Steps to Take if You Have Been Scammed

The art of scamming is a time honored fraudulent practice. Scamming results in good ROI (Return on Investment) for perpetrators, and spells trouble for victims. Fraudulent practices like scams and schemes occur both in the offline and online world. Both practices operate in the same fashion but on different platforms.

Finding business contacts Phished and Farmed

There are more than four billion netizens online today. These billions of internet users are interacting with a vast amount of different services, applications, and web pages. This means that the possibilities and opportunities for cybercriminals are endless. On another note, it makes hiding much easier for them too. Cyber incidents involving the exploitation of vulnerable internet users, their data, finances and sensitive personal information occur dozens of times every minute, all over the world. To put it into perspective, financial losses incurred from cyber incidents are on par with natural disasters. 

This is why it is important to understand what a cyber scam (internet scam) is, the types of cyber scams out there, and finally how to protect against them. What can you do after you have already been scammed, is the most important question to ask. Thankfully, today there is a substantial cybersecurity knowledge base from which tips and recommendations can be drawn to help internet users protect themselves from such risks.  

A Brief Look at The Worst Cyber Scams

Throughout the years, the world has fallen to several types of cyber scams. All scams are not equal, because some are no longer utilized, while others that have existed for decades still reap dividends for cybercriminals to this day. Cyber scams have cost the U.S. billions of dollars per year, as it stands today, with the average victim losing almost $500 on average in each scam. Some of the most serious cyber scams that are still active today are; Nigerian 419 scams, Indian IT call-center scams, and counterfeit services and goods scams. Adding to this list is everything imaginable from lottery scams, romance scams, illegitimate check scams to social security scams. Practically any service or product can be a part of a cyber scam. This is why it is important to be armed with safe internet usage best practices as well as good cybersecurity knowledge. Especially, if one becomes a victim of a cyber scam.   

Types of Cyber Scams

Cyber scams come in numerous forms and various types of attack schemes and methods. All cyber scams have a ‘social engineering’ component intrinsic to them because scamming someone involves sharp manipulative social skills to trick a victim into divulging valuable information. Technically, most of the notorious cyber scams come in the following forms;

  • Phishing, spear-phishing, vishing, smishing, and pharming
  • Baiting
  • Whaling
  • RAT attacks

By far the most popular, and most successful, method of scamming belongs to the phishing social engineering category. This is simply because email-based scams are by far the easiest to orchestrate, with the least resources expended. For example, phishing campaigns orchestrated by cybercriminal groups can reach millions of people via email with a minimal financial outlay by the criminals. Cybercriminals can even automate this email process, sit back and wait for internet user credentials to be ‘harvested’. Email-based scams affect absolutely everyone, from regular citizens to the largest corporations. Statistically speaking, almost 25% of all phishing attacks worldwide were focused on financial institutions. In second place was social media, resulting in 24% of all phishing attacks. A close third is the Saas/Webmail sector. As far as the ‘victim count’ is concerned, phishing is the leader by far again, followed by non-payment/non-delivery scams and extortion in third place. Personal data breaches, identity theft, and spoofing are much lower on the list, but undoubtedly still cause damage and plague the economy. 

What to do in an Event of a Scam And How to Stay Safe From Cyber Scams

First of all, it is important to look at what to do if one is already involved in a cyber scam. Following this, recommendations and tips will be given on how to prevent cyber scams in general. There are several steps to take if one has already been involved in a cyber scam. This can fall into the following categories;

  • If a scammer has successfully accessed a device
  • If a scammer has access to personal information
  • If a scammer was paid

It is primarily important to note that a scam can be identified most easily via any unauthorized changes or charges across user accounts. 

Firstly, in the unfortunate event that a scammer has successfully received payment from a victim, it is crucial to remember that the individual immediately contacts the financial institution, reports a fraudulent charge, and requests for a transaction reversal. Secondly, if it is confirmed that a scammer has access to personal information it is recommended by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission to visit IdentityTheft.gov. Furthermore, if a scammer has access to username and password credentials, one should immediately change their password across all devices and ensure that they are unique, long, complex, and stored in a safe place offline. And thirdly, if it is confirmed that the scammer has accessed a personal device (laptop, smartphone, or other) then it is recommended that one runs an antimalware and antivirus scan on the device. Otherwise, individuals should contact their service provider for support as well as change the account credentials immediately. Scams can also be reported directly to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC.) 

Internet Safety Best Practices

In general, there are a few steps to take to avoid cyber scams in the future which are the following;

  • Using a premium Virtual Private Network or VPN when connecting to the internet will obfuscate the connection and make it difficult for cybercriminals, data collection agencies, and marketing companies to track individuals online
  • Making sure that no suspicious emails are opened, especially to avoid clicking on suspicious attachments from unknown senders
  • Installing and running a premium antimalware software, as well as a premium antivirus at all times
  • Avoiding oversharing and divulging personal information over social media
  • Being suspicious of any email urging payment, help, or any bizarre claims
  • Checking that the website being visited has an HTTPS lock sign in the address bar
  • Cross-checking the URL address by doing an online search, to determine whether the website is real or a scam
  • Applying spam filters to user email
  • Keeping software on all user devices automatically updated
  • Using multi-factor authentication across all accounts wherever possible
  • Backing up as much data as possible
  • Applying a WHOIS lookup online to check who the owner of the website domain is

Sticking to the above recommendations, as well as common sense, should help users avoid common cyber scams and stay safe online in the future.

