Why Your Business Is The PERFECT Target For Hackers Is Your Protection Up To Date?

People never think it’ll happen to them. Sure, they see the reports – 50 million-plus bundles of user data compromised by a Facebook breach; the billing information of more than 2 million T-Mobile users hacked by a mysterious malicious entity – but companies like those are massive, monolithic entities in American commerce. They’re decidedly big fish, not like you and your small business. According to a recent JLT-Harvard Business Analytic Services survey, more than half of small business owners remain locked into this line of magical thinking, blissfully unaware of the threat cyber crime poses to the health of their organization.

We hate to burst the bubble of the happy-go-lucky majority, but the reality is that this optimistic attitude just does not square with the statistics. The incidents may not make the news, but small businesses are being targeted – and breached – by hackers at an astounding rate. In fact, the National Cyber Security Alliance reports that close to half of small businesses have experienced a cyberattack and that 60 percent of the companies that succumb to one of these attacks folds completely within six months. They state that instead of zeroing in on Fortune 500 corporations, hackers actually prefer to swoop in on the little guy, with 70 percent of cybercriminals specifically targeting small businesses.

Yet according to a Paychex survey, 68 percent of small business leaders aren’t worried about cyber security despite data from Hiscox indicating that more than seven out of ten small businesses are woefully unprepared for a breach.

Of course, it’s understandable that the average small business owner shirks their cyber security responsibilities. It’s the kind of problem that’s so complicated that it’s tempting to sweep it under the rug. As breach tactics become more sophisticated, so do the softwares and methodologies designed to keep out criminals. In a world far removed from the days when buying a product and installing it into your network was enough, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the complexity and breakneck pace of advancing cyber security best practices. Our biases make the possibility of a hack seem remote, while our limited resources make the cost of protection appear too high to even consider.

The first step to getting savvy in 2019 is to accept that cyber-attack isn’t some unlikely crisis, but a virtual inevitability. It’s a tough pill to swallow, but leaving it to chance is like flipping a coin where a “tails” outcome results in your business shuttering for good.

Luckily, though an attempted hack is almost guaranteed, there are dozens of steps you can take to prevent it from doing any damage. Chief among these should be to find a managed service provider (MSP) with a long background in protecting against hacker threats to take the reins on your cyber security as quickly as you can. It’s important when auditing your internal security measures that you regularly get an outside opinion from a trusted source, in order to cover all your bases. Your internal IT departments assurances that “they’ve got it covered” are certainly reassuring, but to truly patch all the holes in your security barriers, you’ll need more eyes on the problem. You might imagine that such a partnership must be prohibitively expensive, but they’re typically more reasonable than you might think. Not to mention that when the very survival of your business is on the line, it just makes sense to budget accordingly.

The statistics paint a picture of small business owners as underprepared, unaware, and disturbingly vulnerable to the whims of cybercriminals hiding just out of view. Don’t be another one of the millions of small business owners forced to shell out thousands as a consequence of wishful thinking. Wake up to the dangers of 2019, arm yourself against them, and secure the future of the business you’ve worked so hard to build.

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Sneaky Ways Cybercriminals Access Your Network And What You Can Do To Prevent It TODAY

Hackers prefer the little guy. The high-profile data breaches you read about in the news — your Facebooks and Equifaxes and T-Mobiles — are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the digital crimes being perpetrated day after day, especially against small businesses. Today, according to a report by the National Cyber Security Alliance, 70 percent of hackers specifically target small businesses. Attracted by the prospect of easy money, they search for those organizations who underspend on protection, who have employees untrained to spot security risks, and who subscribe to woefully out-of-date practices to protect their data. As a result, more than 50 percent of small businesses have been hacked, while 60 percent of companies breached are forced to close their doors within six months.

Most business owners have no idea the danger they’re putting their livelihood in by leaving cyber security up to chance. According to a survey conducted by Paychex, 68 percent of small-business owners aren’t concerned about their current cyber security standards, despite the fact that around 70 percent of them aren’t adequately protected. In the face of an imminent, global threat to the very existence of small businesses everywhere, most CEOs offer up a collective shrug.

