cybersecurity

7 Ways to Prevent a Data Breach in Your Business

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Don’t think you’re vulnerable to a data breach? Think again. In 2018, businesses reported 1,244 breaches – and small businesses accounted for 58 percent of victims. In honor of National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, here are seven ways to prevent a data breach in your business:

Take Inventory of Your Risks

Conduct a complete audit of your systems, including on-premises, cloud and third-party IT assets that could lead to your network. Think about not only obvious points, like your servers and applications, but also your employees’ devices, Internet of Things-enabled devices, and industrial control systems.

Once you’ve taken stock of your infrastructure, prioritize any issues you find. Likely, you’re dealing with limited resources, so decide which problems are putting you at the most risk, like unpatched software or weak passwords.

Control User Access

When possible, employees should only have access to the data they need for their positions, and sensitive data should only be accessible to authorized users. It’s unlikely that all of your employees need access to all of your data, all the time.

Think also about how to handle departing employees and temporary employees like vendors and contractors. Provide the necessary passwords, key cards, laptop access and more that those employees need, but make it a priority to rescind access as soon as their work with your company ends.

Keep Software Updated

Many high-profile data breaches, including the WannaCry ransomware attack in 2017, are a result of hackers exploiting a weakness in older software. In the case of the WannaCry attack, Microsoft had already released patches to close the exploit, but many companies had failed to apply the patches or were using out-of-date Windows systems that no longer had support. 

Fortunately, the fix for this is fairly simple. Patch and update your software as soon as the developer releases those options, and upgrade your software when it’s no longer supported by the developer. This is especially timely now with the end of support for many Microsoft products starting in January 2020.

Enforce BYOD Policies

Your employees are probably using laptops, tablets and smartphones for at least some of their work. Unsecured endpoints can lead hackers straight to your network, rendering your other security measures much less effective and making your sensitive data vulnerable to a breach.

To combat this threat, you need a dedicated mobile device management program. Whether you provide the device or employees use their own personal devices, implement data security measures to ensure that employees are handling, retrieving and sending data safely. If a device is lost or stolen, create a policy to protect your data, such as remotely wiping the device.

Strengthen Credentials

No one likes managing their passwords, but unique passwords are critical to preventing a data breach. Don’t leave password strength up to chance. Require your employees to use complex passwords that are changed frequently, at least every 90 days. Employees should not write passwords down where others can find them. 

A password management tool such as LastPass or OneLogin can store and remember multiple encrypted passwords to reduce the hassle of employees forgetting complex passwords. Another security best practice is multi-factor authentication, where passwords are supplemented by passcodes, challenge questions and other identification measures. Even if an employee accidentally gives their login information away in a phishing attack, two-factor authentication will minimize that damage.

Educate Employees

Security-wise, employees are your weakest link; 95 percent of cybersecurity breaches are due to human error. Train your employees to identify and report signs of a data breach, but more importantly, train them to prevent a data breach. When your employees fully understand and support initiatives such as BYOD security or password management, your security will be stronger across the board.

Perhaps the most crucial area for employee training is email. Since the majority of malware, ransomware and phishing attacks stem from illegitimate emails, training your employees how to spot and report strange senders, links or attachments can drastically minimize the chance of a breach.

Back Up Files

Our last tip is to back up your files. While this is always a best practice for all businesses, it can especially pay off when your business suffers a ransomware attack. When your files are securely backed up to an off-site or cloud location, you won’t have to debate whether or not to pay the hacker. You’ll simply clean your systems, retrieve your data and continue your day.

Unfortunately, backups are no longer a set-it-and-forget-it measure. Hackers are disabling backups and then waiting 30, 60, 90 days to take systems down, leaving companies with no choice but to pay a ransom to retrieve their data. Regularly testing your backups to ensure that they’re working as intended is key to protecting yourself.

How We Can Help

Implementing all of these security procedures can be time-consuming and costly, especially for a small or mid-size business. We assess your security needs and implement procedures to help you minimize the chances of a data breach or quickly identify and contain a breach in progress. Don’t ignore the threat of data breaches – contact us today.

business continuity

4 Ways a Business Continuity Plan Can Help Your Company

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As a business owner, the buck stops with you. Your employees rely on you to have the answers when problem occurs. But what are you going to do when you find out a hurricane or wildfire is heading your way? What about massive hardware failure? Will you be prepared? 