7 Tips to Protect Your Privacy on the Web

It’s a scary world out there. With the Internet, you are no longer protected by distance and physical barriers from your enemies. With just an email address or phone number, someone can find out more about you than they could in days of old when all you had to worry about was a nosy neighbor. And with so many people online nowadays, it is likely that at least one person will be able to figure out who exactly you are and what your secrets might be. 

The good news is that there are plenty of ways to keep yourself safe on the Web; this article outlines five of them:   

1. Don’t give up too much information on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter  

This is very important because you don’t want to be one of those people that stay connected with everyone they have met in their entire lives. It makes you a prime target for manipulation as even the least tech-savvy person can try and find out more about your life from these social media sites. Social media sites are also a good place to look for information. 

For example, if you have someone’s social media username on Facebook and they put their phone number down as public information, then you can go ahead and call them up to talk. You might even be able to find out where they live or work based on the places that they frequently visit or mention in their newsfeed. And remember that everything you post online is permanent and cannot be deleted (except through complicated processes like asking Google to delete your entire account).

2. Use a VPN

Using a VPN service is one of the most important things you can do to protect your online privacy. A VPN allows you to create an encrypted tunnel between your computer and a server run by your VPN provider. This means that all of the data that leaves and enters your PC is encrypted (and thus prevented from being read). It also prevents websites from seeing who you are or where you are located, making it appear as if you’re in another country on the other side of the world. Also, the VPN hides your IP address, which is another way for someone to find out who you are. You can find a list of the best vpn services curated by Forbes.

3. Don’t email pictures of yourself or any other information that could be used to identify you! 

Because of the sheer amount of information that you can obtain from a single email address, emails are one of the least secure ways to share information! It is particularly important not to include pictures or any other kind of identifying information in your email.

If you must send an email with personal information attached, consider using encryption software like PGP (Pretty Good Privacy) that will allow you to encrypt this data so that it cannot be read if intercepted. In even more extreme cases, some services like Hushmail offer completely anonymous accounts where no traffic logs are kept at all.  

However there are several situations when sending an encrypted file is not enough: for example, when multiple people have access to the same device and they might extract the files while spoofing your identity.

 4. Use the right browser settings so that your activities are not tracked by advertisers, search engines, and others 

This is important because most websites can track your activities on their site in several ways. The tracking software might be embedded in the website code or it may come from a third-party service like Google Analytics. Either way, you need to make sure that both your browser and any plugins/extensions are configured so they do not transmit data about what web pages you visit or which search terms you use. 

To do this with Chrome, click the Customize and Control icon, then Settings (under Privacy) > Show advanced settings… > Content Settings > Manage exceptions. You will see a list of domains; simply remove those that you don’t want to send information to by clicking on the Remove button on the right side.

5. Use search engines that do not track you.

This one is a bit tricky since even the Google search engine tracks your searches. In addition, most of the alternative search engines can be configured to use encryption so that they don’t store local copies of your data and it is sent directly instead of to their servers.  You can also search directly from the address bar if you don’t want to use a browser plugin.

For example, if you’re using Chrome, install the Startpage extension and configure it by clicking on Options (under Identity). Then click Customize on MyStartPage and then Privacy. In the Never send personal information to these services section change both of them to Google Search (it will be automatically selected). To use this type of encryption for DuckDuckGo, Firefox or Startpage simply add “https” in front of the URL while leaving off “www.”  (e.g., https://duckduckgo.com/ )

 6.  Don’t use open wifi if you want to protect your information.

This one is important because it doesn’t come down to how well or poorly a company encrypts the data that passes through its servers—the simplest way would be just to not send any of it! This also applies to corporate networks, where many employees use VPN software and other encryption technologies already in place for their security needs. 

However, these same tools can also prevent an employer from monitoring employee-side traffic (e.g., using GeoLite2 IP databases to geolocate broadband subscribers). So always think twice before logging on with your work account on the local coffee shop’s free wifi!

7.  And finally, don’t assume that anything you send or store is secure and can’t be hacked.

While this might seem like an obvious one, many people have gotten into trouble in recent years by thinking that a service was secure when they actually weren’t. For example, there has been a huge influx of new investors into digital currency due to coins like Bitcoin having huge price increases. This in turn has led to a sharp rise in cyber attacks on people’s crypto wallets in order to siphon off investors’ profits. Keeping these assets secure by using cold wallets, encrypted passwords and two-factor authentication is the bare minimum in cybersecurity. Again, there are two sides to the story. Companies must do as much as possible to protect user-information from outside attacks, which sometimes means sacrificing convenience (i.e., forcing users to use longer passwords).

