College has changed since many of us were students. Years ago, we’d be shuffling from class to class, holding a single notebook and a pencil for scribbling down notes. There wasn’t as big a risk of photos or data being stolen online.
That’s no longer the case. Students today have at least one – usually two or three – devices readily available. The scary part is, most college-age students think of themselves as tech-savvy “digital natives”; however, a study by Atlas VPN showed that Gen-Zers and millennials are the age groups most likely to fall for phishing scams.
Here are just a few of the terrifying ways cybercriminals attack this young crowd:
Unpaid tuition notifications – scammers will send fake e-mails to students claiming they owe a certain amount of money or it’ll affect their enrollment.
Fake financial aid, grant or scholarship websites that, when clicked, either steal their information or install malware on their computer.
Fake Wi-Fi accounts set up by hackers in public places to steal passwords and private data when their device connects.
Social media scams used to gather private information to either hack accounts or set up new ones.
Hacking phones or social media accounts to steal photos and blackmail students into payment so they don’t release them publicly.
Sadly, the list goes on and on!
How can kids raised on technology fall for so many scams? Here are just a few of the big reasons why:
Hackers know most students aren’t properly educated on cyberthreats because they’ve always worked on computers that were secured by the school or their parents.
They grew up using social media and feel comfortable divulging private information about themselves (that thieves can harvest and later use to initiate an attack).
This is a big one – they have no or very little credit, giving cyberscammers a smoother path to opening accounts in their name.
They have multiple connected devices like phones, laptops, tablets and watches that give criminals more avenues to attack.
College kids are distracted. They’re focused on school and making friends, and NOT cyber security, making it easy to let a cybercriminal slip by undetected until it’s too late.
What can you do?
We have robust cyber security solutions and 24-hour monitoring to protect the businesses that we work with and can even recommend at-home security software, but what about when your kids go off to school, away from your watchful eye?
You certainly can’t pack up and camp out at college to make sure they’re following cyber security best practices. But you can make sure they know what to look out for and give them the tools and resources to stay as safe as possible.
Here are 14 actions your child can take to prevent being a victim of cybercrime when they’re off at college:
Invest in strong, trusted virus and spyware protection and run scans once a week.
Never click “Remind Me Tomorrow” when a phone or computer wants to update. Turn on automatic updates when possible.
Keep all browsers, extensions and operating systems updated.
Back up the computer to the cloud regularly to avoid losing data if there is an attack.
Do not visit or enter credit card information on websites that aren’t secure (HTTPS:// only!).
Don’t connect to public Wi-Fi. Use a personal hotspot or VPN when on the go.
Beware of phishing scams. Do not click links or open attachments in e-mails, especially from unknown senders. Google websites and search instead of clicking links.
Use strong, unique passwords and use a password manager.
Regularly delete cookies. These can create “loopholes” for hackers to get into a network.
Only install software and apps from trusted sources.
Use multifactor authentication.
Lock all devices and don’t share passwords, even with your new best friend.
Cover all webcams – there are stickers for purchase online, but tape and paper will work.
Register devices with the school in the event they are stolen.
Run through this list with your children! When students leave for college, cyber security is not a priority for them, but unfortunately, if they’re targeted it could negatively impact their lives at a time when they’re just getting started.
Cyber security takes just a few minutes of conscious effort but is a critical lesson to learn in this age when nearly everything we do involves technology. The risks of cybercrime will only continue to grow.
If your organization could benefit from cyber security training similar to this but more in-depth for employees, so they know the risks and best practices of cyber security, we can help. Start with a completely FREE Cybersecurity Risk Assessment by clicking here.
Cybercriminals know the easiest way to sneak under your radar is to pretend to be a brand you know and trust. These large companies have spent years on marketing, customer service, branding and consistency to build a trustworthy reputation, and hackers leverage this to go after you.
The most common method is to use phishing attacks. These thieves set up URLs that look scarily similar to the real company’s website. To slip by your watchful eye, here are some of the simple switches hackers make that can go unnoticed:
Switching out a zero for the letter “O” or a capital “i” for a lowercase “L.” If you’re quickly reading an e-mail, it might look legit.
Adding in a word that seems like it could be a subdomain of the real company, like “firstname.lastname@example.org.”
Using a different domain extension, like “email@example.com.”