The tactics and software available to hackers become more sophisticated by the day, but with so many unwitting victims, most criminals don’t even need to work that hard to net a six-figure income. By sticking to two tried-and-tested tools of the trade — phishing, ransomware and the subtle art of guessing users’ passwords — they leech comfortably off the earnest efforts of small businesses all over the world.

So, what’s to be done? Well, first things first: You need to educate yourself and your team. Protect your organization against phishing by fostering a healthy skepticism of any email that enters your inbox. Make it a habit of hovering over hyperlinks to check their actual destination before you click. If an email is coming from someone you know, but the email address is different, verify it with the other party. And never, ever send passwords or personal details to anyone over the internet if you can avoid it.

Speaking of passwords, you probably need to upgrade yours. The majority of folks use the same password for everything from their Facebook account to their business email. The fact that this includes your employees should make you shudder. It may not seem like a big deal — who’s going to take the time to guess SoCcErMoM666? — but aside from the fact that simple software enables hackers to guess even complicated passwords in minutes, that’s not even usually necessary. Instead, they can just look at the data dumps from a recent more high-profile breach — think the Equifax fiasco — pull your old website from there and type it into whatever profile they want to access. If you keep all your passwords the same across sites, it won’t take them long to dig into your most precious assets. To avoid this, implement a strict set of password regulations for your business, preferably incorporating two-factor authentication and mandatory password changes every few weeks.

Of course, you can read up on hacking techniques and teach them to your team until you’re blue in the face, and a data breach can still occur. Cybercrime is constantly evolving, and staying abreast of its breakneck pace takes a dedicated awareness of the latest protective tools and measures. That’s why your single best weapon to defend you against the hackers at your door is to find a managed service provider (MSP) with a background in defending against digital threats to partner with your organization. These companies not only regularly monitor your network, they also keep it updated with the latest patches and measures to prevent the worst. And if crisis somehow still strikes, they’ll be able to get your network back up in minutes rather than days, equipped with an expert knowledge of your systems and years of experience in the field.

In today’s digital world, leaving your cyber security up to a subpar antivirus and some wishful thinking is more than irresponsible — it’s an existential threat to your company. But with a little savvy, a bit of investment and a second opinion on the circumstances of your company’s security, you can rest easy knowing that no matter what comes, you’re protected.

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The Top 3 Lessons I Learned From Shark Tank’s Robert Herjavec

For Growing A Multi-Million-Dollar Business From Rags To Riches

Today, Robert Herjavec is known as the beloved “nice judge” on ABC’s Shark Tank, but if you ask him, he thinks the descriptor “fair” is more appropriate. Whatever you call him, make no mistake: he’s one of the most shrewd and successful businesspeople of our time. Despite humble beginnings while growing up in former Yugoslavia, Herjavec managed to leverage his endless drive and acumen into a long list of multimillion-dollar business ventures, including Herjavec Group, now a global leader in IT security services.

When someone gets officially dubbed a Shark and becomes one of the most visible faces in the business world, you might expect them to lose touch a little bit. But that’s just not the case with Robert Herjavec. At a recent conference , I had the pleasure of seeing him speak. It was clear that he wasn’t just there for a paycheck. He genuinely wanted to share his wealth of knowledge with all the attendees. Here are a few key lessons Herjavec schooled us on and how they can help your business.

1. YOU’VE GOT TO SHOW UP.

Right as he took the stage, Herjavec delivered a simple but vital piece of encouragement to everyone in attendance. “I congratulate everyone for being here,” he said with a smile. “Because the key to success is you gotta show up.” Whether you’re making time for an event or just struggling to survive, “if you don’t show up, you can’t win.”

