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Only backups can stop the Ransomware ‘cancer’ – Bitdefender

A leading anti-malware vendor has stated that only by backing up files will ransomware attacks eventually stop. Bitdefender’s senior e-threat analyst Bogdan Botezatu, in an interview with PCR, says that until the easy rewards of ransomware are made more difficult you can expect these attacks to flourish: “…There’s no cure, it’s prevalent, and it destroys organisations.”

What to do? There are only a few methods we know of to protect yourself:

  1. Stop the ransomware encryption before it can happen. Run a specific ransomware protection utility or install anti-virus / malware / trojan protection that specifically states it can protect against ransomware. We’re fans of FoolishIT’s CryptoPrevent tool – it’s free, is constantly updated, does not consume memory or CPU resources, and has well over a million downloads to date.
  2. Backup your files. This is the simplest protection – and is very effective. With known good backups, you can simply restore files over top those that have become encrypted and held hostage.

If we all do our part to deny the ransomware attackers their easy revenue stream, these ransomware attacks will, as Bogdan states, “… will eventually move away from attacking computers”.

Posted in: Malware, Tech Tips for Business Owners

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The Panama Papers, security and your website

The recent Panama Papers data breach seems to have more than a few political leaders trying to explain their offshore investments, or in some cases, forced to resign because of the exposure’s embarrassment. While I am not at all suggesting that you have anything to fear from such exposures, the manner in which the law firm Mossack Fonseca was hacked might have you sit up and take notice.

According to WordPress security vendor Wordfence, the attack was enabled via an outdated plug-in (Revolution Slider) that is very popular with WordPress-run websites. Our own website, plus that of some organisations (and more than a few schools) that we know of use WordPress as the basis of their sites. And why not? A W3Tech report states that 57% of websites that use a content management system (CMS) are using WordPress, and that near 25% of all web sites use WordPress. It’s popular, fairly easy to use (especially for updating portions of your website), and has a huge eco-system of 3rd party plug-ins and themes that add all kinds of flexibility and panache to your site.

Problem is, in that adding all of these goodies to a WordPress site brings in a level of diligence that some might tend to neglect, simply because of the frequency of updates. So far this this year of 2016 there have been 7 WordPress releases and near 24 releases in 2015! Each time there is a new WP release, before you might install the new WordPress version, you should check your plug-ins to see that their current release is supported within the newest release of WordPress. If not, perhaps it is wise to wait for your plug-ins to catch up in compatibility to the current WordPress before installing the latest WordPress version. I get confused just trying to put this into words!

Does it matter? It might, even if you do not have confidential data within the depths of your website. It could be a ransom-based malware, or matter of inconvenience when your website content is replaced or encrypted on a WordPress site that you run. We rescued a site a that was hacked and had its content re-written to show support for a radical political group. In the Mossack Fonseca case, the attack exposed key usernames and passwords that allowed entry into their email system and other areas.

What can be done to secure your WordPress-based site? Here’s a few pointers:

  • ​Use a security plug-in to secure your site. We like Wordfence. There is a free version, but the premium paid version is not expensive. It will also tell you when there are updates ready – for your WordPress installation and for your plug-ins as well. This is worth the price alone.
  • De-activate the plug-ins you are not using regularly. That plug-in that imported your users or graphics files was great at setup, but does it need to stay active?
  • Frequently check your plug-ins for updates. Check compatibility with the latest version of WordPress before you patch them.
  • Do not set your WordPress site to update automatically – this can break your site if your plug-ins are not compatible.
  • Have a backup in place for your WordPress site. Many hosting vendors that host WordPress sites provide for backups of WordPress databases at no charge. Popular plug-ins for WordPress backups that we have tested and like are Backup Buddy and Updraft Plus.
  • Use your (tested) backups to test plug-in compatibility with new versions. New release of WordPress breaks one plug-in? Roll it back using a recent backup.
  • Change the default administrator name for your WordPress logon.

There are a number of other great suggestions out there – do scour the WordPress site itself for its own recommendations for securing your site.

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Support ending for Internet Explorer web browser versions

The IE web browser that you may be using could be out of date. One article’s source that we totaled up had approx. 24% of all Windows users on outdated versions of IE.  It may be time to consider using only IE 11.

Also…support for Windows 8 ended today (Jan 12, 2016).  If running that OS, you should upgrade to v8.1, or Windows 10. Windows 7 remains supported until 2020.

From ZDnet: …..”Microsoft officially drops support for most older versions of Internet Explorer today. That means no more security updates for tens or hundreds of millions of Windows users, many of whom will be blissfully unaware that they’re in danger.”