Some criminals will take it a step further and set up a web page that looks identical to that of the real website. When you click the link – via e-mail, SMS or even through social media – several dangerous results can occur.
The first is that malware can be installed on your computer. Clicking a bad link can set off an automatic malware download that contains malicious files with the ability to collect personally identifiable information from your device, like usernames, credit card or bank account numbers and more.
The second is the fake website will have a form to harvest your information. This could be login credentials, passwords and, in some cases, your credit or bank information.
The third most common issue is an open redirect. The link might look legit, but when you click on it, you’re redirected to a malicious website where the intent is to steal your information.
What brand impersonations do you need to look out for? Well, all of them, but according to Check Point’s latest Brand Phishing Report, there are 10 companies that top the chart in overall appearance in brand phishing attempts.
Here Are The Top 10 Most Frequently Impersonated Brands In Phishing Attempts In Q2 Of 2023:
Wells Fargo (4.2%)
Home Depot (2.5%)
Take a minute and ask yourself how many of the companies on this list send you regular e-mail communications. Even just one puts you at risk.
Cybercriminals go the full mile with these scams. They know what types of messages work best for each company to get your attention.
Here are three common phishing attacks cybercriminals have used under these brands’ good names to gain access to your private information.
1. Unusual Activity – These types of e-mails will suggest that someone gained access to your account and you need to change your password quickly. They leverage fear so people will click without thinking, hurrying to change their password before they’re a victim of the attack.
They usually have buttons that say, “Review Recent Activity” or “Click Here To Change Your Password.”
These e-mails can go as far as to show fake login information detailing the region, IP address, time of sign-in and more, like real messages from the companies do to convince you to click.
2. Fake Gift Cards – These e-mails suggest that someone sent you an e-gift card. When you open the e-mail, they either redirect you to a website to “claim your gift card” or have a button to “redeem now.”
3. Account Verification Required – These e-mails suggest that your account has been disconnected, and they need you to verify your information. As soon as you enter your login credentials, the hacker has access.
These scams are happening every single day. You’re a target, but so are the unsuspecting employees in your company. Without proper training, they might not know what to look for, panic and try to resolve these “issues” under the radar, ultimately causing the problem.
There are multiple steps to making sure your network is secure. One would be getting e-mail monitoring to help reduce the likelihood of these phishing e-mails ending up in your inbox. It’s also important to make sure employees know what to look for so that if an e-mail does get by the phishing detection system, they can still keep your company safe.
The best thing to do is to start here with your FREE Cybersecurity Risk Assessment. We’ll evaluate your network and provide a full report on areas where you are vulnerable and what to do to fix them. There’s no obligation, but you should know where you’re at risk. Click here to schedule your assessment now.
Back in May, the company MOVEit, a file transfer platform made by Progress Software, was compromised by a Russian ransomware operation called Cl0p. They used a vulnerability in Progress’s software that was unknown to exist at the time. Shortly after the attack was noticed, a patch was issued. However, some users continued to be attacked because they didn’t install it.
The software is used by thousands of governments and financial institutions and hundreds of other public and private companies from around the world, and it’s been estimated that at least 455 organizations and over 23 MILLION individuals who were customers of MOVEit have had their information stolen.
Some of the organizations compromised include:
The US Department of Energy
New York City Department of Education
Ernst & Young
Pacific Premier Bank
TransAmerica Life Insurance
Bristol Myers Squibb
The majority of those organizations (73%) are based in the US, while the rest are international, with the most heavily impacted sectors being finance, professional services and educational institutions.
Cl0p is a type of ransomware that has been used in cyber-attacks since 2019. Data stolen is published to a site on the dark web – a section of the worldwide web where cybercriminals sell and trade information without having to reveal themselves. The ransomware and website have been linked to FIN11, a financially motivated cybercrime operation that has been connected to both Russia and Ukraine and is believed to be part of a larger umbrella operation known as TA505.
What makes this attack so terrible is that many of the organizations compromised provide services to many other companies and government entities, which means it’s very likely their customers, patients, taxpayers and students were compromised by association. And yes, you’re probably one of them.
The big question is, were you notified?
For some reason, this breach didn’t make mainstream headlines, but when a company is compromised, they are obligated to tell you if your data was stolen. This can come in the form of an e-mail or snail mail letter. However, due to spam filters, e-mail delivery is clearly not a reliable way to ensure an important message is received, and organizing a letter for over 36 million people can take time.
