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Getting a Computer Virus is Like Catching the Flu

Grab your tissues, it’s flu season! Just like biological viruses such as the flu can cripple an entire office, digital viruses can cause a lot of trouble for businesses too. Both downtime-causing virus scenarios can be prevented if proper safety measures are followed, like sanitation and cybersecurity.

 

The point of cybersecurity is to keep the viruses (and other threats) out of your network. One would think that keeping viruses out of your network wouldn’t be too difficult. If you have a reliable firewall solution, then, for the most part, it’s simply a matter of not clicking on malicious links or downloading files attached to phishing emails. However, in the same way that the flu virus spreads because one person does something stupid, like fail to wash their hands or sneeze all over the place, all it takes is one employee on your network to be dumb and download a computer virus for it to spread and infect every company workstation.

While a computer virus won’t leave you gripping your porcelain throne in the middle of the night, it can certainly prove to be unhealthy for your business. Malware can do several different things, all sickening in their own ways: destroying network files, stealing sensitive information, or even holding your data ransom. Whatever hackers try to do with your systems, you can bet it’s a big, warm chunky mess that you won’t want to clean up.

The spread of the flu virus in the office is a perfect example of how a virus can cause serious downtime. All it takes is one unsanitary employee to sneeze on a door handle, and then another worker catches it, then another. Before you know it half your staff has called out and the other half are shuffling around the workplace like a bunch of zombies. Translation: a microscopic virus just decimated your operations. In the same way, all it takes is one small and malicious code to breach your company’s firewall, infect your computers, and cause serious downtime. In a worst-case scenario, your business is hit with both virtual and biological viruses.

When it comes to viruses, you need to take preventive measures and keep as far away as possible. As seen by real-world viruses, as soon as they infect one person, they can spread if not controlled properly. Therefore, the best approach to cybersecurity is to keep viruses outside of your network at all times.

One of the best solutions out there to protect your company from digital threats is to integrate a Unified Threat Management device (UTM) into your tech infrastructure. Michell Consulting Group can provide your business with this comprehensive security solution, which includes a firewall, antivirus, web content filtering, spam blocking, and more. It’s engineered for the sole purpose of protecting your network from the dangers that lurk in the underworld of the Internet. The firewall protects your network on the outside, while the antivirus and anti-spam technology protects your business on the inside.

It’s also important to emphasize the importance of security best practices with the rest of your team. All it takes is just one mistake to undermine your entire security infrastructure. If you’re not careful, a virus infection could turn into an epidemic. Call in the IT paramedics at Michell Consulting Group. We’ll help you integrate powerful security solutions to keep your business infection-free.

Warning: Protect Yourself from Cryptolocker and GameOver Zeus Now!

It has been two weeks since the National Communications Association warned the world about the GameOver Zeus and Cryptolocker ransomware, and if you haven’t taken steps to avoid these threats, it’s not too late – if you haven’t been infected yet, do so as soon as possible. Otherwise, your network will be vulnerable, and so will your banking credentials.

About Cryptolocker and GameOver Zeus
GameOver Zeus is said to be the reason for the massive spread of Cryptolocker, having infected more than 15,500 computers in the UK alone at the present moment. The peer-to-peer software used by GameOver Zeus looks for bank login credentials to steal sensitive information. If this malware doesn’t find anything of value on your computer, it will then proceed to install Cryptolocker, a type of ransomware that will lock down your PC’s hard drive and charge you a decryption fee. Cryptolocker utilizes a third-party certified cryptography software that conforms to Microsoft’s CryptoAPI, and thus is very difficult to get around without paying the fine. The ransomware locks down files on your computer, limiting what you can access. You are given a timeframe before the malware encrypts everything on your system. In other words, this is one of the worst threats we’ve seen in a long time.

What to Do to Protect Yourself
Here are some security tips from Michell Consulting Group to help you keep your computer safe.

  • Be Cautious. The malware spreads by sending out fake bank statements or malicious web pages that try to get you to enter in sensitive information. By clicking on these emails or visiting these web pages, you are allowing the malware access to your system. Look for anything out of the ordinary, such as lack of signatures on official emails or insecure URLs.
  • Update your security software. By making sure that any antivirus, email filtering, firewalls, and web filtering software is active and operating at maximum capacity, you can cut the risk of infection down significantly.
  • Run security scans frequently. Make sure that your computer hasn’t been infected by running frequent security scans for anything out of the ordinary. You can do this with most antivirus software, which will tell you if there is something threatening on your computer.
  • Keep your operating system up-to-date. By applying the most recent patches and updates, you’ll be fixing vital weak points in your system’s security. Enemy threats will otherwise take advantage of these vulnerabilities and infiltrate your computer.
  • Keep your Data Backed Up. For home PCs, where all of your important data is stored on the PC itself, you’ll want to have a backup solution. For businesses, you should be storing data on your server, not the PC, and that data should be getting backed up as well. If you don’t have a backup solution for your business, this is a critical piece of infrastructure you should consider.

