How to

Backup Internet Connection – “Site Health” Checklist 1024 411 Vaughan

Backup Internet Connection – “Site Health” Checklist

These days there would be very few organisations that are not dependent on Internet access for the smooth running of their business. However, despite this dependence on the Internet, many organisations rely on a single Internet connection – typically a wired service.

If you’re an NBN customer, Telstra include a free 4G backup service with their SmartModem; which automatically kicks in – in the event of an NBN outage (speed of up to 6Mbps).

If you have a dedicated fibre service, we can provide a 4G backup service that works in the same way – and without the 6Mbps speed restriction.

“Site Health” Checklist 1024 411 Vaughan

“Site Health” Checklist

In this article we provide a Checklist for key tasks and processes that should be in place to ensure the smooth running of your computer network.

This checklist covers the following areas:

  1. Backups and Disaster Recovery
  2. Anti-virus
  3. Passwords
  4. E-mail scams
  5. Servers
  6. Backup Internet connection
Backups and Disaster Recovery – “Site Health” Checklist 1024 411 Vaughan

Backups and Disaster Recovery – “Site Health” Checklist

Good backups are an essential first line of defence to address a multitude of issues. At the end of the day computer hardware can be replaced, but your critical data will be unique to your business and will be either irreplaceable – or at the very least difficult to recreate.

What makes a “good backup”?

A “good backup”, is a recent backup that has all the data (which can include applications as well as information) in a form that can be easily accessed and restored if needed.

What this means then, is that backups need to be performed regularly (typically at least daily). The value of backups is significantly diminished if they’re not current – or near current to the point-in-time that you need.

The key items in relations to backups are:

  • the backup application itself – its capabilities and features (if you would like recommendations for your environment … please contact us)
  • automated monitoring of backup jobs
    • you need to know that all systems are being backed up at least daily
    • that the backup jobs are being started
    • and that if there are any failures – you’re notified so that they can be investigated and resolved
    • so what you’re interested in is the “exceptions” (i.e. jobs that are not started for some reason, and the jobs that complete with an error)
    • if you don’t have automated monitoring of your backup jobs – we can help!

Servers

  • When most people think about backups, they probably think ‘Servers’ and that is entirely appropriate. Servers typically store data for users and thus Servers need regular and reliable backups in the event of some issue (hardware, user error or virus etc.)

Workstations

  • However backups are also appropriate for workstations. These days USB drives are inexpensive and are ideal both in terms of their physical size (portable) and their capacity.
  • Users don’t always save documents to designated folders or network drives. If important documents are lost or corrupted, local workstation backups are ideal in this scenario.
  • Another situation where local workstation backups can save time and money is in the case where a user has noticed some ‘strange’ behaviour (e.g. some application not performing as expected).
    • If the behaviour cannot be resolved in 15 – 30 mins, and the user can advise that the behaviour started a few days ago.
    • If you have regular backups you can restore back prior to when the issue commenced and resolve the issue in around an hour.
  • Local backups are also particularly useful when users are based at a branch office.
    • Rather than having to return a system to Head office for a rebuild (which will typically take a few days), if you have a recent backup from a point-in-time where the system was working; you can restore the system at the Branch office and have the system working again in around an hour.

Off-site

  • In the case of a disaster at your premises, you need to have a copy of server backups off-site.
  • As with backup monitoring, the process for getting your backups off-site should be automated. Automated processes are not reliant on any individual (i.e. automated processes keep working regardless of who is on vacation)
  • Each off-site backup should be verified – at least weekly – to verify the integrity of the images (if the image is intact – then it should be able to be restored).

Disaster Recovery strategy

  • Off-site backups need to be tested periodically, even if the off-site images are being verified.
  • Frequently the off-site recovery environment is different to the on-premise equipment. It is only by performing an off-site restore that you can identify any potential issues in the restore process. Far better to resolve any restore issues at your leisure than under the pressure of a ‘live’ disaster recovery scenario.
  • If you have a backup system like the one we covered in this article https://zen.net.au/affordable-business-continuity-for-smes/ then you can perform a test restore in around 15 minutes at your convenience.
    • This is the ideal scenario; particularly for medium-sized organisations where the cost of downtime both in terms of lost productivity and loss of reputation due to disruption of service to customers would be significant.
  • However smaller organisations who may not have the budget for a dedicated Data Centre solution, still need the ability to restore their servers in the event of a disaster.
    • We can provide an alternative solution that will provide for the recovery of servers typically in 24 – 48 hours
    • In this scenario, we recommend off-site restores be performed every 6 months.
Anti-virus (AV) – “Site Health” Checklist 1024 411 Vaughan

Anti-virus (AV) – “Site Health” Checklist

No single anti-virus product should be considered infallible all of the time. We recommend a layered or multi AV approach. Each anti-virus application should have a small “footprint”) (i.e. not be a resource hog).

