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Byrgottilla

Can Hacking Tools Improve Your Security?

Right now, someone is scanning your network, looking for gaps in your security. They are reviewing your system for any weaknesses to exploit, hoping to find a few ways into the system that they can use to get inside. The software to do this is easily available if you know where to look, and it’s almost as easy to use. A download, a few keystrokes, and they have a chance of worming their way in and accessing your data and resources. If it’s this easy, why not just do it yourself?

You can get the software, run it, and get intricate details of your capabilities and vulnerabilities. Better yet, since it’s your system, it’s perfectly legal to run the scan. You can discover holes in your security, uninstalled patches, you name it—and fix them before an attacker finds the same loopholes. Think of it as a game, and discover how many ways into your network you can plug. If you find these gaps before they are exploited you can firm up your security with a minimum of effort. It’s amusing as well as useful, so why let the hackers have all the fun?

If you’re worried about how to find these vulnerability exploitation programs, contact an IT security consultant. They can help you find the best programs to safeguard your information network and provide routine checks to make sure everything remains in good working order.

ByDaniel Gottilla

Viruses and Spyware—Two Sides of the Same Coin

The Internet has given us so much. We have entertainment at our fingertips, we can communicate with virtually anyone around the world in real time, and we can send enormous amounts of data across the country in seconds. It’s a tremendous freedom, but sadly, there’s a dark side as well. Viruses and spyware lurk in the alleys of the web, attaching to files and computers. They operate differently, however, and it’s useful to know the difference.

You can hardly read the news anymore without seeing reports of viruses. They attack businesses, schools, and governments and wreak tremendous havoc. They can steal data, but often they destroy files, crash networks, and allow malicious people the ability to get inside your network. All in all, they are nasty little bullies.

Spyware is the kid sister of viruses. It’s slightly less dangerous, but equally as annoying. While it can attach toolbars to your applications or install tracking software in exchange for emoticons and colorful cursors, sometimes it just works quietly in the darkness. Spyware is exactly what the name suggests—it spies on you, tracking data and keystrokes and sends it back to whomever or whatever the source of the spyware is. It won’t crash your system, but it can cause some hefty data loss.

The vast majority of the Internet is a creative, entertaining, and occasionally educational tool, but there are dangers. While there is a difference between viruses and spyware, the best plan is to stay safe and avoid either creature. Make sure your anti-virus and anti-spyware software is in good working order and play it safe online.

ByDaniel Gottilla

Viruses and Spyware—Two Sides of the Same Coin

The Internet has given us so much. We have entertainment at our fingertips, we can communicate with virtually anyone around the world in real time, and we can send enormous amounts of data across the country in seconds. It’s a tremendous freedom, but sadly, there’s a dark side as well. Viruses and spyware lurk in the alleys of the web, attaching to files and computers. They operate differently, however, and it’s useful to know the difference.

You can hardly read the news anymore without seeing reports of viruses. They attack businesses, schools, and governments and wreak tremendous havoc. They can steal data, but often they destroy files, crash networks, and allow malicious people the ability to get inside your network. All in all, they are nasty little bullies.

Spyware is the kid sister of viruses. It’s slightly less dangerous, but equally as annoying. While it can attach toolbars to your applications or install tracking software in exchange for emoticons and colorful cursors, sometimes it just works quietly in the darkness. Spyware is exactly what the name suggests—it spies on you, tracking data and keystrokes and sends it back to whomever or whatever the source of the spyware is. It won’t crash your system, but it can cause some hefty data loss.

The vast majority of the Internet is a creative, entertaining, and occasionally educational tool, but there are dangers. While there is a difference between viruses and spyware, the best plan is to stay safe and avoid either creature. Make sure your anti-virus and anti-spyware software is in good working order and play it safe online.

ByDaniel Gottilla

The Benefits of Having IT Staff Always On Call

It’s 3:00 am, your system has crashed, and the commerce you need to get through isn’t happening. Sure, not much is going on with your network in the wee hours of the morning, but by 8:00 am you’ll be in the thick of the business day and the repairs will just be starting. No, it’s not a dream, but it certainly sounds like a nightmare.

