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With the ever increasing rise in cyber security attacks, PC users are becoming more vigilant. However, do they know what they should be wary of in 2017?

The IT security landscape is constantly changing, so what may be considered a contemporary threat one year, may soon fall into obscurity as defenses improve. However, certain security threats seem to be becoming more and more prevalent. Therefore, it’s make sense to acquaint yourself with the most likely attacks you’re going to experience in the near future.

And, as luck would have it, I’ve decided to take a quick look at the biggest IT security threats coming in 2017.

Rise in Ransomwareransomware-expert-tips-featured

Ransomware made big headlines in 2016, but far from being swiftly dealt with, it’s expected that ransomware attacks are going to rise in 2017. With the source code for ransomware software becoming readily available online, it’s encouraged hackers to become competitive and improve on each other’s brand of ransomware. When this is coupled with the relative ease that ransomware can generate revenue for the hacker, it’s no surprise that more and more attacks are on their way.

Big Data Causes More Risk

Big Data is causing huge ripples throughout the business community as it’s an approach which is focusing IT efforts on analyzing large sets of data to improve operations. However, as big data is so new, the business community doesn’t yet know how to marshal it efficiently.

With such huge data sets being openly shared between departments and businesses, the security of this data is being severely compromised. This presents a severe problem if security is breached due to the large amount of data at risk. Big Data needs to be correctly controlled and access restricted otherwise it will be in the headlines for all the wrong reasons.

Business Email Compromise (BEC) Scams

BEC scams hit businesses all over the world last year and some high profile names fell victim to this straightforward scam. By sending emails purporting to be from company CEOs, hackers have been able to con employees in to sending out either sensitive information or, in extreme cases, transfer bank funds. And, with pay outs from BEC scams reaching as high as $140,000, hackers are going to maximize their efforts on this simple and easy attack this year.

Internal Threats to Increase

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Hackers are well aware that IT security teams are gradually getting better at blocking their attempts to infiltrate their defenses, so that’s why the hackers are turning to those on the inside. Sometimes this literally means teaming up with an employee on the inside to facilitate the theft of data. However, this inside threat can sometimes be the result of blackmail following the hacking of an employee’s social media account and the threat of revealing personal information. This is a difficult form of hacking to combat, but reinforces the need of good employee education on IT security in and out of the workplace.

For more ways to secure and optimize your business technology, contact your local IT professionals.

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bad_USBWe’re all used to using USB devices with our PCs for easy connections, but it’s this convenience which also makes them perfect for hacking.

The hacks that grab the headlines are those that are distributed online and through email due to the huge numbers of people these can attack; USB sticks – and, in fact, any USB devices – are limited in their range due to their physical existence, but this doesn’t mean they can’t cause huge problems in localised areas. And hacks involving USB devices can completely disable your PC, so this can have a huge impact on the ability of your business to operate.

Therefore, we’ve decided it’s a good opportunity to give you a quick lesson on the USB hacks that can affect you and how you can counter this everyday threat.

The World of USB Device Hacks

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Due to the presence of autorun software loaded on to USB sticks, all a hacker needs to do is ensure that their infected USB stick is plugged into a PC to activate it’s malicious payload.  Sometimes, though, USB devices don’t even need to be plugged into the PC, so this is why they’re particularly tricky to identify and combat. Here are some of the most common hacks contained within USB devices:

  • USBdriveby – This USB stick is easily identified by the chain attached to it (apparently this is so the user can wear it round their neck!) and contains a particularly nasty surprise inside. Once plugged into a PC, it begins to imitate your keyboard and uses keystrokes to disable firewalls, opens backdoors to allow remote control and tells network monitoring apps that everything is okay.
  • KeySweeper – Disguised as a USB wall charger, the KeySweeper hack is a very well concealed device which uses wireless connections to identify and spy on local Microsoft wireless keyboards. And, by monitoring keystrokes, KeySweeper can quickly obtain login details and transmit these back to a remote location.
  • BadUSB – Another USB stick hack, BadUSB impersonates your keyboard to allow itself to reprogram firmware associated with your existing USB devices e.g. network cards can be reprogrammed to send users to sites containing malicious software which can soon infect your entire network.