Protecting Your Privacy Online

If you follow these tips carefully, anyone who wants to find out more about you will run into brick wall after brick wall trying to get information about you; at least, this will buy time for you to protect your privacy more fully if you decide to do so. 

Understanding the Benefits of Using Antivirus Software

In the past few decades, the advent of the internet has changed our perception of the world and how we do things. Now, almost everything is done online and much of our most personal information is in cyberspace. This is why digital security is integral more than ever in this day and age. This doesn’t necessarily mean getting sophisticated technologies to protect your privacy. It starts with something as simple as installing antivirus software. Here is how it can help you. 

Protection Against Viruses 

As the name implies, the first and most important function that antivirus software serves is protecting your devices against viruses. If you don’t know it already, a virus can not just slow your computer, but also do more harmful things like reformat your hard drive or compromise your files and data. This is where the antivirus software comes in. It detects potential viruses and starts removing them. The great thing about this software is that it doesn’t wait for the virus to start causing problems to your computer. It eliminates the threat before it can harm your system and files. Good antivirus software works without you knowing, so you won’t be making much effort. 

Guarding Privacy 

While the internet has made the world interconnected and granted us access to endless information, it also made your information and privacy within reach for hackers. In many cases, a virus can be a hacker trying to gain access to your personal information. This is another reason why you should get good antivirus software. As you can see on https://softwarelab.org/, it helps if you slow down and consider different options. Compare different software and find one that works best for you. Antivirus software can protect your personal information when you surf the internet and protect vital information like your credit card information from potential hackers. 

Spam Protection 

Believe it or not, one of the most common ways for a virus to invade your system is through pop-up ads that annoy you when you open websites on the internet. Unfortunately, these ads are not just annoying. They can also allow viruses to enter your computer system and cause a ton of problems. Spam websites are also a way for viruses to attack your computer, and most of us click them inadvertently. Antivirus software can protect your system from spam websites, and it blocks the ads that might contain potential viruses. 

Protection Against USB Drives

Well, it’s actually protection against any removable device. Reading this, you have probably thought of a million times you’ve connected external hard drives and USB devices to your laptop. Every time you do that, you risk infecting your system with viruses and malware. You never know what that removable device could cause to your system. Antivirus software will scan any removable device you connect to your system, ensuring that the USB or hard drive will not transmit any viruses to your computer. 

Malware Protection 

Antivirus software also protects your system from data thieves and hackers that might try to infect your system with a vicious malware. This is one of the most commonly used tactics by hackers to steal data and personal information, and malware can be quite difficult to deal with if you don’t have antivirus software. If you find yourself in that situation, hackers can ransom your data or delete them, causing problems that you don’t really need. With antivirus software, you get protection against malware and avoid such nuisances. 

Improved Performance 

As we mentioned earlier, if your system is attacked by a virus or malware, its performance will significantly slow down. This can be problematic for graphic designers, coders, or anyone who needs their system to be working at its full potential. Antivirus software protects your system before a virus could wreak havoc, as we mentioned earlier. Some even clear disk space and delete any useless files on your computer that might be slowing it down. 

Firewall 

A firewall keeps an eye on incoming and outgoing traffic that your computer network deals with. Firewall protection paired with antivirus software ensures that any data coming into or out of your computer is checked, so nothing suspicious could compromise the safety of your network. This protects your computer from phishing attacks, which are very common. 

To put it simply, antivirus software provides you with convenience. You won’t have to constantly worry about your personal information and the security of your data. It also saves you the trouble of having to deal with viruses and malware, which can cause all sorts of problems. With virus protection, your computer can live longer, which means you will save money in the long run.

Understanding the Basics of Cyber Security for Small Businesses

Cyber attacks are a part of the many risks online business owners face. It is estimated that cybercriminals will steal 33 billion records by 2023.

Therefore, businesses of all sizes must understand and practice cybersecurity. Even knowing only the basics of how to protect your website and its data is an effective prevention of potential cyberattacks.

With that in mind, let us discuss the basics of cybersecurity along with best practices to implement for your business. 

Cyber Security Risks for Small Businesses

Before implementing the cybersecurity strategies, let us go through the common cybersecurity risks. After all, it is essential to understand what kind of potential attacks you will be defending against.

Common cyber threats for online businesses include:

  • Malicious code. It falls under malware and is also called malicious software. Malicious code can attack your computer and access sensitive information by disguising itself as legitimate links sent via email.
  • Unsecured wireless internet networks. Compared to a wired connection, wireless networks are more prone to cyberattacks. Hackers can easily access unsecured wireless networks to steal sensitive data, like login information or intellectual property.
  • Security breaches. Breaches can happen through several scenarios, like carelessness or lack of knowledge. However, the most common cause is employees forgetting to sign out of their work or personal devices.
  • Phishing attacks. This type of attack includes pretending to be a legitimate business and attempting to take users’ information, like phone numbers, addresses, or credit card numbers. Unfortunately, phishing attacks have become more sophisticated with the disguise, so it is important to look at them seriously.

