working from home

The Shrieks and Chills of Working from Home

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

This year has been…interesting, to say the least. One minute businesses were running normally. Seemingly overnight, many of us got the work-from-home position we always wanted. Within and beyond the pandemic, many companies have been transitioning portions of their workforce to work remotely. As technology marches forward, the image of the modern office changes with it.

That being said, cybersecurity is completely different working from home versus an office with dedicated IT support to set up and maintain all computer systems. Cyber thieves are all too aware of this and have acted quickly to take advantage of these new vulnerabilities.

This final Cyber Security Month article discusses protecting yourself and your business from the new threats lurking at home.

Security Dangers Working From Home

When working from home, we generally can’t use the same equipment we enjoyed in the office. Many businesses told their people to use their personal computers when they scrambled to send them home in March. Even if they’re using traditional security techniques, working online makes them more vulnerable to attacks.

For example, maybe they’re relying on the standard Windows firewall. There’s a reason Microsoft constantly pushes security updates to cover the holes in the OS exposed by hackers. This firewall is simply not secure. Perhaps they are extra responsible and installed a computer grade antivirus program. That’s fine against some automated threats, though not for active hackers trying to get access to the system.

Additionally, with many kids learning at home, that same computer may now have additional programs that create vulnerabilities. Many school districts are using software that has had breaches in recent months.

Finally, there’s the latest trend for remote work: VPNs. While some people swear by it for security, last week’s article focused on all the reasons VPN security isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Options to Create a Secure Environment Working From Home

When possible, it’s best to provide the computers and other devices that your employees need when working from home. That way you have complete control of the programs they use and how you set up and maintain their systems. This is often, however, too costly and complex to supply and control systems used in the office and remote.

You could also deploy a relatively new option: a virtual office (or hosted desktop solution). Essentially, this creates a secure place online for employees to log in and do their work from home or any other remote location. This is different from a VPN because a VPN protects only the connection itself, whereas a virtual office gives you a safer harbor, of sorts, to do all your work and store files. This can be extra effective as you know who you’re dealing with from beginning to end and if any sorts of problems arise, they can be fixed from a single source.

Who You Gonna Call?

If the idea of supplying your employees with company-owned devices or the setup and maintenance of a virtual office seem overwhelming, don’t worry! Even many large corporations find this to be too difficult or time-consuming to do on their own. In fact, a recent study showed that more than half of all of the companies surveyed use external services to help with their IT needs, and that number goes up significantly with a larger percentage of their workforce working remotely.

This is complicated stuff and no one expects someone from a nonrelated field to be a pro, which is exactly why we work so hard to make sure these processes and services are as seamless as possible for our clients. We’re a managed service provider — this is what we do. We make sure that when some specter hangs overhead and requires your company to have your employees work remotely (even on a moment’s notice), we can be there to make the transition as smooth as possible. Even if you currently have some sort of remote work arrangement in place currently, we can assess your current setup and make sure that you are optimized for what the business world may throw at you today or in the future!

VPN Security

VPN Security: Trick or Treat?

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

If you’ve been on the internet lately, you’ve probably seen pretty aggressive advertising for VPN services. On paper, they seem like something that can give you anything you would want in your online browsing in terms of security and access.

Continuing our Cyber Security Month series of articles, we’ll be covering this apparent modern miracle of internet browsing. As businesses increasingly move to a digital work environment, web security is more important than ever. With that in mind, is VPN security a true treat…or just a trick?

VPNs: As Sweet as Free Candy

Before we get into the benefits of VPNs, we should probably explain what they are. VPN stands for Virtual Private Network. They essentially create a tunnel for your web browsing by giving you a (usually) local server to log into. This then provides access and  directs your web traffic. Not only is the information to and from the server encrypted, it appears as though the server is browsing the sites, not you.

This can be beneficial for you as a browser. Even if someone were spying on your personal connection, they would only see you connecting to a single server, not the specific pages you visit. You can also make it appear like you’re browsing from another location by changing the IP address. Because of this, you can view sites like Netflix and see content not available in your own country. Additionally, you can avoid internet censorship in countries that tend to have more restrictive regulations, like China.

