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Supply Chain Security

February 18, 2018

If you haven’t already, chances are you will be required in the next year or two to submit proof to a supplier or customer that you are taking all reasonable precautions to secure their data or network when you access them.

With hackers learning that the easiest way into a large enterprise’s treasure trove of data and dollars is through a smaller supply chain partner that can’t afford 24×7 cyber security, you will find those large enterprises will expect proof that you are securing your own network when you access their network portals and handle their data.

In fact, you might consider requiring that of your partners and commercial customers yourself.

Why should you or your suppliers and customers care about each other’s cyber security practices?

Some of the largest breaches in history started with a hack of a third-party supplier or vendor and these supply chain breaches are rising.

  • The Target breach that lost 40 million credit cards didn’t start with a sustained hack on Target but with an employee at one of Target’s HVAC vendors opening a bad file attachment that installed malware on that employee’s computer. Using that machine, hackers found the HVAC company’s login credentials to Target’s vendor portal and from there worked their way to Target’s cash registers. When the dust settled, Target lost all of those credit cards, its sales fell 46 percent at one point, and recovery costs exceeded $200 million.
  • The Home Depot breach also resulted from a third-party breach and the home improvement giant spent more than $150 million in recovery, even after insurance paid $100 million.
  • According to the 2017 Ponemon Institute Data Risk Study, 56% of respondents reported they had suffered breaches that began with intrusions at third parties — a 7 percent increase over 2016.
  • Cyber criminals routinely hack email accounts to send email to all of that account’s contacts to make the email — laden with infected file attachments or links to fraudulent web sites — appear to be from a known and trusted source.

The security institute, SANS, has developed a document detailing how to establish a supply chain security program at

SANS conclusion:

“Supply chain partners are just as likely to be attacked today as any organization, and if not managed properly, they may afford attackers a back door into the networks of host organizations.”

You can also assure your partners and customers that you have taken appropriate security precautions to protect your network by implementing anti-virus and firewalls, patching software, and Security Awareness Training for your employees.

For details on such a program, call at 302-537-4198 or email us at


SMBs Profitable Targets for Hackers

January 20, 2018

Most small business owners don’t believe they would be of interest to hackers. They can’t envision that cyber criminals would spend weeks or months trying to break into their networks.

And they’re right …  except for one thing.

Cyber criminals take their “businesses” as seriously as legitimate business owners by investing in more efficient methods of stealing data and money from all sizes and types of organizations — and no business is too small, right down to moms-and-pops who have found themselves caught in the cross-hairs of a Ransomware attack.

By following the practices of legitimate businesses, hackers can efficiently attack thousands of small businesses at a time and trick unsuspecting employees into divulging sensitive information such as login credentials that “earn” a hefty ROI — up to 1,400% in 30 days on a $5,000  investment — without ever trying to crack a single password.

The fact is, businesses of all sizes have data hackers want and can monetize. The data you store on yourself, your customers, your employees and your vendors can generate anywhere from 50 cents per record for basic contact info to thousands of dollars for financial account login credentials on the Dark  Web underworld.

As long as the ROI remains high and the risk of getting caught remains low, cyber criminals will continue to invest in ever more efficient methods of stealing your data and money — including A / B market testing, out-sourcing, franchising, demos, and customer service — that legitimate business owners would instantly recognize.

A study by UBM in 2016 found that “Businesses aren’t up against hordes of elite hackers but an industry efficient at finding those who  are vulnerable.” Hackers have concluded that small businesses are most vulnerable because they can’t afford the 24×7 security monitoring solutions that large enterprises can.

Further, that same UBM study stated that “The most common weak spots are employees who get caught by attacks that use social engineering and under-budgeted IT teams that don’t have the necessary skills, tools, or time to properly patch and defend complex, sprawling networks.”

If you don’t think your small business has a “complex, sprawling network”, a risk assessment will likely provide an eye-opening look at just how vulnerable your network is for your company, employees, customers and vendors.

In fact, a study by Check Point Software Technologies found that almost half of those surveyed had been victims of social engineering attacks and had experienced 25 or more attacks in the past two years. Those attacks cost victims between $25,000 and $100,000 to recover from.

To learn more about the risk your small business faces of a cyber attack, and how to make your small business less profitable to cyber criminals with Security Awareness Training, read our FREE report, “The Business of Cyber Crime and Why Small Businesses are Profitable Targets”, at

Protect Your Company’s Identity

November 30, 2017

Like so many things in this country, your business is known to government agencies and other businesses such as financial institutions as a number.

