28 Jun 2019

4 Reasons to Use a Multi-Cloud Strategy for Your Data

Data Management on Multiple Cloud Platforms

Plenty of IT providers have been moving toward multi-cloud strategies, both internally and for their clients. Why is that? We’ll dive deeper into the benefits of multi-cloud strategies. But first, let’s define exactly what they are.

Multi-cloud strategies provide data management across several cloud platforms. This may include any cloud deployment model, including private cloud, public cloud, community cloud, or hybrid cloud services. The multi-cloud approach prevents single-vendor dependency. That means more options so you can really optimize your digital systems for your business. That’s just one benefit, though.

According to CIO, “the drivers behind the trend are crystal clear. Benefits, such as avoiding vendor lock-in, cost savings, performance optimization, a lowered risk of DDoS attacks, as well as improved reliability, are all critical as businesses jockey for position in today’s new digital economy.”

 

The Top 4 Benefits of Multi-Cloud Services

 

1. Security

There are pros and cons to security in multi-cloud strategies. It’s not necessarily safer overall to use a multi-cloud strategy. Just like in a house, multiple entry points provide more room for intruders to get in. However, when you have your business spread out over multiple platforms, it also becomes more difficult for intruders to take everything. Plus, disaster recovery is often faster and more effective in this scenario.

 

2. Leverage

Single-service cloud providers hold a lot of control when you only use one. You’re at their mercy, and you often don’t have a fast alternative. That means switching to new cloud technology can cost you a lot of downtime.

Meanwhile, when you use different cloud services, you get to keep more control within your business. From a cost-savings perspective, that’s a major advantage. If one provider suddenly skyrockets their pricing, you can quickly make a switch to your other providers. The same goes for providers that add or remove services, or make significant platform changes.

 

3. Performance Optimization

Working with multiple cloud providers offers a ton of benefits for businesses. It’s not the right system for everyone, but for those it does work for, it can easily optimize many different components of the business. That’s because you can custom fit features of different platforms to suit your operations, finances, R&D, CMS, CRM, and more.

Different aspects of your business may function better in distinct cloud environments. For example, Google could be optimized for your operations, while research might function better with Microsoft Azure’s cloud computing system.

 

4. Multi-Feature Functionality

In a lot of cases, when businesses try out software, it’s like all the ladies of the kingdom trying on Cinderella’s glass slipper. Machine learning can only go so far in some cases, leaving you with single cloud solutions that only work half the time.

A multi-cloud environment combats this by giving you more selection for the features you need or combining features of different systems to integrate your own custom solution. You can keep most of your data in your data center, but shop out different features of other solutions.

 

Getting Started with a Multi-Cloud Database Strategy

It’s important to have the right developers and IT technicians in place to help you manage your cloud services.

If you want to find out what a multi-cloud strategy would look like for your business, book a consultation with Alt-Tech’s IT professionals and software developers. We’ll map out your best options, your best and worst case scenarios, and a cost-benefit analysis to help you decide if it’s the right move. Then, we’ll help you implement your custom solution.

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14 Jun 2019

3 Tips to Destroy Sensitive Data & Information

Data destruction used to be simple. You’d take your files to the office shredder, toss them in, and they’d be effectively destroyed.

Unfortunately, it’s much harder to destroy electronic files. You might think you’ve completely destroyed your files by emptying the trash folder, but that’s usually not enough to permanently delete files from your computer. Emptying your recycling bin appears to delete sensitive information, but really, all you’re doing is erasing the file’s “easy to find” location. It still exists on your computer.

 

Why Can You Still Recover Files?

Have you ever felt that moment of panic when you accidentally delete an important document? Or when you can’t find Monday morning’s presentation? We’ve all accidentally deleted files before. That’s why our computer systems are designed to protect our files. According to How to Geek, this is how it works:

Your operating system keeps track of the files you have on your computer with pointers. These pointers show your computer where each file lives. When you delete a file, there’s free disk space where the old file once lived. That space can now be used to store a new file. However, until your computer saves another file in that free space, the previous file still has a footprint there and can be recovered.

 

Why is it Done this Way?

For speed and recovery. Deleting a file’s pointer and marking the space as available is a much quicker process than rewriting or writing over large files. It also means we have the chance to recover files if they’re accidentally deleted.

