Ransomware is threatening your network

Mapping the ransomware infections.

Mapping the ransomware infections.

Fall 2013, the Cryptolocker malware made its debut and terrified computer users worldwide with its ability to hold whole computers for ransom, encrypting the files  on infected devices and refusing to unlock them unless the victim paid a fee. Throughout 2014, Cryptolocker mutated into RIG, Game-Over Zeus (GOZ) and OphionLocker, getting more and more nefarious with each new release, and it does not appear to be slowing down.

(http://www.tomsguide.com/us/risk-ransomware-infection-avast,news-18765.html)

Lost in the media hype about embarrassing emails of Sony Exec’s, and the delayed release of The Interview, the original talks between Sony and hackers that stole information from the companies computer systems was an attempt to extort money in return for not taking the information public. Sony refused and soon thereafter the private information and emails were released to the prying eyes of the internet.

(http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/personalfinance/2015/01/11/computer-hacker-ransomware-malware-sony/21397777/)

More commonly, especially with Small Business networks and Home Offices, ransomware locks and encrypts the data and information stored on an infected computer or device, preventing the user from gaining access. Then the virus demands money, usually in some form of untraceable currency, to unlock the users data. Users who have reportedly paid the ransom get mixed results, some get a key to get their data back, others lose their money and their data.

ShieldScared yet? You should be. This is a growing problem, mostly on older machines that don’t receive software updates anymore, or machines that do not have adequate virus protection. Currently, St. Aubin Technologies recommends and uses a 3 step approach to preventing ransomware and virus infections. Network security, Up-to-date workstations, and up-to-date Anti-Virus protection.

Its is now more important than ever to have strong network security protocols. Your networks first line of protection is to prevent the infection from ever gaining access to your network devices and workstations. Utilizing network security features can prevent ransomware and viruses from ever entering your network in the first place. Consider web filtering for instance; its not just for filtering your users and patron’s from utilizing your internet connection for watching porn, or controlling your users to be more productive by keeping them off of Facebook. Web filtering is a useful tool that can save your users from going to infected web-sites, or sites that are designed to trick users into installing viruses such as Cryptolocker and GOZ. Lets say that your devices are cars on the network, and the data they hold are the occupants of that car. Web filtering is like the bumper on a car, it can save the rest of the body from the drivers slight mistakes that could have been detrimental if that initial crush zone wasn’t there.

(http://cloudsecurity.trendmicro.com/us/technology-innovation/our-technology/smart-protection-network/index.html#fighting-cyber-crime)

Remember early last year when you received notices from Microsoft and St. Aubin Technologies about the End-of-Life for Microsoft Windows XP? Those machines no longer receive the updates we are talking about. Probably time to consider replacing them if you already haven’t. Your networks second line of defense is the machine operating systems themselves. These operating systems should be up-to-date with the latest security patches available. If you are using XP or Server 2003 at this time in your network, and you do not have a plan to replace these machines yet, you need to. These are serious security concerns, and those older machines are the weak-link in your network. In our car crash from before, the security patches and operating systems on your machines are the structure around the passenger space, giving the car its form and look, but also proving ridged at this time of need and preventing in every way it can the other object from penetrating this protective shell and getting to the occupants.

(http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/lifecycle)avast! Anti-Virus

Your networks third defense is the workstations and servers antivirus protection. St. Aubin Technologies has long been a fan of avast! antivirus protection. avast! Business Protection suites provide advanced protection for your workstations and servers, giving you peace-of-mind that if a user does accidentally let something through, the antivirus protection is there to save your data. Back to our car accident analogy, your antivirus is like the airbag, cushioning the blow of the impact, attempting to save the occupants. If your airbag is outdated, or non-existent, it won’t work as well (or at all), and your occupants will be lost to the impact.

(https://blog.avast.com/2013/11/19/can-avast-protect-me-against-cryptolocker/)

The last line of defense for any virus, ransomware, or general computer failure is a good backup. You know what is fun about ransomware and in-house backups? An in-house backup (i.e. backup to a USB hard disk) is just a susceptible to ransomware infection and encryption as the machine itself. What this means is if you are using a USB hard disk as a primary backup destination, a ransomware infection can encrypt your backup right along with the rest of your computer. The only way to protect yourself and your data from this kind of failure is an off-site, cloud backup. We highly recommend Carbonite Online Backup. This removes your backup from direct access by the workstation, and its infection, protecting the backup from corruption, and allowing us to restore your data as quickly as possible in the event of a worst-case scenario. This is like the hospital in our car crash. The occupants are hurt and the car is totaled (in a way), but we can help them recover and get into new wheels as quickly as possible.