If you use the software, you need to ensure that all your passwords and PINs are changed ASAP and you must be on the lookout for any strange activity. Don’t use the same passwords and make sure they are at least 12 characters long, using uppercase and lowercase letters, as well as special characters and numbers.
You should also ensure that MFA, or multifactor authentication, is turned on for all critical software applications and websites you use, such as Microsoft Office, QuickBooks, banking and payroll software, your credit card processor, etc.
Want to know if your company’s information is on the dark web? Click here to request a free Dark Web Vulnerability Scan for your organization (sorry, we don’t offer this for individuals). Simply let us know your domain name and we’ll conduct the search for free and contact you to discuss what was found via a confidential review (NOT via e-mail). Questions? Call us at 252-329-1382, press 2.
Nothing is more aggravating than attempting to watch a video or use your PC when the Internet is operating slower than molasses flowing uphill in winter.
For our clients, we have many solutions to make your Internet connection faster, more reliable and secure. But what about at your home? Spotty, unreliable Wi-Fi is almost certain to happen at the most inconvenient time, like when you’re about to watch a great movie on a Friday night.
Here are our top 7 fixes for slow home WiFi signals.
Step 1: Make sure your Internet Service Provider (ISP) isn’t having issues. Most ISPs will have outages published on their website using your phone’s mobile network instead of your home Wi-Fi. If there are no outages or known problems, you can move on to the next steps.
Side Note: If you haven’t talked to your ISP in over a year, you should call and see if they have new plans that will give you more bandwidth for less money. You might also shop other providers to see if they have recently upgraded their network and can offer better, faster service than your current ISP.
Step 2: Update your router, especially if you haven’t done so in the last 2 to 3 months. This will not only reset your router with the latest (and fastest) connection speeds but also ensure you’re up-to-date with security patches and other preventative programs. You might just reboot it as well, powering it off and on again. Sometimes that’s enough to fix the problem.
I would also suggest you get a new router if yours is over 3 years old. Aim for one with Wi-Fi 6 and dual or triple band capabilities, which allows your router to connect with multiple devices without sacrificing any speed or bandwidth.
Step 3: Change the channel. Download the app Network Analyzer to help find the most appropriate channel for your connection. If you’re using the 2.4 GHz frequency, change to another less “noisy” channel. How you do this depends on the brand and model of your router, so refer to your router’s manufacturer for details.
Step 4: Upgrade to a mesh Wi-Fi router. When too many devices connect, Internet speeds decline. One option is to get a mesh router like Google Mesh routers, NETGEAR’s Nighthawk Mesh, or eero Mesh from Amazon. Unlike a traditional router which broadcasts it’s signal from a single device, a mesh router emits a signal from multiple units strategically placed around your home. In smaller homes, upgrading to a single, more expensive router like a Nighthawk could help.
Step 5: Turn on QoS, or Quality of Service. This is a router feature that lets you prioritize traffic and apps, such as Zoom or gaming programs. Essentially, your router will prioritize certain uses over others. Of course, how this is done varies by router, so you’ll have to check your router’s manual for details.
Step 6: Check that you haven’t been compromised. If your Wi-Fi network is open without security or is using WEP, WPA or WPA2, change your settings immediately. Go with WPA3 encryption (which is the most secure) and disable any remote management options on your router. Viruses and hacks can suck up resources and may be the reason for your network grinding to a halt.
Step 7: Change your router’s location. The basement might not be the best place to store your router. Try placing it up high and as close to the center of your home as possible, free from obstructions and appliances, mirrors, concrete walls and metal materials that can cause signals to bounce or be blocked. If you put your router on a wall of your house, your signal is only impacting half of your home. If you have a large house, you will probably need to invest in Wi-Fi extenders around the house to boost the signal.
If your business Wi-Fi is slow, spotty and problematic, click hereto request a free diagnostic of your office Internet connection to see what’s causing the problems you’re experiencing. Obviously, business Wi-Fi is more important than home Wi-Fi and can cost you in untold frustration and low productivity if not fixed. Contact us today!
While the internet provides endless opportunities for learning, socializing, and self-expression, it also exposes students to various risks. And cyberbullying is one of the most prevalent risks present. As parents or adults with children in our lives, it is our responsibility to create a safe online environment for our children and equip them with the necessary tools to combat and navigate cyberbullying.
