Did you know that every business is at risk for a cyberattack? The only difference is how much risk and what impact it will have to your customers and employees.

No matter the extent to which your business is at risk, all organizations should be aware of the potential dangers and take measures to mitigate these dangers. Many business owners know they are at jeopardy but are unclear on what steps they should take. Refusing to act leaves the business, employees, and your customers vulnerable.

Even if the possibility that your business experiences a cybercrime is low, we encourage you to not take it lightly. Attacks are increasing in efficiency, sophistication and spread. Cyber criminals are rarely pursued or caught, due in part to both the sheer volume of crimes relative to criminal justice resources, and often the lack of awareness from businesses that they have even been attacked.

At Go West IT we help our customers mitigate these attacks every day and have firsthand knowledge of the fallout some organizations experience. Executives, managers, and even IT professionals often discount the risk, or decline to address it further.

This article identifies the top 5 reasons why businesses ignore their cyber risk, along with actions that your business can take despite these barriers.

Download the full article here.

Contact Go West IT today to learn more about how our team can assist your business tackle cyber risk.

It was not that long ago that cyber insurance was something only purchased by large companies with a heavy reliance on data processing. Today, cyber insurance is something that many small businesses carry, and every small business should consider. If a business has the support of a cyber insurance carrier it creates a safety net in the wake of a cybercrime incident.

Cyber insurance claims most often result from a business falling victim to cybercrime such as ransomware, data theft, or payment fraud. In these situations, the cyber insurance carriers should be brought to the table as soon as possible. Cyber insurance carriers create policies to include resources in the form of services to help minimize potential losses. These services include incident response, forensic investigation services, remediation, business resumption services, and even ransomware negotiation services. They do this because they understand that the manner in which a business responds to an incident can help minimize potential loss.

Cybercrime events can take a heavy toll on business operations, along with a substantial mental toll on business leaders. Most of whom often do not possess the skills and tools required to deal effectively with a cyber incident. Go West IT has experience dealing with cyber events both with the aid of an insurance carrier and without and have seen the difference that having an insurance company in your corner can make. It can turn a stressful and potentially costly event into a manageable business obstacle.

Check out Go West IT’s full article regarding cyber insurance.

Cyber Insurance article thumbnail

Go West IT offers a financially backed “No Breach Guarantee” that will pay the cost of a customer’s cyber insurance premium if they use our subscribed services and still fall victim to a cyber-attack. Contact Go West IT for more information.

Incident Response

What is an incident response plan?

Cyber incidents are on the rise.  This has been true and will continue to be true for the foreseeable future.   It is important to have a solid incident response plan, regardless of the size of your organization. 

An incident response plan includes six key components:

  1. Preparation
  2. Identification
  3. Containment
  4. Eradication/Remediation
  5. Recovery
  6. Lessons Learned – Review & Improve

An incident, in the context of Information Technology (IT) & data security, is any event that threatens the security and preservation of systems, data, people, and ultimately businesses.  An incident is most often thought of as event perpetrated by a threat actor (criminal) in an attempt to disrupt a system, gain  unauthorized access to systems and data, to change systems, to alter or destroy data, or to disrupt the legitimate intended use of systems and data.

Preparation for an incident requires that a business accept that an incident may occur and plan for how to deal with this eventuality.  The result of preparation is the incident response plan.  Preparation amounts to considering the various types of incidents that might occur and contemplating what resources, information, and planning might be necessary to deal with an incident, and then staging resources and planning so that you can call up the resources and refer to the plan in the event of a real incident.  Preparation saves valuable time and may mitigate the actual damage or cost incurred to recover from an incident.  

Identification is becoming aware of the fact that your business has experienced an incident.  Most cyberattacks start long before a business is aware of the incident.  Identification typically starts with an indication of breach (IoC) which can come from MANY sources.  An IoC might be:

An indication of compromise may lead to identification of an incident that will kick the incident response plan into action.  Businesses should seek to move from identification to containment as quickly as possible.

Containment is the effort and actions taken to keep the incident from getting worse.  This stage often requires the help of an IT expert to quickly gather details, determine the best course of action and taking action to neutralize the threat while preserving data and evidence.  Containment also requires a good communication plan that includes keeping key personnel informed while limiting dissemination of information to those who DO NOT have a need to know.  For example, an IT expert might determine that certain systems need to be disconnected from networks or that certain accounts or services should be disabled to contain a threat.  At the same time, leadership personnel may need to quickly establish who needs to know what is happening and perhaps as importantly, who should not be informed so that proper consideration may be given to the nature of the communication that should occur between the business, vendors, customers, and even the public or media.  Communication during the containment stage is typically limited to only those individuals who play a role in containment or in managing communications.  Disclosure of the incident to affected parties typically comes during the remediation or recovery phase.