(http://www.carbonite.com/blog/cloud-backup-blog/2013/10/08/protect-your-files-from-malware)

The battle for your security is an ongoing war, and the total prevention of all is just not possible in this day & age. As we make advances in protection, hackers make advances in intrusion. No one protection system is complete, but we can put in place an arsenal to try and thwart  the enemies advances. Utilizing the tools available to implement network security, and keeping operating systems and antivirus protection up-to-date, we can minimize your risk of infection and data loss.

To get your network checked, or to discuss your options for your business, don’t hesitate to call us. 305-247-2227

De-clutter your inbox in Office 365

Today we are beginning the roll out of Clutter to Office 365 business customers, which brings the power of Office Graph to your inbox. Clutter is designed to help you focus on the most important messages in your inbox. It uses machine learning to de-clutter your inbox by moving lower priority messages out of your way and into a new Clutter folder. Ultimately, Clutter removes distractions so you can focus on what matters most.

The Clutter experience

Take a look at this video to learn how Clutter helps you keep focused on the most important items in your inbox.

How Clutter works

Clutter learns from your actions to determine the messages you are likely to ignore. As less important messages arrive, they are automatically moved to the Clutter folder. Clutter does this by leveraging Office Graph’s sophisticated machine learning techniques to determine which messages are Clutter. It gets smarter over time, learning from your prior actions with similar messages, and assessing things like the type of content and even how you are addressed in the message. The Clutter experience is personalized to each individual and reflects an email experience that adapts to your actions and preferences without you having to do anything. The information Clutter learns from each user’s actions are only applied to that user’s experience and are not shared with anyone else.

Getting started with Clutter

By default, Clutter is disabled for your inbox. Each person controls whether to turn Clutter on or off. You control Clutter from the Outlook Web App (OWA) options menu. You can turn it on as soon as Clutter is available for your Office 365 tenant. Clutter begins taking actions once it has sufficiently learned your work style and can confidently begin working for you. If you later find Clutter isn’t for you, it can be turned off any time.

Clutter is best suited and most effective for those of us who tend to pile up messages in our inboxes. Clutter respects your existing email rules, so if you have created rules to organize your email those rules continue to be applied and Clutter won’t act on those messages.

Working with Clutter

The less important messages are simply moved to the Clutter folder. They remain out of your way until you have time to review the items—if you choose to. You can proactively train Clutter by marking items as Clutter or simply move the items to the Clutter folder. If you find items in your Clutter folder that shouldn’t be there, train Clutter by moving the message back to your inbox. Clutter continuously learns and will adapt to your new patterns within days when you begin working on new projects or a new role. As you work with Clutter it will notify you of its activity in your inbox, this is Clutter helping you keep in control of your messages

The Clutter folder allows you to take advantage of the feature across many email clients including Outlook, OWA, OWA for devices, or EAS connected devices. Clutter continuously learns from your actions across these clients. Regardless of the client, the messages moved to the Clutter folder are out of your inbox view—yet readily accessible.

Join the YamJam

On Thursday, November 13th, the Office 365 Technical Network will host a Clutter YamJam from 9:00 – 10:00 a.m. PT / 5:00 – 6:00 p.m. UTC to discuss the Clutter feature. For those unfamiliar with a YamJam, it is similar to a “TweetJam” on Twitter or an “Ask Me Anything (AMA)” on Reddit, except it takes place on Yammer. A YamJam provides the opportunity for the community to ask questions and have a discussion with a panel of Microsoft experts on a particular topic.

How to participate:

  1. Request access to the Office 365 Technical Network.
  2. Join the Exchange IT Pro group. You can find it by using the Browse Groups function or through the search bar.
  3. Log in at 9:00 a.m. PT on Thursday, November 13th to ask questions, follow the discussions and connect with Microsoft team members

Frequently asked questions

Q. When will the Clutter feature be available in my Office 365 environment?

A. Customers who have opted into First Release will begin seeing the Clutter feature today. We are first rolling out the feature to those using the English locale, other languages will follow as localization is complete. Deployment to standard deployment tenants is targeted to begin later this month.

