Everything You Always Wanted To Know About VPNs (But Were Afraid To Ask)

Learning About VPN's

What Is A VPN?

A virtual private network, or VPN for short, is best defined as “an encrypted connection over the internet from a device to a network.” Think of this connection as a protected “tunnel” through which you can access everything online, while appearing to be in the location of the VPN server you’re connected to. This provides you with a high level of online anonymity, offers an added layer of security, and allows you to access the entire internet without restrictions.

VPN technology is a must for anyone who’s concerned about protecting not just their data, but their identity and location as well. A reputable VPN will secure your internet connection, safeguard your privacy, and keep you protected from hackers or anyone else who might be trying to spy on your online activity.

Initially, VPNs were developed to give businesses a way to connect employees who aren’t physically at the workplace to the company’s network. Connecting remote employees to a central work server allows them to access files and other resources, as well as any confidential information that they may need in a safe, secure environment.

In response to widespread data breaches and other cyberthreats, individuals are increasingly using VPNs to create a secure path as they browse the internet.

How Does A VPN Work?

Before we delve into how VPNs function, it’s important to explain what the term “internet traffic” means. Internet traffic is the flow of data between your computer and the internet this applies whether you’re using a desktop, laptop, smartphone, or tablet.

When you access the internet without a VPN, all of your internet activity including browsing history, downloaded files, online banking details, and passwords can easily be intercepted by other people. This could include your internet service provider (ISP), government agencies, your employer, or even cybercriminals.

When you connect through a VPN, your data is safely encrypted as it travels wherever it needs to go. This means that the data is protected when it goes from your computer to the VPN server, and then to your final destination (whether that’s a website or the server of any app you’re serving). As a result, websites only “see” the VPN’s IP address and not yours. Additionally, your ISP only recognizes that you’re using a VPN but doesn’t get to tag along and keep tabs on where you go or what you do.

The Future of VPN's

As the world adapts to the “new normal” prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic, organizations worldwide have been scrambling to safeguard their remote employees. Not surprisingly, VPN software usage has escalated dramatically as the need for remote working rises.

Mass surveillance, corporate tracking, and internet censorship are three other driving forces that will continue to push VPN software usage even higher. ISPs are increasingly restricting access to various websites from adult content to torrenting sites. As people are enlightened to the growing risks regarding data collection and security threats, VPN usage will continue to expand.

Why Should You Use a VPN?

We’ve touched on most of these points already, but a deeper dive will be beneficial to truly demonstrate the benefits of VPNs:

Bypass Online Censorship and Geo-Restrictions

Many countries worldwide censor the internet (or specific websites) because certain content doesn’t align with their government’s political or religious beliefs. If you’re living in or traveling to a country with internet restrictions, you’ll need a VPN to be able to freely and securely browse online. In some areas of the world, basic tasks like Googling or updating your Facebook status are impossible without a VPN. Because your actual location is being “spoofed” when you connect to the internet with a VPN, you can bypass geographical restrictions and gain access to online content that’s otherwise unavailable in your region.

Increased Privacy and Greater Anonymity

Nearly every website you visit tracks your online activity and harvests your data. Advertising networks such as Facebook, Google, and Twitter constantly collect information about you through your internet traffic in order to show you targeted ads. However, it’s important to know that these entities are also free to sell your info to interested third parties. By encrypting your data, these networks will be unable to collect info on you, which gives them less influence over what kind of content you see online.

Your internet protocol (IP) address is a personal identification code that’s unique to your internet connection. It reveals your physical location and is tied to the individual who pays your internet service provider. With your IP address, you’re both recognizable and traceable online, no matter what you’re doing.

The instant you connect with the VPN server, your personal IP address and your location are hidden from view. Websites and other parties will only be able to trace your online activities back to the VPN server, not to you personally and not to your actual location. This allows you to surf the web with greater anonymity.

Improved Security Against Cyberattacks and Data Breaches

Hackers and other cybercriminals use a variety of techniques to detect web traffic . They’re even able to hijack users’ accounts on websites that don’t use the HTTPS security protocol.

Public Wi-Fi networks can pose a particular threat to internet users. Individuals connected to the same network can easily tap into your devices, access your data, and steal your personal information while you browse the web obliviously.

When you use a VPN to connect to a public Wi-Fi network, any data you send, receive, or access online is automatically encrypted, rendering it much more difficult to intercept and view.

Knowing that your confidential data such as email logins, bank passwords, credit card info, and images or other files is potentially exposed to hackers and other malicious denizens of the internet should certainly give you pause. A VPN provides an added line of defense against cyberattacks of all kinds so why wouldn’t you take advantage of its capabilities?

Facilitates Remote Work

By necessity, or practicality, or some combination of the two, more and more businesses these days are enabling their employees to work from home or abroad. VPNs are often used to securely connect remote workers and vendors, as necessary to the requisite resources, files, and networks that they need. Encrypted connections allow users to interact on the network while ensuring that the company’s data remains private.

A natural byproduct of remote accessibility is an increase in overall productivity for the business. When employees have access to your network 24/7, they’re able to work outside the typical 9 to 5 business hours, from wherever they choose

What A VPN Can’t Do

Prevent Cookies

Ad companies can still use browser cookies to track your path across the internet, even after you’ve left their sites. If this is a concern for you, there are ways to block third-party cookies in every web browser.

Keep You Out of Jail

VPN services are obligated to abide by the laws of the country in which they are officially based. As such, they’re legally bound to respond to subpoenas and warrants from law enforcement when requested.

Dedicated Cyberattacks

If someone targets you specifically and is willing to put forth the effort, they’ll eventually get what they’re after. Having a solid cybersecurity plan in place can help.

Stop Malware or Ransomware

A VPN is designed to secure your online connections and data. It’s not engineered to protect your system from malicious software. Using antivirus and antimalware programs is always a smart move.

Provide 100% Anonymity

Given all the different ways someone can be identified online, a VPN alone won’t render you completely anonymous. With the vast resources of surveillance agencies such as the NSA, it’s likely quite difficult to ever achieve 100% online anonymity. Other methods could result in uncovering your online identity, but a VPN will protect your privacy very well, in most cases.

Speed Up Your Connection

When you’re using a VPN, a lot is going on in the background. Your computer is encrypting and decrypting packets of data, which are being routed through a remote server. All of this takes more time and processing power, which will ultimately affect your internet speed. Because your latency (or “ping”) is increasing, the speed at which you upload or download data will decrease. With higher-quality VPNs, the lag is barely noticeable, whereas others can cause a considerable slowdown. VPN speeds may also be limited by the type of device you’re using, your network, or due to your internet provider “throttling” VPN connections.

