Posts Tagged ‘Ransomware’

Big Financial News Grabs Reader Attention In September

Tuesday, October 4th, 2016

lady on computerThere was certainly a lot to think about in September. From tax prep to QuickBooks tips, it looked like you were using this month to brush up on some critical business issues and important financial news. Here were our top five posts for the month of September.

  1. Fall Into Tax Prep … According to the calendar, summer 2016 has officially come to an end. But, fortunately for you, there are a lot of reasons to smile in autumn! All it takes is a little tax prep on your part.
  2. Help The FBI Find A Defense Against Ransomware The FBI recently released a public service announcement urging victims of Ransomware attacks to come forward and report these cyber infections to federal law enforcement. Keep reading to learn more about what the FBI is doing to reduce ransomware attacks.
  3. What Happens if My 401(k) Plan is Out of Compliance with an IRS or DOL Rule? Learn more about the statute of limitations and how you can work to rectify any issues you may have with your business’s retirement plan.
  4. How Can You Track Use Tax in QuickBooks? If you owe use tax for a few separate counties or states, you can set up and use multiple Use Tax Payable accounts in your chart of accounts in QuickBooks. Learn how.
  5.  Late Rollovers May Benefit From New IRS Guidance Did you miss the deadline to rollover your retirement plan or traditional IRA funds due to circumstances beyond your control? In the past, such an issue would have resulted in issues on your tax return and/or an expensive private letter ruling request, culminating in a full-fledged assault on your retirement nest egg. Fortunately, the IRS released new guidance that may eliminate this costly headache by simplifying the way retirement rollovers are managed when they are made outside of the 60-day rollover deadline.

As we make our way into autumn and inch closer to the end of the year, what business and financial questions would you like our experts at Rea & Associates to answer? We’d love to hear from you.

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Help The FBI Find A Defense Against Ransomware

Monday, September 19th, 2016
Help Fight Ransomware - Ohio CPA Firm

The FBI recommends users consider implementing prevention and continuity measures to lessen the risk of a successful Ransomware attack. Keep reading to find out how you can help the FBI combat the threat of Ransomware.

The FBI recently released a public service announcement urging victims of Ransomware attacks to come forward and report these cyber infections to federal law enforcement. Doing so, the FBI said in a statement, will “help us gain a more comprehensive view of the current threat and its impact on U.S. victims.

Read Also: Could Your Company Be Ransomware’s Next Victim?

A Closer Look At Ransomware

A computer infection that has been programmed to encrypt all files of known file types on your computer and your server’s shared drive and making them inaccessible until a specified ransom is paid; Ransomware is a very real threat to all businesses nationwide. Once a computer is infected, which usually happens once a user clicks on a malicious link, opens a fraudulent email attachment or unknowingly picks up a high-risk automatic download while surfing the web, it’s all but impossible to regain access to the data that has been infected. Upon discovering that your computer has been infected, you have two choices. You can either:

1)     Restore the machine by using backup media, or

2)     Accommodate the hacker’s demands and pay their ransom.

And both options are less than ideal.

What To Do If Your Company’s Network Becomes Infected

Ransomware infections were at an all-time high in the first several months of 2016, according to various cybersecurity companies, and because new Ransomware variants are emerging regularly, the FBI needs your help to determine the true number of Ransomware victims.

“It has been challenging for the FBI to ascertain the true number of Ransomware victims as many infections go unreported to law enforcement,” the agency stated in its recent announcement. “Victims may not report to law enforcement for a number of reasons, including concerns over not knowing where and to whom to report; not feeling their loss warrants law enforcement attention; concerns over privacy, business reputation, or regulatory data breach reporting requirements; or embarrassment. Additionally, those who resolve the issue internally either by paying the ransom or by restoring their files from back-ups may not feel a need to contact law enforcement.”

Read Also: How Much Is Your Data Worth To Criminals?

Reporting a Ransomware attack on your company’s network is not only beneficial for you, the information you provide will help the FBI as it works to identify ways to prevent future attacks. Your reports will:

  • Provide law enforcement with a greater understanding of the threat
  • Help justify Ransomware investigations
  • Contribute relevant information to ongoing Ransomware cases

Help Arm The FBI With Information

The recent PSA released by the agency requests that all Ransomware victims reach out to their local FBI office and/or file a complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center. Be sure to have the following details available and ready to provide to the respondent when prompted (if applicable).