The fact is that it’s easy to get caught up in the minute-to-minute chaos of running a business. It’s just as easy to get tired out, start slipping or begin questioning why we’re trying at all. But, as Herjavec was so eager to point out, we need to bring ourselves fully to the task at hand if we hope to carve out our chunk of success. Sure, we’ll have bad days, but the more we can be present, prepared and hungry to implement our vision, the better off we’ll be.

Whether you’re making time for an event or just struggling to survive, ‘if you don’t show up, you can’t win.’

2. NOTHING HAPPENS WITHOUT SALES.

Herjavec will be the first to tell you that, starting out, he knew absolutely nothing about the sales world. By his account, he was a “geeky, technical guy” who thought that as long as he offered a great service, customers would show up. Luckily, when he was 23, his friend Ross Marsden – then global VP of sales – gave him a piece of advice that would change his life. “You’re a great guy, and you really know your stuff,” he told Herjavec. “[But] unless you learn sales, you will never be successful.”

In response, Herjavec began to learn more about sales and marketing, until he realized, “You can have the best accounting system, the best CRM [and] the best tools, but nothing happens until you sell something.” The difference between those Fortune 500 companies dominating the market and the little guys who barely eke out a living? Sales. “Sales is not a foreign object that controls what you do,” he said. “Sales is an extension of what you do.”

3. “EVERY DAY, SOMEBODY WAKES UP WITH THE SOLE INTENTION OF KICKING YOUR @SS.”

After hearing fellow Shark Mark Cuban say this during the first season of filming Shark Tank, Herjavec got it chiseled in granite above his desk. “One of the hardest things about becoming more successful is success,” he said. Because when you’re no longer that “hungry, young person looking to take on the world,” you get to a point where you’re content enough to let your life (and business) stagnate. Herjavec said, “The minute you want it to be like it is, don’t forget there’s somebody out there – like you were many years ago – who wants to take it away from you.”

The antidote to this attitude, according to Herjavec, is to keep selling, keep growing and keep pushing. “If one of your top three tasks every day isn’t ‘Sell something,’ you’re going to fail,” he said.

“It’s like a mantra in my mind: constant forward momentum.” If your company isn’t growing at least at the rate of the market, you’re losing ground. Customer service and excellent products are vital, but if you lose sight of the importance of sales, you’re bound to the path of mediocrity.

Of all the wisdom Robert Herjavec imparted on us, that was the most inspiring. It doesn’t matter how big or small your business is. Sell what you have, and stay hungry.

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The Top 3 Lessons I Learned From Shark Tank’s Robert Herjavec

For Growing A Business From Scratch to Multi-Million-Dollars

Robert Herjavec was born poor in former Yugoslavia in the midst of a widespread communist reform that left little room for dissidents. He might have stayed there forever except for the fact that his father was one of these dissidents – and a vocal one at that. So much so, in fact, that he was thrown into jail 22 times for speaking out against the government. After the final time, Herjavec’s father gathered his things, his children and his wife and crossed the border into Italy. From there, he got on a boat and, like millions of immigrants just like him, made his way across the Atlantic Ocean to Canada.

But that’s not what Robert Herjavec, one of the famous investors on ABC’s Shark Tank, is known for. He’s more known for building companies out of nothing, including the massive IT security firm Herjavec Group, and turning them into multimillion-dollar successes. Watching him from the audience at a recent conference event, I was struck not only by his eagerness to share all he’s learned in the industry, but by his humility. I suppose when you’re the living embodiment of a rags-to-riches story, you gain an appreciation for exactly what it takes to realize your vision for a successful business.

Herjavec had a lot to say during his talk, but there were three points in particular that stood out for me.

1. IT ALL COMES DOWN TO SALES.

The one thing that Herjavec really wanted to hammer home with each and every one of us is the importance of sales. “Nothing happens until you sell something,” he told us. “What’s the difference between really big companies that grow and really small companies that stay the same size? Sales.”

