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BACS IT Remote Workforce Safety Hero

Creating a Secure Remote Workforce

By | Business Continuity, Data Protection, managed It services, Productivity, Security, Technology, Work Remotely

In a few brief years, organizations of all sizes have been driven to redeploy their workforce from office to home or some hybrid solution. To suggest this was a deliberate move from corporate leaders would be false. Instead, the harried move has been in response to an unexpected world pandemic.

No one is sure if the remote workforce may grow into a stable fixture, a shift back to the office, or a home/office combination. No matter the case, a solid security solution must invariably be maintained as a central priority. 

BACS IT Secure Remote Workforce

Technologies Protecting the Home Worker

Even though the pandemic rages on, some corporations have signaled they may never go back to an in-office work atmosphere. A few companies are considering a hybrid solution, while others have called their employees back to the office permanently.

Current Technologies in Place, Protecting the Home Workforce:

  • Zero Trust has been a part of the networked system for some time. However, with recent developments, the zero-trust policy is being forced to take on a more substantial role. The Zero Trust model is a secure remote application based on a defined set of login rules for employees and devices to the network. Non-compliant devices are either quarantined or rejected out-right.
  • SASE (Secure Access Service Edge) is a method for wide-area networking and security. SASE is Cloud Service which bundles security, network, and policy functions, sending the information back to the source as a separate cloud service.
  • Identity Access Management is a broad framework of technologies and practices that ensures the right users access the appropriate resources.

Enterprise security foundations are being built on the three legacy technologies. However, more cyber-attacks are coming. Keeping home workers safe and company data secure means businesses must look at cyber-security issues from start to finish. One of the initial elements of a healthy plan is a Policy Statement.

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Policy

Taking employees out of their work situation and moving to an unstructured home/office environment is imposing for anyone. The first component a company must provide is a Cyber Work from Home Policy. The key to this document is setting the right expectations.

A work from home policy document must create an infrastructure to protect the worker from every intrusion.  The policy must seek to mitigate the dangers of such a radical move.  With the proper preparation, a policy can keep your team connected, safe, and rewarded.

A sound Policy Statement should empower your employees. Consider the following:

  • Trust: A Work from home worker must be fully invested in the company’s success. With the correct type of trust, an employee will go above and beyond what they are called on to accomplish. A company must establish a higher level of trust to cement the engagement bond.
  • More Time: The average American commute is 52 minutes a day. Policy statements need to point to this extra time and direct the employee to their families or themselves, rather than more work.
  • Focused Work: Office distractions are eliminated when working from home. Your team should be encouraged to schedule tasks that require an intense focus on certain days of the week.
  • Absenteeism and Lateness: Office norms are no longer an issue with a home/work environment. However, time is a premium, and home employees must be instructed to use that time productively.
  • WellRounded: Work from home employees must be encouraged to cultivate a complete family and life environment. Take time for passion projects and family hobbies. Well-rounded employees perform better at work.

It is essential to define the scope and purpose of the policy. Too short on procedure and employees may get stuck with making up their own rules. Too long, and no one will read or pay attention to the document.

Expectation is a vital part of a remote workforce. Employees must understand what is expected of them without being overly demanding. Responsibility plays a vital role.  Each person in the organization needs to understand security is a priority for everyone. If there is a problem, there should be procedures in place to fix the issues.  

 

BACS IT Keeping Your Remote Workforce Secure

 

Authentication

Multi-factor authentication is must-have security feature for any business and specifically those with a burgeoning remote workforce.  Vulnerabilities are everywhere. Recently it was discovered hackers were rerouting  SMS messages from 2FA apps and diverting money directly from bank records.

The following five authenticator applications are for the distributed enterprise:

  • Duo Mobile is used for corporate networks and is a part of Cisco. Enterprise features such as multi-user deployment, provisioning, and one-tap authentication. Back-up is to Google Drive and iCloud.
  • Google Authenticator is a no-frills basic authenticator app. Google seems content for Users to employ Android as its two Factor Authentication. Potential users may wish to have additional apps to fall back on.  However, this is a great authenticator.
  •  Last Pass is a comprehensive authenticator with full integration with its password manager.  Installation is a breeze, and users can quickly authorize the app with the push of a button. The Last Pass Vault is extremely helpful when moving the account to a new phone. Seamless operation between mobile and the desktop.
  •  Microsoft Authenticator works with the entire Microsoft ecosystem. A complete set of authentication tools are available for desktop and mobile. Pin or biometric logins are available. Sync the system with your primary Microsoft account to use the full capabilities.
  • Twilio Authy offers several advanced two-factor authentication features. First and foremost, it is their encrypted backup to Google drive that makes the app unique. The app makes abundant use of encryption across its platform, with encrypted logins.

Advanced authenticator apps generate time-based codes that refresh every 30 seconds. Hackers may gain access but will not work after the time code expires. Each of the apps above is exceptional for a distributed enterprise.

Do you want cloud solutions, but you are not sure which ones will help your remote workforce best? Then download our guide that covers the questions you need to know before migrating to a cloud. If you have more questions after you read our download, then contact us!

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Remote Access Software

Remote Access Software is ideal for specialized functions within the remote workforce. Remote Access apps and Desktop software allow users to access a computer in a remote location anywhere in the world as if they were sitting at the screen.

Some Remote Access software is designed for personal use, while alternatives are strictly for the enterprise.  Smartphone apps can be designed to access desktop systems.

Software and Apps for the Remote Workforce

Nothing is as fundamental to the security of a remote workforce as the software and apps used for an efficient worker. Proper design and the unique demands of the remote worker are paramount in shaping the applications needed for the enterprise.

Password Managers

In a world of multiple access to various business and personal accounts, password managers rise to the top of a critical needs list. It is crucial to have an authority system everyone is comfortable handling. Do not force an operation on employees!

Here are five good managers:

  • Nord-Pass is an attractive application with outstanding encryption features. Support for seven browsers, chat, and a data breach scanner makes the Nord-Pass an interesting choice.
  • Enpass combines a minimalist look and maximum security. Cloud host and SQL cipher for added security.
  • ZOHO Vault is a well-known application with valuable elements for a distributed network. A built-in VPN and a deep web scanner are useful quality-added factors.
  • Passbolt is an open-source application developed for the enterprise. Plenty of transparency and customization options are available.
  • Keeper supports various devices and browsers and comes with 5G of storage—a feature-rich app with instant messaging.

Advanced Password Technologies

Automated password management is coming into its own. The widespread endorsement of artificial intelligence and, specifically, machine learning have fostered many unique facets of password technologies.

Automated password reset tools are enterprise applications needed to automatically reset a host of new account passwords without human intervention. Many small businesses are implementing these tools for security and convenience.

Password Vault Technology is an earlier approach that is experiencing new technologies. A password vault keeps an infinite number of passwords and account data in a secure digital location. A single master password is required to access the vault.  

Management tools for the enterprise use several security layers to ward off internal and external threats from stealing login credentials. Many of these centralized management strategies are now cloud-based and heavily encrypted for the ultimate remote security.

Password Vaulting is a coined phrase that takes highly sensitive executive accounts and passwords out of the control of company IT personnel. The vault is digitally secured in locations known exclusively to a few in the enterprise.

Risk, Threats, and Solutions for the Enterprise

Statistics that illustrate the breadth of cyber-attacks are overwhelming. In the first quarter of 2021, strikes against Fortinet’s SSL-VPN were up an astonishing 1.916%. Another popular VPN service, Pulse Connect Secure VPN, encountered a 1,527% hike in assaults.

VPNs are separate networks within a public network where users send and receive data as if their machines were directly connected. VPNs are now encrypting data as it leaves the device, and any IP address is suppressed. Remote servers secure network activity by storing data remotely.

Companies are using all the communication tools at their disposal to secure connections for their hybrid workers. The Remote Desktop Protocol is another mechanism that is experiencing rising attacks.  Developed by Microsoft,  the RDP establishes a graphical link to another computer. Attacks on RDPs are seeing the same proportion increase of intrusions.

Modern Solutions

Companies are progressing beyond the traditional VPN services to a more protected environment. A recent survey of global leaders found that 40% of all respondents are planning a move to the ZTNA/SDP protocol. In comparison, 38% expressed the need for a more robust multi-factor authentication model.

The ZTNA/SDP is a zero-trust architecture based on a defined credential networking framework. SDP adds a need-to-know design, and the default is, “deny services to all.”

