Tag Archives: security

Docracy helps track Terms of Service

Security_March20_CThe Internet has seeped into nearly every aspect of our daily lives, it’s hard not to be connected these days. Think about the number of websites you have accounts with, and how all of these sites now have some form of personal information of yours. The question is, what exactly do these sites do with your information? The answer lies in the Terms of Service, which are always evolving and hard to keep track of. Luckily, a new website makes it a lot easier to monitor all of these changes.

Terms of Service for websites change on a fairly regular basis, and many of us simply have no way of knowing if and when such changes have been made, and what exactly has been changed. That’s why a group of lawyers and professionals started Docracy. According to the website, “Docracy is a home for contracts and other legal documents, socially curated by the communities that use them.” The company aims to make legal documents freely available.

Part of this site is the Terms of Service section which is a database of over 1,000 popular websites’ Terms of Service and Privacy policies. It tracks them and notes when changes are made, and highlights these changes so they are easily found.

If you visit the site here, you can see a list of changes that companies have recently made, and clicking on one should give you basic change information. Clicking on See Full Changes will bring up the full doc with the recent changes highlighted.

Selecting See Full Directory will bring up every policy that the website tracks, and allow you to read them.

Is this useful for my business?
Online law is very complicated, and many companies that run websites that you may have accounts with often don’t make it easy for you to find legal contracts or policies. A good example of where Docracy is helpful is if you want to know who exactly owns your content stored on a popular cloud service. You can go to Docracy’s database and quickly find the related Terms of Service. From there you can download the document and look through it, or view it on the site.

Basically this site can help you get a clearer picture on the various contracts you sign with websites, and how these websites plan to use your data. For many business owners, knowing exactly what other companies are going to do with your data can help you find a more secure solution. After all, being prepared with the correct knowledge is half the battle.

If you would like to learn more about Docracy, or how a change to a Terms of Service could affect your business please contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Prey tracks your important devices

Security_Feb20_CThe number of tech gadgets we own has been growing, as has the number of criminals targeting high value goods like laptops and smartphones. While it is more likely to not happen, there is still a chance your laptop or phone could be stolen or go missing. When it does, you could lose important data, especially if you use this for your work too. To help increase the chances of finding your device you can install a program that tracks it.

Prey is an Open Source – free – program that you can install on your computer or mobile device and track it when it’s missing, or been stolen.

How it works
First you have to download the software – from here – onto your computer (Windows, Mac or Linux are supported), and sign up for an account. You have a couple of options here: You can either sign up for an account with Prey and access a control panel through the website, or install it as a standalone which is recommended for advanced users as it requires some server configuration.

If you chose to go with the Web option you sign up for an account and install the software then register your main device along with extra ones like an Android, or your iOS device. Once you have downloaded Prey and linked them together, you are ready.

When your device is lost, you log into the Web Control Panel on Prey’s site and can report it as missing. You can also turn on different actions which allow you to track the computer’s location, network status and hardware usage. There are also other options like the ability to snap a picture using the webcam (if you have one), or even sound an alarm. You can even lock the system or phone ensuring people can’t access it.

For mobiles, you can send these a text (from the Web Control Panel) which will initiate the established options you have pre-set for when your phone goes missing.

How Prey finds your device’s location depends on the device. For laptops, it can turn-on your Wi-Fi connection and try to connect to the nearest access points. It can take the IP address of each Wi-Fi access point and from there get an approximate location – in some areas as close as 200 feet. On your phone, it turns on the GPS (if available) and tries to connect to Wi-Fi networks in range. These two combined can generate a fairly accurate location.

All this tracking information is sent to your inbox in the form of a report, which can be tailored to meet your needs.

What makes this program different from other similar ones is that it can be installed across multiple platforms and managed from one account. It’s also free, which makes it even more attractive. There is also a Pro version which allows you to track more devices, for a monthly fee (USD$5 for 3 devices up to USD$399 a month for 500 devices).

Prey is just one of the many device tracking programs, and installing one may be a good idea, to give you a greater chance of retrieval if your phone or computer is lost or stolen. Do you use one already? If so, which one? If you would like to learn more about Prey and the other device tracking programs please let us know, we may have a great solution for you.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

UPnP devices are a security risk

The security of a company’s networks and devices is a common issue many managers and owners face. There are a near constant stream of new threats brought to light, some of which are more important than others. The majority of the time these threats are to the software, but a recent one is hardware based and puts millions of systems at risk.