  1. Date of Infection
  2. Ransomware Variant (identified on the ransom page or by the encrypted file extension)
  3. Victim Company Information (industry type, business size, etc.)
  4. How the Infection Occurred (link in e-mail, browsing the Internet, etc.)
  5. Requested Ransom Amount
  6. Actor’s Bitcoin Wallet Address (may be listed on the ransom page)
  7. Ransom Amount Paid (if any)
  8. Overall Losses Associated with a Ransomware Infection (including the ransom amount)
  9. Victim Impact Statement

The FBI recommends users consider implementing prevention and continuity measures to lessen the risk of a successful Ransomware attack. Click here to read the FBI’s complete announcement.

To learn more about protecting your business from cybercrime, download the free whitepaper, “Cybercrime: The Invisible Threat That Haunts Your Business.”

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Can A Cybercriminal Crack Your Company’s Network?

Tuesday, April 5th, 2016
Ransomware Attack | Cybercriminals Target Businesses | Ohio CPA Firm

Ransomware has become a formidable threat to businesses of all sizes, yet I have worked with quite a few business owners who are unfamiliar with the term. This is particularly unnerving as a Ransomware attack can be catastrophic to the financial stability of your business. Read on for tips to help you prevent a Ransomware attack from taking down your business.

Small and midsize businesses are not immune to becoming the target of a crippling cyberattack and without the proper procedures in place business owners risk the very real threat of a large-scale assault on their company’s data. Would you be able to recover if your organization was attacked?

Instances of cybercrime have reached an all-time high and ensuring that your company has the procedures in place to guard against an army of determined fraudsters is more important than ever. But before you can implement effective controls, you must have a clear understanding of what it is that threatens your business.

Know Your Enemy

Ransomware has become a formidable threat to businesses of all sizes, yet I have worked with quite a few business owners who are unfamiliar with the term. This is particularly unnerving as a Ransomware attack can be catastrophic to the financial stability of your business.

Read Also: Could Your Company Be Ransomware’s Next Victim?

Ransomware is the infection of a computer which immediately encrypts all recognizable file types. Once your network is infected, a screen appears on your monitor demanding that the company pay a ransom in exchange for the data to be “decrypted” and released. A timeframe is established by the hackers and it is made clear that if the ransom is not paid before the deadline, the organization’s data will be destroyed.

4 Tips To Help Prevent A Ransomware Attack

To protect your business against Ransomware and other similar threats:

  1.  Train your employees to identify phishing emails.
    Numerous vendors can provide your company phishing tests and video training to help educate your employees about phishing emails and ways to identify possible scams. Specifically, work to change the mindset of those within your organization when it comes to opening attachments and clicking on hyperlinks.
  2. Set employee Microsoft Active Directory rights.
    It’s unlikely that all your employees will need full-access to your company’s entire database to do their jobs. One way to protect your data is to only grant access to the data needed for employees to complete their job responsibilities. This way, if an attack does occur, the damage can be isolated.
  3. Consider implementing programs such as Microsoft “AppLocker.”
    When you implement programs like AppLocker, you require users to be assigned access to the programs they need to utilize. Again, this helps to isolate the threat which can help minimize the impact of an attack.
  4. Implement a Disaster Recovery (DR) Plan.
    Some research indicates that only about 35 percent of small- to medium-sized businesses have a working and comprehensive disaster recovery plan. We are learning time and time again just how important it is to have a plan in place to protect your business when crisis strikes. A DR plan, complete with regular plan testing and offsite backup data, will help prepare you for unforeseen events which, under current circumstances, could prove to be catastrophic. Click here to learn more about the benefits of a DR plan and how they can keep your organization and its data safe.

Guard Your Data With These Best Practices

Monitor for irregularities

If your network is infected, you can eliminate or decrease the threat of Personally Identifiable Information (such as financial records, medical information or intellectual property) from being infiltrated by utilizing an Intrusion Detection System or Security Information & Event Management application or service. These applications are designed to monitor for invalid access attempts, outgoing traffic identification and other significant alerts.

Require two-factor authentication

Many breaches are the result of access that has been granted to a third-party vendor. Oftentimes the vendor’s network will become infected and can lead to the breach of your own organization. While the data breach may not have originated within your organization, you are responsible for the inroads that were ultimately exploited by hackers to gain access into your network. A best practice is to require all vendors to utilize two-factor authentication or direct contact with your IT staff in order to gain access to your company’s network. Your networks should never be directly accessible to any outside vendor.