Enterprise VPN Service

Cisco AnyConnect: Cisco is a world leader in device security. The largest companies on the planet rely on Cisco networking machines. AnyConnect offers a lower overall cost of ownership, continuous automation from endpoint to endpoint encrypted security.

AnyConnect works on hybrid, full remote, or any combination in between. Robust MFA protocols are employed, threats are eliminated at the access point, and world-class analytics. There is no better VPN service for the enterprise than Cisco’s AnyConnect.

Cisco offers several cutting-edge technologies no other company comes close to providing. Umbrella Roaming is a cloud-based security service that supports users even when they are away from the VPN.

Under Attack

The enterprise is undergoing unprecedented attacks from criminals thousands of miles away. High-profile attacks are making headlines every day.

What are the primary attack vectors?

  • Supply Chains are under siege. Weak third-party vendors are causing havoc for large corporate businesses. Cyber attackers look for the weakest link in the chain and attack. Two of the most significant breaches, LabCorp and Quest, the attack originated from their online payment system.
  • Unpatched and Obsolete systems. No other area of the network is as preventable as keeping systems updated with available patching. An Apache Struts Web Framework was unpatched and contributed to 145 million social security numbers being exposed.
  • Compromised credentials are an enormous headache for the enterprise. Billions of stolen credentials are accessible for the taking on the dark web. Cyber-criminals use this vector as an entrance point because of its simplicity of stealing login information.

What is the Best IT Security Solution?

Will the relentless tide of cyber-attacks ever end? In a word, No! As long as the rewards are substantial, cyber-criminals find no need to slow down their aggressions. The “it can never happen to me, syndrome” is prevalent in every industry. There will always be that one staff member that will click on the apparent malware or ransomware email.

The sharpest minds in corporate security have provided a number of great tools for the enterprise. Each new cyber-attack creates a flood of new attacks and modifications.  Cyber-attacks have risen to one of the top ten corporate concerns for the next decade.

The World Economic Forum has determined that the money to keep pace with cyber threats worldwide will cost the enterprise nearly $90 trillion. Those dollars are merely keeping pace, not beating the attacker.

In the digital age, cyber resilience will happen with effective leadership and the secure design of infrastructures. First and foremost, corporate leaders must understand the foundations of cyber-security, and position their teams as enablers rather than casualties.

We wrote a guide on safety when it comes to working from home. Take a moment and read some of the safety and security tips we put in this guide.

Download the Guide

BACS IT is Here to Help Keep Your Remote Workforce Secure

When you want to protect your remote workforce, turn to the experienced Bay Area IT Consultants here at BACS IT. We will discuss your specific needs and create a security plan that fits your business. We can even help with unique security needs, so contact us. 

 

Contact Us for a FREE IT Assessment

BACS IT Email Threats and Solutions

Advanced Email Threats and Solutions

By | Business Continuity, Data Protection, managed It services, Productivity, Security, Technology

Email is the most incredible communication medium ever created for personal and professional use. From the application’s humble beginnings in 1965, 270 billion emails are now delivered every day.

No other form of communication is as powerful and efficient as email.

It is challenging to nail down when the first email hack occurred. However, it is safe to say; attacks have been going on for much longer than documented.  The first email account hacked may have occurred back in 1965 at MIT, when email was created.

Rise in Email Threats

Each year, email attacks continue to rise. Business and personal accounts are doorways to a much bigger payoff for the attacker. Statistics bear out the frightening surge in email threats.

  • 96% of all cyber-attacks to your framework is by email
  • According to the 2019 Verizon Data Breach report, 74% of all phishing scams come through email.
  • 22% of all breaches involved phishing.
  • Only 3% of users reported suspicious emails to authorities.

In the last few years, extraordinary times have changed the email threat landscape from passive attacks to highly aggressive intrusion teams. The bulk of infrastructure raids and widespread malware assaults come through unsuspecting email users.

Security gateways and software management designed for the Cloud has begun to stem the tide of low-level spam and bad link intrusions to email. 

BACS IT Ohishing and Email Threats

Phishing scams and malware attacks have shared characteristics:

  • Unfamiliar Greeting
  • Blatant spelling errors
  • Threats to a “Sense of Urgency”
  • Attachments
  • Email addresses are inconsistent

Security agencies worldwide are bracing for more destructive Ransomware and DDoS attacks. Saudi Aramco suffered the most significant and destructive cyber-attack ever recorded. In a few short hours, over 35,000 computers were wiped out. The resulting cost to the company was well over $50 million.

User Apathy

Employees from some of the largest companies worldwide were surveyed on phishing and malware attacks, a staggering 48% of respondents  saying, “it cannot happen to me.”  User apathy has developed into a leading concern for every business.

The weakest link behind every keyboard is the end-user. Companies must start extensive user education.  IT departments must provide the employee a stronger sense of involvement.

However, there will invariably be that one person who will click on anything.

It is imperative to identify the weakest link in a network before cyber-criminals find their entrance point. Once the attacker has infiltrated your company, they are now a user operating from within the network. Once inside, detection is virtually impossible.

BACS IT Security Breach and Email Threats

Ransomware, Malicious Intent, DDos, and Email Threats

Ransomware and other malicious attacks have exploded since the beginning of the global pandemic. Years before, cyber-criminals were invading infrastructure targets with little to no fanfare. Now, the world is aware and playing catch-up.

Cyber-criminals only require one user’s email account for access to thousands of computer systems. Every industry is a target; pipeline infrastructure, healthcare, and the public sector are especially vulnerable.

New markets for cyber-criminals are opening up, such as the Cloud and, sadly, K-12 schools.

94% of all cyber-attacks originate from email!

How do Ransomware and malicious code happen? Any digital means can be used as an access point. USB drivers, social media, business attachments are all delivery vectors. Email remains the number one entry point for cyber-attack.  Criminals prefer attachments first and links second.

Phishing attacks are addressed as fake delivery notifications or requests for software updates. The unsuspecting user clicks a link or attachment: a transparent download starts, and the attack begins.

Cyber-criminals have ungraded their encryption capabilities, using RSA 2048-bit private key encryption. This coding is impossible to break.

Do you know how to spot email threats? Check out our Signs of Email Threats You Need to Know!

Signs of Email Threats You Need to Know BACS IT

Trends in Email Threats

Email remains the most effective means of communication for personal and work accounts. As long as electronic messaging remains popular, criminals will keep attacking. 

Below are some of the developing trends for cyber-attack and their solutions:

    • Google has taken a front seat in the security of business accounts and infectious phishing scams. Every day GMAIL is blocking over 100 million phishing emails; this is in addition to the 240 million COVID-related phishing scams. Google is taking a proactive approach to protecting its G-Suite business email accounts by continually updating code.
    • Artificial Intelligence content interpretation is being applied to protect business and government interests. BEC Attacks (Business Email Compromise) tricks the user into paying for fraudulent invoices or subscriptions. At present, the technology is only applicable to English and German languages.
    • New threats are coming down the line every day. Threadjacking is a unique approach that transforms an email thread mid-sentence and inserts the attacker’s comments.  Attackers are scouring Outlook, Yahoo, and GMAIL for suitable threads for insertion. Since the email comes from a trusted party, attackers can deceive users into downloading the malicious code. Threadjacking has been applied extensively in ATT and Verizon mobile systems. The code is layered and hard to defend.
    • Excel has been used for years as a means to embed malicious code into attachments.  The attachment downloads a legitimate tool such as NetSupport Manager, which cyber-attackers use to manipulate a machine.
  • Keyloggers are attached to an Excel file, helping attackers to log in to bank accounts. 

BACS IT Dangers from Email Threats

Top 5: Dangerous Ransomware and Malware Code

Each of the following malware or ransomware programs has endless varieties. Cyber-criminals use malicious software to compromise email accounts. If a portion of code is not working on the target, the prepared cyber-attacker builds on that knowledge. Their team re-codes the application, making it more destructive and intrusive, then waits for the right opportunity.  

  • Social Engineering is one of the more recent additions to a well-rounded cyber-attack. This code is described as research and persuasion for the basis of spam and phishing scams spread by email. Attackers rely on the victim’s trust to steal data. Verizon’s Data Breach report says about 22% of intrusions involve social engineering and spoofing.

Most of the Fraud comes from attackers impersonating companies such as Microsoft, Apple, and Netflix. The FBI recorded over 25,00 incidents costing companies approximately $300 million.