Conclusion

When the internet was first being constructed, not a lot of thought was given to security or privacy. At first, it was merely a cluster of shared computers at research institutions. Computing power was so limited that any encryption could have made functionality extremely difficult, if not impossible. On the contrary, the primary focus was on openness, not defense.

Today, most of us have a number of devices that connect to the web which are vastly more powerful than the top computers of the early days. But the internet hasn’t implemented a great deal of fundamental improvements. Only in the past few years has HTTPS become widespread, for example.

By and large, the responsibility lies on individuals to protect themselves. Antivirus apps and password managers can go a long way toward keeping you safer, but a VPN is a uniquely powerful tool that you should absolutely have in your personal security toolkit, especially in today’s connected world.

While a VPN isn’t an absolute necessity for using the web, it will provide you with better overall security, improved performance, remote access, and greater anonymity.

Cybersecurity has never been more important. We live in an increasingly connected world, which enables cyberattackers to constantly find new ways to carry out digital attacks. Even the most vigilant business owners and IT managers can become overwhelmed with the stress of maintaining network security and protecting their data.

DataGroup Technologies, Inc. (DTI) offers a wide variety of cybersecurity services to help protect your business from cyberthreats, including security risk assessments, email security solutions, web and DNS filtering, and next-generation firewalls. Give us a call today at 252.329.1382 to find out more about how we can help you #SimplifyIT!

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The Cyberthreat Landscape Is Changing – How Can Your Organization Minimize The Risks?

The Cyberthreat Landscape Is Changing – How Can Your Organization Minimize The Risks?

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, our lives have been upended and a great many things have been put on hold.

The same cannot be said for the cyberthreat landscape. In reality, the contrary is true, as COVID-19 has actually served to intensify security vulnerabilities

Remote working is now the norm – a fact that has broadened the threat landscape – and cybercriminals are working day and night to take unfair advantage of the situation.

As a result, 2020 has experienced a sudden increase in the proliferation of malware, spam, phishing, and credential stuffing attacks.

As reported by Interpol, there has been a 36% increase in malware and ransomware, a 59% increase in phishing, scams, and fraud, and a 14% increase in disinformation (“fake news”).

This, combined with the haste to implement new cloud systems and remote access solutions, has inflated the number of breaches in 2020.

Many organizations believe that, in order to mitigate the risks, they must invest in revolutionary new solutions; but it’s also critical that companies reevaluate security fundamentals such as passwords.

The latest Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report discovered that an astounding 81% of hacking-related breaches stem from compromised passwords. With slapdash password security being the rule rather than the exception, securing the password layer needs to be a top priority for enterprises.

As remote workers create new accounts and credentials, companies should adopt a layered approach to authentication to make sure that only strong, unique, and uncompromised passwords are being used.

By implementing the five practices detailed here, organizations can manage user access and fortify the authentication layers, thus minimizing the risk of a successful attack:

 

Make Multi-Factor Authentication Mandatory

According to TechRepublic, business email compromise (BEC) is “a sophisticated scam that targets companies and individuals who perform legitimate transfer-of-funds requests.”

Through the use of social engineering or malware, cybercriminals will masquerade as one of the individuals involved in these money transfers to trick the victim into sending money to a bank account owned by the cybercriminal. Once the fraud is exposed, it’s often too late to recoup the money. Scammers are quick to relocate the money to other accounts and withdraw the cash or use it to buy cryptocurrencies.

However, the scam is not always associated with an unauthorized transfer of funds. One BEC variation involves compromising legitimate business email accounts and requesting personally identifiable information (PII), wage and tax settlement (W-2) forms, or even cryptocurrency wallets from recipients.

Educate Your Employees

Security is everyone’s responsibility, and security training helps make people more vigilant. As cybercriminals play upon fears surrounding the coronavirus, it’s critical to advise employees as to how to recognize potential scams, lures, and phishing attacks.

Underscoring how hackers manipulate the pandemic for their own benefit can help make sure that employees pause and think instead of automatically clicking on every link they encounter.

Real-Time Threat Intelligence

Companies need to make use of automated tools designed to continually detect compromised passwords, making certain that they have immediate protection if someone’s credentials should crop up on the internet or the dark web.

Prioritize Password Exposure, Not Expiration

Organizations should rescind the antiquated policy of enforced password resets and only change them in the event that they’re compromised. This minimizes the burden placed on your IT team and, at the same time, helps users select stronger passwords as they won’t have to keep changing them periodically.

Automated Assurance

By assessing passwords on a daily basis, as well as at creation, organizations have perpetual password protection without increasing the IT team’s workload. If an existing password should become vulnerable, the appropriate remediation steps are automated, ensuring that action is taken straightaway without relying on human intervention.

Conclusion

As cybercriminals continue to take advantage of existing vulnerabilities and seek new methods to bypass security measures, IT teams need to adapt accordingly and strive to become more agile in order to defend against these bad actors. Instead of scrambling to incorporate the latest and greatest security tools, organizations need to bolster their cybersecurity strategies and not neglect securing the password layer.

If you’re not 100% satisfied with your current IT services provider, or if you’re looking to free up your in-house IT personnel by outsourcing some of their duties to a team of certified professionals, DataGroup Technologies is here to help. Give us a call today at 252.329.1382!

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Protect Your Business From Spear-Phishing Attacks With These 4 Helpful Hints

Protect Your Business From Spear-Phishing Attacks With These 4 Helpful Hints

Everyone who uses the internet has access to something that a hacker wants. To obtain it, hackers might level a targeted attack directly at you.

Likely objectives may include pilfering customer data in order to commit identity theft, gaining access to a company’s intellectual property for corporate espionage, or acquiring your personal income data in an attempt to steal your tax refund or file for unemployment benefits in your name. 

Targeted attacks, commonly referred to as spear-phishing, seek to fool you into volunteering  your login credentials or downloading malicious software.

Spear-phishing attacks often transpire over email. Hackers typically send a target an “URGENT” message, incorporating plausible-sounding information that’s unique to you – such as something that could have come from your tax returns, social media accounts, or credit card bills.

These schemes often include details that make the sender appear legitimate in order to get you to disregard any warning signs you might detect about the email.

In spite of corporate training and dire warnings to be cautious about who you give your password to, people still get duped by these tactics.