Nobody wants to think about a natural or manmade disaster affecting their business, so that’s why companies delay or ignore creating an emergency plan. A Travelers Insurance study found that 48 percent of small businesses have no plan in place. 

To be prepared in the event of a data, natural or manmade disaster, companies need to have a business continuity plan in place before a crisis occurs. A business continuity plan is a document outlining how a business will continue services following an emergency. 

With that in mind, here are four ways a business continuity plan can help your business:

  1. Identify Essential Business Functions

Do you know the minimum requirements for running your company? One of the primary goals of a business continuity plan is to identify the core functions of your business. These functions are what need to be addressed first to get back up and running at a minimum acceptable level. That way, you can reopen while continuing to address other issues.

  2. Minimize Downtime

Every hour your website, production line or office is down costs you money in lost profit. Following a disaster, 90 percent of smaller companies fail within a year unless they can resume operations within five days, according to FEMA. With a well-developed plan, your employees will know what to do to get operations running again as quickly as possible. 

  3. Uncover Gaps in Your Business

While doing a business impact analysis, you may find gaps in your plan. For example, if you’re in manufacturing, do you have a secondary location to shift operations if the main facility is inoperable? If not, then you may need to come up with a plan to temporarily use a rental facility or stock up on emergency inventory. 

  4. Get Peace of Mind

Researching and developing a business continuity plan can be a daunting task, no matter the size of your company. But once you’ve tested your plan and it works, you’ll be glad you have it. You and your employees can rest easy knowing that if the worst happens, you’ll be ready. 

Unfortunately, not all small-to-midsize businesses have the time to halt work and focus on building a plan. Luckily, they don’t have to do it alone. Our team of experts can help simplify the business continuity process to help prepare your business if the worst ever happens. 

Stop worrying about the worst-case scenario and contact us today. 

backup-disaster-recovery

BDR: A Shelter from the Storm

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As a business owner, you’re always focusing on how to best move your company forward. But have you taken time to consider the potential threats to your operations?

Having a backup and disaster recovery (BDR) plan is the best way to safeguard your data from all types of loss and destruction. Get to know these threats and the preparations you can make to keep your business going when dark clouds begin to loom.

Natural Disasters

You may assume backing up your data locally on a hard drive is the best way to recover it in the event your primary system fails. But what would you would do if that hard drive (and the entire building it resides in) was destroyed by a natural disaster?
Be it a hurricane, earthquake, fire or flood, the threats to your vital data are very real. But even if your business becomes a sinking ship, you can have enough lifeboats for every byte.

The best course of action is to store all data in a secure location using cloud services. This way, when it’s time to pick your business back up, your only concern will be selecting new office furniture.

Cyber Crime

A common way for cyber criminals to steal your data and make money is ransomware. This malicious software holds data hostage unless a specified amount is paid. “WannaCry” ransomware was a recent program that received worldwide attention for its effectiveness in blocking access to crucial data. Unfortunately, many of those who paid the ransom never had their data returned.

Setting up a firewall will block most attacks, but having an active image of all your data stored is the best defense. Data images provide a comprehensive and usable mirror of everything you’ve worked on and provide access when your primary system is locked out. It will also save you time on setting up new servers and reinstalling applications.

Internal Problems

Technology will induce audible rage in even the quietest cubical when it malfunctions for seemingly no reason. Sometimes data loss can occur due to forces from within your company. Even though you invested in the best servers and equipment, there’s always the chance something will cause a catastrophic failure and the loss of everything your business relies on to function.

Data loss can also stem from basic human error. Employees who are new, temporary or even long-term could mistakenly delete vital data. There’s also the unfortunate reality that data could purposely be deleted or corrupted by disgruntled employees.

How We Can Help

With so many unpredictable threats looming, BDR is your shelter from the storm. Disasters do happen, but you can rest easy knowing that the most important things will survive. Contact us now and ask how we can disaster-proof your business.

Is Your Business Following the Right Financial Compliance Regulations?

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Does your website or company accept payments online or store financial records digitally? If you answered “yes,” then you need to be compliant with industry regulations. 

In simple terms, compliance is the act of meeting established industry or government guidelines. These guidelines are in place to protect you and your customers’ data. As technology changes, these compliance regulations evolve, and it can be difficult for some businesses to keep up with the changes. 