  • Spam has been linked with email since the beginning. Spam is usually email advertising the next best thing in unwanted products or services. Statista reports that 60% of the world’s internet traffic is made up of spam. The most annoying and costly spam effect is the messages that choke email inboxes, culminating in lost time and productivity.

Another costly complication of spam, messages often carry malware code.

  • Ransomware and Trojans are the most recognizable malicious code of this group. Ransomware and trojans are examples of malicious malware code buried in emails. Verizon’s report again says of all the data breaches, 17% are the malware type, and of this group, 27% are vicious ransomware.  Ransomware uses advanced encryption to block files and then demand payment. Attackers usually want payment in the form of cryptocurrency.

Trojans are another dangerous malware code that gets into a system by hacking logins. Nomoreransom.org  is an organization that is fighting aggressive ransomware code.

  • DDoS and Botnets are alternative forms of malicious code. Botnets are a group of systems linked to the internet and controlled by a hacker. DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) is code that enters a machine by email and inundates the system with spam or phishing code.  These types of codes will send thousands of emails in a brief period. The objective is to overwhelm the system so hackers can penetrate a network unnoticed.
  • Spear Phishing and Phishing use fraudulent emails to steal money from a company and personal bank accounts.  In 2019 the FBI reported losses tolling $57 million from 119000 vicious attacks. Attackers will conduct a comprehensive analysis of their targets to make the scams more efficient.

An extensive report from Europol provides more frightening statistics on the widespread use of phishing. 65% of all the hacker groups worldwide use some form of phishing. In the shadowy world of espionage, 78% of these incidents have email phishing techniques.

Today’s cyber-criminals have access to a vast spectrum of malicious code, causing billions in lost money and productivity. New tendencies of these criminals are using social engineering on millions of unsuspecting users.  

Industry experts have agreed one of the fastest ways to combat the rising threats is by employee education.

Solutions Stem from an Increase in Email Threat Intelligence

What is the answer to email security?  For years, the same question has been given to so-called experts, and their same answer repeatedly is to educate the user. In our post, this statistic from above says it all: a staggering 48% of respondents  saying, “it cannot happen to me.”

The brightest minds in the world have been working on different solutions. Protection must start before malware hits the email inbox and eliminate the user altogether

Two Technologies that may provide answers:

  1.       Email Gateways
  2.       Endpoint Security

Email Gateways Powered By Artificial Intelligence

Email gateways can be deployed as a Cloud or on-premise solution.  Each email that comes through a business system is classified and will catch both known and unknown threats.  Advanced machine learning and AI are used to classify emails and block malicious messages with ransomware payloads.

The email gateway is a type of server where every email passes through and is analyzed for malicious code. Secure gateways allow businesses to control email before it hits the inbox. AI-powered gateways scan the email URL for suspicious delivery sites. Content is scanned, and any email deemed suspicious is taken out of the system and placed in a sandbox.

Various protective systems around the internet are getting involved. Granular email filtering is used to tag suspicious emails for later examination. The systems are designed to block various emails, including payment redirects and fraudulent vendor invoicing.

One of the strongest companies in the field of Email Gateways is Proofpoint.

Proofpoint

Proofpoint offers a complete lineup of products for email protection,  Advanced email threat protection, to Cloud Security.  Compliance is another string point for the company. They offer solutions to meet regulatory and corporate requirements while managing cost and complexity.

Endpoint Security

Managing Endpoints on the network has been in the crosshairs of developers for years. Threats come from every angle, which includes smartphones, tablets, watches, or any digital device. The approach is to protect every device by having a level of security.

Over several years, Endpoint security has evolved from the antivirus space to now include malware detection. Network administrators have complete control of what goes out and what comes into the network. Each connected device is controlled. If the device does not meet the requirements, it is not allowed access. Some administrators will only allow cursory access.

No other company has the resources to control endpoints more than Cisco.

Cisco

Cisco, the worldwide expert on connected devices, is reinventing what can be connected to global networks. The company is directing its efforts to Endpoint and Detection systems. Cisco has become heavily involved with Behavior-based detection and advanced machine learning models.

Cisco has been working steadily in the area of work-from-home safety solutions. The aim is to protect home users and their networks.

Cisco Solutions:

  • Hybrid Workforce to manage distributed devices from a central location.
  • Multi-Cloud solutions are designed for simpler access anywhere in the world.
  • Hybrid Workspaces are designed for automated connectivity and intelligent infrastructure.

Cutting Edge

The cutting edge of cyber-security and email changes daily. Tactics used by attackers shift from one attack point to the next instantaneously. Networks are under constant siege. Fresh approaches to cyber security are needed to transform the landscape.

Cutting-edge technologies are making cyber defenses stronger than ever before. Industry leaders have developed three cyber-security directives any company or governmental agency can follow.

Policy First

Companies must establish a sound policy or best practice, employees must follow. Without this direction, a worker can end up in treacherous waters.  Leaders must put down clear directions on employee cyber hygiene.

Policies must include how to handle incoming emails and what type of email is acceptable to send. Leaders must understand “Network Users are Securities Weakest Link.”

Behavior Analysis

With proper endpoint security, administrators can measure a companies’ network. The benefits tell how the network operates on a normal basis and detects any abnormal behaviors.  The approach goes beyond traditional procedures and can detect ransomware and malicious code with no prior digital signature.

With the proper monitoring, anomalous activities can be stopped, and infected devices can be removed.

Embrace Technology

Transformative technologies are continually coming online. Less human intervention is needed by machine learning systems that automatically learn from past experiences. Dramatic results in cost savings and improved productivity are seen.

Game-changing technologies such as EDR (endpoint detection and response) can monitor servers, mobile devices, and home computers in real-time. Any suspicious behavior is detected instantaneously, and actions against the threats are immediate.

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BACS IT Can Help with Email Threats, IT Threats, and IT Solutions

Companies, government agencies, and individuals must learn to embrace the new technologies that will inevitably be coming into focus. The brightest minds in the world have spent careers devoted to defeating the massive flood of cyber-attacks.  

To find out how to ensure the safety of your emails, contact us here at BACS IT. We are IT consultants in the Bay Area ready to help keep your business, your employees, and your data safe from email threats and more. When it comes to advanced threat protection for email accounts, BACS IT has you covered.

 

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Avoid a Security Lapse During an Infrastructure Improvement BACS IT

Avoiding a Security Lapse During Infrastructure Improvements

By | Business Continuity, Data Protection, managed It services, Productivity, Security, Technology

The pace of technology innovation continues to accelerate. New versions of software are launched every day to keep businesses on the cutting edge of digital transformation and customer service. Frequent technology upgrades and modernization of enterprise systems is no longer an option―it’s a requirement in today’s highly-competitive business environment. 

While ongoing infrastructure improvements are essential for sustained business growth, these projects can also create unintended (and sometimes dangerous) gaps in your security framework. Without proper planning and a clear blueprint, what may seem like run-of-the-mill system upgrade can instead create the perfect opportunity for a cybercriminal to attack hidden weaknesses and breach your defenses.

Keeping systems and data safe and secure in an era of escalating threats requires a well-planned, proactive approach―built around best practice measures, smart policies, and a defined security framework that aligns with your business goals.  Following are some of the common challenges that can elevate your security risk when implementing new technology or modernizing existing infrastructure

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Lack of Visibility

Maintaining a clear view of all devices and network assets across physical, virtual and cloud infrastructure is critical to ensure optimum protection. The challenge for many organizations lies in the reliance on disparate, outdated systems to track and monitor network activity. Optimum protection can be best achieved by relying on more centralized security platforms that allow you to automate network discovery, improve visibility and quickly identify attack points, irregularities, patterns and other suspicious activity. Compared with point tools, these integrated systems require fewer IT resources to maintain effective threat protection. Every upgrade project has its own set of risks and benefits. While implementation speed is important, it should never supersede the need to keep systems and data safe and secure.   

 

Strategic Network Management

Poor Integration

The best approach to minimizing risk in technology deployments is finding an optimum balance between speed, flexibility, and security.  A common challenge in many IT environments is the diverse range of disparate security platforms from a variety of vendors. Meanwhile, legacy technology requires increased IT resources and support as they age. Eventually, these growing inadequacies and service demands can create dangerous security gaps, integration barriers, and scalability challenges. Disconnected systems and components make information sharing difficult, creating a recurring challenge for IT teams responsible for monitoring potential threats across the enterprise. Disjointed communication leads to unreliable processes and protocols. Left unaddressed, these concerns create uncertainty about what to do in the event of a threat and who’s responsible.  