So how can you permanently delete documents from your computer?

 

  1. Overwrite It

When you delete sensitive files, they can still be recovered from your hard drive. Fortunately, there’s a simple way to prevent recovery: by overwriting your sensitive data.

Overwriting is usually done with a specialized program or software. When you’re overwriting, you’ll be literally writing over sensitive information with unimportant, meaningless data. The more times a file is overwritten, the harder it is to decode. There’s still some debate about how many times you need to overwrite to effectively wipe the file, but it’s generally recommended that you overwrite a file 3 times, if not more.

 

  1. Degaussing

Degaussing is a process where your hard drive is passed through a powerful magnetic field to make it completely unreadable. While this method doesn’t actually delete your files, the magnetics scramble the magnetic fields of your electronics to the point that data recovery is nearly impossible.

Unfortunately, you can’t just run a fridge magnet over your hard drive. This method requires you to use a trained professional to ensure the magnetic fields are properly shuffled. Which means it probably isn’t the go-to method for most small businesses.

 

  1. Destroy It

If you store sensitive information on a hard drive there’s one sure fire way to permanently destroy the data: physically destroy the hard drive. It’s kind of like shredding a paper document – except you’ll be shredding the electronics inside your hard drives.

Some companies offer this service for you, but it’s simple enough to do on your own. All you need to do is stop the electronics from running completely. You can do this by nailing through the drive, crushing it, or cutting it into pieces – however you can safely manage it. And this can be done for any electronic device, including memory cards or flash drives. The only downside? You’ve lost your entire storage device in the process!

It’s not the ideal destruction method for files, so if you’re about to head in this direction as a last resort, come see the professionals at Alt-Tech for a security consultation first. We can save you money and make sure all your sensitive files are securely stored or deleted.

 

To learn more about securely deleting files from your hard drive or if you need help recovering a file, schedule your free consult. We’re ready to help you with all your managed cyber security needs, big or small.

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24 May 2019

How to Prepare Your Business for a Phishing Scam

Working online comes with certain risks. There are computer viruses, malware, spyware, worms, Trojan horses, and ransomware – just to name a few. With all of these potential threats, how can you keep your company safe online?

According to a 2017 study, 90% of online attacks can be traced back to phishing scams. Even though so many attacks are related to phishing, many companies still aren’t sure how to identify and avoid phishing scams. To help, we’ve put together some of the best ways to identify and prepare for a phishing attack.

 

What is a Phishing Scam?

A phishing scam is one of the most common cyber attacks we face. In a phishing scam, the hacker will usually disguise themselves as a reputable company and contact you through email. The phishing message will ask you to click a link or download an attachment, which allows the hacker access to your personal information like credit card numbers, account numbers, login credentials, and other sensitive company information. This also leaves you vulnerable to malware attacks.

While phishing emails are most common, there has been a spike in phishing attacks using text messages and direct phone calls. We’ve also seen an increase in spear phishing, which is a targeted phishing attempt directed at and personalized for a specific individual. These attacks are typically geared toward identity theft, so make sure to pay close attention to suspicious texts and phone calls.

 

How Can You Detect Phishing?

Phishing emails used to be littered with spelling errors and obvious mistakes that made them easy to identify. Scammers have gotten a little smarter over the years. Fortunately, there are still a couple simple ways you can detect a phishing attack before it strikes.

 

Read Closely

While it isn’t common anymore, it’s still best to double check all emails for spelling errors, grammatical mistakes, or other red flags. These are all signs of a phishing scam. Remember, if an email seems ‘phishy’, it probably is.

 

Look For Urgency

A phishing scam will usually want you to act now. Maybe it’ll say that your account is about to be closed or that there’s a limited time offer. Either way, their goal is to make you feel as if you need to act quickly. Remember, most companies won’t close your account without ample warning, so don’t panic. This urgency could indicate a phishing scam.

 

Double Check the Information

While it might look like it comes from a legitimate site, a phishing email will be coming from a less than reputable source. You can verify the legitimacy of the email by looking at the sender’s email address, the phone number and contact information, by contacting the legitimate institution to verify, or by typing the alleged web address in a search engine.