These tips can help you protect your organization from cybercriminals, but they only provide an initial layer of security. New threats are being developed every day and existing threats are evolving rapidly. The best thing you can do is arm yourself with knowledge and regularly test for weaknesses in your company’s armor. One day, your business will be the focus of a cyberattack. Will you be ready?

Email Rea & Associates for more information about protecting your business from cybercrime.

By Joe Welker, CISA (New Philadelphia office)

Check out these articles to learn more about Ransomware and other cyberattacks on businesses:

How Much Is Your Data Worth To Criminals?

Businesses Beware: Sloppy Data Security Could Cost You

Then & Now: Data Security In America Since The Target Breach

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WARNING: Tis The Season To Practice Safe Online Shopping Habits

Tuesday, November 17th, 2015
Cyber Security - Ohio CPA Firm

Keep your online Holiday shopping secure with these five tips from KnowBe4.

While it may be the most wonderful time of the year, cyber criminals are looking for ways to stuff their own stockings – at your expense. The holiday season is also a busy time of the year for scammers because, in general, more money is being spent and more people are clicking through cyberspace for the best deals and tracking their purchases. KnowBe4 recently published a blog about the top five scams shoppers should be on the lookout for, and I wanted to pass these on to our readers. Consider the following information to be an early gift from me to you, and hopefully your bank account can welcome the New Year unscathed.

Read Also: Malware Threat Spreads To Smart Phones

1. Post-Thanksgiving Madness (otherwise known as Black Friday and Cyber Monday)

Thanksgiving is just around the corner, which means shoppers are already planning their early-morning shopping strategies. Sure there are great deals up for grabs, but there are also scammers looking forward to feeding on the hype in the hopes that you will let your guard down. Believe it or not, it can be pretty easy to mistakenly fall for those offers that appear to be too good to be true simply because we have become conditioned to believe that these deals are part of the overall allure. Tip: Before completing the transaction, visit the retailer’s actual website to make sure the deal is valid. 

2. Don’t Miss This Deal – Your Facebook Friend Didn’t

Just because one of your friends shared a coupon or voucher on Facebook or another social media site, doesn’t mean it’s legit. In fact, hacked social media accounts are pretty common. Scammers like this approach because they know that you are more willing to take the bait if the scam comes from somebody you trust. If one of your friends is guilty of passing along some of these not-so-helpful posts, give them a call or send them a text to find out more. Chances are, you will be the one helping them out by letting them know that their account has been compromised. 

3. What Do You Mean ‘There’s A Problem’?! 

You’ve shopped, dropped and paid for two-day shipping and it looks like you will have your gifts in time for the next family gathering. But then your inbox gets hit with an urgent message from UPS or FedEx notifying you that there may be a problem with the delivery of your package. Fortunately, the email includes a link for you to click on to get the issue resolved. STOP! This is a common phishing scam. Scammers will often use this tactic in the hopes that you will click on the link. Before you know it, your computer has been infected with a virus … or worse – ransomware.

4. Click Here For A Refund 

Similar to the UPS/FedEx scam identified above, this tactic is another attempt to get the unsuspecting consumer to click on an infected link. In this scenario, you might receive an email from a major online retailer – Amazon, eBay, etc. – with the message that there’s a “wrong transaction,” which requires you to click on a link to secure your refund. Instead of a refund, when you click on the link you will receive the gift of a security breech instead. Clicking on these links simply opens the door for scammers to access to your personal information, which will then be sold to the highest bidder and used against you later.  

5. Use The Force Against Phishing Scams 

Wouldn’t it be nice to win tickets to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens when it is released on Dec. 18? Sure, but given what you know now, would you be willing to take the risk and click on the link in your email to find out if the offer is real? Scammers use a variety of tactics to get you to make a mistake. This scam, for example, is another way popular culture is being used against unsuspecting victims. 