Ransomware

  • Because Ransomware can be difficult to detect and because the consequences of a Ransomware infection can be so dire; look for strong Ransomware protection in at least one of the AV products deployed. Also look for backup products that protect their image repositories from Ransomware (if your backups are encrypted by a Ransomware virus – then your backups become useless).

E-mail screening

  • E-mail is a constant source of threats:
    • Malicious attachments
    • Embedded images
    • Malicious URL’s
  • Implement an e-mail gateway that can screen all e-mail and filter / quarantine malicious or potentially suspicious e-mail. Effective e-mail screening can block scam e-mails before they reach the Inbox of your staff – thus reducing the risk that you need to rely on the vigilance of your staff to recognise a threat.
Passwords – “Site Health” Checklist 1024 411 Vaughan

Passwords – “Site Health” Checklist

Choose passwords that would be difficult for others to guess and then don’t update them regularly. A strong password should contain a mix of upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols.

If you choose strong passwords, then so long as they’re not compromised there is no need to change them. This approach works best when used with a password manager.

Use a password manager like LastPass or RoboForm to simplify the management and administration of passwords. Both LastPass and Roboform have a free product offering which is quite capable.

Making password management a chore is a guaranteed way to encourage staff to take shortcuts with passwords and potentially use the same password over and over, or write them down. Don’t make password management any more of a hassle than it needs to be.

Use a different password for every account/profile – that way if a password is compromised only one account / profile / service is affected – not all.

Don’t share your passwords with anyone.

Two factor authentication (2FA)

  • With the increasing use of Cloud Service Providers, two factor authentication provides protection against compromise of your security, in the event that a user’s password becomes known by a scammer.
  • How 2FA works, is that anytime a service is accessed from an unknown (or new) device for the first time. A challenge / alert is sent to a known device (typically a user’s mobile phone).
  • This way if a password to an account becomes compromised, the user is alerted by the challenge / alert on their mobile phone – which prevents their account from being accessed even though their password has been compromised.
  • The user can then reset their password.

Failed login attempt monitoring

  • Many Windows applications are susceptible to brute-force password hacking attempts (i.e. trying to identify the user’s password by repeatedly attempting to authenticate with different passwords).
  • However applications that use a Web portal for authentication frequently do not lock out a user account after a certain number of failed login attempts.
  • For your on-premise servers, implement failed login attempt monitoring to address this security risk.
E-mail scams – change of bank account details – “Site Health” Checklist 1024 411 Vaughan

E-mail scams – change of bank account details – “Site Health” Checklist

One of the more “sophisticated” scams – and particularly expensive if it succeeds – is where the scammers attempt to get an organisation to update the bank details that they hold on file for a legitimate supplier, and replace the legitimate suppliers bank account details with the scammers bank account details.

These scams are becoming increasingly prevalent, no doubt because of the financial payoff, when they’re successful.

Here is a recent example:

https://www.smh.com.au/business/small-business/devastating-blow-homewares-business-hit-by-apparent-email-scam-20180813-p4zx4y.html

Make sure that your staff are alert to the fact that these scams exist. We have written a previous blog article which covers e-mail and other scams in detail (see link below), we encourage you to share this article with your team:

https://zen.net.au/how-to-protect-against-e-mail-and-other-scams/

Have strong Accounts Payable controls. Any request for a change to existing payment details or addition of a new bank account / supplier should be considered a potential red flag and require careful scrutiny and independent verification to ensure that the new bank details are legitimate.

Also consider informing your clients to always double-check any advice that they receive in relation to an updated bank account for your organisation – as this could be an indication of a scammer seeking to impersonate one of the staff within your business.

