Cyber criminals are targeting small and medium sized businesses for one reason, it produces results for the criminals.  I know that cybersecurity is a big topic and small businesses can become quickly overwhelmed by the scope of the issue but doing nothing is not an option.  Please take seven minutes to watch this important video from Go West IT to help you cut through the clutter and prioritize your cyber risk mitigation task list.

Go West IT Cyber Risk Mitigation Tasks

I was recently invited by a customer to attend a cybersecurity briefing at the Federal Reserve Bank where agents from the FBI and Secret Service discussed the current cybersecurity landscape. The information provided was alarming and valuable and as I reviewed my notes and prepared a summary for our customer I felt compelled to share the information with the balance of our customers and the business community at large.  However, while not a classified briefing, the FBI and Secret Service agents were very clear that they did not want the information from the briefing shared with the public at large.

Then I realized, NOTHING HAS CHANGED.  Sure, the details they discussed were new but as I considered how small businesses might use the information and what we can do to help our customers, I realized that nothing had changed.  In fact, the Cybersecurity section on the recently updated Go West IT website is a perfect blueprint for what steps businesses should take to avoid falling victim to a cybersecurity attack.

All you need to know is that that small businesses are the best targets for cyber criminals because they are an easy target, the most likely to pay a ransom, they hold a treasure of valuable data, and they are the most likely to fall victim to a social engineering attack.  Take steps now to make sure your business isn’t an easy target.

Last but not least, if your business does not have a regulatory burden to develop comprehensive policies to cover cybersecurity, disaster recovery, and business continuity, I encourage you to shore up your systems and controls before you spend a lot of money on policies.  I have seen a number of businesses that have hired cybersecurity “experts” who do little more than produce volumes of policies with which the business can’t or doesn’t comply.  Policies are great, plans are important, but only if you can live up to them.

I am re-posting the pertinent content of the Cybersecurity section of our website here.  Take this information, take action, and don’t be a victim.

Cybersecurity

Go West IT specializes in delivering cybersecurity solutions and consulting services to small and medium sized businesses.

Cybersecurity is important to every business.  Gone are the days when you can bury your head and hope that your business, your customers, your employees, your data, and your contractors will not be the target of an attack.  In fact, there is ample evidence to suggest bottom feeder cybercriminals are shifting their focus from banks, retailers, and big business to small businesses that are easy targets.

Go West can help you protect your business by leveraging our extensive experience protecting highly regulated businesses.  The first step is to make a committment to constantly improving your cypersecurity posture.  Go West will work with you to identify solutions that will deliver the best value for your business and then work with you to develop a roadmap so you know what will be the next step when you’re ready to do more.

A well configured Unified Threat Management (UTM) appliance, good antivirus, and tight access/user controls is the first step.  Next consider multifactor authentication for all critical systems, routine vulnerability scanning and vulnerability remediation, IDS/IPS systems, and always have rock solid backup solutions to mitigate the risk of ransomware attacks.

Businesses should not overlook the tremendous value of low cost user awareness training.  Up to 90% of successful cyberattacks used social engineering (people) as a vector for an attack.  Go West will be happy to conduct a training meeting at your office to help your employees understand their role in cybersecurity.

You can always do more.  You better do something.  Start today by calling Go West.  We will be happy to visit with you about your current posture and how you can improve.

 

UPDATE – In early October, 2016, Go West IT was approved by Microsoft as a Tier One Microsoft Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) and we are actively moving Microsoft cloud customers to this new CSP model to mitigate data privacy concerns associated with 3rd party distributors being granted access to customer data.  Now customers can enjoy the benefits of Microsoft cloud services without granting data access to an undisclosed 3rd party distributor.

 

Microsoft Office 365 is a solid business platform but Microsoft’s new Cloud Solution Partner (CSP) model has a HUGE security control gap that is bad for Microsoft, bad for Microsoft Partners, and worst of all is bad for business customers.

Microsoft’s initial Office 365 (“O365”) business model was widely perceived as a threat to the Microsoft Partner community.  The traditional reseller model was scrapped.  Partners were asked to promote a relationship whereby customers contract directly with Microsoft and Partners are paid small recurring advisory fee for promoting, implementing, and supporting O365.  Partners got on board, adjusted their business models, and made it work. 

Now Microsoft is eliminating the advisory fee and forcing partners to purchase Office 365 services via a select group of distributors for resale to customers.   That’s good, right?  WRONG!  There are huge security control gaps with CSP.

Microsoft has relinquished Global Admin control of O365 tenants (customers) to their CSP distributors.  The distributors developed software that interacts directly with O365 via APIs to manage license provisioning and end user support.  This gives their front-line help desk personnel full administrative privileges to each O365 tenant they manage.  Neither Microsoft nor the distributors have been able or willing to share any information regarding security controls to mitigate this substantial risk. 

There is a simple resolution to this problem:  Microsoft, as part of a routine vendor management process, should obtain an SSAE 16 SOC II audit from the distributors that describes adequate controls and adherence to the policies and procedures that govern those controls.  The distributors should be willing to provide their SSAE 16 SOC II audit report to Partners at a minimum.  Partners should be demanding this evidence, and should retain copies of the same as evidence of their due diligence. 

Customers are largely unaware of the delegation of rights to their O365 tenant.  Without an SSAE 16 SOC II audit report, customers have no way of providing regulatory agencies, auditors, or insurance carriers evidence of controls to protect their hosted data. This renders the Microsoft CSP model infeasible for any customer organization with a regulatory burden.