 

Protect Your Business

The best way to protect yourself from phishing scams is through preparation!While you can usually identify a phishing scam using the tips above, it’s still best to have a little extra protection in place.

 

Update and Install Anti-Virus and Anti-Malware Software

You can keep your personal information more secure by keeping your computer’s operating system and anti-virus tools completely up to date. And this helps with more than just phishing attacks. Having anti-virus and anti-malware in place will help protect your business from all kinds of online attacks.

 

Educate, Educate, Educate!

Your employees are your best defense against online attacks. To get them on board, train every employee on what a phishing scam is, how to detect it, and what the proper response is.

 

By following these steps, you can help prevent phishing scams from harming your business. If you want to improve your business’ online security, call Alt-Tech’s security team and learn how we can help protect your business online.

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12 Apr 2019

Why Your Organization Needs Vulnerability Management

From antivirus software to firewalls and VPNs you’ve done your best to ensure your company has incredible network security. But no matter how many security measures you put in place, there are still vulnerabilities in your network. One of the best ways to stay ahead of online threats is by regularly completing vulnerability assessments.

What is a Vulnerability Assessment?

A vulnerability assessment is a form of online risk management. Essentially, you run a network scan in order to identify any potential weak points in your network. Most vulnerability assessments will then rank the vulnerabilities according to the level of risk they pose. From that information you can make a plan for remediating and mitigating potential threats before your system is compromised.

Why Complete Vulnerability Testing?

Online threats and information security are a concern for all businesses today. So why wouldn’t you want to help improve your online security any way you could?

Vulnerability testing will find the gaps in your current security systems – hopefully before hackers do. This gives you an edge in protecting your business online. Some of the benefits of performing regular vulnerability assessments include:

  • Identifying security risks before they become a liability
  • Determining what devices face the most risk
  • Determining the level of risk your business faces
  • Creating an inventory of risks on every device
  • Establishing where you need to focus your cyber security efforts

Vulnerability testing can be an excellent way for you to assess and improve your business’ security online. But a vulnerability test is only an assessment, not a solution. You will most likely need to take action after your assessment to improve your business’ cyber security and put protections in place.

What to Do After Your Assessment

After your assessment, you can begin creating a vulnerability management plan for your business. Some of the basic steps to take following your vulnerability assessment include:

  • Looking at and ranking all the threats identified in your assessment according to the level of threat.
  • Deciding which vulnerabilities pose the greatest threat to your business. You can determine this by considering: which systems are affected; what data is at risk; what business functions are at risk; the ease of attack; and the potential damage.
  • Allocating your resources to fix the areas of greatest concern first.
  • Repairing the weakness so it’s no longer a concern.
  • Introducing new programs or changing current programs and practices to further prevent future vulnerabilities.
  • Having your business reassessed in the future.

When you’re creating your own vulnerability management process, remember that discovering vulnerabilities doesn’t mean you’ve solved the problem. A truly effective vulnerability management system goes beyond simply running scans on your system; it includes implementing steps to strengthen vulnerabilities.

Extra Considerations

When you begin looking at different vulnerability management tools there are a couple things to consider:

  • There are different types of assessments that focus on identifying vulnerabilities in different areas of your network. For example, vulnerability scans that focus on your host system, your network, or your database. When you’re choosing an assessment, make sure it’s the right one for your business.
  • They don’t actually test; they only assess. Vulnerability assessments don’t truly test the strength of your system. They’re simply there to identify and shed light on potential weaknesses. If you’re interested in assessing the identified weaknesses, you may be interested in penetration testing. In a penetration test, a trusted IT professional will actually attempt to hack your system. This will let you know how vulnerable your critical assets are to a hacker.

Do you want to stay on top of your network’s online security? Or are you interested in learning more about the benefits of vulnerability assessments? At Alt Tech, we have vulnerability solutions that will help you understand the threats your company faces. Contact Alt Tech today to begin employing our vulnerability management solutions and get better protection for your business systems in place today.

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08 Mar 2019

5 Best Practices to Improve Data Security

Cyber security starts internally. From new security solutions to software updates, there are plenty of ways you can help keep your company safe. So where to begin? We’ve put together the 5 best practices for you to implement to secure business data and give you some peace of mind.

