Let’s stop phishing and go fishing!

Phishing fishing

Summer is a time for having fun. I happen to love fishing. However, in the world we live in today, fishing gets no news – and phishing gets all the news. In order to provide some useful information of the various types of phishing attacks, I want to share an excellent posting from the Malwarebytes Blog here. Wendy Zamora did an excellent job of going through the various types of phishing attacks that you must learn to recognize. The recent events nationally and internationally show the importance of being able to recognize a phishing email. Events with the DNC, corporate data breaches and the like are gaining widespread notoriety on a daily basis – news stories are abundant. This post is required reading – so please share it with your employees, coworkers and family members. Another targeted group is senior citizens using computers- so please make sure that you share this with older family members and friends. All of our clients who are on our managed services plan for remote monitoring and maintenance, get the premium version of Malwarebytes  included with their monthly remote monitoring package. If you are interested in learning more about how we help with PCs and networks for your business- either click here or give us a call at 847 329 8600.

Posted: June 26, 2017 by 
Last updated: June 23, 2017

Dear you,

 It appears you need to update your information. Click here to tell us all your secrets.

 No really, it’s totally safe. We’re not going to steal your identity, we swear.

If only phishing attempts were that obvious.

Instead, these days it’s hard to tell a phish apart from a foul, if you catch my drift. Modern-day phishing campaigns use stealthy techniques to target folks online and trick them into believing their messages are legit. Yet for all its sophistication, phishing relies on one of the basest of human foibles: trust. Detecting a phish, in its various forms, then requires you to hone a healthy level of skepticism when receiving any kind of digital communication, be it email, text, or even social media message. In order to understand how we got here, let’s go back to the first instance of phishing.

The Nigerian prince and early phishing

Back in the early days of the Internet, you could marvel at your “You’ve Got Mail” message and freely open any email that came your way. You’d get one email a day, tops, from your new best friend you met in the “grunge 4EVA” chat room. There was no such thing as junk email. The only promotions you received were CD copies of AOL in the snail mail. It didn’t cross your mind that going online could bring about danger.

Then came the Nigerian prince.

Unfortunately, where innovation and progress lead, corruption and crime will inevitably follow. One of the nation’s longest-running scams, the Nigerian prince phish came from a person claiming to be a government official or member of a royal family who needed help transferring millions of dollars out of Nigeria. The email was marked as “urgent” or “private,” and its sender asked the recipient to provide a bank account number for safekeeping the funds. Gone were the innocent days of trusting your inbox.

Over the years, the Nigerian prince scam has fooled millions, raking in hundreds of billions of dollars. Why has this scam been so successful? Simple. It uses a time-honored criminal technique—the ole bait and switch—to fool folks into believing that they are being contacted by a legitimate organization with a legitimate concern. Threat actors use this social engineering method to trick unwilling participants into clicking on malicious links and handing over personal information. The end goal, as with most cybercrime, is financial gain.

Phishing attacks aim to collect personal data—including login credentials, credit card numbers, social security numbers, and bank account numbers—for fraudulent purposes. The attack is most commonly delivered as an email communication that spoofs a known enterprise, such as a bank or online shopping site, but it can also appear to come from an individual of authority or of personal acquaintance. These emails always contain a link that sends users to a decent facsimile of a valid website where credentials will be collected and sent to the attacker, instead of the supposedly trusted source. From there, the attacker can exploit credentials to commit crimes such as identity theft, draining bank accounts, or selling personal information on the black market.

“Truth be told, phishing is the simplest kind of cyberattack and, at the same time, the most dangerous and effective,” says Adam Kujawa, Director of Malware Intelligence. “That is because it attacks the most vulnerable and powerful computer on the planet: the human mind.”

The evolution of phishing

While the Nigerian prince attack vector remains in use today, most savvy Internet users can now spot this scam a mile away (hence the multitude of memes that have popped up over the years). The campaign has lost its edge and fooled way fewer users. Plus, email technology has progressed so that spam filters readily pick up on this phish and block it. And this is why cybercriminals have had to advance their tactics.

fry phishing

“Phishers had no other choice but to evolve and improve on where they fell short,” says Jovi Umawing, Malware Intelligence Analyst at Malwarebytes. “Nowadays, most sophisticated modern-day phishing emails are so polished and well-designed that one cannot easily differentiate them from legitimate ones.”

