5 Reasons to Reexamine Your Connectivity Plan

When someone begins an IT services contract with us, our first step is to gather information about their current business and IT environment. Often, this discovery phase uncovers a disconnect in their communications situation. Here are five common pain points we see:

Pain Points

  1. Network Performance: The efficiency of your organization depends to a large extent on the efficiency of its network and applications. If your applications are running slowly or freezing up, this can irritate and slow down your workforce.
  2. Scaled Growth: Whether it’s meeting the user maximum on a VoIP plan, needing more physical phonelines for your in-office staff, or creating dedicated lines for clients, are you struggling to make your connectivity plan work for the current reality of your organization? The plan that worked for you when the contract was signed three years ago may not support the bandwidth needs of the user base you have now.
  3. Overpaying: We often find that better plans have become available but the provider is not notifying the client, so you’re paying more than necessary for their services. On top of that, when your contract with a provider expires, most of the time they jack up your rate to motivate you to sign another deal.
  4. Downtime: What does one hour of downtime cost your business? If you have a team of 20, and we figure your average hourly cost for this team is $1,000, one hour of downtime is roughly ten times more expensive than paying for a redundant cable connection. A company may be struggling with frequent downtime without understanding that it’s directly tied to an outdated or insufficient connectivity solution. At healthcare facilities, for example, admissions, medication orders, medical records, guest Wi-Fi—all of it depends on your Internet and phone lines. If they go down, this can directly affect your revenue and your compliance status.
  5. Mobility: Do you have a mobile workforce and find your communication solutions lacking in field applications or support? Especially in the wake of the pandemic, many organizations are moving to a work-from-home arrangement, and are scrambling to keep their team communicating, both internally and with customers.

How We Can Help

If your organization is struggling in one of these areas, we have a five-step process to help.

  1. Discovery: We start by collecting information. What is and is not working well? What system(s) are you currently using? Why are you looking for a change?
  2. Research: This is a big part of the value of our partnership. We navigate the telecom landscape for you, conducting extensive research on what options or alternate providers are available in your area. Who provides physical service to your building? What plan sizes are offered? We compile all of this into a spreadsheet to help you compare your options.
  3. Review: We go over the pros and cons of each option, set up webinars or demos with providers, request a proposal from chosen providers, and review those with you as well. We then negotiate with the provider to make sure we have the best promotions and are getting you the best services at the best possible price.
  4. Implementation: We will manage the implementation process all the way to the final sign-off. From billing to design to installation to training your team on the new system, we are your partner and advocate in dealing with the provider.
  5. Post-sale support: We don’t stop once you’re up and running; if you have any technical support needs, we work with the provider on your behalf and hold them accountable for a timely fix.

With an optimized connectivity solution, you’ll see these benefits:

  • Better application performance: Increased bandwidth can eliminate packet loss, latency & jitter.
  • Minimized downtime: Building true redundancy into the network by setting up primary & secondary connections cuts down on costs and compliance issues.
  • Expense management: By negotiating a better rate or finding a better plan for you, we help you redirect your budget dollars toward other organizational goals.
  • Expert assistance: We know the industry and the system; put our expertise to work for you to get you the best bang for your buck.

FIT Solutions and our partners work to provide elite IT services to organizations. Give us a call today at 888-339-5694 or contact us here to see how we can improve your business environment.

Why Firewall and Antivirus Aren’t Enough to Secure Your Business

“I have a firewall and antivirus, so I’m secure, right?” We hear this question from companies all the time. The answer is, that’s a great start, but you’re not quite done. Why not? To find out, let’s take a closer look at these two security measures.

What Does a Firewall Do?

A firewall is a program on your network that acts as gatekeeper, monitoring the inbound and outbound traffic. If you think of your business like a bank, the firewall would be like the security guard stationed at the entrance that prevents unwanted intruders from entering. That sounds like a pretty good system, until you consider a few drawbacks of firewalls.