Inadequate Planning

Today’s top-performing companies operate with some of the best digital technology available, yet many are still unable to prevent a near catastrophic security breach. Poor risk assessment and a lack of planning are among the top reasons. Infrastructure planning must take into account the present, along with the future, so it’s important to integrate security into your operational and infrastructure foundation from the beginning.  In planning a technology upgrade, it’s important to look beyond the potential cost savings and make decisions in the context of sustainability and long-term goals. That means carefully considering your security requirements, computing needs, resources, and many other factors. It’s complicated, and often involves trade-offs with significant strategic impact.  

 

IT-security-services

Substandard Monitoring

As your infrastructure expands and evolves, problems can emerge, including redundancies, inefficiencies, and performance gaps. The problem is only compounded in the midst of a technology upgrade. The temporary disruption of systems and applications can make it difficult to determine what components are secure and which ones are not. This is where network monitoring can provide substantial value, conveying critical insights that can help identify gaps in application and perimeter defenses by notifying you of potential problems before any damage actually occurs. Rather than waiting for problems to materialize, you can proactively identify areas that are vulnerable and take action before they impact your business. Regular infrastructure monitoring can also provide an accurate audit trail when investigating an incident.

Disorganized Response Handling

To effectively safeguard business data and assets, it’s important to close the gaps and address the vulnerabilities that other improvement projects might create. That includes setting up a defined plan for how security incidents should be reported and resolved. In the event of a problem, clear communication is as important as solving the underlying technical issue.  It’s essential that everyone impacted by an event clearly understands their responsibilities and the role they play in the recovery effort. This is particularly important when working with third-party providers. Should an outage occur, you need to have confidence in your recovery plan to know exactly how long it will take for the business to be back online―with systems restored and critical data intact.    

Contact Us for a Business Continuity IT Assessment

Make Security a Business Priority with Help from BACS IT

Preventing a security lapse during an infrastructure upgrade requires careful planning and an operating culture firmly focused on safeguarding data and mitigating risk. Although there is no way to defend against all types of attacks, new tools and techniques for detecting and identifying threats can help protect data without hindering  mobility or productivity. 

While staying on the cutting edge of hardware and software advancements is critical to business growth, maintaining world-class security and business continuity is a vital component to ongoing sustainability and success. 

Cyber Threats to Construction Companies BACS IT

Why Cyberthreats to Construction Companies Are On the Rise

By | Business Continuity, Data Protection, managed It services, Productivity, Security, Technology

Cyber-attacks have threatened every industry vertical worldwide, with infrastructure and development companies hit more than most. Construction firms are vulnerable to attack because of the various legacy systems along their supply chains. Older hardware and software exist everywhere in the industry.

Construction may not suggest a likely target with thousands of asset-filled healthcare and financial service businesses available. Construction is hit hard because of its limited employee awareness across various antiquated supply chains.

Ransomware has become highly effective in the industry, with attacks rising considerably in recent years. Assaults are more sophisticated and targeted to every market niche in the sector.

Cyber attackers have focused their attention on construction due to lax security from virtually every firm in the industry. Most firms ask, Why Us? We have limited to nothing worth plundering. As it turns out, the industry has plenty to offer attackers. Statistics associated with the attacks are bearing this out.   

  • 1 in 6 construction companies reported a ransomware attack at some time in the last year
  • Cyber-attacks have a success rate of 74% as compared to 42.5% for all other industries
  • Ransomware payments made by individual companies averaged $220,300 per incident
  • In a typical data breach, construction firms lost 15 operational days per employee

Construction as a Target

Every vertical is under assault by sophisticated hackers.  Why is construction singled out?  Companies throughout the supply chain are cash-rich and regularly under the gun to meet building deadlines.

Building and design firms are vulnerable due to their predictable schedules. Ransomware, phishing, and service denials have an easy time calculating when to attack mobile devices and data systems.

  • Lots of employee information, bank accounts, and SS numbers are available on old computer networks
  • Proprietary and expensive home and commercial construction designs
  • Bid data on all types of projects
  • Profit/loss information on each hacked company plus the supply chain is openly available
  • Banking records of each company, employee, and vendor are readily available

Rapid growth in the overall economy has made cyber attackers look hard at the building industry. Another point made earlier; attacks into one system have a path to countless other networks.

Fast-growing companies have the most to offer or surrender. With growing organizations, cyber security is frequently left in the dust, and firms end up paying for their oversight.

The construction industry as a whole has regularly played catch-up on cyber security. The disparate structure of the industry, with only a few firms having the skill sets or funds to invest in security against cyber attackers.

The largest construction companies should show the same intensity of safeguarding against ransomware attacks as they do minimal employee safety measures. Lax attention to either one is a recipe for disaster.

Some of the best news coming out of the industry;  company leaders from the most prominent building firms are leading cybersecurity discussions. Industry associations are taking point and facilitating the conversation for better defense.

Construction firms must start from the ground up with a cyber security plan of action. These elements should develop into a solid infrastructure for the entire industry.  As more and more companies recognize the importance of cyber issues, the finest third-party vendors will concentrate their resources on the defense of malware, ransomware, and phishing code.

Easy Deception

Scams start as compromise frauds, with a legitimate email addressed to any number of unsuspecting employees.  Or an email blast is disguised as an invoice or some other everyday money transfer communication. Without suspecting deceit, employees deliver the cash into a cyber attacker’s account.  

2019, roughly $1.8 billion was blindly given to cyber attackers’, according to the FBI’s internet crime report.

How Does Ransomware Work on a Construction Firms’ System?

Ransomware gains entry through unsuspecting emails, and code spreads throughout the network, encrypting files as the code spreads through the network and then demanding a ransom to free up the information.

  • Malicious emails containing links to a website or a download link addressed to several employees. If the employee falls for the scam and opens the email, the ransomware is downloaded and executed on the user’s computer system.
  • Another means for ransomware to get into a computer system is by Remote Desktop Protocol or RDP. The attacker has employee credentials by stealing or guessing at the login. Once the system has been breached, the attacker downloads the malware and executes the code.
  • After the malware has gained access, the code starts to encrypt files. Most systems have built-in encryption, so any company files are encrypted with the attacker’s control key. The ransomware picks and singles out the most profitable or sensitive files to encrypt while ensuring the system remains stable.
  • Once the encryption process is finished, the ransomware is prepared to make demands. Different variants have dissimilar methods for ransom demands.  Typically, attackers demand cryptocurrency deposited in offshore accounts in a specific time frame.  If paid, the attackers release the system. If the ransom is not paid, attackers destroy the files or bring down the entire system.

 

Stolen Credentials

Contractors generally have lax standards when dealing with their clients or other contractors. Many times they hold open communication portals for bill pay or construction management projects. These lackadaisical standards constitute a clear channel for aggressive attackers. Easy access to a contractor’s system allows attackers to ransack any sensitive document they choose.

Small to mid-size contractors are frequently oblivious to the hazards they face or how to stop the invasions. Phishing scams, distributed denial of service, and ransomware are experiencing a meteoric rise in every industry operation.

Easy Targets?

In the initial days of the pandemic, development firms migrated their employees to remote protocols almost at once.  These distributed operations left many company’s IT professionals unaware of the cyber gaps they left behind.

The proliferation of mobility within every industry niche contributed to massive oversights. In the turmoil of shifting their employees, IT departments struggled to secure servers and data centers. Unfortunately, there was not adequate security.

In its many designs, building and planning development is unique in that it utilizes various suppliers, sub-contractors, and dealers, with money pouring in from all directions. Construction is also part of government budgets and conglomerate bidding processes involving smaller unknown companies.

The details of a bidding contract are generally kept secret until the winner is announced. Significant and extensive bids include winners, losers, contractors, and specific cash amounts. This entire decades-old framework makes any construction project a profitable target.

Like other industries, construction firms and their supply chains will never completely ward off a cyber-attack: more investment and a substantial awareness of the obstacles the industry faces are needed.  