What if you had someone on call 24 hours a day to address situations just like these? What if this person could be contacted by your system, with no human intervention, to ask them to look into it? That can happen, and it does happen in businesses all over. At the first sign of a problem the computer contacts whichever employee is on duty and requests their intervention. The computer could also be set to contact a consultant, letting all of your precious full-timers get their beauty sleep and come in the next morning with the situation already resolved.

With proper IT security and maintenance, it’s unlikely your system will come crashing down at all, much less early in the morning. Isn’t is worth the peace of mind, however, to know that if it were to happen there would be someone at the ready to take care of it? No matter what sort of damage has occurred, early notice means less damage and a quicker return to business. What’s great for the business is great for the bottom line, and that enough to let you sleep easy.

Byrgottilla

Rethinking the Etiquette of File Sharing by Email

Email etiquette—how 1994! Although it might seem like email etiquette is a thing of the past, most of the same rules still apply. Don’t type in all caps, don’t open attachments from strangers, and, of course, don’t bog down someone’s network with huge files you wouldn’t be happy to receive yourself. In today’s world, however, sending those files can be a business necessity. What’s a company to do?

The easiest plan is to compress the file. Think of compressing like putting the file in one of those storage bags you vacuum the air out of. It’s smaller, easier to pack and send, and requires an extra bit of effort to open it back up. By virtue of being smaller, it’s less likely to clog the recipient’s system or be blocked by their firewall for being too large.

If compressing isn’t the answer, check to see if you have a shared network resource you can place the file on. The recipient can then easily pick the file up without any compressing, unzipping, or hassle. If the recipient is a client or customer you are comfortable with, ask them if there is a shared location you can send the file to. Again, with a minimum of effort they can retrieve the file without any email program getting cranky about it. This is especially important with executable files. Firewalls and anti-virus programs tend to flag these files and may quarantine them if you are sending them by email, whereas with a shared location you can avoid all of the interference.

Last but not least, always explain any attachment you send either by email or to a shared resource. Viruses love to tag along on as attachments, but it’s far less likely one is hooked to a known attachment. That’s old news, but you’d be surprised how often it’s forgotten. Do yourself a favor, and be kind to the people you send files to. It makes good business sense, and that never goes out of style.

ByDaniel Gottilla

What Makes a Good Password?

The passwords you and your employees choose may be the single most important piece of your basic system security, but how much effort is put into them?

  • Are they easy to guess?
  • Hard to remember?
  • How often are they changed, and are they different for each application?

All of these are important ways of reassessing your password selection.

Think of your passwords like the goalie at a hockey game. A great one keeps all of the pucks out, and a poor one allows anyone who tries hard enough access to your systems. The first thing you should do is make sure every person has their own passwords. That’s pretty basic, but if passwords are shared, it can be pretty hard to track down who is doing what in the system.

Make sure all passwords have at least eight characters, that they are alphanumeric, case sensitive, and also easy to remember. Easy to remember is really the clincher here. You don’t want to have to write them down because then the note can be found, but if it’s too easy, anyone could guess it. One idea is to take a random word and manipulate it. Elephant is easy to remember, and if you change it to E13phan7, you have a password that’s both hard to crack and easy to remember.

Of course, to keep the puck out of the goal, you have to give your goalie a break from time to time. In the same way, you should also change your passwords often and use a new one for each account and application. That way if one is compromised, it will change soon, regardless, and no one will be able to access other systems beyond the one they have the password for.

It may seem like a lot of effort, but keeping passwords safe keeps the goalie in the game and keeps your opponent from scoring.

ByDaniel Gottilla

IT Tips: There’s Danger Lurking on the Web

The Internet contains a vast wealth of information. It has changed the way research and commerce take place, as well as how we are entertained. Most of us know how easy it is to spend hours lost checking out websites and checking email. The Internet’s not all information and fun, however. There are risks to mindless surfing, and if it’s happening on your network, your business could be in danger.

Any site could contain a virus, but the more reputable a site is, the less likely it is to be of harm. Any site that is inappropriate for the workplace is also very likely to contain viruses and spyware. Educating your employees to avoid these sites may feel like overkill, but it’s better to be clear about your expectations than to learn the hard way that someone just didn’t get understand.

Warez sites, which are common hubs for downloading illegal software, are another huge risk. Not only is much of the software pirated, it often contains viruses and spyware that you don’t want on your network. It’s not worth saving a few dollars if it means putting your company in harm’s way.