  1. Firewalls operate based on predetermined rules. If someone figures out what those rules are, it’s not that hard to outsmart the firewall. In our bank example, your security guard may be instructed to turn away anyone in a red hat. Knowing this, the intruder wears a blue hat instead and is allowed to enter.
  2. A firewall is a reactive, problem-by-problem solution. It reacts to the immediate threat; it doesn’t look ahead to see the next approaching threat. The effectiveness of your firewall depends on those preset rules to block attacks, so if you’re not proactively watching the latest cyberthreats (and installing regular updates), it can’t fully do its job. This can leave you vulnerable to viruses or other cyberthreats.
  3. Your firewall protects your office network. If your employees access work emails or files from their personal devices, they can take that data outside of your company network. This has become a bigger threat with the recent pandemic-driven increases in work-from-home arrangements. Pandemic aside, though, if your employees conduct work outside of the office, perhaps using hotel Wi-Fi on a business trip, your company data could now be exposed on an unsecured network—where your firewall can’t protect it.
  4. Firewalls can’t stop user error. Criminals have a whole gamut of tricks for penetrating your system. Social engineering and phishing attacks in particular can completely sidestep your external defenses by targeting internal users. If one of your users unknowingly clicks a malicious link, your entire network could be shut down.

Does this mean you shouldn’t use a firewall? Absolutely you should; having a security guard with limited power is better than having none at all. We just want to make it clear why businesses shouldn’t entrust the safety of their data solely to their firewall.

What About Antivirus?

Antivirus is software that can prevent, detect, and remove malware. In our banking example, this would be like another security guard that makes regular rounds inside the bank, looking for suspicious activity. There are different kinds of antivirus software:

  1. Malware signature antivirus: This type scans for the digital fingerprint of a malicious program, known as a signature. The antivirus software comes preloaded with thousands of signatures, allowing the software to quickly identify and dispose of a threat that matches one from its database.
  2. System monitoring antivirus: This software identifies malware by looking for suspicious or unusual behavior—for example, if a user tries to access an unfamiliar website, or starts using significantly more data than usual.
  3. Machine-learning antivirus: Machine-learning pools data from multiple antivirus programs to recognize threats that it hasn’t seen before—an advantage over signature-based antivirus.

Given these abilities, why does antivirus not cover all the bases?

  1. Signature-based antivirus can only protect you against the threats that were programmed into it. It has no defenses against new threats or zero-day exploits.
  2. There are plenty of free antivirus software programs out there, and, while better than nothing, their database of malware signatures to check against is usually quite small. This drastically reduces the amount of threats it can protect you against.
  3. Antivirus doesn’t protect users against phishing attacks. A 2020 report by Check Point Research found that 65% of US organizations suffered a successful phishing attack in 2019—that’s two out of every three businesses!
  4. Most users don’t have antivirus on their phones or tablets, potentially leaving their device—and your network—vulnerable to attack.
  5. Cybercriminals represent the dark side of human ingenuity. They’re creative, constantly looking for new ways to get around your antivirus and firewall defenses. Even machine-learning antivirus software relies on combinations of data points. If an attacker figures out what combination will alert your antivirus to his presence, all he has to do is change one data point to trick it into marking him as legitimate traffic.

What You Can Do

  1. Update your firewall and antivirus regularly. Software patches and updates serve to reduce your system’s vulnerability and increase your software’s ability to identify and repel attacks.
  2. Develop a multi-layer security program. To return to the bank illustration, which bank would you trust with your money? A bank with one aged security guard? Or one with a whole patrol of security guards, cameras, alarm systems, biometric locks, and a dedicated monitoring team? Every security measure you add—SIEM, traffic analyzer, log management, SOC services, etc.—makes your organization that much stronger and more secure.
  3. Provide regular awareness training for your employees. Modern phishing and social engineering attacks are very sophisticated, and can be hard to identify. Just like your firewall and antivirus need to be updated frequently to stay effective, so does your team. A structured training program, either monthly or quarterly, can help your team recognize and repel attacks on your network.
  4. Don’t ‘set it and forget it’. Overconfidence or the feeling that you’ve already taken steps to defend your network can lull you into a false sense of security. Criminals are constantly testing new attacks, which calls for constant vigilance on our part to keep our defenses up to date. A third-party firm can conduct a social engineering campaign or penetration test for your organization to identify areas for improvement in your network or team.

FIT Solutions provides IT services, including cybersecurity packages. If you need an IT environment that scales with you, give us a call today at 888-339-5694 or contact us here.

How IT Departments Can Automate to Increase Efficiency by 40%

Too many IT departments get bogged down in doing manual work that could be automated. The root cause? Given the workload, the IT team simply can’t get ahead of the game. The time is never there to put the required tools and processes in place, and to master the associated learning curve — which is often steep. So talented staff spends the majority of their time focusing on repetitive tasks and rote troubleshooting instead of driving the business forward.