7 Basic Protection Strategies Against Cyber Attacks

These seven basic protection strategies combined can improve your cybersecurity a lot. They’re relatively simple to implement and can make a massive difference in the security of your website.

1. Choose a Secure Hosting Provider

A secure hosting provider increases not only website quality but also its security. But, most importantly, it protects your system and all of its essential information.

Standard security features good hosting plans include are SSL certificates, firewalls, DDoS prevention, malware detection, and user access management.

However, these features depend on the hosting provider you pick. So make sure to compare and choose one that includes everything your website needs. 

One example to consider is Hostinger, which offers hosting plans starting from $1.39 to $3.99/month. Its plans come with robust security features and other great benefits your website may need.

2. Update Your Software

Cybersecurity can be as simple as regularly updating your software. By constantly using the latest software version, you make sure all previously found security loopholes are patched up, and the software is safe.

This is because updates fix and remove bugs. They also include crucial patches to improve security and remove outdated features. In addition to security, by regularly updating your software, you also maintain the website quality.

Whenever possible, always enable automatic updates. Doing so will ensure that you’re always up to date. For plugins or software with manual updates, always check the developers for any software information.

3. Train Employees

Doing security training on your employees helps bring awareness of potential cyber threats and educates them of what they can do to prevent them. The training can include phishing basics, information security, and other cybersecurity measures your business may need.

The point of security training is for the employees to protect themselves and their workplace by taking the safest measures when browsing, logging in to apps, and sharing personal information.

The key to successful employee security training is the planning process. Some of the methods are:

  • Research the latest cybersecurity threats and solutions before presenting them to the employees.
  • Plan and schedule the training sessions to fit the employee’s preferences.
  • Use the suitable tools and techniques for the training.
  • Ensure all employees follow the training protocols when attacks happen.

4. Use Strong Passwords

Strong passwords are one of the most straightforward but most efficient cybersecurity efforts to make. They make it more complicated to hack into the company systems, improving the overall security of your business.

Strong passwords consist of different characters, symbols, and numbers. The longer your password is, the better it protects against hacking and brute force attacks.

Test your passwords and improve them if needed. Alternatively, use a password generator to create strong combinations. Afterward, manage your passwords by using tools like LastPass or print them out for extra safekeeping.

5. Install Antivirus Software

Antivirus software works by detecting and expelling viruses from the computer and also prevents future attacks. Without antivirus, your system is unprotected, making it very vulnerable.

Research existing antivirus software and choose the one that suits your needs. Check the user reviews and create a free trial account if possible to understand the software better. If it meets your expectations, create an account and make the payment.

6. Back Up Files Regularly

Similar to software updates, regular file backups prevent data loss and secures your latest files. Additionally, you always have a copy of your files if a cyber attack happens.

Fortunately, most hosting providers offer automatic backup daily, weekly, or monthly so you can avoid the hassle of doing them manually.

However, if you prefer to backup manually, do it via the control panel from your hosting provider. WordPress users can also use plugins like UpdraftPlus and VaultPress.

7. Use Multi-Factor Authentication

Multi-factor authentication (MFA) is a method where users must enter their credentials on at least two separate systems in order to log in. These extra credentials can be your phone number, fingerprints, voice recognition, or authentication code via SMS text message.

Naturally, MFA is stronger than two-factor authentication and can adapt to changing workplaces – at the office or home.

Enabling MFA depends on the devices and software or app you’re using. Therefore, check the MFA tutorials for each platform before the activation.

Conclusion

As cybercrimes rise, understanding basic cybersecurity becomes more crucial. Fortunately, there are plenty of simple and practicable basic security measures that you and your employees can take to protect your business.

This article covered seven essential cybersecurity tips, ranging from choosing the right hosting provider to enabling multi-factor authentication.

Implement these seven tips as soon as possible to secure your business and its data. Good luck!

Looking for an IT Services Provider? Here Are Some Tips

No matter what industry you work in today, technology is wiggling its way into your daily tasks. As technology permeates everything we do, many companies and business owners are considering turning to IT services providers to help bridge the gap. Computer systems, digital storage, data security, cloud software, project management software, and post-pandemic digital alternatives to in-person and in-store methods are just a few of the things that IT service providers can help you with. The following will point out some of the things you want to keep in mind to help you choose the right IT services provider for you and your business.

Understand What You Need

Every business is different, and so it follows that every business’s IT needs are going to be different too. Before you begin filtering through IT service provider options, get straight what you’re hoping a team can help you with. Having a list of your needs when calling or emailing providers can help you narrow down your choices quickly, as not all providers offer the same services. Take the time to speak to other members of your business as well to be sure that you understand everyone’s needs.

Don’t Assume Your Needs Won’t Change

While it’s fantastic to start with the above list of needs, you need to be aware that what you require from your IT services provider will change in the future. EIRE Systems managed IT support points out that things might need to scale and adapt to new technologies as the year progresses. Keep in mind how your future needs might change when agreeing to terms and strategies, and be open to discussing potential IT infrastructure options that will meet both your current and future needs.

