Network Security and Protecting your Computer System A New Year, An Improved IT Strategy

It’s a new year and we are proposing an improved cyber security strategy! This is one of the hottest business topics today, security, both for your network and internet! This is a critical component for every business today. You must take this seriously as the problem is growing exponentially. Thankfully, there is plenty of information about how to protect us from system breaches, customer data theft, viruses, malware and ransomware. There is so much information available to us on the subject it’s a wonder why we still have so many hacks. After all, when I typed “Network Security” into my google search, 2.9 billion pages of information came up to provide information on the topic!  To make matters more difficult the information changes constantly. As criminals get smarter and more sophisticated in how to gain access to our computer networks, we need to change how we protect ourselves. So, with all that information available to us how do we make sense of it? We rely on our computer networks to do daily business and when they stop working it costs us money, stress and loss of customers. Clearly internet protection is not an easy subject to understand and is why we need an expert who is specializing in Network Security to help put an IT protection plan in place! Helping Hand IT is that expert and has extensive training and advanced tools to help minimize any threats to your network.

Ransomware is one of the biggest threats today any business faces. It is happening with all sizes of businesses and even with home users, no one is being spared! Ask yourself… what does my business look like if I cannot access ANY financial data or customer information on my computer? What if you’re completely locked out of your computers? How would that effect your ability to do business? This is what Ransomware is! I’ve read where companies have paid as much as $60,000 to regain access to the computers. Even homeowners are being attached and payments of $300-$500 are common. Studies show that 1 in 4 people and businesses that are attacked and pay the blackmail fee Do NOT get the information back. There are so many ways for criminals and hackers to gain access to our networks that it takes much effort and expertise to protect us. And the cost of not protecting our computers can be thousands and even tens of thousands of dollars. Not to mention the potential loss of customers. What I hope to accomplish with this article is give you a starting point for what you can do to protect your computer and network.

It is important to understand Internet security starts with the understanding that there is no 100% sure-fire way to have 100% protection. What we try to do is make it very hard for a criminal to get into your system and if the worst were to happen, we would have you back up and running within a few hours. As protection devices and software get better at shielding us the criminals and hackers, criminals and hackers in turn get better at finding ways to gain access to our systems.

Not all network setups are the same, some have more components, and some have less, and there are reasons for the differences which we will not cover today. However; a typical network set-up may look something like this. When the Internet enters your business, it is connected to an Internet modem. Modems have basic firewalls and do not have anti-spam, malware, or virus features. The modem is the first line of defense for your computer network system. The firewalls act as traffic cops but do let most network traffic through. The basic firewalls will just stop potential uninvited outside intrusions. From the modem the connection goes to an actual hardware firewall that provides the anti-virus, anti-spam, malware and active scanning on the incoming Internet connection.

After passing through the firewall, your internet signal goes to a switch which routes internet access to the many different devices on your network.  Switches connect your server and back up system along with printers, scanners, cameras and many more devices including VOIP phone systems.  As the server and workstations receive an internet/network signal, that signal is filtered through the computers anti-virus, spam, malware and anti-ransomware software. If your computer network does not have all these primary layers of protection you are leaving yourself vulnerable. Our strategy is to stop threats before they get to the computers, but this software on the individual computers is in place as added and a necessary protection. That brings us to the last line of defense which is YOU. Most viruses and malware episodes occur from an employee opening and email or clicking on a link and inviting the attackers into their computer and network. We try to combat this through education!

We try to educate people to look at your email, make sure it is legit before opening any attachment or clicking on a link. Check who it was sent from, does it make sense a friend you haven’t heard from in six months is sending you a link saying, “You got to see this”? You click on the link and it’s too late! Sounds silly but people make this simple mistake daily in part because they aren’t really thinking about the email. As an example, recently one of our customers has a sales person who received and email stating “Proposal Accepted” on the last day of the month so he opened it and yes, you guessed it, Ransomware infected his computer and then the server.

Here is a piece of advice you should share with your coworkers and friends. If you’re not sure if a link or attachment is legit, or if the source is not legit and you want to open the attachment then open it on your smart phone. If it is contaminated, you won’t infect your computer network. The devices are not linked that way so worst-case scenario is your phone must be reset and you lose some unbacked up pictures or contacts. Way better than losing the company server and work stations and costing thousands of dollars to get back in operation.

As part of your overall strategy for cyber security you should change passwords every month or two. Make this mandatory and can usually be set up in settings to ensure compliance. The passwords should be complicated including at least one capital and one lower case letter along with at least one special character and being 8 characters long or longer. Make sure you keep ALL software programs up to date by installing the latest patches and upgrades to minimize vulnerabilities. This should be done multiple times per week. When computers are removed from your network or employees are no longer with your company make sure you update the AD (Active Directory) There are several other ways to get into a network. If you’re not sure how much protection your system has and what liabilities you have, I would recommend having Helping Hand IT do a free comprehensive security and network analysis to determine the network risk level. They will come to your office and conduct an asset analysis to give you a comprehensive look at your company’s cyber security all done at no cost. As part of their assessment they will lay out the steps you need to take to increase the security of your network and if you have a strong comprehensive plan, they will tell you that too! With over 20 years in business and a satisfaction rating of 4.9 on google and A+ on BBB you know you’re getting the area leader in IT support and IT services. Whether your replacing a computer or server or if you simply need anti-virus protection or a repair, Helping Hand IT has the expertise to help!  You can call direct at 630-940-1718 to get more info. It’s a new year and time for an enhanced strategy for network protection. Give us a call to find out how we can help your company! Life is Always Better with a Helping Hand!