Just like you personally are known to those institutions and organizations by your Social Security Number, so is your business known to them by your Employer Identification Number (EIN).

You need that to file your taxes, to apply for loans, credit cards and for other instances when a unique identifier to verify your company’s identity is required.

Hackers know this too.

They know that with your EIN, they are off and running to file fraudulent business registrations, manipulate credit reports, commit banking and tax fraud, and apply for business and vehicle loans and company credit cards, all on your company’s good credit.

In the past year, for example, the IRS has noticed a sharp increase in the number of fraudulent filings of forms 1120, 1120S and 1041 as cyber criminals attempt to obtain data that enables them to file fraudulent tax returns as your business.

The following can be signs that your business has been the victim of identity theft:

  • A request to file an extension is denied because a return with your EIN has already been filed
  • An e-filed return is rejected because a duplicate filing with your EIN is already on file with the IRS
  • An unexpected receipt of a tax transcript or IRS notice doesn’t correspond to anything you have submitted
  • You notice you are no longer receiving expected correspondence from the IRS, which could indicate a hacker has changed your taxpayer address

To learn more about how to protect your business against identity theft, visit the IRS Identity Theft web page and scroll down to the Businesses section.

There, you will find information on W-2 and SSN theft and an identity theft guide for businesses.


Hackers’ Toll Goes Beyond Finances

May 3, 2016

I wrote about the toll hackers and cyber criminals take on end-users four years ago and think the topic deserves a refresh given the ramped up attacks since then.

Each year, the increasing cyber crime menace impacts us beyond the financial cost of anti-virus and anti-spam programs and firewalls, expensive virus removal fees, or splurging for a Mac because they appear to be immune from infections (truth: they’re no more immune from social engineering attacks than Windows computers).

The toll is no longer just financial, however. Hackers have diminished our confidence in the good nature of others and our ability to discern between good and evil.

The attacks have been so clever — designed to look like legitimate security or virus alerts with scary messages about the consequences of not following the instructions — that not only are end-users tricked into clicking them, they no longer have the confidence to click on the legitimate notices.

Of course, if they don’t follow through on legitimate alerts, they risk the security of their computers and their data by ignoring critical updates.

Hackers have confused end-users to the point of near paralysis. End-users might spend hours or even days trying to figure out if they should abide by an update alert or ignore it out of fear that it’s an infection. We get many calls from clients asking those very questions about good notices, as many as we do about actual infections.

Phishing emails, booby-trapped attachments from friends who have been hacked, threatening phone calls and on-screen warnings, pretexting believable but false scenarios, reconnaissance with seemingly innocuous questions that reveal valuable information to hackers, forged web sites and emails with links to infections, alarming or normal emails reputedly from UPS, the IRS, FedEx, banks and retailers … all of them far more convincing than the stereotypical Nigerian Prince scams of years past.

Pile on sneaky “Recommended” add-ons that the likes of Java and Adobe add to their updates that tangibly change your settings, annoying repetitive renewal and update notices from legitmate security software that mimics the behavior of infections, and Microsoft’s shady Windows 10 update procedure, and it’s a wonder anyone clicks any notice anymore.

This particularly affects less savvy end-users for whom any alert sounds convincing or scary. Honestly, faced with a bewildering array of alarming alerts on their computers, how many end-users will be comfortable enough to trust that their next click won’t encrypt the company’s files? How much time and money is lost to such paralysis?

Your end-users need to be educated on the differences between valid and malicious alerts and appropriate responses to the malicious ones.

A good security awareness program such as our FlexIT End-User Security program, that gets their attention and maintains their diligence, can not only help them avoid infections but restore the confidence they need to work safely and efficiently.

The 5 W’s of End-User IT Security

March 2, 2016

You may have heard the terms “end-user IT security”, “end-user IT security training” or “end-user IT security awareness”, but do not have a firm grasp on what those terms mean or their importance to your small business.

The following primer explains the Who, What, Where, When, Why and How of End-User IT Security:


End-user IT Security refers to securing the humans in your organization — you, your employees and vendors — by making them aware of the social engineering tactics used by cyber criminals to evade your firewall and anti-virus solutions.


