These cybersecurity trends should be driving your strategy for 2022 and beyond. The ITeam is here to help.
Multifactor authentication is an essential element in information security, preventing unauthorized logins to your network.
Email is the gateway used by most hackers to launch their nefarious schemes. Today’s hackers are far more sophisticated than before, and they’re willing to take their time to gather the information they need to successfully hack into your organization. Your best phish defense – besides layers of security and a great MSP partner – is employee education. Training your staff on what to look for in a phishing email and to be cautious with every email – even those that look like they come from your CEO – could potentially save your organization hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The First Danger of a Phishing Email: Know Who It’s From
Be honest: If you were busy and you received an email from firstname.lastname@example.org, would you really notice that the email address was off by one letter? Now go back and look at the email address. You probably thought it read ‘john at Gutterinstallers.com,’ right? But in reality, it read ‘john at Qutterinstallers.com.’ Yes, hackers are that subtle. Because not only can they make emails look like they have been sent from an internal address, but they can also insert themselves mid-conversation into an email thread so that you really do think you’re talking to the right person. This is why every email requires the same vigilance – even if you think it’s from your boss or best client.
Hackers can also make it look as if an email was sent from john@Gutterinstallers.com, but when you hover over the email link (try it here), you’ll see that, in fact, it was sent from email@example.com.
Keep these questions in mind with every email you receive:
- Is the sender unfamiliar to you?
- When you hover over the email address, is it different than what appears in the header?
- Is the email out of character?
- Is the email from someone outside of your organization and asking you to do something outside of your typical role?
- Is the sender a stranger?
- Does the email include a link or attachment?
No Action without Asking
It should be the policy of every company not to pay invoices, click links, open attachments, or take other actions without at least asking if it’s possible that the email could be fake. Look for these telltale clues and red flags in an email header:
- Did the email arrive at an odd hour?
- Is it from someone you don’t know or addressed differently than you would expect?
- Is your name spelled incorrectly?
- Is the email sent to multiple people, making the same request?
When you’re always on high alert about the potential risks of email, you’ll start noticing when something seems off. Watch for these clues:
- Is it asking you to do something that’s not really your job?
- Is there a sense of urgency or threat from the email that attempts to emotionally compromise you into taking action?
If there is a link in an email, you should be on high alert. You can often tell when it’s a phishing email. Try these steps: When you hover over (but don’t click) on the link, does it go to a different website than what it says in the text? Does the hyperlink look similar to a legitimate website but differ, if only slightly?
Does the email contain an attachment? Is the attachment a file of any type other than a text file (.txt)? Were you expecting the attachment because of a previous conversation or is it out of the blue? Does the message seem to pressure you into taking action of some kind?
Protect Your Organization Against Phishing Attacks
Strong spam filtering can stop most phishing emails, but some will still make it through. At this point, your employees are your final line of defence against an attack. Yes, your firewall and threat management software should protect you, but without extensive training and awareness, a plan of action to protect your data, and non-stop vigilance, email may be what brings your organization down.
Your greatest weakness can also be your greatest strength if you invest the necessary time and resources in educating your employees. When education is provided, employees become a partner in your overall cybersecurity efforts. The ITeam understands the email security issues facing Canada businesses. We are committed to helping Calgary- and Alberta-based businesses develop proactive, cost-effective IT strategies that minimize risk and maximize efficiency. Contact us to learn more.
More than 6 million Canadians were impacted by the Capital One data breach that happened this year – and that was not even the biggest breach by any stretch. The biggest data breach is still Yahoo, whose breach impacted more than 3 billion people. Big or small, however, each data breach is costly and damaging – to consumers, to businesses, and to the economy. We can – and should – learn everything we can from these incidents to avoid repeating them. In analyzing security breaches that have occurred over the last 10 years, experts found that the main reasons data breaches occur are:
- Failure to patch
- Human error
- Insider attacks
- Poor mobile device management
Failure to Patch
Too often, a breach occurs because an organization has delayed patching, leaving them vulnerable to hackers. This often happens because the organization does not have a dedicated IT staff, leaving one or more employees responsible for IT on top of their other duties. Those other duties – their “real” jobs – take priority and patching jobs get postponed.
Partnering with a managed services provider (MSP) can help solve this problem and extend the strength of your IT team, whether your team is a whole department, or one person assigned with additional responsibilities. An MSP ensures patches are installed in a timely manner, but they’re also there to monitor your network 24/7.
Clicking links and opening attachments in emails that appear to come from within your organization or from a trusted vendor cause more data breaches than we can measure. It’s possible your organization has malware sitting on your network right now that has been introduced by an errant employee and has yet to have been detected.
While we can never completely remove human error from the equation, we can drastically reduce the number of email-related data breaches by:
- Developing, implementing, and enforcing strict zero-trust policies
- Providing ongoing training to employees to help them recognize potential phishing scams
- Limiting the data to which employees have access
- Requiring multi-layer authentication that includes complex passwords and other access barriers
Insider attacks don’t account for many data breaches, but they can be the most devastating simply because of the betrayal involved. According to the 2019 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report, insider threats are on the rise, accounting for 34% of data breaches. In one case highlighted in the DBIR, a hacker admitted that when all other efforts failed, he bribed an employee to get him inside the network.