All of these hacks are very simple, but can cause a lot of damage, so how do you combat them?

Combatting USB Hacks

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Thankfully, when it comes to USB hacks, there are some very simple steps you can take to combat them:

  • Educate your users on the dangers of USB devices. Some hackers have been known to drop infected USB sticks in the car parks of large corporations in the hope that a curious employee will plug them into their work PC.
  • Never ever use pre-owned USB devices in your business, always purchase new devices which can’t have been tampered with.
  • Lock USB port use on the PCs that make up your business and only allow access to trusted administrators. This is perhaps the most guaranteed way to prevent any infected USB devices activating their contents as the USB ports will essentially be disabled and unable to do anything.

For more ways to secure and optimize your business technology, contact your local IT professionals.

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locky-ransomware-FB

Due to their activities, hospitals need to be highly secure. However, a recent ransomware hack on UK hospitals has questioned just how secure they are.

Huge swathes of data are held by hospitals and the majority of it is highly personal and sensitive. Not only that, but hospitals rely on their IT systems to carry out highly important work such as maintaining operating equipment, retrieving patient information and even refrigerating blood samples.

Therefore, anything which even slightly impedes these operations can have a huge, disruptive impact. Unfortunately, for the UK’s hospitals (mostly run through the government NHS system), they have been hit hard by the WannaCry ransomware. Let’s take a look at how this major hack happened.

What’s WannaCry?

WannaCrypt

WannaCry is a form of ransomware that exploits a vulnerability contained within the Server Message Block (SMB) which is a network protocol to help facilitiate access to shared files and printers etc. It’s not yet been revealed exactly how WannaCry has managed to infect the UK’s hospital systems, but it’s rumoured to be through the usual infection methods of Microsoft Office attachments or suspicious links.

Once WannaCry is executed in the SMB it begins to encrypt almost all the files on that PC with an extension of “.WRCY” and then displays a ransom window which demands payment of $300 worth of bitcoins to decrypt the compromised files. A ransom note is also placed on the users system in the form of a text document to detail the ransom demands once more.

What’s surprising about this attack is that the SMB vulnerability was actually patched by Microsoft almost two months previously in March. Those users and networks who implemented this patch will have survived the WannaCry attack, but countless others failed to install the patch. It’s suspected that many of the UK hospitals attacked were unable to install this patch due to the number of legacy systems involved.

And it’s not just the UK’s hospitals which felt the wrath of WannaCry. Car giant Nissan found that their UK manufacturing plant was also attacked and this led to production of their cars being halted. However, it isn’t just the UK which was targeted as reports show that over 40,000 similar attacks have now been registered in over 70 countries.

Avoid the Ransom Demands

wannacry

It may seem difficult to combat such a huge, global cyber-attack which is capable of bringing government organizations to their knees, but prevention can make a real difference in these situations.

The most important lesson to learn from WannaCry is that updates issued by software manufacturers must never be ignored. Sure, it may require a quick reboot, but surely a few minutes inconvenience is preferable to having all your files compromised and in the hands of an anonymous attacker?

It’s also vital that you have up to date antivirus software and network protection as, in the case of WannaCry, these can identify the ransomware before it has a chance to take hold of your computer. Again, these can be inconvenient due to the cost, but the long term benefits to your organization can be immense.

For more ways to secure and optimize your business technology, contact your local IT professionals.

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hard-drive-detects-failure

PCs carry out so many tasks and use a number of different pieces of hardware and software, so the potential for failure is high, but it can be prevented.

Even if there’s just a small failure in one of your PCs tasks, it can create a snowball effect which eventually leads to a total PC failure. And, when this occurs, you’re left with a PC which is unable to contribute to your productivity.

Therefore, it makes sense to pre-empt these major disasters by taking a number of preventative measures, so that’s why I’m going to share 5 ways to prevent and treat total PC failures.

