“Florida city to pay $600K ransom to hacker who seized computer systems weeks ago”

One of the most terrifying new threats to organizations is ransomware. This type of digital attack is one of the most disruptive and costly things that can happen to an organization, as one city in Florida recently found out.

Rivera Beach, a small city of 35,000 people was recently targeted after an employee clicked on a malicious email link. After encrypting vital government systems like fire department and police computers, CNN reports that hackers demanded that the city pay a ransom of  $600,000. With no alternative, City officials recently voted to agree to the hackers demands which will be paid out of the city’s insurance money.  

Cybersecurity firm Recorded Future found that in the US alone, at least 170 county, city or state government systems have been attacked since 2013, including at least 45 police and sheriff’s offices. In 2019, there have been more than 20 major US public-sector attacks which typically force affected cities to quarantine their networks and provide most of their municipal services manually.

Attacks By Hackers Are On The Rise

You may be thinking that this is unlikely to happen to you or that your business’s data isn’t important enough to gather the attention of hackers. Sadly, this isn’t the case. Ransomware is so dangerous because hackers know how valuable your data is to you! Albertan organization are just as likely to be targeted for smaller attacks as any other place. We’ve recently helped a company in Edmonton recover from one such attack, which you can read about here. 

Many ransomware attacks start with an employee clicking a malicous link. We’ve created a helpful guide to share with your staff on ‘How to Diagnose a Phishing Email’. If you’re looking for help on how you can protect your business. Our IT team is happy to help you plan for the future.

Click the link below to book a meeting with our team!

Why Your Company Needs An External I.T. Systems and Security Audit

Do you know if your firewall is up to date?

What about your network infrastructure? Ensuring that everything is current and secure takes up valuable time and resources. What you need is a clear picture of your existing technology environment, and where it should be, and a tech audit can provide that.

That’s why we offer a Free Tech Audit. Essentially, it’s an hour-long, on-site assessment of your environment. When you submit your request for an audit, we’ll contact you to set a date and time that’s convenient and give you a general idea of how the audit will be conducted. Then, one of our technicians will come on site to conduct the assessment.

The Process

While we do have a standard list of checks, our free tech audits are more personal and based on asking questions. We’ll start off with some basic ones to better understand your I.T. situation, such as:

  • Why did you request a free tech audit?
  • What are your current I.T. pain points/challenges?

Then, based on if your infrastructure is accessible, we’ll take a deeper approach and run through a list of specific audit questions to understand what your technology can handle. These include:

  • How many computers do you have?
  • How many servers and users do you have?
  • How old is your infrastructure?
  • Which applications and plugins do you use? Do you use any special software?
  • Are there any relevant policies or procedures we should be aware of?
  • Are there any relevant legal liabilities or government regulations we should be aware of?
  • Do you have a data backup process in place?
  • Do you have a disaster recovery process in place?
  • How detailed are your processes, and have they been tested?

After The Audit

Once the audit is complete, we’ll compile a report and series of recommendations based on our findings. Then, we’ll set up a meeting with you to go through the report. It’s important to us that you understand your current I.T. environment, and where it should be. Finally, we’ll put together a technology plan and proposal, and explain how they will address your I.T. problems. Simple as that.

You can think it over and decide whether our plan fits your needs. We won’t rush you. Contact us when you’re ready. The next step is up to you!

 

Are you interested in getting a free tech audit? Submit your request and get started today!

Why Canada is a Prime Target for Cyber Attacks (And How Canadian Businesses Can Protect Themselves)

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We discuss what makes Canada vulnerable to cyber crimes and provide our best prevention tips

According to a study released by Risk Based Security last month, Canada was number three on the list of countries with the most cyber attacks in 2018— being surpassed by the United States and the United Kingdom only.  But what’s even more concerning than our world ranking is the fact that 12,551,574 Canadian records were exposed as a result of cyber security breaches last year alone.  That’s a massive amount of sensitive data that has been compromised and accessed by cyber criminals.  Yet many Canadian businesses (and individuals) still continue to underestimate the likelihood and the potential severity of cyber crime incidents.