Another byproduct of falling for a spear-phishing scam could be inadvertently downloading malware such as ransomware. You might also be coerced into wiring funds to a cybercriminal’s account.

You can steer clear of the majority of spear-phishing scams by observing the following security measures.

 

Recognize the Basic Signs of Phishing Scams

Phishing emails, texts, and phone calls attempt to trick you into accessing a malicious website, surrendering a password, or downloading an infected file. 

This works particularly well in email attacks, since people often spend their entire day at work clicking on links and downloading files as part of their jobs. Hackers realize this, and try to exploit your natural tendency to click without thinking.

Thus, the number-one defense against phishing emails is to think twice before you click.

Check for indications that the sender is who they purport to be:

  • Look at the “From” field. Is the name of the person or business spelled correctly? Does the email address match the name of the sender, or are there all kinds of random characters in the email address instead?
  • Does the email address seem close, but a little bit off? (For example: Microsft.net or Microsoft.co.)
  • Hover over (don’t click!) any links in the email to scrutinize the actual URLs they will send you to. Do they seem to be legitimate?
  • Note the greeting. Does the sender call you by name? “Customer,” “Sir/Madam,” or the prefix of your email address (“pcutler35”) would be red flags.

Examine the email closely. Is it mostly free from spelling errors and unusual grammar?

Consider the tone of the message. Is it excessively urgent? Is its aim to urge you to do something that you normally wouldn’t?

Don’t Be Fooled By More Advanced Phishing Emails That Employ These Techniques

Even if an email passes the preliminary sniff test defined above, it could still be a ruse. A spear-phishing email might include your actual name, implement more masterful language, and even seem specific to you. It’s just a lot harder to distinguish. Then there are the targeted telephone calls, in which an unknown person or organization calls you and attempts to finagle you into relinquishing information or logging on to a shady website.

Since spear-phishing scams can be so crafty, there’s an added measure of protection you should take before responding to any request that arrives via email or phone. The most significant, preventative step you can take is to safeguard your password.

Never click on a link from your email to another website (real or fraudulent), then enter your account password. Simply log on to your account by manually typing the URL into a browser or access it via a trusted app on your mobile device. Never provide your password to anyone over the phone.

Financial institutions, internet service providers, and social media platforms generally make it a policy to never ask for your password in an email or phone call. Instead, log in to your account by manually typing the URL into your browser or access it via a trusted app on your preferred mobile device.

You can also call back the company’s customer service department to verify that the request is legitimate. Most banks, for example, will transmit secure messages through a separate inbox that you can only access when you’ve logged onto their website.

Combat Phishing By Calling the Sender

If an individual or organization sends you something they say is “IMPORTANT” for you to download, requests that you reset your account passwords, or solicits you to send a money order from company accounts, do not immediately comply. Call the sender of the message – your boss, your financial institution, or even the IRS – and make certain that they actually sent you the request.

If the request arrives by phone, it’s still appropriate to hesitate and corroborate. If the caller claims to be phoning from your bank, you’re well within your rights to inform them that you’re going to hang up and call back on the company’s main customer service line.

A phishing message will often attempt to make its inquiry appear extremely urgent, prompting you to forgo taking the extra step of calling the sender to double-check the veracity of the request. For instance, an email might state that your account has been jeopardized and you should reset your password as soon as possible, or perhaps that your account will be terminated unless you take action by the end of the day.

Don’t freak out! You can always justify taking a few extra minutes to validate a request that could cost you or your business financially, or even mar your reputation.

Lock Down Your Personal Information

Someone who wishes to spear-phish you has to obtain personal details about you in order to put their plan in motion. In some cases, your profile and job title on a company website might be sufficient to inform a hacker that you’re a worthwhile target, for whatever reason.

Alternatively, hackers can take advantage of information they’ve discovered about you as a result of data breaches. Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do about either of those things.

However, there are certain situations in which you may be divulging information about yourself that could supply hackers with all the data they need to proceed. This is a solid reason to refrain from posting every detail of your life on social media and to set your social accounts to “Private.

Finally, activate two-factor authentication on both your work and personal accounts. This method adds an extra step to the login process, meaning that hackers require more than simply your password in order to access confidential accounts. Thus, if you do end up inadvertently giving away your credentials in a phishing attack, hackers still won’t possess all they need to access your account and make trouble for you.

By taking these tactics to heart, you will be better prepared to avoid common online scams such as spear-phishing attacks.

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12 Benefits of VoIP for Small Businesses

12 Benefits of VoIP for Small Businesses

The technology small businesses depend on can be the determining factor between extraordinary growth and utter unproductivity. Even within a category as commonplace as phone systems, the possibilities prevail.

Since the arrival of the first commercial VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) phone system in 1995, businesses have been gradually migrating from standard, landline-based phone systems to state-of-the-art, internet-based solutions.

A widely held misconception is that sophisticated communications technologies such as VoIP are only advantageous to large-scale businesses. In fact, small businesses – startups, in particular – can benefit tremendously from the increased freedom, adaptability, and cost reduction that an internet phone service can provide.

What is motivating more and more companies to pull the plug on their traditional phone systems and link up with VoIP? More importantly, is it the right course of action for your organization? Let’s dive in a bit deeper and find out!

What is VoIP & How Does It Work?

VoIP, short for Voice over Internet Protocol, allows users to make and receive phone calls using a broadband internet connection instead of a conventional or analog phone line. VoIP may not appear any different to its users than a standard analog system, but the way voices are transmitted to the person on the other side of the phone is totally different. 

In traditional telephony, sound gets converted into electrical signals. These signals then get funneled through a network of phone lines. With VoIP, audio gets transformed into digital packets of information. Those data packets then get conveyed via the internet, where the signal is decoded on the other side and changed back into a voice.

This enables you to make and receive voice calls, instant messages, or video calls directly from a computer, a VoIP phone, or any other data-driven device.

 

Key Benefits of VoIP for Small Businesses

Small business owners are nothing if not ambitious. Executives of companies all shapes and sizes are seeking to boost customer ratings, trigger more leads and sales, increase profits, and make sure that clients have a favorable impression of their brand. VoIP provides numerous benefits that support these chief objectives:

1) Excellent Call Quality

Early VoIP technology was infamous for its weak call quality, frequently dropped calls, and lots of lag. Today, VoIP phone services have evolved in such a way that the person you’re calling, or the person calling you, can’t discern whether you’re using a VoIP or a traditional landline phone. 

