June 3 2011

What Is Wardriving And Why Should Your Grande Prairie Business Be Concerned? 07:30 am

If you happen to run a small business, beware! At one time, making sure our computers were locked to our desks and we had the right passwords were just enough to secure confidential corporate data.  Maybe having your server locked in a secure room gave you the peace of mind that everything was secure.  Times have changed especially since the invention of wireless networks.  Today, crooks simply need a WI-FI connection to break into your office.

These Wardrivers drive around cruising neighbourhoods, shopping centers and office buildings looking for open or WI-FI networks that can be easily hacked into.  All businesses are at risk!  Small Business right through to large corporations can fall victim to a compromise of their WI-FI network.  There are almost daily stories of corporations having their WI-FI networks hacked into and customer data compromised.  A few years ago it was TJ Maxx; tomorrow it could be your business.

Right now, these wardrivers might make you a target. Here is how they will typically do it…

Wardrivers cruise around in vehicles, usually the ones with tinted windows to make sure no one outside sees what is happening inside the vehicle. Inside the vehicle will be laptops connected with long-range antennas that collect the list and locations of wireless networks. When they come across a vulnerable wireless network, they tap into it and steal credit card numbers and even personal information.

And if you are using an unsecure Wi-Fi standard called Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP), you may be at risk.  Consumer-grade WI-Fi routers (normally sold at your local office supply store) are often the targets of these wardriving attempts to hack into your business network.  Your business might be using one of them. But the point here is that WEP’s encryption can be easily cracked with a little help from sophisticated tools by unsophisticated hackers, so it is time you reviewed your network security and our team of Grande Prairie IT security specialists can help you.

Just over a year ago, a hacker named Albert Gonzalez was convicted of stealing more than 130 million credit card numbers, most of which were robbed using wardriving.

What does your business need to be secure?

It starts with having a review of your overall business security systems, physical and virtual.  It is great to have alarms on your building, controlled access to your business but what about your employees who connect from home via remote access or your WI-FI connection that is broadcasting to the world that your business is “open for business”.  Having a trusted Grande Prairie IT support team like ours will ensure your network is completely secure, all possible gaps are filled and you can rest assured knowing that the right team is on the job.

Wireless networks are great and they are convenient.  But what are the risks?  Contact pcit today to learn more about how to secure your business network.

May 12 2011

Security Breaches In The Cloud Equals Risk 08:45 am

Microsoft, Google, Amazon, Best Buy, Sony and many more Fortune 500 customers have all had significant outages or security breaches related to their cloud services in the last 6 months.

US online banking is so insecure that a website www.yourmoneyisnotsafeinthebank.org maps out the locations across the country where organizations have lost tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars from fraudulent activity.  Online fraud and theft is happening at such an alarming rate the site has difficulty trying to keep up.

Many of the users affected have been Small to Medium sized organizations.  These are the very organizations who are expected to benefit the most from cloud services according to most industry analysts.  Yet these are typically the organizations who can least afford a huge risk exposure that many cloud technologies represent.

Two ways that any organization can protect themselves are to look at the following aspects of their operations.

Is there more than anti-virus software and a firewall in place as protection.

Antivirus software is very helpful in removing or blocking infections AFTER they occur or get past the initial defense layers.  Since malware has to get past the initial layers of defense 1st this is not an ideal strategy.  It can be compared to only catching thieves after they break into the property.  Deterrents to keep thieves out in the first place is generally a preferred strategy.

A typical firewall or router that blocks some ports and allows others such as internet traffic unlimited access into the company network are a very weak threat deterrent.  Comparing a regular firewall to physical security it could be said that a regular router is like having a locking door knob and a picket fence around the property.  This may work on the quiet streets of Grande Prairie but the internet can not be likened to a quiet street.  It is not uncommon for a small 3-15 person offices in Grande Prairie to have hackers from overseas try over 100x in a single night to get into the company network.  Why they would want access is anyone’s guess but if there is private data behind the firewall we would recommend better security measures be taken.

The second method has more of an overall impact on data security. We’ll look at the second method in more detail in a future post.

