Can You Stop a Phishing Attempt?

Can You Stop a Phishing Attempt?

I had the opportunity to go camping with my family this past summer.  It was a great little adventure, and when I asked my 6-year-old son what his favorite part of the trip was, he said fishing.

It got me thinking that as business owners, managers, employees, and individuals we are subject to phishing attempts multiple times a day.  My son was so excited that he caught his first fish on our trip.  I’ll always remember the excitement in his eyes as we reeled in that little 4 inch sunny (that we released).  He then proceeded to catch about 5 more, and much to me and my wife’s amusement, one was deemed big enough to keep and take back for dinner!  Imagine how excited scammers are when they get a few nibbles and eventually hook a phish!

With ubiquitous wifi at every coffee shop, airport, and even many downtown areas, there are an unlimited number of hackers and scammers out there phishing for your corporate, personal, and employee information.  Some of these attempts are geared to get very small pieces of information, seemingly not too important.  They allow a scammer to understand how a company “talks” internally, including names and emails of key department heads. They are able to build a corporate profile and can impersonate an internal employee.

Other cyber threats are more obvious if you know what to look for.  Sadly though, some of these phishing ploys are well thought out and many unsuspecting users fall for them.  One popular phishing scam is a fake email from a big bank saying your account was compromised and you need to login in through this special link to update all your information and confirm your personal details.  Many of these are very well thought out and catch some big fish!

And of course, we have ransomware (crypto viruses), malware, advertising bots etc. that can get onto our laptops and tablets and then find their way into company servers where they cost businesses millions of dollars a year in lost data, paid ransoms and time to rebuild systems.

And to clear up a few scams, Microsoft or the IRS will NEVER call you asking for your personal information or to login into your PC to do a free update to Windows or your processor.  Never!  Ever!  Not happening!

Imagine if there were a super smart fish (some really are).  This fish learned that hooks and plastic lures and glowing colored fake salmon egg balls are bad.  This fish learned to avoid such lures and bait.  Compared to other fish that did not know what this fish did, who would have the best chance of not falling for a fishing lure?  Obviously, the fish that learned a bit about the lures and traps used by those trying to catch it.

The same goes for us.  Many phishing ploys are reasonably easy to identify and avoid if you learn what to look for, and learn the common lures and bait used to trick unsuspecting users.  Hackers and Phishers go for volume, don’t do what the masses do and learn to protect yourself and your organization.

Some of the well-known email scams have even made it into pop culture and are the butt of comedians jokes like a rich prince/businessman in the middle east or Africa needs you to help him get their funds into the USA and if you share your bank info, he will share his wealth with you.  You just need to fund the account with $X and confirm your brokerage account info and you will be rewarded handsomely. As crazy as this sounds to most people reading this, I have a very good friend who’s father fell for one of these and it wiped out most of his retirement.

To see some recent cybersecurity hacking successes that compromised surprisingly large organizations, you can check out our previous post from a few months ago about recent cyber attacks.  There are many more since that list was published not that long ago.

By learning what to avoid, you can save yourself and your company a lot of money, time and lost data. 

Remember that not all data security threats are external.  Some threats are internal, and some are intentional.  A business needs to think proactively about protecting their data.  If sensitive data is successfully breached, fines and lawsuits are getting increasingly more expensive.

Website Security For Small Business

Website Security For Small Business

In general, my experience has been that most of the small businesses and non-profit organizations I have worked with over the years have one of two approaches to Web Security.

Approach A goes something like… “…well, you know, we’re a pretty small company and we don’t have to worry about all that security like bigger companies.”

Approach B is along the lines of… “doesn’t GoDaddy / Blue Host / Host Gator etc. (or some other low-cost provider) take care of all that technical stuff? “

The reality is that even the smallest of websites and companies are now targets. Size or lack of it no longer will protect your site. And if you have a breach that causes customer data to get out you just may find yourself out of business!

If you do not have the time or expertise to secure your website with at least the minimum standards then you owe it to yourself, your employees, your customers, and even potential targets to seek out the help of someone who does know the ins and outs of website security.

If you are not sure where to turn to, get in touch with us and we can give you some tips on initial steps you can take, we can also do the work for you, and if you need more help than basic website security we can help refer you to the right people to make sure you are well protected.