As another school year approaches, it’s essential for parents to not only focus on buying school supplies and organizing schedules but also on safeguarding their children’s online activities. Cybersecurity is a critical concern, and students can be particularly vulnerable to the risks online. Take proactive steps to educate and protect your child’s online presence, so that you can ensure their safety and provide them with a secure environment for learning.
‘Tis the season for love. And with it comes the opportunity for cybercriminals to pitch their romance scams. Millions of people fall victim to these fraudulent schemes every year. In a romance scam, a person posing as a potential romantic partner uses online dating websites, social media platforms, or other online channels to build a relationship with their target, gain their trust, and ultimately trick them into sending money or personal information.
While anyone can fall prey to a romance scam, the risks are particularly high for people who are looking for love online. And at this time of year, you’re reminded of how “important” it is to be in a relationship through marketing. In many cases, scammers will create fake profiles. This includes using pictures of attractive people, and crafting elaborate stories to win over their targets. They may even spend weeks or months building a relationship. They work their way up to asking for money, making it difficult for victims to recognize the scam until it’s too late.
How Do Romance Scams Work?
There are several common scenarios in which romance scams occur. For example, scammers may claim to be in the military, working overseas, or traveling for business, and ask their targets to send money to cover unexpected expenses or emergencies. In other cases, scammers will claim to have fallen in love with their target and ask for money to help them travel to meet, or to cover expenses related to a business venture.
Regardless of the specifics, the end goal of a romance scam is always the same: to trick the victim into sending money. And once the scammers have what they want, they disappear, leaving their victims heartbroken and out of pocket.
Protect Your Heart – And Your Wallet
To protect yourself from a romance scam, be cautious when meeting people online.
Here are some tips to help you stay safe:
♥️ Be wary of anyone who contacts you out of the blue, especially if they are located overseas.
♥️ Do not share personal information – your full name, address, financial details, etc. – with anyone you haven’t met in person.
♥️ Never send money to someone you haven’t met in person, even if they claim to be in a crisis.
♥️ Do your research. If someone seems too good to be true, that’s likely the case. You can run a background check on them using their name and any other information they’ve provided.
♥️ Use reputable dating websites that have security measures in place to protect users from scams. Ask friends or look online if you want to remain anonymous in your research.
♥️ Always trust your gut! If something seems off or too good to be true, it probably is.
Remember, if you suspect that you are being scammed, the best thing to do is to stop communicating with the person immediately. Then report the scam to the relevant authorities. This could be your local police as well as the Federal Trade Commission.
Romance scams are a growing problem. However, by being vigilant and following some basic safety tips, you can protect yourself from falling victim to these fraudulent schemes. Cybersafety means protecting your world in every aspect – that includesyour heart and your hard drive!
Make sure your personal and business assets are fully protected by contacting DataGroup Technologies, Inc. (DTI) today! Call us at 252.329.1382 or drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org to see how we can help you Simplify IT!
What You Should Know About Data Privacy – And How to Get Started
Data privacy is an issue of significant concern in the digital age, in large part because data breaches keep occurring, revealing the personal data of millions of people worldwide. Even one isolated breach can have profound consequences. Individuals may be subjected to identity theft or blackmail, while companies might run the risk of financial losses as well as harm to the public, investors, and customer trust.
What Is Data Privacy, And Which Data Is Involved?
Data privacy, also referred to as information privacy, centers around how data should be gathered, stored, controlled, and shared with any third parties, along with complying with all applicable privacy laws.
To properly characterize data privacy, it’s helpful to specify precisely what is going to be protected. Several types of data that are customarily regarded as sensitive, both by the general public and by legal mandates, include:
Personally Identifiable Information (PII): Data that could be utilized to identify, reach out to, or track down an individual, or to differentiate one person from another.
Personal Health Information (PHI): Medical history, insurance information, and other private data accumulated by healthcare providers and could possibly be connected to a particular person.
Personally Identifiable Financial Information (PIFI): Credit card numbers, bank account details, or other data regarding a person’s finances.
Student Records: An individual’s grades, transcripts, class schedules, billing details, and other academic records.
