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A primer on watering hole attacks

Cyberattacks come in many different forms, with new methods being developed all the time. What’s bad is that personal information is now often stored online, be it through social media or through government and healthcare services — and these are juicy targets for criminals. Learn more about one way these criminals steal data — through watering hole attacks.

What are watering hole attacks?

Watering hole attacks are used to distribute malware onto victims’ computers in a similar way phishing activities are conducted. Cybercriminals infect popular websites with malware, and anyone who has had the misfortune to visit have their computers automatically loaded with malware.

The malware used in these attacks usually collects the target’s personal information and sends it back to the hacker’s server. In extreme cases, the hacker will actively take control of the infected computer.

But how does a hacker choose which websites to hack? With internet tracking tools, hackers find out which websites companies and individual users visit the most. They then attempt to find vulnerabilities in those websites and embed them with malicious software.

With such highly skilled hackers these days, virtually any website can fall victim to a watering hole attack. In fact, even high-profile websites like Twitter, Microsoft, Facebook, and Apple were compromised in 2013.

You can protect yourself by following these tips:

Update your software
Watering hole attacks often exploit holes and vulnerabilities to infiltrate your computer, so by updating your software and browsers regularly, you can significantly reduce the risk of an attack. Make it a habit to check the software developer’s website for any security patches. Or better yet, hire a managed IT services provider to keep your system up to date.

Watch your network closely
Regularly conduct security checks using your network security tools to try and detect watering hole attacks. For example, intrusion prevention systems allow you to detect suspicious and malicious network activities. Meanwhile, bandwidth management software will enable you to observe user behavior and detect abnormalities that could indicate an attack, such as large transfers of information or a high number of downloads.

Hide your online activities
Cybercriminals can create more effective watering hole attacks if they compromise websites only you and your employees frequent. As such, you should hide your online activities with a VPN and your browser’s private browsing feature. Also, block social media sites from your office network, as these are often used as share points of links to infected sites.

At the end of the day, the best protection is staying informed. As cyberthreats continue to evolve, you must always be vigilant and aware of the newest threats. Tune in to our blog to find out about the latest developments in security and to get more tips on how to keep your business safe.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Analytics are critical for effective data backups

Collecting data is vital for keeping records, tracking performance, and delighting customers. With so much on the line, it’s never been more important to have backups of all your files. If your data is growing at a rate that’s hard to keep up with, analytics tools are an awesome way to figure out which backups matter most and how to prioritize them.

An excess of information

Nowadays, too much data may sound like a good thing. But for many organizations, creating backups in real-time isn’t economical. So if you’ve wondered how you should structure your backup plan to prioritize the critical files, we have an answer: Analytics tools.

Analyzing vast amounts of data quickly and affordably has never been easier for small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs). The key is working with experienced IT professionals to customize a solution to meet your needs. As an MSP (managed IT services provider), we’ve spent years designing business continuity and disaster recovery plans, often for SMBs that couldn’t create backups every hour.

A smarter solution

Depending on your needs, we can set up sophisticated analytics tools that determine what is most essential to your business’s day-to-day operations. These solutions prioritize data in order of importance and translate that to a backup structure that ensures the right data is safe and sound should disaster strike.

These tools integrate with your existing data-backup solution but provide it with a map of what to save first, and what to leave for later. That results in faster recovery times in the event of untimely outages or disruptions. Furthermore, using analytics increases efficiency and decreases overall backup costs by providing a better picture of what is unimportant versus what is unnecessary.

SMBs have been the drivers of innovation for decades because, as they say, “necessity is the mother of invention.” So whether you’re interested in top-of-the-line IT solutions or just need to get a better handle on disaster recovery, we’re ready to create a customized backup solution, just for you. Take a second to analyze that, then give us a call.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Beware of distributed spam distraction

It’s frustrating to receive dozens of spam messages in your email inbox. Spam mail is so easy to delete, which is why most people think it’s just a harmless annoyance. But hackers have devised a way to make use of spam mail for criminal purposes. It’s called distributed spam distraction, and here’s what you need to know about it.