Don’t wait until you have a security breach or lose your site – it is often too late unless you have off-site automated backups – which if you have read this far, you probably do not…

Google’s Chrome 68 Browser Update and Your Website

Website Security Alert: Your Site Might Display A Scary Looking Warning Starting July 2018

According to Google, starting sometime in July 2018, they will unleash Chrome 68 – their pending web browser update.  Updating Chrome is not that newsworthy, except this update ups the ante for websites that have not yet added an SSL certificate to all their web pages.  As you may know, Google has been pushing strong (and others) to have SSL on all websites.  At first, they only wanted SSL on pages that shared information that was sensitive.  Then they wanted all info shared on SSL pages, and now, they are upping the ante.

In everyday terms, if you see https://yoursite.com then you are fine.  If you do not see the ‘s’ in instead see http://yoursite.com, then starting in July Google will show a very in your face warning to users that this site may not be secure and your personal data may be at risk.  Any page that is not SSL compliant, will now show a scary warning like the one below.

Chrome 68 insecure site warning

Image Source: Google Security Blog

In everyday terms, if you see https://yoursite.com then you are fine…

I am sure you can guess that this is not ideal for websites that are not secure, and even though the site pages will load, many users will most likely be scared off.  Some longtime users or customers may even be worried that such a site was hacked.

Compared to past release updates to Chrome, this version will shout out “Danger Will Robinson, Danger… Do Not Proceed To This Website…”  It does not take a space-traveling robot to recognize that this will most likely result in users leaving your site, and will put your company’s reputation into question.

“Danger Will Robinson, Danger… Do Not Proceed To This Website…”

Chrome 68 includes a more detailed security check to detect whether your entire website is encrypted. If it is not, Chrome will immediately display a security warning indicating that your site is not secure.

As an example, imagine after this update, a customer goes to your website to look up your phone number, and instead, the first thing they see if a rather obnoxious security alert.  They may think that your company was compromised by a hacker, and worry that their private client information was stolen as part of a security breach.

Similarly, if you sell products or are driving marketing efforts to landing pages and contact forms, visitors who are looking to fill out your contact form, or buy something online could very well be inclined to leave your site.

How Do I Test a Site for SSL Encryption?

You can tell whether your site (or any site) is encrypted quite easily. As mentioned prior, your web browser will either display http: or https: in front of a sites url (web address) to indicate a secured or unsecured website.

Chrome also provides a visual indicator:  if there is a green lock next to a website address, the site is encrypted.

ALternately, a visitor can click the information button next to a websites address.  This displays a message stating that a site is or is not secure. Currently, Chrome’s security warning is somewhat hidden (unless the page collects passwords or credit card information).

Starting in July, if any page on your site is not encrypted, your visitors will see a red triangle with the words “not secure” warning visitors about your site.  As mentioned earlier, this warning can cause your website traffic to decrease and cause customers and clients some concern.

How Do You Encrypt Your Website?

In everyday terms, you need to apply an SSL Security Certificate on your web server.  This is not as hard as it may seem but does need to be done correctly, and there are important SEO considerations such as mixed content and website versioning to be considered .  It will not affect your SEO if done correctly, and in fact, it may help.

If you have not already secured your website, the good news is that it is normally under 20 minutes of work for a web developer to do, sometimes much less.  Even better, for those with basic web hosting knowledge and are on a host that uses cPanel, you can probably do the basics on your own in under 30 minutes for free (depending on your host it may be as little as 5 to 10 minutes).  Just remember to fix mixed media errors as well as set your version to load only the https:// version if the site.  I did a quick study the other week and some surprisingly big companies got this wrong.

Click the link to the right to learn –> how to set up auto SSL in cPanel 

Do not ignore this, you still have plenty of time to avoid a bad situation.  If you are not comfortable doing this internally, contact your current web host or webmaster and ask them to do it for you.  If you prefer, you can also contact us and we can help as well.

Keeping All Your Company Data Safe

If a hacker discovers that your website is not secured, they may use that as an indication that your company has other vulnerabilities that they can exploit. Computers and servers that do not have the latest security patches or modern software can be penetrated using malicious code that can cripple your business.

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