Data security

Antivirus Software and Firewalls

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Antivirus Software and Firewalls

These days almost everyone uses the internet on a regular basis, whether at home, work or on the go. The internet is a tremendously valuable resource; as the number of people accessing the internet grows, so do the risks associated with it. Regardless of whether you are accessing the internet for personal or professional purposes, it is imperative to ensure you are doing so safely.

Two vital components to protect yourself and your system online are an effective anti-virus and a firewall.

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Antivirus software

Anti-virus software is your primary defense against malicious threats online and offline. An anti-virus runs in the background of your computer, quietly checking every file that is accessed, monitoring for threats (this is often referred to as ‘real-time protection’). Your anti-virus runs these files through its database, checking against known viruses and other malware. Because of this method, it is very important that you regularly check for updates with your anti-virus software or set it to auto-update.

Anti-virus software can also perform a ‘full system scan’, where it will scan the selected locations to ensure there is no malware lying dormant. Full system scans are typically used when initially installing the software, or when you think your computer is acting up and something could have slipped through the cracks of your real-time protection.

Firewalls

In the most basic sense, a firewall is a barrier to keep damage away from your property – hence the name firewall. A firewall is a piece of software or hardware that sits between your computer or private network and the internet. Its job is to filter information (packets) coming through your connection, and if need be, reject them. A firewall gives you several options to establish rules to identify the traffic allowed in and out of your network, whether restricted by IP, certain ports or through application filtering amongst others.

By rejecting this unwanted traffic, the firewall prevents those with malicious intent being able to probe your network and attempt to cause damage by stealing information, uploading malware, performing denial of service attacks, using remote login, source routing and more.

Firewalls are effective at protecting your system from unauthorized entry, but they are not capable of removing malware from an already infected system – therefore firewalls should always be used in conjunction with some form of anti-virus software, ensuring that both are always up to date.

For more information on Managed Technology and Security please contact us

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How Important Are Windows Updates?

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We’ve all seen the notifications for when Windows Updates are available, and I’m sure most of us have thought to ourselves “Again?! I only just installed one last week!”.

Have you ever thought to yourself why they pop up at what seems to be the most inopportune moments, and with such importance?

What is a Windows Update?

Windows Update is an inbuilt Microsoft service used for periodic updating of system files, to patch known issues and vulnerabilities with Microsoft products. This includes the Windows OS itself, Microsoft Office, Microsoft Edge, etc.

Each Microsoft Update is assigned an associated Knowledge Base number (KB) which gives further information on the updates. Updates are classified as one of four types:

Critical Updates

  • These fix major issues, found across all Microsoft Products, that cause errors or unexpected functions. Alongside Security Updates, these are the highest priority updates to apply and should be done as soon as possible.

Security Updates

  • Security Updates are applied to address security vulnerabilities which can allow a system to become compromised. Security updates have five different levels of importance; Critical, Important, Moderate, Low or non-rated. Security updates classed as Critical are the most important updates for your system and ignoring these can leave your server or computer vulnerable to hackers and other malicious attacks.
  • Security updates are provided with a Microsoft Security Bulletin number (MS) for further details.

Software Updates

  • Applied to cover non-critical problems, often applying feature updates and addressing minor bugs.

Service Packs

  • Service packs are an amalgamation of all updates up to a certain date, for a specific piece of software or operating system, typically including feature updates.
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How can I ensure that my systems are secure?

All recent Microsoft Operating Systems have in-built automatic updating features, which allows you to schedule and download high-priority updates.

If you are managing multiple desktop computers and even servers, the most efficient and effective way to stay up-to-date is to offload what can be a mammoth task to a Managed Service Provider (MSP). Managed Service Providers employ professionals with years of experience maintaining, reviewing and applying Microsoft patches to a vast range of different environments.

Using monitoring software MSP’s are able to monitor patch statuses remotely and schedule regular patching cycles to ensure that all critical and relevant patches are applied as soon as they are available. If issues are to arise from any patches pushed by Microsoft, your MSP is able to analyse the issue and determine which patches can be causing the issue and disable them, or roll-back where necessary.

