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Ransomware Protection: How Your Business Can Protect From a Ransomware Attack


What Is Ransomware and Where Does It Come From?

Ransomware attacks are increasingly more common these days,  making ransomware protection such an important topic of discussion. You must understand ransomware, why you need ransomware protection, how to remove ransomware before it strikes.

The entire concept of a ransomware attack is a simple one - someone takes something that is rightfully yours and demands money in exchange for it. Ransomware malware, and particularly encrypting ransomware, takes all of the existing files on your system and overrides them with encrypted copies, making it near impossible for you to recover and access your important documents. With your files encrypted, the attacker will usually demand a ransom to be paid via Bitcoin to unlock  your files and documents, hopefully. 

Once you’re hit with a ransomware attack, you will usually not know until it’s too late, then you will need to figure out how to remove ransomware. The ransomware virus will infect your computer and system, taking over any and all documents, folders, and files, and once it has completed its mission of encrypting your whole system it will then kindfully let you know it has done so, asking for payment in exchange of returning your personal assets. 

These attacks are created by scammers and hackers from all across the globe, with highly trained and skilled knowledge in computers & network programming. The malware can easily enter into a PC’s system through spam email, maybe as a PDF attachment that looks like a legitimate invoice, or through a malicious website that contains the malware code. I If your PC is connected to a network at your home or office, an infection to a single system can rapidly spread to infect the entire network, making it impossible to recover those files held hostage. Not only do you acquire a financial loss in paying the ransom, but a direct hit in loss of productivity and billable hours. That is why ransomware protection is increasingly important in today's volatile cyberspace. 

Why You Need Ransomware Protection 

An encrypted malware attack without any ransomware protection can be a silent and deadly killer. These viruses encrypt all of your important and essential documents and render them completely inaccessible to you. You can pay the ransom and get your files back, right? Hopefully, but paying the ransom cannot guarantee you’ll get your files back. 

Earlier this year there was a large scale ransomware attack called Petya, which was very similar to the WannaCry attack that  galvanized the IT community. Petya infected over 230,000 computers and systems worldwide, encrypting their files and demanding a $300 ransom to be paid via Bitcoin.  What the victims didn’t know was that Petya’s hosted email exchange server was shut down, thus preventing them from paying the $300 ransom to unlock their files! 

Even though ransomware attacks are on the rise, there are techniques and ways in which you can protect yourself and your organization from these sort of attacks. So what can you do?

Cloud Storage for Ransomware Protection

The best and number one defense against a ransomware attack is not to be vulnerable to these attacks in the first place. This can be done  with remote offsite backup in the cloud to store your entire system documents, folders and files. So if there is ever a ransomware attack on your personal PC or your company's  network, you won't be forced to pay the ransom to see your critical files and assets ever again. 

Even if you or your company has anti-malware, decryption software, or an on-site IT support staff, all in the event of a possible ransomware attack, the amount of time invested in restoring an entire system with these methods can take hours, days or even weeks. That’s why having a daily backup of your entire system in the cloud can leave your critical assets unaffected during the time of an attack, and restoring your system from the cloud may take only minutes, bringing your organization back to full production as soon as possible. 

The Best Protection Is Prevention 

With ransomware attacks on the rise, having a solid ransomware protection plan in place to save you and your organization from any disruption is crucial. Even when you're hit with a ransomware attack,  there is no guarantee paying the ransom will unlock all of your files. Even if you do get them restored, the amount of time lost can be insurmountable in comparison. By having a ransomware protection plan in place with anti-malware software or by bringing out the big guns and backing up your system remotely in the cloud, you  can keep your computer and your organization running efficiently and smoothly even when the waters are rough. 


Is Your Website Protected Against Break Ins?

Would you ever leave the front door to your home or business wide open? I’m guessing you wouldn’t, not even if it were located in a very safe neighborhood. It doesn’t matter how tired or distracted you are, you take the time to close up shop, lock the doors, and maybe even set a security alarm to keep things as safe as they can be when you’re not around.

