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News, opinions and updates from the Virtuoso team.

Apr
16

In good company

 Virtuoso is delighted to announce that we have become a Corporate Partner of the Royal Aeronautical Society, the world’s only professional body dedicated to aerospace.

Founded in 1866 and with its HQ in Mayfair the Society promotes the highest professional standards and provides a central forum for sharing knowledge.  This is one of the reasons why Virtuoso, a much younger organisation but with a similar approach to standards and knowledge, decided to become a Corporate Partner.

Other considerations are the many briefings (open only to Corporate Partners) with a wide range of speakers and topics as well as the excellent networking opportunities these offer to our clients. The quality and range of meeting rooms and hospitality gives Virtuoso the opportunity to host customer meetings in the heart of Mayfair in surroundings that contribute to every discussion.

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Aug
03

Keeping Small Businesses Safe: Combating Cybercrime on a SMEs Budget

What happens on the hight street stays on the hight street

When hackers breach the security of corporations it makes headlines, yet there is rarely a mention when cybercrime hits small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs). Very few people are even aware that today’s cybercriminals are targeting SMEs, not just super-sized global businesses.

According to Verizon’s 2013 Data Breach Investigations Report, 71% of the data breaches investigated by the company’s forensic analysis unit targeted small businesses with fewer than 100 employees. Of that group, businesses with less than 10 employees were the most frequently attacked.

Everyone is a victim when it comes to cybercrime

The loss and exposure of confidential data from a cyber attack is costly to both the people victimised and the businesses whose data was compromised.

For the victim, hackers typically retrieve personal information, bank account, credit card and financial data resulting in identity fraud. The stress and time involved to reclaim their identity and get their financial house back in order is beyond measure.

Cypercrime comes at a high price for SMEs

According to research compiled by the Ponemon Institute in their 2nd Annual Cost of Cyber Crime Study, the average cost per breached record in the U.S. is anywhere between $150 to $200 and will of course be similar in the UK. This amount factors in the costs of the investigation and notification process, fixing the issue that led to the breach, possible liability and litigation costs, lost business, and the time and effort that go into damage control. In many cases, a damaged reputation may prove to be irreparable. Nearly two-thirds of victimised companies are out of business within six months of a significant cyber attack, making cybercrime the death knell for many SMEs. This is because the consequences of cybercrime extend well beyond the actual incident and have long-lasting implications.

Small businesses obviously don’t have the same financial footing to rebound and carry on with business as usual in the way organisations like Amazon, Apple, or Citibank can.

Symantec’s research found that customers affected by security breaches are generally less forgiving of smaller businesses, especially smaller online retailers, than larger companies. SMEs are contending not only with lost revenue and expenses, but also the possibility of never regaining the trust of customers, clients and business partners.

Symantec’s 2012 State of Information Survey found that nearly half of all SMEs admitted to a data breach damaging their reputation and driving customers away.

The trend of cybercriminals preying on smaller businesses doesn’t seem to be waning. According to Symantec, the number of cybercrime attacks targeting firms with fewer than 250 employees jumped from 18 percent of all attacks in 2011 to 31 percent in 2012.

Why cybercrminals are zeroing in on small business

Large corporations have the resources to invest heavily in the most sophisticated security strategies and successfully stop most cybercrime attempts. A typical large enterprise may have over twenty in- house IT dedicated employees ensuring that every device connecting to their network is adequately protected.

In comparison, SMEs have neither the money nor the manpower of large enterprises and can’t afford the same level of security. Very few SMEs have full- time IT dedicated personnel on hand to run routine security checks. Even those who do have in-house IT support often find that their internal resources are too bogged down with other tasks to properly address security upkeep.

A joint survey of 1000 SMEs conducted in September of 2013 by McAfee Internet Security and Office Depot further confirms how relaxed many SMEs are when it comes to protecting their data.