Even seemingly harmless sites can cause issues. Streaming music and video or large downloads can take up huge amounts of bandwidth. This waste of resources could slow your system to a crawl, hindering legitimate business. Not only that, social sites are now taking up record amounts of employee time—time when they are getting paid to do actual work!

The Internet doesn’t have to be a frightening place for your network. You already have security measures in place, but by eliminating some of these other risks you can save your system and resources from being sucked in to the dangers lurking on the web.

Byrgottilla

Could You Be Enabling Distributed Denial of Service Attacks?

Taking care of network security is getting more difficult, and it’s also getting more dangerous all the time. You know your system is at risk to viruses and attackers. They could find a loophole and gain access to your system and resources, taking you down. But what if they don’t stop there? Did you know they could use your computers as a jumping off point to attack other businesses?

A distributed denial of service attack is when just this sort of attack happens. Denial of service is when your network is attacked and taken out. It becomes a distributed denial of service attack when your resources are then used to attack a third party. It may be emails being sent to crash their network, or massive hits to their system to crash it with the volume of requests, but either way you’ve been compromised and this exploitation is harming others.

It’s one thing to have to secure your own network, but it’s extra important when it comes to protecting others. Not only that, but if your safety standards are found to be lacking, you could be on the hook legally for the damage done to the third party being attacked. Can you believe it? On top of recovering from your own attack you may have to take responsibility for the damage done while you tried to stop it.

Do both yourself and others a favor—make your system security a top priority in your network IT management. It could save you a lot of hassle, and help keep the law off of your case at the same time.

ByDaniel Gottilla

How Well Are You Tracking Your Vulnerabilities?

Every network has them—the little weaknesses that an attacker could exploit to get in. Every business has to search for patches and implement basic security to fill the holes as they find them. Day after day, you find new holes, you fill new holes. But what if you could not only track the vulnerabilities you’ve found, but have access to a list of other known vulnerabilities? You could be proactive, and it would sure beat the regular grind of hunting and patching.

By working with an IT consultant, you can access a list of vulnerabilities from a wide range of businesses and networks. With this data at your fingertips, you can start hunting for vulnerabilities you didn’t know existed, and strengthen them before anyone can exploit them. Without vulnerability tracking it’s like trying to put a jigsaw puzzle together without the picture on the box. Sure, you can do it, but you waste a ton of time and resources along the way.

Vulnerability tracking data helps you know what the pieces look like when they are all put together. You can preemptively find and close security gaps when you know where to look, and that’s just good sense. Why spend time hunting when you can fairly and legitimately get the answers and put them to use? The data you compile can in turn help other companies find their own security holes. By sharing the vulnerabilities you’ve found, you can give the picture on the box so much more detail, and since your weaknesses have already been taken care of, there’s no risk to you. With all of these benefits, why not use the full picture to solve your security puzzle?

Byrgottilla

IT Tips: You Might Need to Back Up Your Back Ups

Backing up your data is common practice these days. We’ve all lost a document or a file, and no one wants to go through that again. We certainly don’t want to experience it on a grand scale, trying to recreate staggering amounts of data due to an oversight.

But where do you keep your backups? What are you storing them on? In the event you need them, will they be ready to access so you can get back to business?

We almost all know that a system could crash and our most recent data could be lost, which is why regular back up is part of our standard daily operations. But where do you store your backup? Having it on the premises sounds like a great idea because it’s convenient, since you can access it and get back to work as soon as possible. But what if there’s a fire or a flood? Not only are your systems down, but your data backup is likely destroyed as well, and that’s a terrible position to be in.

Storing your data off site is a much smarter solution. It’s safe if your main facility is destroyed or compromised, and if the backup is somehow destroyed, you still have access to your system and can create a new backup. Keeping this backup off of your network is also a smart plan because you want to keep it safe from hackers and viruses. If it’s not accessible, it can’t be trashed.

Backing up your data is so common it’s hardly thought of, and for good reason. You want to be protected, but you also want to make sure that your data and network aren’t going down together. The only thing worse than having to re-upload your lost data is trying to painstakingly recreate it. Do yourself a favor, and call your IT consultant today to learn how to keep your information off site and off of your network.