Case in point: Recent phishing campaigns have had great success impersonating big-name companies and fooling big-name recipients. In May 2017, a phishing email targeted one million Gmail users by purporting to be from a contact sharing Google Docs. In Minnesota alone, state employees were scammed out of $90,000 due to the Google Docs fiasco. Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager for the 2016 presidential election, John Podesta, famously had his Gmail hacked and subsequently leaked after falling for the oldest trick in the book—a phishing attack claiming that his email password had been compromised (so click here to change it).

So how can we learn from these lessons? Let’s start by identifying the different types of phishing in use today.

Types of phishing

The most basic and commonly seen type of attack, of course, is the phishing email. Phishing emails are sent to a group of users who are unique enough to be used as bait but broad enough to ensnare a large number of people. The point is to cast as large a net as possible. In contrast, other forms of attack are much more targeted.

Spear phishing, as might be gathered from its title, usually targets a specific person or organization. Since these types of attacks are so pointed, phishers scour the Internet for available information about their target in order to craft a believable email to extort information (if not money) from victims.

Whaling is a form of spear phishing directed at executives or other high-profile targets within a business, government, or other organization, such as a CEO, senator, or someone who has access to financial assets. CFO fraud is an example of whaling.

Smishing, short for SMS phishing, is carried out via SMS text messaging on mobile devices. A similar technique, vishing, is voice phishing conducted over the phone.

Pharming, also known as DNS-based phishing, is a type of phishing that involves the modification or tampering of a system’s host files or domain name system to redirect requests for URLs to a fake site. As a result, users have no idea that the website they are entering their personal details into is fake.

Content-injection phishing is when phishers insert malicious code or misleading content into legitimate websites that instructs users to enter their credentials or personal information. This type of phishing is a form of content spoofing.

Man-in-the-middle phishing happens when phishers position themselves between people and the websites they use, such as a social networking sites or online banks, to extract information as it’s being entered. This type of phishing is more difficult to detect because attackers continue to pass on users’ information (after collecting it) so as not to disrupt any transactions.

And finally, search engine phishing starts off when phishers create malicious websites with attractive offers, and search engines index them. People then stumble upon such sites doing their own online searches and, thinking the sites are legit, unknowingly give up their personal information.

There truly are a lot of phish in the sea.

So, if your head isn’t completely swimming in fish puns, it’s time to talk about how to train your eye and your gut to sniff out the various forms of phishing attacks. I asked Labs researchers to tell me their top indications that an email, text, or other form of communication is a phish and compiled a list of their, and my, recommendations.

Something’s phishy if:

  • The email, text, or voicemail is requesting that you update/fill in personal information. This is especially dubious if it’s coming from a bank or the IRS. Treat any communication asking for your credentials with extra caution.
  • The URL shown on the email and the URL that displays when you hover over the link are different from one another.
  • The “From” address is an imitation of a legitimate address, especially from a business.
  • The formatting and design are different from what you usually receive from an organization. Maybe the logo looks pixelated or the buttons are different colors. Or possibly there are weird paragraph breaks or extra spaces between words. If the email appears sloppy, start making the squinty “this looks suspect” face.
  • The content is badly written. Sure, there are plenty of wannabe writers working for legitimate organizations, but this email might seem particularly amateur. Are there obvious grammar errors? Is there awkward sentence structure, like perhaps it was written by a computer program or someone whose second language is English? Take a closer look.
  • Speaking of content, a phishing email almost always sounds desperate. “Whether they’re claiming that your account with be closed, an urgent request is needed, or your account has been compromised, think twice before double-clicking that link or downloading that attachment,” says Umawing.
  • The email contains attachments from unknown sources that you were not expecting. Don’t open them, plain and simple. They might contain malware that could infect your system.
  • The website is not secure. If you do go ahead and click on the link of an email to fill out personal information, be sure you see the “https” abbreviation as well as the lock symbol at the beginning of the URL. If not, that means any data you submit is vulnerable to cybercriminals. (If the link is malicious, Malwarebytes will block the site.)

If you suspect or can verify that you’ve been phished, it’s best to report the attempt directly to the person or organization being spoofed. You can also contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to lodge a complaint. Once completed, delete the email, then empty your trash. (Same goes for texts.)

Now the next time someone attempts to scam you with fraudulent emails, you won’t have to wonder if the message is for real. You’ll scope out a phish hook, line, and sinker.

The Feds just wiped out your online privacy…

Your ISP, browsing history, and what to do about it

Your ISP, browsing history, and what to do about it

Posted: April 4, 2017 by

In late March, Congress approved a bill lifting restrictions imposed on ISPs last year concerning what they could do with information such as customer browsing habits, app usage history, location data, and Social Security numbers. They additionally absolved ISPs of the need to strengthen their existing customer data holdings against hackers and thieves. For more on the particulars of the bill, you can see reports on the Washington Post and Ars Technica. Given that the repealed restrictions hadn’t yet come into effect, the immediate impact of the new bill is somewhat unclear. But given what typically happens with massive stores of aggregated, location-specific customer data, the prognosis is not good.