Over the years, Herjavec has bought and sold 13 companies, and he’s learned the best approach to suss out whether a potential buy is worth it or not. One of the questions he always asks is, “How do you guys get customers? How do you guys find new business? And if the answer is anything along the lines of ‘word of mouth,’ I know these guys aren’t going anywhere.” The fact is that word of mouth is hard to control and almost impossible to scale. To truly drive the growth of your company, he says, you can’t think of sales as “a foreign object that controls what you do.” You have to see it for what it is – “an extension of what you do.”

To truly drive the growth of your company, he says, you can’t think of sales as ‘a foreign object that controls what you do.’

2. NO, REALLY – IT ALL COMES DOWN TO SALES EVERY DAY.

“Nobody in this room makes money for shuffling paper,” Herjavec said. “If one of your top three tasks every day isn’t ‘Sell something,’ you’re going to fail.” The only way to create “constant forward momentum” is by bringing in new revenue, and the only way to do that is to sell.

3. YOU CAN’T BE AFRAID TO SELL.

We all know that people in any industry are always worried about overloading themselves. “We’re struggling to serve the customers we have already,” they say. “What happens if we really do bring in a bunch of new ones?”

This line of thinking will get you nowhere. “It’s a common fallacy,” Herjavec said. “Engineers want to make it perfect before they sell it. True entrepreneurs jump out of the airplane and have the confidence that they’ll figure out the parachute on the way to the bottom.”

The key is to find your niche. Sales takes a long time to learn – years and years of trial and error. But if you can “figure out who you’re selling to,” as he put it, you’re already far ahead of your competition. Find the factor that differentiates you from the sea of similar companies, leverage your strengths and sell until you drop. That’s the path to success and, as hard as it is, there isn’t any other. Go on Shark Tank sometime and Robert Herjavec will be the first to tell you.

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2 Places You Should Never Cut Corners With IT

Today’s technology empowers business owners in ways that would have seemed incredible even 10 years ago. With a humming network connecting your team to the rest of the world, and with just a few simple keystrokes, your organization can complete tasks that used to take days.

However, the endless possibility that accompanies technological advancement comes with a catch: to be truly effective, IT requires investment – not just of capital, but of time and attention, resources all too dear to the harried entrepreneurs of the modern age. Perhaps this is why, everywhere you look, small to midsize business owners are not only failing to realize the full potential of their technology, but are unknowingly leaving massive gaps in their systems and processes for malicious entities to exploit. And so, budding companies that would otherwise dominate the market are prematurely stamped out by competitors with more tech savvy or are hamstrung by costly data breaches.

Even in the midst of this trend, we understand how easy it is to ignore your company’s glaring technological gaps. You imagine that you don’t have the time or money to address the issue, or that you’ll do it down the road once your business is better established. But no matter how big or small your business may be, there are two foundational tech concerns that you should never cut corners on.

1 SECURITY

Pretty much every successful company today is intimately intertwined with the technology on which it depends. So it makes sense that your primary worry should be protecting what’s yours from those who want to snatch it. Think of it this way: would you hire a $5 locksmith to secure your office? Of course not. Then why do so many business owners put their livelihood behind a flimsy, $5 firewall – or, even worse, a free antivirus? In 2018, it is more likely that your business will fall victim to a cyber-attack than it is that thieves will arrive at your office in the dead of night, according to a 2017 report from Kroll.

In 2015, SEC Commissioner Luis A. Aguilar wrote, “Cyber security is clearly a concern that the entire business community shares, but it represents an especially pernicious threat to smaller businesses. The reason is simple: small and midsize businesses are not just targets of cybercrime; they are the principal targets.” With this in mind, cyber security should always be one of your top priorities.

2 TECH SUPPORT THAT GOES BEYOND THE “BREAK-FIX” APPROACH

It’s difficult to overestimate the money, time and stress it can cost you when your technology breaks down. Between server downtime, haywire software, connectivity issues and myriad other potential problems, when your stuff breaks, it can cause more than a massive headache – it can put you out of business.

