Are Vigilante Hackers a Threat?

b2ap3_thumbnail_do_vigilante_hackers_present_problems_400.jpg2015 was a brutal year for major corporations, as one by one they fell victim to hacking attacks. Major organizations like Blue Cross Blue Shield, Anthem, and even the United States Office of Personnel became victims of major hacking campaigns. A fact that’s often lost amongst these details is that not all hackers use their skill for evil actions, even if they are still illegal.

As a matter of fact, there are many hacking organizations that use their skills for the benefit of mankind. Even though this type of “vigilante” activity is frowned upon, it doesn’t help that pop culture icons like Batman, the Green Arrow, and pretty much any fictional superhero in existence defy these laws. There are times when it seems like it takes a criminal to beat a criminal, but we have to take into account what it means to let these vigilante hackers get away with these acts.

In many cases, the organizations and political entities that these “hacktivists” target are difficult for authorities to track down and punish. Hacktivists tend to take the fight to exceptionally dangerous organizations or individuals. The recent hacking attacks of ISIS at the hands of high-profile hacking group Anonymous come to mind, in which Anonymous targeted the terrorist group’s social media sites, which are often used to gather and recruit followers. Just last October, Anonymous also revealed the identities of several suspected Ku Klux Klan members.

While it works in the movies, the presence of vigilante hackers reveals a major flaw in the way that society handles questionable online activity. We, as a people, have allowed the Internet to become a place that breeds danger, hatred, bigotry, and fear-mongering. Whether or not the activities of Anonymous are ethical is up for debate, though it needs to be mentioned that their activities are still illegal and shouldn’t be condoned. 

While your business is relatively safe from hacking attacks from hacktivists like Anonymous, there are plenty of bad hackers out there who want nothing more than to see your business fail. These bad hackers are after whatever private or sensitive data they can find, and you need to be prepared for them to take drastic measures to steal your data. The best way to protect your business’s assets is to utilize a Unified Threat Management (UTM) solution. A UTM is a comprehensive solution that’s optimized to protect your business from all kinds of threats. The UTM consists of enterprise-level solutions like firewalls and antivirus, plus other proactive measures like content filtering and spam blocking solutions. The UTM is designed to keep threats from accessing your network, and to keep your business out of the enemy’s crosshairs.

While the UTM is great for maximizing network security, it should be mentioned that not every single threat can possibly be blocked. New threats are born every day, so you should treat every moment using online communication with a dose of skepticism. Your job as the business owner is to prepare yourself for the day where you have to face hacking attacks.

What are your thoughts on hacktivism? Do you think it’s an effective way to take the fight to criminals, or would this decision be better left delegated to the authorities? Let us know in the comments.

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Why BYOD is an Important Industry-Changing Trend

b2ap3_thumbnail_bring_your_own_device_mdm_400.jpgMobile devices are challenging the traditional perception of the office environment. When employees bring their own devices to work, this is called Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), and it’s an increasingly popular trend. Initially thought of as a threat, BYOD is proving to be a valuable option for businesses wanting to increase productivity, so long as it’s regulated properly.

Security Issues
One of the biggest causes for concern with the BYOD market is the security of your data. Businesses that take advantage of employee-owned mobile devices will undoubtedly be taking sensitive information and other company-owned data on the road, which presents a problem for businesses that like to have full control over the deployment and distribution of their data. Businesses that want to fully leverage BYOD need to address this concern.

Take, for example, the employee who stores sensitive client or company information on their mobile device. If this device isn’t properly regulated or monitored by a company policy, there’s nothing stopping viruses or malware on the device from attacking sensitive information. There’s also the risk of the device getting lost or stolen, putting your data in the wrong hands. The employee might have had the honorable intention of working during the off-hours, but now there’s an important data leakage problem.

The most common solution to concerns over BYOD data leakage is to integrate a mobile device management (MDM) solution. An MDM is a software solution that helps businesses restrict what’s capable of accessing data stored on applicable devices. Apps can be restricted or allowed access to data depending on their uses. In the event of a device being lost or stolen, or the employee leaving the company, you can revoke access to company data and even wipe company data off the device.

The Benefits of BYOD
When properly implemented, a BYOD policy for your business can be exceptionally powerful for reducing costs and increasing productivity. According to ITProPortal, there are three major reasons that BYOD is great for small businesses:

  • Greater productivity: Letting employees use their own devices for work will yield more productivity, mainly due to employees being comfortable with their own devices. Think about it; would your employees rather use company-provided tech, or devices that they’re already familiar with? It makes perfect sense. Plus, employees who use their own devices can get work done in the off-hours, which will lead to even more productivity.
  • Cost-efficiency: There’s no reason to purchase new devices for your employees to use outside of the office if they already own devices themselves. Most professionals these days own a smartphone, which makes it much more cost-effective to let employees use their own devices. The more money you save on not purchasing devices, the more you can invest in other profitable initiatives.
  • Consistent updates: Employees that use their own devices are more likely to apply the critical patches and security updates required for maximum security. Since these employees use their devices every day, they’re more likely to notice problems and resolve them quickly. Doing so shores up issues that could turn into bigger problems later on.

Embracing BYOD doesn’t have to be challenging. If you want to get started with integrating employee-owned mobile devices into your workplace environment, reach out to Total Networks today at (602)412-5025.

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Tip of the Week: What to Do When Passwords “Don’t Cut the Mustard” Anymore

b2ap3_thumbnail_password_locks_400.jpgVirtually every kind of online account requires a password. Yet, due to the aggressive nature of hackers, passwords alone are no longer enough to protect your information. The best way to approach network security is to have more protections in place than just a flimsy password.