As long as you have a fast internet connection with sufficient bandwidth, you can expect VoIP voice and video calls to be crisp and crystal-clear, with no latency issues and no dropped calls. These days, VoIP calls are able to match or surpass the quality of traditional landline networks, even over long distances.

2) Multifunctionality

Along with making and receiving calls, modern VoIP systems also integrate a variety of other communication services such as instant messaging, teleconferencing, video conferencing, file sharing, screen sharing, voicemail, and faxes via email.

The call forwarding feature ensures that whenever a call comes in, it can be patched through to the appropriate person who is best able to handle it – even if that person is outside of the office. With VoIP, a call received on an office phone can be routed to an employee’s smartphone or other mobile device in the field.

Since calls can be directed to anyone, anywhere, at any time, customers and colleagues never have to resort to calling a separate number to get in touch with the desired party. VoIP users can set their status so coworkers know whether or not they’re available to take calls.

With traditional landline phone systems, a business has an allotted number of lines available to receive any incoming calls. When all lines are in use and a call comes in, the customer, colleague, or vendor gets a busy signal. Needless to say, this can be frustrating.

Since VoIP phone systems aren’t tied to a physical phone line, the business has an unlimited number of lines at their disposal. In short, callers will never get a busy signal and their phones will always be directed to a real, live person.

VoIP technology also equips users to review call logs and analyze metrics to better understand how customers are interacting with the business. Useful data such as call volume, average call-answer time, length of calls, behavioral trends, and performance of customer service agents can be collected and analyzed to identify any relevant patterns.

 

3) Flexibility

Conventional phone services impose certain constraints on employees. Businesses don’t always adhere to a 9-to-5 schedule in the office. As well, traditional phones typically link a single phone number to a specific telephone. Employees who are working from home, traveling, or meeting with customers can’t easily access their business phone numbers.

With a VoIP phone system, location is irrelevant. As long as employees have access to the internet and a computer or mobile device, they can call, text, and fax from their business numbers effortlessly. Once they’ve downloaded the app or logged in to the VoIP service provider’s web portal, workers can begin making and receiving calls and faxes on their business phone numbers from anywhere.

When teams have the capacity to work in a flexible and cooperative environment and perform their duties successfully from wherever they are, it leads to greater productivity and business performance.

 

4) Security

VoIP technology is a significantly more secure channel of communication when compared with traditional analog and landline phone systems. Systematic encryption protocols offer end-to-end encryption and fend off any unwelcome data breaches – something you can’t count on with a traditional landline connection.

Phone system security is a major concern for businesses – especially smaller enterprises – as demand for personally identifiable information (PII) has never been greater. Most VoIP service providers employ dedicated professionals to track the platform’s security and validate that all security updates are installed without delay to keep confidential information and customer data protected.

Remote work can pose additional security concerns for businesses. Ensuring that data stays secure, even as employees access that data from a distance and from a number of different devices, can be challenging. VoIP phone services can help alleviate these concerns, at least as it pertains to telecommunications, since providers routinely perform robust security practices.

5) Accessibility

As previously mentioned, VoIP phone systems allow you to make and receive calls from a myriad of devices, including smartphones, as long as you have internet access. This is incredibly beneficial for today’s scattered workforce, as it affords employers a larger talent pool while continuing to minimize overhead.

While the number of remote workers has skyrocketed in the U.S. in recent years, small businesses aren’t always able to make use of this model – procuring additional equipment for home offices and extra phone expenses simply render it impossible.

VoIP technology clears the way for smooth, efficient telecommuting, enabling employees to touch base and collaborate with colleagues, employers, and clients in a variety of practical ways. Remote workers don’t have to resort to using their personal cell phones and phone numbers to make business calls. Instead, they can use the VoIP numbers exclusively assigned to each worker, in conjunction with your business’s intranet, to make calls from your organization, regardless of where they happen to be located.

6) Automated Assistance

Not all small businesses can manage hiring a dedicated employee to field incoming phone calls. An automated assistance (or auto-attendant) feature – built into many VoIP systems – can be programmed to answer simple, frequently asked questions such as locations, regular and holiday operating hours, and other important announcements.

In essence, the auto-attendant feature acts as a virtual receptionist and primary point of contact, escalating and routing incoming calls to the appropriate parties. This helps streamline the customer service experience for both employees and clients.

7) Call Recording Service

VoIP phone systems are capable of recording incoming and outgoing phone and video calls. This is beneficial for a number of reasons. Not only are you and your colleagues able to play back important calls to guarantee that critical messages aren’t missed, you can also archive them for future reference.

In addition, many industries such as healthcare and finance are also subject to compliance constraints, meaning that calls are required to be recorded and maintained. You can use recordings to train new employees, set loftier standards for customer service, and make sure that representatives are measuring up to these standards.

Recorded calls might also come in handy in the event that a customer lodges a complaint against a staff member, or if a customer should mistreat one of your employees.

8) Increased Productivity

Have you ever played “phone tag” with a client, coworker, or vendor? You know the drill: you call them, get their voicemail, they call you back, get your voicemail, and ultimately nothing gets done. This leads to frustration for all parties involved, missed sales opportunities, and can even hamper your organization’s ability to grow.

With VoIP, you can configure phone numbers to ring on multiple devices before forwarding to a voicemail, which helps resolve the phone tag problem and can greatly improve productivity.

By merging team and customer communications into a singular interface, VoIP helps simplify workflows by cutting down on delays and errors. When everybody is on the same page, effective communication is easier to achieve across the board.

9) Cost Effectiveness

Many providers offer unlimited local calls; however, making long-distance calls is also cheaper with VoIP than with traditional telephony. Since VoIP virtual phone numbers aren’t bound to a physical landline phone, your customers and colleagues can call you at the local rate instead of the higher international rate. Your virtual phone number will appear to be within the recipient’s local exchange, even though it isn’t.

When using a VoIP service provider, calls between PCs are essentially free. While calls from PCs to landlines can incur charges, the rates are considerably less expensive when compared to conventional landlines or cell phones.

Teleconferencing and video-conferencing make it unnecessary for employees in the field to return to the office to attend a meeting or address important matters with colleagues. This, in turn, conserves your budget by eliminating unnecessary travel expenses, whether by company car or plane.

With an ever-increasing number of exclusively remote employees, teleconferencing and video-conferencing are able to further reduce costs related to recruiting, retraining, and office space.