Unfortunately, many business owners don’t take the same level of precaution – or any level of precaution – when it comes to their own websites. That’s too bad, because the data being stored on your servers might be more valuable than what’s in your file cabinet or cash register at any given moment.

There are any number of ways you can neglect your web presence that are akin to leaving the front door open for hackers and thieves. You may not notice them because you don’t know what to look for, but cyber criminals certainly do. Today, we want to share a handful of quick tips you can use to make your website just a little bit safer…


Use Lengthy and Complex Passwords

By now, you already know you’re supposed to use complex passwords with lots of numbers, capitalized letters, and special characters. What you might not realize just how big of a difference this can make. A thief using automated software can break a simple password in tenths of a second. Throw in these more complicated strings, though, and that time stretches to months. Being smart with passwords is a simple way to make your website a lot more secure.


Always Update Your CMS and Plugins

Often, when Internet criminals “break-in” to a website, they aren’t using any sophisticated tools or techniques. Instead, they are exploiting known problems with outdated versions of hosting software or commonly-used plug-ins. By keeping yours up-to-date (or working with a web design team who will upgrade your CMS for you) you can fend off these types of attacks automatically.


Upgrade Your Web Hosting Service

Good web hosting makes your site more secure in a lot of different ways. It allows for stronger encrypted SSL connections (if you have that feature installed), for example, and usually includes ongoing monitoring. What’s even more important, though, is that it keeps you away from servers that are hosting online casinos, adult websites, and other questionable web destinations that tend to harbor malicious software. For a few dollars a day, you could make your site a lot safer..


Make Sure You’re Running Regular Backups

Occasionally, even a well-designed and maintained website will suffer from a security intrusion. When that happens, though, a recent backup can put things to right in a matter of minutes. That’s why it’s critical you have someone monitoring your web activity and keeping restorable copies of your files.

While none of these tips is foolproof, they all go a long way towards keeping you protected online. Just as importantly, they stop you from being an obvious target for people who would like to steal your data. Remember, most online criminals do exactly what real-world burglars do: they look for the easiest victim they can find. Close the front door to your website and they just might take their attention elsewhere.

Need help with web design, Internet marketing, or online security? Get in touch with us today for a free consultation to see how we can help!


To Get Ahead in Social Media Marketing, Don't Send Life Preservers Made Out of Chum

Social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are a great way for people to go online and try to find answers. Not only can you ask around to friends and colleagues, but often you can reach experts and even celebrities, some of whom might be willing to pitch in and shed some light on your dilemma.

This is a great thing, at least most of the time. Unfortunately, it occasionally leads desperate marketers to go around offering "assistance" that's little more than a pitch for their product. No matter what your issue is, their answer is to buy whatever they're selling and hope that solves it.

Tempting as it might be to blanket sites like Twitter with subtle hints to buy your products, that's not a good long-term strategy – even if what you offer could actually fix the issue at hand. That's because people go online looking for answers, not commercials. Here are a few ways to be genuinely helpful on social media sites while still getting your marketing message out there:

Explain the problem first. A lot of people don't know why they're experiencing the troubles they are. If you can help explain what happened to lead to the situation, start there.

Refer to outside sources. Don't ask them to take your word for it, backup your device with documentation on other websites. When people can see that you know what you're talking about, they're more apt to follow your recommendations.

Mention your product or service, but also why you're mentioning it. If the best possible thing someone could do to fix their problem is buy from you, go ahead and say so, but also tell them exactly why. Not only will this make you seem less slimy, but it might be indexed by the search engines and found by others with a similar situation – leading to future sales for you.

5 Good Rules for Password Management

Is your data as secure as it could be? Are you an easy target for hackers, either personally or through your business? Most of the men and women we work with don’t know the answers to those questions. And to be fair, there’s no way to know whether criminals are going to target you specifically.

Still, we find that many of our new clients have been neglecting their most important weapon against cybercrime: a strategy for setting and managing their passwords.

