Tech News & Tips
Written by Matt Lang
In our first blog, 5 Steps to Online Safety, we briefly discussed two-factor authentication and how it provides an extra layer of protection to your account’s security. Yet implementing two-factor authentication (2FA) is becoming more important daily for data security. While absolute security is impossible to achieve, it is always in your best interest to make your data as secure as possible. One of the easiest ways to do this is by implementing 2FA on all of your accounts.
What is Two-Factor Authentication?
2FA is an authentication protocol that has become much more prevalent in the past few years. It is a way to verify a user’s identity by using a combination of two different authentication methods. There are three types of authentication methods: something a user knows, something a user possesses, and something a user is. For example, something a user knows is a password, something they possess would be a keycard or security token, and something they are would be a biometric scan, like a fingerprint or retina scan. The most common 2FA combination used is a password (something known) and a one-time use code linked to the user’s verified device, usually a cell phone (something owned). Along with this, 2FA may include a third lesser factor, like the location of the user or a specific time frame in which the user is allowed to log in.
Why you need it?
2FA gives your accounts an extra layer of security. Without it, all an attacker would need to know is your password. With 2FA enabled, an attacker would be required to obtain both your password and your other form of authentication, which is most likely your phone. There is nothing the attacker can do with only one method. Reports nowadays show 81% of hacking-related breaches are a result of weak/repeated passwords. Even with a weak password, 2FA keeps accounts protected. The only real downside of 2FA is being unable to access your account if you do not have your phone/token with you.
Is it required?
While only some critical accounts will require 2FA, such as online banking, it is still a good idea to use it whenever possible. 2FA is slowly becoming a standard for all accounts from social media to corporate emails. While not necessarily required, we strongly advise enabling 2FA for all of your accounts that support it. The benefits of 2FA heavily outweigh the negatives. With the sophistication of modern cyber-attacks and social hacking, it is getting increasingly harder to rely on outdated security methods.
2FA is becoming the industry standard in terms of data security as it provides individuals with a simple and easy to use safeguard. While 2FA is not a requirement by every organization you have an account with, it's always recommended that you implement it if available. If you need any assistance implementing 2FA, please do not hesitate to reach out to us, we will be more than happy to help. Enabling 2FA today will make the possible future headaches go away.
Written by Matt Lang
Email hacks via spoofing are on the rise. Many of us can recall a time when we received an email from what looked like a known contact but was actually a spoof. With these attacks increasing in prevalence, authentication and deliverability are becoming ever more important for emails.
Think of the transactions you make on a daily basis where you have to prove you really are you: entering a PIN associated with your bank account, showing your license and ticket to board an airplane, proof of health insurance at a doctor’s office. All these ways allow you to prove you are who you say you are. But how does this work with email? How can those you email be sure it really is you?
Another question to think about is how do you make sure your emails do not get caught in your recipient’s internet filters. Most internet filters are configured to only allow through emails from legitimate senders. Proving you are who you say you are can be done by utilizing SPF, DKIM, and DMARC.
SPF (Sender Policy Framework) is an email validation protocol designed to detect and block email forgery and spoofing. Simply put, SPF maintains the authenticity of a message, verifying that the sender is who they say they are. Think of it as a return address on a letter. The return address lets the recipient know who the sender is and where the letter came from.
DKIM (DomainKeys Identified Mail) takes responsibility for a message that is in transit. DKIM proves that the original content of an email has not been altered and that the message comes from a verified DKIM domain. DKIM provides three things: the original email has not been altered in any way, the headers in the email haven't changed since it was originally sent, and the sender of the email owns the DKIM domain verifying the owner of the domain. Think of DKIM as a mail service that is able to verify that the original letter, sent from the original sender, has not been tampered with in any way.
DMARC (Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance) is an email policy, authentication method, and reporting protocol that relies on correctly configured SPF and DKIM. DMARC does three things: checks to see if the sender's original email has SPF and DKIM in place, lets the receiver know if the sender’s message failed both authentication methods (and the correct course of action), and provides a way for the receiver to report to the sender that the message has either passed or failed the DMARC check.
SPF, DKIM, and DMARC are the three pillars of email security and authentication. These methods are starting to become the standard for email verification. Google is considering making these three authentication methods mandatory for email in the near future, meaning Google will block any and all emails from improperly configured domains. Stay one step ahead and let us configure your domain for you! It will keep you and your business better protected.