The Eradication and remediation stage is when a business endeavors to eliminate the threat.  This stage often includes validating data integrity, validating access controls, restoring systems and data to a known good state, and preparing for the resumption of business operations.  The duration of eradication and remediation will vary based on the nature of and impact of the incident.  When the duration is prolonged, this stage may also require significant a communication component to keep stakeholders informed.  This is also the stage where insurance carriers are notified if the business has cyber insurance.  Cyber insurance carriers often bring significant resources to the table during this stage to include forensic investigations, remediation recommendations, legal support, and incident response resources.  This stage often includes frequent status meetings with stakeholders and IT professionals.   

It is important to consider preservation of evidence prior to eradication if the incident has the potential for data privacy, contractual, or other legal implications.  Forensic evidence most often requires full backups of effected systems and preservation of any log files.

Recovery is the process of resuming business operations.  Resumption of operations should not occur until eradication and remediation is complete.   Recovery duration will vary based on the nature and extent of the incident and additional monitoring and support is typically employed to prevent recurrence of the incident and/or early detection of unintended consequences that results from the original incident or the containment and eradication stages.

Recovery will also include notification and/or disclosure of the incident to affected parties.  Legal counsel is often involved if disclosure is required and insurance carriers play a key role in the recovery stage if cyber insurance coverage was in place at the time of the incident.

Lessons learned is the process of reviewing the incident with an eye to prevent reoccurrence and to improve the response process.  Eliminating 100% of the risk associated with cyber incidents is not possible.  The objective should be to continually mitigate risk when and where feasible.  Looking back at cyber incidents almost always reveals a control or action that may have prevented or at least mitigated the likelihood of the incident in the first place.  It is important to leverage the valuable and often expensive knowledge a business gains as a result of responding to an incident.

Businesses today are under constant threat of falling victim to a cybercrime.  According to the FBI, between 2016 and 2019 there was an estimated $26 billion in losses related to Business Email Compromises (BEC) alone*.

Go West IT often gains new customers after an organization experiences a cybercrime and seeks assistance in remediation and reduction of future risk.  For existing Go West IT customers, we strive to continually provide an updated suite of services and cutting-edge industry tools, matched with a highly skilled team driven by a relentless focus on security.  

Our core purpose is to empower people, solve problems, and protect livelihoods, so we hate to see any business suffer the pain and financial strain that results from a cybercrime.  This is why we are excited to announce the creation of the Go West IT No Breach Guarantee.  We are so confident in the effectiveness of our managed security service offerings and expert personnel, that we now offer a financially backed No Breach Guarantee that will reimburse your business 100% of your existing annual cyber insurance premium if you experience a breach.  

Visit https:\\www.gowestit.com\guarantee for more information.

*ic3.gov/media/2019/190910.aspx

Go West IT prides itself on our “security-obsessed” culture, with a focus on providing services and tools to allow our customers to better protect their business. As many organizations are facing the long-term shift to a remote work strategy, the need for more advanced security services only deepens further. That’s why our Cybersecurity in Colorado provides elite-level solutions for all sizes and types of businesses.

Safeguard your employees, strengthen controls, and reduce organization risk through supplementary layers of protection.

DEFEND | EDUCATE | CONTROL

Targeting the protection of users and data, the Go Secured family of managed security service plans (MSSP) provides additional software, tools, and user training to increase the overall security posture of an organization.

Cybersecurity in Colorado

Go Secured equips an organization with solutions to educate and protect users against phishing attacks, implement advanced email filters, leverage tools to increase the complexity and safeguards for user credentials, as well as protect critical corporate data and communications platforms with increased backup and disaster recovery features. These fully managed plans include labor for configuration and ongoing administration, providing organizational leaders peace of mind.