These services are generally low in cost, especially if you purchase longer subscriptions. Actually, there are several options that offer basic services for free and only charge for premium options. Wow! This all sounds great! So, is there any catch?

VPN Security: A Razor in Your Apple

Everyone wants digital security, but just like with anti-virus software, a single program will never keep you fully safe.  Many users  don’t understand the natural limitations of VPNs, putting too much faith in them, particularly free versions.

For starters, no matter what the ads tell you, VPNs do not give you 100% security on the web. While someone spying on your network may not be able to see what you’re doing, the websites you visit sure do! If the site uses cookies, they attach themselves to your computer, not your IP address, so they can still affect you. Also, you don’t know what sort of security protocols the sites you visit have. In fact, VPNs can give you a dangerous sense of security when you should always be vigilant. For example, if you visit a nefarious site and give them your credit card information, your VPN can’t help. Even if you send your information to a legitimate site, your VPN is  powerless if that site gets hacked.

Another issue is VPNs increase the size of a hacker’s target. In the past few years, hackers have put more energy into breaking into larger targets to increase the payoff. Why steal the fish when you can steal the fish market, so to speak? VPN services provide a juicy target since access to those servers means having the browsing information of many users. This exact scenario took place in 2019 when NordVPN servers were hacked, leaving any and all traffic accessible for a period of a few months! If that happened to one of the biggest names in the game, think about how safe you could be!

Stay Safe at Home

While VPNs are far from a perfect solution, the idea behind them has some merit, namely in that by hiding and encrypting your connection, it makes it that much more difficult to have your data compromised. There are still ways to improve on this technology, though.

One of the best ways is to use a virtual office. This entails a complete virtual desktop provided to anyone with the credentials to log in. This can include everything from productivity software (such as MS Office) to actual data storage. This is a much more secure option for a variety of reasons. First of all, you log into one specific, secure system versus going from website to website. Also, this is a dedicated solution, allowing you to login with full confidence knowing who is handling your connection and data. Lastly, virtual offices are often administered by actual human beings, not just software, allowing any and all threats to be addressed in real-time.

While VPNs make your internet browsing safer, that’s like saying eating five pieces of candy instead of six prevents diabetes. If your business plans on doing any sort of remote or virtual connection, take a look at a virtual office. Don’t leave the setup and administration to just anyone. Contact us today to see just how quickly and safely you can get your employees connected without relying solely on tricky VPN security.

Password Security

Password Security: Don’t let your Password Haunt You

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

October is National Cybersecurity Month and password security is a big part of that! Cybersecurity is so important and appropriate to discuss considering how scary it is out there! As we regularly cover, hackers are getting more advanced by the day, despite security measures improving by leaps and bounds. Of course, no monster is all-powerful and there are ways to protect yourself against these dangers.

In this article, we’ll be discussing a feature that we all use (and abuse) every day: passwords. How insecure can this security feature be and what can you do to protect yourself and your business?

A Necessary Evil

We don’t think that there’s anyone out there that actually enjoys creating and using passwords. After all, they’re just another barrier between you and your data. However, that barrier is exactly what’s going to protect that data from the outside world.

Password Security Struggles

Since many of us struggle to remember passwords, we end up making a lot of common mistakes. These include:

  • Making the password as short as possible
  • Reusing passwords for multiple accounts
  • Not regularly changing the password
  • Using a word that’s easy for us to remember.

We’ve all been told that we should avoid these mistakes ad nauseum, but why?

A Real Monster

When you think of a scary beast like Frankenstein’s monster, what gives us the chills? The sheer physical strength that can break down any door you hide behind. There are software programs that work pretty much the same way, using Brute Force Attacks.

These attacks are codes/programs that test possible password after possible password using random combinations of letters and numbers until something works. Dictionary Attacks operate along the same lines, using all the words in the dictionary instead of just random letters and numbers. Passwords that are too short or too simple feed the success of Brute Force Attacks.

One recent program could crack any 8-character password in less than six hours! Once a hacker cracks that password, they then have access to anything that shares that password. If you use that password for business purposes, the payload is even bigger.

Is Your Password Worth It?