Read the full story here.

 

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Free Windows Operating System Support Tools

Whether you are an automotive mechanic or a top IT professional, you need to have the right tools for the job. Unlike an automotive mechanic however, you don’t have to spend tens of thousands of your hard earned dollars on the tools you need. These basic Windows Operating System Support Tools tools you can use for IT and PC support duties are free to download from CNET.com.

Free Windows Operating System Support Tools

HwiNFO32

One of the first things you need to determine in any type of support operation is what the machine you will be working on is made of. HwiNFO32 is a hardware recognition utility that will provide you with all the specs and information you need, and then some; from what type of CPU it has to hardware performance parameters.

Ccleaner

A very common support tasks is cleaning the system of unused files and invalid registry entries, providing for more available disk space and faster overall performance. Cclneaner will do an excellent job at that as well as totally cleaning out the browser history and even uninstalling applications.

Recuva

Often times you will be in a situation where you need to recover lost or deleted files. Recuva was developed for just that purpose. It has a simple to use wizard type interface and can restore all types of files from simple text documents to videos, and everything else in between. You can restore files from removable disks and thumb drives as well as restore files that were deleted by viruses and crashes.

Defraggler

When a computer system is running slow a disk defragmentation tool should help speed things up quite a bit. When a computer file is created it is broken up into pieces and spread out throughout the systems hard drive. When the file needs to be retrieved it needs to be pieced back together. Defraggler will basically line up all the pieces together making the system perform better. It has an easy to use interface that allows you to pick and chose either various files and folders to defragment or the entire drive. You are also allowed to determine where on the drive you would like to store particular files, as well as scheduling the procedures to take place in the background as it can take quite some time to perform.

7-Zip

Many support tasks will require the use of compressed or “zip” files. Compressing the files allows them to be transferred more rapidly and take up less space. 7-Zip will provide no nonsense no frills compression and decompression capability that should suit the needs of almost everyone.

FileZilla

The necessity to transfer files to or from an FTP site or server will undoubtedly arise at some point. File transfer protocol has become the staple method of delivering patches, drivers and hot fixes. Filezilla enables you to perform these tasks with ease.

Almost everyone will find themselves tasked with some sort of computer problem. For the IT support professionals or just the average do it yourselfers there are some tools you just can’t do without, and some cases they just happen to be free. Make use of these free Windows Operating System Support Tools to ease your day-to-day computer issues and keep your systems running efficiently.

Have a PC or network problem you can’t fix? Click here to learn how Fossie Consulting can quickly respond to, and help solve your computer problems with our Reactive Response and PC Repair Services for your business in Guelph, Ontario and surrounding cities.

 

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Creating a Business Continuity Plan For Your Small Business

Is your business prepared for any type of disaster? Even though small businesses may not have as many employees or as much equipment, they are still as vulnerable to disaster as a large corporation. If your business office were to be destroyed by a tornado, you could lose valuable business if you don’t plan ahead. Many businesses don’t want to take the time and the expense to prepare a business continuity plan, but can you really afford not to make one?

Make a List of All Possible Disasters

The best place to start is to list different types of disasters and try to determine what could be lost in each case, and what you can do to prevent that loss. A flood will require different strategies from a power outage or a fire. Next, try to estimate how long it would take, and how much it would cost, for you to get your business up and running again.

Communication

The middle of a crisis is not the time to frantically search for phone numbers. Even small businesses need emergency contact numbers. Have all emergency contact numbers posted or programmed into every phone. Do you have an alternate mode of communication should your main phone lines shut down? Could your clients seamlessly contact you without ever knowing that your office was in the middle of disaster recovery? The same principal applies to email and fax. Making arrangements regarding communication are critical to keeping your business running smoothly. Communicating with staff and clients can mean the difference between complete shutdown, or minimal a business interruption.

Preserving Your Data

In the event of a disaster, it is important to know that everything you need to function as a business is available. Identify all vital systems, documents, and data. While it is important for every business to backup their data on a regular basis, what if a fire destroyed your office? For this reason, offsite storage is critical to preserving your business’ valuable information. Offsite data storage allows to access to all of your stored data from any computer and from anywhere in the world.

A Temporary Worksite

It is also important to plan for a temporary worksite. Depending on the goods or services your business offers, can you continue smooth operation if your office is shut down? Storing products in a second location can allow you to maintain your regular business schedule.