Security Is A Priority

Even if you don’t think security is an issue in your industry or business, it is. Cybersecurity is a massive issue right now, and it’s looking like it’s only going to grow. Speak to any potential IT service providers about what security measures they are taking and what they recommend given your current situation and the type of information you collect and harbor.

Understand The Support Service You’ll Be Entitled To

Does the provider you’re speaking to allow you 24-hour access to support lines? Can you call at any time and reach an expert on the other end of the line who can walk you through whatever technical difficulties you’re having? Be sure that you understand what the IT provider’s resources are when it comes to troubleshooting and dealing with the inevitable hiccups that come along with incorporating new technologies into the workforce.

The above tips should help you have open and useful conversations with potential IT services providers. Once you’ve discussed the above information with a provider, you should have a good idea of whether or not the provider is right for you. Keep asking the above questions until you find someone that is a great match for you and your company. It’s alright if it takes a moment to find a good fit. It’s important to think about your IT services provider as carefully as you think about hiring a new employee—this is someone or a team of someones who will be working alongside you, perhaps for many years to come.

6 Ways To Perfectly Secure Yourself Online

Online security is no joke. More and more of our data is being stolen, bought, then sold by hackers and big corporations alike. In this day and age, data about us is even more valuable than the products we are purchasing, as it allows companies to learn about their target market. 

Online vulnerabilities also mean that your credit card information, address, family names, and more are sometimes leaked to hackers. This is dangerous, as identity theft becomes more common online, leading to loss of finance and other nasty things. With all that in mind, below we have six tips for helping you stay secure online. 

1. Use A VPN

Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) are handy little tools for keeping yourself secure online. In fact, it’s the first thing that Josh, an online security blogger over at All Things Secured recommends. He says that “After using a VPN for the last decade to access the internet, I can safely say it’s one of the key tools needed to protect your identity online.” VPNs create a secure connection – which could be anywhere else in the world – to mask your actual IP address, location, and web traffic. This means that many experienced hackers won’t even be able to tell where you are logging on to the net from, or what you are looking at. This is, therefore, such a great way of protecting your data.

2. Password Managers

One of the biggest issues with personal security online is the use of simple, repeated passwords. Using a maiden name, a row of numbers, or a simple word from your life is simply not secure enough. Instead, we are recommended to use combinations of letters, numbers, and special characters. 

Many secure passwords look something like “xpV9s-4jKwW-2azxp-9l2L5”. This is obviously super hard to remember. However, with a password manager app, you can store all these complicated passwords behind either a face ID, thumbprint, or another special password only you know. This means your passwords are secure and you can never forget them. The app can also track any data breaches your password may have been exposed to.

3. Double-Blind Password Storage

To take this to the next level, you could even use double-blind storage. By this, we mean that you don’t even store the full password in your password manager app. You always replace the last few characters with a special code only you know. In the example from above, the last few keys recorded would be “-9l” leaving the “2L5” in one place only: your brain. This works if you change all passwords to end with the same special key, so even your app doesn’t have full records of your passwords.

4. Use Two-Factor Authentication

A two-factor authentication is a clever tool where you will need to prove your identity on two devices before being allowed to log onto an app or into an account. This works by linking devices such as tablets, laptops, and phones to one account. Then, if you try to log in somewhere new, a message will pop up saying that you need to validate this login attempt on one of your other devices. The system will then either provide you with a code to enter, a call to verify, or simply a yes/no button to push on your other device, validating that it is you and you trust this login attempt.

5. Identity Monitoring

There are also apps that can help track your identity. Again, these apps themselves are hyper-secured, so there’s little-to-no risk of data breaches here. These apps will track the internet for traces of your personal data being used in any fraudulent or malicious way, alerting you if they find such activity. This means any breaches or sales of your personal data can be caught and hopefully stopped in their tracks.

6. Secure Email

Believe it or not, many of our favorite and most-used email providers have suffered security breaches. In 2019, for example, it was discovered that 770 million email addresses and passwords had been exposed –crazy numbers! So, how do you know if your email is secure? Well, you just have to find out! Different email companies have different encryption and security standards. These can differ quite wildly. But, for most users, any of the main email account companies, such as Gmail, will be secure enough if you take advantage of their advanced protection settings.

These are our top six tips for staying secure online, all of which can be worked on from today. There is no need to delay in getting started on these, as your personal data is very important and valuable. Get secure online ASAP.

How are Small Businesses affected by Hafnium Microsoft Exchange Breach?

The cyberattack on Microsoft Exchange email servers has impacted thousands of small businesses, government organizations, enterprises, educational institutions, etc. This led Microsoft to scramble quickly to patch those vulnerabilities that hackers have exploited. As of now, Microsoft was able to patch all the zero-day flaws that caused the Hafnium Exchange breach, but it is beyond the capabilities of small businesses to secure their compromised systems. In this blog, we will shed light on the Microsoft Exchange breach and then related it to the challenges that small businesses have to face for the next few months.