Although cyber pirates still buy large lists of passwords and other stolen data off of the Dark Web for quick hits, they’ve shifted in the past few years focusing on more time and effort on fewer but larger targets. These attacks may take up more of the hacker’s valuable time, but it brings in massive returns.

Naturally, there’s only so much you can milk from a single victim, but a company or organization has much deeper pockets and a lot more to lose. Think about the amount of cash in your personal bank account versus what your company may have at any given time. On top of that, think of all the resources your company has at its disposal that may be vulnerable in the event of an attack.

Fixing the Problem: The Password Security Silver Bullet

We’d be lying if we said there is a cure-all solution to the problem of password hacks because there isn’t any. However, that doesn’t mean that you’re completely vulnerable either. Below are a few ways to keep your password as safe as possible:

  1. Change your passwords regularly — In theory, a hacker could get your password correct eventually. If you keep changing it on a regular basis, you’ll keep them guessing, even if they got the old one correct. On average, we recommend changing passwords every 1-3 months.
  2. Get creative — The best defense for a dictionary attack is not to use words in the dictionary. Either create nonsensical strings of characters or use a combination of words that wouldn’t appear in any standard dictionary. Also, consider using upper and lowercase letters as well as numbers and special characters. As a general rule, the more difficult a password is to remember, the longer it would take for a software program to guess.
  3. Don’t reuse passwords — Having to remember multiple passwords can be a pain. For some of us, we have to use over a dozen passwords before we finish our first coffee! This recommendation keeps as much information as safe as possible if one of your passwords is compromised. Think of a ship or submarine with multiple compartments — if one springs a leak and fills up, close a door to mitigate the damage. If all of your passwords are the same, one lucky guess could bring your digital world crumbling.

Bring in a Champion

As hard as you might try, there’s only so much you can do to protect yourself and your company from threats to your password and overall security. Plus, keeping your system safe can be a full-time job in this world, and you already have one of those.

Instead of trying to fight this monster single-handed, consider bringing in the help of a professional monster killer! Our experienced team is more than happy to swoop in and assist your company with the strongest cyber protection on the market, including password management. Even if your walls have already been breached, we can help in the cleanup and future protection.

Cyber Aware

Be Cyber Aware: If You Connect It, Protect It

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

In today’s age, we all must be cyber aware. The average American today has access to more than 10 Internet Connected Devices in their household. Most have at least 2 computers and 2 smartphones. Across the world, an estimated 30 billion+ devices connect to the Internet. This connectivity generates massive potential for advancement; but in turn, creates a paradise for hackers. This is nothing new. Hacking has been on the rise since the dawn of connected technology. And here’s the problem. Most businesses have maintained the same security protocols for just as long. The theory is that what they’ve done so far has worked, so why is there any reason for change? Here are the seven reasons why technology is more dangerous than ever before:

Side Note: Why focus on cybersecurity now? October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month. For the past 17 years, during October CISA and partners have focused on cybersecurity. Follow us on Facebook and LinkedIn for more tips and tricks throughout the month. 

Let’s Be Cyber Aware About Ransomware

The first computer virus was introduced in the 1970s. It took over systems by replicating on the hard drive until the user didn’t have system space to operate. It was actually built as an experiment and had no malicious intent/implications. Today, viruses aren’t child’s play or experiments, and the most dangerous one takes over the hard drive completely, encrypting every piece of data.

If you’re connected to a network, it can then infiltrate the servers and start encrypting there. If your data backups are also on that network, you lose all access to a clean backup.  The only way to get this data back is paying the ransom (not recommended under the vast majority of cases), or working with an IT company to revert back to a clean data/decrypt the files based on the specific ransomware in play. Either way, you’re spending a lot of money and time to get back what’s yours to begin with, your precious data.

Part of Being Cyber Aware is Knowledge of Phishing

Phishing emails at one time were super easy to spot. The Nigerian prince desperately needed to send you money if you inputted all of your personal information. Since then we have become more cyber aware, but phishing attempts have improved. Today, phishing attempts are a whole lot smoother. The perpetrator researches enough to identify your boss, then sends an email under his/her name asking you to discretely transfer money or send identifying financial information. Unless you’re looking at the exact email address it’s coming from (typically spoofed by one or two letters in the domain), all of a sudden you’ve transferred $40,000 into an unknown person’s account thinking it’s your CEO.