Most business owners realize this, but many still opt for the classic “break-fix” strategy. Unfortunately, “If it ain’t broke…” is a dangerous maxim by which to steer a ship. If you wait to address a problem until after it becomes an issue, you’re inviting a crisis into the equation that could easily have been avoided with a keen, proactive eye. And when your server fails, or your network experiences hiccups, or some other unforeseen issue rears its ugly head, an unfamiliar break-fix technician will take longer to fix the issue than an expert who’s been working with your specific network from start to finish and already knows it inside out. It’s just not worth it.

In addition, proactively managed service providers will consistently make recommendations to keep your company competitive. Whether it be a small upgrade to software here, a patch there or an overhaul of your server system, these moves can be invaluable in the breakneck marketplace. And, of course, since they’re keeping tabs on your tech at all times, any potential problems get addressed long before they hit your bottom line.

By leveraging technology, you and your business can do amazing things. Partner with a team of IT professionals who are actively invested in your success and confidently push your company into 2019.

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3 Fatal Errors You’re Making By Hiring The Cheapest Computer Support Company

Somehow, 2019 is already almost upon us. In preparation for the New Year, business owners across the country are taking a close look at their finances, scratching their heads as they inspect their budgets, line by line, to cut everything that isn’t absolutely necessary and searching for new investments that will boost their bottom line. In the midst of all this, it’s vital that leaders take a long, hard look at their technology budgets. Chances are those budgets are a far cry from where they should be.

Many business owners – especially those running smaller organizations with tighter resources – assume that IT is the ideal spot to cut costs. But they forget that, today, technology is the foundation upon which their business is built. We can almost guarantee that if you partner with a cut-rate IT support company, you will sorely regret it down the line. You’ll end up spending thousands more on broken equipment and systems, you’ll lose customers to server downtime and you may even fold completely under the weight of a cyber-attack.

The minuscule amount you’ll save by hiring a cheap support company will be vastly outweighed by the long-term cost of your decision. It is just not worth it. While looking at your budget this December, check whether you’re making one of these three potentially deadly mistakes with your IT investment. It might just save your company.

1 YOU’RE INVESTING IN A “BREAK-FIX” APPROACH.

This is the primary place where bargain-barrel IT support companies cut costs. Instead of proactively managing your network, your technicians hardly touch your network until something breaks and it’s time to fix it. Sure, this way is cheaper in the short term, but when you consider the enormous crises that can arise when something shuts down and the fact that they could easily be avoided with the foresight of a managed services provider, the true expense quickly becomes obvious. Not only will your business suffer many more tech catastrophes than they would if you partnered with a more reputable company, but those catastrophes will take significantly longer to fix. A technician who shows up only when something’s wrong simply doesn’t know your
network as well as somebody who works with it all the time.

2 YOU’RE INVESTING IN A COMPANY THAT DOESN’T BOTHER BEING PROACTIVE.

Technology shifts rapidly day by day. The arms race between hackers and security software designers is constantly happening behind the scenes, as is the hurtling pace at which hardware and software become supplanted by newer, better options. Without a managed services provider keeping you abreast of the latest tech trends, you’re both incredibly vulnerable to cyber-attacks and at risk of falling behind your competitors. Technology shouldn’t just be something you set up and hope it doesn’t break; it should be something you and your team are actively leveraging to maximize your impact. A managed services provider is genuinely invested in your success and will do everything they can to help you do exactly that.

3 LET’S FACE IT: YOU’RE JUST UNDERINVESTING.

In order to keep your company at the top of its game, you need to invest in your technology in accordance with how vital it is to your day-today operations. We’re guessing that it’s pretty much essential for your success, so why are you so quick to cut corners in tech? Allocating your resources to support your technology is more than a baseline cost to stay alive in the business world – it’s an investment that can substantially increase your bottom line and amplify the reach, scope and efficacy of your operation. So, this year, as you comb through document after financial document, ask yourself: are you really doing all you can with the technology at your disposal?