Go Secured | Vault – enterprise-class password manager

Go Secured | Phish – simulated phishing attacks & ongoing training

Go Secured | 365 – advanced threat protection, email filtering & backup services

More details on Go Secured and our Cybersecurity in Colorado, visit this page here: https://www.gowestit.com/managed-services/#gosecured

Most businesses have a business continuity plan (BCP). These plans range from well documented and routinely tested, to rough ideas about how a business will cope with unforeseen circumstances. Every single business in America has now grappled with how to continue operations during the COVID-19 crisis and it has changed BCPs forever. I now challenge business owners to stop thinking in terms of business continuity and start thinking in terms of operational adaptability.

The distinction between business continuity and operational adaptability is important. Continuity is “uninterrupted duration or continuation especially without essential change,”1  while adaptability is the “ability to change or be changed in order to fit or work better in some situation or for some purpose.”2  Businesses did not continue without essential change through this crisis. Rather, they adapted to work better in some situations or for some purpose.

Go West IT worked alongside many businesses to guide them through rapid adaptation in response to COVID-19 and resulting public policy. I saw very little evidence of businesses opening their BCPs and working through the thoughtfully developed steps and processes. I witnessed rapid troubleshooting and change with a focus on taking care of employees and customers. What I saw was operational adaptation.

Today, as businesses come to grip with “the new normal,” I worry that the real lesson is being missed. The lesson is the value of operational adaptability. Continued pursuit of our purpose requires that we adapt. Our purpose at Go West IT is to empower people, solve problems, and protect livelihoods.  Adaptation is necessary so that we may achieve our purpose on behalf of our staff and customers.

The result of adaptation necessitated by the lockdown may prove to have been a huge operational advance. While there is likely still much short-term pain ahead of us, I believe the business community has learned that:

  • work from home strategies are viable; and
  • business travel may not be essential; and
  • cloud technologies and their scalability (up and down) is more valuable than the delta of a simple CapEx vs. OpEx calculation.

We have also learned that people can adapt, and that they do so quickly when in pursuit of a worthy purpose.

Focus on adaptation to continue in the pursuit of your purpose.

P.S.  I understand that many businesses have a regulatory requirement to develop, test, and maintain BCPs. Do that. However, note the lessons learned and think in terms of adaptability rather than continuity, just as I seek ways to adapt our new, larger, and mostly empty office space to better empower people, solve problems, and protect livelihoods.

  1. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/continuity
  2. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/adaptability

Go West IT started business ten years ago today. I remember the day very well. The similarities between then and now are striking. We were faced with many unknowns. We watched cashflow very closely. We innovated and adapted quickly. Most importantly, we focused on taking care of customers and employees. We knew there would be challenges and we knew we would rise to the occasion and thrive. We have and we will.

Ten years is an important benchmark. In late 2019 we began talking about how to celebrate. We are moving into new office space this July and decided to combine our anniversary celebration with an open house in our space. That was pre-COVID-19. I am embarrassed to say that we have not talked much about our anniversary internally since then and to be honest, the date caught me by surprise this week.  

We are, once again, intensely focused on our core purpose to empower people, solve problems, and protect livelihoods. Despite the worry that accompanies uncertainty, I believe we are doing some of our best work ever to improve our solutions and systems with the objective of helping our customers through secure digital transformation. It is truly energizing in the same way it was when Go West IT started ten years ago today. 

I want to express my sincere thanks to our customers, many of whom started with us on May 15, 2010. I want to thank the many friends, vendors, and trusted advisors who have helped Go West IT. I want also to express my sincere thanks to our people at Go West IT, past and present. This is simply the best team I have ever worked with, period. 

For Immediate Release April 21, 2020 – Go West IT

Go West IT has joined with IT service providers across America to commit to strong economy and job protection values when using stimulus funds.  The MSP Stimulus Pledge (www.mspstimuluspledge.com) is a collective of peers and competitors in the IT Services industry committing to using government assistance, including PPP funds, as intended: to keep team members employed and keep the economy moving.

“We have a responsibility to use stimulus money for the purpose it was intended and this aligns perfectly with our purpose to empower people, solve problems, and protect livelihoods.” says David Lewien, President of Go West IT, a managed service provider based in Colorado.  “Our purpose drives everything we do and extends the impact of our dedicated team of professionals to our customers, their employees, their vendors, their employees, and so on, and so on.  The work we do every day protects livelihoods and we are pleased to take the MSP stimulus pledge.”

The MSP Stimulus Pledge brings regional and national competitors together for the greater good of employees, the industry, and the business community.

Learn more, sign the pledge, and see the pledging companies at www.mspstimuluspledge.com.