Implementation

  • Construction firms, no matter their size, must have a Prevention-First mindset.  By the time a piece of malware is discovered on your computer or network,  It’s Too Late! Firms must have robust mechanisms in place to “Protect the Castle” from the interior.  Instead of moats and towers, an organization must use VPNs, anti-virus, and physical disciplines.
  • Most construction companies should start from the ground up to create a stable framework. A Network Security Audit should be one of the initial steps any firm must select. Knowing where the weak link is in the process is vital. An audit can forewarn you of updates that need to be carried out and warn you of possible security issues.
  • Contractor communications are usually unstable and famously unsecure. Building firms rely heavily on sub-contractors for bill payment and sourcing; this component usually opens the gate to attack. Ransomware, phishing, and service denial attacks launched through one system are quickly passed on to numerous other organizations on the network.  To secure a money moving process, the company’s team must establish stable and secure communications with other firms to have the same protection protocols.
  • Development firms and their working systems are generally unreliable and noted for having no cyber security plan.  If you discover your business is in this position, the first action should be to bring everything on the network up to date. Regular patching and updates require adherence to security. Failing to do so can again lead to disaster.

Patching computer systems and networks is crucial. Cyber attackers often seek out the most accessible uncovered sections for assault. Building companies and supply chains must stay updated with the latest and greatest hardware and software components. Potential vulnerabilities will be diminished.

  • Employee education is invariably a part of every cyber security must-do list.  Accidentally clicking a phishing email or ransomware attack is made a lot simpler by the uninformed employee. To combat the growing threats, every firm needs to train its employees in the correct way to manage its system.

Cyber education is explicitly needed for ransomware and malicious code circumstances. Educating employees is always a great idea. However, ensuring they are trained in how attackers get into a company’s computer is critical to success.

  • By now, every business should have a data backup plan. Unfortunately, that is generally not the case. In an assault, backups serve as the sole means of bringing back a system to its original working condition. Make certain you use multiple software approaches to improve results. Snapshots and replication ensure data is quickly brought back. Relying on a quality third-party vendor is an educated choice.

Ransomware

Modern ransomware attacks began in 2017 with the WannaCry code. These large-scale attacks exposed to the world the accessible routes by which attackers could enter a firm’s framework and attack. It demonstrated all too well; how profitable ransomware could become if adequately managed.

As corporations, particularly building and design, pivoted to remote work, ransomware exploded in popularity. Ransomware attacks surged by over 50%

Deadly variants:

  • Ryuk
  • Maze
  • REvil si one of the most well-known and destructive ransomware groups on the net. REvil has evolved to become a devastating ransomware variant.
  • Lockbit
  • DearCry

Protection

The actions above described construction systems without a cyber security policy and ransomware is a different beast entirely.

Bringing network systems up to standard is required in this modern age, and it should be only a part of an overall comprehensive plan of attack. Preparing a system for malicious code is not easy.

Proper preparation can dramatically cut down the occurrences of attack. Utilize the following tips to help reduce vulnerability to malicious code.

  • The use of a robust user identification process is highly effective for any business. Attackers are constantly finding easy entry to a network by stealing user credentials.
  • Ransomware attacks are created, so companies cannot access their data once the attack has started. Real-time data backups are an excellent solution for larger enterprises. Maintaining a regular habit of backing up company information is key to winning a malware attack.

What To Do if Your Systems are Infected

No one wants to see a note on their screen demanding cryptocurrency, or a complete shutdown of the system is next. If the menace is real and ransomware or malware is on your computer, again, it is too late to stop it.

However, here are a few tips to use if you recognize your network is infected:

  • Immediately quarantine the machine or network if feasible.  Malware spreads to alternative systems on the network immediately. Limit the broadcast by eliminating the connection.
  • If your files are encrypted, check with the “No More Ransom” site to determine if any decryptors can run on your files.  Run the decryptor on your machine to see if it works.
  • Do not turn off the computer. Encryption may make the system unstable, turning it off, and it may not turn back on.
  • Format the drive in question and restore the drive from a clean backup or operating system installation.

Let BACS IT Help Protect Your Data – Call Us Today

It is essential that you have the right IT services set up for your company, no matter what type of industry you operate in. For help creating a security plan for your company, turn to the experienced IT consultants of BACS IT. We are here to help keep you and your data safe. 

Data-Backup-and-Recovery-Reaping-the-Benefits-of-the-Cloud

Managed IT Services vs. Traditional IT Support: What’s The Difference?

By | IT Support, managed It services, Technology

Business technology has come far in just a few decades as many firms now enjoy operating in the cloud. While some companies still hold on to traditional tech support methods, modern enterprises are working closely with more modern Managed IT Services. Here’s a comparison of traditional and 21st century IT support.

 

 [Free  Resource Download]: 7 Tips  To  Create A Password  Policy  For  Your  Organization

 

Traditional Business Network Tech Support

Commercial organizations have embraced the internet as a backbone for connecting with other resources since the seventies. Retailers and suppliers were among the first commercial entities to connect online. Large firms typically hired their own in-house technology departments while small companies often turned to break-fix shops that often were fly-by-night operations seeking fast cash opportunities from widespread adoption of the computer revolution.

Another dimension of traditional tech support firms was the attempt to be all-things-tech without broad diverse knowledge of technology. Any type of computer or networking problem could potentially lead to massive amounts of downtime for hours or even days. Your business was at the mercy of technicians who might not have been familiar with your hardware or software, which took time to learn.

By the nineties it was very common for even small businesses to use computer networks. For maintenance they would often turn to help desks that weren’t interconnected with technicians in real-time like they are now. Consequently, response to technical issues was generally slow for coordination and troubleshooting. Then if the technicians made errors, it led to more costly downtime.

During the traditional IT era managers weren’t well informed about their business technology and simply trusted whatever tech support firm they found to fix bugs. Sometimes it led to long-term expensive contracts that contributed to a company’s financial collapse.

 

Related: The 10 Benefits of Managed IT Services for Businesses Like Yours

 

Today’s Managed IT Services

A Managed Service Provider (MSP), as defined by technology research giant Gartner, is a company that delivers various services and ongoing support to clients on their property, via the MSP’s data center or through a third part cloud provider. MSPs often pool their native services with outsourced resources to maximize serving client needs. High quality MSPs often offer the following IT services:

Cloud computing disrupted the traditional IT profession enormously. The rise of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) firms such as Salesforce scrambled the IT landscape into a brave new setting that empowered businesses of all sizes to streamline operations. In other words, migrating to the cloud (a private or public intranet) helped business cut all kinds of upfront technology costs.

The cloud allowed businesses to operate more efficiently and independently. MSPs began offering a wider menu of technology solutions that old fashioned break-fix firms simply couldn’t compete with. Traditional help support personnel typically weren’t encouraged by their bosses to keep learning new technology, whereas today’s MSPs need to be experts on cybersecurity and innovations that make businesses more efficient and scalable, such as automation, AI and smart devices.

On top of that, MSPs learned how to talk with business decision makers on a personalized level instead of using the old scheme of shutting down questions or blurring answers with complex and confusing jargon. The new attitude of MSPs is to learn each client’s needs and provide custom solutions.

BACS IT Difference for Businesses Like Yours

The one difference that BACS IT has over other MSPs is our customer service experience. While many traditional help desks have limited capabilities and can be considered less efficient, BACS IT, an experienced MSP, can elevate your business to a more competitive level, allowing you to be more productive and profitable. Schedule a call with us and learn how we can bring your business up to date with the newest advancements in IT. 

teams vs zoom vs meet

Microsoft Teams vs. Zoom vs. Google Meet

By | Technology

Video conferencing is more important than ever before as businesses of all sizes across the world have embraced this technology. Organizations can quickly communicate with each other through video conferencing without the need for long travel days. Teams can work together more efficiently and effectively without being in the same room.

There are countless options to consider when choosing a video conferencing software solution. Choosing the correct option for your business will help you grow your business. Any issues with your video conferencing software can ruin a potential sale or make you look unprofessional. In order to narrow these options down, businesses should consider their needs by comparing some similar video conference software qualities.

 

Factors To Consider

Number Of Participants

Most small and medium-sized businesses will only have a handful of people on a video conference call at one time. Larger businesses may have hundreds or even thousands of video call participants, which makes the audience limit significant. Many video conferencing software have a limit to the number of people allowed in one call.

 

Security

Just as with other forms of communication, your organization needs to ensure that your video conferencing solution is secure and encrypted. Any security breaches can result in the loss of valuable data and customer trust. Some businesses were subject to ‘Zoom Bombs,’ where pranksters would infiltrate private company Zoom meetings.