Here are two compliance regulations businesses need to be aware of regarding financial information:

PCI

With more and more financial transactions conducted online than ever before, you have to be vigilant in protecting you and your customers’ payment information. All it takes is one data breach for your customers to lose trust in your business. Enter the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard, or PCI DSS. These regulations and requirements are designed to ensure that all companies that accept, store, process or transmit cardholder data during a credit card transaction maintain a secure environment. 

There are different compliance levels, determined by how many online credit card transactions your business performs within a year. Each major credit card company has its own specific requirements, such as annual questionnaires and quarterly network scans by a third-party vendor.

SOX

In the early 2000s, the U.S. government passed legislation to crack down on inaccurate financial information following scandals involving high-profile corporations such as Enron and WorldCom. This legislation became known as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, or SOX. The act protects shareholders and the general public by improving the accuracy of corporate financial disclosures.

 

The financial and IT departments of all public companies are required to follow SOX regulations. The act outlines which records need to be stored and how long you need to maintain a secure backup of your financial data. 

What Happens if You’re Not in Compliance?

For companies that are not in compliance with PCI, SOX or other regulations, there can be harsh penalties. For example, if you’re found in violation of the SOX requirements, you could get kicked off your exchange listing and face multimillion-dollar fines.

How We Can Help

If your business takes any kind of online payment, you need to be in compliance. We perform audits and assessments to determine whether your company meets industry regulations. Most importantly, we can create policies, controls and procedures to ensure your company prevents future issues and meets compliance every time.

Don’t navigate complicated compliance and industry regulations alone. Contact us today to get started.

Checklist: Do You Need a Project Management Solution?

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Project management (PM) software plays a critical role in how successfully you implement a new solution or resolve a task. In fact, a study by Hive found that 77 percent of high-performing projects use project management software. So, if projects are more successful using PM software, why aren’t more companies using it?

The answers are as unique as each company, with one of the top responses being that there is a general misunderstanding of how project management impacts your services. But, how do you know if a project management software solution is truly right for your business?

Start by filling out this checklist:

  • Do you have visibility on each step of a product or process deployment?
  • Do you have a way to tell who is responsible for each task?
  • Can you organize your tasks into projects to eliminate chaos and confusion?
  • Can you easily track time spent on a project for accurate billing?
  • Can your team see which deadlines are approaching and prioritize their workload?
  • Can your team collaborate and share information in a single location?
  • Do your team members know their timeline before they begin a project?
  • Can you or your team quickly identify gaps in your deliverables?
  • Can you identify projects holds and quickly determine why they occur?
  • Do you have a way to generate reports based on the completed projects?

0-3 Yes: You need a project management software solution ASAP. You’re likely losing valuable time, money and resources on projects that you don’t quite have a handle on. You’re missing deadlines and struggling to get the entire team on board with process changes. By adopting a PM solution, you’ll gain visibility and control over your projects and deployments – helping you keep on schedule and budget.

4-7 Yes: You have a handle on some things, but you’re likely losing valuable visibility when it comes to where projects are being held up or how your team’s time is being spent. Don’t let a deployment come to a screeching halt because your teams lack communication about when a task has been completed and when another task should begin. A PM solution will help your team stay on the same page and work towards a common goal – total project euphoria.

8-10 Yes: You have a handle on most things, but do you have a comprehensive solution that lets you assign tasks, track time, create project reports and manage timelines all in one place? A PM solution makes it easier to monitor and manage your team and work together across different departments. Cut out the costs of adopting multiple software programs when a single solution can help you streamline and optimize your business.

To learn more about project management software, which solution is right for your business and how we can help you keep it secure, contact us today.

5 Things to Outsource to Your vCIO

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As your business grows, you’ll eventually need someone to help you choose and deploy technology to protect your business, improve processes and support your organization’s goals. If you’ve never heard of a virtual CIO, you might assume you don’t need one – but virtual CIOs, or vCIOs, give companies the benefits of a high-level technology executive without the cost of hiring an in-house CIO.