You should print this page in the event that your computer has been locked down so you may best combat this dangerous malware. However, if you have only been threatened by the ransomware, do not pay it.

cyrptolocker screen

If you see this screen, take the following actions toward limiting the impact that the malware has on your system.

  • Disconnect your computer from the Internet, either by unplugging the wired connection or disabling the wireless connection.
  • Disconnect any external storage units, such as USB units, and disable any cloud storage software you may be using.
  • Do not attempt to remove the virus on your own. Contact the professional technicians at Michell Consulting Group at 305.592.5433.

Michell Consulting Group will attempt a system backup restore using your backed up files, provided they aren’t infected (and you have one). At this time, there is no way to decrypt files without the decryption key.

If your computer has been locked down by Cryptolocker, as previously mentioned, it is extremely difficult to crack, and downright impossible for the average computer user. Don’t let the crooks responsible for this malware push you around. Contact Michell Consulting Group today if you have any concerns about this threat.

Red October: Malware that Attacks Governments

Viruses and malware aren’t just annoyances that slow down your computers. They can be extremely malicious and do a lot of harm. For instance, a newly discovered strain of malware known as Red October specifically targets governmental bodies and research institutions. Worst of all, it has been around for 5 years before finally being discovered by internet security firms.

Red October mostly targets institutions in Europe, Russia, and Asia. Kaspersky Lab, the cyber security firm that discovered the malware, says that Red October affects computers, mobile devices, and network infrastructures. Red October intelligently targets specific users within organizations and then extracts sensitive information.

The malware triggers a series of tasks that allow it to steal data from Microsoft Office, PDF documents, and emails. Red October can also record keyboard activity, take screenshots, steal browser history, passwords, and scan the network for other devices to infect. It is a little unnerving to think that Red October has had free range on government networks for 5 years before finally being detected. Because of the potentially sensitive information that may or may not have been compromised, information about Red October has been scarce.

Red October is a malware that is a weapon being used on today’s virtual frontlines. We live in a day where governments are actively recruiting hackers for defensive and offensive purposes. In the world of hackers, this government-targeting group calls themselves hacktivist. They are responsible for creating and deploying virtual threats like Red October and they are not always officially found in the ranks of government. Rogue terrorist groups also use hackers, and they are often well funded by other groups who share their agenda.

Granted, Red October has a very specific type of target, and your business is probably not at an immediate risk. Although, any hacktivist group that targets your country could easily launch a potentially devastating cyber-attack your business. Computer viruses don’t discriminate. This kind of threat can cause disaster for a company’s reputation, especially when client data is involved. It is vital that a business keeps its antivirus up to date, as well as stays on top of Windows updates and other security patches for software.

Michell Consulting Group can be your best defense against cyber-attacks. We can scan your network to look for infections and provide a UTM firewall solution that will make your system bulletproof from virtually any virtual attack. With our remote monitoring and maintenance service, we will even keep your antivirus software updated and continuously monitor your network for threats. Call Michell Consulting Group at 305-592-5433 to arm your business with the strongest network protections available on planet Earth.

Anatomy of a Hacker

If you have ever been the victim of a computer virus or cyber attack you know how bad it can hurt. You know the pain of having your data compromised or even your business operation completely shut down. You feel violated, and to add insult to injury, you have no idea who did this dirty deed.

Cyber criminals are always anonymous and clearly the bad guys, which would make us at Michell Consulting Group the sheriff in town, we are here to serve and protect you. Today, we want to pull back the curtain of anonymity, tack up a big wanted poster, and show you their ugly mugs.

These perpetrators have no regard for the law, or may even rationalize how the law does not apply to them. They obviously have technical knowledge and enjoy using their skills to manipulate and outsmart others. Some cyber criminals do it simply for the thrills and enjoy the risk and chaos they create, while others have more specific intentions like monetary gain. Additional cyber criminal motivations include: emotional reasons like revenge, political and religious loyalties, and even reasons that are sexual in nature.

We might picture cyber criminals huddled in groups, working in a dark warehouse, but a majority of the crimes would be classified as “petty” and are carried out by normal individuals acting alone. Part of the problem of cyber crimes is found in the variety of criminals it draws. Within the hacker community a class system exists based on an individual’s technical expertise and the potential damage one can cause.