Not only have SMEs become easy prey for cybercriminals, but their sheer abundance also makes them an alluring target. In 2013, there were 4.9 million businesses in the UK, over 99% of which were small and medium enterprises. Even in a struggling economy, it’s projected that there are still an estimated 200,000 startups launching every month with only a handful of employees.

SMEs are not "too small to matter"

Since most cybercrimes affecting smaller businesses go unreported by the media, there is no sense of urgency by SMEs to prepare for cyber attacks. Too many SMEs mistakenly view their operations and data as trivial to hackers. They feel that large online retailers, global banks, and government entities are much more attractive targets for hackers.

The goals and methods of cyber attackers are evolving and will continue to evolve. The era of one “big heist” for hackers is over. Cybercriminals today often prefer to infiltrate the data of many small businesses at once, stealing from victims in tiny increments over time so as to not set off an immediate alarm. This method takes advantage of those SMEs who are especially lax with their security processes and may not even realise there has been a security breach for days or sometimes even weeks.

SMEs must end the “It will never happen to us” mindset. For instance, political “hactivists” have been responsible for a number of high-profile Denial-of-Service (DDoS) attacks in recent years. The goal of a hactivist is to disrupt the status quo and wreck havoc on the technology infrastructure of larger corporations and government entities. It’s a form of cyber anarchy: A “stick it to the man” philosophy spearheaded by groups like 4chan, Anonymous, LulzSec, and Anti- Sec.

An owner or Chief Information Officer (CIO) at a SME may read of these high publicised attacks in the press and not think anything of it. They aren’t Sony, Apple, or the Department of Defence, so why would a hactivist target their data? But it’s estimated that there are on average 1.29 DDoS attacks throughout the world every two minutes and such activity is much broader in scope than the press may lead us to believe.

SMEs- The access ramp to bigger & better data

One reason small businesses are more vulnerable is they’re often the inroad to larger better-protected entities. They are often sub-contracted as a vendor, supplier, or service provider to a larger organisation. This makes SMEs an attractive entry point for raiding the data of a larger company. Since larger enterprises have more sophisticated security processes in place to thwart cyber attacks, SMEs often unknowingly become a Trojan horse used by hackers to gain backdoor access to a bigger company’s data. There is malware specifically designed to use a SMEs website as a means to crack the database of a larger business partner.

For this reason, many potential clients or business partners may ask for specifics on how their data will be safeguarded before they sign an agreement. Some may require an independent security audit be conducted. They may also ask SMEs to fill out a legally binding questionnaire pertaining to their security practices.

An SME that is unable to prove they’re on top of their infrastructure’s security will likely lose out on potentially significant deals and business relationships. More large enterprises are being careful to vet any business partners they’re entrusting their data to.

To stay secure a good defence is the best offense

SMEs must understand that the time has come to get serious with their security. Sadly, many small businesses have a false sense of security. In the McAfee/ Office Depot joint survey of 1000 SMEs, over 66% were confident in the security of their data and devices despite admitting to obvious flaws.

Cybercrime is only one cause of compromised data. There are 3 primary causes of breached security at businesses according to the June 2013 Symantec Global Cost of a Data Breach study. Only 37% are attributed to malicious attacks. The remaining 64% are human error and technology errors.

Data breaches aren’t always about bad people doing bad things. Many are the result of good employees making mistakes or of technology failure. SMEs don’t necessarily need a large budget or dozens of employees to adequately protect sensitive data. A secure environment is possible even on a SMEs budget. Here are a few steps to improving data and network security.

STEP 1

Know all devices connection to your network

Keep a frequently updated list of every device that connects to your network. This inventory is especially important given today’s BYOD (Bring-Your-Own-Device) workplace where employees can access your network through several different devices. Knowing what these devices are and ensuring they’re all configured properly will optimise network security.

All it takes is a regularly scheduled review to add or remove any devices and affirm that every end point is secure. Much of this process can be inexpensively automated through a Mobile Device Monitoring (MDM) tool. A MDM tool will approve or quarantine any new device accessing the network, enforce encryption settings if sensitive information is stored on such a device, and remotely locate, lock, and wipe company data from lost or stolen devices.