By removing the burden of responsibility internally and placing it in the hands of experienced professionals, you can rest easy knowing that your systems are receiving the best in pro-active care.

If you are interested in what Advance can offer in this scope, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Which Backup Media Is Right For You?

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Twenty years ago, backup media was easy to get your head around. Floppy Disk, Iomega, CD and Tape Drives, nothing to it.

Nowadays there’s so much more – what method of backup to use, where the backups are stored, how the backups are taken, when they are taken and how the backups are tested to ensure they are restorable.

Floppy disks and Iomega have gone the way of the dodo, but let’s look at current backup media still in use

  • USB Stick
  • Internal Hard Drive (via RAID)
  • External Hard Drive
  • NAS
  • CD / DVD (some people still use it!)
  • High Speed Tape Drives
  • Remote Backup Services
  • Syncing over internet (OneDrive, Google Drive etc.)
  • Cloud Backup

Each of these methods has its place depending on many factors, but don’t fool yourself thinking that a cheaper version will be ‘OK’ - It rarely is.

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Considerations when deciding on a backup media type

Type of backup

Whether you are backing up hourly or daily and what sort of files you are backing up should help determine what backup media to use. For example, if you have a large amount of data requiring a nightly backup, then you could not use DVDs.

Backup Media Cost

It is important to factor in the cost of backup media, as well as the number of devices you require to ensure a consistent and effective backup process.

Backup data security

Identifying what is backed-up and how sensitive that data is can help you decide the most appropriate backup media. If your data is integral to your business, don’t sacrifice quality for savings.

Restorability

You need to weigh the risk of your selected media - how often will a restore fail per 1000 times it is tried? Each type of backup media has its own pros and cons and you need to investigate them properly to make an informed decision.

Hardware Redundancy

Ensuring that your hardware is not going to become redundant over time is extremely important when choosing a media type. Five years down the line, you may need to restore data which seems recent today, and the hardware may be considered obsolete with the restore devices hard to find. Restoring from a 3.5” floppy disk today would not be the easiest task.

Restore speed and time

Depending on the data, whether it is ‘mission critical’ or whether you can do without for a day or more, all plays a part on which backup media to use and what processes to put in place. Consider putting your crucial servers on a quicker restoring media where possible.

These are only a few considerations when looking at backup media. You need to see the complete picture and envision where your organisation might be in five to ten years’ time. If you think back on how things have changed since the 1990s, you can appreciate that being open to new ideas and processes could not only save you time, but also money.

For more information on back-up software and processes, get in touch with one of our highly experienced staff today. 

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Are Your Business Processes a Target For Scammers?

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Cyber criminals are tricking CEOs out of millions of dollars by exploiting their organisations poor business processes and fooling unsuspecting employees into transferring money. The growing trend, known as ‘CEO Whaling’, involves plain text e-mails being sent to employees’ responsible financial transactions, masquerading as their boss requesting them to urgently pay invoices. Those falling victim have no way to recover the money with insurance generally not covering international fraud.

These highly organised con artists are not just spamming companies at random, instead they’re using social media to research potential victims, taking advantage when they’re most vulnerable. For example they may identify through social media that the boss or the person responsible for financial transfers is on a holiday and that’s when they strike, sending an e-mail saying they’re about to get on a flight and need an invoice paid urgently. They use a fake e-mail address and include some personal details uncovered via social media to give the e-mail just enough validity to trick the employee into believing it needs to be done and that requesting confirmation will probably make their boss angry due to the delay caused by being on a flight and unable to respond.

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Organisations with business processes that rely on an e-mail from the boss for financial approvals are at high risk of falling victim to this scam as the process doesn’t include any validation that the invoice hasn’t been modified or that the approval has come from the person with authority to approving it. Busy people find the use of e-mail in a process like this convenient as they can be sent at will from virtually anywhere, on any device, at any time, putting them at risk of being exploited. Processes that involve printing, stamping, signing and shuffling paper around for approval stall when the approver is not in the same location as the document. Allowing e-mails to be used in place of an actual signature on the document makes the process susceptible to scammers. This issue was recently reported on in The Advertiser, read that article here http://www.adelaidenow.com.au/technology/how-australian-bosses-are-being-tricked-out-of-millions-of-dollars-by-cyber-criminals/news-story/57318e06c02a8215b8d67d521a219aea.

