Remote Hosted Desktops and Security – How to Protect your Data

a man wearing headphones and using a laptop

With so many people working from home, remote-hosted desktops are particularly useful. They can allow an employee to access everything they can in the office smoothly. However, they are also open to potential abuse, and vulnerabilities in remote desktop protocols are significant and growing. Here are some tips on how to protect your data when you have employees using remote desktops:

Limit Devices

The best practice for remote desktops is to issue the employee a company-owned laptop and allow only that device access to the remote desktop. This means you control the security software on the laptop and can prevent employees from installing personal software that might cause problems. You can also use this as an extra layer of security by enforcing a password on the device.

In general, users can be easily discouraged from using phones and tablets for remote desktops specifically, as it seldom works well and they have alternative methods for things like quick email checks.

You can also restrict access to only locations where your employees are likely to be. Locking to specific IPs is possible, but can cause problems; for example, even if your employee only ever works from home, rebooting their network router will change their computer’s IP and lock them out. However, you can restrict by geography, disallowing connections from overseas.

Control User Permissions

Many companies are careless about granting permissions to users and giving employees carte blanche access. Compartmentalizing user permissions and allowing them access only to the files they need can go a long way toward ensuring that a hacker can’t get to all of your data from one compromised account.

Obviously, you need to make sure you don’t negatively impact productivity, but making HR files read-only, for example, can be useful in protecting from malicious actors.

Protect your Data by Enabling Two-Factor Authentication

Two-factor authentication is good practice for all accounts. One good way is to use token-generating software that texts a code to the employee’s cell phone. These codes can only be used once, so are unlikely to be compromised.

You should also limit login attempts so as to prevent brute force attacks and encourage the use of good password hygiene. Passphrases are better than passwords as they are easier to remember.

Monitor Suspicious Activity

One concern with remote work is that supervisors can no longer do random checks on employees in their offices or cubicles. However, it is possible to keep at least a basic check on odd behavior. Obviously, you should not micromanage people, which reduces engagement and productivity. Things you can monitor, though, include connection attempts from odd locations or at times when the employee concerned does not normally work. VPN systems can generally spot unusually high network activity, which can also be a red flag.

Use Encryption to Protect your Data

Requiring files to be encrypted during remote work can improve security on top of using a VPN. The files cannot be read in transit even if an employee forgets to connect to their VPN or turns it off because the system is so slow they are unable to work, both of which have been known to happen.

Use AES 128 and/or AES 256 as the gold standard to protect your data.

Choose a Good Provider

Finally, make sure that the provider handling your servers is using up-to-date security methods. Ask about firewalls and rolling or incremental backups. Also, make sure they have a good record in terms of uptime. It’s even harder for remote workers to continue to operate when the network is down. Additionally, if they are using a virtual desktop they may not be able to access any of their files and may not be able to store stuff locally.

If you have employees using remote-hosted desktops or similar protocols and need advice on how to keep things secure, protect your data, and sustain productivity, contact Bluwater Technologies today.

What Business Owners Should Know About the Twitter #DataBreach

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One of the scariest things for business owners to see trending is the word #DataBreach. Over the past few days, Twitter has come forward to apologize for a significant data breach that occurred as a result of a nonsecure browser cache displaying sensitive user information. Although it remains unclear just how many businesses were affected, the compromise is believed to have impacted a large number of companies that utilize the platform for marketing and SEO.

If you are one of the thousands of business owners who received an email from Twitter apologizing for the breach — or if you’ve simply seen the hot topic trending on your dash — you may be anxious to learn the details and understand what you can do to prevent future vulnerabilities. 

Take a deep breath. #DataSecuritySolutions is always trending with Bluwater Technologies.

What Happened?

The core vulnerability responsible for Twitter’s security compromise lies in the way the app and website store user information. A browser cache allows platforms to remember details about a user and create key analytics. It relies on the process of saving temporary data, such as passwords and credit card information. Thus, the website or app does not need to download this information each time. This allows the website and app to load faster while keeping us connected with our various clients, contacts, and social media platforms.

Unfortunately, Twitter discovered that the confidential billing information of many of its business accounts had been erroneously stored in the browser’s cache. This made sensitive information visible to potential cyber criminals. Although no exploits have been confirmed, Twitter acknowledged that it was “possible” outside parties could access and view this information.

So what information was exposed? According to the official statement, email addresses, phone numbers and the last four digits of clients’ credit card numbers were the key pieces of data that may have been compromised. 

