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Risks associated with cybersecurity threats and exposures motivate organizations to implement protective controls intended to keep their digital assets safe from malicious computer hackers. 

We display a similar strategy when protecting our physical assets. Our homes have locks on entry doors and windows. Security systems to detect intruders. Fences that prevent access to private property and camera surveillance to monitor for threats.

 

What is Penetration Testing?

Protective controls are important to have in place, but it is equally important to test the effectiveness of the controls themselves. Have you ever left your home, shut the door, and then reached back to jiggle the doorknob to make sure the door is latched and locked? This is an example of testing a protective control. The same concept applies to the digital world, we must test our cybersecurity controls to ensure they are working as intended.

One common way to test the effectiveness of cybersecurity controls is to conduct a penetration test. Penetration Testing is an exercise in which an ethical computer hacker will simulate an actual cybersecurity attack against your organization. They will execute the same actions and behaviors of a malicious hacker to identify weakness with your cybersecurity controls. We tend to assume that our firewall is keeping us safe, like the assumption we make that our locked front door is keeping our home safe. But unlike our ability to jiggle the doorknob of the door, there is no tangible way to verify that the firewall is working. This is why penetration testing is such a valuable exercise to complete.

 

The Benefits of Completing a Penetration Test:

1. Test the effectiveness of your cybersecurity controls that you otherwise assume are protecting you.

2. Improve your cybersecurity controls after reviewing the results of the penetration test

3. In many cases, help satisfy the burden of compliance with state or federal regulation.

 

How to Choose the Right Service Provider:

Penetration tests that are performed incorrectly will not properly identify the REAL concerns and exposures that exist within your technology environment. This can promote a false sense of wellbeing and security only to learn the hard way that your network was not as secure as you may have thought. Instead, a penetration test should produce a clear understanding of the improvements that can be made to better secure and protect the organization from threats like computer hackers.

Here are 10 ways to ensure that a service provider is right for you.

1) Is there a human being completing the penetration test?

Buyer beware – many low cost penetration tests are “automated” and involve little to no human effort. This is a BIG problem because real cyber attacks launched by actual computer hackers are not automated. Attackers use critical thinking, logic and reason to carry out sophisticated and organized cyber attacks – a good penetration test should simulate their approach instead of being limited by the capabilities of tools designed to “automate” the penetration test.

2) Is the person(s) conducting the penetration test qualified and experienced?

There are many IT professionals and generalist who claim to be proficient in the art of penetration testing, but have every intention of learning on your dime. Hiring someone who does not have experience and is not certified is a risky move. Look for someone who has conducted at least 75 penetration tests and holds one or more of these industry certifications (and do not be afraid to ask for proof):

  • Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH)
  • Offensive Security Certified Professional (OSCP)
  • GIAC Penetration Tester – (GPEN)

3) Can they explain the difference between a penetration test and a vulnerability scan? Will they perform a vulnerability scan while doing the penetration test at no extra cost?

One of the biggest misconceptions is that a vulnerability scan and penetration test are the same exercise. This means that many cybersecurity firms will sell you a penetration test but will only perform a vulnerability scan. Vulnerability scans will identify Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures (CVE). Penetration testing attempts to exploit those vulnerabilities in an effort to compromise systems and controls.

It is common for hackers to scan your network and find vulnerabilities, but they don’t stop there. Based on their findings, they proceed to launch specific attacks designed to exploit the discovered vulnerabilities. Be sure you are getting what you pay for. Don’t purchase a penetration test only to have a vulnerability scan completed.

4) Do they insist on having a discussion about Rules Of Engagement (ROE) prior to doing the penetration test?

It is important to discuss the inherent risks associated with penetration testing and it is also important to determine how intense the testing will be. For example, is the Ethical Hacker allowed to transfer, delete or alter data once a system is compromised? Are they allowed to launch Denial of Service attacks that may cause service disruption? Can they test during normal business hours? These are just a few questions that need to be discussed and answered prior to executing a penetration test. Rules of Engagement allow for risk(s) to be mitigated and establish guidelines for testing.

5) Do they include social engineering attacks as part of their testing procedures?

Not all penetration tests include the same types of attack vectors which means that many providers will not launch social engineering attacks such as email phishing. Social engineering is a wildly popular method for hackers to circumvent traditional security controls such and firewalls. The vast majority of all successful cyberattacks involve some element of social engineering. So this attack vector should absolutely be included in any penetration test performed.

6) Do they provide flexibility with logistics and scheduling or does the penetration have to be completed during their normal business hours?