So what’s the worst that can happen? Let’s run through a few probable outcomes:

Ad retargeting

We all might be familiar with this; when we buy a product online and then see ads for it relentlessly for a couple weeks thereafter. But with increased granularity of metadata, ad retargeting can be significantly more ‘effective.’ As an example, certain tech support scam companies prefer to draw their staff directly from complicit drug detoxes and rehabs, largely in order to ensure a compliant, desperate employee base. So the next time someone searches for help with an intractable heroin addiction, they might get targeted ads for unlicensed rehabs that come with a new job opportunity of scamming the elderly. Perhaps if my browser history correlates to those of low income or unemployed people, my ads would fill with work from home scams. Or low literacy search phrasing, in conjunction with low income, could get me directed to multi-level marketing scams. There are a cornucopia of ways to target the weak and vulnerable via metadata and it’s both legal and profitable.

 

Stalking

As we can see with many domestic violence cases, abusers have no compunction against using technology to stalk and harass their victims. A 2014 article by NPR surveyed a series of domestic violence shelters and found 75% of their clients had dealt with abusers monitoring them remotely using hidden mobile apps. Some ill-conceived apps have linked multiple sets of user data together, to create inadvertent ‘stalking apps’. Once search metadata is openly sold, a person suffering domestic abuse would have a hard time searching for a local shelter without their partner knowing about it. Even with new homes and new identities, a victim would have to live with the fear of their search patterns combined with IP address identifying them, permanently. Stalking via metadata has been seen as an issue before and it will most likely happen again.

 

Browser History Ransom

We’ve seen doxware in the wild before. But when the barrier to entry is lowered to simply having enough money to purchase the incriminating data in question, why wouldn’t more criminals get in on the game? As seen with ransomware and tech support scams, when technical limitations to a crime are removed, people willing to try it multiply exponentially. Ransoming a victim’s browser history would seem to be easy money.

 

Time to Breach

Essentially, once this data begins to be collected, stored, and prepared for sale, there is a stopwatch set for time to breach and dissemination of your data to the highest bidder on the dark web. Think that’s hyperbolic? In 2015 Comcast published the personal data of almost 75,000 California customers due to operator error. In a separate incident in the same year, 200,000 Comcast customers had their data sold on the dark web. In 2014, Comcast hadn’t patched their mail servers adequately and hackers made off with extensive credentials. Not to be outdone, Time Warner had their customers breached in incidents here and here. Cox Communications paid the FCC a $595,000 fine for breach of its customer data. Given the track record of handling customer data thus far, how long until the next breach?

But this is bad and I don’t want this?

Although options are limited and sometimes frustrating, there are some things you can do. To combat ad retargeting, an ad blocker works quite well. It’s awfully tough to be taken in by deceptive or fraudulent, or just too intrusive advertising if you can’t see it. However, many of the most reputable news sites rely on advertising for revenue, so they ask users to disable ad blockers in order to access content. This doesn’t really address the issue of shadowy third parties doing untoward things with your data, which brings us to…

Virtual Private Networks (VPNs)

Here be dragons, though, because many VPN providers are no more trustworthy than the ISPs that we all love so dearly. If you go to a VPN review site you can see the latest VPNs and how they stack up on quality criteria, which generally include, but are not limited to:

  • Do they keep logs of your activity?
  • How much identifiable data do they keep on you?
  • Do they have physical control over their own VPN servers?
  • What countries are their servers located in?

Check out some reviews of popular VPNs based on answers to these questions here. Another question that you should be asking is how much a VPN costs. Free ones generally find some unsavory ways to monetize your traffic, which is what you’re trying to avoid to begin with.

HTTPS Everywhere

This is a browser extension published by the Electronic Freedom Foundation. It forces websites to use a more secure HTTPS connection when the website supports it. Encrypting traffic in this way does not protect the specific websites you visit from your ISP, but it does obfuscate specific content that you’re accessing on that page. And as a browser extension, it’s fairly easy to install, and probably falls under the category of things you should be doing anyway. If you want to find out more about HTTPS Everywhere, check out their FAQ here.

Calling your congressman

Privacy is a developing issue. As technology advances, its ability to infringe on our privacy in irritating and sometimes dangerous ways can increase. Letting your representatives know that this is a concern can help prevent worse legislation in the future. If you’d like to make your opinion on online privacy known, you can find your representatives here and here.