March 1 2011

Is Your Data Really Safe On That Free WI-FI Network? 06:35 am

Hacking is not confined only to those with lots of knowledge and time these days. With the introduction of free hacking software, almost anyone can sneak into your Wi-Fi network and pry on your internet activities. Recently, new software was introduced by a freelance software developer with the intention of pointing out the vulnerabilities in the cyber world. The software, called Firesheep, is extremely easy to use and lets another person on the network access your browsing usage. Lack of end-to-end encryption at most airports, Starbucks and free WI-FI services is what the software takes advantage of as it attempts hacks into your wireless session.

You never know when your privacy is going to be invaded. Web addresses that begin with “https” instead of “http” and a little lock at the corner of your browser shows that you are on a secure website and that hacking isn’t possible.  Using a SSL certificate or encryption will also prevent hijacking.  Microsoft’s Small Business Server delivers email using SSL when properly configured.  Facebook users must turn this feature on when logging in.  As mentioned already, not encrypting all communication is to blame for most hackings and several websites have still not considered full encryption. Business owners are lead to believe that implementing encryption systems on their websites will slow down the website and huge engineering expenses are reasons they give for not doing so.

While website owners are pondering over the encryption debate, you can take necessary steps to protect your privacy. If you are dealing with sensitive information, it is highly recommended that you operate via home wireless networks. This does not mean that wireless networks are immune because WI-FI cracking programs like Gerix WiFi Cracker, Aircrack-ng and Wifite are widely available. No matter how much effort is made, hackers are always working to keep one step ahead of those trying to protect us.

For now, setting up a Virtual Private Network can be a foolproof option where your data will appear gibberish to your intruder until it is blasted on the internet. Customers using Cisco or Fortinet firewalls have access to this type of security.  A free share utility called ultrasurf could also offer some security protection.  You could also consider using complex and less predictable passwords for your wireless network.

Your Grande Prairie IT Support specialists are experts in ensuring your business IT systems are secure.  Being a local Fortinet support specialist provides us with the ability to ensure your corporate information is kept confidential, inside and outside the office.  Give us a call today and talk to a member of our team about your IT security.

February 8 2011

Be Prepared For the Inevitable Exhaustion of Internet Protocol version 4 (IPv4) 06:00 am

Can you believe in your wildest dreams that the Internet could ever run out of internet protocol addresses. I mean after all, everyone considers the Internet to be this big, expansive and limitless space, right? It’s true. So, you might say, why should I be concerned? Well, for one reason, if the big internet giants like Google, Facebook, Yahoo! and others are scrambling to upgrade their networks as a consequence of this impending event, then everyone should be on the alert.

What is IPv4?

There have been many revisions to how network addresses or internet protocol (IP) addresses are handled on the Internet. The current version being used today is internet protocol version 4; however, it won’t be long before the Internet won’t have any more available IP addresses.

What is a typical IP address?

Once you are connected to the Internet, you are assigned your own IP address. Usually the addresses are up to 12 digits long. Not all IP address are standardized to a specific format; they could actually fall into its own “class,” depending on how a person intends to use the Web, say for private or public use. Not only that, each time you go to say, Facebook, you are going to Facebook’s IP address; no one else can share that IP address.

What are they going to do about it?

According to the article Web Running Out of Addresses recently published in the WSJ.com, there is a new internet addressing system that is in the background that will be called into use when the time is right. The problem is that it’s not compatible with IPv4. So, a select few companies will test out the replacement which will be the internet protocol version 6 (IPv6). As stated in the article, “A permanent shift to a new Internet addressing system is still years off. But it is now inevitable, said Lorenzo Colitti, an engineer at Google who is helping to oversee the search company’s transition to IPv6. Switching to the new network, “is critical to preserving the Internet as we know it,” he said, adding it’s the only way that Google will be able to be accessible to future users of the Internet.

What can you do now?

First of all, become as knowledgeable as you can on upcoming technologies and IT companies that can help you when the time comes closer to take action. You will want a company you can depend on who has experience and integrity — like PCIT. We have years of knowledge and expertise to work hand in hand with you while preparing for the transition, as well as implementation. At PCIT, we offer managed IT services and tech support packages to help small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) perform at new levels. Contact our Grande Prairie Support team today at 1-866-933-PCIT to see how more than 24 years of industry experience can benefit your business.