For example, in Canada, the total downtime caused by a cyber attack was 23 hours on average in 2017.  That’s a significant amount of time to spend away from the day-to-day operations of your business.  Yet 41 percent of companies have more than 1,000 sensitive files that are open to everyone and vulnerable to being hacked.  Statistics like these highlight the complicated nature of cyber crimes in Canada, and shine a light on the fact that Canadians must become more proactive if they want to protect themselves from cyber crime incidents in the future.

 

Prevention Must Be A Priority 

Moving forward, Canadian businesses will face added pressure to invest in more advanced forms of IT security— with a specific focus on deterring cyber crime before it happens.  Some recommended methods of preventing cyber crime include:

  • Hiring a Managed Services Provider who is experienced and can address your IT concerns with a thorough knowledge of industry best practices.
  • Use two-factor authentication whenever possible.
  • Conduct security audits on a regular basis.
  • Routinely train employees on security best practices and implement clear policies on how information should be protected.
  • Update your browsers, operating systems, and anti-virus software regularly.

 

How ARC Managed Services Can Help:

At ARC Business Solutions, our Managed Services team offers 24/7 proactive support for businesses who require added manpower.   Essentially, when you hire us, you get an entire IT department that you can depend on at any time.  Our dedicated and qualified IT professionals are trained to handle technology issues of any magnitude, and always come prepared with proven innovative solutions that work.

Some of the ways we can strengthen your cyber defenses include:

  • Identifying your riskiest files and data
  • Providing real-time, automated security testing
  • Conducting a full inventory of all authorized and unauthorized devices that access your network
  • Implementing automated anti-virus and anti-malware software
  • Conducting vulnerability assessments

And more.

 

The Current State of Cyber Security (And ARC’s Predictions for the Future)

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We take a comprehensive look at the threats and concerns associated with cyber security today

2018 was an eventful year for cyber security.  Major brands like Under Armour, Ticketfly, Uber, and British Airways were all victims of cyber attacks that exposed sensitive client data, and posed a serious risk to overall business operations.  But large corporations aren’t the only ones who are susceptible. One out of every five Canadian businesses experienced some form of cyber security issue in 2018.  And when you consider how prevalent cyber attacks are becoming, it becomes easier to understand why businesses are now investing more than ever before in cyber crime prevention strategies.

For example:   Did you know that the average user receives 16 malicious spam emails per month?  Or that there was a 88 percent increase in new malware programs from 2016 to 2017?  Security trends like these prove that there is a valid reason for concern, and emphasize the importance of making cyber security a top priority— especially for businesses and other organizations.  But what can business owners do with this information? And what cyber security predictions for the future should they be paying attention to?

Well, to start, it’s essential that business owners and organizational leaders understand that cyber attacks are only becoming more sophisticated and difficult to detect.  Thus, the time to invest in cutting-edge cyber crime prevention strategies is now— not later.  Speaking to a professional and reputable managed services provider is always a smart place to start, since they come armed with years of industry experience, knowledge of the most powerful and insightful crime prevention tools, and the hands-on skills required to address issues in a timely manner.  But as for what to expect from the future— that’s where things get a little more complicated.

Since cyber criminals are continuously fine-tuning their craft, releasing increasingly dangerous versions of malware, it’s impossible to know exactly what’s to come.   With that being said, there are some data-backed predictions that can provide a general idea of future cyber security threats and their potential impact.

 

Here Are ARC’s Top 3 Cyber Security Predictions for 2019:

 

1. Multi-Factor Identification Will Become A Must

Unfortunately, due to the advancement of malicious software, the traditional username and password no longer provide the level of security most business owners want to maintain.  Even the most complicated of passwords can be hacked.

Thus, it is highly likely that multi-factor identification will become a standard. Whether it’s being asked to enter a PIN (as well as a password), or having employees scan their finger using their mobile device, there are many forms of multi-factor identification that businesses can use.  And since 81 percent of hacking-related breaches are successful because of stolen and/or weak passwords, this is an excellent way to reduce the likelihood of becoming the victim of a cyber attack.

 

2. Payouts Could Result In A Ransom Ban

It has become increasingly popular for businesses who have experienced a cyber attack to financially compensate online criminals in exchange for the safe return of their data and systems.  Unfortunately, however, paying cyber criminals rarely benefits anyone other than the victim. More often than not, the online criminal will simply re-invest the money they receive from a ransom, using it to improve their malicious software and better target their next victim.  Additionally, paying a ransom doesn’t guarantee that the attacker won’t strike again. 