Believe it or not, just a little bit of attention to this one small part of your life can go a long way towards determining whether you’ll eventually be dealing with fraud and identity theft or if criminals will turn their attention elsewhere. That’s because taking the time to set strong passwords is the online equivalent of carrying a nightstick with you on the street. Conversely, using simple ones isn’t that much different than leaving your doors and windows open for anyone to come in.

Knowing that, let’s take a look at five solid password management rules you can use starting today…


#1 First, Use Complex Passwords

A lot of people don’t realize this, but hackers can use automated software to crack simple passwords (like names and complete words) within tenths of a second. Make your password at least 16 characters while adding in some capital letters, numerals, and symbols, and you could change that to months. Criminals don’t have that much time, so they’ll move along (or be discovered) before they ever get in.


#2 NEVER Use One Password for Everything

Yes, it’s convenient to use one password or security reminder question for everything. But no, you shouldn’t do it. No matter how secure your passwords are, you ought to have different ones for each website you use, and particularly for any financial institutions you do business with. That way, someone who finds their way into one of your accounts won’t be able to access the rest automatically.


#3 Change Your Passwords Frequently

It’s a good idea to change or update your passwords at least once or twice a year. If this is all starting to sound like a lot of work, remember that there are a number of free and low-cost tools you can use to generate random passwords and keep track of them. Whether you use software or not, though, it’s a bad idea to hold onto the same passwords for years on end.


#4 Keep Offline Reminders of Your Passwords

Of course, you don’t want the passwords you’ve set for all of your most important accounts and websites to disappear if you have an issue with your computer or mobile device. So, while your updating your passwords every 6 to 12 months, be sure to write them down (or print them out) and keep them in an insulated safe or another secure place. The whole process will only take you a couple of hours, which is a lot better than the weeks and months you’ll need to undo the effects of identity theft.


#5 Don’t Share Your Passwords With People Who Don’t Need Them

Finally, don’t let all of your hard work go to waste by sharing your passwords of people who don’t need them. Employees, contractors, and friends generally don’t need access to your accounts, and you should never send your passwords to someone else via text or email.

Having good passwords won’t protect you from every kind of online crime or theft, but it’s definitely a start in the right direction. Put these five pieces of advice to good use and prevent hackers from taking the easy way into your website or personal life.


How do You Know if Your Website Needs a Tune up, or an Overhaul?

Deciding whether to hire a web design company to make some small changes, or throw out what you have and start all over, isn't always as easy as it would seem. Sometimes, there are pieces or elements of your existing small business site that work quite well; other times you would just rather put off the time and expense for a few months. 

So how do you know if your business website needs a minor tune up or a major overhaul? There's no easy answer, but here are a few straightforward signs you should probably give some serious thought to working from scratch:

Your small business website has lots of missing pages and broken links. Those problems could be easy enough to fix by themselves, but they also probably point to a lot of coding, search engine optimization, and content elements that have been neglected for quite a while.

You are getting declining amounts of visitors, online leads, or purchases. However you measure results on your website, if you're getting less of them than before, it could be a sign that the search engines – not to mention potential customers – are seeing your site as stale and not that relevant.

Your existing website has poor functionality. This is simple enough; if it doesn't do the things you'd like it to, or that your customers would like it to, then it's not having as much of an impact on your business as it could.

The look isn't doing much for your company's reputation. Sometimes, there's nothing really "wrong" with the website except that it's past its expiration date. By that, we mean it is just plain ugly. For most businesses, an online presence is an important part of every marketing activity they try. You don't want yours to tell visitors you haven't kept up with the times.


What Goes Into a Business Backup and Recovery Plan?

If you don’t have a backup and disaster recovery (BDR) plan in place for your technology, you could be closer to a major IT crisis than you know. That’s because “disasters” are everywhere. Along with the kinds of tragedies you see on the news, everyday calamities like power outages, electrical surges, hard drive failures, and simple employee mistakes can all shut your business down in seconds.

