What Memorial Day is REALLY All About  

It’s easy to think of Memorial Day as a convenient day off in a busy calendar and the start of summer, but we suggest you take a step back and think a bit harder about it. Millions of men and women have put their lives on the line to defend our collective way of life. It’s hard for those who have not made that sacrifice to really understand what they have done. Take advantage of a few spare moments on Memorial Day to think about that.

Memorial Day

Most of us have friends, colleagues, or relatives who have served in the military. Perhaps you have an older relative who served in Vietnam, Korea, or even World War II. Imagine being away from home for months or even years, wondering how your family is doing. (For those older veterans who served before cell phones and internet, that often meant being totally out of communication, feeling lucky to get a letter at some point.) Imagine being called on to do things that you thought were impossible, either mentally or physically. Imagine seeing your friends not survive a day of battle, and why it was them instead of you.

Supporting Veterans in a Tangible Way

You can show your support of our service men and women who have faced things unimaginable to the rest of us by doing business with veteran-owned businesses. Think of all the skills that people learn while serving in the military – logistics, transportation, maintenance, security, communication, and management. If someone can solve those challenges on and around the battlefield, they can probably handle whatever issue you bring into their place of business. That even applies in our own field of information technology. The Department of Defense has some of the most sophisticated computer systems in the world, and there are plenty of veterans out there who are putting their experience to use as IT experts. We wouldn’t normally promote our competitors, but this is the one and only instance when we can make an exception. It’s the most worthy cause there is, and if it means that a veteran-owned business gets a customer and we don’t, well, then that’s one way that we can contribute to supporting veterans. Perhaps it makes that “thank you” sound like we really mean it.

{company} is the trusted choice when it comes to staying ahead of the latest information technology tips, tricks, and news. Contact us at {phone} or send us an email at {email} for more information. Please join us in honoring our veterans on Memorial Day.

How Are Most Computer Viruses Spread?

Hackers constantly look for new ways to spread viruses, but their favorite distribution method is one of the oldest: unsolicited email. A recent report from Kaspersky Lab revealed that malware spam continues to grow as Web browser security improves and makes it harder to infect computers via websites.

Virus

Spam Trends

During the past year, the total quantity of unsolicited messages fell. However, the percentage containing virus attachments more than tripled. This greatly increases the likelihood that you or your employees will receive malicious communications in the near future.

Many harmful messages draw attention by focusing on terrorism and other events in the news. Some malware spammers have become more skillful in recent years. They personalize the information or try hard to make email appear as if it comes from legitimate organizations.

Kaspersky Labs reports that more and more email viruses install ransomware. When recipients open an attachment, this malware encrypts data on their PCs. It often proves difficult or impossible to recover the files without paying a “ransom” to hackers.

For example, one common email virus looks as if Microsoft sent it. The text claims that users can upgrade to Windows 10 by downloading an attachment. This file actually infects the recipient’s computer with ransomware and blocks access to every file on its hard drive, according to Fox.

Education

Companies can protect their computers and data by educating office workers about safe Internet practices. Employees should learn to visit websites directly instead of using email links. They ought to carefully check messages for fake “from” addresses, unprofessional language and other suspicious attributes.

Businesses mustn’t rely on one-time trainings to warn staff members about Internet dangers. People eventually forget some of the advice, and viruses spread in different ways each year. Memos, newsletters and bulletin board notices can help keep employees informed.

A spam analysis expert at a major Internet security company recently said that “efforts to dupe victims are becoming more sophisticated year on year.” Consequently, it makes sense for office workers to contact the IT staff or a manager when they have any concerns about possible viruses.

Precautions

Business owners and employees can sometimes avoid malware by using anti-virus utilities to scan files before opening them. However, such tools don’t succeed in detecting every virus. If in doubt, contact a sender by phone to confirm that he or she actually sent an attachment.

  • Never click on “unsubscribe” links in spam
  • Hackers may disguise malicious programs as photos
  • Don’t let Microsoft Word documents run macros

When sending messages to a group of staff members or contractors, always put their email addresses in the “bcc” field. Everyone can see all of the addresses under “cc” or “to”; if any recipient has a computer virus, it may gain access to the entire list.

Filters

Many commercial email services and programs let businesses activate and customize spam filters. You can stop malware from reaching inboxes by automatically returning messages sent from known spammers’ accounts. Consider blocking certain countries, IP addresses or domain names as well.

At the same time, be careful not to intercept normal correspondence. ReturnPath warns that filters block about one out of five legitimate messages people send to businesses. If you banish all email from an entire hosting or Internet service provider, this could discourage potential customers.

To sum it up, email-based viruses pose a growing threat that employers must take seriously. Filters, anti-virus programs and training can decrease the risk. Many business owners look to {company} when they want to stay up to date on the latest IT strategies and news. Please call {phone} or contact {email} to learn more.

 

Weekly Roundup

The theme we are continuing to see – and put a lot of time into – is security. Knowing threats, finding solutions, and being a part of the conversation is crucial at Kirkham Systems. Wishing you all a happy and healthy Memorial Day weekend! 

 

Do you need a VPN?