See if any of these scenarios apply to your organization:

  • Has your company asked your IT department to do more with fewer resources?
  • Have you been forced to reduce IT headcount, but still need to perform the same work?
  • Would you like to do more with the same IT staff?

If the answer to any of the above questions is yes, then read on.

The Impact of Outsourcing IT Automation

At FIT Solutions, we have the tools, processes and resources — coupled with the experience to apply them — to automate, standardize and streamline the IT environment. The bottom line is this: IT departments can increase their efficiency by 40%.

That improvement comes from application of best-practices automation coupled with economies of scale. Consider this: FIT Solutions successfully supports approximately 7,500 client users with a staff of 25 engineers. That’s one IT person for 300 employees — a ratio that can’t be touched by even the largest organizations. This doesn’t negatively impact our level of service, however; over the last 90 days, our customer satisfaction after over 1,000 reviews averaged 98.6 out of 100!

Here are some of the tasks we take on for our clients:

  • Managing desktops, mobile devices, servers and network infrastructure using automated tools
  • Installing and maintaining automated systems for handling upgrades, managing patches and applying them
  • Implementing and configuring automated systems that alert on issues based on varying degrees of severity and criticality
  • Establishing systems for log analysis, visibility, reporting and remote access — all to speed performance analysis, fine-tuning and troubleshooting
  • Creating and standardizing documentation for addressing regulations and resolving issues

Not Just Tools — But Years of Experience Using Them

Our engineers have spent years working with a stack of best-in-class automation tools and have developed proven methods for applying them efficiently across a wide variety of IT environments. We’ve done that work so your IT staff can piggyback on that experience. Too often, IT organizations invest in similar tools, but don’t have the time to utilize them fully so the investment falls short of delivering what’s promised—or worse, becomes ‘shelfware’. We can create those efficiencies for you, and either train your staff to apply them or simply take the administrative burden off your IT department’s hands.

Does being 40% more efficient sound good to you? To learn more about how we can optimize your IT environment in a way that delivers measurable increases in efficiency, call us today at 888-339-5694 or contact us here.

Why “If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It” Doesn’t Work for IT

Let’s say you have network equipment that’s been in place for years and is working with minimal or no issues. Paying to maintain service and support on those items might seem like an unnecessary expense. Certainly that’s the way many businesses look at it when scrutinizing the IT budget and looking for items to cut. The logic to justify de-funding those contracts is pretty simple: “If it isn’t broke, why pay to fix it?” However, that is a risky position to take.

Late in 2019, a manufacturer of wireless access points announced that a number of security vulnerabilities — some with a “critical” rating — had been found in its products. They fixed the vulnerabilities in short order and distributed the fixes in the form of software upgrades to the affected products. Here’s the rub: businesses without active support contracts didn’t have access to the upgrades.

Why Service Contracts Are Vital for Critical Infrastructure

The access points in question are widely used in installations that call for reliable, widespread business-class wireless coverage. In other words, they’re an extremely critical element of the infrastructure for organizations that rely on Wi-Fi to run their business. With the prospect of a security vulnerability that would allow an intruder access and potentially bring the entire wireless network down, the seemingly minor risk of letting the service contracts lapse turned into a major risk overnight. All of a sudden, companies were faced with an unbudgeted expense. They either had to re-up the contracts for all of the controllers and access points, or else replace their entire wireless infrastructure.

The same scenario and risks apply to all manner of critical network infrastructure, including switches, routers, firewalls, VPNs and servers. Vulnerabilities are constantly being discovered and patched with updates. We often think of these devices as appliances or hardware, but the reality is, they have software inside that’s meant to be upgraded to improve performance, add features or address security problems. Those devices are at the heart of the network and hold the keys to keeping the business running.

Is the Gamble Worth It?

Many companies do take the risk of running without maintenance agreements on key pieces of network equipment. They have weighed the risks against the costs and reached the conclusion that the gamble is worth taking. While at FIT Solutions we don’t recommend this approach, we do respect that it is a business decision. We are more concerned with businesses that simply allow their service and support contracts to lapse as a cost-cutting measure, without fully understanding the risks and taking them into account.