In some cases, though, having an inadequate BDR plan can be worse than having none at all, as it might leave you with a false sense of security. That’s because good BDR involves many overlapping layers of protection, each of which is necessary to keep your company covered.

To show you why this is so important, let’s take a look at a few things every business owner should think about…


Hope is Not a Plan

To start with the obvious, simply hoping that nothing happens to your technology isn’t a very good plan. Everyday mishaps get their name because they happen every single day. If you just hope that everything is going to work the way it’s supposed to when you press the power button on your computer, you’re going to be shocked someday when it doesn’t. Anticipate that you’re going to have some kind of IT problem sooner or later, and prepare for the eventuality.


The Right Equipment and Location Matter

A lot of business owners keep extra hard drives, or even tape backup drives, inside their offices with copies of important files as a hedge against disaster. That’s better than nothing, but it won’t do you much good if the disaster affects your entire facility. To get real protection from IT emergencies, you need backups that are encrypted and stored in a remote location that won’t be affected if something happens to your location.


Timing is Everything

The best BDR systems work on an almost continual basis. That means new backups are being run daily, if not hourly. In some companies, losing a day’s worth of data, or several, could be disastrous. Things like new invoices, sales receipts, and financial records could all be lost. You need to know that your saved files will be current and up-to-date if you ever need to rely on them in a pinch.


Testing, Testing

Regular testing is an often-overlooked part of the backup and recovery process. If you aren’t sure your emergency files can be recovered and put into place when you actually need them, then how valuable are they as an insurance policy? Your plan should include lots of tests so you’ll have the peace of mind to know that your data will be there waiting once the recovery process starts.


Don’t Forget the Plan Part

Good BDR isn’t just about having extra copies of your files – you also need a written plan to restore them and get your company up-and-running in the event of an IT emergency. Your plan should be detailed enough so you know exactly who to call and what to say when you’re facing a crisis. And, it should be printed out, with a hard copy stored in your IT vendor’s office, for obvious reasons.

If you don’t have a solid data backup and recovery plan in place already, now is the time to think about getting the protection you need. Call our office today, and let us put together a quote that includes a comprehensive BDR plan for your business!


Why You Don’t Want Non-IT Employees “Fixing” Technology

When a piece of office technology stops working the way it’s supposed to, you might be tempted to forgo a call to your IT team and let an employee handle things… especially if they assure you they are “good with computers.” After all, isn’t it nice to save a little bit of time and money if you have someone with the necessary expertise in your office already?

That’s an understandable line of thought, but one that’s probably not going to do you much good. Unless the solution is as simple as turning a piece of equipment on and off, you generally don’t want non-IT employees “fixing” computers, networks, mobile devices, or hard drives. Here are just a few of the biggest reasons why…


They Might Make Your Problems Worse

This might seem obvious, but we see malfunctioning computers and devices that have been rendered nearly useless by meddling employees almost every week. They mean well, but they don’t have skills, equipment, or experience to properly diagnose a technology problem, much less fix it. And so, more often than not, they end up making things worse than they already were.

This is particularly important when you’re dealing with issues concerning software and data storage, as problems with one drive or device can be spread to others if you aren’t careful.


Most Things Are Easier to Fix Than to Replace

Usually, when business people try to fix things on their own, it’s because they’re looking to save money on an IT service call. However, simple repairs – and even most complicated ones – are much, much less expensive than replacing a piece of technology would be. That’s important because there is always the risk that someone without the right skills might do enough harm that something can’t be fixed.

Frustration and a lack of knowledge can be a dangerous combination, and one that usually leads to a more expensive issue than the one you started with.


Even Successful Employee IT Repairs Will Cost You Too Much

But what about the times when an employee can fix a technology problem? Aren’t businesses saving money then? Not necessarily. Depending on the time and attention it took to get to that solution, you might still be at a net negative when you consider the lost productivity of your employee (or group of employees) who should have been doing their jobs while they were looking up solutions.