Servers – “Site Health” Checklist 1024 411 Vaughan

Servers – “Site Health” Checklist

Hardware monitoring

  • If your servers are from a Tier 1 vendor (e.g. HP, Dell) then they most likely will have ‘Out of Bounds’ management capabilities installed (Dell = DRAC, HP = ILO).
  • These ‘Out of Bounds’ systems have the ability to monitor the internal hardware components of your servers and can provide alerts when faults are detected – and sometimes even before faults occur! (i.e. they can predict hardware failures).
  • Of course, to take advantage of this feature, the alerts need to be configured. However because the configuration of the alerts is not entirely straight-forward, in our experience frequently these alerts are not configured.
  • Where you have Servers with redundant components (e.g. power supplies, storage devices), provided that you’re aware of the faults, the components can often be replaced by the vendor without any downtime.

Disk space monitoring

  • Any Windows system that runs low on (or out of) disk space on any volume will typically experience degraded performance at the very least – or worse applications will either stop working altogether or will start behaving “unusually”. All of these outcomes will be disruptive to users.
  • Configure disk space monitoring on servers by setting thresholds / alerts for each logical volume; so that in the case of low disk space, intervention can be taken before any disruptions to services occur.

Security patches

  • Particularly on servers that are accessible from the Internet (i.e. servers that provide services to external users) and thus are far more susceptible to ‘attack’ from malicious third parties; ensure that Microsoft and 3rd party application security patches are regularly reviewed and applied to protect against known vulnerabilities.
Backup for Office 365 1024 411 Vaughan

Backup for Office 365

In our last article we looked at Office 365 Licensing, whether you’re using Office 365 or some other Cloud Service Provider, our view is that you should never rely on the cloud service provider to backup and protect your data (although some cloud service providers do provide backups as part of their service – typically you don’t get to choose the backup frequency or the data retention period. And in the event that you need to perform a restore, the restore options are generally limited).

At the end of the day, your data is the key to your business, equipment can be replaced, but your data will be unique to you. So if you lose your data, then the consequences could be catastrophic.

On the other hand, if you have good backups in place then any “data loss” will be an inconvenience rather than a ‘disaster’.

Data loss can occur due to:

  • User error
  • Malicious action
    • e.g. ex-staff member decides to delete all or some of their mail just before they leave
    • or some 3rd party manages to obtain remote access to a mailbox or OneDrive folder by guessing a user’s password and then decides to wreak havoc
  • Data corruption
    • virus
    • or cloud provider snafu

So if you decide to implement Office 365, then you need to backup your Office 365 data:

  • Mailboxes
  • Public folders
  • SharePoint Online and OneDrive for Business data
  • Teams data

There are several Office 365 backup solutions available.

One option is CodeTwo Backup for Office 365 which lets you perform full or incremental backups of selected Office 365 mailboxes and public folders, SharePoint Online and OneDrive for Business sites as well as Teams data.

CodeTwo Backup is relatively easy-to-use for a backup solution, bearing in mind that backup products should be the realm of an IT Admin rather than a user. CodeTwo provides good reporting / monitoring and is affordable.

Key features

  • Backup Office 365 mailboxes
  • Backup Office 365 public folders
  • Backup SharePoint Online and OneDrive for Business
  • Backup Teams data
  • Continuous incremental backup
  • Backup on demand or scheduled automatic backups
  • Centralised management from a single console
  • Unlimited data retention and full control
  • Option to export to PST and automatic archiving (although there are other archiving solutions that in our view are better)
  • Granular recovery
    • Restore full mailboxes
    • Selected folders
    • Or particular items only
  • Browse backup versions, search for items
  • Ability to restore data to a different destination – other than the original location
    • The backed up data doesn’t have to be restored to the original location. You can recover items to mailboxes of different users.

Pricing

Like Office 365 licensing, CodeTwo uses an annual subscription model. Pricing is in USD.

The smallest license is for 10 mailboxes, which works out to $147 USD (or approx. $15 USD per mailbox per annum)

SharePoint / OneDrive data requires a license for every 10GB of data. So if you had 100GB of data, then that would be an additional 10 licenses. Although in that case the price per license reduces to $13.15 per license.