At FIT Solutions, part of our service is knowing what the vendor policies are with regard to upgrades, support, and service agreements, and keeping track of whether your agreements are active. We use this information to help you understand the risks of running your critical network infrastructure without the benefit of a safety net. Want a true picture of these hidden risks? Give us a call at 888-339-5694 today.

Working Post-Pandemic: What’s Your New Business Normal?

We’re still in the throes of the COVID-19/coronavirus pandemic, but it’s not too soon to start looking ahead to what your future business landscape will look like. How prepared are you to get back to business under the “new normal”?

Many, many businesses made major changes in response to the outbreak. Most prominent was the shift to work-from-home models. That often involved some combination of rolling out virtual desktop infrastructure, upgrading the capacity of VPNs, moving major pieces of IT infrastructure from on-premises into the cloud, and shoring up work-from-home security to protect the business. Even businesses in sectors such as on-site retail, healthcare and manufacturing that weren’t able to move front-line workers did their best to comply with stay-at-home mandates by shifting some of the support functions.

Here’s the question: Are you ready to go back? And what will you be going back to? Back to business as usual? Back to basics, with a downscaled operation that will require a lower cost structure? And as for going “back to the office,” are you even going to go back?

The Scale of the COVID-19/Coronavirus Change

Let’s face it: We’re in the middle of the largest “work from home” experiment in history. Use of video conferencing software such as Microsoft Teams, Google Hangout Meets and Zoom shot up during March as the pandemic took hold. Metrics including total users and total minutes for these services saw growth from five to 25 times their pre-pandemic levels as businesses, schools and other organizations took their work home with them.

While the outcome of the experiment is still unknown, a survey of CFOs at large enterprises indicated that three-quarters are going to shift some positions to permanent work-from-home arrangements after it all shakes out. A few (4%) said they will turn half of their workforce into remote workers.

What about smaller businesses? Sadly, some are not going to survive multiple months of lost business. They already have shuttered or will soon shutter their doors for good. Others will be restarting the business amid what will likely be a down economy, will need to get by with less income on the balance sheet, and will have to take a very hard look at their capital expenses and operating costs.

Out of Pandemic Chaos, Comes Opportunity

A sea change like this, as disruptive as it’s been, also forces us to take a fresh look at things and ask some new questions. So why not use it as an opportunity? Consider the following:

  • Should you extend your work-from-home arrangements after the pandemic and make them permanent? If workers were equally or more productive working from home and liked the arrangement, would you profit from higher satisfaction and retention, and could you cut your real estate costs?
  • Is it time to move more of your data and applications into the cloud? If you were sitting on the fence about the cloud before, the COVID-19/coronavirus experience should have erased most of your doubts. The cloud proved it could scale, and in many ways it’s easier to secure. Moving more workloads to the cloud could slash your costs for maintaining computing infrastructure.
  • Could you get a better deal on your communications? If you’re going to support more work-from-home arrangements or rely more on cloud infrastructure, you might need higher-capacity connections. You could very likely get higher bandwidth for the same money. Or, you could slash your costs for Internet connectivity and telephone service by taking a fresh look at your connections. There are companies that are in the business of brokering to get you the best performance for the price, and it’s well worth having them investigate for you.
  • Could you get the same functionality with fewer vendors? Items like multifunction printers and networking equipment, servers, software licenses and communication contracts all sourced from multiple vendors are time-consuming to deal with, from an IT management and financial perspective. When you ‘right-size’ for the new normal, can you consolidate to fewer vendors at the same time?

At FIT Solutions, we can work as an adjunct to your IT department, putting to use our extensive experience cutting costs and improving IT efficiencies for hundreds of companies. Would you appreciate some efficiency-improving, rightsizing, cost-cutting help with your post-pandemic planning? Give us a call at 888-339-5694 or email us today.

Small Businesses: Does the CCPA Affect You?

The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) went into effect January 1, 2020. This law deals with the right of consumers to know or even control how their personal information is used by organizations. For businesses that collect such information from consumers, this represents new burdens.

Do I Have to Comply with CCPA?

The CCPA comes with certain thresholds that may exclude some small or medium businesses from compliance requirements. What are these thresholds? You’re on the hook for compliance if you are:

  • Are a for-profit business operating in California
  • Collect personal information from consumers
  • Exceed one or more of the following:
    • Buy, receive, sell or share personal data from 50,000+ devices, consumers, or households
    • Have gross annual revenues of over $25 million
    • Sales of California residents’ personal data represents 50% or more of total annual revenue

I Don’t Meet the Thresholds, So Why Should I Worry About CCPA?