Hafnium Microsoft Exchange Breach

Analysts from Volexity first detected the exploitation of zero-day vulnerabilities of Microsoft Exchange in March 2021. Those vulnerabilities helped hacking group so-called Hafnium, a Chinese state-sponsored group, to get access to email accounts associated with Microsoft Exchange without requiring any authentication credentials. As per Microsoft, the attacks were conducted in three steps, as follow:

  1. Hackers started with getting access to the Microsoft Exchange server by either account credentials they had stolen or utilizing the vulnerabilities to present themselves as a person who has the right to access.
  2. By developing a web shell, the hackers then remotely controlled the breached server and all additional backdoors to set up more access points.
  3. Using remote access, the hackers then stole the sensitive data from the corporation server, mostly email addresses and passwords, because they are stored unencrypted by Microsoft Exchange.

Hafnium’s main objective was to extract sensitive data from thousands of Exchange associated corporations, such as educational institutes, law firms, non-governmental organizations, defense contractors, and other small and medium businesses.

Microsoft Response

In response to the hacks, Microsoft released multiple security patches for Exchange Server to overcome the zero-day vulnerabilities. Microsoft also urged all Exchange users working with Exchange 2010, 2013, 2016, and 2019 versions to patch the servers on priority. Despite the patch release, Censys a cybersecurity company, says that above 50% of those versions of Exchange Servers left unpatched and vulnerable to potential threats. Besides that, many other hackers have also come up to use this loophole and make an impact.

Exchange Breach Impacts

As of now, around 30,000 U.S. organizations are hit by the breach. Mostly the victims were U.S. organizations, but Germany, UK, Netherlands, and few others were also the target. Although all kinds of organizations, whether large enterprises or small businesses, are the victims, the larger enterprises are still in a better place to investigate their systems and remove all malware, web shells, and other vulnerabilities in minimal time. Because patching the vulnerabilities is just one stage for recovery, but clearing all the after-effects of hacking is another crucial stage. This second stage is quite challenging for small businesses to meet due to the lack of resources and expertise.

Effects on Small Businesses

Thousands of small businesses have also been the victim of the Hafnium Exchange breach, and most of those businesses by now have installed the security patches from Microsoft. But when it comes to investigating the system to avoid further infections, such as ransomware or destructive malware, small businesses clearly lag there. Mostly, small businesses outsource their technical support to IT providers, but such IT providers are just experienced in setting and managing IT systems. For addressing cyber-attacks, such providers cannot be trusted.

Restricted budgets and no serious plans of cybersecurity are making small businesses’ systems further vulnerable to threats for many months to come. And since many other hacking groups are also taking advantage of the situation, it is the worst situation for small businesses. As per ESET, at minimum ten other hacking groups are using the same server flaws to breach through organizations systems.

IT Department Tasks

For small businesses, removing initial web shells is easy with their IT administration’s help and following the Microsoft guidelines, but doing the next investigation demands dedicated skills. The world is already seeing high demand for cybersecurity experts, and the present cybersecurity experts also present a significant skills gap. Therefore, it is also quite difficult for small businesses to find highly trained experts and willing to be part of such an organization when they can easily score a high position in big enterprises.

There is also a possibility that small businesses don’t even know that they are hit, and in case they know about it, they still need proper guidance to know how to proceed next. Seeing the gap of expertise from small businesses and the potential of Exchange Server hack, Microsoft has provided detailed guidance for helping IT staff what to do. CISA has also provided a tool and advice to look for server logs to get evidence of a compromise. So, small businesses have multiple approaches and resources they can utilize in order to get out of the victim-zone in minimal time. But all such measures do not guarantee complete system recovery and protection, owing to the fact that other hacking groups have also used their own approaches to exploit Microsoft Exchange vulnerabilities.

Patch Problems

Many sites that are not hit with the Hafnium intrusion have been put offline for another problem. The process of applying Microsoft Exchange Server patches often leads to network disruption. To apply the Hafnium patch requires an Exchange Site must update all prior patches. This process of updating has been a disaster for many sites, as their systems are taken offline and do not recover. No one is able to contact Microsoft for a fix.

Conclusion

Hafnium Microsoft Exchange breach is one of 2021 biggest attacks seen by now. It is far more invasive than the recent SolarWinds Breach, which affected mostly Government organizations. and the worst part is the after-effects of these breaches. Suppose 30,000 U.S. organizations are hit by this hack, then despite the Microsoft patches. In that case, there will be many organizations that are going to be exploited by Hafnium and other hacking groups due to hidden backdoors, etc. Compared to all such organizations, small businesses are the most vulnerable ones. Therefore, it is a need of time that Microsoft and other cybersecurity firms play a helping hand in making those victim businesses get rid of possible malware by facilitating in thorough investigations. Besides that, opting for cloud servers and migrating workloads to the cloud can also facilitate small businesses to avoid getting a victim of such breaches in the future.