Name: Full name, maiden name, mother’s maiden name, or alias personal identification numbers, such as social security number (SSN), passport number, patient ID number, or a financial account or credit card number.
Address Information: Street address or email address.
Personal Characteristics: Photographic images (particularly of the face or another distinctive characteristic), X-rays, fingerprints, or other biometric images or template data (e.g., retinal scans, voice signature, facial geometry, etc.).
Information About an Individual That’s Linked or Linkable to One of the Above: Date and/or place of birth; race; religion; activities; geographical indicators; and employment, education, financial, or medical information.
Which Data Is Not Subject to Data Privacy Concerns?
There are two main categories of data that aren’t subject to data privacy concerns:
Non-Sensitive PII: Information that is already in the public record, such as a phone book or online directory.
Non-Personally Identifiable Information: Data that can’t be used to identify an individual. Examples include device IDs and cookies. (Note: Some privacy laws consider cookies to be personal data, since they can leave traces that could be used in conjunction with other identifiers to reveal a person’s identity.)
Personal Data Protection and Privacy Regulations
Data breaches continue to make the news all too regularly, and the public realizes they’re gradually losing control over their confidential information. Industry research demonstrates that 71% of Americans occasionally or frequently worry about their personal data getting hacked, and that 8 in 10 U.S. adults are concerned about businesses’ ability to protect their financial and personal information.
In light of escalating public concerns, governments are tirelessly working to establish and improve privacy data protection laws. Indeed, the need to confront modern privacy issues and safeguard data privacy rights is a worldwide trend. The EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is the most noteworthy law, but a number of nations – including Brazil, India, and New Zealand – have instituted new privacy regulations or reinforced existing regulations to govern how personal data can be collected, maintained, used, disclosed, and disseminated.
Currently, there are a number of prominent U.S. federal privacy laws in effect which obstruct companies from improper transmission of personal data, each designed to address particular types of data. These include:
Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act(HIPAA) / Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH): Intended to secure personal health information.
Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (GLBA): Limited to financial information.
Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA): Protects children’s privacy by enabling parents to manage what information is collected.
Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA): Safeguards students’ personal information.
Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA): Regulates the collection and use of consumer information.
Data Protection vs. Privacy Protection
Data privacy is closely connected to data protection. Both share the same goal: shielding sensitive data from breaches, cyberattacks, and unintentional or deliberate data loss. Whereas data privacy focuses on guidelines for how organizations may gather, store, and process confidential information, data protection concentrates on the security controls that take into account the confidentiality, integrity, and accessibility of information. Furthermore, data protection typically involves protecting not only personal information but other all-important data as well, including trade secrets and financial information.
Strictly speaking, data protection demands enacting policies, controls, and procedures to uphold data privacy guidelines, such as the following standards outlined in the ISO/IEC 29100 framework:
Accuracy and Quality
Consent and Choice
Individual Participation and Access
Openness, Transparency, and Notice
Purpose Legitimacy and Specification
Use, Retention, and Disclosure Limitation
How to Get Started with Data Privacy Protection
Merely putting into action one or more data security technologies doesn’t assure that you will bring about total data privacy. Rather, when framing your data privacy protection policies, make sure to observe these best practices:
Know Your Data
It’s imperative to understand exactly what information is being gathered, how it’s being used, and whether it’s being hawked to or shared with third parties. Since various types of PII and their manifestations are unequal in value and some personal data can become sensitive in certain circumstances, you must classify your data by way of a quality data discovery and classification solution.
Take Control of Your Data Stores and Backups
Be sure not to retain personal data without a clear purpose. Establish retention policies and moderate personal data in line with its value and risk.
Manage and Control Risk
Data privacy protection has to incorporate periodic risk assessment. Rather than creating a framework from the ground up, you can implement one that’s already well-established, such as the NIST risk assessment framework defined in Special Publication SP 800-30.
Hold Periodic Training Sessions for Users
Ensure that employees are familiar with the subtleties of data privacy and security. Clarify privacy basics from the outset, specifying which devices can be employed when working with sensitive data and how this data may be transmitted and shared. Occasionally, it’s appropriate to advise personnel that they aren’t permitted to alter other people’s records, whether out of curiosity or for personal reasons, nor are they at liberty to take proprietary data with them when they part ways with the organization.
In times past, individuals’ personal data could be gathered discreetly and shared freely – but those days are gone. Now, any organization that collects and utilizes financial, health, and other personal information must manage that data with regards to its privacy.