The CCPA is the most extensive privacy law ever passed in the US. Other states are taking a page from California’s book and are considering or have already passed similar legislation. Plus, the possibility of having different standards instituted across multiple states could result in the enactment of a privacy law at the federal level. So even if the CCPA does not currently affect you, it will eventually.

Looking at the legislative climate, given the CCPA and likelihood of more laws like it coming soon, it’s clear that there is an increasing recognition of the need for businesses to handle consumer data responsibly, for consumers to have the right to determine how that data can be used, and for businesses to protect consumer data against theft or loss.

What is “Reasonable Security”?

Part of the CCPA revolves around an organization’s responsibility to protect consumer data against theft or loss, like through a data breach. If a business fails to implement reasonable safety measures, resulting in a breach, they may be liable to pay penalties of $100-$750 per consumer per incident, or even higher. What would count as “easonable security” measures? The CCPA does not specify, but some legal experts refer to the state attorney general’s words in the California 2016 Data Breach Report:

“The 20 controls in the Center for Internet Security’s Critical Security Controls define a minimum level of information security that all organizations that collect or maintain personal information should meet. The failure to implement all the Controls that apply to an organization’s environment constitutes a lack of reasonable security.”

These CIS Controls are comprised of a set of 20 broad categories of action, each of which contains subcontrols in the form of specific tools and practices. These subcontrols vary based on the sensitivity of the data you’re protecting, the size of your organization, and the extent of your IT resources. Together, these controls form a defense strategy against breaches and cyberattacks.

We recommend that companies of all sizes take a look at the CIS Controls—especially if you’re at or near a threshold for CCPA compliance. At FIT Solutions, we use CIS Controls and other security frameworks, like NIST, to follow best cybersecurity practices for our clients. Contact us or call 888-339-5694 for help in strengthening your organization’s defenses.

Patch Tuesday & Hack Wednesday—Why Software Patching Is A Necessity

Applying software patches to fix security vulnerabilities is a key piece of system hygiene and protection against criminal computer attacks. Windows 10 is by default set up to handle this automatically. Unfortunately, for many users the prospect of having to stop the task at hand, wait for the updates to download and install, and hold off while the system restarts is too inconvenient. That leads many to delay the updates or tweak the settings so the updates can’t execute. This can be a big mistake—especially now.

The second Tuesday of every month is “Patch Tuesday”, when Microsoft rolls out the latest set of security patches to its operating systems and software. The set of patches first made available on April 14 closes many, many vulnerabilities. Every hour delayed in applying them leaves unpatched systems susceptible to attack.

A Whopper of a Patch Tuesday

This last Patch Tuesday was unusually large. It included:

  • 113 patches overall
  • 3 that close zero-day vulnerabilities/exploits for which no defense exists
  • 3 known to be actively used to infect systems “in the wild”
  • 17 deemed “critical”, which means a criminal can gain complete control over the system without any user interaction
  • 96 deemed “important”, which means that some user action is involved (with or without warning prompts)

The products impacted include the Microsoft Windows operating system itself, the Edge and Internet Explorer browsers, various Microsoft Office applications, Microsoft Office Services and Web Apps, Windows Defender, Microsoft Dynamics, Microsoft Apps for Android, and Microsoft Apps for Mac.

Why Prompt Patching is Vital

To help you quickly grasp the importance of patching, we’ll first define a few terms. The first two have specific meanings when applied to computer software security.

  • Vulnerability: A weakness or oversight in the way software is coded or structured. It allows the code to be overwritten or tampered with so that it performs some action other than what it was intended to do.
  • Exploit: Rogue software code that a criminal uses to take advantage of a vulnerability. Such an exploit could allow a criminal to gain unauthorized access to a system or gain administrator privileges. The aim is often to inject malicious software code into a running process, leading to the criminal gaining control of the system.
  • Zero-day:  A combination of a vulnerability and an exploit that either is unknown to the security community, or is so new that no defenses have been developed against it. A patch isn’t available to close the vulnerability. Security software hasn’t been updated or is unable to recognize the exploit and prevent it from being introduced into systems and executing.
  • In the wild: An exploit that’s out of the realm of being theoretical or a possibility. It’s being actively used to infect and take over systems.
  • Patch Tuesday: Microsoft’s monthly distribution of patches that close known vulnerabilities.
  • Hack Wednesday: What the security community calls the day after Patch Tuesday. When Microsoft releases the patches, criminal programmers are able to use the patches to understand the vulnerabilities. Within a day or two, the related exploits begin appearing for sale on the underground marketplaces of the “dark web”.