Test Your Plan

One of the keys to successful disaster recovery is testing your business continuity plan on a regular basis. It is important that you and your staff know exactly what to do, where to go, and how to access the necessary items you need to keep your business running smoothly to the outside world, even if you are standing in the middle of a disaster. Schedule regular plan tests to ensure that everyone in your office is on the same page and ready should disaster strike. Hopefully, you will never have to use your business continuity plan, but it is smart business to be prepared for any emergency should one arise.

Click here to learn how Fossie Consulting can help keep your business running in the event of disruption or disaster with our Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity Planning Services for your business in Guelph, Ontario and surrounding cities.

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How Managed IT Services and Cloud Computing Improve Your Business

Small business owners who are not already on board the “cloud” may be missing out on a great opportunity to improve their business operations as well as profitability. Cloud computing has changed the landscape of business dramatically in the past few years. In order to reap the most rewards from technological advances, it is important first for business owners to understand what they are dealing with and how new technologies can improve the functionality of their business.

What is Cloud Computing?

To better understand this concept you must only turn to the Internet. How the Internet is used has changed greatly over the years and in terms of business, any programs or services that you use via an Internet connection could loosely be described as a cloud service. Cloud computing allows you to utilize software and services without having to run the servers or software in house. These outside vendors run the software and servers, making it possible for you to pay attention to what is most important, running your business. Examples of cloud computing services that are commonly used by businesses today include; Salesforce.com which offers programs to aid sales staff in tracking customer information and data storage backup services such as those offered from Amazon.com.

Benefits of Cloud Computing

As more and more businesses are relying on cloud computing services you might wonder how they can benefit your business. There are many benefits including long term reduction of software and computer costs, improved data security (secure off site backup and storage) and increased functionality and customer service. As cloud computing continues to evolve and offer additional products and services, many businesses that are currently on the fence will make the decision to venture to “the cloud”.

Managed IT Services Can Make the Transition to Cloud Computing easier

Despite the growing popularity of cloud computing and the increased number of companies utilizing these services, not all business owners nor customers are completely convinced this is the way to go. There is little doubt that this area of technology will continue to develop and likely become main stream within a few years. With that in mind, business owners who question this technology can benefit greatly by consulting with managed service providers to help guide them through any transitions. Managed services providers are up-to-date with all new technology and can offer services that include cloud computing to improve the way your business runs as well as provide much needed assistance in the event of a man-made or natural disaster.

By working with a Managed IT Services Provider your business can immediately reap the rewards of cloud services while still having trained professionals in your corner to ensure your business is adequately protected and invested in this technology. Finding the right managed services provider can make the difference between your small business increasing efficiency and improving functionality versus getting left behind in the virtual dust. Working with a qualified managed services provider will eliminate much of the confusion associated with “new” technology and position your business in a place where you can compete with others in your field while reducing in-house IT costs.

Click here to learn how Fossie Consulting can help you benefit from the Cloud with our Cloud Computing Solutions for your business in Guelph, Ontario and surrounding cities.

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Should You Hire Or Outsource to an External IT Service Provider?

Most small business owners handle all aspects of their businesses, including acting as the Information Technology department. This will work for as long as you remain a small business without employees. When you grow and start hiring staff, will it make more sense to use your business-building time on handling IT issues or outsource to an external IT Service Provider?

Unless you are an Information Technology Service Provider yourself, chances are your time will be much better spent marketing your products and/or services, establishing relationships with your clients, providing exceptional customer service and just otherwise growing your business – so why not outsource to an external IT Service Provider?

How do you know when it’s time to get IT help? If the information technology demands are affecting your day and negatively impacting your actual business related activities – it’s definitely time to consider finding an IT resource. If you start adding new employees and computers, it’s probably a good time to look into adding IT help, as well.

Should You Hire Internal IT Staff or Outsource to an External IT Service Provider?

When you make the decision to find an IT resource, your first decision will be whether you need to hire one or more staff to fulfill the role, or if you’re going to outsource IT services. Having dedicated IT staff means they are 100% committed to your business. They’re not splitting their time among numerous clients the way a contracted company might. One of the benefits of having an IT department is that the staff develops a strong understanding of your unique business needs and should be in a good position to manage your short and long term IT requirements. With your own IT staff on payroll, you know you’ve always got someone available (unless they’re out sick or on vacation!) should an emergency or urgent situation present itself.

The primary disadvantage of hiring IT staff is that you’ll be paying for their benefits, their training, and a variety of other costs associated with hiring a new employee. Not to mention, you have to pay them the agreed upon salary regardless of how much IT work you end up having, which means you may be overpaying based on workload!