Virtual CIOs examine your current infrastructure, locate gaps in security and productivity, and implement solutions to improve your business operations. They bring their personal experiences and a network of technical resources to work with you and determine the best IT solutions for your business. Here are five aspects of your business that you can outsource to a vCIO:

  1. Strategic Initiatives
    Have you been putting off large projects because you’re worried about not having enough bandwidth to successfully manage them? Virtual CIOs can be brought in on an as-needed basis to oversee strategy IT initiatives that promote long-term growth and competitiveness within your organization.
  2. Business Continuity Planning
    Natural disasters, employee errors, even potential data loss during a planned system update or migration – there are numerous threats facing your business’s mission-critical information. A vCIO designs a comprehensive strategy to keep your business in operation during and after a disaster.
  3. Emerging Opportunities
    Technology trends come and go, but the right solutions can make a measurable impact on your efficiency, growth and profit. Your vCIO keeps on top of emerging technologies and identifies opportunities for innovation in your business to help you make higher-ROI technology investments.
  4. Cybersecurity Services
    Small and medium-sized businesses aren’t immune to cyberattacks – in fact, hackers often view them as easy targets. With help from an experienced vCIO, you can protect your business by implementing strong security measures to deflect malicious software and unauthorized access.
  5. IT Budgeting
    Technology costs can vary wildly from month to month – or, you can partner with a vCIO who helps you stick to a predictable IT budget. Plus, virtual CIOs implement technology strategically to reduce operating costs and drive revenue, allowing a larger budget for your business to expand and thrive.

Virtual CIOs are ideal for businesses that don’t have the budget for a full-time, in-house CIO. With our vCIO services, you get access to a team of knowledgeable IT experts at a price that makes sense for your business. To discuss how a vCIO fits into your company, contact us today and start your business transformation.

remote workforce

5 Technologies You Need to Power Your Remote Workforce

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In a tech-driven world where digital is king and consumers are demanding transparency and reliability, working from anywhere becomes crucial to the success of your business. But the IT challenges that come with working remotely are intimidating, and you’re not always sure how to get started. Managed services is your answer, and here are five ways managed services can help get you started:

In a tech-driven world where digital is king and consumers are demanding transparency and reliability, working from anywhere becomes crucial to the success of your business. But the IT challenges that come with working remotely are intimidating, and you’re not always sure how to get started. Managed services is your answer, and here are five ways managed services can help get you started:

  1. Mobile/Wireless/Endpoint Protection | Accessing confidential information from personal devices is all well and good as long as they’re kept safe. From theft to phishing emails, personal devices create opportunities for cybercriminals to obtain your customer’s data. With endpoint protection services, you gain a multi-layer security approach to ensure your laptops, tablets and mobile devices are safe.
  2. Server & Network Management | Protecting your business begins at the core—your network. Working remotely, you need the ability to work on encrypted documents and files from the server, but also, to monitor and maintain a distributed IT infrastructure. With server and network management, you gain a secure connection to your network, so you can access encrypted files and other crucial data while maintaining a multi-location network connection.
  3. Office 365 | Working with your team is one of the toughest challenges of the remote workforce. With Office 365 services, you gain access to advanced applications including Skype for Business, Word and Excel. You’ll collaborate with team members—from any mobile device—in real-time on a single document and converse using Skype.
  4. UC & VoIP | Meetings are a large part of your day—you need tools that allow you to continue the conversation away from the office. Unified Communications and VoIP make conversing easier with call conferencing features and reliable call connectivity. By using your IP address instead of a physical phone, you can call into a meeting from any of your devices.
  5. Cloud Hosting | Connecting with your team is increasingly difficult without a single source for projects and ongoing files. With cloud hosting, your network, servers, applications and critical documents are encrypted and hosted from a single location. This makes it easier for your team to work from multiple locations and a variety of devices.

Whether you’re working from an airplane terminal or from the comfort of your favorite coffee shop, working remotely is easier than ever with a managed service provider. As your partner, we’ll provide managed services designed to make your life easier without raising your operating costs.

 

Contact us today to learn about our other services, and how we can help you safely work from anywhere.

why should you consider IoT for business

Why Should You Consider IoT? The Good, the Bad and the Integration

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As technology progresses, we’re finding new ways to keep all of our devices connected for a seamless user experience. This idea is called the Internet of Things (IoT), and it works for more than just computing devices – it also includes mechanical and digital objects.