For these reasons, governments are seriously considering placing a ban on ransom payments associated with cyber crimes, as a means of preventing extortion.  Thus, it’s more important than ever for businesses to educate themselves on detection and prevention, and have solid response strategies in place.

 

3. The Rise Of Measurable Managed Services

As cyber security becomes a fundamental part of operating a business, more and more entrepreneurs are turning to qualified professionals for protection. But they don’t simply want someone to rely on— they want proof that the services they are paying for are delivering results.  Thus, managed services providers must be prepared to meet the desired outcomes of their clients, and to be accountable for those outcomes throughout the working relationship.  By taking this approach, businesses are able to more closely monitor their IT spend, as well as identify opportunities for improvement. Plus, it comes with additional peace of mind, since key metrics can be used to better inform team members when IT-related decisions must be made.

3 Cyber Security Concerns That Were Unheard of Just a Few Years Ago

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Everything you should know about the progression of cyber crime

A lot has changed since the emergence of malicious hacking in the 1970’s, when tech savvy criminals began manipulating phone systems as a means of making free long distance calls.   Personal computers began hitting the market, and the world wide web gained traction, becoming a momentous commercial success.  In fact, in 1995 there were just 16 million internet users worldwide.  Today, there are 4.2 billion.

With such dramatic growth, it was to be expected that cybersecurity would become a pressing concern. Just like in the real world, criminals look for opportunities, and the digital world offered plenty of them.  Cyber crime cases like the Datastream Cowboy and Kuji attacks, as well as the Melissa Virus, made businesses, government agencies, and other organizations aware of how devastating computerized crimes could really be.  Fast forward to the present, and 230,000 new malware programs are being produced each and every day, while ransomware attacks grow by more than 350 percent per year— proving that the evolution of cyber crime should be a concern for everyone.

In a nutshell? It has never been more imperative for companies to understand cyber security best practices, and have expertly-conceptualized strategies in place to combat these computer-based attacks.  So, what are some of the most concerning cybersecurity developments that have occured in recent years? And how can business professionals protect themselves and the organizations they work for?  These are the questions we’ll be answering in today’s blog.

 

Here Are 3 Cyber Security Concerns That Were Unheard Of Just a Few Years Ago: 

 

1. Steganography Attacks

Steganography is the practice of replacing portions of data within files like images, audio files, and graphics with different, infected code. This method is particularly worrying since it completely hides the fact that malicious code is being uploaded or downloaded, leaving computer users vulnerable, unaware that a virus is lurking within the file.  Additionally, many anti-virus programs and security tools are unable to detect the code, due to the clever ways cyber criminals embed the code within the file.

Security researchers reported a 600 percent upsurge in steganographically-based attacks in 2017, which is highly problematic.   Thus, it’s crucial that businesses and organizations invest in cutting-edge technologies and prevention strategies to ward off these types of threats. Speaking with a reputable and experienced managed services provider is always a great place to start. 

 

2. IOT (Internet Of Things) Attacks

The Internet of Things is a term used to describe all of the various device types available today that can connect to the internet— from refrigerators, to vehicles, televisions, e-readers, and more.  All of these devices (as long as they are connected to the internet) can be hacked, and once they are, any of the information stored on the device is up for grabs.  Additionally, once a hacker has found their way into one of the devices on your IoT network, it becomes easier to gain access to the others.

Some recommended ways to protect your devices from IoT attacks include:

  • Always changing the default username and password on your devices, and using password best practices when creating your new login credentials.
  • Updating and installing IoT firmware regularly.
  • Disconnecting IoT devices from the internet whenever they aren’t in use.
  • Deleting apps that you don’t use or that look unfamiliar to you.
  • Do your research— read up on your new device and see if other customers have experienced security issues when using the device.

Remember, approximately 50,000 IoT attacks were documented in 2017, and that number is expected to rise.  Hiring a managed services company is an excellent way to ensure your business is guarded against these threats.