Many cybersecurity firms will demand that the penetration test be completed during their normal business hours and if you request to have the work done at night or over the weekend (if you are worried about possible disruptions to business) then the provider will seek additional compensation or refuse. It is important that you have the ability to control when the penetration test will take place.

7) Do they make their penetration tester(s) readily available during the testing process?

Some abnormal activity may be detected by your security tools or employees during a penetration test and it is imperative that you have instant access to the penetration tester to verify that they are the responsible party vs a legit attack. Many service providers make it impossible to contact the penetration tester(s) directly.

8) Does their report include information that matters and is actionable of is it a simple list of open ports and discovered vulnerabilities?

While it is good to know the results or basic discovery and reconnaissance efforts, a final report for a penetration test should include more than a list of open ports and vulnerabilities. The objective of a penetration test is for you to understand how an actual hacker would logically attempt to exploit your vulnerabilities and the sequencing of attacks they would deploy so that you can improve your security control framework. Your report should include meaningful and actionable information such as:

  • A comprehensive narrative of the testing event provided by the penetration tester
  • A detailed evaluation of each attack vector, including visual diagrams, evidence of success, and specific remediation recommendations.

9) Do they hold a formal meeting to present their findings or do they simply forward your report and wish you the best?

The deliverable for a penetration test is typically a formal report that explains the outcome of the penetration test in the form of findings and recommendations. It is important for the penetration tester to take the time and review the contents of this deliverable with you and other interested stakeholders so that a crystal clear understanding can be achieved and you know exactly what to do next. Interrupting the report on your own can be difficult due to the technical information contained within.

10) Do they offer customer loyalty discounts for repeat customers and allow monthly payments for penetration testing?

It is recommended that penetration testing become an operational component of an organizations’ cybersecurity program. The exercise should be conducted periodically according to  organizational policy and regulatory requirements. If you are going to conduct an annual penetration test, wouldn’t it be nice to receive a discount for being a loyal customer? And wouldn’t it be nice to pay for annual penetration testing services as an operating expense instead of a capital expense?

 

How Databranch Can Help:

Interested in learning more about Penetration Testing and how it will enhance your companies security? We are more than happy to discuss our penetrating testing service and the benefits it provides.

Contact us today at 716-373-4467 x 15, email us at: info@databranch.com , or fill out the form below to request more information and schedule a call with someone on our team.

Content curtesy of CyberStone.

Stolen login credentials are a hot commodity on the Dark Web. There’s a price for every type of account from online banking to social media. For example, hacked social media accounts will go for between $30 to $80 each.

The rise in reliance on cloud services has caused a big increase in breached cloud accounts. Compromised login credentials are now the #1 cause of data breaches globally, according to IBM Security’s latest Cost of a Data Breach Report.

Having either a personal or business cloud account compromised can be very costly. It can lead to a ransomware infection, compliance breach, identity theft, and more.

To make matters more challenging, users are still adopting bad password habits that make it all too easy for criminals. For example:

  • 34% of people admit to sharing passwords with colleagues
  • 44% of people reuse passwords across work and personal accounts
  • 49% of people store passwords in unprotected plain text documents

Cloud accounts are more at risk of a breach than ever, but there are several things you can do to reduce the chance of having your online accounts compromised.

Use Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)

Multi-factor authentication (MFA) is the best method there is to protect cloud accounts. While not a failsafe, it is proven to prevent approximately 99.9% of fraudulent sign-in attempts, according to a study cited by Microsoft.

When you add the second requirement to a login, which is generally to input a code that is sent to your phone, you significantly increase account security. In most cases, a hacker is not going to have access to your phone or another device that receives the MFA code, thus they won’t be able to get past this step.

The brief inconvenience of using that additional step when you log into your accounts is more than worth it for the bump in security.

Use a Password Manager for Secure Storage

One way that criminals get their hands on user passwords easily is when users store them in unsecured ways. Such as in an unprotected Word or Excel document or the contact application on their PC or phone.

Using a password manager provides you with a convenient place to store all your passwords that is also encrypted and secured. Plus, you only need to remember one strong master password to access all the others.

Password managers can also autofill all your passwords in many different types of browsers, making it a convenient way to access your passwords securely across devices.

Review/Adjust Privacy & Security Setting

Have you taken time to look at the security settings in your cloud tools? One of the common causes of cloud account breaches is misconfiguration. This is when security settings are not properly set to protect an account.

You don’t want to just leave SaaS security settings at defaults, as these may not be protective enough. Review and adjust cloud application security settings to ensure your account is properly safeguarded.