In conclusion, strong online privacy can sometimes be an inconvenience for those of us trying to catch cybercriminals. But its loss hurts all of us. Whether you have ‘something to hide’ or not, your data and your identity belong to you. Why shouldn’t you control how it’s used?

Eight Reasons Why Small and Mid-Sized Businesses Need Managed IT Services

Managed Networks Chicago

Managed IT services is rapidly becoming one of the hottest solutions in business today because it dramatically improves an organization’s profitability, frees up internal resources, and offers a unique competitive advantage.   Simply put, managed IT services are designed to assist companies in maintaining and supporting their network and IT infrastructure with the assistance of an outsourced managed services provider (MSP).  Types of services may include remote network monitoring, programming and reporting (24/7), firewall monitoring, intrusion detection, preventative tasks, disaster recovery, data backup and help desk support.  There are eight critical reasons why small to midsized businesses (SMBs) need managed IT services now and throughout the life cycle of their business.

Dependence On IT

Almost all businesses have become more dependent on computer technologies in the past few years.  And, it’s a rapidly changing environment.  Every business has become dependent on its IT infrastructure to perform at a high level, while effectively delivering its products or services.  As a result, it has become more difficult to maintain the expertise to properly deploy, manage, and monitor this new technology, especially as a business evolves.

Complexity

The fact that this new technology is new makes it more difficult for the average employee to understand and use effectively.  The level of demand and sophistication from today’s businesses are driving up complexity.  Distinct disciplines or specialties are emerging in a variety of technology related areas such as telephony, desktop, network, application and database support.  The breadth and depth of technology an organization requires immediately places the resources at a small to mid-sized businesses (SMBs) at a distinct disadvantage.

Insufficient Solutions

Traditional support options such as a one man IT consultant, or a one or two person in-house IT department cannot effectively handle the occasional network breakdowns that are bound to occur. This is especially true when compared to a team of external resources that  proactively monitor the SMB’s installed technology at all times.

Lack of Process

An IDC study reinforces the notion of lack of process, showing that 78% of all IT downtime is caused by change.  If you could simply eliminate change from the computing environment, you would substantially decrease the risk. Unfortunately, most SMBs lack the procedures, documentation standards, and scope of work, which often results in major disruption and downtime.

Increased Use of Technology

Increasing use of computers, new software and procedures, often leads to increased complaints and loss of productivity. Typically, when network or desktop problems arise and escalate inside a company, the response time of the one man shop or internal staff is quite slow. This dramatically increases employee complaints and lowers productivity.  In many situations employees have to wait in line to receive help.  As a result the downtime and morale will impact the organization’s bottom line as well as their ability to meet their customers’ needs.  By implementing a managed IT services program, the demand on internal IT resources are lessened, and they can now be utilized for other purposes such as directly supporting strategic business objectives rather than becoming bogged down in frequent break/fix issues.

Controlling Costs

During these challenging times, the IT budget is frequently reduced.  In a recent survey of nearly 950 IT managers at companies in North America and Europe; nearly half of the U.S. respondents said they have already cut their IT spending budgets.  Unfortunately, a cut in IT spending doesn’t mean there is a cut in demand for services.  This adds tremendous stress and pressure on internal departments to support the same amount of work with fewer resources.

Technology Erosion

Computer systems must be maintained just like any other systems used within the business. Vehicle fleets, manufacturing equipment, and the physical plant, have all moved to a preventative approach. If a company does not implement this preventative maintenance strategy for its technology components, disaster might be the unpleasant and unprofitable result.

Compliance

Finally, the technology utilized within an organization in most cases must meet specific compliance standards.  For example, a company’s business processes supported by technology may need to comply with Sarbanes-Oxely, Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA), Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (GLBA) and other requirements. Most companies don’t have the resources to fully understand and comply with all the detailed requirements of these regulations.

All of the above issues are driving the popularity of partnering with a managed IT services firm.  Companies that have made the transition already answered this question.  If deploying, managing and monitoring my IT infrastructure has absolutely nothing to do with the core competency of my business, why wouldn’t I outsource it to an expert?  This is a fairly easy question to answer and these organizations have reaped the rewards of increased profitability and a competitive advantage.

Want a honest assessment of your network? Give us a call at 847 329 8600!