  • Toolkit Newbies. Technical novices who generally download illegally from the internet.
  • Cyber Punks. Capable of writing programs able to deface websites. Spamming and phishing for identify theft also falls within their skill set. They are usually boastful of their hacking success.
  • Coders. Write code solely for the purpose of damaging other systems. Their motives are ulterior and spyware and Trojans are primarily used.
  • Old-guard hackers. Hacking is a sport for the old guard, they treat it as a mental exercise. They are highly skilled and do not cross the criminal line.
  • Hacktivist. This group is the fastest growing and they can cause big damage. They are politically or socially motivated and receive funding from other groups who share their agenda.

Due to the complexity of computer networks, cyber criminals are particularly hard to catch, the crimetrail usually ends at a computer. In fact, only five percent of cyber criminals are actually caught and prosecuted. This leaves them with a 95% chance of getting away with it, which only goes to embolden their actions.

Simply because a cyber criminal is hard to catch, does not mean it has to be easy for them to succeed. You can protect yourself by keeping your antivirus software up-to-date and training everyone who uses your network to know what to look for with email phishing scams and scareware popups. Having a sheriff on your side to watch your back is the best defense against attacks from these cyber creeps, at Michell Consulting Group we want to be your sherriff. We can manage your antivirus software, identify weaknesses in your firewall, as well as provide you with other defensive techniques. Give us a call at 305-592-5433 and let us serve and protect you.

Know These 4 Intruders that Threaten your Business

In order to best serve their clients, companies need to have a comprehensive program in place to help them defend their systems from malware attacks on their company’s infrastructure. These attacks can have a devastating effect on a business’s continuity, so having an appreciation for exactly what types of adversaries your company is up against is important. There are several types of potential intruders that you should be aware of.

Viruses

Viruses are user-initiated, replicating, and malicious pieces of code that attach themselves to an existing program and can have a serious effect on your operating system, files, and even your antivirus’ ability to work properly. The most obvious sign that you’ve been hit by a virus is the lackluster performance of your system. Viruses are constantly changing as the technology to block them does, making them a constant threat for individuals and businesses alike. Most viruses attack a specific part of your system for which they were written. Types of viruses include:

  • Bootsector Virus: A virus that is designed to attach itself to the hard disk at the point where the computer initially reads upon startup.
  • Macro Virus: A virus that is designed to use an application’s macro programming language to dispense itself. They target and affect documents and eventually infect related files.
  • Memory Resilient Virus: A virus that targets the computer’s memory (RAM).
  • Polymorphic Virus: This virus not only replicates itself, it varies its digital signature when it does, making it tough for less-refined antivirus programs to target.
  • Rootkit Virus: A virus that is designed to give a third-party administrative control over a system. They are usually disguised as system files.

Viruses are distributed through basic correspondence, such as e-mail and instant messenger; or careless downloading practices, such as downloading files from questionable sources. Viruses can also be acquired by impulsively clicking ambiguous links that the user thinks do something useful (such as closing a pop-up window).

Worms

Like viruses, worms replicate and are spread through basic correspondence and downloading from untrustworthy sites. Unlike a virus, worms don’t need humans to initiate them, which makes them that much more intrusive because they don’t need to attach themselves to an existing program. They can duplicate and represent themselves under a harmless name and then do the same to another system when It’s downloaded via a peer-to-peer network. Since a worm will look for even the smallest holes in a system to manifest and replicate, they tend to infiltrate networks and spread rapidly.

Spyware

Spyware’s main objective is to steal information. Spyware is non-replicating so it doesn’t change the actual performance of the computer system. Once a piece of spyware has been loaded on your system it runs in the background collecting all types of data including, but not limited to, credit card numbers and social security numbers. Spyware can also track keystrokes and personal correspondence. As it infects your software it allows for all types of personal information to change hands. It also has been known to leave companies in actionable positions. In California, they’ve enacted a law stating that any business that has been infiltrated by an attack has to inform their previous e-commerce customers of that attack.

Trojan Horses

Another non-replicating piece of malware, a Trojan horse, basically does to your system what the original Trojan horse was designed to do to Troy. Under the subterfuge of being a capable piece of software, a Trojan horse will allow an infiltrator into a system for the purpose of siphoning off information. Recently, a Trojan horse code took advantage of a security flaw in older browsers to hide usage. This allows an infiltrator to access your system and allows him/her to cover their tracks after they’ve successfully caused havoc inside your network or made off with the information they were seeking.

If you or your company doesn’t have a comprehensive strategy in place to handle malicious attacks on your network, you are potentially looking at a situation in which your company’s success, and in some cases future, is in peril. If you’re a business owner in the Miami area and would like more information about how to best avoid a malware attack contact Michell Consulting Group at 305-592-5433.