Preparing and installing traditional phone lines within a facility can be a costly undertaking, whereas setting up and managing a VoIP system is substantially cheaper. A cloud-based VoIP phone service involves a meager upfront investment in terms of network infrastructure, hardware, and equipment.

Since VoIP subscription fees typically encompass continuing maintenance and any software upgrades, you won’t need to hire additional IT staff to keep your communications system up and running. Your VoIP vendor will automatically install updates and patches to assure that you have access to the latest features.

10) Simplicity

Compared with traditional phone lines, which can be difficult to implement and maintain, VoIP systems are fairly simple to install, configure, and support – even for individuals who aren’t especially tech-savvy.

Certain VoIP software solutions and web browser options can make managing the system even more hassle-free, specifically when adding new users. Web portals make adding, shifting, and modifying systems configurations easier and more accessible.

Nowadays, people have become accustomed to using digital, web-based products that they can try out and master quickly. Since VoIP systems utilize modern software and user-friendly interfaces, managers can train on these systems much more quickly than they could with manual setups. Eliminating the need for physical phones and ongoing maintenance allows managers to focus on developing their teams, rather than addressing troubleshooting questions from bewildered employees.

With no physical hardware required or telephone cables to install, your whole office can be fully operational with VoIP phone services in 24 hours or less. In doing so, your team can freely communicate via physical SIP phones (in other words, you can use your IP network to make calls instead of over telephone lines) or with any device, including smartphones, laptops, and tablets, by downloading the app of the VoIP service provider.

11) Scalability

With conventional landline systems, it’s difficult to determine how many phone lines you’re going to need – particularly when you’re still growing as an organization. When you add more personnel, additional offices, or create new departments, you’re going to need to ensure that your communications system is continuously up to date.

VoIP systems are designed to conveniently scale up or scale down to meet your specific needs. You simply add a new line whenever you add a new staff member. When an employee leaves the company or transfers, it’s just as easy to reassign the existing line or remove it entirely. Adding or removing a number within a VoIP phone system requires little more than a few clicks of the mouse.

There are certain businesses whose products or services are often consumed only during specific periods during the year, such as tax preparation services, call centers, specialty holiday retailers, and florists. While phones are relatively quiet most of the year, when business picks up it can get very busy. This is why many of these companies plan in advance by getting extra phone capacity in the event that it’s needed. While being prepared is important, paying for extra phones that would otherwise be idle most of the year is not a wise investment.

A cloud-based VoIP phone system allows these seasonal businesses to add more lines during peak season to accommodate the increased demand, and return back to normal service during the off-season. Since the business is able to customize its service package as needed, they only have to pay for the bandwidth they need and use – and nothing more. This helps organizations better control expenses and, ultimately, improve their profit margins.

12) Competitive Advantage

It’s no secret that huge corporations dominate the market in many fields these days. In order for small-to-medium-size businesses to compete effectively with larger, more high-profile organizations, they must be able to do whatever it takes to stand out in a crowded field. Simply coming across as being a “big fish in a small pond” can make all the difference to your bottom line. One major way to gain an advantage is by leveraging cutting-edge technological advances, such as VoIP systems.

With voice over IP, your small business can connect with prospective clients at little to no financial cost to the company, communicate with colleagues and clients over long distances, and project an air of professionalism in the way you present yourself. A warm welcome greeting with department selections, call forwarding, and voicemail-to-email features can not only help simplify inbound inquiries but also create the appearance of being a larger, more established organization than you currently are.

When smaller businesses can enjoy the same features and benefits of an enterprise-level phone system in an economical package, they are better positioned to succeed in today’s market climate.

Conclusion

While it’s clear that businesses of all shapes and sizes can reap the benefits that VoIP has to offer, small businesses can enjoy some of the biggest advantages relative to the size of their enterprise.

The IT professionals at DataGroup Technologies, Inc. (DTI) are well-versed in VoIP technology, and are fully equipped to set up your business– regardless of its size – with a state-of-the-art, cloud-based VoIP phone system that will advance your technological capabilities like never before! Give us a call today at 252.329.1382 to schedule a consultation with our VoIP experts!

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7 Steps to Securing Your Business Website

7 Steps To Securing Your Business Website

by Cody McBride

Maybe you’re getting ready to launch your small business website, but you’re concerned that your site will be vulnerable to cyberattacks. Or perhaps your website has been live for some time now, but your company’s data was recently compromised by a hacker, and you want to avoid dealing with the same situation in the future.

If you’re concerned about whether or not your company’s website is truly secure, the best first step is to consult with a trusted IT service provider. But even with support from IT experts, understanding a few basic cybersecurity principles is crucial if you’re operating your business in the digital space. Here are a few strategies that small business owners can apply in order to keep their websites secure.

Hire Expert Support

 If you’re new to the world of cybersecurity, you may not know where to begin when it comes to keeping your website safe from hackers and cyberattacks. But you don’t have to figure it all out on your own through trial and error. For instance, if you’re developing custom applications for internal use that will be integrated with your website, you can hire a software developer who can install appropriate security protections. In addition, you can work with a cybersecurity expert if you need further guidance.

You can even keep security at the forefront when you start developing your website. By hiring a WordPress developer with a proven background in cybersecurity, you can rest assured that your website will include features specifically intended to protect your company and your customers. If you’re not sure what to look for when hiring a developer, you can check out their portfolio and case studies from their work with previous clients.

Educate Your Team

 Chances are, you’re not the only person at your company who accesses your website from the backend. If your employees also have access to internal functions for your website, you will need to spend some time educating them on cybersecurity. Virtu recommends implementing and enforcing a strong password policy that requires employees to create long, complex passwords and change them every three months. You can also task a web administrator with creating strict access policies for different functions and train your employees to recognize phishing attempts. And should you ever update the security protections for your website with the help of an IT support provider, hold an additional training session with your employees to make sure they’re in the know.

Install SSL

 If you’re unfamiliar with Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificates, it’s important to learn a bit more about why your website needs this certification. Sucuri states that setting up an SSL certificate enables your website to use an HTTPS protocol for secure information transfers. This ensures that data like credit card information and other personally identifiable information from contact forms stays protected. If your website lacks this certification, you cannot guarantee to your customers that you are making every effort to keep their information safe. You can add an SSL certification to your website simply by seeking out a hosting service that offers this option for free.

Use Anti-Malware Software

 By installing anti-malware software for your website, you can protect your business from viruses. Today, it’s all too easy to accidentally download malware, and doing so can cause all kinds of problems for your company. You might get locked out of your website or expose your customers to security risks. You can research different versions of anti-malware software and find an option that suits your needs and budget.