Use Leaked Password Alerts in Your Browser

You can have impeccable password security on your end, yet still have your passwords compromised. This can happen when a retailer or cloud service you use has their master database of usernames and passwords exposed and the data stolen.

When this happens, those leaked passwords can quickly end up for sale on the Dark Web without you even knowing it.

Due to this being such a prevalent problem, browsers like Chrome and Edge have had leaked password alert capabilities added. Any passwords that you save in the browser will be monitored, and if found to be leaked, you’ll see an alert when you use it.

 

Look for this in the password area of your browser, as you may have to enable it. This can help you know as soon as possible about a leaked password, so you can change it.

Don’t Enter Passwords When on a Public Wi-Fi

Whenever you’re on public Wi-Fi, you should assume that your traffic is being monitored. Hackers like to hang out on public hot spots in airports, restaurants, coffee shops, and other places so they can gather sensitive data, such as login passwords.

You should never enter a password, credit card number, or other sensitive information when you are connected to public Wi-Fi. You should either switch off Wi-Fi and use your phone’s wireless carrier connection or use a virtual private network (VPN) app, which encrypts the connection.

Use Good Device Security

If an attacker manages to breach your device using malware, they can often breach your accounts without a password needed. Just think about how many apps on your devices you can open and already be logged in to.

To prevent an online account breach that happens through one of your devices, make sure you have strong device security. Best practices include:

  • Antivirus/anti-malware
  • Up-to-date software and OS
  • Phishing protection (like email filtering and DNS filtering)

Looking for Password & Cloud Account Security Solutions?

Don’t leave your online accounts at risk. We can help you review your current cloud account security and provide helpful recommendations. Contact Databranch today at 716-373-4467 x 15 or info@databranch.com if you would like to enhance your security and want to discuss you options.

 

Article used with permission from The Technology Press.

Purchasing a new computer is a big investment. Many small businesses and home PC owners end up struggling with older systems because they want to get as many years out of them as possible.

Have you found yourself frustrated with your computer performance? Have you tried every tip and trick you found online, only to still struggle with a slow PC?

There are some promising upgrades you can do that will cost much less than the price of a new computer, while making your PC feel like new again.

Here are some of the options you can try to improve the performance of an older computer.

Upgrade to a Solid-State Drive (SSD)

Prices for solid-state drives have come down quite a bit in the past few years, making them an affordable upgrade that can breathe life back into an older PC that might be slowing down.

Unlike hard disk drives (HDDs), SSDs do not have any moving parts and use a flash memory that allows for a quicker response time. You can improve your time to boot and your experience when searching files, opening applications, and other activities.

Some of the advantages of upgrading your computer’s hard drive to SSD include:

  • SSD read/write speeds up to 2500 MB/second compared to HDD at up to 200 MB/second
  • SSD access time of 0.1ms as compared to HDD at 5.5-8.0ms
  • SSDs use between 2-5 watts of energy compared to HDD at 6-15 watts

Increase the RAM (Memory)

One upgrade that is very low-cost and can mean a significant increase in performance is a memory upgrade. If your PC only had 4GB of RAM when you bought it, you likely have trouble opening too many tabs in your browser or using any graphics-heavy program.

Upgrading your RAM, if your PC has available memory slots, to 8GB or 12GB can make it seem like you have an entirely new computer due to the big increase in speed.

Upgrade the Graphics Card

If you play computer games or work in any type of video, imaging, or 3D software, an outdated graphics card can ruin your experience.

Instead of replacing your entire computer, just upgrading the graphics card to a more robust model can improve your PC’s performance and give you several more useful years from it.

Replace Your PC Cooling System

Heat is an enemy of your computer’s internal parts. If your cooling system is getting worn out and not working the way it should be, then excess heat can be building up inside your device.

When this happens things can get strange, with programs crashing or your system rebooting on its own.

If you suspect excess heat may be an issue, have your computer’s fan and cooling system checked out to see if it needs replacing.

Connect an External Monitor to a Laptop

If you’re working on a laptop and having a hard time multi-tasking due to limited screen real estate, consider getting an external monitor rather than replacing your entire PC.

Monitors are just a fraction of the cost of computers, and having a screen twice the size of the one on your laptop can make all the difference in the world and improve productivity due to the additional screen space.

Replace Your Keyboard

Older keywords can stick, lose keys, and have the writing rubbed off the keys, making it more difficult to tell a “Home” button from a “Delete” button. If the performance of your PC is hampered by a frustrating keyboard, an upgrade can be a very inexpensive way to improve your equipment.