 

Ease Of Use

Some employees will be using video conferencing software for the first time. Organizations should consider how easy the software is to learn and use. Simple mistakes, such as sharing the wrong screen, can make your team look unprepared for an important meeting.

 

Pricing

As with any software solution, the price can be a significant barrier to adoption. The organization must be able to afford the video conferencing application for every user that needs it. Some businesses are able to get by using the free version of these applications, but others will need the premium versions.

 

Microsoft Teams

Number Of Participants

The Microsoft Teams free version offers the highest number of meeting participants as compared to Google Meet and Zoom with up to 300. Participants can see up to 49 other users on the screen at one time. The paid version of Microsoft Teams allows businesses to host webinars. Up to 10,000 users can attend the webinar for a period of four hours.

 

Security

Microsoft Teams has a relatively robust level of security. This software solution automatically encrypts all meetings in order to keep data safe. However, If you want enterprise-level security, then you are going to have to pay for it. Microsoft offers multiple two-factor authentication packages in order to increase security levels.

 

Ease Of Use

Microsoft Teams has a feature that allows users to collaborate with other users on Office documents. Teams allow users to keep track of all of their messages with other users and search through them, which is more efficient than searching through emails. Organizations that are already working with other Microsoft 365 apps will likely find Microsoft Teams the best solution.

 

Pricing

Microsoft Teams is free for businesses that already have a Microsoft 365 subscription. Microsoft 365 subscriptions start at $5 per user. Businesses can access the free version of Microsoft Teams, which allows users to host a meeting with up to 300 participants.

 

Google Meet

Number of Participants

The free version of Google Meet has a limit of 100 participants for 60 minutes. While the paid version of Google Meet can handle up to 250 users per meeting and up to 100,000 viewers within a domain.

 

Security

Google Meet may be the best of these three when it comes to security. This solution offers multiple two-factor verification options and creates a unique encryption key for every meeting. Google Meet also meets the Internet Engineering Task Force’s standards for Secure Real-time Transport Protocol and Datagram Transport Layer Security.

 

Ease Of Use

In order to use Google Meet, users have to have a Google account. This could be a barrier to some users. The software itself is relatively easy to use and even has automatic live captioning powered with Google Speech. Similar to Microsoft Teams, if your business already works with G-suite products, then Google Meet will probably be the solution that is easiest to integrate with.

 

Pricing

Google Meet is currently priced from $6 to $18 per user depending on the plan. Depending on the size of the business, this could be an affordable option. Google Meet also has a free version that small businesses can take advantage of.

 

Zoom

Number of Participants

The free version of Zoom allows users to host a meeting of up to 100 participants for 40 minutes. The business version of Zoom allows meetings of anywhere between 300 and 1,000 participants. Zoom premium has a webinar feature that allows users to host a webinar with up to 3,000 users.

 

Security

One of the big concerns about Zoom is that they do not have a robust security solution as compared to Teams and Meet. Hackers were able to get into private Zoom meetings in the beginning of the pandemic to cause havoc. Zoom has been able to address those security issues since then. Zoom now offers end-to-end encryption for all meetings.

 

Ease Of Use

Zoom is arguably the most popular video conferencing software application. Zoom is exceptionally easy to use, even for a user who has never used video conferencing software before. Zoom has the capability to run on almost any operating system or device. Even below-average Android devices have no issue video conferencing with Zoom.

 

Pricing

Zoom pricing starts off at $15 per host. That price can quickly add up if your business involves many one-on-one meetings. Many small businesses can utilize the free version of Zoom, as their meetings will typically last less than an hour and involve less than 100 participants.

 

BACS Can Help You Choose The Best Video Conferencing Solution

Are you still unsure which video conferencing software to use? BACS can help your organization analyze and decide which software will best suit your needs. Our team will work closely with your organization to understand your business and deliver a solution that makes your life easier. Reach out to BACS today to learn more about all video conferencing software solutions. Our team is more than happy to answer any questions you may have about video conferencing software.

Virtual Desktop Deployment

Benefits of Virtual Desktop Deployment

By | Business Continuity, Cloud, IT Support, Networking, Technology

Implementing virtualized desktops across your enterprise environment can provide users with a high-definition desktop experience while helping to improve security and reduce costs. While the potential benefits are compelling, implementing an effective virtual desktop environment requires more than installing and configuring software.

In planning your virtualized desktop deployment, it’s important to look beyond the potential cost savings and make decisions in the context of an actual business case. That means carefully considering your goals, computing needs, resources, and many other factors. 

While no single strategy can cover every possible need or scenario, a sound implementation plan should take into consideration potential risk factors and adhere to best practice methods and procedures for optimum performance and return on investment.

 

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Define business needs.

 Virtual desktop deployment projects can rapidly expand in scope and complexity. That’s why it’s important to be clear about why you want to move to desktop virtualization. Understanding which capabilities and which performance requirements are most critical will help ensure you choose the optimum mix of infrastructure for your unique business needs. If you’re starting with just a few applications, determining performance and infrastructure requirements is easier because you’re not transferring every desktop to the cloud, but rather just a few applications to certain end users. You can use this initial scoping exercise to begin capacity planning. What are your current processing and storage needs? How many users will you be extending desktop services to? What will your virtual environment look like in a year or two years? 

 

Create a server plan. 

Servers are at the core of your virtualized desktop infrastructure, so it’s vital that I/O, memory, and other resources are available to support the processing requirement of desktop users. This requires having a clear understanding of the capabilities and limitations of your existing server environment. What applications and workloads run on which servers? What level of performance and availability do these workloads require? One drawback with creating multiple virtual machines from a single piece of hardware is that if that hardware fails, the entire configuration can be compromised. One remedy is to distribute virtual desktops across several servers so that a failure in one server won’t shut down all users. A more advanced approach is to implement a server cluster for virtual desktops, which spreads workload processing across all servers and can transfer the load to other servers in event of a fault. 

 

 

Implement access controls.

Although virtual desktops can provide users with a more flexible experience, it’s critical to closely manage which users are allowed access to specific applications and data. The more connections linking to a single device, the greater the risk of data exposure or compromise. The challenge is creating policies that aren’t overly restrictive. Ideally you want users to be able to maintain control of their devices while making sure operational flexibility does not undermine existing security policies and controls. Also, be sure to sure you include virtual desktop servers and endpoint data storage in your overall backup and disaster recovery plan.

 

 

Check compatibility. 

Make sure the hardware you select is compatible with the software you intend to virtualize. Many virtualization packages will support a standard set of hardware regardless of where that software resides. This will help ensure you have a standard hardware design template for each virtual machine, helping to reduce the time and effort in managing different driver versions across your virtualized environment. Consider what components are needed for a successful scale-up. IT teams often overlook the components needed to scale up to a virtualized environment, including host hardware, storage, networks, and hypervisor.

Allocate sufficient resources.

Virtualization increases the hardware requirements for your environment. So in the process of scoping out your ideal virtual system configuration, it’s important to makes sure you have sufficient storage and processing power for your virtual machines and software. This means your host servers must first have enough resources to support your virtualization software of choice, plus the operating system and software used within the virtual machines. How many users do you anticipate using the service at the same time? Is your network infrastructure capable of supporting this new client-server communication load?  An inadequately powered virtual machine or server diminishes the benefits of desktop virtualization. 

 

Train users.

The shift to desktop virtualization will alter the way users manage their endpoint devices, so training is often an integral part of the deployment effort. The resource sharing capabilities that virtualization enables can presents a number of issues that will need to be addressed. Which users will have control? What new skills will be required?  Training doesn’t need to be extensive since the desktop user experience should not change substantially. However, users should be aware of changes to their access controls and rights concerning their desktop privileges.   

With the right virtual desktop deployment strategy, you’ll be able to reap several important benefits:

Better productivity. 

Virtualized components can be configured and implemented quickly, reducing the time and complexity involved with provisioning new servers, storage or other resources. Fewer physical components also reduces the time and expense needed for ongoing management and support. 

 

 

Lower costs. 

The ability to create virtual versions of computers allows you to significantly reduce hardware costs. Less hardware to install reduces space requirements along with power and cooling expenses, allowing you to reinvest this savings into more strategic initiatives.    

 

Enhanced data protection. 

Virtualization helps simplify data protection processes. With consistent and automated data backups, meeting your recovery time objectives becomes a more reliable process.

 

 

Improved scalability. 