At the end of January, numerous news and tech media services issued warnings about UPnP (Universal Plug and Play) enabled devices. This was taken to be a big issue because of the widespread adoption of these devices and the fact that many of them have little to no security measures, which could open whole systems to attacks. Many business owners and managers are wondering what exactly is UPnP and how it can open systems to attack.

UPnP defined
UPnP is a protocol or code that allows networked devices like laptops, computers, Wi-Fi routers, and many modern mobile devices, to search for and discover other devices connected to, or wanting to connect to, the same network. This protocol also allows these devices to connect to one-another and share information, Internet connection and media.

A good example of UPnP in use is your laptop. When you first connect your laptop to your router, you likely have to enter a password and maybe even the router’s network name. Without UPnP you would have to find the network and enter the password each time you want to connect to the Internet. With UPnP, your laptop can automatically connect whenever it’s in range.

Why is UPnP a security threat?
UPnP has been in use for the better part of seven years and has since come to be found in nearly every device that connects to the Internet – pretty much everything. While it was written for devices in the home e.g., Wi-Fi routers, many businesses also use these devices because they are often easier to set up and cost less than their enterprise counterparts.

Because of the sheer number of devices that use this protocol, and the fact that it’s engineered to respond to any request to connect to the device, it makes sense that this could be a security issue. A recent study tested the security of UPnP and revealed some interesting results.

Rapid7, the company that conducted the study, sent UPnP discovery requests to every routable IPv4 address. – IPv4 (Internet Protocol version 4) is a set of protocols for sending information from one computer to another on the Internet. A routable IPv4 address is one that can be contacted by anyone on the Internet. They found that over 80 million addresses used UPnP, and 17 million of these exposed the protocol that enables easy connection to the system or device. This can be easily exploited by hackers.

In other words, 17 million systems, many of which could be businesses, are open to attack through the UPnP device. This security threat opens networks to denial-of-service attacks which make resources, including the Internet, unavailable to the user. One example of a popular denial-of-service attack is a hacker making your website unavailable to others.

Can we do anything?
Most experts are recommending that you disable UPnP on your networked devices. The first thing you should do however is to conduct a scan for vulnerable UPnP devices on your network. Tools like ScanNow (for Windows) can help you search. For many, this is a daunting prospect, as the chance of creating more issues is just too great.

We recommend contacting an expert like ourselves, who can conduct a security analysis and advise you on steps you can take to ensure you are secure. So, if you are worried about the security of your systems, give us a call today. We may have a solution for you.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

It’s time to cut back on Java

Technology surrounding the Internet is constantly evolving. Many programs that helped allow the Internet expand and become what it is today are still in use. They stay relevant by issuing updates that often bring more functionality while meeting the evolving needs of Web developers and users. One program, however, has had a number of security issues in the past year that have prompted experts and government departments to recommend that users disable it.

That program is Java – a programming language and application that allows developers to create web applications, and users to view much of the visual content and animations on the Internet. The problem isn’t with the programming language per se, but with the application developed by Oracle Systems.

Oracle released an update to Java – Java 7, Update 10 – in December, but it was found to have some serious security flaws. These issues were quickly spotted by hacker groups who released exploit kits – software making it easy to exploit Java 7′s security weaknesses – giving them full security privileges. This exposed any computer running Java 7 to potential malware and attack. Because Java runs at the browser level, every OS could be targeted. To make matters worse, 30 security flaws were patched back in September, after nearly 1 billion computers were found to be at risk.

It’s this string of security red flags that had the US Department of Homeland Security issue a warning that users should disable Java on their browsers. In response to this, Oracle updated Java again,  to Java 7, Update 11 on January 12, and noted that the security flaw had been fixed. Many experts, including those at the Department of Homeland Security, aren’t convinced though, and are still suggesting that users disable Java because new vulnerabilities will likely be discovered.

How do I disable Java?
Chrome users

  1. Open Chrome and enter Chrome://plugins/ in a blank tab’s URL bar.
  2. Find Java (TM).
  3. Click Disable.
  4. Restart Chrome.