Preventing insider attacks can be difficult; they are often only discovered after the fact during forensic analysis– and often after the employee is long gone. But you can minimize the risk of insider threats by having multiple layers of security, strictly limiting employee and third-party access to data, and by conducting regular audits. Often, insider attacks come from former employees whose access to the network was not terminated; make it protocol to immediately revoke all access to employees who leave – whether they leave on good terms or not.
Poor Mobile Device Management
Mobile phones are being used to conduct business whether you authorize it or not, so your best bet for protecting your organization is to have a highly sophisticated MDM security plan in place that includes the following:
- Strict usage requirements that include installing your security on the device being used and requiring the use of a secure network when conducting business
- Remote wipe capabilities to disconnect the device from your network in the event that it is stolen, or the employee leaves the organization
- A no-tolerance policy for any employee who refuses to comply with the security requirements
Data breaches are not going away, but you can minimize the risk to your organization with strong IT security and a comprehensive disaster recovery plan. You can’t just address one of these issues; you must have a comprehensive, proactive data security program that addresses all of these risks and more.
The ITeam understands the IT security issues facing businesses in Canada. We are committed to helping Calgary- and Alberta-based businesses develop proactive, cost-effective IT strategies that minimize risk and maximize efficiency. Contact us to learn more.
In the last few months, three cities in Florida have all paid extremely high ransoms to obtain decryption keys from their hackers. These ransoms ranged from USD 400,000-600,000.
In each case, the ransomware infection was preventable.
In each case, an employee clicked on a questionable link or downloaded a file in an email without verifying the origin.
U.S. Cities Aren’t the Only Targets for Ransomware
The University of Calgary paid a CAD 20,000 ransom after being attacked in 2016. In 2017 a major Canadian firm (that remained anonymous) paid over CAD 400,000 to decrypt files following a ransomware attack. Last year, two Ontario municipalities, Wasaga Beach and Midland, were victims of ransomware attacks. And just last month, the Mayor of Stratford, Ontario said, “Canadian municipalities are ‘sitting ducks’ for cyber terrorists,” after being targeted by an online ransomware attack.
No one is immune. But there is much that can be done to avoid falling victim to cybercrime.
STOP Clicking Links in Email
Email does not have to be the weak link in your security, but for many organizations – not just city governments – it is certainly the easiest point of access for hackers. All it takes is convincing one person to believe a message is real, move their mouse two inches, and click to release catastrophe. And even with so much more information available, so much urging from the cybersecurity community to employ zero trust, employees continue to click on links that are potentially deceitful.
STOP Downloading Files Sent by Email
In the case of one Florida city, an employee at the police department downloaded a file sent in an email that carried the Emotet trojan. It so crippled their systems that they were forced to issue paper citations for traffic violations; payroll direct deposit was impacted, and checks had to be issued on paper and handwritten.
STOP Paying Ransoms
Paying a ransom only motivates cybercriminals to continue because there is a payoff. The more that municipalities, colleges, and businesses give in to paying ransoms, the more likely it is that there will be more attacks – and the attacks are getting more sophisticated and complex. Hackers are taking more time to infiltrate systems, they are taking their time to launch attacks, and they use readily available information to more effectively trick email recipients into believing the emails are legitimate.
Train Your Employees
To thwart hackers and prevent ransomware from proliferating, we all need to change our tactics. We need to be more aggressive in training employees, more suspicious of every email, and less trusting that any link or attachment is safe. Ongoing training is essential to help employees recognize phishing attempts and email threats.
Heightened Vigilance Is Good but Not Enough
According to a report from StorageCraft, not all ransomware comes from email. Ransomware viruses can infect legitimate websites. Trend Micro reported that big sites such as msn.com, nytimes.com, aol.com, realtor.com, and newsweek.com were victims of attacks that attempted to download Cryptolocker ransomware and malware onto users’ computers. Even when your email security is at its best, there is still a risk.
Protect Your Data
If the worst happens and your IT infrastructure is infected with malware or ransomware and hackers demand a ransom, there is one way you can avoid paying: protect your data with regular, offsite backups, virtual machine backup and replication, and disaster recovery protection. Business continuity should not come with a $600,000 price tag in the form of a ransom. You can invest far less in comprehensive disaster recovery protection with your managed services provider and have peace of mind that even if a ransomware attack were to strike your organization, you could tell hackers NO when they demand a ransom.
Read Our Guide: How to Create an Effective Disaster Recovery Plan
Business continuity and disaster recovery planning is critical to all businesses, no matter their size. Every organization faces the real possibility of a catastrophic event that could compromise its data integrity and threaten its very existence. The ITeam provides essential IT support to businesses in Alberta. We provide fully managed and personalized services designed to meet the needs of virtually any business. Our team will work with you to customize a cost-effective solution and help you develop a comprehensive IT security strategy that will help you survive any threat, whether natural or human-caused. Get in touch.
Suite 200, 1210 8 Street SW
Calgary, AB T2R 1L3
Suite 200, 1210 8 Street SW
Calgary, AB T2R 1L3
(Mountain Standard Time)
The ITeam $$ (403) 750-2540 Calgary, AB5
stars"The ITeam provides peace of mind with high level security and superb customer service." - Jeff B.