Who Was Affected by the Twitter Data Breach?

As previously stated, Twitter has yet to give an official estimate on how many businesses were affected.

This isn’t the first time the tech giant has had issues with data security. In 2018, a sitewide bug affected some 330 million users and compromised the password credentials of all business users involved. If this benchmark offers any guess, it’s likely that the current data breach has impacted a broad range of clients.

Non-Twitter users are not thought to be affected. As of May 20th, 2020, the caching issue has been resolved.

What Now?

While news of leaked information is no doubt a terrifying prospect, there’s no need to panic just yet. Modern businesses are more connected than ever through the collaborative powers of social media. That means business owners must prioritize internet security in an increasingly digital world in order to meet the needs of today’s compliance standards.

If your business was affected by the breach, take a moment to review your system information for any indication of a hack. It’s a good idea to call in the professionals. Utilize the knowledge of a trained IT consultant to identify any potential threats or vulnerabilities. Ensure all passwords are changed and updated (sentence-form passwords are best). If your company has suffered a data loss or been the victim of malicious ransomware attempts, don’t give in to cyber criminals just yet. Backup and disaster recovery options are available for small and mid-sized businesses.

Once you’ve assessed the damage and come out on top, consider proactive ways to prevent cyber attacks moving forward. Always clear your browser cache at the end of each day. Or set your browser to automatically clear so that stored information is not visible. Ask your IT consultant about curating how your information is transmitted online. VPNs — or virtual private networks — are a great option for masking and securing your online identity. A robust firewall and a comprehensive network and data security system is the best way to stop cybercriminals in their tracks and protect your valuable information.

Ask our Fort Lauderdale experts for more helpful tips and strategies for making your business #unbreakable.

Data Replication vs. Data Backup – Understanding the Difference

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Recently, the most cost-efficient data restoration mechanism available for SMBs was simply to ensure they maintained regular data backups. This was not necessarily ideal since any restored data came from a previous point in time, and the restoration process to recover data was potentially quite lengthy. This meant a business could be down perhaps even for several days, and any data that was recovered was even older. In this post, we will point out the differences between data backups and data replication and how data replication can now outperform traditional data backups in key areas.

Data Backups 

A traditional data backup is essentially a complete snapshot of a company’s data at one given point in time. While there certainly is value in maintaining a regular complete copy of all corporate data, traditional data backups have some less-than-ideal aspects. More and more businesses rely on their data to efficiently run their business. Thus, even losing a few hours’ worth of data can be quite catastrophic. Therefore, making the less-than-ideal aspects of traditional backups even more glaring.

In the past, the best a small or medium-sized company could hope for in the event of data loss was to restore their last backup. After the restoration process, they relied on manual entrance of their business data. This would bring them to the point just prior to the system failure. This entire process was time-consuming and prone to error.

Data Replication

Up until fairly recently, maintaining a near-mirror replication of company data in a remote location was affordable only for enterprise-level organizations. Now, with cloud-based replication, the costs associated with maintaining a cloud-based, real-time copy of all corporate data is becoming realistically affordable for even smaller businesses. With cloud-based replication, in the event of a system failure, even small companies can have a fresh, up-to-date copy of corporate data available to them within minutes.

If you would like to know more about real-time data replication, please contact us.

Develop a Data Loss Prevention Strategy

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Every business needs to think about the risk of data loss. Even the smallest ones have customer and financial information that has to stay out of the wrong hands. Many have records that could lead to identity theft if they’re stolen. A business needs a plan and a policy for data loss prevention. It has to include these steps:

Perform risk analysis for data loss prevention

Some information is especially sensitive, and managers have to concentrate their efforts on protecting it. A risk analysis will identify the information that most needs protection. It will identify areas that are vulnerable, such as unencrypted databases with weak access control. A prioritized list of assets at risk will provide the basis for a strategy.

Identify data movements

The biggest risks come when data is carelessly moved from one place to another. Weakly protected intermediate storage provides thieves with a prime opportunity. Moving unencrypted data over the Internet leaves it open to interception. If the information isn’t wiped clean after transferring, those intermediate points create a lingering risk. Transfer of sensitive data should always use a secure channel.

Grant access conservatively

Grant access to data only to those who need it. Even if you are completely trustworthy, someone can compromise your account. The less an intruder can do with any given account, the more limited the damage will be. Role-based access tailors privileges to people’s jobs.