Apple Ends Support of Quicktime for Windows

U.S. Department of Homeland Security US-CERT

National Cyber Awareness System:

04/14/2016 03:48 PM EDT
Original release date: April 14, 2016

Systems Affected

Microsoft Windows with Apple QuickTime installed

Overview

According to Trend Micro, Apple will no longer be providing security updates for QuickTime for Windows, leaving this software vulnerable to exploitation. [1]

Description

All software products have a lifecycle. Apple will no longer be providing security updates for QuickTime for Windows. [1]

The Zero Day Initiative has issued advisories for two vulnerabilities found in QuickTime for Windows. [2] [3]

Impact

Computer systems running unsupported software are exposed to elevated cybersecurity dangers, such as increased risks of malicious attacks or electronic data loss. Exploitation of QuickTime for Windows vulnerabilities could allow remote attackers to take control of affected systems.

Solution

Computers running QuickTime for Windows will continue to work after support ends. However, using unsupported software may increase the risks from viruses and other security threats. Potential negative consequences include loss of confidentiality, integrity, or availability of data, as well as damage to system resources or business assets. The only mitigation available is to uninstall QuickTime for Windows. Users can find instructions for uninstalling QuickTime for Windows on the Apple Uninstall QuickTime page. [4]

References

Revision History

  • April 14, 2016: Initial Release

Don’t Make these 5 Cloud Migration Mistakes

Don’t Make These 5 Cloud Migration Mistakes

The cloud has many benefits that countless businesses are taking advantage of today. But this convenience and efficiency doesn’t happen with a snap of your fingers. A smooth and smart cloud migration takes preparation. Here are five mistakes to avoid when moving to the cloud:

1. Assuming All Clouds Are Equal

Just as your business brings its a unique set of goals and requirements for moving to the cloud, each cloud provider has its own set of strengths and weaknesses. You can’t assume that a solution working for another business will automatically work for yours. There’s a wide array of providers and cloud services, so you need to choose the best one to fulfill your needs. You will go about the transition differently than the company next door.

Additionally, there are different cloud options, and you need to know which one(s) you want. Does your business need a private, public or hybrid cloud environment? Are you a small or large organization? Do you need IaaS, PaaS or SaaS? Different workloads mean different clouds! It’s definitely worth your business’ time to evaluate the options and make the most informed choice. The decision to move to the cloud isn’t just a yes or no one. It’s all about the “how,” “when,” and “which.”

2. Not Doing Your Homework

Yes, you have to do some work first!

Businesses commonly think that the first step to the cloud is searching outside the organization for a provider, but this skips a crucial personal evaluation.

Instead, you should first look inside your organization to identify your own needs, current environment and spending, usage, and hopes or expectations for the cloud. Only then can you move on and thoroughly research and identify providers that suit your business.

The perfect provider is one that lines up with your needs and goals. To determine this, reach out to multiple providers and be prepared to ask questions. What exact security measures do they have in place? Can they meet your compliance needs? How involved are they? What’s their specialty? The answers to these types of questions are key.

3. Moving Too Fast

It’s okay to start small! In fact, we recommend it.

Faster doesn’t mean better. There’s a difference between proactivity and rushing. In fact, moving too fast will likely result in unpreparedness. Take time to consider what makes the most sense in the cloud and be prepared from the get-go.

You can take a test drive by moving a non-critical application to the cloud that will still make a positive business impact, like a collaborative tool. Once you’re comfortable, confident and more experienced, it’s easy to repeat and eventually you can start taking bigger steps.

This calculated pace allows you to learn more about the cloud as you go, and drives consistent, positive change across your business.

4. Thinking It’s All or Nothing

Just as you don’t have to migrate all at once, you also don’t have to move all functionality to the cloud. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing! Some applications will make sense in the cloud while others might not be worth it. Always weigh the pros and cons of moving tools and resources into the cloud. Choose whatever makes sense for YOUR organization, and then you can develop the perfect cloud solution.

It’s helpful to prioritize the applications and tools that need to be moved, while considering if the move maintains cost efficiency, usability and security.

5. Not Doing Your Part

The relationship between a business and its cloud provider is an important one. While the provider obviously shoulders the majority of the responsibility, your organization still has to do its part.

You should have an internal team that develops your cloud strategy and ensures you are using the cloud in the best way possible for your business. It’s also important to communicate with your team and educate your employees on why the cloud move is happening. You might initially face resistance, but by demonstrating the benefits of the migration, the team will be more willing to learn about the new cloud services. Involve your employees in each step and keep them informed – this ensures a smooth transition and builds trust.

Additionally, security is up to both parties. The provider will certainly have hefty security measures in place, but you can take steps on your end as well. Make sure your users are creating secure passwords and you have policies in place in regards to personal device usage and data access. Setting these expectations will help keep your information safe.