Run Software Updates

 When your hosting provider prompts you to update your software, you do not want to push this task to the backburner. Outdated software may have lackluster security protections. On the other hand, newer software will likely include features that make it easier to secure your website. Furthermore, updating your software will give you access to new functions that enable you to modernize your website and run it efficiently. Perhaps you’ve been putting off a software update for a while, but it’s a good idea to take care of this as soon as you have the chance.

Back Up Your Data

 If your website is compromised, your data could be corrupted or even erased. This would be a frustrating situation for any small business owner. But since no cybersecurity protections can completely prevent attacks, it’s a good idea to back up your website’s data, just in case. You may be able to do this by using a cloud solution or by storing your data with hardware. Should a hacker ever gain access to your website, you can at least rest assured that you will not lose access to your own data, and you will be able to get your website back up and running.

Be Aware of Scams

Unfortunately, it’s quite common for hackers to run scams targeted at business websites. And even people who are relatively tech-savvy can easily fall victim to these scams. That’s why it’s important to read up on common scams that are aimed at business websites and talk to your employees about the tactics that these scammers use. For example, if you ever get an email claiming that it is allegedly from your web hosting provider that contains a link, double-check the email address and consider calling your provider to confirm that they sent it to you. Otherwise, clicking the link could enable a hacker to gain access to your website.

Today, the internet makes it easier than ever to run your own business – but this low barrier to entry has also introduced new risks, like dealing with cybersecurity threats. However, your website does not have to be susceptible to cyberattacks. With these tips, you’ll be able to ensure the safety of your business website and keep your data private.

Final Thoughts

Interested in learning more about DataGroup Technologies’ IT services? We’re here for you! Find out how choosing us as your IT partner will provide the support you need to gain a competitive edge in your industry. Reach out to us at 252.329.1382 today or drop us a line here to schedule a quick 15-minute discovery call with our team.

 

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Guest blogger Cody McBride’s love for computers stems from high school when he built his own computer. Today he is a trained IT technician and knows how the inner workings of computers can be confusing to most. He is the creator of TechDeck.info where he offers easy-to-understand, tech-related advice and troubleshooting tips.

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Why Increased Connectivity Means More Cyber Risks

Why Increased Connectivity Means More Cyber Risks

We are living in an increasingly connected world. 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

All of these advances in connectivity have two things in common: they make our lives easier – but they also exponentially increase cyber risk. In a nutshell, every new digital connection that’s enabled by any of the above-mentioned technologies is a potential gateway for a hacker. And that hacker can either 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.

So, 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. DDoS is a strategy in which hackers overwhelm a system with more actions than it can process. And it can be a particularly effective way of not just shutting down but controlling the world’s emerging ITS. Today, cybersecurity firm Trend Micro Incorporated estimates that over 125 million vehicles with V2N connectivity will ship across the world from 2018 to 2022. The firm explains that this is creating an increasingly complex ecosystem of connected devices – each of which is a potential vulnerability for hackers to exploit.

Moreover, with the arrival and continued evolution of 5G, there will be exponential increases to both connectivity and cyber risk. And 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 risk today. Literally 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 their 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. The malicious code was disguised as a regular software update from SolarWinds. And as any IT support staff can attest to, making sure that your software is constantly updated significantly decreases cyber risk. However, in this case, what happened was the exact opposite. Before the attack was discovered and ended, large amounts of sensitive data had already been stolen from every company that was 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.”

This includes 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. And most importantly, this threat isn’t over yet.

Final Thoughts

The attack on SolarWinds was traced back to a criminal group originating in Russia, according to the FBI. And according to Microsoft, they 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 the increasingly connected world, there is an even more pressing need to focus on reducing cyber risk 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. 

 

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Article written exclusively for dtinetworks.com by Alicia Rupert

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Don’t Let Your Employees Become Your Biggest Vulnerability!

Don’t Let Your Employees Become Your Biggest Vulnerability

A couple of years ago, TechRepublic ran a story with the following headline: “Employees Are Almost As Dangerous to Business As Hackers and Cybercriminals.” From the perspective of the business, you might think that’s simply inaccurate. Your company strives to hire the best people it can find – people who are good at their jobs and would never dream of putting their own employer at risk.

And yet, many employees do – and it’s almost always unintentional. Your employees aren’t thinking of ways to compromise your network or trying to put malware or ransomware on company computers, but it happens. One Kaspersky study found that 52% of businesses recognize that their employees are “their biggest weakness in IT security.” 

Where does this weakness come from? It stems from several different things and varies from business to business – but a big chunk of it comes down to employee behavior.

Human Error

We all make mistakes. Unfortunately, some mistakes can have serious consequences. Here’s an example: an employee receives an e-mail from their boss. The boss wants the employee to buy several gift cards and then send the gift card codes to them as soon as possible. The message may say, “I trust you with this,” and work to build urgency within the employee.

The problem is that it’s fake. A scammer is using an e-mail address similar to what the manager, supervisor, or other company leader might use. It’s a phishing scam, and it works. While it doesn’t necessarily compromise your IT security internally, it showcases gaps in employee knowledge. 

Another common example, also through email, is for cybercriminals to send files or links that install malware on company computers. The criminals once again disguise the email as a legitimate message from someone within the company, a vendor, a bank, or another company the employee may be familiar with. 

It’s that familiarity that can trip up employees. All criminals have to do is add a sense of urgency, and the employee may click the link without giving more thought.

Carelessness

This happens when an employee clicks a link without thinking. It could be because the employee doesn’t have training to identify fraudulent e-mails or the company might not have a comprehensive IT security policy in place. 

Another form of carelessness is unsafe browsing habits. When employees browse the web – whether it’s for research or anything related to their job or for personal use – they should always do so in the safest way possible. Tell employees to avoid navigating to “bad” websites and to not click any link they can’t verify (such as ads). 

Bad websites are fairly subjective, but one thing any web user should look for is the presence of “https” at the beginning of any web address. The “s” tells you the site is secure. If that “s” is not there, the website lacks proper security. If you input sensitive data into that website – such as your name, e-mail address, contact information, or financial information – you cannot verify the security of that information, and it may end up in the hands of cybercriminals. 

Another example of carelessness is poor password management. It’s common for people to use simple passwords and to reuse those same passwords across multiple websites. If your employees are doing this, it can put your business at a huge risk. If hackers get ahold of any of those passwords, who knows what they might be able to access. A strict password policy is a must for every business.