Put the above together, and you can see the importance of applying patches as soon as they’re available. The instant that the patches are released, criminals are racing to create the new exploits and infect as many machines as possible before the systems’ owners can get around to installing the patches.

How to Ensure Systems are Properly Patched

Assuming you’re running Windows 10, click on the Start button, then Settings, open Update & Security, then Windows Update. Here you can immediately check for updates, as well as review your settings to make sure you’re not effectively blocking the update process.

If you’re running a business with multiple machines, managing the update process to be sure that essential patches have been applied can be a time-consuming headache. As a managed service provider (MSP), here at FIT Solutions we use sophisticated tools to administer your systems and ensure your systems are up-to-date with the current patches—without inconveniencing your users. If you could use help with patch management, give us a call at 888-339-5694.

MSPs and Ransomware: Does Your Provider Practice What They Preach?

Managed service providers (MSPs) are coming under increased scrutiny because of a number of ransomware incidents reported on various security sites over the last 12 months. Criminals have learned that by infiltrating a single MSP, they can use the provider’s tools to infect and take hostage all of the MSP’s clients. Because the reporting of these incidents is haphazard, the number of compromised MSPs could be a handful, or it could be dozens. What is certain is that hundreds or thousands of their clients have experienced severe business disruption — or worse.

The enhanced scrutiny is justified, and as an MSP, we welcome it.  We use powerful tools to manage and monitor our clients’ networks and systems. With that comes a responsibility to ensure that our own security is equal to or greater than the level that we promote to our clients.

Healthcare MSPs in the Crosshairs

Given that many MSPs specialize in serving a certain type of business, here are a few examples drawn from healthcare organizations over last year:

  • During July, an MSP serving dental offices was infiltrated and used to spread ransomware across dozens of practices throughout Washington and Oregon. A week after the attack, the MSP realized it didn’t have the resources to restore all the impacted systems in a reasonable timeframe and advised customers to seek outside assistance with restoring their files. Two weeks after the attack, the MSP announced it was closing its doors.
  • An August attack on a Wisconsin-based MSP planted ransomware on 400 dental practices around the country. The attack encrypted not only patient files, but also emails and most worryingly, the company’s HIPAA-compliant backup system. A follow-up letter to their clients indicated that the MSP had a decryption key. Presumably, they paid the ransom.
  • In November, a Wisconsin-based MSP serving more than 100 clients, which operated nearly 2,500 nursing homes in 45 U.S. states, was hit, cutting off many of their facilities from patient records, email and telephone service. The MSP declined to pay the ransom. While it took days or weeks to restore the data, the MSP had a few factors working in their favor. One, a sharp-eyed employee spotted suspicious activity in the early morning hours during the attack and immediately alerted higher-ups within the company, who closed off the network. This limited the damage. Two, there were offsite backups.
  • In early December, a Colorado-based MSP was used to install ransomware on computers at more than 100 dental practices. The company refused to pay the ransom to unlock all of the client sites, and left the clients to restore their businesses on their own. Some negotiated separately to pay the ransom to restore their practices, while others restored from backups.

Closing the Vulnerabilities

Ultimately the criminals do their damage by gaining administrator access to the MSP’s remote monitoring and management (RMM) tool, which allows them to install and execute the ransomware infector on the clients’ systems. The following means of infiltrating and compromising administrator credentials are either explicitly known or have been implicated in one or more incidents. We also list the countermeasure; ask your MSP if these protections are in place.

Means of Gaining Administrator Access

Known vulnerability in an unpatched RMM tool or administrative console

Zero-day exploit in an RMM tool

Login credentials stored in cleartext on compromised machine

Exploiting open remote desktop protocol (RDP)

 

Phishing email

Protective Countermeasure

Program of regular, systematic and diligent patch management and application

Proactive monitoring of the MSP’s IT environment

Password vaulting solution or encryption and best-practices password policy

Disabling RDP if not needed, or application of access control lists to limit RDP sessions to known IP addresses

Email filtering solution backed with regular cybersecurity awareness training

Above All, Do This …

A single countermeasure would have stopped the vast majority of these attacks: Requiring two-factor (2FA) or multi-factor authentication (MFA) without fail, for each and every administrator connection and session, to each individual client’s IT environment. MSPs should enforce MFA to the enterprise login and ensure it encompasses VPN connections, RDP sessions, RMM sessions, internal management systems, and SaaS applications.