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This Is The #1 Security Threat To Your Business … And It WILL Happen To You

Would you leave the front door of your business wide open every night? Of course, you wouldn’t. When nobody’s at the office, you’ve got to protect your assets, usually behind locked doors, a complex security system and often even a network of CCTV cameras. There are procedures in place in case a thief ever wriggles their way into your facilities. And you’ve got insurance if the worst ever happens.

But what about your digital assets? According to a report from Kroll, digital theft of small businesses overtook physical theft in 2017, for the first time ever. As surprising as it may seem, today your business is more likely to be penetrated by hackers than for a disgruntled ex-employee to boost a few PCs in the dead of night.

Despite this, data shows that the vast majority of small businesses are seriously underprepared for cyber-attacks. The 2018 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report states that a full 58% of malware strikes were on small businesses over the last 12 months, a number that continues to climb. The average cost of these attacks has climbed in turn, now exceeding $1 million between efforts to recover data and restore daily business operations. Yet, according to a 2016 survey by the National Center for the Middle Market, less than half of midsize US businesses have an up-to-date strategy to address cyber security concerns and almost a third have no plan at all.

In effect, business owners are leaving their digital front doors unlocked, complete with a neon sign saying “Rob me!” flickering above. While it’s easy to assume you’re safe from the kinds of large-scale digital breaches you read about in the news every week, that false sense of security will eventually come back to haunt you. With more than half of small businesses targeted for digital attacks every year, it’s practically inevitable that you’ll end up in the crosshairs of cybercriminals. Without the proper security measures in place, that $1 million bill is going to hit your desk one day, and it may even shutter your business for good.

Luckily, with even a modicum of proper, proactive stewardship of your digital assets, you can turn that open door into a bank vault in no time. First, start with your employees. A full 51% of data breaches occur due to the negligence of hapless team members, according to CompTIA. Establish comprehensive security policies, lay them down in crystal-clear print and have your employees sign off on them. Build a thorough education program to school your employees on the risks and signs of digital crime. Topics should range from “How to spot a phishing e-mail” to the proper construction of company passwords.

While your employees are learning the ins and outs of basic cyber security, invest in multilayered protections for your network. This must go beyond a simple, free antivirus, and should include platforms to keep all your patches up-to-date, security measures seamlessly integrated with company e-mail and, preferably, the watchful eye of a managed services provider. If you’re not a professional, it’s easy to miss security holes that would be glaring to criminals, even if you do your research. Better to get the experts involved and keep them patching those holes as they arise rather than risk missing something that flips your company belly-up down the road.

Thousands upon thousands of other small-business owners are leaving their digital door wide open day in, day out. As a result, cybercriminals have begun to consider companies like yours to be easy pickings, vulnerable fruit ripe for harvest. Don’t be one of the millions of businesses that succumb to cyber-attacks every year. Invest in adequate protection and give yourself the peace of mind you need to focus on what you do best: making money.

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Security Alert! Hackers And Cybercriminals Are Targeting YOUR Business Right Now … Is Your Cyber Security Protection Up-To-Date?

Many small-business owners are blind to the risks of the modern age. They don’t read reports like Verizon’s 2018 Data Breach Investigations Report, which states that more than half of all malware infections hit small businesses last year. They don’t realize that this staggeringly high number is only going to continue to climb over the coming decade. They aren’t aware of the statistics in Kroll’s 2017 report revealing that, as of last year, cybercrime has overtaken physical theft as the #1 illicit threat to businesses of all sizes. Many of them are unaware that digital breaches are even a serious risk for small businesses, assuming that the high-profile breaches of Fortune 500 companies they read about in the news each month are the only kind that ever happen. Few of them know that the cost of these attacks on small businesses typically surge far past $1 million, reaching into the stratosphere as business downtime ticks on and on.

