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Companies both large and small share this one cybersecurity problem. They have computers that are still running older operating systems. Staff might use these devices only occasionally or the company may be running customized software that won’t run on newer OS versions.

The problem is that when the OS becomes outdated, the system is open to cyberattacks. When Microsoft or another developer retires an OS, it means that it is no longer supported. No more feature updates and no more security patches for newly found vulnerabilities.

The latest operating system to lose all support is Windows 8.1. Microsoft released the OS in 2013, and it was officially retired on January 10, 2023. Microsoft issued the following warning for companies:

“Continuing to use Windows 8.1 after January 10, 2023 may increase an organization’s exposure to security risks or impact its ability to meet compliance obligations.”

Here are a few facts you should know about what this retirement of Windows 8.1 means.

 

The OS Will Still Technically Work

When an operating system reaches its end of life, it doesn’t just stop working. Thus, many companies go on using it without realizing the security risk. Technically, the OS will work as it did the day before retirement. But it’s a lot less safe due to the loss of support.

 

Your System Will No Longer Receive Security Patches

Software and OS vulnerabilities are sought out and exploited all the time. This is what hackers do for a living. The vulnerability cycle usually begins with hackers finding a software “loophole.” They then write code to exploit it that allows them some type of system access.

The software developer learns of this, usually once hackers start breaching systems. They write code to fix that vulnerability. Developers then send the fix to users via an update that they install. This protects the device from one or more hacker exploits.

When an OS reaches its end of life, these fixes are no longer made. The developer has moved on to focus on its newer products. So, the vulnerability remains. It leaves a device vulnerable to hacks for days, months, or years afterward.

Approximately 61% of security vulnerabilities in corporate networks are over five years old.

Visit us here to learn more about penetration testing and how it helps identify the vulnerabilities in your business.

 

Options for Upgrading

If you have a computer that is still running Windows 8.1, you have two options for upgrading. You can opt for Windows 10 or Windows 11. If the computer is running such an old OS, there is a chance your system may not meet the requirements for one or both. In this case, you may need to buy a new device altogether.

Microsoft states that there is no free option to upgrade from 8.1 to Windows 10 or 11. Some of the advantages you gain when upgrading include:

  • Better built-in security
  • Faster processing
  • Capability for more modern features (like facial recognition)
  • Improved accessibility features
  • Updated productivity tools (like snap layouts in Windows 11)

 

What Happens If I Don’t Upgrade?

 

Security & Compliance Issues

Your data security is at risk if you stay on Windows 8.1. Without any security updates, any vulnerabilities will stay unpatched. This leaves your system highly vulnerable to a breach. One hacked system on a network can also cause the breach or malware infection to spread to newer devices.

If you have to comply with a data privacy regulation, like HIPAA, you’ll also run into issues. Data privacy rules dictate making reasonable efforts to protect data. Using a device with an outdated OS jeopardizes meeting compliance. 

 

Slowed Productivity

The older a system gets, the slower it will get. Staff that must work on outdated software often complain that it hurts productivity. 77% of surveyed employees were frustrated with outdated tech. Employees dealing with outmoded systems may also quit. They are 450% more likely to want to leave and work elsewhere.

An outdated operating system can hold your staff back. They miss out on modern time-saving features. They can also run into problems with bugs that will no longer get fixed.

 

Incompatibility With Newer Tools

Software and hardware developers aren’t looking back. Once Microsoft retires an OS, they aren’t prioritizing its compatibility. In fact, some may not want their product to be compatible with it because of the liability.

When you have issues using modern software and hardware it hurts your business. You become less competitive and begin to fall behind. Staying on an outmoded OS keeps you stuck in the past.

 

Get Help With Your Windows Upgrades

 

All Databranch Comprehensive Care and Foundation Security clients have scheduled automatic patching and Windows updates on their devices. To learn more about how we can help take this off your IT plate or help your organization upgrade to a system with a supported operating system, call 716-373-4467 x 115, email [email protected] or visit us here to learn more.

 

Article used with permission from The Technology Press.

 

The need to back up data has been around since floppy disks. Data loss happens due to viruses, hard drive crashes, and other mishaps. Most people using any type of technology have experienced data loss at least once.

There are about 140,000 hard drive crashes in the US weekly. Every five years, 20% of SMBs suffer data loss due to a major disaster. How would you business be effected if you lost most of your critical business data? Visit our website here to set your Recovery Time Objectives (RTO) and calculate your recovery cost.

This increate in data loss has helped to drive a robust cloud backup market that continues to grow.

But one thing that’s changed with data backup in the last few years is security. Simply backing up data so you don’t lose it, isn’t enough anymore. Backing up has morphed into data protection.

What does this mean?

It means that backups need more cybersecurity protection. They face threats such as sleeper ransomware and supply chain attacks. Cloud-based backup has the benefit of being convenient, accessible, and effective. But there is also a need for certain security considerations with an online service.

