6 Reasons Why You Need Managed Services in Fort Lauderdale

The need for managed services has never been more critical as innovation in the business world is continually on the rise. A managed IT services provider based in Fort Lauderdale helps your South Florida business to mitigate natural disasters like hurricanes and keep up with the pace of the advancing technology and enhance your business’ efficiency.

Are you unsure if Managed Services are correct for your business?

Here are six reasons why you might want to reconsider:

1. Minimized Downtime and Increased Productivity

A managed IT service provider helps you to avoid system shutdown and failures, thereby reducing the time spent on making complex IT decisions. When these technology-related frustrations are minimized, your team is able to focus on their work, which in turn guarantees your company a higher level of productivity.

2. Improved Compliance and Security

As technology continues to advance, cyber-criminals are also continuing to invent new malicious attack methods, which puts businesses at a high risk of data breaches. A managed service provider will help protect your business from such attacks and offer quick solutions if one happens. They are also able to supplement additional protocols, procedures, and policies to ensure compliance.

3. High-Level Support on Up-to-the-Minute Technology

One of the benefits of constant system management and monitoring is that you can rely on the most current IT systems at no financial risk or extra costs. Additionally, as a result of their many years of experience, quality managed service providers are able to implement new IT systems within a short time, thereby saving you money and time.

4. Good Return on Business and Cost Effectiveness

Employing the services of a managed IT service provider is a cost-saving investment as it helps to control outgoing expenses, which in turn enhances return on investment.  A managed service provider is able to achieve this by minimizing hardware costs, keeping systems updated, providing expert knowledge, and sustaining high levels of security.

5. Access to a Wide Range of Solutions

Over time, your business needs various solutions such as customer relationship management software (CRM) and accounting software solutions to handle multiple individual needs that keep on rising. With accounting solutions, it becomes easy to monitor taxes, vendors, and financial information. CRM helps to gather greater business visibility through campaigns, notes, and surveys. Managed service providers are able to provide these solutions, which results in a more secure data controlled system that helps your company to manage both customer and business information.

6. Regular Maintenance

A managed IT service provider offers a proactive approach to maintenance, which rids you of the worries about dependability and network speed solutions. They are always on standby to detect any potential vulnerabilities, disturbances, and threats and then fix them as quickly as possible.

The Bottom Line

As technology continues to transform the world of business, there is a need for you to streamline your business’ IT operations. Hiring a qualified managed services provider saves you money, time, frustrations, and, more importantly, enhances your business’ productivity.

Are you worried about how to secure the best managed IT services provider in Fort Lauderdale? Worry no more! Bluwater Technologies, a WheelHouse IT company, has got you covered. Contact us today and see the difference.

Remote Hosted Desktops and Security – How to Protect Yourself and your Data

Remote Hosted Desktops and Security - How to Protect Yourself and your Data

With so many people working at home, remote hosted desktops are particularly useful. They can allow an employee to access everything they could 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 yourself when you have employees using remote desktops:

Limit Devices

The best practice for remote desktop 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 desktop 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 their 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 give employees carte blanche access. Compartmentalizing user permissions and allowing them access only to the files they actually need can go a long way towards 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.

Enable 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 check 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

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 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, and if they are using 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 desktop or similar protocols and need advice on how to keep things secure, protect your data, and sustain productivity, contact Bluwater Technologies today.

7 Basic Network Security Tips for Small Businesses

7 Basic Network Security Tips for Small Businesses

Some small businesses might think it’s reasonable to assume that hackers and data thieves only go after large targets. Of course these same criminals are well aware of this assumption, which is precisely why they know small businesses are often ripe for exploitation. According to CNBC, in 2019 small businesses were the targets of 43% of all cyberattacks, and more than half of them suffered some type of breach within the previous 12-month period.

Thankfully, there are some basic strategies that small businesses can employ to help them reduce their risk of ever having to experience a cyber attack.

Strong Passwords

Using a strong password is such a simple way to discourage hackers, yet many people still avoid using them.  Employers can enforce the use of strong passwords by requiring their systems to only accept passwords that consist of a combination of letters, special characters and/or numbers, and are at least 8 characters long. For even better protection, enforcing the use of  two-factor authentication provides another layer of security as it requires those attempting to log in to identify themselves by entering a code sent to their phone or email.