The Pledge

The MSP Stimulus Pledge asks organizations to use stimulus funds to commit to:

  • Avoiding layoffs of staff and pay reductions
  • Paying bills on time
  • Providing no increase in owner’s compensation
  • Working as partners with our vendors without demanding concessions simply because we can use the leverage of economic conditions
  • Running our businesses in a manner that creates a strong foundation for our employees and clients into a new future

Businesses are rapidly shifting to work from home strategies in response to the current COVID-19 situation.  Many are already adept at working from home and have strategies in place to protect networks, endpoints, and systems.  They have proven policies in place to keep tabs on business IT assets and ensure that systems are constantly patched while temporarily disconnected from the office network.  Antivirus monitoring still occurs, and their IT Managed Service Provider has already helped to secure remote access to systems and manage endpoint controls to keep their business secure.

This list is for businesses who did not have a plan in place and are being forced to shift rapidly.  There is still plenty that you can do to protect your business during a less than ideal work from home (WFH) situation.

If you run a business and have staff temporarily working from home, it is extremely important that you implement multi-factor authentication (MFA) for your email platform (Office 365, Gmail, etc.) and for VPN access.  MFA is the very best way to reduce the most likely cyberattack vector, credential harvesting via email phishing.

The following is a list of things that you can ask of your remote workers.  Some of them will be able to tackle these tasks on their own, others will need help.  Do what you can now and circle back to close any gaps as time permits.

Practical, easily implemented, work from home security strategies.

  • Update the firmware on home Wi-Fi routers.  Cyber criminals take advantage of known vulnerabilities to gain access to your home network. Fortunately, router manufacturers routinely release patches for known vulnerabilities, you just need to apply them.
    • Step 1 – Log into your router.  If you don’t know how to do this, first find the name and model number of your Wi-Fi router. Then, search Google for instructions on how to access your router’s internal web server/admin page.   In most cases you access this via a web browser on a computer connected to your network.
    • Step 2 – Take a backup.  Backups give you a restore point should something goes wrong during the update.  Look through the Admin settings in the router to find a backup option.  If you can’t find it, Google your router model to find instructions.
    • Step 2 – Run updates.  Look through the Admin settings in the router to find a firmware update option.  Again, if you can’t find it, turn to Google for some help.

  • Set a new admin password on your home Wi-Fi router.  The administrative credentials you used to access your router are the keys to the castle.  They should NOT be left at the manufacturer defaults (e.g. admin, password) and they should be very strong.
    • Step 1 – Log into the router with your existing admin credentials.  If you don’t know them or don’t remember them, turn to Google to see if you can find instructions on how to reset the password OR try the default credentials for your router and give that a try.
    • Step 2 – Look through the Admin settings in the router to find an option to change the admin password.  Change it to something unique and long (15 – 26 characters).  The longer the password, the better.   Make sure to record the new password so you can find it when you need it (a password manager is the best place to store credentials).   Make sure the admin password on your home Wi-Fi router is NOT the default and it is long (15 – 26 characters)

  • Save the non-business Internet browsing, social media, email, and chat for your personal devices and your home/personal Wi-Fi network.  As tempting as it might be to browse the Internet while your co-workers aren’t looking over your shoulder, you don’t want to be the one to introduce a virus while you’re working from home without your business firewall and otherrestrictions to keep you protected.  Do it on your own device, not the business device.