Firefox users

  1. Open Firefox and click Tools from the menu bar at the top of the screen.
  2. Select Add-ons followed by Plugins.
  3. Find the Java plug-in, it’s usually called Java Applet Plug-in (Mac) or Java(TM) (Windows) and click Disable.
  4. Close and restart Firefox.

Safari users

  1. Open Safari and click File followed by Preferences.
  2. Click the Security tab.
  3. Uncheck the box that says Enable Java.
  4. Close and restart Safari.

Internet Explorer users
There is no way for you to disable Java in the browser, you will instead have to completely disable Java from your computer. This can be done by following the steps on the Java website.

If you do disable Java, some websites will no longer work. This can be a bit of an annoyance, but in all honesty, security of your systems is more important, not to mention the potential costs of dealing with a massive malware infection. Besides that, many websites no longer use Java, so you can probably get by without it. At the very least, we recommend you go download the latest update from the Java website and apply it to all computers.

One issue that we need to be clear on is that these security flaws are part of the Java plug-in. You may see something called JavaScript. While the name sounds similar, they are different. JavaScript is largely used in HTML documents, and allows them to function, and is secure. If you do run across it, it’s best to leave the script alone.

If you would like to learn more about this update, you can visit an excellent FAQ here. Before you do update, or disable Java, we recommend you contact us. We can help advise you on what steps to take next if you use Java.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Beware: Windows tech support scammers

Social engineering – the act of manipulating people into giving up confidential information – has long been a threat to businesses. One of the more common social engineering tricks, in terms of IT, is scammers posing as Windows technicians who call Windows users and try to trick them into believing their computers have viruses and that they need to pay to have the problem fixed. Have you had these calls?

These scams have long been a part of the Windows environment. Despite users being fully aware of these attacks, some people still falling into the trap.

These deceptions generally follow the same formula: A person calls you pretending to be from the Windows technical team at Microsoft. The scammer usually tells you that they need to renew their software protection licenses to keep their computer running.

Most of the time, these scammers spread the conversation out over a number of phone calls and emails, the goal being to gain the trust of the user. Once trust is established, or the user seems interested enough, the scammer will offer a seeming sweet deal: They will offer a service that will make your computer run like new, usually for a seemingly reasonable price.

The scammer will then use remote PC support software to show you ‘problems’ your computer is having. They will usually show you the Windows Event Viewer – a part of the OS that shows errors, usually harmless, that your computer has generated. The scammer will then convince the user that these errors are harmful, and if you have paid, they will make it look like they are cleaning your computer.

If you give them your credit card number, you will likely see ridiculous charges, or even have people trying to access your accounts.

What’s being done?
Governments are aware of this increasingly common trend, and some organizations, like the FTC, have taken measures to shut down scammers. This article from ars technica gives a good overview of what exactly the FTC is doing, while another article provides a first-hand account of how the scammers operate.

What can we do?
While action is being taken, these scams are still continuing. From what we can tell, they likely won’t stop in the near future. To ensure you don’t fall prey to this trickery, these five tips should help you identify when an attempted scam is at play:

  1. Microsoft doesn’t call people.
  2. Windows Event Manager is a log of errors for ALL programs.
  3. Microsoft employees will never ask for your passwords.
  4. Most of these scammers operate out of call centers in India, but bill from the US.
  5. Microsoft employees won’t usually ask you to install software that’s not made by Microsoft.

As a rule of thumb: If you get an unsolicited call about your computers and IT security, it’s likely not genuine. If these criminals provide you with a website, do a quick Google search to see if there have been any scam reports. You can also join the No-Call Registry if you are in the United States. To learn more about these scams, please contact us.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

5 parts of a secure social media strategy

Security of a company’s network and systems is big business. After all, you don’t want your sensitive important information shared or stolen. While you take steps to ensure your systems are secure, there is one area you can’t really control: social media. Hackers aren’t stupid, and they have taken to these services in droves, looking to take advantage of unwary employees. It’s important to develop a policy that educates your employees on ensuring that their use of social media at the office supports a secure organization.

Here are five things you should integrate in a social media policy to ensure social media is conducted in a secure manner.

