5 Ways to Prevent Malware From Sneaking Onto Your Business Network

Prevent Malware - computer security concept

Malware is ever changing and always finding new ways into your device

The single biggest challenge of business cybersecurity is the fact that malware is built to be sneaky. It would be one thing if a hacker attack always triggered alarms and your IT team could fight them off like a castle siege. Or if you could always know what kind of malware would attack and prepare to defend against it. But that’s not how hackers and their automated malicious software work.

Instead, it is their goal to find gaps in your security, slip onto the system, and lurk until there is a way to do damage or otherwise exploit your company. Whether it is spyware, spamware, or ransomware, these malicious programs find ways to sneak into your business network in a wide variety of underhanded and unseen ways. Many businesses today are currently infected and have no idea that their data is being gathered, their IP address is being used for spam, or there is a ransomware attack waiting to strike.

We’ve put together five simple ways that your company can use to prevent malware from sneaking onto your business network in the first place. While hackers are always looking for a new angle, a comprehensive defense can significantly reduce your chances of getting a dangerous malware infection.

1) Fine-Tune Your Firewall

The first step is to make sure that your existing cybersecurity measures are not only strong, but detailed. A firewall is only as effective as it’s settings, and most default firewall settings are not sufficient to block cleverly designed malware. Open ports and generalized policies leave security gaps that malware, disguised as normal business network activity, can slip through.

Masking malware invasions is the primary way that hackers sneak through a firewall. The programs look and act like something firewall default settings will allow and then download themselves right onto your network. Work with your IT team and managed service provider to fine-tune your firewall so that only very specific work activity with key identifiers can make it through.

2) Employee Cybersecurity Training

Human error is actually the leading cause of business malware infections because employees must interact with outside sources like websites, downloads, and client communications in order to do their jobs. This is why hackers have long-since targeted employees with tactics like infected websites and phishing emails.

Your team can be trained to recognize dangerous websites, suspicious “client” interactions, potentially infected downloads, and phishing email attempts so that these are no longer an avenue for business malware infection.

3) Regular Virus Detection Scanning

It’s also safe to assume that at some point, malware will find it’s way onto your network. In fact, there might be some lurking right now from a time before you increased your cybersecurity procedures. This is why virus scanning is so important for both individual workstations and the network as a whole.

There are a variety of virus scanning solutions. There are programs that scan email attachments, computer hard drives, database servers, and complex networks. Make sure to perform comprehensive scans regularly to ensure that particularly sneaky malware does not stay for long.

4) Audit Employee Mobile Devices

Another dangerous avenue for malware infection are employee phones, tablets, and laptops. The more personal a device, the more likely it is that an employee has used it without a business-level of cybersecurity caution while at home or on vacation. The problem is that when these devices come into the workplace and connect to your office wifi, they might be bringing malware riders along with them.

It’s best to make a company policy that requires monthly virus scans of employee mobile devices, particularly if these devices are provided by the company. If employees are uncomfortable with having their personal devices checked for malware, ask them to refrain from connecting to the central company network with unsecured devices.

5) Work-Only USB Drives

Finally, watch out for USB drives. These incredibly useful little devices are great for transferring data from one computer and location to the next, but they can also be carrying infectious malware programs without the knowledge of the user. Once again, this is an especially serious risk when employees are using USBs they have brought from home.

If your workplace uses or permits the use of USB drives for file storage and transfer, make sure the drives are scanned and fully wiped regularly and consider limiting employees to only using work-provided USBs (that you can regularly secure) for plugging into work computers.

Malware is designed to be slippery, to hide on infected devices and to spread to new devices and networks when possible. Protect your business network from sneaky malware infection by covering all your bases, scanning for viruses regularly, and limiting employee’s ability to accidentally bring viruses to work from less careful personal online activities.

For more expert cybersecurity advice, a consultation on the health of your network, or a new MSP partnership for your business, contact us today!

Tips for Speed Testing your VoIP Service

business man speed testing his VoIP service. Business man in office. Looking at camera

Items to check to improve the quality of your calls

One of the most important things to keep in mind in terms of a VoIP is that having good call quality requires you to have a decent internet connection. Lower speed networks will likely result in call degradation, dropped calls, breaks, delays and so on. The best way to avoid this is to do a simple quality test for your VoIP before starting to make regular use of it to make calls. This will ensure that you know if your network will suffer similar issues and if you need to make a network upgrade or otherwise alter your VoIP setup before you start trying to use your VoIP setup to make calls in order to avoid problems.