According to a 2016 survey conducted by the National Center for the Middle Market, these business owners aren’t reading the writing on the wall. They’re the reason why less than half of midsize businesses have an up-to-date strategy to protect them from cyber-attacks. A few of them – about a third – don’t have any strategy in place at all.

But whether they have the most powerful cyber security in the world or are one of the millions of small-business owners who simply assume they’re safe, the cybercriminals are coming for them. The difference lies in whether these attacks will bounce off the robust barriers the company has put in place or destroy the company from the inside out. Which group do you belong to? The hapless team that can’t imagine they’ll ever be attacked and go under within just a few years? Or the visionaries who can see where the trends are going and put protections in place to secure their futures for the long haul? Hopefully, you count yourself among the second cohort and are doing everything you can to beef up your security long before disaster strikes. Whatever measures you’re putting in place, start with your employees. More than half of all cyber-attacks are caused by the negligence of low-level team members. You may assume that everybody can tell what a phishing e-mail looks like, but you’d be wrong. School your employees on the necessity and basics of Internet safety, and you’ll be a big step ahead of most of your competition.

Of course, even if your employees are the savviest in the world, it won’t matter if you don’t have the proper barriers in place. Skip the bargain-bin antivirus and put your money into solutions that will actually stop the bad guys. It’s not a one-and-done approach; you need a multilayered strategy that closes the gaps as they appear. A little research here can go a long way, but honestly, the best way by far to protect your livelihood is to get a managed services provider on board. They’ll proactively check nearly every aspect of your network to ensure that nothing is ever amiss. When old, outdated systems are supplanted by more powerful alternatives, they’ll upgrade them. You can get rid of that nagging anxiety in the back of your mind constantly reminding you that there might be a loophole somewhere in your security.

There are two types of business owners in the world: those in the know and those stuck in the past. The second group are the heads of those companies you read about collapsing beneath the weight of cyber-attacks, while the first are the successful businesses that seem like they can weather just about anything. Which one are you?

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Could You Afford This $2.6 Million Mistake?

Two thousand and eighteen is the year of ransomware. According to the 2018 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report, while malware and hacking breaches have been on a slight decline for the last year, the use of ransomware has skyrocketed. Criminals attracted to ease of use, minimal risk, and high hit rate associated with ransomware have flocked to the strategy in droves, costing small businesses across America millions of dollars in the process. About $301 million to be exact, as stated in Datto’s 2017 State of the Channel Ransomware Report.

But, of course, businesses aren’t the only organizations that have been hit by the ransomware epidemic. Just ask the city of Atlanta, whose systems were frozen by ransomware in late March of this year, locked behind a $50,000 Bitcoin deposit. One interesting component of the case is that, regardless of whether or not the city was actually prepared to pay the ransom, it seems they didn’t even have the opportunity. Hackers took down the payment portal not long after the breach, leaving Atlanta officials swinging in the wind. As officials scrambled to restore basic functions of city programs, it only took two weeks to amass a staggering $2.6 million bill — a figure that officials expect to climb another $9.5 million over the coming year.

Even if you’re not one of the 10 biggest cities in the United States, cybercriminals cast a wide net — most of the time, it’s more profitable to target dozens of virtually unprotected, smaller organizations than to draw the ire of big fish like the US government. If you were a small-time criminal, would you rather break into 10 high-end, unlocked homes abandoned by vacationing tenants, or pull a single, endlessly complicated Ocean’s Eleven-style heist? Attackers generally follow the path of least resistance. Your business is just that.

So, what do you do in response? Toughen up your barriers, tighten up your processes and enlist your entire staff in the battle against ransomware.

Ransomware attackers don’t steal your data, they just lock you out of it. So the best way to make your organization totally ransomware-proof is to make sure a ransomware breach won’t actually affect your day-to-day operations. That means regular backups, and lots of them, scattered throughout your primary network in places that won’t be compromised by the spreading malware. When ransomware hits, all you need to do is hunt down the source, delete it, and roll the entire system back.