Turn Weakness Into Strength

The best way to overcome the human weakness in your IT security is education. An IT security policy is a good start, but it must be enforced and understood. Employees need to know what behaviors are unacceptable, but they also need to be aware of the threats that exist. They need resources they can count on as threats arise so that they can be dealt with properly. Working with a trusted managed services provider or IT services firm may be the answer – they can help you lay the foundation to turn this weakness into a strength.

Final Thoughts

DataGroup Technologies provides businesses of all sizes with security awareness and best practices training. Our goal is to make sure that your staff can identify threats and remain proactive. Knowledge is power, and well-informed employees can serve as a human firewall for your organization. For more information about our security awareness training solutions, please call us at 252.329.1382 or drop us a line here!

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Computer Security Day: 8 Tips to Bolster Your Business’s Cybersecurity

Computer Security Day: 8 Tips to Bolster Your Business’s Cybersecurity

In 1988, the Association for Computer Security established the first Computer Security Day to raise awareness about cybersecurity issues. Computer Security Day encourages people to take ownership of their online presence and identity. Taking the time to review computer security best practices can help individuals and organizations avoid compromised data and other unwanted scenarios.

In celebration of this day, here are 8 tips for bolstering your computer security:

1) Update Passwords on All Your Devices

Take the time to change the passwords on all your online accounts. This is something that should be done on a regular basis anyway, but if you’ve neglected to do so recently, today is as good a time as any.

Avoid using the same passwords across multiple accounts and devices. Reusing the same or similar passwords over a period of time can put you at greater risk of being hacked. Ideally, you should create a different password for each account that you use on your various devices.

It probably goes without saying, but it’s never a good idea to share your passwords with others, even people that you trust. You can’t know for sure that they will keep your credentials as secure as you would yourself.

2) Create and Use Strong Passwords

When it comes to password security, length matters. Passwords that are 6 characters or fewer are much easier to hack, particularly if they consist of only lowercase letters. To strengthen your password, create a complex, unique mixture of upper and lowercase letters, symbols, and numbers that is at least 9 characters in length.

A password manager can help generate unique passwords for each of your online accounts. At the same time, this useful tool can save all your passwords in one convenient location, so you don’t have to remember them each time. You can also take advantage of Password Checkup, a Google Chrome extension that warns you when it detects you using compromised, duplicate, or weak passwords. As another option, consider using the tool How Secure Is My Password to test the strength and “hackability” of your passwords.

3) Keep Your Software and Hardware Up-to-Date

Make sure that all software – for your operating systems, browsers, programs, applications, etc. – is updated with the latest versions available. When you’re all set with that, it’s time to update your protection software, including spyware, antivirus, and antimalware software. Run a security scan not only on your computers, but on your smartphones and tablets as well. Mobile devices are as much at risk, if not more so, than your desktops or laptops.

It’s crucial to check on the status of your hardware as well. Outdated hardware may not support recent software security upgrades, and also responds slower to cyberattacks, in the event that one should occur. Better to be safe than sorry and upgrade your hardware while everything is smooth sailing.

4) Encrypt and Back Up Your Data

Keep your data secure and confidential – whether it’s being stored or in transit – by encrypting it. Encryption uses complex algorithms to scramble your data and make it unreadable, ensuring that only an authorized person can access the data.

Create a backup copy of all your sensitive data on a portable storage device – such as an external USB or hard drive – and store it in a safe place. Alternatively, you could upload your backed-up data to a cloud-based storage solution such as Google Drive. It’s important to keep your data backups up-to-date and test them periodically.

5) Implement Multi-Factor Authentication

Many online platforms now allow you to enable multi-factor authentication in order to keep your accounts more secure. Multi-factor authentication offers an additional layer of protection by helping to verify that it’s actually you who’s trying to access your account and not an unauthorized user.

6) Be on the Lookout for Social Engineering Attacks

Social engineering attacks are difficult to counteract, as they’re specifically designed to take advantage of natural human characteristics, such as curiosity, respect for authority, and people’s desire to help their friends. Anytime you receive a suspicious email, it should be treated as such. Take a moment to think about where the communication originates from; don’t just trust it blindly.

Often, social engineering depends on a sense of urgency. Attackers hope that targets won’t think too hard about what’s going on. Thinking twice before taking any action can prevent most social engineering attacks and expose them for what they are – frauds.

7) Don’t Leave Your Devices
Unattended

Despite what you may think, locking your office is not enough. If you use a laptop or desktop computer at work, you should always power it down at night. Additionally, whenever you leave your office for the day, you need to lock up your memory keys, hard drives, and anything else that has sensitive data on it.

8) Educate Your Employees About Cybersecurity Awareness

Cybercriminals are specifically targeting your employees when they send out phishing emails in attempting to steal information. Through training and awareness, you can help your employees better recognize fraudulent emails when they encounter them. In so doing, you can significantly reduce the risk of your employees surrendering sensitive data to those who would deliberately misuse it.

Onboarding training and continuous updates help create a human firewall between your company’s information and security threats. Employees need to understand that cybersecurity is every bit as much their concern as it is the concern of your technology experts.

DataGroup Technologies offers a wide variety of cybersecurity solutions to help protect your business against cyberthreats like malware, phishing, ransomware, man-in-the-middle attacks, social engineering, and distributed denial-of-service attacks. Are your company’s data and that of its customers fully protected? How can you be sure? Partner with us and we can help safeguard your business against all these and more! Call us today at 252.329.1382 or drop us a line here.

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How To Secure Your Business Website In 2022

How To Secure Your Business Website In 2022

If you have a booming business website that’s raking in profits and helping you establish your brand, that’s great! However, you still need to make sure your site is protected from hackers and trolls who might want to tarnish your image. To ensure continued success and prevent bad actors from appropriating your intellectual property, follow these tips to help better secure your business website.

What Is Business Email Compromise?

According to TechRepublic, business email compromise (BEC) is “a sophisticated scam that targets companies and individuals who perform legitimate transfer-of-funds requests.”

Through the use of social engineering or malware, cybercriminals will masquerade as one of the individuals involved in these money transfers to trick the victim into sending money to a bank account owned by the cybercriminal. Once the fraud is exposed, it’s often too late to recoup the money. Scammers are quick to relocate the money to other accounts and withdraw the cash or use it to buy cryptocurrencies.