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Elon Musk and AI

How to Stop Ransomware Attacks and Cryptoworms

Ransomware viruses regularly attack personal and business computers across the globe. They encrypt or otherwise deny access to files and programs. Malware developers demand payments in exchange for allowing users to recover their data. Depending on the quantity and value of the files, ransoms range from hundreds to thousands of dollars.

ransomware

Such viruses remain difficult to counteract. As a researcher at a major anti-virus company recently said, “There is no cure to the ransomware threat today.” Nonetheless, it has started evolving into an even more dangerous form of malware known as a “cryptoworm.”

These highly sophisticated viruses have the same goal as conventional ransomware, but they spread far more efficiently. Worms automatically transmit themselves from one place to another with no need for human control. This development greatly increases the likelihood of an attack.

Losses

Computers at a medical center in California recently became infected with a cryptoworm. The virus encrypted hospital files and forced the institution to pay a $17,000 ransom. Brown University also suffered a ransomware attack. The Financial Times reports that Brown was able to restore backup data and remove the malware.

Prevention

Collectively, criminals have employed ransomware and cryptoworms to accumulate hundreds of millions of dollars. Businesses can often avoid their demands by taking preventive steps. For example, companies benefit from training employees to identify dangerous e-mail attachments, harmful websites and phishing attempts.

  • Well-configured firewalls
  • Quality anti-virus software
  • Restrictive network settings
  • Regular application updates
  • Computer security training

Firewalls and anti-virus programs can’t always stop this malware, but they successfully intercept many ransomware viruses. Consider setting up a firewall to protect your network from the “Dark Web” by suspending access to I2P and TOR.

Use extra caution when opening Word documents, even if they seem to come from familiar people. It’s best to disable macros; these codes can trigger cryptoworm infections. At the same time, don’t assume you’re safe if you avoid Microsoft products. Ransomware also attacks Android and Linux machines, according to PC World.

Remember to remove unnecessary programs and update software whenever possible. Applications like Web browsers, PDF viewers and video players frequently contain defects that make them vulnerable to these infections. Although hackers usually find more flaws to exploit, the latest updates can patch known security holes and minimize risks.

A network administrator should only permit each staff member to access the computers, drives and directories that he or she truly needs to use. This will limit the ability of cryptoworms to spread throughout the network and infect every file. It also protects servers from any “rogue” employees.

External vendors may inadvertently expose a company to viruses. Business owners ought to thoroughly examine the details about security in contracts with vendors. Companies can benefit from insisting that such firms take extensive precautions and alert them to any system breaches as soon as possible.

Backups

Preventative measures don’t always succeed in averting ransomware or cryptoworm attacks. The most effective way to avoid paying a ransom is to frequently back up your files. Businesses should inspect and test backup systems to confirm they can actually restore the data if necessary.

Don’t put files on a storage device that remains attached to the network or a PC; this will allow a cryptoworm to scramble your backup data. These viruses can even attack files stored on off-site “cloud” servers. Be sure to keep one backup completely disconnected from other devices.

The bottom line is prevention delivers the best results, but thorough backups provide a crucial failsafe. A wide range of businesses trust {company} to help them stay informed about the most recent IT news and maintenance techniques. Please contact {email} or dial {phone} for further details.

Security and Privacy: The case for a VPN

I was having lunch with a couple of buddies the other day. We were discussing the FBI versus Apple issue when one brought out the old “I have nothing to hide argument” when discussing government surveillance and privacy.

The argument that you have nothing to hide is a fallacy. Everyone has something to hide or secure from others. Passwords, credit card numbers, keys, smart phones, websites visited, emails – the list is long.

There are several rebuttals to this statement, but I’ll just list a couple:

  1. Arguing that you don’t care about the right to privacy because you have nothing to hide is no different than saying you don’t care about free speech because you have nothing to say.
  2. The right to privacy is the right to self. You “own” you. You decide when you want to share you and when you don’t. It is really just that simple.

Glenn Greenwald speaks to the issue in much more depth and with greater eloquence than I, but whenever he hears the argument, his reply is this: “Here’s my email address. What I want you to do when you get home is email me the passwords to all of your email accounts, not just the nice, respectable work one in your name, but all of them, because I want to be able to just troll through what it is you’re doing online, read what I want to read and publish whatever I find interesting. After all, if you’re not a bad person, if you’re doing nothing wrong, you should have nothing to hide.”

What Greenwald is proposing is a person-to-person request to disclose. It has context. In that environment, the person thinking about releasing access to all his email accounts immediately considers context, and how the requesting party – not a law enforcement agency – may view and/or use whatever is discovered. Careers and lives can be destroyed by divulging secrets that while not illegal, can certainly be embarrassing. Giving anyone the ability to surveil you makes all of each less secure, because if there is anything we’ve learned from the past few decades of internet, it’s that data wants to be free. Once one party has the data, others are sure to find it.

So see, it’s  about context. When talking about the state, or specifically, the USA, it is assumed that you are only talking about terrorism or other illegal things that the USA is looking for. But that isn’t what hackers are looking for.

Private lives matter.

Still not sure if this applies to you? Well let’s walk through it.

do i need a vpn kirkham systems

 

At Kirkham Systems we recommend a VPN on all devices as an additional layer of security. They allow for more secure usage when connecting to the internet: at home or in public.