The Role of Operating Systems in Security

For every computer system and software design, it is imperative that it should address all security concerns and implement required safeguards to enforce security policies. At the same time, it is important to keep a balance since rigorous security measures can not only increase costs but also limit the user-friendliness, usefulness and smooth performance of the system. Hence, system designers have to ensure effective performance without compromising on security. A computer’s operating system must concentrate on delivering a functionally complete and flexible set of security mechanism for security policies to be effectively enforced.

An operating system’s protection and security requires all computer resources such as software, CPU, memory and others to be protected. This can be enforced by ensuring the confidentiality, integrity and availability in the operating system. It must be able to protect against all threats including malware and unauthorized access.

Threats to Operating Systems

Let’s have a look at the common threats faced by any operating system.

Anything that has a malicious nature and can be harmful for the system is a threat.

Malware

This category includes viruses, worms, trojan horses and all kinds of malicious software. These are generally small code snippets that can corrupt files, destroy data, replicate to spread further, and even crash a system. Many times, the malware goes unnoticed by the victim user, while the cyber criminals silently extract sensitive information.

Denial of Service Attacks

DDoS attacks run from a single IP address, while DDoS (distributed-denial-of-service) attacks are carried out via numerous devices forming a botnet to increase the chances of the attack’s success. With the growing number, complexity, and severity of DDoS attacks, it’s a good practice to perform DDoS testing to check your operating system’s resilience to them.

Network Intrusion

Network intruders can be classified as masqueraders, misfeasors or a clandestine users. A masquerader is an unauthorized individual who penetrates into a system and exploits an authorized individual’s account. Misfeasor is a legitimate user who accesses and misuses programs, data or resources. Clandestine user takes over supervisory control and tries to evade access controls and audit collection.

Buffer Overflow

Also called buffer overrun, buffer overflow is defined in the NIST Glossary of Key information security terms as “A condition at an interface under which more input can be placed into a buffer or data-holding area than the capacity allocated, overwriting other information. Attackers exploit such a condition to crash a system or to insert specially crafted code that allows them to gain control of the system”

Buffer overflow is one of the most common and dangerous security threats. To exploit a buffer overflow, attackers identify a buffer overflow vulnerability in a program and understand how the buffer will store in process memory to finally alter the execution flow of the program.

Ensuring Operating Systems Security

Operating systems security can be ensured with the following mechanisms.

Authentication

Authentication identifies every user in a system and ensures that their identity is legitimate. The operating system makes sure that each user is authenticated before they are allowed to access a system. Different ways to ensure their authenticity are:

Username and Password

Every user has their distinct username and password that needs to be entered correctly before they are able to access a system

User Attribution Identification

These methods usually involve biometrics verification such as finger prints, eye retina scan, etc. This authentication is based on uniqueness of users and is compared with the database samples that already exist in the system. Users can access only in case of a match.

One-Time Password

A one-time password is generated exclusively for each time a user wants to log in and enter a system. The same password cannot be used again. Methods include:

  • Random Numbers

The system may ask you for numbers corresponding to a set of pre-arranged alphabets. The combination is different every time you require a login

  • Secret Key

This includes a hardware device that generates a secret key for the user id, and changes every time.

Tokens

A user is authenticated with something that they physically possess, such as a smart card or electronic keycard.

Access Control

Access control specifies who can have access to a system resource and what type of access each entity has. A security administrator maintains an authorization database to specify what type of access is allowed to each user. This database is consulted by the access control function for determining whether access should be granted.

Intrusion Detection Systems

Intrusion Detection Systems monitor network traffic or events occurring within a host to identify any suspicious activity. IDS helps identify network, transport and application protocols.

Firewalls

Firewalls are important to monitor all incoming and outgoing traffic. It enforces local security, thus defining the traffic that is authorized to pass through it. Firewalls are effective means to protect local systems or network of systems from all network-based security threats.

Buffer Overflow Defense

Countermeasures to avoid buffer overflow include compile-time defense, that aims to harden a program for resisting an attack to enhance software security; or runtime defense, that detects and aborts attacks in an executing program.

Key Takeaway

Operating systems security plays a primitive role in protecting memory, files, user authentication and data access protection. Consistent protection means that the system meets standard security requirements and have the required functionality to enforce security practices.

How to Optimize Your PC for Both Security and Productivity

Have you been in the situation when after hours of fruitful work all your data is being disappeared? It is shocking for every user. It is not a problem for only novice users. Experienced PC users may easily face the same issue. But what differs the former from the latter is that advanced users know effective tools for productivity of your computer. They don’t panic and follow working tips to resolve the issue.

Ensuring data security is crucial for every person working on the computer. Either you want to recover Word document or ensure data backup for your folders, we will help you. By reading the article, you can easily recover deleted folders on windows 10 and perform a high level of data protection.

How to Recover Lost Data on Your PC

If you use Windows, the following guide is for you. It will show you step by step how to recover deleted files and optimize the work of the operative system. Let’s get more information about the data recovery tool and backup your folders to the computer.