1. Always Update!

When your computer gets that pop-up saying it’s time to update, it’s tempting to simply push the ‘later’ button. But you need to stop ignoring those updates! Updates improve information security by responding to current threats and fixing bugs. They address all the different security issues present in your computer. So by updating your computer, you’re actually keeping data protected without having to do any of the work.

2. Protect with Strong Passwords

One of the cheapest and easiest ways to keep your data safe is to have a strong password. Having simple or common passwords makes it easier for cyber criminals to access sensitive data. Fortunately, these data breaches are preventable by having your employees create strong passwords and regularly update their passwords.

There are a few easy ways to improve the strength of your password. For example, you can increase the length, include numbers, or include special characters. If you want to learn more about which passwords to avoid and creating strong passwords, check out our post on The Worst Passwords of 2018.

3. Keep an Eye Out For Phishing Scams

Phishing scams, ransomware, and other cyber attacks are something that all businesses have to deal with. You can’t stop these cyber threats entirely, but you can help reduce the risk of actually having your data stolen. The best way to stop sensitive information from being stolen through a cyber attack is to learn what to look for.

When you receive a phishing scam, it’ll probably look legitimate, but beware because they can cause a lot of damage. Typically phishing scams are emails that appear to be from a trustworthy source. They will ask you to follow a link or to provide some form of personal data. These attacks are often filled with grammatical errors, so keep an eye out for mistakes or strange wording. They’ll also want you to ‘act fast,’ claiming that your account has been hacked or is expiring. Don’t believe these emails – take the time to read them through and verify them before you click any links. Whenever unsure, contact the company by phone to verify that the email is legitimate. Stay vigilant and always double-check suspicious emails to prevent falling victim to phishing scams.

4. Secure and Encrypt Data

A lot of companies are encrypting their information. Encryption takes your data and converts it to codes. Only someone who has the ‘key’ can unlock the codes to access the information. If you don’t encrypt your information, you leave it more exposed to online threats.

By using encryption, you’re making it impossible for a hacker to read or make copies of data. So, while the information may be lost, you don’t have to worry about someone else having access to it. If you’re interested in other methods of protecting your information, you can also look into data masking or data erasure techniques. Alt-Tech has plenty of encryption options that have helped companies secure their data more easily and thoroughly.

5. Educate Your Staff

You can’t implement any of these practices if you haven’t taken the time to educate your staff. When you take the time to help them understand the different security threats and how they can counteract them, they’ll know why it’s important and how to manage threats. Make sure you explain your company’s online practices and procedures, hold sessions on how to recognize phishing and other scams, and make sure to update your staff on policy changes or new threats. This will make all the difference when it comes to protecting your business online. 

Want to improve your business’ cyber security? Alt-Tech is here to help! We offer data backup and recovery, system security services, and around the clock monitoring. To learn more check out our services page.

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22 Feb 2019

The Biggest Cyber Attacks of 2018

There are over a million people online, and every day there are people and companies that fall prey to cyber attacks. While security researchers are always working to keep our information safe, hackers are always looking for new ways to steal it. That means there’s always a major risk for cyber attack for companies operating online. 

2018 was a big year for security breaches in Canada, the United States, and abroad. A lot of companies experienced breaches that affected millions of people. We like to keep an eye on what’s going on in the IT world, so we’ve created a list of some of the biggest cyber attacks 2018 saw, as well as some advice to help businesses avoid breaches in 2019.

Quora

The popular question and answer website was hacked this year, affecting as many as 100 million users. A malicious third party hacked into the website, gaining access to users’ names, email addresses, profile information, and passwords. Very little has been said about this attack outside what information was compromised.

British Airways

The British airline had to deal with a massive online attack when criminals hacked into the airline’s booking records. This affected records on both the website and the app. Hackers gained full access to traveller’s personal information. This included about 380,000 people’s credit card information. The airline made sure to notify people about the breach as soon as possible.

Marriott

This year Marriott was informed of an information breach that had been occurring since 2014. In this case, thieves had access to the payment cards, personal information, passport numbers, and travel information of over 500 million people. Because of this, authorities believe it could have been the work of nation state hackers.

Facebook

This well-publicized hack affected over 87 million users of the popular social network. Stolen information included people’s personal information such as relationship status, birthdate, and employer. While this breach actually occurred a couple of years ago, the information just surfaced in 2018. Due to that delay, many users are upset about Facebook’s lack of transparency.