What is a VoIP Test

Just like all other types of information found on the internet, VoIP calls are passed from point to point as a form of data transfer through the use of various data packets. Calls are sent to and from callers by packets of data that travel across the web in order to transmit data from one specific point to another specific point. If packets are dropped, or lost, in transit from point to point then the loss of those data packets will affect the call quality due to the fact that not all of the call data was successfully transmitted from one endpoint to the other. The loss of these data packets may potentially result in missing audio, grainy audio quality and even dropped calls.

What a VoIP does is that it basically tests how well your Internet connection handles data packets. The majority of these tests work by measuring things like jitter, latency, and the bandwidth of your upload and download speeds. All of these components put together will determine how the data packets are handled and how those packets affect your call quality.

 

How to run a VoIP Test

The best way to run a VoIP test is to use one of the many free tests that run in a web browser. To obtain the optimal results, you should run the test at the busiest and most populated time of day. This will allow you to test what you’re going to get an idea of what you will see during busy times. Testing a VoIP will only take a bit of time and it will monitor what you find to send you appropriate speed measurements to give you an idea if your network is capable of handling VoIP calls at the moment.

 

Potential Problems

If the outcome of your network test tells you that you will not be able to handle VoIP calls without experiencing a significant amount of stutters, call drops or quality degradation then you should not attempt to use your internet for VoIP calls regardless.

If this is the outcome you get on your test and you still want to be able to make calls then your choices are to either upgrade your network so that it can make calls properly and then test again to make sure or alternatively, you can make your calls from a different location that already has better internet. For example, if the area you are attempting to connect in is somewhere with poor network service then you might be better served to either rent an office space or simply make your calls from a public location such as a coffee house in the future.

 

If you are looking for more information on VoIP testing or you need some tips or suggestions to help you choose a VoIP system for your use then contact us today to get whatever hints, tips and suggestions that you need.

9 Tips for Small Business Disaster Recovery

Disaster Recovery Plan written on a dart board

What is your Disaster Recovery Plan?

As a modern business, you need your network, internet access, and business software. You need the servers to host data, the coffee machines to flow, and you need the constant current of electricity to the entire infrastructure to keep the lights and computers on. When something goes wrong from ransomware to hurricanes, it’s important to have a plan that will get everyone back online and work resumed as quickly as possible. This process is known as disaster recovery and is something that every business has to contend with. Without a disaster recovery plan, you’re at risk of being completely technologically wiped out by malware or a local natural disaster. With one, you could potentially have your employees set back up after a complete system wipe in less than two hours.

1) Identify Your Most Likely Risks

Every time you start building a disaster recovery plan, whether it’s your first plan or an update to one that’s been in place for a decade, it’s important to re-assess the possible risks. These days, you’re more likely to get phished by a hacker than hit by a hurricane, but let’s face it, mother nature has also been doing some serious damage lately. You’ll want a disaster recovery plan that assumes several different possible disasters including malware that must be wiped with a factory reset and small corrections as might be necessary to fix a data entry mistake. Build a plan based on each of the most likely disasters that could take out your IT infrastructure or damage files.

2) Conduct Vulnerability Management

Vulnerability management refers to the process of seeking out possible security holes and weaknesses in your infrastructure and closing them. One of the best ways to prepare for a disaster is to do your best to prevent it. Vulnerability management not only ensures that you close a few security holes with updates and patches, it also lets you know which security holes can’t be completely closed and will need to be guarded and planned for instead.

3) Plan Disaster Recovery from End to Beginning

When you’re building a disaster recovery plan, start with the results you want to see at the end of recovery. What state should the computers be in? Consider the possibility of starting from scratch and establish how much restoration is needed to get to that point for each device and network assets. Department computers will need specific software and possibly data loaded into them and your central network infrastructure may need both software and configuration settings re-established before it is fully restored. Define how much you need to be included in the recovery and then build the steps need to recover.

4) Prioritize Levels of Disaster Recovery

Of course, if recovery is going to take a few hours,  the right prioritization can have strategic departments up and working faster than others. You can, for instance, prioritize to get the customer service team back online first and answering client questions about the service outage or prioritize getting your machinery back online if you handle manufacturing or run tests for clients. By prioritizing, you can get the most possible work out of a disaster recovery day and ensure that your return to functionality is as smooth as possible.

5) Keep the Recovery Plan Current

Disaster recovery plans are very specific to the software, data, and backup protocols that are in place when the plan is formed. If your infrastructure, configurations, or backup schedule are changed in any way, your disaster recovery plan is outdated which could leave the company vulnerable. It is vital that your backup recovery plans are kept completely current and updated every time a change is made to something that will need to be recovered into the new state.

6) Test Your Disaster Recovery Plan Regularly

When talking about the security of your company data and technical infrastructure, you can’t simply trust that a plan works simply because you put it together. Just as you would need to test a new product or appliance before relying on it, a disaster discovery plan also needs to be tested. Make sure that you can restore your computers to full or desired function before relaxing and continue to run regular tests to ensure that no small change has compromised your plan’s effectiveness.