That might not be money that’s coming out of your pocket right away, but it could do more damage to your balance sheet in the long run. 


Good IT Care Costs Less Than You Think

The final reason to leave IT repairs and installations the professionals is that you aren’t really saving all that much money by cutting the experts out of the picture. Good IT help doesn’t cost a lot, especially if you work with the right company. 

And, all the hidden costs and expenses we’ve already mentioned can add up quickly over time if you have recurring technology problems. A good IT vendor, on the other hand, is going to perform a bit of preventative maintenance to ensure all your hardware and software are running smoothly.

Need a technology team you can trust to help you keep your business moving forward? Call or email our team today and let us put our expertise to work for you. 


How Often Should You Update a PPC Campaign?

So, you’ve chosen some search keywords, set your bids, written some sizzling ads, and even gotten your targeted landing pages together. Your pay-per-click campaign is all ready to go… so how long should you wait to update it?

This can be a really important question, since most online advertising isn’t as profitable as it could be from the start. In fact, successful marketers have been known to double, or even triple, the results from an effective campaign by tweaking different elements like the wording of their ads, or the placement of a “buy now” button on a landing page.

You can’t know what to test, however, until you’ve seen how your current ad, keyword, and visitor combinations work together. So how do you decide when it’s time to freshen things up?

We think a good rule of thumb for updating your PPC is once a month, or every 10,000 impressions, whichever comes first. That way, you don’t overreact to any temporary blip, and you give developing trends enough time to prove they’re statistically significant.


Like any good rule of thumb, however, this one has a couple of exceptions:

When your PPC campaign is bleeding money. If it seems like you’re blowing through your Internet advertising budget and not seeing any results, or even any kind of activity that looks like it might lead to results later, then you might need to re-envision your campaign from the ground up. Are you sure you’re appealing to the right audience, that you have competitive products and prices, and that your offer stacks up well against the competition?

When you have really low quality scores for important keywords. Having low quality scores means you’re going to pay far, far more than you need to for each and every click. That, in turn, kills the efficiency and profitability of your campaigns. It’s okay to live with low quality scores for the first week or so of your new ads while you build up a bit of account history, but after that, they could be a sign that you need to pause and reassess.

When it’s a brand-new campaign. Brand-new campaigns are a unique challenge. On the one hand, you want to give them time to develop and perform, but you also want to grow them and evolve them as you study search patterns and your competitors. If nothing seems to be going exceptionally wrong, let your new ads run and see what happens; but if you spot an obvious problem or issue, don’t let it fester while you collect analytic data.

Knowing when to tamper with your pay-per-click campaigns is just as important as knowing how. Ignore the advice here and you could find yourself constantly switching from one idea or tactic to another, never really finding out which ones work. Or worse yet, you could keep spending money on a losing campaign month after month. To avoid both problems, it’s important to have a strategy for regular review and testing, so give our rules of thumb a little bit of thought.


How to Make Smarter IT Budgeting Decisions

It’s not unusual for business owners to think of their IT budgets as something akin to a black hole on a balance sheet. It seems like it keeps going in, but they aren’t sure what, if anything, ever escapes out of the other side. They need technology, but aren’t sure whether they are getting good value for the dollars they’re spending.

We can understand. It’s hard enough to make the right IT budgeting decisions when you’re in the industry and know the features and benefits of each product. For an outsider, being bombarded with different ideas and buzzwords, they can easily become overwhelming.

That doesn’t mean you have to simply give up and accept that some of your technology budget is going to be wasted, though. We have a few simple pieces of advice you can follow to make the most of every expenditure…


Don’t Pay Hourly

While we love working with our clients, we hate sending them invoices for hourly IT work. That’s because nearly every business would be better served by opting for a managed services agreement, which lets us handle their technology proactively for monthly fee, rather than simply responding to emergency calls as needed. Those last-minute technology disasters come unexpectedly, and they can cost you dearly when you’re paying for time instead of expertise. Do yourself a favor, and sign up for a monthly rate.