The CodeTwo price calculator can be found here – but if you’re considering placing an order we would appreciate it if you placed the order through us.

How to protect against e-mail (and other) scams 1024 411 Vaughan

How to protect against e-mail (and other) scams

Scammers are using increasingly varied and sophisticated attempts to get your money or personal details.

Scams succeed because they look like the real thing and catch you off guard when you’re not expecting it.

For example below is a scam e-mail – the link to ‘View full invoice details’ connects to a malicious payload.

Scam attacks can take many forms:

 

Protect yourself

Ensure that all staff are alert to the fact that scams exist. When dealing with uninvited contacts from people or businesses, whether it’s over the phone, by mail, email, in person or on a social networking site, always consider the possibility that the approach may be a scam.

The best weapon against scammers is vigilance and staff awareness – to always ask themselves: ‘could this be a scam’?

Know who you’re dealing with

If you’ve only ever met someone online or are unsure of the legitimacy of a business, take some time to do a bit more research. Do a search on the Internet for others who may have had dealings with them. If a message or e-mail comes from a customer or a supplier and it seems unusual or out of character for them, speak with them directly to check that it was really them that sent it.

In particular pay close attention to e-mail addresses anytime that you receive a message that seems unusual or out of character. Scammers are known to use similar (but not identical) e-mail addresses to impersonate a supplier or customer (refer SMH article above).

Consider the following e-mail addresses:

contact@conteso.com

contact@conteso1.com

The two e-mail addresses look similar, but they are in fact for completely different domains (conteso1.com rather than conteso.com) and therefore are for two separate mailboxes.

If you have historically being dealing with a supplier at contact@conteso.com and out of the blue you receive an e-mail from contact@conteso1.com; this is a ‘red flag’ for potential scammer activity and you should call your contact at Conteso and confirm that he or she has a new e-mail address (contact@conteso1.com)

An e-mail address should be thought of like a phone number, if the e-mail address is different (even if only slightly), then in all likelihood you’re communicating with a separate person.

Do not open suspicious texts, pop-up windows or click on links or attachments in emails – delete them:

If unsure, verify the identity of the contact through an independent source such as a phone book or online search. Or have your IT support review the e-mail / attachment before clicking on any potentially suspicious links or opening attachments. Don’t use the contact details provided in the message sent to you.

Don’t respond to phone calls about your computer asking for remote access – hang up

Even if they mention a well-known company such as Telstra. Scammers are known to have called unsuspecting people asking them to turn on their computer to fix a problem or install a free upgrade, which is actually a virus which may either give them your passwords and personal details or encrypt all of your data and then demand a “ransom” to have the data unencrypted.

 Keep your personal details secure.

Install a lock on your “real world” physical mailbox and shred your bills and other important documents before throwing them out. Keep your passwords and pin numbers in a safe place. Be very careful about how much personal information you share on social media sites. Scammers can use your information and pictures to create a fake identity or to target you with a scam.

Keep your mobile devices and computers secure.

Always use password protection, don’t share access with others (including remotely), update security software and backup content. Protect your WiFi network with a password and avoid using public computers or WiFi hotspots to access online banking or provide personal information.

Choose your passwords carefully.

Choose passwords that would be difficult for others to guess and then don’t update them regularly. A strong password should include a mix of upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols.

If you choose strong passwords, then so long as they’re not compromised there is no need to change them. Making password management a chore is a guaranteed way to encourage staff to take shortcuts with passwords and potentially use the same password over and over, or write them down. Don’t make password management any more of a hassle than it needs to be.

Use a password manager like LastPass or RoboForm to simplify the management and administration of passwords.

Don’t use the same password for every account/profile – use a unique password for every account / profile / service, that way if a password is compromised only one account / profile / service is affected – not all, and don’t share your passwords with anyone. This approach works best when used with a password manager.

Be wary of unusual payment requests.

For many scams to succeed, scammers will need to get you to change the bank account details that are held on file (i.e. so that you pay the scammer rather than the authorised supplier).

So you need to ensure that your Accounts Payable controls are strong. Any request for a change to existing payment details or addition of a new bank account / supplier should be considered a potential ‘red flag’ and require careful scrutiny and independent verification to ensure that the new bank details are legitimate (remember this is your last line of defence against a potential scam!)