Companies need to consider data protection when planning a backup and recovery strategy. The security tools used nowadays have to protect against the growing number of threats.

Some of the modern threats to data backups include:

  • Data Center Outage: The “cloud” basically means data on a server. That server is internet accessible. Those servers can crash. Data centers holding the servers can also have outages.
  • Sleeper Ransomware: This type of ransomware stays silent after infecting a device. The goal is to have it infect all backups. Then, when it’s activated, the victim doesn’t have a clean backup to restore.
  • Supply Chain Attacks: Supply chain attacks have been growing. They include attacks on cloud vendors that companies use. Those vendors suffer a cyberattack that then spreads throughout their clients.
  • Misconfiguration: Misconfiguration of security settings can be a problem. It can allow attackers to gain access to cloud storage. Those attackers can then download and delete files as they like. Visit our website here to read more about the Misconfiguration of Cloud Applications.

 

What to Look for in a Data Protection Backup System

Just backing up data isn’t enough. You need to make sure the application you use provides adequate data protection. Here are some of the things to look for when reviewing a backup solution.

Ransomware Prevention

Ransomware can spread throughout a network to infect any data that exists. This includes data on computers, servers, and mobile devices. It also includes data in cloud platforms syncing with those devices.

95% of ransomware attacks also try to infect data backup systems.

It’s important that any data backup solution you use, has protection from ransomware. This type of feature restricts automated file changes that can happen to documents.

Continuous Data Protection

Continuous data protection is a feature that will back up files as users make changes. This differs from systems that back up on a schedule, such as once per day.

Continuous data protection ensures that the system captures the latest file changes. This mitigates data loss that can occur if a system crashes before the next backup. With the speed of data generation these days, losing a day’s worth of data can be very costly.

Threat Identification

Data protection incorporates proactive measures to protect files. Look for threat identification functions in a backup service. Threat identification is a type of malware and virus prevention tool.

It looks for malware in new and existing backups. This helps stop sleeper ransomware and similar malware from infecting all backups.

Zero-Trust Tactics

Cybersecurity professionals around the world promote zero-trust security measures. This includes measures such as multi-factor authentication and application safelisting.

A zero-trust approach holds that all users and applications need ongoing authentication. So, just because a user is logged into the system today, doesn’t mean they are completely trusted.

Some of the zero-trust features to look for include:

Backup Redundancy

If you back up to a USB drive or CD, you have one copy of those files. If something happens to that copy, you could experience data loss.

Cloud backup providers should have backup redundancy in place. This means that the server holding your data mirrors that data to another server. This prevents data loss in the case of a server crash, natural disaster, or cyberattack.

At Databranch, our Datto devices utilize a reliable data backup redundancy solution by storing your critical business data onto your local Datto device as well as 2 offsite cloud storages.

Air Gapping for More Sensitive Data

Air gapping is a system that keeps a copy of your data offline or separated in another way. This would entail making a second backup copy of your data. Then, putting it on another server that is disconnected from external sources.

This is a feature that you may want to seek out if you deal with highly sensitive data. It helps to ensure that you have at least one other copy of your backup. A copy walled off from common internet-based attacks.

Need Help With Secure Backup & Data Protection Solutions?

With Datto, your company can be up and running in just seconds after a disaster. Instant virtualization combined with the ability to backup as frequently as every 5 minutes means that with the click of a button, your Datto device recreates your computers and servers so your business can resume as if nothing had ever happened.

Our Datto devices utilize a reliable data backup redundancy solution by storing your critical business data onto your local Datto device as well as 2 offsite cloud storages. Datto even includes ransomware detection by running analytics to compare the two most recent backup snapshots to identify ransomware footprints.

Have you updated your backup process for today’s threats? Contact us today at 716-373-4467 x115 or [email protected] to schedule a chat about data backup and protection.

You can also visit our website to learn more about Datto and the benefits it provides.

 

Article used with permission from The Technology Press.

Technology vulnerabilities are an unfortunate side effect of innovation. When software companies push new updates, there are often weaknesses in the code. Hackers exploit these weaknesses until software makers address the vulnerabilities with a security patch. The cycle continues with each new software or hardware update.

It’s estimated that about 93% of corporate networks are susceptible to hacker penetration. Assessing and managing these network weaknesses isn’t always a priority for organizations. Many suffer breaches because of poor vulnerability management.

61% of security vulnerabilities in corporate networks are over 5 years old.

Many types of attacks take advantage of unpatched vulnerabilities in software code. This includes ransomware attacks, account takeover, and other common cyberattacks.

Whenever you see the term “exploit” when reading about a data breach, that’s an exploit of a vulnerability. Hackers write malicious code to take advantage of these “loopholes.” That code can allow them to elevate privileges, run system commands or perform other dangerous network intrusions.

Putting together an effective vulnerability management process can reduce your risk. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Just follow the steps we’ve outlined below to get started.