Guest blog written by Matt Lang
Microsoft announced in March of this year that it will no longer provide support for Windows 7 after January 14, 2020. Windows 7, as with Windows XP, was heralded as the most impactful and well-received modern operating system Microsoft had ever developed. However, it isn’t reasonable to expect Microsoft to continue supporting a decade old OS. We are here to help you move on to bigger and better things.
Who is still running Windows 7?
Millions, actually. In fact, Windows 7 was the most used operating system worldwide from late 2011 all the way until January of this year, finally being surpassed by Windows 10. Even Windows 8 and 8.1 never eclipsed Windows 7’s usage in their lifetimes. In May, 2019, Windows 7 still boasted a usage share of 33.59%.
Why is Microsoft no longer supporting Windows 7?
The operating system has been outdated for quite some time, living on extended support since 2015, so there is little financial incentive to prolong support for it. However, if you are really set on continuing to use Windows 7, Microsoft will be providing security updates for the OS until 2023, but it will cost you. In year 1 (from January 2020 to January 2021), support will cost $50 for every device with Windows 7 Professional and $25 for every device with Windows 7 Enterprise. Both versions will double in price in each of the next two years. All support for Windows 7 will be discontinued in January, 2023.
Do I need to upgrade?
While you will still be able to use Windows 7 after January, 2020, it is strongly advised that you upgrade. All support from Microsoft, including security patches, updates, assistance, etc. will no longer be available. Even though Windows 7 has been in use for a decade, there are still security flaws found to this day. Just look at the recent BlueKeep vulnerability found this past month. Also, software development for the OS will continue to dwindle as time goes by. The best option for your computer is to upgrade to Windows 10, because it will be the ‘last’ Microsoft OS, meaning continual support and software development for the foreseeable future.
How can I upgrade?
There are a couple of options for you. The best option is to purchase a computer built to run Windows 10 with up-to-date hardware. Of course, not everyone has the funds to spend on a new computer. The next best option is to purchase and install Windows 10 on your current computer. However, this is going to cost around $200 for Windows 10 Pro.
Give us a call if you need Windows 10 installed at your business. We will make the process go smoothly. Don’t get left behind, upgrade to protect you and your data before January, 2020!
Your hard drive may crash. Thieves could steal your laptop at a café. You may realize on Friday that you desperately need the now-departed Wednesday version of an important document that you significantly altered on Thursday. At times like these, what do you do? How do you retrieve that file you’ve overwritten? How do you get the data from a laptop that’s been wiped and hocked at a local pawn shop?
The answer is backups. A simple process of backing up your important data, whether it be to an off-site cloud location, an on-site external hard drive, or any other method; backing up your data is key to good business practice. So what needs to be backed up? What data needs to be stored and preserved? How often should you backup?
You should backup your word processing files, spreadsheets, and similar documents every day. Any basic backup program can perform incremental backups in which the program copies only the files that have changed since the most recent previous backup. Good backup programs also perform versioning, that is, they keep several iterations of the same file on hand and enable you to choose which version to restore.
Not all backup systems or backup applications are able to reconstitute a computer system or complex configurations such as computer clusters, active directory servers, or a database server, by restoring only data from a backup, so finding the right backup provider and device is vital.
Since a backup system contains at least one copy of all data worth saving, the data storage requirements are considerable. Organizing this storage space and managing the backup process is a complicated undertaking, but a good data repository model can be used to provide structure. In the modern era of computing, there are many different types of data storage devices that are useful for making backups and there are also many different ways in which these devices can be arranged to provide geographic redundancy, data security, and portability.
Before data is sent to its storage location, it is selected, extracted, and manipulated. Many different techniques have been developed to optimize the backup procedure. These include optimizations for dealing with open files and live data sources as well as compression, encryption, and inline variable-length de-duplication, among others. Plenty of organizations and individuals work to define measurements and validation techniques and try to have confidence that the process is working as expected. It is also important to recognize the limitations and human factors involved in any backup scheme.
With any backup solution that you choose, be sure there is a way to test your data and make sure you can reconstitute it whenever you need it. Also, having multiple copies of your backup data stored on both short and long term media can be useful if all your measures to protect your organization fail to work properly.