Get an External Hard Drive

Computers can slow down and be more difficult to use when the hard drive fills up with data. Over the years, files build up, and many users never take the time to go through and delete those that are unnecessary.

Buying an external hard drive can allow you to offload files that may be slowing you down, while still keeping them easily accessible.

Another benefit of an external hard drive is that it’s portable and can easily be carried between home and work and used in both places.

Get a Professional Computer Tune-Up

Those free PC cleaner tools you find online aren’t going to give you the type of tune-up that a professional IT provider can give. We will go through things like the Windows Registry, duplicate system files, internal errors, and more to clean up your system and remove all the “junk” that has built up over the years.

We can also do a maintenance check for things like failing parts, and provide expert guidance on your most impactful upgrade options.

Get Help Improving Your Computers Performance Today!

Don’t struggle with an older PC! We can provide you with cost-effective upgrade options that will fit your system and budget perfectly. Contact us today at 716-373-4467 x 15 or email us at: info@databranch.com to arrange a quick chat to learn more about your computer and discuss how we can help.

 

Article used with permission from The Technology Press.

Phishing is the number one method of attack delivery for everything from ransomware to credential theft. We are very aware of it coming by email, but other types of phishing have been growing rapidly.

In recent years, phishing over social media has skyrocketed by 500%. There has also been a 100% increase in fraudulent social media accounts.

Phishing over social media often tricks the victims because people tend to let their guard down when on social platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn. They’re socializing and not looking for phishing scams.

However, phishing scammers are out there looking for you and will reach out via friend requests and direct messages. Learn several ways you can secure your social media use to avoid these types of covert attacks.

Make Your Profile Private on Social Platforms

Phishing scammers love public profiles on social media because not only can they gather intel on you to strike up a conversation, but they can also clone your profile and put up a fake page for phishing your connections.

Criminals do this in order to try to connect with those on your friends or connections list to send social phishing links that those targets will be more likely to click because they believe it’s from someone they know.

You can limit your risk by going into your profile and making it private to your connections only. This means that only someone that you’ve connected with can see your posts and images, not the general public.

For sites like LinkedIn where many people network for business, you might still want to keep your profile public, but you can follow the other tips below to reduce your risk.

Hide Your Contacts/Friends List

You can keep social phishing scammers from trying to use your social media profile to get to your connections by hiding your friends or connections list. Platforms like LinkedIn and Facebook both give you this privacy option.

Just be aware that this does not keep scammers from seeing you as a friend or connection on someone else’s profile unless they too have hidden their friends list.

Be Wary of Links Sent Via Direct Message & in Posts

Links are the preferred way to deliver phishing attacks, especially over social media. Links in social posts are often shortened, making it difficult for someone to know where they are being directed until they get there. This makes it even more dangerous to click links you see on a social media platform.

A scammer might chat you up on LinkedIn to inquire about your business offerings and give you a link that they say is to their website. Unless you know the source to be legitimate, do not click links sent via direct message or in social media posts. They could be leading to a phishing site that does a drive-by download of malware onto your device.

Even if one of your connections shares a link, be sure to research where it is coming from. People often share posts in their own feeds because they like a meme or picture on the post, but they never take the time to check whether the source can be trusted.

Don’t Participate in Social Media Surveys or Quizzes

While it may be fun to know what Marvel superhero or Disney princess you are, stay away from quizzes on social media. They’re often designed as a ploy to gather data on you. Data that could be used for targeted phishing attacks or identity theft.

The Cambridge Analytica scandal that impacted the personal data of millions of Facebook users did not happen all that long ago. It was found that the company was using surveys and quizzes to collect information on users without their consent.

While this case was high-profile, they’re by no means the only ones that play loose and fast with user data and take advantage of social media to gather as much as they can.

It’s best to avoid any types of surveys or quizzes on any social media platform because once your personal data is out there, there is no getting it back.

Avoid Purchasing Directly From Ads on Facebook or Instagram

Many companies advertise on social media legitimately. Unfortunately, many scammers use the platforms as well for credit card fraud and identity theft.

If you see something that catches your eye in a Facebook or Instagram ad, go to the advertiser’s website directly to check it out, do not click through the social ad.

Research Before You Accept a Friend Request

It can be exciting to get a connection request on a social media platform. It could mean a new business connection or connecting with someone from your Alma mater. But this is another way that phishing scammers will look to take advantage of you. They’ll try to connect to you which can be a first step before reaching out direct via DM.