 

Vulnerability Management Process

 

Step 1. Identify Your Assets

First, you need to identify all the devices and software that you will need to assess. You’ll want to include all devices that connect to your network, including:

  • Computers
  • Smartphones
  • Tablets
  • IoT devices
  • Servers
  • Cloud services

Vulnerabilities can appear in many places. Such as the code for an operating system, a cloud platform, software, or firmware.  So, you’ll want a full inventory of all systems and endpoints in your network.

This is an important first step, so you will know what you need to include in the scope of your assessment.

 

Step 2: Perform a Vulnerability Assessment

Next will be performing a vulnerability assessment. This is usually done by an IT professional, such as Databranch, using assessment software. This could also include penetration testing.

During the assessment, the professional scans your systems for any known vulnerabilities. The assessment tool matches found software versions against vulnerability databases.

For example, a database may note that a version of Microsoft Exchange has a vulnerability. If it detects that you have a server running that same version, it will note it as a found weakness in your security.

Learn more about the benefits of penetration testing here.

 

Step 3: Prioritize Vulnerabilities by Threat Level

The assessment results provide a roadmap for mitigating network vulnerabilities. There will usually be several, and not all are as severe as others. Next, you will need to rank which ones to address first.

At the top of the list should be the ones that experts consider severe. Many vulnerability assessment tools will use the Common Vulnerability Scoring System (CVSS). This categorizes vulnerabilities with a rating score from low to critical severity.

You’ll also want to rank vulnerabilities by your own business needs. If a software is only used occasionally on one device, you may consider it a lower priority to address. While a vulnerability in software used on all employee devices, you may rank as a high priority.

 

Step 4: Remediate Vulnerabilities

Remediate vulnerabilities according to the prioritized list. Remediation often means applying an issued update or security patch. But it may also mean upgrading hardware that may be too old for you to update.

Another form of remediation may be ringfencing. This is when you “wall off” an application or device from others in the network. A company may do this if a scan turns up a vulnerability for which a patch does not yet exist.

Increasing advanced threat protection settings in your network can also help. Once you’ve remediated the weaknesses, you should confirm the fixes.

Here at Databranch, our Managed Service plans offer proactive monitoring tools that helps us detect threats before they can impact your network. They also provide increased protection from malware, ransomware, and phishing compromises. Read more about the benefits of Managed Services here.

 

Step 5: Document Activities

It’s important to document the vulnerability assessment and management process. This is vital both for cybersecurity needs and compliance.

You’ll want to document when you performed the last vulnerability assessment.  Then document all the steps taken to remediate each vulnerability. Keeping these logs will be vital in the case of a future breach. They also can inform the next vulnerability assessment.

 

Step 6. Schedule Your Next Vulnerability Assessment Scan

Once you go through a round of vulnerability assessment and mitigation, you’re not done. Vulnerability management is an ongoing process.

In 2022, there were over 22,500 new vulnerabilities documented. Developers continue to update their software continuously. Each of those updates can introduce new vulnerabilities into your network.

It’s a best practice to have a schedule for regular vulnerability assessments. The cycle of assessment, prioritization, mitigation, and documentation should be ongoing. This fortifies your network against cyberattacks. It removes one of the main enablers of hackers. 

 

Get Started with a Vulnerability Assessment

Take the first step towards effective vulnerability management. We can help you fortify your network against attacks. Contact us today at 716-373-4467 x 115 or [email protected] to schedule a vulnerability assessment to get started. You can also fill out the form below to request your free baseline security assessment.

 

 

Article used with permission from The Technology Press.

DataGuard Remote Assist from Databranch

 

Do you think paying monthly for IT support is unnecessary? Or does your staff just handle their own device security?

When a system goes down, then you can call someone to help… right?

Running a business without an IT support partner is like going through life with no regular doctor or auto mechanic.

Yeah, you can get by. You can get help in an emergency. But being reactive with your business operations could hurt your bottom line.

Managed IT support can lower your overall technology costs while also providing less downtime since employees aren’t interrupted all the time by computer problems. This means your team can focus on your customers instead of getting the Wi-Fi back up.

What do you get when you sign on for managed IT services?

  • Ongoing management of your technology
  • Fast response from someone that knows your business
  • Proactive maintenance to ward off breakdowns
  • Network security monitoring and attack prevention
  • Tools that help you stay safe and efficient
  • A full IT team vs. a single IT resource
  • Databranch’s vCIO services for strategic technology planning & Technology Roadmap/Budget Creation

Here at Databranch, our Managed Network Services provides your company with the security of knowing that your network is being monitored and maintained on a 24/7 basis. 

It’s designed to keep your network functioning seamlessly by utilizing a suite of cost-effective computer managed services that proactively monitor and support your network and Technology infrastructure.

Imagine a secured network with maximized uptime, predictable expenses, and optimized business availability – leaving you and your employees free to focus on what you do best: running your business.

See how much better your business can operate when a pro is handling your tech.

Questions about costs and services? Contact Databranch today at 716-373-4467 x 115, [email protected], or visit us here to schedule a chat.

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