STEP 2

Educate & train employees

Every employee should participate in regular general awareness security training. This will not only reduce security breaches directly tied to employee error or negligence but also train employees to be on the defence against cybercrime. Employees are critical to your security success and the prevention of data breaches. Hackers commonly break into networks by taking advantage of unknowing employees. Phishing attacks – legitimate looking emails specifically crafted to mislead recipients into clicking a malicious link where they’re asked to provide their username and password - are still successfully used by hackers to capture login credentials.

If a large company makes the news for a data breach tied to an infected email, be sure to share that news with employees with a warning. Come up with fun ways to teach employees how to identify spear-phishing email attempts and better secure their systems and devices.

It is also important to have a security policy written for employees that clearly identifies the best practices for internal and remote workers. For example, password security is critical and passwords should be frequently updated to a combination of numbers, lower case letters and special characters that cannot be easily guessed. Security policy training should be integrated into any new employee orientation. This policy should be updated periodically. More important than anything, this security policy must be enforced to be effective.

STEP 3

Perform an audit of sensitive business information

If you want to keep your most sensitive business information secure, it’s important to know exactly where it’s stored. A detailed quarterly audit is recommended.

STEP 4

Use Cloud and Managed Service Providers

Overall, the cloud is likely a more secure data solution for small business. Any conception that the cloud isn’t safe is outdated. Most of 2013’s security breaches were the result of lost or stolen devices, printed documents falling into the wrong hands, and employee errors leading to unintended disclosures. It’s fair to speculate that many of these breaches wouldn’t have occurred had this information been stored in the cloud rather than computers, laptops, and vulnerable servers. SMEs with limited budgets are actually enhancing their security by moving to the cloud. Since there is no way a SME can match a large enterprise’s internal services, moving services like emails, backups, and collaborative file sharing to the cloud not only reduces total-cost-of- ownership, but gives access to top-level security to better defend against internal and external threats.

Meanwhile, a Managed Service Provider (MSP) can assume responsibility for security measures like the administering of complex security devices, technical controls like firewalls, patching, antivirus software updates, intrusion-detection and log analysis systems.

MSPs are also capable of generating a branded risk report for any potential client or business partner reviewing your security measures. This third- party manual assessment of your network security can instill confidence in prospective business partners by proving to them that any possible security risks or vulnerabilities will be properly managed and addressed.

 

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May
06

Just Because You’re Not a Big Target, Doesn’t Mean You’re Safe

Not too long ago, the New York Times’ website experienced a well-publicised attack, which raises the question – how can this happen to such a world-renowned organisation? If this can happen to the New York Times, what does this bode for the security of a small company’s website? What’s to stop someone from sending visitors of your site to an adult site or something equally offensive?


The short answer to that question is nothing. In the New York Times’ attack, the attackers changed the newspapers’ Domain Name System (DNS) records to send visitors to a Syrian website. The same type of thing can very well happen to your business website. For a clearer perspective, let’s get into the specifics of the attack and explain what DNS is.

The perpetrators of the New York Times’ attack targeted the site’s Internet DNS records. To better understand this, know that computers communicate in numbers, whereas we speak in letters. In order for us to have an easy-to-remember destination like nytimes.com, the IP address must be converted to that particular URL through DNS.

Therefore, no matter how big or small a company’s online presence is, every website is vulnerable to the same DNS hacking as the New York Times’ site.  The good news is the websites of smaller companies or organizations fly under the radar and rarely targeted. Larger targets like the New York Times, or LinkedIn, which was recently redirected to a domain sales page, are more likely targets.

For now...

There is no reason to panic and prioritize securing DNS over other things right now. But there is a belief that DNS vulnerability will be something cybercriminals pick on more often down the road.

Here are a few ways to stay safe

Select a Registrar with a Solid Reputation for Security Chances are, you purchased your domain name through a reputable registrar like GoDaddy, Bluehost, 1&1, or Dreamhost. Obviously, you need to create a strong password for when you log into the registrar to manage your site’s files.