Q. I turned Clutter on but nothing happened? 

A. Clutter is still learning so that it can provide strong predictions and will only begin taking actions once it has a learned your work style. You can expedite Clutter’s learning by moving messages into the Clutter folder to help train it. The more you move, the faster it will learn.

Q. Can I disable Clutter after I have turned it on? 

A. Yes, you can turn Clutter off. It can be turned off from the OWA options page. If turned off existing items in the Clutter folder will remain in the Clutter folder.

Q. How to train Clutter that items are or aren’t Clutter? 

A. The easiest way to train Clutter is by simply completing your work. You can explicitly train Clutter by moving items to or from the Clutter folder. In OWA, Clutter-specific actions are available as a right-click commands to mark items as Clutter or not Clutter.

Q. Are clutter items automatically deleted after a specified time period? 

A. The Clutter folder does not apply a specific clean-up action. The default policy for a new folder is applied to the Clutter folder at time of creation, and can later be changed. Users in OWA are provided Clutter specific quick clean-up tools to expedite the deletion of the Clutter messages.

Q. Does Clutter work in Outlook desktop clients?

A. Yes. Once turned on by the user, the Clutter folder is available in Outlook and is automatically added in your folder Favorites. In Outlook, users interact with Clutter by moving items to/from the Clutter folder, which trains Clutter for your inbox. You must use the OWA options menu to turn Clutter on or off.

Microsoft Windows Server 2003 End-of-Life Notification

WS EOL - Campaign_500

Microsoft Windows Server 2003 End-of-Life is coming, July 14, 2015. Microsoft will no longer support, or update, Server 2003, including bug fixes and patches against malicious threats.

You need to upgrade now!

If you are in the health care industry, heed this warning, because Microsoft will stop offering security updates and anti-virus software for Windows Server 2003 systems. Therefore, you will no longer be HIPAA compliant and in violation of the law.

HIPAA

For everyone else, the same reasons still apply:

  1. Tons of viruses.
  2. Server 2003 is Out-Dated and Old
  3. Least Secure Server Operating System (By Far!)
  4. Built for a Simpler Time. The IT industry looked very different 12 years ago.
  5. No More Support
  6. Lots of Malware built for Server 2003. They’ve had 12 years.
  7. Once again, no more HIPAA Compliance as of July 14, 2015

Don’t wait until July 14, 2015! Server OS’s take lots of planning and preparation for upgrades!

Exchange-resized-600

Exchange 2003offline-hero

The Exchange 2003 support cycle ended April 8, 2014. If you are still on Exchange 2003, please contact us to move your email to a more recent system. We recommend Office 365 to keep your company up-to-date and to provide you with the same great features, plus many new ones too!

OneNationOneTeam

Lets Do This! Use the hashtags #OneNationOneTeam and #LetsDoThis to show your support for the US Mens National Team in the 2014 World Cup. They will advance to The Round of 16 with a Win or Draw today against Germany. USA! USA! USA!

Letter of Approval from the USMT soccer coach, and Joe says we are watching the game.

Too Much Sitting Linked to Disabilities

As your go-to IT consultants, we have a greater responsibility to not only bring you up-to-date products and increase your businesses productivity, but also to make sure you and your employees don’t develop bad habits at the computer. Articles about sitting too long in front of the computer have been around, but have you ever read them? If not, start with this one from the Baptist Health News Blog.

Sitting at the computer, watching television and playing video games are habits at both the workplace and at home that contribute to a sedentary lifestyle — or simply too much sitting.

New research suggests that this “sitting disease” increases the likelihood of developing physical disabilities after the age of 60 that include conditions affecting mobility and coordination.

The evils of a sedentary lifestyle have been well chronicled. But this recent research delves deeper into “too much sitting” as its own risk factor. This means that even individuals who exercise regularly and maintain a healthy weight can feel the detrimental impact of too much sitting over the years.

READ MORE HERE

We also circulated through our ranks Heal@Google: Deskbound by Kelly Starrett. With this mandatory video viewing/training requirement, we’ve all learned how sitting too long is a real problem.