 

3. Spear Phishings

You’ve probably heard of phishing, or fraudulent email campaigns that do their best to seem legitimate, as a means of obtaining sensitive information about the receiver. But this classic online scheme has taken on a whole new level with the emergence of spear phishing.  It’s the same concept, but hyper-focused, with cyber criminals focusing on one individual instead of casting a wide net and seeing what turns up.  These cyber criminals will use extreme measures to gain whatever information they can about their target— and then ultimately use that information to execute better, more difficult-to-detect attacks.

The key here is that the criminal focuses on getting to know their victim, observing their online behavior and using tactics that are targeted towards the victim’s habits, interests, and vulnerabilities.  This detailed and methodical approach is a recent development, proving that the evolution of cyber crime has been shaped by criminals who are willing to use whatever means necessary to infiltrate their targets.  More often than not, spear phishing is done via emails, so being highly aware is essential if you want to combat these types of attacks. Employees need to be educated on email safety and should always secure their accounts by making use of spam filters and screening their inboxes for viruses.

Again, a seasoned and established managed services provider can ensure you have the right preventative strategies in place, and ensure your system is up to date and secure.

 

Managed Services Trends for 2019

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We discuss the most compelling managed services trends businesses can expect to see for 2019. 

If we’ve learned anything in 2018, it’s that businesses are turning to managed services providers (MSPs) more than ever before, looking to outsource their IT needs to knowledgeable experts.  In fact, the managed services market is expected to grow from $180.5 billion in 2018 to $282 billion by 2023.

At ARC Business Solutions, we believe this projected growth is a direct result of the benefits managed services providers can offer the businesses they work with.

These benefits include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • The improved efficacy and reliability of IT systems
  • A preventative approach to IT maintenance
  • Calculable monthly costs
  • Guaranteed compliance with privacy laws and legislative policies
  • Increased scalability of IT systems
  • Access to industry expertise whenever required

Because business owners are pressed for time and constantly bombarded with operational tasks, having a dedicated team of professionals they can trust their IT maintenance with is not only convenient, but incredibly relieving.  But how can business owners be sure they have hired the best MSP available to meet their needs?  Well, to start, they can read up on these managed services trends and present them to their potential MSP, allowing them to gauge how innovative and informed the vendor really is.  So, let’s get to it.

 

Here Are The Top Managed Services Trends For 2019:

 

1. Cloud Computing

According to Microsoft, cloud computing is the delivery of computing services—servers, storage, databases, networking, software, analytics, intelligence and more—over the Internet.  Businesses are often drawn to the idea of cloud computing because of the associated cost savings. In fact, average entry-level cloud computing pricing has declined by some 66 per cent over the last two year period to November 2015, and it has been forecasted that average public cloud pricing will fall even more, by a predicted 14 per cent by the year 2020.  Additionally, most cloud computing services are offered on a pay-as-you-go basis, meaning that businesses only pay for the services and features they use, and none of the extras.  A bonus that most businesses simply can’t refuse.

 

2. Cyber-Security

One only needs to look at some of the cybersecurity statistics available online to understand how essential it is for modern-day businesses. For example, from 2016 to 2017 alone there was a 22.7 percent increase in cybersecurity costs, and the average cost of a data breach is expected to exceed $150 million by 2020.  To prevent these devastating financial losses, business owners are turning to managed services providers with the intention of strengthening their IT security.  And it works!

Hiring a MSP actually results in a 50 percent reduction in the possibility of having a data breach caused by some of the most common external threats.  This is because MSPs are qualified and highly trained to offer only the most up-to-date security solutions, and know how to protect data using methods like backup processes, access control, and encryption.

 

3. Managed Services For Developing Technologies

As you most likely already know, computer systems and software solutions are constantly evolving. Recently, the increasing popularity of technologies like Artificial Intelligence and Blockchain have completely transformed the way people process and transfer data.  Eventually, these new technologies will be subjected to data, security, and privacy regulations, putting added pressure on businesses to comply with legislative policies and protect their operations from potential threats.