There are a variety of advantages of outsourcing to an external IT service provider over hiring staff. You can choose to outsource your information technology needs to a flat rate IT service provider and reduce your monthly and overall costs. Having a virtual IT department lets you focus more on running your business rather than the technology that supports it. You aren’t stuck paying employee benefits or other employee costs, and you aren’t responsible for making sure the IT team remains up to date with their training and knowledge.

The Bottom Line

Finding the right information technology help for a growing business needs is challenging. When you think strategically about your business’ unique IT requirements, you can make sound decisions that further promote its growth and profitability.

Click here to learn how Fossie Consulting can help you with your IT outsourcing needs. The first step is to schedule a meeting to go over our Technology Consulting Services for your business in Guelph, Ontario and surrounding cities with you.

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6 Password Tips to Protect Against Business and Identity Theft

Ah, those pesky passwords. If you work in the corporate world or in an office, you have one for your PC/Network and, unless there is a password synchronization application that combines them, you probably have more than one for other applications. Add those to the ones that you have for your home Internet, your banking and other websites that require passwords, and before you know it you have a nightmare on your hands in trying to manage them. How easy a target are you for business and identity theft?

Part of the frustration has to do with the different requirements for password formatting. Some systems only require four characters, some require eight. Some need a combination of alpha and numeric characters and others do the same with the addition of a few capital letters thrown in for extra security. It can be positively maddening.

The worst thing you can do with your passwords is to place them in a text document which can be accessed on the hard drive of your computer. Your files are vulnerable to business and identity theft- even if you think they are not. If someone is intent on finding them, they can. Even if you place them into a password protected document, those can be cracked, too.

Writing them down has its own vulnerabilities, too, and there are varying opinions on this practice. If you do write them down on a piece of paper, put the document in a locked location whether it is in your home or at work.

Here are 6 tips on how to handle your passwords to protect against business and identity theft:

1. Make them complex. People who use easy to remember or short passwords are inviting disaster. Use a little imagination and pick a password that is very difficult to attach to your life. Stay away from birth dates, phone numbers, house numbers, or any other number that is associated with your life.

2. Keep passwords unique. When you change your passwords, make them unique from each other. Do not use the same password on all of your sites. If you do, then you are open to having every site that you have a password to being vulnerable to hackers to log on and steal your identity, money or destroy your reputation.

3. Be obscure. Use a combination of letters, numbers, capital letters and special characters if possible. The more you do this, the more secure your passwords will become. Create an alphanumeric version of a term you can remember. Using this technique the word “Spaceship” becomes “Sp@ce5h!p”.

4. Change regularly. This is the singular tip that can save you if you do not heed any of the other tips. How often should you change your password? How secure do you want to be? The frequency with which you change your password will determine how secure you are from becoming a victim. The more often you change it, the better you are. The longer you leave it the same, the more vulnerable you become. Three months is a good cycle for a password, but certainly if you fear for the security of your identity, then a monthly change is not out of the question.

5. Password-protect your PC. Be sure to give your PC a password on power-up. This will help protect your files unrestricted access to your PC.

6. Password-protect your wireless home network. If you have a wireless home network, be sure to password protect it as well. Use the same principles above in order to secure your wireless network. This will prevent others from accessing your connection and using it maliciously to hack the personal or business PCs and laptops you and your family use at home.

Finally, there are password programs that can help with this important task, but the best advice is to start with the tips above right away. Password software can be useful as an organizational tool, but it is no match for using sound methods to manage and make your passwords difficult to crack.

Click here to learn how Fossie Consulting can help protect you against business and identity theft with our Network Security Services for your business in Guelph, Ontario and surrounding cities.

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How to Recover Your Lost Computer Files – Inexpensively and Easily

We maintain our computers similarly to how we maintain our own health – rarely do we take the time to learn about preventing health complications, and instead work to repair our health once we’ve become ill! We take care of our computers the same way, in that we rarely think about the safety or well-being of our data until something happens that leads to data loss or corruption. And when that does happen, how do you recover your lost computer files?

Have you ever taken a moment to imagine what would happen if you lost some or all of your computer files? Whether you only use your computer for personal reasons; or for school or work, file or data loss can be devastating! Think of all of those family photographs, music files or class assignments! Think of the report you spent weeks working on. Some files can be replaced with time and effort, while others (particularly your photos or home videos) cannot.

Numerous reports tell us that over a third of computer users don’t back up their files; and of those that actually do perform some data backup – 76% of people don’t do it often enough.