Secure the Corporate Wi-Fi

Businesses should always secure their Wi-Fi signal by requiring users to enter a password before gaining access. Leaving a Wi-Fi signal unsecured is simply another point of entry that leaves corporate software and data at risk for exploitation. 

Controlling Access

Employees should only have access to data and software on a need-to-know basis. Access to confidential information should be password protected and access to certain software applications should only be given to those required to use the software. Needless to say, a company should protect access to their network, requiring users to identify themselves before allowing access.

Encrypt Confidential Information

Some employees must use portable and removable media as part of their job responsibilities. Especially when working with confidential data, it’s important for companies to ensure that portable data is encrypted to prevent unauthorized access in the event the media becomes lost or is stolen.

Disaster Recovery Planning

Companies should ask themselves if they are fully prepared if a long term power outage should occur, or worse, an event such as a fire, flood, or some other type of natural disaster. If the answer is negative, they are overdue to get serious about developing a disaster recovery plan. Even small businesses are very dependent upon their hardware, software applications, and corporate data to conduct their daily business operations. Preparing a disaster recovery plan in advance means a company will be able to easily replace vital technology if a catastrophic event should occur.

Applying Updates/Performing Backups

Applying the latest software and hardware updates and patches will allow companies to avoid malware and viruses that hackers often attach to outdated systems.  In addition, performing regular backups and making sure they can be easily restored is vital to ensure that a company’s data is secure and readily available.

Educate Employees

Most business owners clearly understand their ability to successfully conduct daily operations is very dependent upon having accurate and secure data to work with. However, sometimes employees may only consider how inconvenient certain security measures may make their daily tasks more challenging. Using a password of “1234” for every application they log into is convenient since it’s very easy to remember, but weak passwords also leave business owners vulnerable to exploitation. This is where training employees on the “why” of security measures is so important. Employers can also train their employees to spot potential issues such as a suspicious email or an unsecured web page asking for confidential information.

Summary 

Companies should not feel discouraged if they find that safely and securely supporting their IT infrastructure is challenging. These types of challenges are precisely why Bluwater Technologies can help.

If you would like more information on how we can provide the technological support and security you need, please contact us.

The Home Chef Data Breach Affected 8 Million Customers

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On May 20, 2020, customers of Home Chef got the unpleasant news that 8 million of their data records had been breached. The stolen information included names, email addresses, phone numbers, the last four digits of credit card numbers, and encrypted passwords. Other information, including mailing addresses and frequency of delivery, “may also have been compromised.”

The announcement came about two weeks after Home Chef learned of the breach. This is within the generally accepted time frame; a company’s first priority is to verify what happened and prevent further damage. What’s disturbing is that Home Chef learned of the breach only by discovering that its data was being offered for sale.

How Home Chef learned of the breach

An online criminal gang calling itself Shiny Hunters had announced that it was offering databases from eleven companies, Home Chef among them. In early May they offered the 8 million records for $2,500. No details are publicly available on how the breach occurred, but Shiny Hunters apparently got direct access to Home Chef’s customer database. The largest set of records the gang claimed to have was 91 million from Tokopedia, a major Indonesian online store. This number hasn’t been confirmed; the low-end estimate is 15 million.

The price might have been higher, except that Home Chef did some things right. It didn’t store full credit card numbers, and it encrypted all the passwords in its database. The stolen information could make it easier to match credit card numbers with people or to crack passwords, but the breach didn’t outright expose that sensitive information. Even so, Home Chef is advising its customers to change their passwords.

What businesses and customers should do

The breach offers lessons to businesses and customers. Businesses need to remember the importance of network monitoring. If the security incident had been caught earlier, the thieves might have been stopped before they could steal the data. In the worst case, Home Chef would have known about the breach more quickly and started remedial action sooner. The process of acquiring the 8 million records could have taken weeks. Grabbing and exfiltrating that many records all at once could trigger alarms, so thieves prefer to acquire them slowly.

The events show why businesses should never store unencrypted sensitive information in their databases. Home Chef protected itself and its customers from a worse disaster by following this principle.

On the customer side, the breach shows the need for strong passwords. Depending on the details, thieves may be able to test long lists of passwords against the encrypted ones and discover the ones that match. A long and complex password is more resistant to this kind of cracking. When they learn of a breach, users should change their passwords immediately.