Take Advantage Of Network Security – An Ounce Of Prevention Is Worth A Pound Of Cure

In the minutes, hours and days that follow a widespread, widely publicized data breach, most companies scramble, amping up their security measures in an effort to overcompensate for their lack of proactive preparation. A Forrester Research study revealed that more than 45 percent of businesses opt to increase security and audit requirements after an attack occurs. But as our grandmothers always say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Basically, Grandma was trying to say that a proactive approach to security—versus a reactive one—helps to ensure that your business is protected without having to learn the hard way.

While a lax data security plan may be the most detrimental of business strategies, a close second is taking a “one and done” approach. In reality, true data and network protection requires constant effort —it’s not a checklist to be completed, filed away and forgotten. System security, as a whole, is a moving target with new threats and vulnerabilities popping every day and from all angles. Which means one security solution may become outdated just as quickly as it was implemented. Without dedicated resources and the training required to implement and monitor advanced security solutions, organizations are basically sitting ducks, putting their corporate assets at greater risk.

Network Security

So where do you start? System protection begins with a thorough risk vulnerability assessment—and trust me, there are plenty of vulnerabilities to look for. For example, consider the impact of Bring-Your-Own Device (BYOD), with its myriad of points at which employees may unknowingly compromise corporate network security. Or take into account the rising threat and increased variety of Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks. From organized crime rings to hacktivists to foreign government hacking attempts, the complexities and motives are changing by the day.

By identifying the most vulnerable points within your current system and workflow, you can then start to draft a strategy and analyze potential solutions. Creating a customized security plan, one that’s tailored to addressing those vulnerabilities head-on, is foundational to a solid strategy. Your plan may include simple items, such as creating and implementing a formal BYOD policy. Or you may need more comprehensive protection, enhancing your network and cloud security through a Managed Service Provider (MSP) or bringing in a variety of tactical solutions, such as firewalls, antivirus, OS hardening, intrusion detection and web filtering as applicable. A complete security solution should protect your data and applications from all angles — network, cloud and employee communication—to mitigate any threat to your data.

Part of a successful security plan, however, is allocating enough staff and resources to support that plan. The best-protected systems are those that are constantly managed by a dedicated IT team. If, in your risk assessment efforts, you find that you’re lacking resources to provide ongoing support and monitoring, a Managed Network Security Solution may be the answer.

Our Managed Network Security Solutions provide not only security, but also the team that can support your security mission. We offer 24 x 7 x 365 management and monitoring, going beyond protecting PC desktops with custom, comprehensive real-time protection against attacks, defending and protecting your entire office-computing environment against the latest generation of Internet threats.

Take the first step toward achieving system security and contact a Prime representative today. Remember that ounce of protection? When we’re talking about data security, it’s worth WAY more than a pound of cure.

Cloud Drives Business Innovation

innovation

The title to this post almost sounds obvious, but the truth is that cloud computing is not yet being used to its full potential. Many businesses currently rely on the cloud solely to save money or add simple mobility, but these organizations are hardly scratching the surface of the cloud’s true capabilities. Cloud computing offers countless opportunities to drive business innovation, and it’s time for the business world to take advantage of this.

Gain Insight

Cloud computing is now offering the ability to gain amazing insight into an individual business, thanks to advanced analytic capabilities. Not only are these capabilities possible, but businesses of any size can now access the computing power necessary to take advantage of this information. Cloud helps businesses manage their own, growing data, while also accessing new sources of data.

A great example is the popular online marketplace, Etsy. This business relies heavily on analytics to build customer relationships, improve the user experience and provide the most efficient service. By using cloud-based analytics, Etsy analyzes millions of page views to determine which recommendations to make for visitors and maintain an effective business ecosystem.

IT and Operations

Cloud computing is often only seen as an IT solution. It’s true that the technology is currently a mainstream IT trend, but this should not be the case. Cloud computing can become a company-wide solution. It can break down the walls between IT development and operations and offer the ability to quickly implement infrastructure and test new ideas. By moving to the cloud, organizations can also easily handle swells of capacity, something that was not so simple before. With traditional IT and operations, it was risky to test ideas, due to high costs and lack of resources. Now, organizations can move quickly through the experimental phase, getting the necessary resources on an as-needed basis.

Product Innovation

According to IBM, leading companies are 73% more likely to rapidly innovate products and services via the cloud. Through improved communication and collaboration, cloud computing easily leads businesses to faster development of innovative products or services. In a lot of cases, the cloud becomes a fundamental part of the new product. With agility and cost efficiency in hand, organizations can truly improve their services at lightning speed, reducing delivery time from months to just weeks.

