which consists of pages that you can find and access by using login information (e.g., your bank account or medical records); and
  3. The dark web, also referred to as the DarkNet, which is the part of the Internet not indexed by search engines and which cannot be accessed unless done anonymously by using special anonymizing software.

Due to its anonymity, the dark web has been used for good in some respects. Importantly, people who live in countries where access to the internet is restricted can communicate more openly on the dark web. Mostly, however, it has been infiltrated by criminals. They deal in drugs, illicit firearms, and child pornography. They also, however, deal in things like malware, stolen data, and stolen identities.

So, in that respect, the dark web is a source of serious concern for businesses.

What Do We Know About the Dark Web’s Impact on Businesses?

If statistics matter to you, then your business needs to up its game. Below are facts providing an overview of what we know about cybercrime generally and the dark web specifically and its impact on or threats to businesses.

Hackers Attack Businesses

The Consequences of Stolen Data on the Dark Web are Costly

  • Cybercrime on the dark web is incredibly profitable––according to Cybersecurity Ventures, it’s more profitable than even the global illicit drug trade.
  • According to RSA, a consumer account could go for as little as $1.00 on the dark web––this means just about anyone can purchase at least one stolen account; it also means that the hacker needs to obtain a significant amount of your data to reap the benefits, which could be good or bad for you.
  • SecurityIntelligence’s 2019 report on the Cost of a Data Breach Report found that the “global average cost of a data breach … is $3.92 million, a 1.5 percent increase from its 2018 study.
  • According to SeurityIntelligence’s reporting, the average total cost of a data breach for a U.S. business is $3.86 million.
  • Also, according the SecurityIntelligence’s reporting, it takes on average 280 days before a company identifies and contains a breach.
  • What’s probably most troubling is this: according to Fortune, 66% of businesses experiencing a hack lacked the confidence that the company would recover from it.

The Dark Web is Creating the Need for More Cybersecurity Experts

Because the demand is high, the need for cybersecurity experts is high––in 2019 alone, there were more than 715,000 cybersecurity experts as reported by Cyberseek. Meanwhile, Cybersecurityventures estimates that will be more than 3.5 million cybersecurity jobs come 2021.

What Can You Do About the Dark Web’s Threats to Your Business

Many of us have taken for granted network solutions and cybersecurity. Further, many businesses have limited resources to address cybersecurity comprehensively and on an ongoing basis. But this needs to change. Priority must be given to a comprehensive security system that can aptly and proactively protect your business’s data.

So, what can you do about the dark web’s threats to your business? Things like changing passwords regularly, training employees, choosing the right ISP, monitoring spyware, encrypting client and customer data, among other things are necessary. But it all must be included in a customized plan that is always reviewed, updated, and addressed the new concerns of the day.

Remember: hackers are constantly changing and advancing their methods, so your business needs to do the same to stay on top of it. If you don’t have your own team to address these issues specifically, then you may want to consider outsourcing it to a professional group. With 2021 upon us soon and the economy hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, the time is now to ensure the safety and integrity of your data.

What is the dark web

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