  • Log in using HTTPS - HTTPS is a type of transfer protocol that ensures the data is transferred in a more secure manner between networks. Many websites like Facebook, Google, etc. support HTTPS, and you should ensure that you use it. To use HTTPS, you simply put an S at the end of the usual http address in the URL bar of your browser. I.e., https://facebook.com will open a more secure version of Facebook. By using HTTPS you can eliminate Man-in-the-Middle attacks and other similar types of phishing.
  • Don’t share personal information – This might seem like a no-brainer to some, but there are still users out there who love to share their personal information. It’s important to remember that social media is all about being social. Most information you share can be viewed by others. The last thing you want is a hacker getting a hold of all of your contact info, etc. It’s a good idea to limit your contact information and never give it out over social media.
  • Update privacy settings - Social media sites, and the companies who run them, love to tinker with security settings on a fairly regular basis. This has led to a number of users being caught unaware of their security settings. It’s a good idea to ensure that all of your profile information is private.
  • Watch what you click on – Take a look at any service and you’ll notice that the vast majority of content contains links. This is where hackers are starting to target, by placing malicious software connected to links, or hijacking accounts and sending links to users to get them to click on them. Tactics like these need to be highlighted, and you should tell your employees not to click on any suspicious links. If they receive links from friends that seem uncharacteristic, it’s a good idea to not click on them.
  • If you don’t know them, they aren’t your friend - Yes, social media is about connecting with people. However, when it comes to personal accounts, you should encourage your employees to be judicious in who they connect with. In general, if they don’t know the person who has just tried to add them to their network then it’s advisable not to do so.

The five tips above are just a few things you should include in a social media use policy in the office. It’s important to have a solid policy if you want to ensure that your network and data remain safe from potential threats from social media. Looking to learn more about safety and security of your networks? Contact us, we may be able to help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Is admin access really necessary?

A common expectation of the younger generation entering the workforce is that the technology they use is unrestricted. They want to be able to access social networks, YouTube and personalize their systems by downloading favorite apps, backgrounds, etc. Many companies have obliged and just give all users administrative access to their computers. A recent survey however, has highlighted that this could create real problems.

According to the survey, conducted by Viewfinity, 68% of the 600 IT professionals surveyed don’t know who has administrative access to computers in their office. While this survey looks at the numbers from the IT viewpoint, it’s highly likely that many managers don’t know who has what access rights to computers.

The survey also found that 20% of all respondents noted that between 15% and 30% of users in their company had administrative rights. Is this a bad thing? Yes and no. Some users need to have full access to their systems, especially if they manage other systems, while others don’t.

Is this a big deal?
One of the biggest drawbacks of unnecessary access privileges is security. If users have more access than they need, the chance of a security breach is higher. For example, malware on a locked down system likely won’t spread to other systems in the network without direct transmission. Similarly, if a user can’t install programs because they lack the administration privileges, malware, for the most part, won’t be downloaded and installed.

If a user with full administrative privileges and downloads a piece of malware, chances are high that they won’t even notice it’s been installed and it will be transmitted to other systems with ease. In fact, one of the main ways hackers gain access to networks is through exploitation of administrative rights. They first look for an unsecured computer with administrative rights, hack it and then follow the chain up to more vital network systems.

What can we do?
While the survey was largely centered around IT professionals, business owners can learn from these findings too. They should take steps to audit their network and figure out who has access to what. Then they need to validate the findings and ensure that users have an appropriate level of access privileges. If some employees have no need to download and install programs, then they likely don’t need administrative access privileges.

If this sounds like a chore, it’s a good idea to work with a service provider who can help determine not only the type of access employees should have, but also the appropriate security and management that’s needed to ensure a more secure organization. If you’re unsure of who has access to what, please contact us, we may be able to help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Should you encrypt your mobile phone?

One of the more ubiquitous devices of the modern era is the smartphone. We can do nearly everything on it, and as such it has played a large part in the blurring of the lines between work and life. While this is good for many businesses, many of these devices are largely unsecured, which can lead to problems, especially if the unsecured data is actually sensitive company information. One way to secure devices is through the use of encryption.

