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

Today the FBI issued a renewed Public Service Announcement (PSA) warning to businesses regarding cyber crime, and more specifically ransomware risk.  If you are not taking action, you are going backward.  All businesses should be regularly reviewing their cybersecurity posture and seeking to make incremental improvements.  Start making improvements today and use the FBI’s PSA as a blueprint.

The PSA can be found at https://www.ic3.gov/media/2019/191002.aspx.

Cyber defense best practices include:

  • Regularly back up your data and verify backup integrity.
  • Focus on awareness and training for employees.
  • Patch your operating systems, software, and firmware on devices.
  • Ensure antivirus and anti-malware is in use on all devices and routinely updated.
  • Implement access controls to limit access based on the principle of least access required to limit potential impact/spread of an attack.

More best practices are listed in the FBI’s PSA. Go West IT helps businesses do all of these things and more every day.  The choice is yours, stand still and go backward or choose to mitigate the known risk to your business.

Please reach out to Go West IT if you have any concerns for your business.

– Go West IT

My tour of the @Microsoft Cyber Defense Operations Center (CDOC) this week was the highlight of my visit to the Microsoft campus in Redmond, WA.  I was one of approximately 150 Microsoft partners invited to attend a small & medium sized business (SMB) partner executive briefing.   The briefing provided @GoWestIT with a valuable road map for new solutions to improve productivity and security for our small business customers.  I love seeing what is ahead and the briefing was heavy on Artificial Intelligence (AI), and Machine Learning (ML) and there is no doubt small businesses will benefit from these technologies delivered via the Microsoft Azure cloud.

I was most impressed with what Microsoft has been doing rather than what is coming.  Microsoft developed technology to create digital fingerprints of photos and has donated the use of this technology to organizations like Dartmouth University to help fight the exploitation and abuse of children.  The exploitation statistics are staggering and Microsoft is leading the charge to address the problem with technology by helping to trace images back to the source and thereby the criminal and then to aid law enforcement in building cases to prosecute the criminals.  I had no idea that Microsoft was doing so much in this regard and it is impressive to see what an organization like Microsoft can accomplish for the better good when they point their resources and skills at a problem.

Our chaperone explained the jurisdictional challenges associated with finding and prosecuting criminals across national boarders and the antiquated laws used to prosecute cyber crime.  Many cyber criminals are prosecuted under centuries old laws pertaining to chattel (cattle).  The very old laws were introduced to protect property rights for cattle that wander across a property line and end up being butchered by a neighbor neighbor.  Perhaps it is time for some updates to international law to help fight cybercrime?

I always enjoy talking cyber security.  If you want to visit about what I saw and learned please just let me know.  We can jump on a call or meet for coffee.

Do you remember when Windows XP reached the end of its support lifecycle? We sure do, and it’s about to happen again with Windows 7 and Server 2008.

Microsoft supports their operating systems for a minimum of 10 years following public release, after which, they pick a date to end all security updates for good. This is what we call End of Life, or EOL.

Windows 7 and Server 2008 are reaching EOL on 1/14/2020 just like Windows XP did in 2015. This does not mean that your computer or server will power down on 1/14/2020 and refuse to turn back on. What EOL means is simply that you Windows 7 PC or Server 2008 has received its final security update on Tuesday, 1/14/2020, and will forever remain unpatched and unprotected from vulnerabilities that become known after that date.

Why is EOL a concern?

Every Tuesday, Microsoft publishes a list of newly discovered and exploited vulnerabilities across their operating systems along with corresponding patches to fix the vulnerabilities for supported operating systems. Criminals study Microsoft’s list and reverse-engineer the public list of exploits and patches to take advantage of unpatched operating systems. Since most of the behind-the-scenes code remains consistent between older and newer operating systems, unsupported systems running Windows 7 and Server 2008 become the easiest, most obvious targets. Every time your computer or server accesses a web-page, it includes its operating system, broadcasting to the world that it is vulnerable.

You may be asking yourself: “I am running Server 2008 or Windows 7. What do I do?”