  • Devices accessing and storing any sensitive, confidential, or personally identifiable information (PII) should be encrypted.  Windows 10 Professional operating systems can be encrypted using the built in Bitlocker.  Be sure to keep a record of the encryption keys.  When possible, a PIN code or passphrase on boot up is preferred to using windows credentials to unlock.  If you are using a computer owned by your employer, you should consult with your IT department or management before encrypting the device on your own.
  • If you are using a personal device (PC, Laptop, iPad…) to work from home (or if your business doesn’t already have a strategy in place for antivirus, operating system patches, account privileges, and a password manager):
    • Install and update a good antivirus application.  If you don’t have antivirus software, consider using Windows Defender (free for Windows devices and baked into Windows 10) or consider purchasing one.  Macs also need antivirus protection.
    • Make sure antivirus is running and launch the antivirus program to check for updates and set the software to automatically update as required.
    • Check for Operating System updates and install them until there are no more updates to install.  If you don’t know how to do this, Google “how to run updates on [your operating system here]” and follow the instructions.  If you have a Windows device the instructions should come from Microsoft.  If you have a Mac, the instructions should come from Apple.  Do NOT download updates from anywhere other than the manufacture.  Windows and Mac updates are performed from the device and you don’t need to visit a website for updates.  Be careful not to download updates from a malicious website.
      • For Windows, click on the start icon and type “Windows Updates” and choose the option to install updates on your computer.
    • Create a separate admin account to be used only when you must perform an administrative task (i.e. install a printer or a new application).  Use a non-admin account for your day to day personal and work tasks.
      • Step 1 – Create a new user on your computer with administrative rights.  Keep a record of the new username and password (a password manager is the best place to store credentials).
      • Step 2 – Log off your computer and log in with the new admin user you created.
      • Step 3- Find your primary user account and make that user a non-admin or “standard” user.
      • Step 4 – Log off with the admin account, log back in with your primary user account and work as usual.  If you are prompted for administrative credentials while trying to install software, a printer, running updates, or some other expected reason, enter your admin credentials to allow the task to complete.  If you are prompted for admin credentials out of the blue, it might be an indication that you’ve tripped across malicious software that is attempting to install on your system.  Don’t enter the admin credentials unless you are sure it is for a legitimate purpose.

  • Purchase and use a password manager.  There are many on the market.  Following are a few of the most popular:
    • StickyPassword.com
    • keepersecurity.com
    • dashlane.com

  • Be on the lookout for email phishing scams designed to harvest your credentials and gain access to your work or personal email.  Criminals will absolutely attempt to use the fear and uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 environment to entice people to cough up their usernames and passwords.  You will likely see “apply for assistance…”, “sign up now for information…”, “login to protect your account…”, “login to access government assistance…”.  Suspicion is not retroactive.  Slow down and think before you act.  Anything marked “urgent” or where you are being pressured to “act now” should raise your level of suspicion.

  • Proactively change passwords that haven’t been changed in the last 30 days.  Consider the following:
    • Workstation (Windows or Mac) login.
    • Office 365
    • Windows Active Directory
    • Personal email
    • Wi-Fi Router admin credentials
    • Wi-Fi wireless password (SSID & Guest)

  • Take an inventory of where you are storing important data (business and personal).  Is that data being backed up?  If not, implement a backup strategy. If this needs to be done on the fly consider an online cloud service or backing up to USB drive and then getting that drive disconnected from your systems so that it isn’t encrypted along with everything else on your computer in the event of a ransomware attack.

The above guidance is provided with the intention of helping businesses and their people while we all work to make sound decisions in a rapidly changing environment.  These guidelines are not comprehensive.  Rather, they are intended to address some of the most significant risks.  Some of the above recommendations will not be possible in your environment and may even give rise to other issues.

If you are using IT assets owned by your employer, it is very important that you consult with your IT personnel or IT Managed Service Provider before acting.  They may already be managing some of these things for you and/or ad hoc changes might cause other issues.

If you run a business and would like help managing the above tasks proactively and without having to rely on your personnel to do this on their own, please call Go West IT.  We will be happy to help, and we have resources standing by to tackle this for you.

Third party VPN services do not secure your data.  They may provide an additional brick in your security bunker but they are not the invisibility cloak they claim to be and in some cases they may actually do more harm than good.  For starters, who is your third party VPN service provider?  Are they trustworthy?  Are they subject to US or EU privacy laws?  Or, did you just decided to pipe 100% of your data through an unknown third party?

Three very popular third party VPN service providers, NordVPN, VikingVPN, and TorGuard, were recently breached due in part to poor security practices that resulted in leaked expired TLS (encryption) keys.  Now users of these services may be sharing their data with an unknown criminal instead of the third party service provider.

Just like all security measures, they are only as good as the weakest link.  Businesses and individuals need to discover their vulnerabilities, prioritize their vulnerabilities, and then systematically work to layer security to mitigate the risk.  Start by securing corporate networks with a good Unified Threat Management (UTM) appliance, making sure 100% of your devices have good business class endpoint protection software that is automatically updated, patch all of your hardware and software on a routine basis, BACK UP YOUR DATA, implement phishing prevention measures, and TRAIN YOUR PEOPLE.  This is just a start.  If you don’t know how to do this, put something in your budget to work with someone who can help and get started on the path to better security.

– Go West IT