The vast majority of ransomware attacks happen through phishing e-mails, which means employees are usually the ones to open the gates that let the malware in. Luckily, it’s easy to train your team to stay vigilant for the signs of digital scams and put procedures in place that will prevent them from ever clicking that shady link.

Of course, the best way to keep ransomware at bay is by putting a skilled team on the case. Unlike an isolated IT employee, a managed services provider has the combined know-how, time, and resources to proactively manage your network security, implementing systems that will make it all but impossible for ransomware to penetrate your data. To truly seal up all the holes in your digital security, it takes a complex, comprehensive strategy. Bring in the experts and ensure your business doesn’t become another statistic in the age of digital crime.

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How To Make Sure You Never Fall Victim To Ransomware

Late last March, the infrastructure of Atlanta was brought to its knees. More than a third of 424 programs used nearly every day by city officials of all types, including everyone from police officers to trash collectors to water management employees, were knocked out of commission. What’s worse, close to 30% of these programs were considered “mission critical,” according to Atlanta’s Information Management head, Daphne Rackley.

The culprit wasn’t some horrific natural disaster or mechanical collapse; it was a small package of code called SAMSAM, a virus that managed to penetrate the networks of a $371 billion city economy and wreak havoc on its systems. After the malicious software wormed its way into the network, locking hundreds of city employees out of their computers, hackers demanded a $50,000 Bitcoin ransom to release their grip on the data. While officials remain quiet about the entry point of SAMSAM or their response to the ransom, within two weeks of the attack, total recovery costs already exceeded $2.6 million, and Rackley estimates they’ll climb at least another $9.5 million over the coming year.

It’s a disturbing cautionary tale not only for other city governments, but for organizations of all sizes with assets to protect. Atlanta wasn’t the only entity to buckle under the siege of SAMSAM. According to a report from security software firm Sophos, SAMSAM has snatched almost $6 million since 2015, casting a wide net over more than 233 victims of all types. And, of course, SAMSAM is far from the only ransomware that can bring calamity to an organization.

If you’re a business owner, these numbers should serve as a wake-up call. It’s very simple: in 2018, lax, underfunded cyber security will not cut it. When hackers are ganging up on city governments like villains in an action movie, that’s your cue to batten down the hatches and protect your livelihood.

The question is, how? When ransomware is so abundant and pernicious, what’s the best way to keep it from swallowing your organization whole?

1. BACK UP YOUR STUFF
If you’ve ever talked to anyone with even the slightest bit of IT knowledge, you’ve probably heard how vital it is that you regularly back up everything in your system, but it’s true. If you don’t have a real-time or file-sync backup strategy, one that will actually allow you to roll back everything in your network to before the infection happened, then once ransomware hits and encrypts your files, you’re basically sunk. Preferably, you’ll maintain several different copies of backup files in multiple locations, on different media that malware can’t spread to
from your primary network. Then, if it breaches your defenses, you can pinpoint the malware, delete it, then restore your network to a pre-virus state, drastically minimizing the damage and totally circumventing paying out a hefty ransom.

2. GET EDUCATED
We’ve written before that the biggest security flaw to your business isn’t that free, outdated antivirus you’ve installed, but the hapless employees who sit down at their workstations each day. Ransomware can take on some extremely tricky forms to hoodwink its way into your network, but if your team can easily recognize social engineering strategies, shady clickbait links and the dangers of unvetted attachments, it will be much, much more difficult for ransomware to find a foothold. These are by far the most common ways that malware finds it way in.

3. LOCK IT DOWN
By whitelisting applications, keeping everything updated with the latest patches and restricting administrative privileges for most users, you can drastically reduce the risk and impact of ransomware. But it’s difficult to do this without an entire team on the case day by day. That’s where a managed services provider becomes essential, proactively managing your network to plug up any security holes long before hackers can sniff them out. The bad news is that ransomware is everywhere. The good news is that with a few fairly simple steps, you can secure your business against the large majority of threats.

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