Home Chef warned customers to be wary of scams. Fraud operators can better target their phone calls and spam by knowing that a phone number or email address belongs to a customer. The company has reminded its customers that it will never ask for sensitive information by email. People getting phone calls claiming to be from Home Chef should likewise be wary of any odd requests.

Data security is a constant challenge. A typical data breach costs millions of dollars in downtime, reporting, mitigation, and liability. Businesses need to maintain a multilayered defense. It has to include not just technical protection but cybersecurity awareness training, so that employees don’t give away authentication information or let malware get into their systems. System monitoring is important, so that IT people can catch security incidents when they happen and not after massive data loss. Investing in data protection pays for itself by safeguarding a business’s operations and reputation.

Investing in data protection pays for itself by safeguarding a business’s operations and reputation. Bluwater’s network and system security services will reduce your company’s chances of suffering an expensive data breach.

Contact us to learn how we can help.

The RobbinHood Attack Could Cost of Baltimore $18 Million

the-robbinhood-attack-could-cost-of-baltimore-18-million

In May 2019, the city of Baltimore found itself in major IT trouble.

A crippling ransomware attack took down systems in almost every department of the government. Files were encrypted and couldn’t be recovered. The perpetrators demanded 13 Bitcoin — about $76,000 — to restore the files.

To its credit, the city refused to pay the criminals. To its discredit, the city’s IT management was in such bad shape that fixing the damage cost the city millions. It was completely unprepared for any large-scale data disaster. Other IT operations should learn from Baltimore’s example and avoid its mistakes.

The Attack

The ransomware that hit Baltimore goes by the name of RobbinHood. It’s an aggressive piece of malware that attacks Windows computers. It starts by stopping services that could interfere with encryption, including security software. It disables Windows automatic repair. Only then does it encrypt the documents on the computer and display a message demanding payment.

Currently there’s no known way to recover the files without paying.

The attack on Baltimore’s systems disabled email and other services. Large numbers of important records were lost. The city’s emergency services, including the police and fire departments, withstood the attack apart from losing email access. Few other systems did as well.

Email and payment processing systems remained down for weeks. People were unable to pay taxes and fines. Lack of access to data held up real estate transactions.

According to current estimates, recovery has cost the city $18.2 million, including lost revenue. It could be even more. Money was diverted from services to pay the costs, and taxpayers will certainly feel the pain. The good news is that it will pay for major improvements in IT security.

Baltimore’s Mistakes

No network on the Internet is 100% immune to ransomware. It’s necessary to be prepared for the worst. Baltimore’s IT setup wasn’t prepared at all. Some of the problems were so plain that city councilors called them “mind-boggling.” Critical data was stored on desktop machines, with no systematic backup.

The city had no IT disaster recovery plan. It had no insurance against data disasters. Ransomware insurance is a growing business, but the city of Baltimore hadn’t taken advantage of it.

Computers weren’t regularly patched to remove Windows vulnerabilities. The systems were full of weaknesses just waiting to be exploited.

The blame fell on the city’s CIO, who has been suspended from his job. He faced criticism for poor communication after the attack. He had taken measures to improve security after a 2018 ransomware incident, but they proved to be insufficient.

How to Avoid a Ransomware Disaster

Every IT department should assume a ransomware attack can happen. Being prepared requires two things. The first is to make the systems as resistant to harm as possible. The second is to be able to recover quickly and without permanent data loss.

All important data needs to be kept on well-protected servers and backed up. Desktop machines are highly exposed to the Internet and run all kinds of software. Their users mostly aren’t skilled in data management. Entrusting important data to those machines is an invitation to disaster.

Cloud storage is the best choice in many cases. It’s stored off the premises, and it’s professionally managed for the best protection against failure of all kinds.

A network should have a disaster recovery plan in place. It protects not only against ransomware but against natural disasters and physical theft. Disaster recovery requires offsite backup and a way to get systems running again quickly. The plan should be periodically tested to make sure it works.

Is Your Security Up to Par?

Security plans need to be multi-layered and regularly updated. You can’t just throw something together and hope it’s good enough. Bluwater understands ransomware, hardware failure, human error, and other threats to data. We can provide assistance ranging from consultation to full security management.

Contact us to learn how we can help you to avoid scenarios like the one Baltimore faced.