7) Get Top Management Involved

All too often, a security or IT solution is implemented for everyone except top management who seem to float above the normal power responsibility hierarchy. However, if a company is going to be completely secure, everyone needs to get involved. Make sure that top management understands the disaster recovery plan and the right people are ready to lead implementation should they be the highest authority on site when a disaster strikes. This way, recovery plans will both be more thoroughly upheld and more effectively implemented when necessary.

8) Write a Disaster Recovery Guide

Once you have the entire disaster recovery plan plotted out from beginning to end, write a guide that uses the simplest possible terms to explain how to implement the plan. This ensures that no matter what bizarre circumstances a disaster might occur in, including the possibility of a skeleton holiday crew and a new-years malware attack, that backup recover can be put into action. The guide also serves as a fallback plan in case the disaster recovery plan designer is not available when a disaster occurs.

9) Run Regular Response and Recovery Drills

Finally, often the most effective disaster recovery involves the coordinated efforts of whole teams. When every employee knows how to reload their system from the cloud backup, you can even trust them to maintain local units because they can always restore to default. If you want to get your entire office back online in the shortest possible time, train your team thoroughly in how to respond to a disaster. This is a great way to run disaster recovery tests and train everyone in quick disaster response in one unifying company event.

Having a variety of disaster recovery plans with a strong basis in cloud backups and practiced recovery procedures is the key to getting your business back on its feet after any kind of disaster. Whether you’ve been targeted by a hacker or a natural disaster takes out your office, the right disaster recovery plan can have you up and running in a matter of hours. For more great tips and tricks on small business disaster recovery techniques, contact us today!

The Benefits an IT Managed Service Provider (MSP) Could Bring to Your Business

Woman with beautiful smile holding a tablet and managed services concept in transparent bubble

Is it time to make a change?

No matter what industry your company works in, having an experienced team of IT technicians at your disposal is crucial in helping to ensure your team’s efficiency as well as in ensuring your company’s digital security. However, if you still have not outsourced these service, then you may be discovering that it is becoming costly, time-consuming, and stressful to maintain an in-house IT department. Thusly, if you have not considered doing so already, you should take a moment to seriously consider turning over your business’s IT needs to a managed service provider.

What is a Managed Service Provider?

At this point, you may be asking yourself what a managed service provider is, and how they could benefit your company. A managed service provider (or MSP) is a third party company that provides all or part of a company’s IT needs either on or off-site. An MSP is essentially a company that specializes in providing businesses with IT services, allowing them to free up resources within their company by outsourcing their IT department. Outsourcing IT to a managed service provider is growing increasingly popular amongst businesses due to the benefits they can provide. Here are just a few of the reasons you should consider transferring your company’s IT needs to an MSP.

Cut and Control IT Costs

As you have likely begun to discover for yourself, maintaining an in-house IT department can be extremely expensive. In fact, ballooning costs and costs that can fluctuate greatly from one month to the next are amongst the most common reasons why companies choose to outsource IT. By outsourcing your IT needs to an MSP you can control costs and help to make your monthly IT costs more predictable, as MSPs often charge a flat rate fee for their services. Additionally, outsourcing IT can save you money as you will not have to invest in hardware, software, or on hiring and training IT personnel. These costs will be spread out amongst the MSP’s clients helping to make IT costs more affordable for all parties involved.

Access to Highly Skilled Technicians

In order to ensure your company’s efficiency and security, it is critical that you have access to skilled IT technicians who are experienced in their field. However, many small to medium-sized businesses find it difficult and time-consuming to hire IT professionals. Alternatively, by partnering with a reputable MSP you will have access to a team of highly qualified and experienced personnel without having to do any of the headhunting yourself. MSP’s have the resources and experience to find the best people in the IT field who will be able to provide you with the highest quality of services.

Gain Access to the Latest Technology

For many smaller organizations, it is difficult to maintain their current IT department, meaning that they often are unable to keep up with the latest innovations in IT. However, as IT is their sole focus, MSPs work diligently to research and implement the latest IT technology, and they have the time and resources to train their staff on the latest techniques. By partnering with an MSP you stand to benefit from the latest technology without any of the risks and costs that can come from implementing this technology yourself.

Flexible and Scalable Services

When working with an MSP it is much easier to scale your services based on your current needs. This can be particularly beneficial for growing businesses, as you will not have to constantly work to expand your IT department to meet your growing needs. As the needs of your company evolve, your MSP will provide you with the flexibility to scale your services as needed without any headaches or hassle.

Outsourcing your IT needs to a managed service provider can provide your company with a variety of benefits. Contact us to learn more about these benefits as well as to learn about the services that we provide.