You won’t think anything of it until you speak with your CEO later and realize that is wasn’t really them. These honest mistakes cost companies hundreds of thousands of dollars every year with very little recourse to get the money back where it belongs. Some experts say that employee mistakes cause nearly 92% of breaches.

Insider Threats

As more people work remote, particularly with the urgency of the past six months, businesses have lost tight control on their data, increasing the threat of malicious insiders. While we want to trust every person working for us, that one disgruntled employee who decides to store a copy of the customer data before putting in his two-week notice, could wreak havoc on your business when they decide to work for your closest competitor. Virtual Office solutions can alleviate a lot of the pain this could cause and allow you to keep every piece of data exactly where it belongs.

Data Leaks and Password Practices

Malicious insiders can cause these leaks, but they’re also the password leaks from major players that you hear about frequently. You may be wondering how a LinkedIn password breach can really hurt you in the long run (after all they really just gain access to your professional resume). 53% of people admit to reusing their password on multiple accounts. Hackers rely on this. They can sell the password or utilize that password to hack much more dangerous things, like your banking institution. Our best recommendations: use complex passwords, don’t reuse passwords, use a password vault to keep track of all your passwords, and implement two-factor authentication wherever you can.

Become Cyber Aware About Cryptojacking

Cryptocurrency is a hackers’ favorite payment method. It is untraceable and extremely valuable. Beyond requiring cryptocurrency for the vast majority of ransomware attempts, some hackers infiltrate a system and use it to mine cryptocurrency without the user’s knowledge. They get in utilizing a malicious email link or through malvertising (advertising that carries nefarious code). A user may recognize slightly slower performance, but they more than likely never know that someone is using their system to mine cryptocurrency. Some codes also spread throughout networks, so that hackers can maximize their financial gain using someone else’s resources.

IoT Hacks

As we connect more devices to the Internet, particularly those items in our homes – stoves, cars, Alexa or Google – we open another target for hackers to infiltrate our lives. They may canvas homes through your connected camera system or baby monitor, install viruses on your stove or vehicle that impact performance, or begin speaking to y0u randomly from your device. IoT can be safe, but you must make sure you’re utilizing as many security precautions as humanely possible.

Hacker Advancement

The greatest advantage for hackers is they have become more sophisticated and educated overtime, and the good guys haven’t been able to keep up. If you’re relying on internal IT or an MSP without security expertise, your team is most likely behind on the threats and not implementing everything they need to keep your staff safe. They should implement things like phishing tests, employee education, dark web scanning, hosted back-up solutions, crisis planning, multi-factor authentication, and professional-grade permissions control for administrative privileges to keep you safe. If you’re unsure of your security level with your current IT solution, contact us.

Remote workforce necessities.

By | Services, Solutions | No Comments

Seven things to help ensure the health, safety and success of your mobile workforce.

 

Many companies are rotating and/or keeping their workforce at home to facilitate social-distancing and to keep their workforce healthy. However, it’s not as simple as leaving your employees at home, letting them fire up their personal laptops, and getting to work. Review the following seven things to help ensure the health, safety and success of your mobile workforce.

1. Secure Remote Access

Employees should not have open access to everything on their work systems from their personal computers. This keeps company data protected. In order to be productive through this pandemic, however, employers will need to provide a secure connection utilizing VPN or remote access software. These solutions will mirror the employee’s work desktop without housing all of the data on the individual’s personal system, allowing them to seamlessly continue work.

2. File Sharing Capabilities

While people will be working in isolation, they must still be able to collaborate. File sharing/group editing software will be critical to moving forward on creative or documentation projects through real-time editing, commenting, and versioning. Software like Dropbox for Business, Microsoft Teams/Sharepoint or Google Documents help fill this need.

3. Enterprise Level Antivirus

Basic home-level antivirus is not sufficient, particularly in secured industries. Extend your enterprise-level antivirus to home systems that will have access to your network in order to create an added layer of protection. You may also consider deploying firewalls on top of individual’s home networks to create the same secure connection employees experience in your office.