A core benefit of a virtualized environment is the ability to quickly configure the infrastructure to meet shifting business requirements. Virtual desktop machines can be rapidly reconfigured to enhance their “hardware” performance capabilities ‘on-the-fly”.

 

 

Better disaster recovery. 

Automated failover capabilities inherent in most virtualization platforms helps improve recovery so that if a disaster hits, your infrastructure is already preconfigured with the proper backup and recovery steps to ensure systems are brought back online quickly and securely. 

Charting a path to success

Making the right decisions about how to best leverage virtualized infrastructure can be confusing. It often involves tradeoffs with significant strategic impact. Your best bet: Don’t go it alone. Work with an experienced virtualized expert whose core focus is improving your technology and optimizing your return on investment. Implementing an effective, smooth-running virtualized desktop environment can be challenging and time-intensive, but when done correctly, the effort will pay dividends far beyond the initial investment.  

it planning

Benefits Of Smart IT Planning

By | Networking, Strategy, Technology

In today’s fast-moving business environment, short-sighted IT decisions can lead to costly, inefficient investments and subpar performance. This is especially true in the area of technology and infrastructure. As applications and platforms proliferate and age, problems can emerge, including redundancies, inefficiencies, security gaps, and unplanned information silos.

Businesses will often look to the latest technologies that will deliver the fastest return on investment. This approach can work in the short term, but without proper planning IT teams find themselves struggling to manage an unwieldy IT infrastructure.

Adding to the complexity, many organizations are running on outdated systems and platforms that are not readily adaptable to today’s rapidly changing business demands. Technology modernization efforts not only require upgrading physical equipment and infrastructure, but also the processes and tools that support them.

Understanding what technology your business needs to reach its goals is essential. Knowing how to get it done—how and when to invest, map, plan, coordinate, and engage the enterprise around your technology initiatives—is equally important. That’s where a carefully planned, smartly executed technology strategy can deliver substantial value.

 

Creating a solid technology foundation

Effective technology planning begins with a detailed assessment of your IT environment to determine how well your current infrastructure is performing and how best to leverage existing resources. The assessment will help determine what technologies are being optimized, how they are used, and how well they align with your business needs.

The detailed evaluation will reveal insights into your IT strengths and weaknesses, uncover opportunities for cost optimization, and provide greater clarity for making difficult technology investment decisions. As part of the assessment, technologies and workflows are analyzed, tracking performance to uncover weaknesses, inefficiencies and vulnerabilities.

Data gathered from the assessment is then used to create a plan for performance improvement including actionable implementation steps, timelines, roadmaps, cost estimates, options, and alternatives.

To better assess your IT strengths and capabilities, consider applying similar processes and management techniques used by other organizations to identify areas for improvement and better understand how your business compares to industry benchmarks. Once metrics have been established, recurring checks help ensure the technologies and processes are aligned with the benchmarks.

A results-focused approach to IT assessment and evaluation relies on collaboration between the business and the IT consultant. Make sure your technology partner uses the latest analysis and reporting tools to gather information and determine the health status of each area under review. This will provide a deeper understanding of how well your IT is performing and whether your business strategy is supported by your technology.

With an objective IT evaluation, you’ll better understand the complexities and challenges of technology integration and deployment and gain the insight needed to help ensure your IT solutions align with your priorities and will scale appropriately. The assessment will also help determine if your IT security measure are sufficient for your business needs and allow you to identify opportunities to streamline your operations, optimize resources, minimize risk, and create a competitive advantage.

A comprehensive IT assessment will help your business:

  • Stay current with the latest technologies and security defenses
  • Identify opportunities for cost optimization
  • Meet compliance standards for security, uptime and data governance
  • Improve the reliability and availability of applications and resources
  • Plan for new capabilities based on defined business goals

 

Contact Us for a FREE Security Assessment

 

Reaping the benefits of sound IT planning

 

Technology is advancing rapidly, and your business should focus on leveraging these advances to propel growth, not hinder it. That’s where strategic IT planning can deliver substantial value―providing the expert guidance and optimum internal resources needed to improve efficiency, drive productivity, safeguard assets, and maximize ROI.

A well-designed technology plan has several core functions:

  • Evaluate the capabilities and skills of your in-house IT staff
  • Create a custom, prioritized list of projects and initiatives you need to complete to ensure your technology will support business goals
  • Examine your IT environment, systems, and applications for adherence to best practice standards
  • Conduct an analysis to identify gaps between your business’s needs and the mix and performance of IT infrastructure
  • Understand the timelines, milestones, and estimated costs for each proposed project

A proactive strategy gives you a better chance of preventing major disruptions that can impact your bottom line. The plan prioritizes your management activities to take full advantage of the opportunities enabled by a smooth-running IT operation, whether it’s growing revenue, capturing market share or digital transformation.

Expert analysis and technology roadmap planning help ensure the best approach to migrating your platforms and applications to deliver optimum performance and maximum return on investment. The roadmap includes all of the recommendations and actionable work outlined in the assessment, including a timeline and estimate of the cost of each project and the resources required from both IT and business unit perspective.

With a defined plan and roadmap, technology investments become much more transparent, as milestones and improvements are achieved and tracked along the way. The roadmap will also provide you with a structured framework for planning and managing changes to business and technology priorities as they evolve.

A carefully planned technology strategy will help you:

  • Identify the business capabilities that will be needed over a defined period as outlined in your business plan
  • Establish an overarching technology vision that defines the core elements or features of the technology needed to support your business strategy
  • Agree on the execution timeline outlined in the technology plan
  • Determine the business needs that will take priority and assess the gaps between current and required capabilities
  • Identify and prioritize top technology goals as defined through the needs assessment
  • Develop a roadmap detailing the initiatives that will be delivered during the established planning period

 

Keeping pace with the speed of business

Innovation can transform your business and elevate your performance, but navigating technology and managing complexity isn’t always easy. As your business needs change and grow, more focus is needed to ensure that technical delivery functions and IT services are designed, implemented, managed and controlled in a consistent manner.

Changing business dynamics continue to shift the role of IT―from managing and supporting technology to the broader, more strategic objective of driving business value. In this era of rapid change, strategic IT planning takes on greater importance. To position IT as an enabler of success, you need an IT strategy that aligns with your business and will take you where you want to go.

 



signs your computer may have malware or a virus

Surefire Signs You’re Infected With Spyware, Malware, and Viruses

By | Business Continuity, IT Support, Security, Technology

On average, there is a hacker attack every 39 seconds. Unfortunately, hackers hide malicious programs, and there are no visible signs that your device is infected. Once your device is compromised, you need to take action right away to prevent additional harm.

Signs Your Computer Is Infected

Does it seem like your computer has slowed down? Does it crash frequently? If your computer has been acting differently, there may be a reason why. After malware infects a device, you may notice pop-up ads or speed issues.

The most common signs of infection are:

  • You get pop-up ads all of the time for no apparent reason.
  • Your home page has switched on its own, and you are unable to change its settings.
  • You may also have new toolbars that you never created.
  • Unexplained files appeared on your computer.
  • You noticed that your email account sent emails, but you did not send them.
  • Your desktop files have been deleted or moved.
  • The icons on your toolbars or desktop have disappeared.
  • A second or third browser opened up behind your primary browser window, but you did not open them.
  • You get runtime errors when you use Outlook Express or MS Outlook.
  • Your computer crashes frequently or is unstable. It may be sluggish if it is infected.

The previous signs are indications that there is a problem with your computer. You will need a professional technician to help you remove it and to be aware of the common misconceptions about hackers and malicious programs.

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The Four Most Common Misconceptions

1. You Can Easily Remove Malicious Programs

Unfortunately, spyware and viruses can be difficult to remove. On very few occasions, you might be able to remove malicious programs using a free download. Still, in many cases, malicious programs cannot be detected or eliminated using these software programs since hackers embed them deeply in the operating system. When this happens, you need the help of an experienced professional to detect and remove the program.

In extreme instances, the only solution is to wipe the hard disk completely. To do this, the technician must delete every file before installing the operating system all over again. Eliminating all of your data is never the first option, but it may be your only choice. Some malicious programs are so crafty and complex that the only way to get rid of them is by deleting everything.

2. My Computer Is the Problem

When someone suffers from viruses, they often blame their computer. They think that the computer would not have a problem if it were more expensive or better made. In reality, most malicious programs happen because of human error, getting onto a device because of the user.