The solution to avoid being tricked by the scammers is to implement a flexible solution like M-Files where the business process is migrated into the system with secure access provided via desktop, web and mobile app. M-Files stores a single electronic version of the invoice with security that restricts access to only the people involved. This avoids copies of the invoice being e-mailed, instead those involved all refer to the same version stored in M-Files. With the approval process managed via workflow, the approver is notified of an invoice to approve and is required to authenticate themselves to view and approve, which can be done quickly a simply via the mobile app using fingerprint authentication. The people responsible for payment are then notified and required to authenticate to access the approved invoice. M-Files keeps a detailed version history of every change the document goes through, so if the person responsible for payment wants validation that the boss approved the invoice for payment, they can review the documents history to confirm it was actually approved by the boss’s user account. The version history can be used to identify changes to the original document and can potentially identify fraud attempts where bank details for payment have been changed on an invoice. Aside from not falling victim to fraud, the benefits of keeping the records electronically rather than physically include incredibly fast retrieval of information and increased office space when you recycle the filing cabinets for scrap metal.

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If you’re still using a manual process that involves printing, stamping, signing and shuffling paper around your organisation for approval that can be short circuited by e-mails, you are at risk of being scammed. If you think it won’t happen to you, think again as the Federal Government have been briefed on the severity of this trend because the losses are increasing into the millions. If you want to know more about how M-Files can help your business, please contact us.

 

5 Public Cloud Myths Exposed

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The public cloud is a hot topic in IT today. Even though it has been around for about ten years, cloud offerings from AWS, Azure and Google cloud have made the public cloud more mainstream and easier to get onto. In some instances though companies are jumping on board without really understanding it. So in an effort to debunk some myths here are five myths to consider if you are contemplating moving to the public cloud:

1. Public Cloud is Cheaper

The AWS/Azure public cloud “pay by use” methodology was a huge game changer for companies jumping onto the pubic cloud, but there is an assumption that “pay by use” will automatically make the subscription cheaper.

It can in some instances, but it should be noted that in many cases High Availability environments will usually come out cheaper with a hosting provider rather than a public cloud option. Data out transfer costs and dedicated resource costs both come into play in a big way in a High Availability environment, and things can get very expensive, very quickly. Many companies have tried out the public cloud and have gone back to dedicated resources in a managed cloud where the investment is more reasonable and consistent.   

2. Everything should go to the Public Cloud

Due to the time it can take to tailor your application to the public cloud (not all applications are really built for the cloud/virtualization, much less the public cloud), not all companies environments are sitting in the public cloud. You really need to have an in-depth discussion with your IT Provider to determine what can be in the public cloud and what should be in the public cloud.

3. Full Security/Compliance Comes with Cloud Infrastructure

Security is much better in the cloud today than it has been in years past. Even though public cloud offerings like AWS and Azure offer HIPPA or PCI compliant solutions, it does not mean that will automatically make you compliant on moving to the public cloud. The infrastructure they provide to you is compliant, but once you configure your application on top of it, it becomes a completely different story.

4. Moving to Public Cloud is Simple

Some applications can be moved to the cloud simply, however putting a full environment that has not been configured and is technical within itself is a different story. Use your IT Provider or someone with the right expertise and experience to migrate the environment as it can get complicated quickly and without a good foundation getting your application to work on top of it may end up being expensive.

5. Managing the Public Cloud is Simple

Once someone has designed, built and migrated your application to the public cloud, it should be simple to manage from there – surely? You would think so but it is not the case! You really need to have your IT Provider work on maintaining, tweaking and scaling the configurations to keep your cloud “humming” along.

The simple suggestion here is to let the experts build, migrate and manage it for you. Cutting corners in the public cloud will come back to bite you.

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