4. Video Conferencing

Meetings must go on while people work remotely; however, voice-only leaves much to be desired in terms of tone and context. We highly recommend putting in place video conferencing options. You can implement something as simple as Google Duo/FaceTime, or something more feature intensive, like Zoom or GoToMeeting.

5. Messaging Software

You can’t just spin your chair around to talk to your co-worker when working remote, yet it’s not efficient to always pick up the phone. We recommend implementing a messaging software like Microsoft Teams or Slack to open communication channels and allow employees to continue to interact quickly and accurately. Utilizing these tools, you can set up one-on-one conversations or set up channels to facilitate team communication.

6. Phone

A strong VoIP solution will allow employees to take their office phone numbers remotely on their cellphones without giving out their cellphone numbers. Office calls will transfer seamlessly to the employee’s cellphones, voice mails will be sent via email, and the employee can dial-out using a phone application to maintain office functionality.

7. Review your remote access policy.

Put in place a clear policy that acknowledges that your company monitors whatever they do while connected. Employees should be encouraged to act as if they are on site even while working remotely and reminded that punishments for doing something illegal/against company policy will apply.

Contact us today at (800) 710-4010 to speak to a member of our team about your business needs and see how ICS can help you keep your IT infrastructure safe.

Employee Passwords

By | Services, Solutions | No Comments

Solid password practices can protect your data from intruders.

Protecting your business data is essential to keeping your company in business. While your employees are your greatest asset, they can also be your greatest liability. This is especially the case when it comes to how employees are using passwords. Passwords are the keys that open doors to stored data. The more employees that have those keys, the more vulnerable that data becomes. It is vital that your employees are using strong passwords that they can remember.

There is power in numbers.

Passwords can be easily cracked by hackers, especially if you don’t use solid password-creation practices. The best passwords contain both uppercase and lowercase letters, as well as numbers and special characters. You should also avoid using easily guessed words or alphanumeric combinations, such as the names of significant others, children, pets, birth dates, addresses, and similar information that can be easily guessed by someone looking at your social media profiles or through a Google search. Rather than using a short password, it is recommended that end users create passphrases – or a short sentence containing an assortment of characters.

Keep your passwords somewhere safe.

The safest place to keep a password is in your head. Unfortunately, people cannot always remember them. It is not a good idea to keep passwords written down unless they are well hidden. End users should avoid keeping sticky notes or other memos containing passwords with computers. A good method of storage is to keep passwords stored either within a password manager or by keeping them on file with your organization’s IT department.

Keep your passwords updated.

It is a good practice to renew your passwords once or twice a year. Changing passwords too often may create more work for system administrators, since they are more likely to be forgotten or lost. You should also change your passwords any time that you feel as though your system has been compromised or is likely to be compromised.

Contact us today at (800) 710-4010 to speak to a member of our team about your business needs and how we can help you keep your data secure.

The Benefits of IT Consulting

By | Services, Solutions | No Comments

There are benefits to utilizing IT Consulting in Los Angeles.

If you have ever been to an outdated office, you know the telltale sign of falling behind — clunky, obsolete technology. With new developments breaking in the world of business technology every day, staying on top of the market isn’t easy. It takes proactive effort and insider knowledge. That’s why so many business leaders invest heavily in IT consulting in Los Angeles.

If you’re looking for an edge to keep you as competitive as possible, or just want to make life a lot easier on your team without breaking your budget, a dependable consulting team could be your ticket to peace of mind. To understand why, you only need to know about the three ways that these professionals revolutionize client approaches to technology.

The Three T‘s

IT consulting in Los Angeles is a broad field, and it encompasses dozens of individual services. To get at the basic value of using it, though, there are three core advantages you should consider:

Troubleshooting — The most commonly used area of service, troubleshooting is all about solving everyday problems. Whether it’s a malfunctioning piece of hardware or user error in applying a new program, issues that arise as employees go about their daily work are easy to solve with IT pros readily available.