You or one of your employees could have unknowingly clicked on the wrong link or downloaded a malicious file. Do not blame yourself too much, though. Cybercriminals are talented at making malicious programs look like innocent files. They make their malicious programs seem like ordinary activities you do all the time, which is why you feel comfortable clicking on them.

Some downloads may look innocent, but they could have spyware. For instance, your employee may download a software program that ages their pictures or gives them new emoticons. While these programs seem innocent, they could include malicious code. As soon as your employee downloads one of these programs, the malicious program can infect your entire network.

Avoid downloading any free program you find online. Avoid screen savers and enhanced browsers, and carefully read through the terms and conditions before you download an application. Often, the terms and conditions will specifically include clauses that allow the software vendor to install malicious programs on your device. It would help if you also stop your employees from downloading any online applications.

Unfortunately, your computer can be infected through other techniques as well. For example, you should regularly update your current programs. Each program has security patches that prevent hackers from accessing your computer. If you do not get these patches, then hackers may be able to access your device when you accidentally click on a banner ad or email attachment.

Security patches are incredibly important because hackers are always creating new ways to access devices. For example, some hackers discovered how to install malicious programs using Internet Explorer without requiring any clicks or downloads. The malicious program would install on your computer, even if you didn’t click on anything. Making sure your computer has all of Microsoft’s latest updates and patches to prevent this kind of attack.

If you want to protect your personal information and device, you should avoid peer-to-peer file sharing. Hackers and cybercriminals love these sites, so they are full of malicious programs. In many cases, the source of a company’s malicious attack is a peer-to-peer site.

3. Maintenance Is Unnecessary—My Computer Works Fine.

Even if your computer seems to be working fine right now, it still needs to be appropriately maintained. Think of a computer like a car. You have to change the oil and replace the brakes regularly if you want to avoid spending more money and time on repair costs later.

With a computer, there are maintenance checks you need to do daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly. For example, spam filtering and virus updates should occur daily. A spyware sweep and system backups should take place every week. Meanwhile, defragmenting your disk and updating your security patches should be done every month or quarter.

A good technician will tell you about the regular maintenance you need to do to your computer. Your technician should offer to do things like configuring automatic system backups, spam filtering, and virus definition updates. To be protected, these system backups must be stored away from your company so that your backups are safe from natural disasters.

If the technician you’re working with does not offer to do regular maintenance, find someone else. Routine maintenance prevents significant repair costs later on, and the lack of it is one of the top reasons why people have high repair bills and lose important files.

There are only two reasons why a technician will not perform routine maintenance. In some cases, the technician is inexperienced and does not know what they are doing. Some technicians do not want to do maintenance work because they know that they will make more money from repairing problems. Both of these reasons are signs that you should find a different vendor.

4. Microsoft’s Operating System Offers All of the Protection I Need

It seems intuitive that a computer would sell with everything you need to use it. Sadly, this is not the case. Microsoft does not equip its devices with all of the security features they need. If you do not protect your computer, you will be vulnerable to viruses, data loss, and cybercriminals.

Protecting your device requires a multi-faceted approach. No one vendor is capable of providing every single security feature you need. It is crucial to find an experienced technician you trust to get the protection you need.

BACS Consulting

Managed IT Services Case Study – OrangeTwist

By | IT Support, Strategy, Technology

OrangeTwist started life as a single-location medical spa in Costa Mesa, CA, offering treatments such as Botox, facials, CoolSculpting® and more. As the company began to grow, the stakeholders set their sights on a seemingly simple goal: to create a virtual and physical space which would be instantly familiar to both clientele and staff alike. The idea was that clients traveling far afield could enter any OrangeTwist location in the country and feel just like they were on their own home turf. Likewise, staff who moved from location to location, either as transfer employees or simply to cover staff absences would not have to ask questions like, “How do I set up the TV in this treatment room?” or “Where’s the Sonos unit kept?” or “How do I connect to this printer?” 

This, in turn, would provide a streamlined experience for everyone involved, offering both uniformity and the comfort of familiarity, without the associated challenges of learning a new system or physical layout at each individual location.  

To accommodate this goal, OrangeTwist reached out to BACS Consulting Group. Our first step was to meet with the company stakeholders to ensure we understood exactly what was needed and wanted, and to set appropriate expectations on all sides of the table before we proceeded. From these discussions, we were given the following mandates:

  • Creating a single, scalable web portal connecting the various OrangeTwist locations to establish uniform branding and virtual user experience
  • Establishing a cloud-based network which would allow clients and staff to connect to the Orange Twist network at each individual location using a single individual login or access token
  • Providing and deploying UI technology to solidify control, ease of use and assimilation across the corporate constellation
  • Creating “plug-and-play” methodology to allow new locations to seamlessly integrate with the existing OrangeTwist systems across the country
  • Moving forward as OrangeTwist’s IT management partner, providing ongoing IT and cybersecurity services to maintain the integrity and function of the company’s technological and virtual faces

Understanding OrangeTwist’s needs and infrastructure

Armed with this information, BACS Consulting Group and OrangeTwist moved forward, working in tandem to develop an actionable strategy plan around OrangeTwist’s existing interfaces, planned additional locations and expanding technology and IT needs. Once we achieved clear and enthusiastic agreement and consent on the action plan, we proceeded.

The user experience

The first step was to create a web portal which provided clear branding and easy access to their chosen locations for clients. Given the scope and intensity of OrangeTwist’s intended expansion, this required making the portal simple to navigate and easy to port contact parameters for additional locations into as they came online. This realized an immediate time and money savings for OrangeTwist as all their web and contact traffic came through one portal, rather than having to build out multiple portals and tie them all together piecemeal.

Head in the cloud

Next, we created a cloud-based access scheme which allows customers and staff in any OrangeTwist location to access the company’s bespoke music, television and WiFi through an individual password or access token. This cloud migration negated the need for expensive physical servers, reduced the amount of cabling and electricity consumed on each site and amplified ease of use for both employees and clients.

Interchangeable Tech

The next step was to procure and deploy uniform technology to be used in the individual locations. VoIP phones based in the cloud, iMacs set up to OrangeTwist’s specifications and uniform printers, all using the same protocols, were placed to simplify and streamline staff usage, permit real-time corporate oversight and allow for smooth, seamless IT intervention in case of an issue. 

 “Plug and Play”

Next, we shifted our attention to ensuring the hardware, software and access protocols were “plug and play.” By doing this, we vastly simplified onboarding of new and transferring employees, the creation of new locations as appropriate and the replacement of malfunctioning or defective devices when and where necessary. This uniform approach also allowed for superior IT overwatch and made resolving issues simpler, because when a problem develops, we can readily identify where the issue started and how to correct it to minimize downtime and maximize efficiency.

A reliable IT Management partner

Today, four years after that first contact with OrangeTwist, they are quite happy with BACS Consulting Group’s service and responsiveness. With locations in California, Washington, and Texas, and more expansion on the way, they cite the simplicity of a uniform technological approach across the company as a key driver in their success. Having access to a single point of contact for all IT issues who can take ownership and resolve the issue using only one phone number and email has reduced downtime and increased productivity for the company. We at BACS Consulting Group look forward to a long, strong relationship with OrangeTwist moving forward.

How can BACS Consulting Group help your company?

We’re very proud of the work and outcomes we provided for OrangeTwist, and creating bespoke IT solutions which met their needs and exceeded their expectations is a point of pride for us.

With so many cyber threats including phishing, hacking and cracking attacks on the rise around the world, not to mention day-to-day threats and commonplace IT issues, virtually every size company can benefit from having access to dedicated IT professionals. BACS specializes in taking the time to understand the nature of each individual business we serve, and the unique needs, concerns and threats they face. 

Our ongoing commitment to providing excellence for our clients doesn’t end once the full system is functional, either. We deliver quarterly reports and evaluations which allow us to pivot and adjust to the client’s ever-evolving needs, keeping the customer experience our clients deliver to their clientele and expect and receive from us uppermost in mind at all times. Each of our technicians is rated at a level 2-4, which permits any of our people to act as the client’s single point of contact, with the ability to take ownership and work toward resolution of any IT concern or issue. We never consider a case or ticket closed until the client clearly says the issue is resolved.

To learn more about BACS Consulting Group and how we can help your business deliver a superior customer experience with less downtime and greater security, we encourage you to call (650) 887-4601 or email us at sales@bacsit.com today!