Why Aren’t Passwords Good Enough?
Today’s hackers have an arsenal of advanced tools they can use to crack a password. Here are just a few:

  • Brute-force attacks: This is where thousands of different passwords per second are tried in an attempt to enter the correct one. When it comes to hacking, instead of thinking about a lone hacker sitting at a keyboard typing one password after another, picture an automated process driven by powerful computers, leaving the hacker to sit back and take it easy.
  • Infiltrating databases: With so much information stored in the cloud, like passwords, hackers are targeting Internet-connected databases like never before. Unfortunately, stories of major database hacks are a common sight in today’s headlines.
  • Social engineering tactics: With the rise of social media, personal information is being shared over the Internet in a variety of ways. Hackers love tricking people to fork over their personal details about their lives, because these details are often associated with a user’s password. This is why your password shouldn’t be something publicly known, like the name of your pet or child.

Due to factors like these, selecting a password has become challenging. For example, it feels like you only have two options when it comes to your passwords; 1) Come up with a password that’s easy to remember (and have it be prone to hacking), or 2) Have the password be long and complex, thus making it difficult to remember.

Passwords Need Some Help
Passwords are still a key part of the security equation, but they shouldn’t be the only part. This is where two-factor authentication comes into play, requiring a second form of authentication after the password is successfully entered. Many of the additional authentication options available to users lie outside the grasp of hackers, like an SMS message with a unique code sent directly to the user’s cell phone.

Another way to protect your information is monitoring your account’s access logs for any suspicious activity, like a new user logging on from somewhere in the world that makes no sense. Monitoring your network like this is just one way that Total Networks can proactively secure your data. This way, a hacker who has successfully stolen the correct password will still be flagged and subsequently blocked from doing any damage.

In addition to two-factor authentication and monitoring access logs, you should take advantage of an enterprise-level password management system that stores all of your passwords in a secure application, and then automatically plugs them into accounts so that you don’t have to keep track of complex passwords. This is in addition to a comprehensive network security solution like a Unified Threat Management tool.

For more information about password security best practices, give Total Networks a call at (602)412-5025.

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How to Leverage the Benefits of Mobile Devices While Negating the Associated Risks

b2ap3_thumbnail_bring_YOD_400.jpgMobile devices have taken the workplace environment by storm, and you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who doesn’t use their smartphone, laptop, or other device for work purposes. This trend, called Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), helps employers spend less on new solutions, but it also presents a risk that needs to be managed: the Internet of Things (IoT).

According to a study by Tech Pro Research, 59 percent of businesses allow the use of personal devices in the workplace, while only a modest 28 percent were adamant enough to claim that they have no plans of allowing personal devices in the office. Only 13 percent plan on changing their policy over the next year.

We think it’s safe to say that BYOD will continue to grow more popular as time goes on, but the businesses that are vehemently opposing BYOD have valid reasons to be concerned about employee devices. Furthermore, the use of Internet of Things devices, which are known for sharing data amongst each other, is increasing in popularity.

Even if a significant portion of business owners have no plans to integrate the IoT with their business, they might not have a choice if employees bring them into the office unknowingly. Therefore, it should be a top priority to protect your business’s network from the potential harm these devices can cause. This is why it’s important to manage the benefits of BYOD alongside the risks associated with the IoT.

Benefits of BYOD
The Bring Your Own Device revolution provides several great benefits for businesses that want to improve the quality of their operations.

  • Lowered equipment costs: If you’re allowing employees to bring in their own technology for work purposes, that’s less money that your business has to spend on outfitting your workers with technology needed for their jobs.
  • Greater workforce mobility and satisfaction: If employees are using their own devices for work purposes, it means that they can take their work home with them if need be. They can put in more hours and make more time for other initiatives that create revenue opportunities for your business. Furthermore, employees using their own devices are happier, simply because they’re using familiar technology instead of company-provided workstations.
  • Less reliance on IT for maintenance: This benefit might not seem like much, but think of it this way; if employees are able to use their own devices, they’re more likely to take proper care of them. This means updating them with patches and security updates, as well as keeping them in working condition, and it allows IT to spend less time resolving issues with employee devices, and more time innovating and improving operations.

Risks of IoT Devices
Despite all of the great benefits provided by BYOD, there are quite a few risks involved with implementing it. These risks are caused primarily by the Internet of Things, and all of the data-gathering devices it brings to your office. These devices are usually Internet-connected wearables, but the IoT encompasses many kinds of Internet-connected devices, including smart building components like thermostats and light fixtures, smart appliances, and even smart automobiles.

In this case, the primary risk would be the security of your network. Think of it this way: if an IoT device were to become compromised, and the employee brings it to your office, it can infect your network. This is a worst-case scenario, but a very real one. It’s for this reason that it’s imperative that your business should make an attempt to manage IoT devices within your organization. While a health-savvy jogger is unlikely to pose a major risk by wearing their Fitbit into the office, but business owners need to be cognizant of what’s accessing the network, where data is getting stored, and who controls it.

BYOD is developing into an important part of business and if your organization isn’t ready to embrace this trend, you need to take action. Total Networks can help your organization integrate tools that help you manage device activity on your network, including access to mission-critical data. Furthermore, we can help you prepare for the onslaught of Internet of Things devices that will inevitably enter your network.

For more information, give us a call at (602)412-5025.

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