You have 4 options:

  1. Upgrade your operating system: This is the least-expensive option, but you are still stuck with your aging hardware. In addition, you’ve sunk several hundred dollars’ worth of labor and licensing into an aging computer. This is an OK choice if your computer is fairly new.
  2. Replace the computer with a modern system: This is self-explanatory. New computers (especially servers) are expensive, but now you have a brand-new computer with many years of life ahead of it.
  3. Migrate to Azure: This option only applies to Server 2008. If you migrate your Windows Server 2008 to Azure, Microsoft is offering an additional 3 years of extended support and security updates at no cost. Migrating to Azure is a relatively simple process and has several distinct advantages over physical servers, such as the ability to upsize or downsize resources on demand, improved security if configured properly, and the eradication of hardware failure.
  4. Ignore EOL and keep using your operating system: This is a very bad idea in the age of viruses, malware, and cyber-attacks. Even if this computer’s use is “coupon-clipping” only, consider your keystrokes, webcam, microphone, and browsing activity potentially compromised.

I’m often contacted by CEOs or managers after a business experiences a cyber incident that results in real damages. After describing the event, they often ask if they should fire an employee who fell victim to a social engineering attack (vishing, phishing, credential harvesting…).  In most cases the answer is a resounding NO! First, the business just spent the amount of the loss training the individual because that person will never again fall for the same type of attack. Second, it is HIGHLY likely that the manager and/or company failed this individual by not implementing the proper controls and providing the proper training to prevent the breach in the first place. Third, if you do fire the employee, they will likely go to a competitor who will be happy to have a good employee who is more savvy than most about cyber risk.

If you own a business or have responsibility for managing business risk you need to take steps to protect your business, your shareholders, your employees, your vendors, and most importantly your customers. It’s on you! It is likely that you’ve delegated responsibility for IT support and cyber security, but you are the leader and you are responsible for defining your expectations and supporting the initiatives to implement controls, procedures, and training. If you haven’t implemented controls and trained your people, it’s on you. Don’t fire the employee who fell victim to an attack. Step up and protect your employees.

– David Lewien, President

 

I really hate hearing from customers and prospective customers that we were right and that they wish they had taken our advice to harden their systems and implement tighter security controls before their breach. Feedback from customers suggests the inconvenience of implementing additional controls is often what keeps them from taking action as opposed to the cost, which is negligible for some of the most effective controls like Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA). If you think the controls are inconvenient, you should spend some time visiting with someone who has been through a breach.

The most likely cyber-attack a small business will experience is an email breach which quickly lead to real payment fraud losses, reputational damage, and compliance risk. Once a criminal organization (yes, there are organizations attacking your small business) has success breaching one email account, you can expect the attacks to increase in volume and sophistication. Businesses can dramatically reduce email breach risk with relatively little cost and yes, some minor inconvenience.

Take the Next Steps

If you own a business or have are responsible for managing business risk, you need to take steps to protect your business, your shareholders, your employees, your vendors, and most importantly your customers. You must take action to implement additional controls. Start by asking your IT professionals to implement controls for yourself so you can understand first-hand how the controls protect your business and the level of inconvenience the controls may cause. This puts you in the best position possible to make informed decisions about how to protect your business and champion initiatives to tighten controls.

If you’ve done nothing to date, start with implementing MFA for your business email and then work with an IT professional to constantly review and improve security controls around all your systems and data.

I’m right and I hope I never have to tell you “I told you so”.

Your credentials can be phished, period.  If you think you’re above being phished, you’re wrong.  We all have weak moments and the criminals are really good at praying on our whims and emotions.  Trust me, you can be phished.  Don’t put so much pressure on yourself.  Implement multi-factor authentication (MFA) wherever possible to protect your accounts even if you are phished.  This is so important that we put together a video to show you how.  Watch this video.  Please just give us a call if you want help or want to discuss additional configuration options to ease implementation for your business.  We will be happy to help.

If you don’t know anything about Office 365 Multi-Factor Authentication please check out our blog and video from December 2017 for a complete overview https://www.gowestit.com/office-365-multi-factor-authentication.