For business owners who want to remain ahead of the curve, discussing these emerging technologies with a managed services provider is essential. The most cutting-edge and industry-leading MSPs will already be aware of these technologies, and will be proactively brainstorming ways to address them.  It is to be expected that many business owners will be unaware of these new technologies, or will experience a significant learning curve as they become more popular.  Having a dependable, skilled managed services company on your side is the ideal way to reduce confusion and protect your venture during these technological advancements.

By researching and familiarizing themselves with these managed services trends, entrepreneurs and business professionals can better prepare for what’s to come, and implement the advanced solutions they’ll need ahead of time.  At ARC Business Solutions, our managed services team is continually evolving, learning, and advancing. It is our priority to offer top-tier network security, response services, and troubleshooting support to our clients, at all times.

 

How Professional IT Services Help Businesses Remain Competitive in Today’s Market

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Discover the benefits of trusting your IT systems to industry experts

More than ever before, companies are conducting business via the internet. In fact, in the United States and Canada there are approximately 1.3 million e-commerce businesses, with more being established every year.  And even companies that do not operate primarily via the internet rely on technology in some form or fashion to complete daily tasks, store information, and communicate with their clientele.  Thus, the dependability of IT systems is crucial.  

Unfortunately, however, many business owners do not have the time or the know-how that is required to properly protect their IT systems and the data they contain.  To elaborate further, a study by Hiscox found that seven out of 10 businesses aren’t prepared to handle cyber attacks.  Additionally, 93 percent of companies feel that a connected digital infrastructure is important in serving customer needs yet 55 per cent believe their existing IT infrastructure limits their ability to do so.  These statistics show that while businesses are aware of how important it is to maintain efficient and secure computer systems, the reality is that many businesses are falling short.

So, what is the solution?

One of the most compelling fixes is to hire a managed services provider to proactively monitor your systems and address issues as they arise.  By trusting the maintenance and strategic planning of your computer systems to industry experts, you can ensure your business remains ahead of the curve, while freeing up your time to focus on your company’s overall mission and vision.

 

How Managed Services Can Help You Gain A Competitive Advantage In The Marketplace:

 

1. Controlled Spending

One of the benefits of managed services is that your company receives the tailored, individualized solutions it needs, ensuring that you only pay for what you require.   This gives you a competitive advantage, since other companies are likely troubleshooting their own IT issues in-house, and spending more time doing so.

With IT managed services, however, your company pays a convenient flat fee per month, and you (as well as your employees) benefit from no longer having the responsibility on your plate.  With the time and money you save, you can invest in other areas of your business that will lead to greater success.

 

2. Fewer Setbacks

There is nothing more costly than an IT breach.  In fact, according to the 2018 Cost of a Data Breach Study by Ponemon, the average cost for each lost or stolen record containing sensitive and confidential information is $148.00.  Yes, that’s per stolen record.  Additionally, it takes an average of 23 days to resolve a ransomware attack, and an average of 50 days to resolve a malicious insider attack.

Can your business afford to be hindered for that long? Most can’t.

Thankfully, with the help of the IT leaders at your chosen managed services company, you can prevent these costly misfortunes.  Remember, managed services providers have much more comprehensive network infrastructures than most businesses do. They also have the software and knowledge required to conduct regular audits and testing. Plus, they have the ability to monitor your systems 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.   This means that no matter how severe an issue is, your systems are being protected by industry-leading professionals and the most advanced security solutions, at all times.

In a nutshell? While your competitors are dealing with phishing attacks and malware, you’ll be busy doing what you do best: running your business.

 

3. Seamless Scalability

One of the greatest challenges companies face when it comes to their IT systems is scalability. After all, as your company grows, so too should it’s IT infrastructure.  Thankfully, the benefits of managed services address a lot of the scalability concerns that business owners have.  This is because when you hire a managed services provider, you no longer have to worry about hiring in-house IT professionals or expanding your resources in a hurry. Instead, you simply leave it up to the pros! 

Your IT managed services experts will be able to enhance your systems as needed, identify any areas of concern, and design scale directly into the solutions they provide to you.  What does this mean with regards to improving your competitive advantage? Well, when other companies are scrambling to expand their offerings and meet market demands, you’ll be prepared – increasing the likelihood that you will be top of the pack. After all, most clients need businesses that can fulfill their needs immediately, if not within a short period of time. 

It’s a classic case of the early bird gets the worm!