Understanding DSD
Distributed spam distraction (DSD) is designed to inundate your inbox with thousands of nonsensical email. There are no dangerous links, ads, or attachments involved, just random excerpts of text stolen from books and websites. What’s worse, the email and IP addresses used are all different, so victims can’t simply block a specific sender.

These attacks last anywhere from 12 to 24 hours and can flood inboxes with as many as 60,000 messages. While they may seem like harmless annoyances, the true purpose of DSD is to draw victims’ attention away from what hackers are doing behind the scenes.

And what hackers are doing is exploiting your personally identifiable information (PII) to make unauthorized purchases or pilfer cash directly from your accounts. The DSD acts as a sort of smokescreen to hide payment confirmation messages behind a deluge of spam messages.

New tactics
Over the years, hackers have developed new tactics involving DSD. Several reports have shown that, instead of nonsensical emails, hackers are using automated software to have their targets sign up for thousands of free accounts and newsletters to distract them with authentic messages. This allows DSD blasts to slip past spam filters that have been designed to weed out malicious code and gibberish text used by traditional DSD attacks.

What’s even more worrying is that any ill-intentioned individual can go on the dark web and pay for DSD services. They just have to provide a hacker with their target’s name, email address, and credit card numbers — all of which can also be purchased on the dark web — and pay as little as $40 to send 20,000 spam messages.

How to stop it
DSD is a clear sign that your account has been hijacked, so whenever you receive dozens of emails in quick succession, contact your bank to cancel any unfamiliar transactions and change your login credentials as soon as possible. It’s also important to update your anti-spam software (or get one if you still don’t have one) to protect your inbox from future DSD attacks.

Hackers only initiate DSD attacks after they’ve obtained their target’s email address and personal information, so make sure your accounts and identity are well protected. You should regularly change your passwords and pins, enable multifactor authentication, set up text alerts for whenever online purchases are made in your name, and be careful about sharing personal information.

For more tips on how to deal with DSD attacks and other cyberattacks, call us today. We offer powerful tools and expert advice that will ensure your business’s safety.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Are you maximizing your social media potential?

Social media as a component of marketing is continuously growing its own significant heartbeat in the industry — so much so that many businesses nowadays make exclusive use of it for their advertising and promotional needs.

Having great content on your site is the magnet that attracts visitors. However, when there is too much competition on the most popular platforms, it can be difficult to drive results based on social media reputation alone. To reap rewards from social media marketing, you need to devise new methods and augment your strategy with social media tools to stand out from the crowd.

Meetup

Meetup is a great site to plan face-to-face meetings with people with similar interests. Does your company sell hiking, camping, and backpacking products? Organize a meetup for the people in your community to go on a hike. You really can’t get a better customer interaction than engaging with them through the activities they love.

Eventbrite

Eventbrite is a formal events planning platform that helps you organize, plan, and market your event, along with an added bonus: recruitment potential. You can easily market yourself as an expert in an industry to either attract freelancers or educate potential customers about the problems you aim to solve for them.

Answer Forums

Popular answer forums such as Yahoo! Answers, Quora, and even certain Reddit sub-channels such as /r/askmeanything or /r/whatisthisthing let netizens crowdsource information about certain industries or products. Many companies use these to promote their brand by answering questions, most especially those that are within their expertise. This helps establish credibility and organic connection with prospective clients.

Disqus

Disqus is a great way to facilitate dialogue while protecting privacy and upholding etiquette and other standards. You can embed Disqus onto your online content such as videos or blog articles so that people can voice out their concerns or opinions but in a way that helps prevent flaming (the act of deliberately insulting or provoking other people online). Disqus lets moderators monitor and regulate responses closely so that the conversation remains civil and productive.

Slack

Most people who use the messaging app Slack see it as a way to communicate with friends and coworkers. However, with a little creativity, you can join conversations from all over the world to boost your online presence. There are countless channels devoted to industries, categories, hobbies and more. All you have to do is insert yourself and your company into the conversation to get people talking about your business!

It’s hard to deny that technology has made our lives more complicated. It can feel a little overwhelming at times. Thankfully, the answer is simple: partner with a managed technology provider. For a never-ending source of information on reputation and social media management, get in touch with us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Comparing the top business dashboards

A dashboard is a single display that provides all the information you need to make important business decisions and manage your company. While dashboards are generally helpful, you need to choose the one that works best for your company’s objectives and goals. Here are three types of business dashboards to consider.