  1. Use a Firewallwhat-is-a-firewall-post

If an unauthorized user gains access to your network then they have the potential to bring your entire network to a halt. And, for modern businesses who rely on IT to operate, this is their nightmare scenario; that’s why it’s essential that you have a trusted firewall to operate as your first line of defense.

  1. Make Sure Your Backups Work

It’s a very rare and lucky business which doesn’t experience a total PC failure at some point, so backups are a crucial procedure to ensure that all your data remains safe. However, not all businesses make sure that their backups actually work and, if necessary, are capable of restoring operations. Therefore, by using a test system to regularly perform backups, you can increase your confidence that a total PC failure can be easily remedied.

  1. Install an Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS)

Businesses have very little control over failures with the power supply, so your put in a tricky position when the power suddenly goes. Thankfully, it’s possible to keep your PCs connected to a UPS which will provide emergency power in the case of a power cut. Although it won’t provide enough power for all your IT equipment to perform indefinitely, it will give you time to carry out essentials and save relevant data safely.

  1. Use Backup RotationBackup_hero-970-80

You shouldn’t rely on just one set of backup materials as, if these become damaged, then it’s impossible to retrieve your data. For example, many businesses use a DVD+RW each day for backing up their data and nothing more. What you need to do, though, is create a backup at the end of the week as well which compiles all this data together. And, just to be extra safe, you should compile all these weekly backup into one monthly backup. This provides three generations of data which you can rely on in the case of a total PC failure.

  1. Carry Out Fresh Installs

PCs can build up junk and unnecessary files over time due to the number of installs and uninstalls which take place. Whilst you can use free applications to clear out some of these files, they’ll never conduct a thorough clean of you system and, in the long term, it can begin to slow down due to what’s known as ‘Windows Rot’. This is why it pays to carry out a fresh install of Windows once a year to prevent your PC from failing on you at the most inopportune moment.

For more ways to secure and optimize your business technology, contact your local IT professionals.

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There’s nothing more frustrating than a PC which won’t start, and its impact on productivity is immense. Therefore, knowing how to remedy this is crucial.

When a PC fails to start up, however, it can seem as though there’s no hope due to the lack of indicators towards the actual problem. Thankfully, there are a number of steps you can take to investigate the fault and start forming solutions to get your PC back up and running.

And that’s why, today, I’m going to share 5 ways to fix a PC which won’t start up.

  1. Check the PowerIMG_5626b

One of the most common reasons for a PC refusing to start up is that age old favorite of electrical appliances: no power. Luckily, it’s also one of the simplest to fix. Just check your power cable or power adapter to make sure it’s plugged in.

  1. USB Drive Plugged In?

PCs can fail to start up correctly when a USB drive has been left plugged into the system; the reason for this is that a PCs BIOS will often be set up to boot up through any USB devices rather than heading straight to the hard drive. And, seeing as your USB drive is unlikely to have the correct software to load up your operating system, this will be why your PC fails to boot up. Therefore, remove any USB devices and try again.

  1. Listen for the Beeps

If there is a specific issue with your PCs hardware, then there’s a good chance that it will make a series of beeps as it tries to load up. Make sure you count these as it will provide you with the cause of your issues, but bear in mind that these beep codes can vary between PC manufacturers e.g. 5 beeps on a Hewlett Packard could indicate a problem with RAM, but on a Dell it could mean a processor failure.

  1. Check for Loose Hardware

Over time, your hardware can come loose and once it reaches a certain point, this can render your PC unusable. Therefore, if you can’t identify the specific fault, it’s worth opening your PC up and checking that the following components are secure:

  • RAM should be fitted into the motherboard securely
  • Check that all internal data cables such as power cables and motherboard ribbons are secure
  1. Access Safe Modeimage37

If you can get far enough into your PC to access Safe Mode then this can often help resolve any issues. You usually need to hit F5 or F8 as your computer starts up to access Safe Mode, this will give you access to your desktop and its most basic functions e.g. accessing control panel and system restore. Once in here you should be able to investigate faults with your software and, if necessary, perform a system restore.

For more ways to secure and optimize your business technology, contact your local IT professionals.

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