Time — Every second a system is down, or an employee is unable to work, you lose money. IT consulting in Los Angeles helps you cut back downtime and ensure smooth, efficient service for your customers. It also keeps you from needing a full-time crew on your payroll to manage problems your consultant can easily address.

Technology — One of the biggest advantages to IT help is right there in the name: your consultant can help you pick out the right technology to support your goals. That way, you never have to be the office that’s stuck using yesterday’s solutions to address today’s market challenges and opportunities.

Find out how IT consulting in Los Angeles can help your company. Contact us today at (800) 710-4010 to speak to a member of our team about your business needs. 

The Remote IT Advantage

By | Services, Solutions | No Comments

Remote IT support in Los Angeles is more important than ever.

Even before the onset of a global pandemic, the trend across countless industries was toward online systems. As the economy grapples with the shockwaves of coronavirus, understanding the role of technology and remote IT support in Los Angeles has only become more critical for savvy professionals and leaders that want to stay ahead and keep their employees operating efficiently.

Whether you’re just now investing in upgrades because of a work-from-home setup or just want to stay at the forefront of progress, it’s vital to take advantage of today’s resources. To help you make the most of a tough global situation, let’s take a look at the role remote IT support in Los Angeles plays in breaking down barriers to effective business.

It’s All About Overcoming Challenges

Technology will always have obstacles to overcome. Small snags, uncooperative systems, and user errors can bring business to a crawl, even if everyone working is trying their best. The simple reality is that no person without the right knowledge can solve for every potential challenge alone.

This is where remote IT support in Los Angeles shines. In the past, getting past these issues meant needing on-site specialists to head over to someone’s desk and investigate the root of the problem. With so many employees working from home, however, it’s not always an option to just deal with the machine in-person.

That’s not something unique to the COVID-19 lockdown, either. Even once the pandemic passes, global footprints and other remote work will continue to grow to meet market demands. When you have IT professionals that you and your team can call for help at any time, it’s easy to troubleshoot effectively and feel confident at every level in your organization. Plus, remote partners are often more affordable than a full on-site team, leaving more room in your budget to expand while being flexible enough to keep your systems in shape.

Contact us today at (800) 710-4010 to speak to a member of our team about your business needs and see how remote IT can help you.

Adapting to Covid-19

By | Services, Solutions | No Comments

ICS provides essential services to businesses in the wake of Covid-19.

Covid-19 has taken a toll on businesses across the globe. Suggested social distancing guidelines have created the need for changing the dynamics of the traditional office landscape. Businesses have to deal with the challenge of maintaining a healthy work environment and operations in order to reduce the risk of transmitting the virus. International Computing Services Inc. can help you keep your employees safe and productive during these critical times.

If you have employees that will need to work from home, ICS can help you make that happen with the implementation of remote workstations. Our technicians can set up your employees’ devices with security options and remote access tools that allow safe remote data access and video conferencing. We also can provide your company with computers or tablets to allow remote access.

While it remains unclear as how long businesses will be impacted by the pandemic, you can count on ICS to deliver the solutions you need to help you keep your essential operations functioning. At International Computing Services Inc., we take care of your IT so that you can focus on your business.

Contact us today at (800) 710-4010 to speak to a member of our team about your business needs.

 

IT for your business.

By | Services, Solutions | No Comments

Finding a dedicated specialist to take care of IT for your business needs can be hard.

 
There are hundreds of specialists out there who have the ability to provide you with competent services. Competent is fine, but you need someone who can take care of a wide array of issues in a fast and efficient manner. ICS is here to help you. When it comes to providing exceptional custom IT services in Los Angeles, you can feel confident that our talented specialists will be able to help you. For your convenience, we offer on-site and remote assistance.

Having access to technology that works properly is vital for your business. If you do not have the proper infrastructure and network available, you are doing yourself a disservice.  When you have our specialists assisting you with your IT needs, it gives you the freedom to focus on building your business and serving your customers. Additionally, having another company taking care of your IT needs means you will not have to spend as much money on a full-time IT staff that you have to manage in-house.

Contact us today at (800) 710-4010 to speak to a member of our team about your business needs. We can help you with cloud computing, networking, and employee support services.