Strategic dashboards

Ideal for senior managers and executives, strategic dashboards are designed to help identify potential opportunities for business expansion and improvement. This type of dashboard gives a bird’s-eye view of your business and track performance metrics against enterprise-wide strategic goals.

They summarize performance over set time frames: past month, quarter, or year. They can contain anything from overall sales numbers to sales and revenue comparisons to inventory levels, making it easy for executives to understand the overall health of the organization and monitor the long-term company strategy.

Operational dashboards

Business owners use operational dashboards to monitor and measure in real time the effectiveness and efficiency of their employees’ progress in relation to their targets. Since these dashboards focus on tracking operational processes, they are often more detailed than strategic dashboards and are usually viewed by junior levels of management multiple times throughout the day.

They are also commonly found in departments that need to respond to critical information quickly, such as marketing and operations. They help departments stay proactive and ahead of problems. For example, marketing teams can use this type of dashboard to monitor their campaign’s metrics such as cost per acquisition, total number of clicks, total acquisitions gained, and the total amount spent. Any significant changes would immediately alert the team. The operations team of manufacturing firms, on the other hand, may use this to track products manufactured, number of defects, complaints, and returns. They are then alerted right away when performance falls below targets.

Analytical dashboards

When it comes to creating and implementing strong business strategies, understanding the trends and events in your data is crucial. Analytical dashboards use volumes of data collected over time so you could compare current against historic data, enjoy in-depth analysis, identify patterns and opportunities, and determine why processes are working in certain departments. These dashboards present complex data, utilizing complex models and what-if statements, so they are commonly just used by staff with advanced training such as business analysts.

How do I know which dashboard to choose?

To help you choose which dashboard best suits your needs, you can ask yourself the following questions:

#1. What business problems are we trying to solve?

  • Strategic dashboards – Top-line organizational KPIs
  • Operational dashboards – Data awareness and time-sensitive data
  • Analytical dashboards – Trends or deeper insights

#2. Who will be using the dashboards?

  • Strategic dashboards – Executives, directors
  • Operational dashboards – Business managers
  • Analytical dashboards – Business analysts, data analysts

#3. What are our goals?

  • Strategic dashboards – Strategic goals, such as achieving KPI targets
  • Operational dashboards – Employee awareness and tracking against goals
  • Analytical dashboards – Analytic goals, such as visibility into key processes

Dashboards concentrate all data, metrics, and parameters in one place, bringing a totally new dimension to business intelligence. Your company can significantly benefit from the right dashboard. If you’re looking to implement dashboards for the first time or to enhance the functionality of your current dashboard, get in touch with us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Boosting SMB marketing with automation

Small business marketing has often been a difficult endeavor for small business owners. Marketing involves a great deal of time and effort, and can require a significant financial investment. Previously, only large corporations could afford marketing automation, but that’s no longer the case. Read the five most profitable benefits of this new IT innovation here.

Instant responses to email requests
If a customer or prospect sends your business an email via your website or a “Contact Us” form, any delay in response could ultimately cost you a client. But if you have a marketing automation plan in place, you can customize automatic email responses to respond to these leads as soon as an email is received. This either provides potential customers with the information they requested or informs them that you will be responding in greater detail soon.

Stop leaving voicemails and start closing deals
There’s a reason most people prefer to communicate via email: Keeping in touch over the phone can be tough if both parties are always busy. An automated system solves this by logging when you’ve contacted leads and automatically emailing them about follow-up times. The call, email, and its response are all logged in your CRM and calendar without a single minute wasted on inputting mundane information.

Inbound lead assignment
When you have phone calls, emails, and meetings piling up, it’s hard to keep track of which customer goes where and who is working with them. With marketing automation software and tracking, customer service representatives are automatically assigned to inbound leads based on specialties and demographics so they can begin working on building profitable rapport right away.

Give and you shall receive
Potential clients and leads get dozens, sometimes hundreds, of business emails every day. You need something to set your business apart from the rest. By offering valuable content such as how-to guides and total cost of ownership tools in exchange for contact information, you can provide prospects with content they actually want.