Do not connect with friend requests without first checking out the person on the site and online using a search engine. If you see that their timeline only has pictures of themselves and no posts, that’s a big red flag that you should decline the request.

Can Your Devices Handle a Phishing Link or File?

It’s important to safeguard your devices with things like DNS filtering, managed antivirus, email filtering, and more. This will help protect you if you happen to click on a phishing link. Contact Databranch today at 716-373-4467 x 15 or info@databranch.com if you would like to learn more about our Breach Prevention Platform and Security Awareness Training with simulated phishing tests.

Article used with permission from The Technology Press.

What are Local Admin Privileges?

Many companies allow their employees to make adjustments to their work computers without the need for IT interference. This means that they can download programs, connect to printers, and modify software already installed on their computer.

Users generally enjoy the freedom that local admin rights provide, especially in a company with limited IT personnel. Instead of waiting for an available IT worker, you can go into your computer and make the adjustments that you desire.

However, providing users with local admin rights will leave holes in your cybersecurity. 

Why You Should Reconsider Local Admin Privileges

1. Prevents Malware from being Downloaded

Restricting users’ ability to install software not only prevents them from installing unnecessary programs onto their computer, but it can also stop an employee from accidentally clicking and installing malware.

Employees come into contact with malicious software more than they realize. This could be through an attachment on a phishing email, a malicious website link, or if they decided to scroll through social media on a company device.

Around 66% of cybercriminals rank email phishing as their attack vector of choice. Unsuspecting employees may be fooled by an illegitimate email without thinking twice. Without local admin privileges, then there is an increased chance the malware will be stopped since the employee doesn’t have the authorization to install software onto their computer.

2. Decreases the Privileges for Potential Hackers

If a hacker were to gain access to an account with local admin privileges, the damage could be endless. This is especially true for a business that is not utilizing security measures such as Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) or Password Managers. 

Once a hacker has breached your computer they could download malware, spyware, or even ransomware. Resulting in computer files being locked, credentials being stolen, or even a virus spreading throughout your entire network.

Restricting local admin privilege’s for your employees is a great way to decrease cybersecurity threats from happening in the first place. However, security measures like Password Managers or using MFA can decrease the damage done by a hacker if a computer were to be compromised. 

According to Microsoft, MFA can block over 99.9% of account compromise attacks. This means that even if a hacker knows your credentials, they will not be able to log in because they won’t have access to your MFA code.

If this is something you are interested in setting up for your organization, give us a call at 716-373-4467 or email info@databranch.com. 

3. Minimizes the Risk of Costly Downtime

Receiving malware or having a hacker breach your security system could cause your company to shut down while the issue is being resolved. All the time you could have been spending working on a project, closing a deal, or procuring new clients is now lost. 

This could also result in your businesses reputation taking a hit. Clients will wonder why you’ve had to close for days, weeks, or maybe even months. Plus, you may have to discuss security risks with some clients if their personal information was leaked during the breach.

Interested in calculating what the cost of downtime could be for your business? Click here for Databranch’s Recovery Time Calculator.

4. Prevents Restricted Files and Accounts from Being Edited

Accidentally clicking the wrong button happens to the best of us. You could be reviewing some important client files when your finger slips and presses the delete button by mistake. You may not notice right away and by the time you realize and try to get your information back, it’s too late.

Restricting local admin privileges allows a company to control which files can be modified, deleted, or moved. 

On top of this, restricting users’ ability to modify accounts and files not only prevents employees from making a mistake but also prevents hackers from altering your companies settings as well. A hacker who has breached an account with local admin privileges could secretly make an account for themselves or even disable antivirus software. 

Solutions

Principle of Least Privileges

Adopting the Principals of Least Privilege is a great addition to a companies security portfolio. This is when a business only gives their employees the minimum level of access privileges that are needed to fulfill their job requirements. 

If the employee needs to download additional software or update a program on their computer, they will need to have IT personnel log into their administrative account and make these adjustments for them.

Here at Databranch, we not only believe in the Principle of Least Privileges but we actively practice it. None of our employee login accounts have local administrative privileges. 

MFA and Password Managers

Enabling MFA and utilizing Password Managers is another great way to stay on top of cybersecurity for your business. These applications are easy to use, relatively inexpensive, and extremely beneficial to a company.

Want to talk to an IT Professional about any of the topics covered in this article? You can contact us at today at 716-373-4467 x 15 or info@databranch.com to set up a meeting, or simply fill out the form below and one of our team members will contact you. We would love to talk about your cybersecurity and how we can help you enhance it.

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