From microwaves, washing machines and lamps to televisions, projectors and security systems, connecting your technologies is a powerful concept. Gartner predicts that IoT will be a $1.9 trillion industry by 2020. So, what do you need to know to take advantage of this trend to grow your business?

The Good

The IoT helps you track behavior in real-time and enhances situational awareness, but what does that actually mean for you? Imagine it’s 6 pm, and you’re cooking dinner while listening to music. You connect your mobile device to your surround-sound television. Your technology keeps track of your activity, and IoT uses that information to analyze what you’re doing, viewing or listening to in real-time. Using that data, you’ll gain a customized experience. You skip a slower song, and your devices react by adjusting algorithms to produce fewer slow-tempo songs. Now, imagine how you can use IoT to enhance your customer’s experience. You can use the data you collected to figure out when their technology needs updated or to identify breaches based on location and trends.

The Bad

It’s important to note that the more devices connected to the Internet, the more vulnerable your information is to unauthorized users. By connecting your mobile device to your home security system, your business’s Wi-Fi, your email and more, you open up a variety of entry points for hackers and other cyber criminals to access and manipulate your systems. But, even the bad isn’t all bad – a reliable IT partner can keep your endpoints protected by multiple layers of security.

The Integration

When considering an IoT approach, you need to ask yourself a few questions:

  • What are the goals of my business?
  • What is my realistic budget?
  • Which solutions make the most sense for my business?
  • Should I integrate technology all at once or in stages?

A managed service provider can help you answer these questions while ensuring IoT devices are properly integrated and secured. Integration begins with identifying your needs, determining which solutions work best for your business needs, then deploying those solutions, testing services post-deployment and protecting your endpoints.

Adopting the IoT approach impacts your business significantly. The vast amount of data and services available can shape your daily workflow. For more information on how IoT can affect your business, or to start implementing IoT, contact us today. We’ll help you work through the good, the bad and the integration.

IT disaster recovery

5 Lessons 2017 Taught Us About IT Disaster Recovery

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We can look back on 2017 as the worst of times – when it came to disasters, at least. Severe weather, data breaches and global hacking attempts affected thousands of businesses, costing them an estimated $926 to $17,244 for every minute of unplanned downtime. Instead of letting the unthinkable damage your business, fight back with these five strategies:

  • Back Up Your Data to the Cloud

Following Hurricanes Irma, Harvey and Maria, hundreds of businesses found their physical equipment and servers submerged in water. Storing data on-site is convenient, but an unexpected disaster can wipe away years of information in the blink of an eye. Migrating your data to the cloud means your information is protected and readily available – and you’ll never have to start from scratch.

  • Prepare for a Remote Workforce

Even after the Thomas wildfire in California was contained, smoke and poor air conditions made it impossible for many employees to return to their offices. Anything from a severe storm to surprise pest control treatments can force employees out of their workspaces, so have a plan in place that will allow your team to access necessary tools from any Internet-enabled location.

  • Monitor for Breaches and Respond Quickly

A massive breach of data from Equifax – one of the three largest credit agencies in the US – lasted from May to July and wasn’t reported publicly until September. The Social Security, credit card and driver’s license numbers of more than 145 million consumers were compromised, and victims rushed to protect themselves against potential identity thieves. Avoid losing your customers’ trust by proactively monitoring for breaches, shutting them down promptly and providing a full inventory of the damage to those affected.

  • Don’t Underestimate Human Error

People are unpredictable – that’s why 90 percent of cyber security issues stem from human behavior. Employee negligence is the number one cause of data breaches at small to medium-sized businesses. Comprehensive training can close the gap, but it’s not foolproof. Combine your team’s efforts with strong cyber security policies.

  • Update Outdated Software Programs

The WannaCry Ransomware Attack, which resulted in hackers taking control of more than 200,000 computers in 150 countries, targeted a weakness in outdated software for which a patch was already available. Hospitals, airlines, police departments and more were brought to a halt, and paying the ransom did not result in the return of data. Update your software regularly to fix vulnerabilities and avoid becoming an easy target for hackers.

Don’t panic. A solid IT disaster recovery plan will protect your business and get you back up and running with minimal – if any – hassle and downtime. Unsure where to start? Unique Computing Solutions learns the ins and outs of your business to develop and implement a customized recovery plan. Contact us today to get started.