All it takes is a web form and some creative writing that ultimately leads visitors back to your products and/or services. Your automation software delivers content to anyone who provides contact information, and it downloads metrics that can be tracked and analyzed by your solution.

Never type another phone number again
Networking events mean new contacts and new leads. They used to mean having to keep track of thick stacks of business cards, but cutting-edge marketing tools now make it possible to take a picture of contact information and automatically store it as part of a cloud-based database. Call-ins, scanned business cards, and received emails all get organized into a single digital Rolodex with recommendations on whom to contact and when it is best to do so — without one minute of tedious data entry.

Every business owner knows that automating mindless tasks is a worthwhile investment. But not everyone knows just what sort of tools are available to help you cut down on wasted work. Our team specializes in using technology to add value to your business, and we believe that if you’re not utilizing any of the solutions above, that’s the best place to start. Get in touch with us today to make your marketing technology work for you.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Turn Instagram followers into customers

Instagram has become one of the most popular social networks to date. One billion active users consume its image-heavy content every day. Aside from it being a photo-sharing app with fun filters, Instagram has demonstrated its capability to turn your followers into customers. Make the most out of your Instagram account with these practical tips.

Ensure your posts are shoppable

This simply means providing a convenient path where your followers can buy the products posted on your page. With the right Instagram tool, you can direct users to your online shop where they can make an actual purchase. Instagram is, arguably, not the best eCommerce platform to use if you depend on clickable media, but if you know how to tweak the app to your advantage — and provide an attractive presentation of your products — you can turn likes into sales.

Give away discount codes or coupons

Encourage followers to engage with you and share content with incentives such as discount codes or coupons. You can do this by running contests with an interesting concept, cool prizes, and a sharing or voting element that encourages participants to share your content with their friends. Better yet, engage followers with user-generated content via photo contests, resulting in free promotion for your brand.

Come up with a strong call to action (CTA)

Instagram doesn’t exactly have the most mobile-friendly CTAs, but don’t let this prevent you from sending followers to your sales page. Whether it’s telling them to go to the link on your bio or simply incorporating a shoppable Instagram feature on your page, specific instructions on how to buy or learn more about your product can spell the difference between making a sale and being ignored.

Post frequently and make the most of all available tools

Post photos using stylish filters, create snappy and quirky videos, or let your followers take a friendly behind-the-scenes peek at your organization using the Stories feature. Come up with a catchy and relatable caption that encourages participation and engages your core audience. Also important: always use hashtags on your posts. Any business Instagrammer worth his or her salt knows that a simple hashtag can pave the way for other users to reach your content and, ultimately, buy your product.

Repost content from brands in your niche

There may be instances when you won’t need to create your own Instagram content (especially if you lack the time to produce your own). Other accounts may already be successful in their efforts to engage your target audience, and there’s nothing wrong with reposting content from similar brands as part of your strategy to earn exposure for your account, as long as you ask permission and give credit where it’s due.

Search for brands in Instagram that inspire you and your target audience but are not direct competitors. You can use hashtags to help narrow the search and display the most relevant accounts. Follow these brands, and save any share-worthy posts in a collection with the bookmark icon.

When you find an Instagram post that is worth sharing, either comment on the post or send a private message to the account, and mention that you like the content and you think your followers will enjoy it too. Ask for permission to share the post on your feed, and assure the owner you’ll give them proper credit.

With some creativity, visual flair, and a well-defined strategy, these tips can help transform your Instagram feed into an attractive online sales generator. If you need further advice on how you can make the most of your social media presence, contact us and we’ll be happy to help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

5 Tips for protecting corporate data

A data breach can happen to anyone, even to the most secure businesses or financial institutions — and cybercriminals could even attack your company’s network. How can you be sure your network is completely hacker-safe? As a business owner, you can’t afford a data breach, as it could cost you your clients and reputation. Employing strict security measures can make any cybercriminal think twice about trying to break into your network. Here are some tips to protect your corporate data.

Use Two-Factor Authentication

Using a complicated password to secure your system is no longer an effective way to solve the issue of cybersecurity. We tend to use that same complex password in our email accounts or bank accounts, and if one of your logins is compromised, this can result in grave consequences.