Opt for Subscriptions When You Can

Speaking of monthly rates versus unexpected charges, most businesses are better served by renting equipment and paying for software on a subscription basis than they are replacing expensive hardware and applications on an irregular basis. With subscriptions, you get the latest and greatest technology, a predictable cash flow, and the luxury of stopping your service when something isn’t working. Shell out big money for an upgrade or version improvement, though, and there’s a good chance you’ll find yourself doing it again in the near future.


Get Good Technology, But Not the Newest Gadgets

Technology sales professionals can be great at helping you identify opportunities for efficiency and functionality, but they can also be guilty of selling you the latest and greatest gadgets when you don’t really need them. When you buy a piece of tech that’s fresh off the shelves, you’re probably paying top dollar for it. Why not wait months until it’s cheaper and all of the bugs have been worked out? A lot of salespeople won’t tell you, but that’s the “sweet spot” in the technology market where the biggest bargains can be found.


Find a Proactive IT Partner

Your hardware, software, and devices all cost you the most when they aren’t working. That’s because the minute they fail, you and your team usually stop working, too. From there, the losses (in terms of sales and productivity) just add up one hour after another. To avoid that kind of situation, you should find a good IT vendor who will work proactively to not just fix problems, but ensure you won’t have outages in the first place. That’s the ultimate IT money-saving tip.

When you need a team of committed technology professionals who will get to know your business and help you maximize your bottom line, we are ready to help. Call us to set up a free consultation and learn about the different ways we can make your company stronger.


Why Outsourced IT Means Better Service at Lower Costs

Quick question: which would be the better long-term option for your company, having an in-house IT employee, or working with an outside company?

If you thought keeping a team member on your payroll would be the easiest way to ensure your technology is going to work the way it’s supposed to, then you certainly aren’t alone. We find that a lot of business owners tend to share the same opinion. Unfortunately, it’s not the best answer – and having the wrong notion could end up costing you lots of money.

As it turns out, you don’t just make it easier to balance your budget when you work with an outsourced IT company, but you also get better service at the same time. How can an outside vendor do better work for you than an employee who is in your own office every day? We are glad you asked, because there are a few things you have to know to get to the answer…


Technology Expertise Costs Less When You Outsource it

When it comes to IT expertise, renting is cheaper than buying. Unless you have a very large and complex business, you don’t need a full-time IT employee on staff. And, you certainly don’t need someone to pay salary, benefits, and training costs to every single month.

With outsourced IT, you only pay for what you need, on an hourly or monthly basis. That’s a great way to save cash.


Many Minds Are Greater Than One

Learning about the hardware and software being used in a single business is easy; keeping on top of multiple systems, trends, and programming languages isn’t. That’s why it’s better to work with an outsourced IT team, with many different skills and specialties on staff, than it is a single employee.

No matter how sharp an individual might be, they can’t know about all the technology you’re going to use in your company (and if they tried, that constantly be training and seminars). But with a team of experts, you can have someone who knows your business and the latest technology on call when you need them.


You’ll Get Wider IT Coverage

Another disadvantage to having a single IT employee, or even an in-house team, has to do with time and coverage. It’s impossible for one person to be available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. And naturally, your technology is likely to fail when the employee you need is on vacation.

By spreading the costs of a large IT team amongst many different clients, your outsourced vendor can ensure there is always someone sitting by the phone when you need them.


You Can Scale Your Service up or Down

Hiring in-house IT employees takes a lot of time, and you’re going to be stuck paying for them for quite a while, even if business conditions aren’t as you expect them to be. And of course, if you grow, you’ll have to bring on even more team members (swelling your payroll at the same time).

With an outsourced IT vendor, you can scale your services up or down as needed. Simply change or plan, or get additional help as you need it, without being tied into years of salary and benefits.

If you want the best in technology care, and don’t want to pay more than you should, then it’s time to find the right IT vendor to work with. Why not place a call to our team today and see how we can help your business become more efficient?