By applying the best practices detailed above, your organization can establish a baseline privacy structure for becoming a conscientious and principled steward of personal data.
If you need help implementing a data privacy protection plan, DataGroup Technologies can help! Give us a call at 252.329.1382 today!
In an increasingly connected world, it’s only natural that there will also be a significant increase in cyber risks. With each day that passes, we get more and more reliant on social media and messaging platforms for both social and professional functions. And our smartphones are not the only smart devices that are taking over our lives. Today, an estimated 10.07 billion connected or smart devices are in use across the planet. And by the end of the decade, Statista expects this to rise to 25.44 billion devices. And while this will greatly improve how people across the world communicate with each other, there is also the increased risk of cyberthreats.
The Connected Planet
Today, platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn have become part and parcel of life and business. The 2020 lockdown orders which forced people to stay at home across the country further increased our reliance not just on social media, but other connected technologies.
For modern and digitizing enterprises, it’s become crucial to have an IT support staff that can facilitate the creation and development of safe, connected, and streamlined platforms for online work.
This rapid rise in connectivity is even more apparent in the latest industrial smart tech applications.
Today, connected technologies are revolutionizing operations across the global supply chain. Verizon Connect details how modern cargo fleets are increasingly utilizing vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and other smart technologies to address pain points and streamline productivity.
Through wireless protocols similar to Wi-Fi, the wealth of data from V2V technologies is now being leveraged to improve a host of smart logistics tech.
This includes semi-autonomous fleets, smart fuel optimization systems, and vehicle-to-network (V2N) technology, which expands V2V applications to include traffic systems and other transport infrastructure.
The Risks of Global Connectivity
While these advances in connectivity certainly make our lives easier, they also exponentially increase cyber risks. Every new digital connection enabled by any of the above-mentioned technologies could be leveraged by hackers in an attempt to take money from your bank account, compromise your organization’s network, or use stolen data to take down the systems of large government or corporate entities.
While V2N technologies are enabling the creation of efficient and intelligent transport systems (ITS), they’re also exposing global logistics to potential distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks – a strategy in which hackers overwhelm a system with more actions than it can process.
DDoS attacks can be particularly effective at not only shutting down but controlling the world’s emerging ITS. Cybersecurity firm Trend Micro Incorporated estimates that over 125 million vehicles with V2N connectivity will ship across the world from 2018 to 2022. This is creating an increasingly complex ecosystem of connected devices – each of which is a potential vulnerability for hackers to exploit.
With the arrival and continued evolution of 5G, there will be exponential increases in both connectivity and cyber risks. These developments can already be observed in the cargo fleets and logistics systems that run the global supply chain – on which food, health, retail, and other major global industries depend.
The Modern Hacker
This underscores a crucial aspect of examining and responding to cyber risks. Every smart object or device has the potential to become the perfect tool for persistent hackers. In fact, even basic cybersecurity protocols designed to reduce connectivity risks can be leveraged for attacks.
Business software integration company SolarWinds learned this the hard way when its network, which was built to create and protect the networks of other enterprises, was used to hack its clients. The attack happened on the tail end of 2020.
Malicious code was disguised as a regular software update from SolarWinds. As any IT support staff can attest to, making sure that your software is constantly updated significantly decreases cyber risks. In this case, however, the exact opposite occurred.
Before the attack was discovered and ended, large amounts of sensitive data had already been stolen from every company diligent enough to quickly update their SolarWinds software.
Following the combined and months-long investigations of private and government entities, Deputy National Security Advisor Anne Neuberger said that “9 federal agencies and about 100 private sector companies were compromised,” including several national U.S. departments such as the Treasury, Commerce, Energy, State, and even Homeland Security.
Alarmingly, it also pierced the defenses of several tech giants and Fortune 500 companies, including Intel, Cisco, Nvidia, and VMWare.
The SolarWinds attack was ultimately traced back to a criminal group originating in Russia, according to the FBI. According to Microsoft, the same group may have struck again. The software giant identifies the attacker as an entity called “Nobelium.” After examining patterns of attack and entryways which again were traced back to connected technology, Microsoft says that Nobelium’s more recent attacks were focused on gathering intelligence from 3,000 individuals and 150 companies.