You can backup almost anything these days from portable devices to large data center environments. Protect what is imperative for your business function on a daily basis. Don’t take anything for granted. After a data loss, many organizations find out they no longer have the information they need in order to conduct their business.
Protecting your data from loss and failure is the first piece of advice most technology professionals will offer up, but what is the first line of defense for you and your business against data corruption, theft, and viruses? Good anti-virus/malware/spyware/adware is key to the security and health of not only your machine, but also your network and all the machines connected to your network. A single breach on your network can lead to widespread issues for all the computers, printers, and other devices in your office.
So what steps do you and your company need to take to ensure the virtual security and livelihood of your machines? To answer that let’s first examine what threats you face. Viruses, spyware, adware, and malware are all types of programs that can infect, corrupt, take over, and use your machine without you knowing it before it is too late. They might be there to steal your processing power, take your personal information as a simple malicious prank, or as a way of coercing revenue towards an endeavor. While the reasoning behind the creation of these programs is subjective, they all pose a very real threat to the security of your business.
The first step is to establish a strong computer security suite on your machine and the various machines in your workplace. Your security portfolio should include an anti-virus program and a program for malware, spyware, and adware. Some programs offer coverage for multiple types of threats. These programs should be standardized across your network for the ease of making sure that your programs are up to date and operating properly as well as for being sure that you know exactly what you are covered against.
The most common issue with amateur computer security setups is conflicting programs. There are countless programs out there to protect your machines and ensure the security of your office. Some programs are significantly better than others and some conflict with each other, so only install what you need. It’s important to know that setting up a bad set of computer security programs could actually be more damaging than installing nothing at all.
Taking the time to adequately assess your needs in terms of security is bound to save you time and money in the long run.
While security software is a great first step toward overall security, it is worth noting that all the security software in the world will not protect you sufficiently without proper data backups. Secure, redundant data backups offer you the best safeguard against cyber threats and data loss. In our next blog we will further address data backups, what should be backed up, and how and when to back up your data.
How safe are you and your business online? Cyberattacks and ransomware are everywhere in the news and are affecting major corporations, websites, and even the government. Unless you live under a rock, you should already know the importance of running up-to-date antivirus software, and keeping your operating system, browsers, and runtimes (such as Java and Flash) fully patched and up-to-date. Here are five additional ways to protect you and your business that are often overlooked online.
Utilize Two-Factor Authentication
Two-Factor Authentication is a process that requires you to enter multiple pieces of information before accessing a website. Often times it takes the form of a username/password combination with a PIN or personal question. Two-Factor Authentication provides an extra buffer against password failure, auto-fill, and compromised linked accounts in the case of a hostile attempt on your data.
Change Passwords Often
An easy way to keep online accounts such as Dropbox secure is by changing the password every so often. If an online account does not offer two-factor authentication, you’ll definitely want to make sure you change the password frequently in addition to using passwords that are unique- using upper and lowercase letters, as well as numbers, and symbols. Although constantly changing passwords can seem tedious, it is an easy way to ensure online security.
Don’t Use Auto-Fill
Auto-fill is a commonly used and highly convenient feature in almost every browser in use today. This allows usernames, passwords, addresses, and other information to be filled-in instantly, saving you the task of locating and typing the information each time. This is a great liability. All it takes is for someone to log into your online banking, PayPal, or utilities accounts to access highly valuable personal information. Stay away from autofill on any sensitive or personal website.
Don’t Link Accounts
Linking accounts is something almost every major company is pushing you to do these days. You are constantly being asked to link your Gmail, your news site, Facebook, online shopping sites, and your Netflix. While this allows your friends (and your favorite corporations) to be in the loop about every minutiae of your life, you are losing any sense of privacy while exposing yourself to hackers. If just one of those accounts is compromised, they could all be compromised.
Turn Off Tracking
Website tracking is used by advertisers to see what users do before and after purchases to try to predict which products and services to advertise to you. Tracking programs can also be misused by data intruders to obtain passwords, personal information, and credit card numbers.
These five simple steps can make a significant difference in protecting yourself from malicious online attacks including passive hacking attempts, data theft, and ransomware.
Celine does double duty as both the Social Media Manager & Project Manager here at ProBleu. When she's not researching & writing about the latest and greatest in tech, she enjoys traveling, cooking up new recipes, & cycling throughout southern Indiana.