Go West IT has firsthand knowledge of a CSP distributor changing a Global Admin credential for an O365 tenant without verifying the identity of the individual making the request.  Go West IT is not aware of any wrongdoing or any breaches of any kind by the CSP distributors.  We do not want that to happen.

Go West IT has proactively discussed this issue with representatives at Microsoft and two of the CSP distributors.  Microsoft, in an effort to make CSP HIPAA compliant, has published directions for how to remove the distributor as a Global Admin.  Unfortunately, doing so also removes the ability to add, change, or remove any licensing via the distributor platforms and thereby makes this “remedy” impractical at best. To date, neither Microsoft nor the distributors have provided any visibility or assurance that adequate controls are in place as Microsoft presses forward with promotion of CSP.

Microsoft Open License software can be purchased with Software Assurance (“SA”) which gives your business rights to new versions of the software released during your SA term.  The initial SA term is two years and it can be renewed after the initial two year term.   There are certain periods of time when this is a tremendous value and now is one of those times.  Any business purchasing Server 2012 R2 or SQL 2012 licensing should absolutely consider adding SA to the order because SQL 2016 will be released on June 1, 2016 and Server 2016 is due out later this year.  For the incremental cost of SA you are in effect pre-buying the soon to be released versions at a HUGE discount.  Talk with your Microsoft partner about when to purchase Software Assurance (SA) or give Go West a call.  We will be happy to give you guidance on they best way to purchase your Microsoft licensing.

Go West IT helps business choose and implement IT infrastructure strategies.  This includes on premise and cloud implementations.  Part of our role is to help customers navigate the unknowns and this is particularly true when it comes to choosing a cloud provider or cloud strategy.

One of our Network Engineers sent an email to our technical staff this morning to let us know the legal team at Amazon Web Services (AWS) has contemplated some scenarios other cloud providers haven’t covered in their terms of service.  If you are worried about how your IT infrastructure might hold up in the event of a zombie apocalypse it is worth a read.  If you don’t have insomnia and a few hours to kill, pay particular attention to paragraph 57.10 near the bottom of the document.

https://aws.amazon.com/service-terms

In all seriousness, there are significant differences between cloud providers and it pays to work with a partner like Go West IT with implementation experience across many cloud providers that gives us first hand knowledge of how to choose the right fit for your needs.

 

 

Microsoft’s release of Windows 10 has been a success by most measures.  The Windows 10 interface is a good blend of Windows 7 and Windows 8/8.1 and an easier adjustment for users moving from Windows 7 than was the move to Windows 8/8.1  .

Many consumers have already taken advantage of the free upgrade to Windows 10 from eligible operating systems via the “Get Windows 10” app that was automatically installed via Windows Update.  Now the “Get Windows 10” app will start to appear on business computers that are members of a Windows Domain.

Go West IT recommends that businesses instruct employees not to upgrade to Windows 10 on their own.  If your business wants to take advantage of the free Windows 10 upgrade we strongly recommend that you start first by running the upgrade on a small test bed of computers to make sure your all of your hardware and business critical applications are compatible.  Once compatibility is validated we recommend upgrades are planned outside of business hours to avoid idle employees while the upgrades are performed.  Businesses may also want to plan for some employee training or resources to help users adjust for the sake of maintaining productivity.

The free Windows 10 upgrade is available through the end of July 2016.  Many expect the free upgrade timeframe will be extended, but an extension has not yet been announced.  The free upgrade to Windows 10 is a good value for businesses, and Go West IT recommends you plan to take advantage of this opportunity.

Go West IT will be pleased to assist businesses with testing and planning Windows 10 Upgrades.  Our help desk, desktop support specialists, and engineers are all well versed with Windows 10 and can assist with addressing questions and concerns.   Please call our office if you would like to discuss your Windows 10 Upgrade strategy.

Thank you to our Veterans and their families for the service and sacrifices you have made for this great country!

By now many of you have noticed the new “Get Windows 10” upgrade icon in the bottom right corner of your computer screen.  Eligible operating systems can take advantage of a free upgrade to the latest Windows desktop OS when it is released on or about July 29, 2015.  Now you need to decide if you should upgrade.  The answer is yes but businesses should absolutely WAIT to upgrade until you have tested the new OS for compatibility with your line of business applications.  When businesses do upgrade, you should do so systematically to prevent unforeseen issues in your environment and to prevent a productivity hit while users adjust to Windows 10.

We can control the Windows 10 rollout in your environment but it requires that you act now to get ahead of your employees to block the pre-registration, download and upgrade via the “Get Windows 10” icon.

Some of our engineers have been running virtual instances of Windows 10 beta for some time now and I plan on upgrading very soon after it becomes available.  I’m excited about it and I am hopeful it will be a great platform.  Regardless, you should wait to upgrade the computers in your business and when you do upgrade you should have a plan that includes a roll back strategy.

Please just give us a call if you would like to discuss options for delaying the upgrade or developing a strategy to deploy the Windows 10 upgrade.

Dave

Twelve years passes quickly when you’re having fun.  End of Life for Microsoft Server 2003 is July 14, 2015.  After this date Microsoft will cease support for the twelve year old operating system.  If your business still relies on a server running Server 2003, you successfully leveraged the initial investment in both the OS and the hardware.  It is absolutely time to upgrade.  It isn’t too late to start the planning but you do need to take action soon.  Take this opportunity to evaluate your needs and set your business up for success today and well into the future.  This may be the perfect time to migrate to cloud platforms or to virtualize on premise servers.  Take a few minutes now to investigate your options and come up with a plan.  If you need help, call Go West.  We can help you make informed decisions about how to position your business for success for the next twelve years.

Server 2003 eol