The other essential countermeasure is regular backups that are air-gapped or stored offsite. In far too many ransomware incidents, backups were stored online and the ransomware infector encrypted the backups as well, making them useless for restoring the client’s data. Also, in some instances the criminals first disabled the backup agents on each system, then waited for the old backups to age before executing the ransomware. So it’s important to not only have a backup system, but to monitor the backups and test for recoverability.

At FIT Solutions, we do all of the above and encourage you to ask your MSP if they do the same. We also have the advantage of our cybersecurity offering, SOCBOX, which provides us with the services of a Security Operations Center for 24-hour proactive monitoring—but we don’t stop there. We also contract with a separate third party to do regular penetration testing and evaluate our environment to ensure our defenses are solid.

If you’d like more information about MSP security, please give us a call at 888-339-5694.

Is Your MSP Proactive or Reactive? The Role of a Technology Business Plan

Here at FIT Solutions, we pride ourselves on the way our teams don’t just fix problems; they deliver additional business value for our clients. That means applying technology to improve operations, reduce costs, boost efficiency and productivity, and protect and enhance security. Let’s take a look at one of the primary ways we accomplish that: a regularly updated Technology Business Plan (or TBP, as we call it).

When you engage with us, we send one of our senior engineers onsite to take a holistic look at your facility and IT operations. A team of engineers assigned to you then delivers a set of recommendations. It is essentially a gap analysis between your current IT environment and prevailing best practices for an organization of your purpose, scope and size.

This is NOT a one-and-done exercise. The TBP is a living document, geared to a timeframe of up to 24 months, that is regularly updated to chart your progress. It’s a stepwise, realistic approach geared to budgetary realities and your own appetite for change and improvement. Many of the recommendations don’t cost anything.

While the recommendations are geared specifically to your organization, the TBP addresses four general areas.

Environment Enhancements

A great many IT environments have been built piecemeal over the years with a mix of workstations, Wi-Fi access points and various makes of networking hardware. We look for opportunities to consolidate and standardize, replace outdated equipment, and create common configurations that will make the entire environment easier to maintain and lower the cost of operations. We also address opportunities to cut costs and increase efficiency by switching Internet providers or swapping out telephone systems; bringing in management solutions for administering printers, computers, or mobile devices; making better use of existing software; or acquiring new solutions. Employees and staffing fall under this category as well, such as employee onboarding practices and user training.

Network Security

Many of the most valuable recommendations in this area are free, because they revolve around password-policy shortfalls such as password reuse, allowing short or weak passwords, not mandating regular changes, or instances where entire staff shares the same set of login credentials. Relatively low-cost security enhancements include cleaning out unused accounts and properly setting privileges. Additional security technologies such as multi-factor authentication, single sign-on, spam filtering and other email security measures, encryption or ransomware defense might be called for, depending on use patterns and your degree of susceptibility and exposure.

Licensing, Renewals, and Compliance

Here we address hardware and software that is reaching end-of-life or out-of-warranty, calling for replacement, refresh or upgrade as your budget allows. Legal matters such as email retention policies and your posture with respect to compliance and other regulations falls under this category as well, and might include our recommendations or referrals to third-party experts we have worked with.

Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity

This includes your backup and retention procedures and policies, and ability to restore if necessary. In addition, we consider shortfalls unique to your environment, such as whether you have remote users with critical files that need to be backed up, or whether you might be better served with a solution that enforces file storage on a network repository rather than individual workstations. We also consider your ability to work through a power outage or loss of Internet connectivity, and whether you need to have contingency solutions in place.

In this time of uncertainty and business upheaval, many are seeing a stark contrast between proactive and reactive managed service partners. Clients prefer proactivity. In our experience, clients appreciate these regularly updated technology business plans, especially if their experience with a previous IT service provider was more of a reactive, break-fix service than a proactive partner. Our clients use these reports to plan ahead, budget for essential improvements, and solve problems before they happen. Does this approach to IT services appeal to you? Give us a call at 888-339-5694.

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