Cyber Attacks on Businesses During the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics
- Wednesday, 19 February 2014 09:21
~~The 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi Russia are winding down and in a few days, athletes and spectators will be attending the closing ceremonies and hoping flights headed home. Many news outlets have warned since before the games started that individuals traveling to Sochi were at great risk for hacking to their computers, tablets, and mobile devices and that information privacy in Russia would be difficult to come by. But other news sources are also warning that businesses are also vulnerable to cyber criminals during the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. And the bad news is that you don’t even have to travel outside of your country of origin to be targeted by hackers that are taking advantage of the excitement around the Winter Olympics. Many computer experts are warning businesses to be vigilant against attacks from the start of the Winter Olympics opening ceremony at the Fisht Olympic Stadium, to the closing ceremonies that will take place on Sunday February 23, 2014.
There will be a lot of interest in the games throughout the two and a half weeks they are held and that offers cyber criminals a perfect window of opportunity to target users with phishing attacks by masking emails designed to steal information. These emails are often disguised as updates on the games, sports commentary or other insights about the Winter Games. Hackers will then capitalize on this interest in the Winter Games by using those emails to inject malware, viruses and tracking software, sometimes right onto company servers. Other attacks on computer systems may not have criminal intent, but may be just as difficult to deal with. These would come in the form of cyber attacks from what’s now known as hacktivists. These are activists for social justice issues that use the internet, computers, and hacking to send a message about the social cause they are promoting, but hacktivists can also carry out acts of terrorism in their attempts to express their dissent. And just like the cyber criminals mentioned above, these hacker/activists are attracted to events that garner a lot of public attention because they believe they can get their message out to a wider audience.
At TRA Consulting, a busy IT solutions firm serving the Long Beach, Orange County and the Greater Los Angeles area, we can help you protect your business from phishing scams and other hacking activities by making sure your system is secure from top-to-bottom. We offer computing solutions for server and network security, set-up of email filters and firewalls that will help you and your employees save valuable time by ensuring that your important transactions and communications remain secure and private. One of the newer ways of securing email is to use Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting & Conformance or DMARC which uses the Domain Name System or DNS to check the authenticity of your emails every step of the way. Contact TRA Consulting today and we can discuss security solutions and logistics for you and your business.
Sochi Olympics IT
- Sunday, 16 February 2014 09:17
The Sochi Olympics Winter Games are an outstanding opportunity to showcase the convergence of IT and sports medicine. I would like to see more IT in the coverage of the games.
TRA Consulting is your number one source for managed services
IE11 and Buggy Software
- Sunday, 16 February 2014 09:14
~~November 2013 saw the release of Microsoft’s latest version of Internet Explorer, IE 11 for Windows 7. The new web browser’s impact is growing as many Windows 7 and Windows 8 users install this new version of Internet Explorer as part of their regular Windows Updates. As touted by Microsoft, there are a few benefits to the new browser such as faster rendering (loading) of web pages, better security, and it is also optimized for the touch screen interfaces that are now being used with the new Windows 8 platform. All of these sound like steps in the right direction, but, in providing desktop support for the business clients of TRA Consulting, I find that I am spending a considerable amount of time preventing IE 11 from being installed in the first place, and removing this latest incarnation of IE when it has caused problems for users. Whenever a new version of Internet Explorer is released, there is always quite a bit of trouble for computer users in making the transition. This is particularly true in the business world where businesses are tied in to other programs that need Internet Explorer in order to work and are needed in the day-to-day running of the business.
One of the problems caused by the update of IE 11 lies in the fact that the development of the many add-ons and extensions created for in Internet Explorer for business-use have not kept pace with Microsoft’s efforts to keep IE relevant to home users. These add-ons and extensions for business-use are often created by smaller third-party companies that usually don’t have the personnel or resources to keep up with Microsoft’s many changes. As a result, there can often be a disconnect in the coding between newer and older versions of Internet Explorer and its interfaces with other programs that were created for older versions of IE, causing users to report bugs.
For example, one of the companies we support has financial accounts at a bank that allows users to print checks directly from the bank’s web site using a compatible check printer. The bank’s site and the printer are accessed exclusively through Internet Explorer up through version 9. By default, IE is set to automatically update to the latest version via Windows Update. Once the IE 10 and IE 11 updates were released, users at this company started reporting problems regarding check-printing. We solved the problem by un-installing IE 10 and IE 11 and rolled the users back to IE 9 and blocked any further updates until printer add-on has been updated to be compatible for further versions of Internet Explorer.
Employees can sometimes waste valuable time trying to find a work-around or a solution to these problems, when their time could be spent more productively. Businesses can increase and facilitate the productivity of employees by providing them with smooth and user-friendly computer systems. We can help by providing pro-active desktop support through remote management software (RMM), and personal one-on-one service from TRA Consulting which means we can block and/or remove IE 11 on each managed system individually or as a group in a matter of minutes; thus saving time and keeping IT costs for our customers in line with their projections.