However, the scam is not always associated with an unauthorized transfer of funds. One BEC variation involves compromising legitimate business email accounts and requesting personally identifiable information (PII), wage and tax settlement (W-2) forms, or even cryptocurrency wallets from recipients.

How to Protect Your Business Against BEC Attacks

In the public service announcement, the FBI offers several suggestions for businesses to adopt to better protect against business email compromise attacks.

  • Use secondary channels (such as phone calls) or multi-factor authentication to validate requests for any changes in account information.
  • Ensure that URLs in emails are associated with the businesses or individuals from which they claim to be originating.
  • Keep an eye out for hyperlinks that contain misspellings of the actual domain name.
  • Steer clear of providing login credentials or PII of any sort via email. Bear in mind that many emails requesting your personal information may appear to be legitimate.
  • Verify the email address used to send emails – especially when using a mobile or handheld device – by making sure the address appears to match that of the purported sender.
  • Enable settings on employees’ computers to allow full email extensions to be viewed.
  • Monitor your personal financial accounts routinely for irregularities, such as missing deposits.

What to Do If You or Your Company Should Fall Victim to a BEC Attack

According to TechRepublic, business email compromise (BEC) is “a sophisticated scam that targets companies and individuals who perform legitimate transfer-of-funds requests.”

Through the use of social engineering or malware, cybercriminals will masquerade as one of the individuals involved in these money transfers to trick the victim into sending money to a bank account owned by the cybercriminal. Once the fraud is exposed, it’s often too late to recoup the money. Scammers are quick to relocate the money to other accounts and withdraw the cash or use it to buy cryptocurrencies.

However, the scam is not always associated with an unauthorized transfer of funds. One BEC variation involves compromising legitimate business email accounts and requesting personally identifiable information (PII), wage and tax settlement (W-2) forms, or even cryptocurrency wallets from recipients.

What to Do If You or Your Company Should Fall Victim to a BEC Attack

Cybersecurity has never been more important. We live in an increasingly connected world, which enables cyberattackers to constantly find new ways to carry out digital attacks. Even the most vigilant business owners and IT managers can become overwhelmed with the stress of maintaining network security and protecting their data.

These increasingly advanced cyberattacks create unprecedented situations of data breach and money extortion. The tools that hackers use are getting smarter and stronger every day. If you’re not proactive about protecting your network, your business will become a target of cybersecurity attacks.

DataGroup Technologies, Inc. (DTI) offers a wide variety of cybersecurity services to help protect your business from cyberthreats, including security risk assessments, email security solutions, web/DNS filtering, next-generation firewalls, network security monitoring, operating systems/application security patches, antivirus software, and security awareness training. If you’re not 100% certain that your business is protected from cybercriminals, contact us today at 252.329.1382 or message us to find out more about how we can help #SimplifyIT!

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Are You Protected Against Business Email Compromise Attacks?

Are You Protected Against Business Email Compromise Attacks?

On May 4th, 2022, the FBI published a public service announcement updating its warnings about the continuing threat of business email compromise, also known as CEO fraud. It’s a problem that has reached staggering proportions. Between June 2016 and December 2021, the FBI quantified 241,206 domestic and international incidents of business email compromise. The exposed dollar loss – including both actual and attempted losses – was more than $43 billion!

What Is Business Email Compromise?

According to TechRepublic, business email compromise (BEC) is “a sophisticated scam that targets companies and individuals who perform legitimate transfer-of-funds requests.”

Through the use of social engineering or malware, cybercriminals will masquerade as one of the individuals involved in these money transfers to trick the victim into sending money to a bank account owned by the cybercriminal. Once the fraud is exposed, it’s often too late to recoup the money. Scammers are quick to relocate the money to other accounts and withdraw the cash or use it to buy cryptocurrencies.

However, the scam is not always associated with an unauthorized transfer of funds. One BEC variation involves compromising legitimate business email accounts and requesting personally identifiable information (PII), wage and tax settlement (W-2) forms, or even cryptocurrency wallets from recipients.

How to Protect Your Business Against BEC Attacks

In the public service announcement, the FBI offers several suggestions for businesses to adopt to better protect against business email compromise attacks.

  • Use secondary channels (such as phone calls) or multi-factor authentication to validate requests for any changes in account information.
  • Ensure that URLs in emails are associated with the businesses or individuals from which they claim to be originating.
  • Keep an eye out for hyperlinks that contain misspellings of the actual domain name.
  • Steer clear of providing login credentials or PII of any sort via email. Bear in mind that many emails requesting your personal information may appear to be legitimate.
  • Verify the email address used to send emails – especially when using a mobile or handheld device – by making sure the address appears to match that of the purported sender.
  • Enable settings on employees’ computers to allow full email extensions to be viewed.
  • Monitor your personal financial accounts routinely for irregularities, such as missing deposits.

What to Do If You or Your Company Should Fall Victim to a BEC Attack

According to TechRepublic, business email compromise (BEC) is “a sophisticated scam that targets companies and individuals who perform legitimate transfer-of-funds requests.”

Through the use of social engineering or malware, cybercriminals will masquerade as one of the individuals involved in these money transfers to trick the victim into sending money to a bank account owned by the cybercriminal. Once the fraud is exposed, it’s often too late to recoup the money. Scammers are quick to relocate the money to other accounts and withdraw the cash or use it to buy cryptocurrencies.

However, the scam is not always associated with an unauthorized transfer of funds. One BEC variation involves compromising legitimate business email accounts and requesting personally identifiable information (PII), wage and tax settlement (W-2) forms, or even cryptocurrency wallets from recipients.

Final Thoughts

Cybersecurity has never been more important. We live in an increasingly connected world, which enables cyberattackers to constantly find new ways to carry out digital attacks. Even the most vigilant business owners and IT managers can become overwhelmed with the stress of maintaining network security and protecting their data.

These increasingly advanced cyberattacks create unprecedented situations of data breach and money extortion. The tools that hackers use are getting smarter and stronger every day. If you’re not proactive about protecting your network, your business will become a target of cybersecurity attacks.

DataGroup Technologies, Inc. (DTI) offers a wide variety of cybersecurity services to help protect your business from cyberthreats, including security risk assessments, email security solutions, web/DNS filtering, next-generation firewalls, network security monitoring, operating systems/application security patches, antivirus software, and security awareness training. If you’re not 100% certain that your business is protected from cybercriminals, contact us today at 252.329.1382 or message us to find out more about how we can help #SimplifyIT!

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