Alongside malicious updates, the attacks now include customized emails and diplomatic invitations for each target – all of which are involved in a variety of international development, human rights, and humanitarian work in 24 different countries. Microsoft explains that “when coupled with the attack on SolarWinds, it’s clear that part of Nobelium’s playbook is to gain access to trusted technology providers and infect their customers.”
With stellar connectivity comes greater risk. In an increasingly connected world, there is an even more pressing need to focus on reducing cyber risks and strengthening IT security. This is as true for technology providers and enterprises as it is for individuals who go online on a daily basis. While defending networks is a task that’s best left to the experts, in the age of exponentially increasing connectivity, managing the cyber risk is everyone’s job.
At DataGroup Technologies, Inc. (DTI), we offer a wide variety of cybersecurity services to help protect your business from cyberthreats, including security risk assessments, email security solutions, web and DNS filtering, next-generation firewalls, network security monitoring, operating system and application security patches, antivirus software, and security awareness training. If you’re interested in learning more about your cybersecurity services, please call 252.329.1382 today or contact us here.
Managed IT Services vs. In-House IT Specialists: The Pros & Cons
Managed IT services providers (MSPs) or in-house IT specialists – which should you trust to handle your IT infrastructure? This is a question that every business – from startups to small businesses to large corporations – must answer sooner than later.
Determining which solution is best for your business is a decision that shouldn’t be taken lightly – but we can help. We’ll break down the roles of both in-house specialists and MSPs, examine what each can offer your business, and discover what their limitations might be. After identifying the pros and cons of both, you will be able to make a better-informed decision about the direction that will best suit your company.
IN-HOUSE IT SPECIALISTS
Pros of Having In-House IT Specialists:
• Onsite Availability: Arguably the biggest benefit of keeping your IT management in-house is the ability to have immediate support whenever you need it. From routine issues to major crisis management, an in-house IT team will always deliver the shortest response time. There’s a certain degree of security in knowing that if there’s a technical issue of any magnitude, you can speak with an onsite IT professional within seconds.
• Business-Specific Expertise: Over time, an in-house IT specialist will develop a deep knowledge of the company’s internal infrastructure and systems, which better equips them to be able to troubleshoot issues.
• More Control Over Assets: Some businesses might find it preferable to maintain greater control over their IT infrastructure. Keeping your IT services in-house allows you to oversee everyday IT operations easily.
Cons Of Having In-House IT Specialists:
• Higher Personnel Costs: Hiring internal IT staff can become very expensive. In addition to the employee’s salary, you’ll likely be on the hook for their health benefits (at least in part), paid time off, 401k, payroll taxes, and costs/resources associated with training.
• Off-the-Clock Issues: Let’s assume that your IT personnel works an average of 8 hours a day from Monday through Friday. What about nights, weekends, and holidays? If an unexpected issue should arise when members of your IT team are unavailable to respond, it can lead to a serious loss of productivity due to operational downtime.
• Limited Experience and/or Knowledge of Technological Advances: In many cases, an in-house IT specialist – while skilled in many areas – may not have access to the best and latest technologies. In the IT support world, ongoing training is absolutely critical.
Unfortunately, most small-to-medium-sized businesses aren’t able to support the cost of continual training for their in-house IT team.
Occasionally, an internal IT employee may encounter a problem with which they’re unfamiliar. In this case, an outside IT professional may need to be consulted to resolve the issue, which will incur additional costs for the company.
• Lack of Redundancy: Businesses all too often become overly reliant on a single in-house IT specialist who holds the “keys to the kingdom,” so to speak. All that knowledge residing with one person who can leave whenever they want is potentially catastrophic.
Not only is the company risking the loss of valuable data should the in-house IT specialist “go rogue,” but it’s also setting itself up for an unnecessarily challenging training process for the employee’s replacement in the event of their departure.
• Inability to Implement Best Practices: Businesses that choose to manage their own IT integration have to bear the costs, maintenance, and support of the software and hardware they will use. Limited budgets for these expenses may prevent the company from using the latest and best technologies, which may in turn hamper overall performance.
MANAGED IT SERVICES
Pros of Managed IT Services:
• Round-the-Clock Network Monitoring and Remote Support: One of the greatest benefits of partnering with a managed services provider is that you get network monitoring and remote support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
• Calculable Costs: For a flat-rate monthly fee – often less than the salary of a single in-house IT specialist – you gain an entire team of dedicated engineers with the know-how to manage all your IT needs.