Desktop Support On An Organizational Level
- Sunday, 16 February 2014 09:13
~~Desktop support is a term that IT professionals use to describe the duties of keeping a desktop computer in tip-top working order. This can be achieved through in-person interactions with computer users, over the phone helpdesks, and remote control from a local computer. In the last ten years more and more of this desktop support work has been done through management software and services known as Remote Monitoring and Management (RMM). Tra Consulting has been encouraging the businesses it supports to upgrade to our current RMM solution in order to allow us to increase our support to users; streamline updates, upgrades, security systems, and malware and virus removal; and it allows us to be more proactive in preventing problems before they happen, which in turn, increases worker productivity.
RMM allows IT professionals like me at TRA Consulting to increase desktop support to businesses by allowing remote access to the computers on-site at the business. For example, RMM can decrease the wait-time between when a computer issue is reported and when it is resolved. In the old days, when an employee at one of the businesses TRA Consulting supports reported a problem and a technician was not already on-site, there would be a longer lag-time between receiving the report, wrapping up at another location, then driving to the location where the issue was reported and that can mean valuable productive time was wasted while the employee waits for their computer to be fixed. Now with RMM, there is a shorter wait-time. I can log-in to the reported computer, and address the issue from a remote location. Getting an employee’s computer up and running more quickly using remote management software can increase productivity.
With the use of RMM, I can streamline many of the processes that would otherwise be very time consuming to complete one computer at a time. For example, one of the companies supported by TRA Consulting was looking to upgrade their virus protection software. This project would have taken days to complete if we had had to install the program at each unit individually. But with the remote management service that we provide, we were able to complete the installation on all of the computers at one company in one day. RMM also plays an important role in keeping all of the computers at a company up to the same standards from machine to machine so that any employee can go to any computer and be assured that the programs that they need and use will be there for them.
TRA Consulting’s remote management service to the businesses we support also helps us to be pro-active in preventing potential problems that users might face during their workday. For example, we can block an incompatible update from installing onto computers where the update might cause problems. I talked about this in a previous blog post where we found that Internet Explorer 11 was causing compatibility problems with a banking add-on that allowed check-printing. In that case we were able to learn of the problem ahead of time through one or two early reporters, and then block future installations for all other computers at that site so that others never even experienced the problems.
- Sunday, 16 February 2014 09:12
~~So, you think you’re automatically safe from viruses and other malicious software because you bought a Mac? Think again. Savvy Mac users know that some simple basic precautions will go a long way toward keeping their computer system in good working order.
While Apple originally tried a few forays into the business world with its Macs back in the 80’s, the company was successfully shut-out of the business market sector by IBM, Microsoft, and PCs. The reason for this is because PCs, while traditionally thought to be less user-friendly than Mac, were more reasonably priced. For the last couple of decades, Apple has been marketing its Mac computer systems to specific markets like artists, musicians, and film makers. Not only has Mac been touted as being more useful than PC for artists, owning a Mac is seen to be aspirational for many; it has come to be seen by many as a status symbol, in part because of its higher price tag compared to PC. Macs have also been marketed as a very user-friendly computer; you don’t have to be computer savvy to do great things with your Mac, so Apple’s advertising tells us.
As another selling point, Apple has long boasted that Mac computers and peripherals such as the iPhone don’t get PC viruses and other malware. Many purchasers of Mac systems have slept easy knowing that they don’t need any expensive anti-virus software with all of the tedious updates and time-consuming scans that requires. But when an estimated 600, 000 Mac computers worldwide, including 274 right in Apple’s home town of Cupertino came down with a Trojan virus called “Flashback” that was originally designed for PC and converted to be a Mac virus, Apple had to re-think its advertising. Ever since that discovery, Apple has changed its advertising to reflect the fact that some effort is required on your part to keep your computer system safe and healthy. While it is true that there are many, many more viruses and malware in existence for PCs than there are for Mac, there is a growing number of Mac users and therefore a growing sector of Mac hackers and people coding viruses and malware made specifically for Macs.
Whether you are an independent artist, a small business or a large corporation, everyone must make a choice for their business whether they will use Mac computers, PCs or some combination of the two. While historically there have been many incompatibilities between Mac and PC, Apple has come a long way in making sure its software is more compatible with PCs than ever. Microsoft, in turn has made efforts to adopt some Mac strategies for making PC operating systems more and more user-friendly. As a result, Mac and PC environments are becoming more similar and with that, security can become an issue.
At TRA Consulting, Inc., an IT consulting and computer repair business serving the Long Beach and Greater Los Angeles areas, we can help you with both your Mac and PC needs for your business. Tired of waiting in long lines at the Apple store? At TRA Consulting, we have friendly consultants who are trained to deal with issues that arise with both Mac and PC. Does your Mac have a virus or other malware? We can help you take care of it and provide you with protection against any future attacks. If you live in the Long Beach or surrounding area, give us a call! We have computer solutions for you.