Most people tend to think computer files are lost only due to catastrophic events – like tornadoes and hurricanes. Don’t forget about slightly more common events, including fire, flood or computer viruses. A computer “disaster” does not necessarily have to be one from Mother Nature, either. Suppose you dropped your laptop down the stairs or spilled your coffee on the keyboard?

Losing personal files is devastating because of their sentimental value – while business owners who rely on content and files can consider the loss of data fatal to their business if they don’t have a data backup plan in place.

Create a Plan to Recover Your Lost Computer Files Before Disaster Strikes

Just like many human health issues can be prevented with proper diet and care, having a complete backup plan in place can prevent disaster from occurring to your precious data. Data backup isn’t as complicated or expensive as you might believe. It is far easier to back up your files to be able to restore them after something damages your computer, than it is to recover them after disaster strikes. Consider a data backup plan to be your computer’s insurance policy!

Picking Up The Pieces

If you’ve already experienced the loss of data and you hadn’t backed up your data and files, you’ll need to use data recovery services to recover as much of the lost information as possible. Data recovery makes it possible to save some of the data from damaged, corrupted or failed storage devices, but it’s expensive, and you may never recover 100% of the data you’ve lost.

Data Backup and Recovery Solution

Your best solution is to use a remote data backup system. This will backup and store your data files and information at regularly scheduled intervals to an online data store accessed via the web. Your backed-up information can then be restored to any computer if your computer’s hard disk fails, or if it has been attacked by a virus, or physically damaged. Some people back up their files to CDs or flash drives – and then keep these storage devices in the same location as the computer. If there is a natural disaster, chances are the computer and the backup copies will be ruined.

Remote data backup services exist for both personal computer users and businesses of all sizes. Prices range from very reasonable to very expensive – based on how much storage you require and other factors. Prevention is the best medicine – give yourself peace of mind with a data backup insurance policy for your computer files.

Click here to learn how Fossie Consulting can help you prevent data loss and quickly recover your lost computer files with our Remote Data Storage Services for your business in Guelph, Ontario and surrounding cities.

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Small Businesses Benefit From Managed IT Services

From start-ups to multi-billion dollar businesses, everyone is looking for ways to cut costs while turning a profit. In fact, many companies are just trying to keep things in the black, however that does not eliminate the need for practices that will improve and grow these businesses. Since few people have the expertise to manage much of today’s technology, a certain percentage of their budgets should be allocated to IT and software applications maintenance. Here are ways that Managed IT Services benefit small and medium businesses.

Benefits of Managed IT Services for Small Businesses

  • Increased productivity- Businesses are established to fill the need for a product or service while providing a livelihood for the business owners and their employees. In order to do this, businesses have to ensure they are working at full capacity at all times. Downtime or work performed at reduced levels is time and money wasted. Managed IT Services can help businesses not only quickly repair problems when they occur but also act as a proactive measure to spot and treat potential problems before they have an impact on productivity.
  • Supports in-house IT- Many businesses do not want to relinquish all IT maintenance control to an outside party, and small businesses do not always have the resources to support the type of IT department needed to keep their business running at full speed. A majority of businesses can benefit from adding the expertise, tools and availability of a Managed IT Services Provider to help support in-house IT departments.
  • Remote services- Managed IT Services Providers work from a remote location, providing desktop, email and back-up and recovery support services without adding to the actual number of “employees” on site. The services provided are unobtrusive and in the majority of cases, have no impact in the day-to-day activities of current in-house employees.
  • Affordable- Generally when you bring on a Managed IT Services Provider, a consultant will perform an onsite assessment of the company, its workflows and processes and the current state of its supporting technology to determine what services are needed to meet organizational goals. Business owners often have a choice between several different levels of service, making it possible for a company with a limited budget to choose a package that best suits their needs.

Security is a big concern for business owners and individuals alike. In the past, business owners have been reluctant to entrust secure or private information to a third party, offsite vendor. As Managed IT Services Providers continue to prove their value, more companies are realizing the benefits and value of their services. Managed IT Services Providers continue to improve technology to provide secure, quality services for businesses of all sizes. As a result, smaller businesses which operate with leaner budgets find themselves in a position to reap the benefits of these services. Business owners often have to make difficult decisions regarding how they will improve their business while sticking to the budget. As the market for Managed IT Services experiences continual growth in the next few years, this method of IT maintenance and service delivery will likely become the “norm” for small to mid size businesses looking to reduce costs and improve uptime and business continuity. Companies that recognize the benefits of Managed IT Services will have a jump on their competition.

Click here to learn how Fossie Consulting can help you save reap these benefits and more with our Managed IT Services program for your business in Guelph, Ontario and surrounding cities.

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