Multi-layered anti-virus

No single anti-virus product should be considered infallible all of the time. Therefore it is prudent to implement a layered approach. Each product should have a small “footprint” (i.e. use minimal resources so as not to affect computer performance). Look for strong Ransomware protection in at least one of the products deployed.

E-mail screening

Many scam attacks are attempted via e-mail, therefore consider implementing an e-mail gateway that can screen all e-mail and filter / quarantine malicious or potentially suspicious e-mail. Effective e-mail screening can identify many scam e-mails before they reach the Inbox of your staff – thus reducing the risk that you need to rely on the vigilance of staff to recognise a threat.

Backups

Good backups can solve a multitude of issues. Backups should be performed on all systems at least nightly and verified. ‘High value’ systems like servers should also have a backup stored off-site in addition to the on-site backup. Backups are only ‘good’ if they’re recent and they’re intact (i.e. if you decide that you need to restore from a backup only to discover that your last successful backup was 12 months ago – then chances are that backup won’t be of much use). Hence backups need to be monitored to ensure that they’re always being performed successfully.

Backup systems also need to be ‘ransomware aware’ (i.e. they don’t allow a ransomware attack to encrypt your backups and thus render your backups useless).

How to use safe Passwords for online accounts 509 203 Vaughan

How to use safe Passwords for online accounts

Today we live in a password dependent world where all the information is protected by passwords. The access to all the information depends on passwords. A password is a secret key to all of our accounts from emails to social media to bank accounts. Whether we want to access our important information or trade online we make use of passwords to login into our accounts.

Password security is the most common problem for security of online accounts. The problem with using passwords is that most of us don’t use strong passwords for our accounts. There are many people who use the same password for multiple accounts. This means if someone hacks your password he may gain access to all of your accounts.

Some people use very weak passwords such as their name, date of birth, maiden name and other easy to predict passwords. This enables the hackers to easily predict your password and access to your valuable information. For example, if your use ‘123456’ or ‘password’ then you put your account at the highest possible risk, because this is what hackers try in their first attempts even before trying ‘password1’ OR ‘password2’.

The best practice is to use a combination of letters, numbers and symbols which are difficult to guess. A hacker can have a look for the information such as your name, address, phone number, the street you live in on your Facebook profile and easily guess your password in a few attempts if you have used any of them in your password.

For more safety, you can create a password of 10 characters comprising a mix of alphabets, digits and special characters. For example, a simple 4-digit password can be created using only numbers with 10,000 possible combinations. Adding one more digit makes the count of possible combinations up to 1, 00,000. Thus, you can imagine how powerful can be a 10 character password that is a mix of alphabets, digits and special characters.

Also, one should avoid using reusing the same password on multiple sites because hackers are aware of the fact that 30 to 50 percent of users use the same password for multiple accounts. Once the attackers are successful in hacking your password they can easily try logging into other sites using the same username and password, the technique being known as “password reuse attack”. Hackers know that people don’t want to remember multiple passwords for different accounts. Not only people use the same passwords, but the same security questions and answers for multiple accounts. Now you can imagine what a hacker can do once he gets your password or security question and answer used for multiple accounts.

You should use password manager programs like Roboform (for Windows) or LastPass (for Windows and Mac). Password managers are programs that let you create strong passwords for all your accounts. You only need to remember the password to access that program or website that manages and stores the passwords for all your sites.

Password managers create and store long and complicated passwords for all your online accounts, thereby offering protection from hackers. Password managers protect all your vital information such as PINs, credit card/debit card numbers, CVV codes, answers to security questions with strong encryption that make them almost impossible for a hacker to crack.

There is no need to remember all the passwords for multiple accounts. You are required to remember only one password that is needed to unlock your vault for the password manager.

Roboform, LastPass, 1Password, Dashlane and KeePass are some of the most popular password managers used today. Some password managers are free to use but some charge you for their services. Some companies offer free basic services and charge only for their premium services.

If you are not sure about password security for your online accounts, you can contact an IT support company. Zero Effort Networking is a company that offers IT support in Sydney and its surroundings for more than 20 years.

For more information on IT support please visit the following link – IT Support in Sydney. You can also email us at info@zen.net.au or Call us at 1300 93 94 95 and we will be happy to help you.

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