Nonetheless, recent DNS attacks are concerning because they’re far more than the average password hack.  It was actually the security of the registrars themselves that was compromised in recent attacks. The attackers were basically able to change any DNS record in that registrar’s directory. What’s particularly frightening is the registrars attacked had solid reputations. The New York Times, along with sites like Twitter and the Huffington Post, is registered with Melbourne IT. LinkedIn, Craigslist and US Airways are registered with Network Solutions. Both had been believed to be secure.

So what else can be done?

Set Up a Registry Lock & Inquire About Other Optional Security

A registry lock makes it difficult for anyone to make even the most mundane changes to your registrar account without manual intervention by a staff registrar. This likely comes at an additional cost and not every domain registrar has it available.

Ask your registrar about registry locking and other additional security measures like two factor authentication, which requires another verifying factor in addition to your login and password, or IP address dependent logins, which limits access to your account from anywhere outside of one particular IP address.

While adding any of these extra safeguards will limit your ability to make easy account change or access your files from remote locations, it may be a worthwhile price to pay.

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Oct
07

Understanding Managed Services and How They Benefit SMEs

Posted by Markus McIver in Opinion, MSP

Small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs) receive a lot of calls each day from slick sales people peddling the next technology trend that’s going to save them money and revolutionise how they do business. They’re all too quick to caution that if you don’t listen to them, you’ll fall behind the times, and eventually be swimming in a sea of debt and out of business.

No doubt you’ve heard, or you’ve at least read about, the benefits of managed services. Managed services refer to clearly defined outsourced IT services delivered to you at predictable costs. You know the exact IT services you’ll be getting and what you’ll pay for them. There is no surprise sky-high bill for services rendered. So are solicitation calls that pertain to managed services worth listening to? We think so. Then again, we’re in the managed services industry.  There may be a bit of a bias here.

How Managed Service Providers Work

Managed service providers (MSPs) use remote monitoring and management (RMM) tools to keep an eye on their performance and overall health of the IT infrastructure that powers your business operations.  Your MSP should have a 24/7 Network Operations Center (NOC) that acts as your mission control center. If the monitoring alerts them to any issue with your servers, devices, hardware or software, they respond quickly to resolve the issue.

Additionally, the NOC performs regular systems maintenance such as

  • Automated tasks like the cleaning of temporary files
  • Applying tested security patches as required
  • Installing virus and Malware protection
  • System backup and disaster recover/business continuity processes

Additionally, your MSP should give you access to a Help Desk that services your customers and employees – speaking to and working with them directly as if they’re part of your staff.  This proactive maintenance, stabilisation of your IT environment, and rapid as- needed remediation helps SMEs control technology costs and better serve the end-users who rely on their technology.

Is Managed Services Better than Other Ways to Manage IT

We find that far too many companies have no real perspective about how much IT management costs them. Let’s review some of the alternatives to managed services.

Hiring In-House IT Support

Typically, a firm with anywhere from 20-60 employees may feel that one person can manage their technology. Understand that this one full-time employee can demand a significant salary since they’ll have to be proficient with desktop, server and network support, and interact with both end-users in the Help Desk role and management. They will likely be overworked and vulnerable to error or oversights that may prove to be costly. And what happens if they’re out sick or on vacation?

The Break/Fix Mentality

The majority of smaller companies take this route because they feel as if they’re too small for a more sophisticated 24/7 approach to IT management. They also feel pressure to direct all resources on the product or service, not behind-the- scenes operations. They decide to use on-call IT techs when broken technology has already disrupted business.  The on-call team’s response time and overall lack of familiarity with your systems extends downtime and proves to be a much more expensive resolution to IT management. It’s reactive, not proactive, and it’s a costly mistake too often made.

This is why many SMEs today feel that managed services are the most cost- effective way to support their IT infrastructure and the best way to get more bang for their buck.

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Tags: #Opinion, #MSP

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