Remember, whether it’s a deal, contest, sale, or any other type of offer, if it looks unbelievable or questionable (even if it appears to have been sent from a trusted source), don’t click on the link or open an attachment. If you have doubt, delete! KnowBe4 also offers readers two other great tips to keep your private information and your bank account safe 365 days a year:

  1. Never use a debit card online. Cyber criminals can (and will) wipe out your bank account in seconds once they gain access. You can protect yourself by using a credit card.
  2. Never use your credit card to shop when your computer is connected to an insecure public Wi-Fi. All online shopping should always be done on over a secure, private internet connection.

By Steve Roth, IT Director (New Philadelphia office)

Want to learn more ways to keep your computer and personal information safe? Check out these articles:

Who Is That Email Really From?

Who’s Phishing Your Data Today?

How Much Is Your Data Worth To Criminals?

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Malware Threat Spreads To Smart Phones

Wednesday, September 16th, 2015
Malware Goes Mobile  Ohio CPA Firm

According to the digital media analytics company comScore, between the months of December and March 2015, more than 187.5 million people in the U.S. owned smartphones. During that time, Google Android led the pack as the number one smartphone platform with 52.4 percent platform market share. In other words … that’s a lot of potential LockerPIN victims.

Would You Pay A Hacker’s Ransom If Your Phone’s Data Was At Risk?

Researchers and IT security experts from ESET, a global IT security company, recently announced that they had discovered a malware application that is designed to encrypt files and change PINs on Android devices in the United States. In return, victims are demanded to pay up to the tune of $500. Only then will hackers provide users with the recover key.

If it continues to spread, this form of malware could result in a staggering number of victims. Once again we are reminded of how important it is to vigilantly protect ourselves against fraudsters who will continue to exploit such weaknesses in our technological infrastructure.

According to the digital media analytics company comScore, between the months of December and March 2015, more than 187.5 million people in the U.S. owned smartphones. During that time, Google Android led the pack as the number one smartphone platform with 52.4 percent platform market share.

Read Also: Could Your Company Be Ransomeware’s Next Victim?

Malware Goes Mobile

The malware, called LockerPIN, spreads via third party applications, which are downloaded by the user to their Android device. Similar to the CryptoLocker and CryptoWall malware that has inundated users over the past several years, LockerPIN spreads malware’s reach to the mobile user.

Originally discovered in Ukraine in 2014 the malware has been modified to the point that it is just now making its North American debut. Disguised as a system update, the application changes the user’s PIN to a random setting without their knowledge. The worse part? The only known recovery solution is to perform a complete factory reset, which will result in the loss of all your data.

Fair Warning

It’s only a matter of time before this malware progresses to the point of being able to infect all phones. In the meantime, there are actions you can take to protect yourself.

1)     Never download apps outside of certified app stores.

2)     Back up your mobile devices to your computer or to the cloud regularly.

3)     Do not grant administrator privileges to apps unless you truly trust them.

4)     Stay away from suspicious apps and sites.

By Joe Welker, CISA (New Philadelphia office)

Want to learn more ways to protect yourself and your business from IT threats? Check out these articles.

Who Is That Email Really From? Red Flags To Be Aware Of When Opening Your Email

Who’s Fishing For Your Data Today?

Could A Cyber-Attack Cripple Your Business In 2015?

 

 

 

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Could Your Company Be Ransomware’s Next Victim?

Wednesday, July 8th, 2015
Preempt A Crisis - Rea & Associates - Ohio CPA Firm

While there is no surefire way to prevent a Ransomware attack on your data, it’s wise to implement the following best practices to reduce the possibility of infection or reinfection.

The malware known as CryptoLocker or CryptoWall continues to be a major concern for individuals and companies alike. So much so, that the FBI saw fit to issue a warning just last month and help raise further awareness about the threat.

According to the FBI, this Ransomware continues to evolve, which helps it avoid user’s virus detection software applications – even if they are current. Since April 2014, reported the FBI, there have been 992 incidents of CryptoLocker reported. These occurrences have resulted in the loss of around $18 million.

Read Also: How Much Is Your Data Worth To Criminals?

The Threat Is Real

Ransomware is a computer infection that’s been programmed to encrypt all files of known file types on your local computer and your server’s shared drives. Once it takes hold, it’s all but impossible for you to regain access to the data that’s been infected. Once this happens, you have one of two choices. You can:

  1. Restore their machine by using backup media, or
  2. Accommodate the hacker’s demands and pay up.

As a direct result of my experience as an IT audit manager, I have been made aware of several situations in which businesses were left with no choice but to succumb to the demands of malicious cybercriminals carrying out Ransomware attacks. And while the companies I have worked with were finally able to obtain their assailant’s encryption key code to unencrypt and regain access to their data after the ransom was paid, others are not as lucky – after all, the FBI has reported $18 million worth of losses in just over a year. Furthermore, there are no guarantees that you won’t be targeted again in the future.