Two-factor authentication (2FA) adds an extra layer of security for your systems and accounts. It can be biometric verification for devices that you own, or a time-sensitive auto-generated code that is sent to your mobile phone. This security feature works in the same way websites would require you to confirm your email address. They want to make sure that you’re not a bot or anything else.

Encrypt all data

Encryption is a great obstruction to hackers, since it scrambles and descrambles data every time someone tries to read it. Encryption also causes compatibility issues if the data is not being accessed via the company’s own network systems. While applying encryption can be costly, it is certainly well worth the money if it can protect your business data from falling into the wrong hands.

Keep systems up to date

Technology is moving at a fast pace. Hackers are always upgrading their tools to take advantage of outdated security systems, so companies should do likewise to protect their valuable resources. Yet many companies don’t install software updates immediately. If the update closes existing security loopholes, delaying an update exposes you to external attacks. So install software updates as soon as they are released.

Back up frequently

Although you’ve implemented several layers to your security, sometimes hackers can still find their way in. This is why you need to back up data frequently, whether it’s on-site, off-site, or by way of cloud backups. In the worst-case scenario where your systems do get infiltrated, you can restore lost data from those backups.

Monitor connectivity

Many businesses have no idea how many computers they have, so it’s very hard to keep track of which computers are online. Sometimes a company’s computers and servers are online when they don’t need to be, making them tempting targets for attackers. It’s advisable to configure business servers properly, ensuring that only necessary machines are online and that they’re well-protected.

It’s much more expensive to recover from a data breach than to prevent one. If you’re looking to protect your business IT systems for potential threats, contact us today so we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Disaster recovery during hurricane season

There’s no telling when natural disasters will occur. When they do, certain regions in the country often bear the brunt of their impact, like when Hurricanes Harvey and Irma hit certain states in 2017. With a well-designed disaster recovery (DR) plan, your business can be spared from total devastation.

Determine recovery hierarchy

Certain parts of your IT are more mission-critical than others. Ask yourself which systems or data must be recovered in minutes, hours, or days to get your business back to running efficiently.

For example, you may find that recovering sensitive customer information and eCommerce systems take priority over recovering your email server. Whatever the case may be, prioritizing your systems ensures that the right ones are recovered quickly after a disaster.

Pay attention to location

First and foremost, your backup site should be in a hurricane-free zone. Ideally, your off-site facility should be located at least 100 miles away from your main location. If this isn’t possible, make sure it is built to withstand wind speeds of 160 mph (as fast as Category 5 storms), and is supported by backup generators and uninterruptible power supplies.

You should also request an upper floor installation or, at the very least, keep critical IT equipment 18 inches off the ground to prevent water damage.

Use image-based backups

Unlike fragile tape backups, image-based backups take “snapshots” of your systems, creating a copy of the OS, software, and data stored in it. From there, you can easily boot the virtual image on any device, allowing you to back up and restore critical business systems in seconds.

Take advantage of the cloud

The cloud allows you to host applications and store data in high-availability, geo-redundant servers. This means your backups can be accessed via the internet, allowing authorized users to access critical files from any device. Expert technicians will also watch over and secure your backups, allowing you to enjoy the benefits of enterprise-level backup facilities and IT support.

Back up your data frequently

Back up your data often, especially during disaster season. If your latest backups were created on the 15th of September and the next storm makes landfall on the 28th, you could lose nearly two weeks of data.

Get in the habit of replicating your files at the end of each day, which should be easy if you’ve opted for image-based backups.

Test your DR plan

After setting up your backups, check whether they are restoring your files accurately and on time. Your employees should be drilled on the recovery procedures and their responsibilities during and after disaster strikes. Your DR team should also be trained on how to failover to the backup site before the storm hits. Finally, providers, contractors, and customers need to be notified about how the hurricane will affect your operations.

As cell towers and internet connections may be affected during this time, make sure your company forums are online and have your employees register with the Red Cross Safe and Well website so you can check their statuses.

It’s nearly impossible to experience little-to-no disruptions during disasters like Harvey or Irma, but with the right support, you can minimize downtime. If you’re concerned about any natural disasters putting you out of business, call us today. We offer comprehensive business continuity services that every company should have.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.