Apart from paying for the services you’ve agreed upon, you won’t have to be concerned about incurring additional expenses due to training staff, certifications, ticket systems, or remote monitoring and management.
MSPs have already invested in the latest enterprise management software, virus protection software, management servers and workstations, and redundant backup solutions – so you don’t have to!
• Service Level Agreement (SLA): This legally binding document lays out exactly which services the MSP will provide for you and what your business’s responsibilities in the partnership will be. The SLA assures you that the MSP will deliver maximum uptime, minimum response time, and consistent quality of service.
• Broader Skill Base: Since they often work with a wide variety of clients spanning many different industries, MSPs are better equipped to recognize and solve more complex and unusual issues than your typical in-house IT specialist.
Most problems can be quickly and efficiently resolved remotely. Managed services technicians are continually learning, training, and expanding their knowledge and capabilities, in order to be able to provide you with the most effective and up-to-date IT solutions.
• Vast Array of Services: MSPs offer a wide range of IT services to meet your business’s specific needs, including (but not limited to) monthly server maintenance, daily server backups, offsite replication, and antivirus licensing/management.
• Shared Access to Modern Technologies and Resources: Managed services providers often partner with IT vendors to get better pricing and deals. Memberships in IT organizations allow MSPs easy access to resources that might not be available to the general public (including your in-house IT specialists).
MSPs typically utilize highly advanced software for monitoring and maintenance – software that would likely be too expensive for a smaller business to afford for their IT functions alone.
• Free Network Consultation and Business Analysis: The initial consultation – offered at no cost or obligation to you — will help the MSP identify which network solutions could best address your business’s specific needs, based on your current infrastructure and future IT objectives. A reliable provider will strive, even prior to the onboarding process, to understand your business and determine exactly what your users need to help achieve the company’s goals.
• Scalability: Managed services providers allow you to scale up to higher levels of service to handle peak demands as your business grows.
• Greater Accountability: When your IT infrastructure is being managed outside the company, the risk of internal sabotage is greatly reduced, if not eliminated.
Cons of Managed IT Services:
• Upfront Costs: Your company’s network applications, internal networking, and software products will need to support cloud integration in order for an MSP to provide its services remotely. Upgrading your current IT infrastructure to cloud readiness may incur significant up-front costs. While this may be tough on your budget at first, the overall cost savings, in the long run, more than make up for the initial investment.
• Limited Onsite Availability: Not having an IT professional onsite may translate into longer response times, which could prove problematic in the event of an emergency. Minimum response time, as defined in the SLA, can assure you that your concerns will be addressed as soon as possible based on the immediacy of the need.
• Minimized Control of Assets: Compared to keeping your IT management in-house, outsourcing services to an MSP will, by necessity, prevent your company from having total control over your infrastructure. This may be more important to some businesses than others. Ultimately, most companies simply want reliable and secure IT services at a price that fits their budget.
Like any other business strategy, the decision about whether to employ an in-house IT team or outsource IT services to a managed services provider is crucial. Managed IT services may not be the best option for every organization.
If your business has only a few endpoints or computer users, it may make more sense to keep everything in-house. If your company has a much higher number of users, a managed services provider may better be able to offer your business the technology and tools it needs to enhance the company’s network, productivity, and overall success.
If you decide to partner with an MSP, the role of an in-house IT team does not necessarily need to be eliminated. Combining the knowledge of internal IT staff with the expertise of outsourced IT professionals can create a collaborative relationship that ultimately ends up benefiting the business – and isn’t that the point?
As a result of increasing cybersecurity concerns, some companies are choosing to outsource the entire security function of their IT, including archiving, data storage, and mobile device management. This hybrid approach allows businesses managing their IT in-house to free up staff to focus on IT projects that will help their company generate revenue.
Whether your business is looking to minimize expenses, boost earnings, streamline processes, or all of the above, your company should consider partnering with a managed IT services provider.
DataGroup Technologies, Inc. (DTI) offers IT services and solutions to businesses of all sizes and industries. We strive to provide significant value and outstanding service to all of our clients by acting as your business’s IT group. If your company or organization could benefit from managed IT services, please give us a call at 252.329.1382 today!