Train employees on loss prevention

Most data loss is due, at least in part, to employee error. Creating weak passwords, responding to a phishing scam, and saving insecure copies of data are just some of the mistakes that can lead to serious data breaches. Employees need to develop habits of treating their accounts and the data they handle carefully.

Get expert help

Bluwater Technologies provides managed IT services that will help you keep your data safe. Our experts will help you identify the sources of risk in your network and find the best ways to prevent data loss. Contact us to learn how we can help your business.

5 Ways to Step Up Your Company’s Cyber Security

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Cyber security is more important than ever in the world we live in today.

There are an increasing number of hackers who are eager to get into your company or small business’s information and use that information to do damage to either your company and/or your employees.

While no security system is completely foolproof, there are many measurable steps that your company can take to keep your information as safe as possible from those who would use it in a criminal manner.

Understand & Identify Cyber Security Threats & Evolving Defense

It’s no secret that there are more threats in the cyber world than ever before. That means that the “set and forget” mentality does not work now the way it did in the past. It is crucial that you instill good practices in your company ensuring that employees are aware of always updating security measures such as firewalls and antivirus software on your company computers and machines to keep your information as secure as possible.

You will also have to consider if employees work at an office location or work remotely as this will affect the types of safeguards that will serve each type of worker best.

The following are 5 great steps that you can take to start upgrading and increasing your company’s cyber security in an attempt to keep your company’s private and sensitive information as safe as possible:

1. Use the Power of the Cloud:

Many companies and businesses are finding out that the cloud is a very useful tool to use when it comes to protecting a company’s private information. Using the cloud allows the company or business to use app security services that help safeguard and protect their information better than they would be able to if they just stored it on (unprotected) electronic devices. It also allows you to only share sensitive information within your network of people who are authorized to access it. If you have security in place, you can investigate possible breaches early and catch these infractions so you can act on any threats to your security in a timely manner.

2. Create Cyber Security with a Unified Threat Management System:

Using a unified threat management system to help protect your company’s private information can help you avoid cyber security breaches. The main key to making this work is to have IT professionals who are specifically assigned and tasked with protecting the company’s information from such attacks. The best way most companies can do this is to outsource their IT work to an experienced company such as Bluwater Technologies. Using a third-party to help protect your information helps free up your employees to focus on other tasks and ensures that these employees at the IT firm have the proper knowledge, training, and certification to successfully implement this unified threat management system that they are using. This partnership can protect your information as closely as possible and help ensure that any breaches to your data are caught and handled immediately.

3. Invest in Quality IT Partners & Support:

There is a cost to hiring quality IT partners and support such as Bluwater Technologies to help manage your cyber security, however, that cost is a lot less than the cost of a severe cyber security breach would be. Allowing people who have the appropriate training and certifications to handle your business’s private information helps keep you safer than allowing employees to try to protect information on their own. Here at Bluwater Technologies, we are here to work with your business and protect your sensitive information to lower your risk of cyber security threats in the future!

4. Train Your Employees in Cyber Security:

In addition to outsourcing your unified threat management system through a partnership such as the one with Bluwater Technologies, train your own employees to spot cyber security threats on the devices they use each day. Having them report anything they may notice to IT specialists can help them catch any breaches that occur early or fix anything that may lead to a breach of information in the future. Emphasizing the protection of your company’s information and fostering good practices of protecting business information (i.e. Never leave unattended workstations unlocked, be sure to shred sensitive information, etc.) will help keep your information as safe as possible from cyber security threats and those who wish to use sensitive information to harm your company or business.

5. Create a Complete Business Training Program:

When you are creating a program to protect your company’s data, be proactive and include everyone from the top to the bottom of your company in the training. Ensuring that everyone knows proper practices to protect sensitive company information can help lead to less cyber security threats in the future.  This will include training employees in areas not specifically related to technology to spot threats as well. This would include employees in departments such as those that work with insurance or in human resources.

In the end, the best way to protect your company’s private information is to partner with a specialized IT company such as Bluwater Technologies whose job is to protect your company’s information from those who wish to use it to cause you harm.

Use Bluwater Technologies to Protect Your Business’s Information

Bluwater Technologies is a premier IT firm that has employees who are appropriately trained and have the credentials and knowledge as well as the experience to handle your company’s sensitive information and protect you from cyber security breaches. Our job is to protect your company and keep your information safe.

For more information on hiring Bluwater Technologies to protect your company’s private information, please feel free to contact us today.