Encryption is not a new concept, it’s probably been used since the inception of communication. In standard terms it’s the conversion of data into a form that can’t be easily understood by unauthorized people. This form is commonly referred to as a ciphertext, or more commonly a cipher. Some people will call this a code, as codes are the same idea. Only the form is not meant to be secure and can be understood by other people e.g., binary code, Morse code, etc.

When data is encrypted, it can be sent to recipients, usually using normal transmission methods e.g., Internet or data connections. Upon receipt of the encrypted data, it needs to be decrypted (changed back to normal data). Decryption on mobile, and most computerized devices, is done using a key. This key is an algorithm that can understand both the encryption and normal data. It takes the encrypted data and essentially translates it to a form of data we can read or interact with.

Many businesses go to great lengths to ensure their data is encrypted both within the network, when sent amongst the network, or to trusted recipients outside the network. In a perfect world, all of your connection points – devices that connect to the network – would be secure. In the real world, employees using mobile devices that are unencrypted to store data or access company systems pose a big risk.

Take for example the CEO checking his work email on his own iDevice. Any emails sent between the company’s email server and the phone’s email program will usually be encrypted. However, when an attachment is opened with confidential news about an upcoming merger, a copy is usually downloaded onto the phone’s memory. If the boss hasn’t taken steps to encrypt the mobile device’s memory, and the phone is lost then someone picking up the phone could turn it on and see this information. If the user can understand the information, they could create a ton of trouble for both companies involved.

Another scenario, one that’s becoming more popular, is where the company’s accountant has visited one of the increasingly popular drive-by-malware sites and malware has been installed on an unencrypted phone. The accountant might open work emails and download next quarter’s financial projections, along with a document containing the password to a newly reset work account. The phone’s memory is unencrypted, so the hacker who monitors the malware can come along and grab the information. Now, not only does the hacker have access to the system – through the password – they also have confidential numbers a competitor would likely pay a handsome sum for.

While these situations may seem extreme, they can and have happened. The risks can be minimized though. While the obvious answer to problems like this is to simply bar employees from accessing work systems from mobile devices, this solution runs counter to the way most people work, and will likely be largely ignored by nearly everyone.

The best solution lies in a mixture of different approaches, all centered around a solid mobile device usage plan. You should take steps to first figure out when your employees access office systems using a mobile device, why they are doing this and what are they accessing. From there it’s a good idea to look into security options, vendors like us can help you with this step. It’s also beneficial to establish a use policy that dictates when devices can and can’t be used. Also, utilizing apps to encrypt memory on phones will help. At the very least, it’s a good idea to encourage your employees to use a password on their phone.

Mobile device encryption should be an important part of your company’s security plan. If you’d like to learn more, or implement a security system please contact us as we may have a solution that meets your needs.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

The Threat of Employee-Owned Devices

Employees using their own mobile devices for work may seem like a good idea at first it’s less expense for you, the employer, and they can also make employees more productive. However, it also means that you are allowing potentially unsecure devices to access your company’s data. The solution? An effective IT security policy that balances personal freedom to use these devices and your need to secure important business information.

As technology continues to become more affordable and accessible to consumers, it’s an inevitable fact that employers will see more and more of their employees using their own personal devices such as laptops and mobile phones to access the company’s IT system.

This can be a dangerous thing. Since these devices aren’t company owned and regulated, you have limited access and control over how they are used. Employees could download all sorts of malware and viruses on their devices and pass the infection along to your IT system when they access it.

The solution: a comprehensive IT security policy. It’s important that you find a compromise between the freedom of the employee to use the device as desired and your need to keep your IT system safe from viruses and other threats to your data’s security. Steps such as having employees run mobile device management (MDM) software on their devices is one of many actions you can take to lessen the risk of security breaches. You may also want to implement applications and software that check and screen for malware, both for laptops and mobile devices. And don’t forget that while Android seems to have a bigger problem with malicious software, Apple isn’t exactly virus-free, either.

Employees have a right to use their personal devices as they see fit, but not at the expense of important company information stored in your IT system. Running a tight ship in terms of security is an effective way to protect your business interests and your sensitive company data. If you are interested in knowing more about developing a concrete and effective IT security policy for personal device use as well as general system access, please don’t hesitate to give us a call so we can sit down with you and discuss a custom security blueprint that’s just right for you.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.