Protect Your Company

You probably won’t experience a data breach as large as these companies, but having your information hacked could cost you thousands of dollars and significantly damage your company’s reputation. So, how can you prevent these attacks from happening in your company this year? There are a few quick and easy ways to protect your company:

  1. Protect your usernames and passwords. Making sure employees regularly update their passwords for computer logins and accounts. Changing your password protects makes it more difficult to hack into a computer, protecting you from a security breach.
  2. Update and secure your computer networks. The online environment is constantly changing and so are the risks. Have your IT team keep your security systems up to date with the latest online security.
  3. Be prepared for ransomware attacks. These attacks can happen at any time. They could come in an innocent-looking email or appear on a website. To avoid accidentally installing malware, make sure you can recognize attacks and respond appropriately.
  4. Promote cyber security training. The best way to avoid data breaches is to keep your employees informed. Educate them about cyber risks, how to recognize them, and what to do in case of an attack. 

At Alt-Tech, we can help protect your business from online attacks. We offer around the clock monitoring, system security and access services, virtual IT manager services, and more. If you’re ready to begin protecting your business online, contact us today.

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18 Jan 2019

Start 2019 By Building a Cyber Security Culture

As we move into 2019, we continue to rely on automated programs and technology in our day-to-day lives. With this growing reliance comes a growing concern about online safety. From personal information to threats of national security, our advancements affect us all. As we continue to rely on computers, the threat of cyber attacks will only continue to grow. 

The risk of cyber attacks and viruses is more than a threat; it’s a reality for many companies. That’s why it’s become so important for organizations to begin promoting a cybersecurity culture in the workplace. Keep your company safe online this year, follow these simple steps to help build a lasting cyber security culture.

Create a Plan

Creating a Cybersecurity Program means you need to start with a comprehensive plan. This plan should include everything from a risk assessment, to a list of current practices, to achievable goals. This will give you a framework for how to address your organization’s current state of security and an outline for how to get to where you’re aiming. To protect your company, make sure you take action by building a comprehensive cyber security plan.

Engage and Inform All Employees

Many people believe cyber security is the job of the IT (Information Technology) team. In fact, cyber security is actually the job of everyone in your organization. However, many employees are still unaware, so it’s your job to instruct and engage them.

The weakest link in cybersecurity is people. Most of the online threats your company faces will come from everyday interactions and actions online. Your cybersecurity professionals can help take care of threats as they arise, but at the end of the day, preventative security is everyone’s responsibility. To lessen the risk people pose it’s absolutely necessary to continually educate and inform your employees. You need every employee to be aware and engaged in keeping your company safe.

Continually Educate

Cyber security education is the best way to make sure everyone in your company is aware how to stay safe online and what to do in case of a cyber threat. Related to the previous point, this education should be encompassing of everyone in your organization from the top down.

You have two goals in continuing education. One is to make sure everyone is aware what his or her role is in cyber security. The second is to keep everyone up to date as online threats and your responses change. Make sure to engage your online security professionals to help create the cybersecurity education materials and to help present them. Remember you need to continually raise awareness. People need to understand the risks in order to prevent them. 

Maintain a Dialogue

It’s not enough to constantly educate your employees. You also need to give them a chance to apply new practices in their work and to continually learn. As this happens, you need to remain engaged with them. Keep conversations going and continue to inform while also leaving room for employees to explore.

Remember, your employees need to feel comfortable asking questions about cybersecurity, or looking for guidance if they’ve encountered something suspicious. Should they encounter a cyber attack, they need to feel comfortable approaching a supervisor or cybersecurity professional. In order to keep your company safe you need to build and maintain an open dialogue about cyber security.

The most important thing you can do to create a cyber security culture in your company is to make sure all of your employees are engaged, aware, and taking action to prevent attacks. Building a culture of security starts with action. You’re responsible for taking action to protect your company. 

So why not start 2019 by promoting cyber security in your business? Begin building your culture of cyber security now. Alt-Tech can help you set up a protective plan for your specific business and employees. 

If you want to learn more about cyber attacks and how to identify them, you can also check out our post from cyber security awareness month.

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