Customer Relations

Thanks to the huge surge in data, and the ability to have constant access to the world’s information, businesses can truly listen to their customers and take advantage of the insights to meet customer needs and drive business growth. With so much data in hand, it’s easy to learn customer preferences, deliver relevant offers and news, and develop the best products and services for your consumers. With today’s mobile and social trends, it’s also easier than ever to engage in two-way conversation with customers. This point is very important, as it shifts the cloud focus from internal improvements to external improvements, which are arguably equally important.

With cloud computing driving innovation, you can take your business to the next level. The technology will not only help you reshape your existing operations, but also enter new lines of business, innovate within your own industry and better serve your customers. Working with the cloud and a cloud provider allows your organization to focus its attention on strategic business decisions and innovation, while we tak

6 Huge Benefits of Managed IT Service

As the shape of global business continues to shift, companies big and small are determining how to incorporate new technologies. But while growth and operational decentralization have obvious benefits for long-term goals, they also present a new series of ground-level issues that can no longer be solved by local teams.

Enter Managed Services.

Developed to be scalable as a small business grows into a large, mobile one, this type of service combines the latest network technology with network monitoring, allowing a hands-off approach to managing networks and software. Agents can troubleshoot and fix most issues that occur from a remote location, further ensuring consistent access and functionality throughout the entire communications experience.

There are many reasons why managed services are making waves in all industries, but here are six that will blow your mind:

1. Quick recovery: With complex processes available to managed services providers, businesses can track and respond almost immediately to any events that may occur across their communications platforms. Gone are the days of scrambling from one problem to the next in an effort to simply keep projects and operations on track. With managed services, quick efficient fixes help businesses focus on growth.

2.  Before It Even Happens: Thanks to helpful remote tracking, complex remote service systems can predict where problems may arise, preventing them before they even happen. Businesses can operate with confidence knowing that issues can get tackled before they even occur, thus lowering the risks involved in important projects and operations.

3. Proper Planning: By further monitoring the ways in which a client utilizes their network systems, managed services providers can alleviate redundant operations, free-up file space, and further streamline formal processes. This allows clients to accurately predict their future performance needs and make informed decisions regarding infrastructure and database.Flat Rate ITFlat Rate IT

4. Built-in HUD: Through client portals created by managed services providers, clients can access network and performance data in real time and respond immediately. Service tickets can be logged and saved, and critical processes are monitored constantly by management. These client dashboards can even be customized specifically to a business’ needs. Whether a client wants to view real-time operational data at a high level, or an ultra-specific one, a managed services dashboard allows business owners to keep an eye on the prize from the helm of the ship.

5. Lightning Fast Updates: Managed services allow IT staff and developers to step back from the seemingly endless troubleshooting and problem solving of old systems and focus on future development and patching. Managed services providers can manage patches continuously; with this in place, downtime becomes few and far between

6. Big Picture Infrastructure: The in-depth, real-time monitoring provided by managed services gives companies a full understanding of the ins-and-outs of their infrastructure. Timely reviews prior to large projects, updates, and rollouts give business owners a full understanding of the ramifications of each decision they make, so that they can remain informed as they make crucial changes to the way they do business. Managed services highlight the weak points and problem areas so that companies can prioritize resources.

With all of these benefits in mind, it’s easy to see…Managed Services is the next step in technological business development, and a crucial linchpin in the scaling of a rising company.

Learn more: http://www.primetelecommunications.com/flat-rate-it-support/

Microsoft Ending Support for Windows Server 2003 Operating System

NCCIC / US-CERT

National Cyber Awareness System:

11/10/2014 07:19 AM EST
Original release date: November 10, 2014

Systems Affected

Microsoft Windows Server 2003 operating system

Overview

Microsoft is ending support for the Windows Server 2003 operating system on July 14, 2015.[1] After this date, this product will no longer receive:

  • Security patches that help protect PCs from harmful viruses, spyware, and other malicious software
  • Assisted technical support from Microsoft
  • Software and content updates

Description

All software products have a lifecycle. End of support refers to the date when Microsoft will no longer provide automatic fixes, updates, or online technical assistance.[2] As of July 2014, there were 12 million physical servers worldwide still running Windows Server 2003.[3]

Impact

Computer systems running unsupported software are exposed to an elevated risk to cybersecurity dangers, such as malicious attacks or electronic data loss.

Users may also encounter problems with software and hardware compatibility since new software applications and hardware devices may not be built for Windows Server 2003.

Organizations that are governed by regulatory obligations may find they are no longer able to satisfy compliance requirements while running Windows Server 2003.