  1. The first step is the most essential. You won’t be able to move further without managing the first action. You need to download software for a successful data recovery process.
  2. When the program is downloaded you need to install it and launch it.
  3. When you open the Disk Drill you will see a big window featuring a list of disks. Your task is to select the one with the appropriate folder, i.e. the folder you want to recover.
  4. Now you need to search for the missing data. On the screen, you will see a blue Search for lost data button. Click on it to make the system work and process the information. With the help of working algorithms, the software will scan the data and show you possible options.
  5. When it is done, you will see all the recoverable files. Your task is to choose those to be restored. Here is one important remark to consider. You can’t use the same place to store the retrieved file. If you do so, there is a risk for the file to be overwritten. You don’t need it. So, choose another folder other than the original storage place to back up the data.
  6. When the files have been selected, you can press the Recover button and wait until the work is done.

The process of data recovery doesn’t take too much effort from the doer. You may spend more time depending on the number of files you want to recover. The system may simply process the information longer but the actual procedure is like a piece of cake. The time of the process is also dependent on the methods the software chooses. If you don’t want to get deep into the process, you may rely on the system. It will choose the most appropriate method for your case. For more advanced users, there’s an Arrow button to choose from a variety of methods. You can select the one that you consider to be correct.

It is also important to tell a few words about the software. You may need to restore various types of files. It can be a photo, message, Word document, or any other file. By using Disk Drill software, it is possible to restore almost everything. And the process will take minutes. So, don’t get upset when the information has been accidentally lost. Now you know working methods to get it back to your PC.

The Internet Is Drowning in Malware and Phishing Scams

The past few years have seen a monumental increase in cybercrime. Data from multiple cybersecurity companies and government agencies shows that millions of attacks are being launched every second of every day. In this environment, anything you touch on the internet could expose you to some kind of attack or malicious software.

Malware on The Internet- How It Affects Everyone

Let’s start the discussion by talking about malware- one of the oldest and most potent attack vectors. Malware is short for malicious software and it’s any kind of code whose intention is to attack your computer in some way.  It can be a virus meant to steal your personal information or infiltrate your devices and start tracking you through sustained access.

Data shows that nearly a million new malware threats are released every day. This is an ominous figure and one that should worry anyone who uses the internet. More worryingly, it is clear from recent attacks that malware is getting better and smarter as new tools and vulnerabilities are discovered.

How Malware Gets into Your Devices

The internet is the number one source for malware although you can also get through traditional means like portable storage devices and over the network file sharing. Accessing the internet in this environment of increased malware has been likened to wading through a flooded minefield.  

There are several ways you can be exposed to malware through normal internet activity. Here are some of them and how you can protect your devices:

1. Accessing unsecured websites

 Most browsers will either warn you or prevent access to an unsecured website. However, those using old browsers are still vulnerable meaning they can get infected by just accessing a website without any form of protection or security. An unsecured website is one without an SSL certificate as this is the first sign of a website that is run by cybercriminals or individuals who don’t care about security.

How To Protect Your Devices From Unsecured Websites

Avoid accessing websites without SSL certificates especially if you get a warning from your browser.  If you happen to inadvertently click on a link that leads you to an unsecured website, scan your devices for malware. Make sure you check anti-malware removal tool options during installation that allow scanning of websites for malware.

2. Malicious Links

Clicking on a malicious link on the internet, local file, or one sent to you on email could also expose you to malware. Hackers often disguise malware links as genuine ones through URL shorteners and other methods. Once you click on the link, malware will be downloaded in the background to your device.

How to Protect Your Devices from malicious links

Avoid clicking on links that you cannot read or tell where they will lead you. For instance, you should only click shortened URLs from trusted sources. Of course, you cannot avoid all links as they help you navigate the web so having an anti-malware tool installed on your pc and browser is important.

3. Infected Files from Illegal Sources

Hackers like using illegal file download and streaming services to spread malware. By downloading that illegal movie or streaming it for free, you are most likely allowing the hackers to install malware on your computer.

How to Protect Your Devices From infected files

Make sure you scan all files downloaded from the internet before you open them on your devices. Modern anti-malware can automatically scan a file on your local storage that was downloaded from the internet. This kind of proactive security is what you should look for in your security tools.

4. Phishing Scams

Phishing refers to when a cybercriminal sends emails to individuals pretending to be someone or creates a fake website to lure victims.  Phishing attacks are on the rise with Google reportedly discovering over 20 million phishing websites last year at the peak of the pandemic.

How to Protect Yourself from phishing scams

Be aware of fraudsters and internet criminals that are out to swindle you or gain access to your devices. Double-check that the information provided on a website is real and genuine especially addresses and contact information. Beware of criminals pretending to be someone known to you sending you emails and report such emails to your IT admin if you are in a company setup.

Protecting yourself against malware and phishing websites requires you to be proactive about your security on the internet. Have the necessary security tools and be aware of the dangers that lurk on the web. Also, make sure that your software is updated frequently.