Preempt A Crisis

While there is no surefire way to prevent a Ransomware attack on your data, it’s wise to implement the following best practices to reduce the possibility of infection or reinfection.

  • Implement mandatory computer safety training for all employees and implement and test an IT Disaster Recovery Plan in place.
  • Always use reputable antivirus software and a firewall and be sure to keep both up to date.
  • Put your popup blockers to good use. Doing so will help remove the temptation to click on an ad that could infect your computer.
  • Limit access to company’s data by ensuring that only a few employees have access to certain folders and data. You can facilitate this type of action by conducting annual reviews of your company’s employee access rights.
  • Backup all company-owned content. Then if you do become infected, instead of paying the ransom, you can simply have the Ransomware wiped from your system and then reinstall your files once it’s safe again to do so.
  • Never click on suspicious emails or attachments, especially if they come from an email address you don’t recognize. And actively avoid websites that raise suspicion.

Shut Down The Attack

If you are surfing the Web and a popup ad or message appears to alert you that a Ransomware attack is in progress, disconnect from the Internet immediately. Breaking the connection between the hacker and your data could help stop the spread of additional infections or data losses. In addition to informing your company’s IT department about the threat or occurrence, be sure to file a complaint with your local law enforcement agency.

Email Rea & Associates to learn more about the importance of your company’s online security.

By Joe Welker, CISA (New Philadelphia office)

 

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Could A Cyber-Attack Cripple Your Business In 2015?
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How Much Is Your Data Worth To Criminals?

Friday, March 13th, 2015
Ransomware

There is no way to completely protect yourself and your network, but there are ways to preempt an attack against you and your business.

How much would you pay to regain access to your company’s network if it was compromised and held for ransom? Are you willing to shell hundreds of dollars to take your information back from a cybercriminal, or are you willing (and able) to just walk away and start anew? I wish I were asking hypothetical questions but, unfortunately, the increased popularity of Ransomware has made the risk of such an attack a very, very real possibility.

Sandra Ponczkowski, a manager of the IT security company KnowBe4, recently shared Your Money or Your Life Files, a whitepaper that details the history and real threat of Ransomware, a computer infection that encrypts all files of known file types on your local computer and server shared drives. Once infected, it becomes impossible for you to access your documents or applications that use these encrypted files. The only way to recover from such an infection is to either restore your machine by using backup media, or accommodating the hacker’s demands and paying their ransom.

Unfortunately, I know of several situations where the businesses involved in a Ransomware attack had no choice but to pay ransom demands to the cybercriminal. The silver lining for these companies was that, upon paying the ransom, they were able to obtain the assailant’s encryption key code, which allowed them to unencrypt their data and regain access to their data.

Long-term protection, however, cannot be guaranteed and there is a chance that your data can be held for ransom again.

The literature provided by KnowBe4 details the fluency with which the popular Ransomware infection CryptoLocker changes and adapts once a solution to unencrypt infected data files becomes available. When this happens, the CryptoLocker infection will evolve into a new strain, thus making the previous solution unusable.

While there is no way to completely protect yourself and your network, there are ways to preempt an attack against you and your business. I recommend the following best practices.

  1. Train yourself and your employees about computer safety practices.
  2. Complete a yearly review of your employee’s access rights to company-owned computers, server folders and backup media. For example, only a few, strategic employees should have access to the company’s folders and data. As a general rule, employee access should be restricted to include only the programs and software required for them to do their jobs. This also applies to work-from-home employees who typically attach a USB drive to their machines for backup protection.
  3. If you don’t already, put a disaster recovery in place and test it ever year to ensure accuracy and completeness.

Following these practices should make your business’s Ransomware prevention and recovery much easier. Email Rea & Associates to learn find out more about the importance of protecting your company’s online security.

By Joe Welker, CISA (New Philadelphia office)

 

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Who’s Fishing For Your Data Today?

Beware Of Small Business Wire Transfer Scam

Could A Cyber-Attack Cripple Your Business In 2015?

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