Solution

Computers running the Windows Server 2003 operating system will continue to work after support ends. However, using unsupported software may increase the risks of viruses and other security threats. Negative consequences could include loss of confidentiality, integrity, and or availability of data, system resources and business assets.

The Microsoft “Microsoft Support Lifecycle Policy FAQ” page offers additional details.[2]

Users have the option to upgrade to a currently supported operating system or other cloud-based services. There are software vendors and service providers in the marketplace who offer assistance in migrating from Windows Server 2003 to a currently supported operating system or SaaS (software as a service) / IaaS (infrastructure as a service) products and services.[4,5] US-CERT does not endorse or support any particular product or vendor.

References

Revision History

  • November 10, 2014: Initial Release

 

Our partnership with Rapidscale allows you to never have to worry about these types of announcements ever again.

CloudApps is the next generation application purchasing and licensing management platform for business. CloudApps connects businesses with the applications they want while eliminating licensing management and application upgrades. With CloudApps, the application purchasing process is automated from per user or per business purchasing to application approval workflow delivered on one bill.

Check out more at http://www.primetelecommunications.com/infrastructure-service/.

Is your Data compliance in place?

With all of the security breaches we keep on hearing about (Target, Michael’s, Neimann Marcus) there is a secondary issue that also needs to be addressed: compliance. Compliance basically means that the customer data that you have on hand has to be protected above and beyond. If you don’t protect that data and if there is a breach, your company could be liable for the damage caused by the loss of that data. If you are in healthcare, the standard is for HIPAA (which mainly is concerned with keeping patient health records private). If you take credit cards, the relevant standard is for PCI compliance. With all of the different types of data and line of business issues, data compliance can be a thorny issue.

The latest cure for this is, as frequent readers can probably guess, compliance as a service. Prime Telecommunications is working with RapidScale, a national leader in cloud applications. Rapidscale has a proven compliance service that is available to simplify compliance for our clients.

RapidScale’s innovative Cloud Compliance tool is a user-friendly web based portal software solution which offers its clients an easy, affordable way to prove they are in compliance with the standards and regulations of the industry they service.  CloudCompliance is one of those tools which will prove itself as an invaluable to its clients.  For further information, please contact RapidScale professional support.

The products available in the market today for compliance are overly complex and more confusing than they are helpful. Furthermore, often times it is not tied into crucial trouble ticketing systems while also being linked to approval processes required for third party vendors. CloudCompliance provides a true tracking mechanism with regards to every action within a healthcare provider’s systems.

With RapidScale’s CloudCompliance solution, the focus is on meeting compliance standards while operating within the convenience of the cloud. CloudCompliance is not only for the healthcare industry and HIPPA, but for all compliance dependent industries that are required to follow laws including PCI, SOX, FINRA, ISO, FDA, FAA and many more. CloudCompliance is an easy, affordable way for organizations to prove that they are following the standard guidelines for any particular compliance law. Users have access to real time reporting, tracking and system interfaces for all of their healthcare clients. If an organization has a compliance team on staff, they will love the easy to user interface. If an organization does not have compliance teams, CloudCompliance will provide a user with the diagrams, information and details auditors are looking for.

CloudCompliance offers numerous system benefits for healthcare including the ability to track every movement within the system. Additionally, once in the system, the information cannot be tampered with, destroyed, or altered in any way. CloudCompliance has no platform limitations either. If a hybrid cloud environment is required, RapidScale can keep an organization compliant by integrating CloudCompliance into their solution. CloudCompliance can also be implemented into large healthcare organizations in order to provide a hybrid cloud support model. CloudCompliance is one of those tools which will prove itself as an invaluable to the Healthcare industry.

About RapidScale:

RapidScale, a cloud services innovator, delivers world‐class, secure, and reliable cloud computing solutions to companies of all sizes globally. Their state of the art CloudOffice platform and market leading cloud solutions are the reason why RapidScale is the provider of choice for leading telecommunications providers, VAR’s, MSP’s and agents throughout the United States. RapidScale is not only delivering a service, but they’re innovating advanced solutions and applications for the cloud computing space. Today, many of the top carriers, VAR’s, MSP’s and master agents across the globe are selling RapidScale’s cloud solutions to their customers. RapidScale’s market leading solutions include: CloudServer, CloudDesktop, CloudOffice, CloudMail, CloudRecovery, CloudApps and more. For more information on RapidScale visit http://www.rapidscale.net  any of our other sites at www.chicagocloudconsultingservices.com, www.chicagobusinesscloudservices.com or www.cloudhostingserviceschicago.com