End-User IT Security Awareness training teaches you, your employees and your vendors about your company’s Acceptable Use Policy in the context of the social engineering attacks they face on a daily basis:    
  • What tactics hackers deploy to evade security solutions
  • What motivates cyber criminals
  • What you, your employees and vendors should look for to recognize current and   future scams
  • What procedures you, your employees and vendors should follow if they are victimized by a cyber criminal
  • What ongoing activities can be used to keep employees vigilant in the course of a busy work-day.


To make this a comfortable learning environment for you and your employees, we present your Acceptable Use Policy at the location of your choosing followed by ongoing monitoring, testing and training through your employees’ computers.


We will make the initial presentation of the Acceptable Use Policy at a convenient date and time for your organization to minimize disruption. Subsequent ongoing efforts will be conducted with minimal disruption to your company, as well.


  • To tout your employees’ training and ongoing vigilance to your customers and vendors as evidence of your commitment to securing their information.
  • Cyber criminals bypass your costly security solutions by attacking your employees — more than half of security incidents in small businesses result from employee error or ignorance (52% according to the computer trade association CompTIA).
  • More than half of small businesses that lose critical data to hackers file for bankruptcy within a year. If the breach is large enough, it could result in expensive notifications to potentially affected parties and negative publicity.
  • Almost all Ransomware attacks are launched through social engineering tactics.
  • Hackers successfully steal data from small business networks they breach at an alarming rate (82.6% according to a 2015 Verizon study).
  • Small businesses represent easy prey because they can’t afford dedicated security specialists. They can also be potential paths to much larger prey (the Target breach in 2013 started with a social engineering attack at a Target HVAC vendor).


The FlexIT End-User IT Security Program works by:
  • Developing or updating an Acceptable Use Policy for your employees’ and vendors’ use of the network
  • An engaging presentation of your Acceptable Use Policy that explains how the policy protects your employees, your company and your customers, with real-life examples of social engineering cons, the motivations of hackers, and steps to follow in the event of a successful attack
  • Keeping your employees’ vigilance high with regular email alerts about new attack methods and imminent threats
  • Ongoing monitoring to ensure compliance with the Acceptable Use Policy
  • Random testing to ensure continued vigilance

Understand that the size of your small business will not make you immune to probing by hackers. They understand that no matter how small, your business might store data that can be re-sold on the black market, used as a path to larger prey you do business with, or be held hostage for a sizeable ransom. And the barrier to entry might only be an ineffective anti-virus solution.

With a 10 percent increase in the past year in social engineering attacks by hackers (Verizon study), you don’t want to have to explain to authorities, your customers, your vendors, your employees, the media and the public that their personal or confidential information might have been compromised — because an employee unwittingly opened the door to hackers.

To learn more about how the FlexIT End-User IT Security Program would apply to your small business, contact Eric Magill at 302-537-4198 or

Verizon Study — SMBs Easier Prey

May 4, 2015

Hackers and cyber criminals continue to focus their attacks on small businesses and organizations, according to evidence contained in the 2015 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report.

The Accommodations industry that is such a critical component of the Hospitality industry that drives the local economy on Delmarva offers just one example of cyber gangs’ taste for smaller organizations.

Partners reporting to Verizon identified 368 security incidents in the Accomodations industry in 2014, including 181 at small lodging businesses.

More striking, however, is that of those 181 security incidents, 180 resulted in confirmed data loss. That’s a nearly 100% success rate for cyber criminals interested in pilfering the data stored by motels and hotels — names, addresses, phone numbers, license numbers, credit card information.

Consider then, that of the 90 security incidents at Large Accomodations businesses, only 10 resulted in confirmed data loss.

The trend continues across all industries — of the 694 security incidents reported at small organizations by Verizon’s study partners, 573 resulted in confirmed data loss for an 82.6% success rate.

Contrast that with large organizations that experienced 50,081 security incidents in 2014 but with just 502 resulting in confirmed data loss for a 1% success rate.

Is it any wonder cyber criminals continue to increase their attacks on small organizations given such astounding success in stealing data from them?

Besides the ease of data theft, cyber criminals, on the heels of the Target breach in late 2013, know that small businesses can lead to larger prey — i.e., login credentials to vendor web sites of large corporations.

That’s what happened at Target. An employee at one of Target’s HVAC contractors opened an infected email. The resulting compromise of that machine allowed the hackers to obtain the contractor’s Target vendor credentials, which the hackers then used to work their way through Target’s system, all the way to the cash registers at Target stores.

Before Target realized it had been breached months later, 40 million credit cards had been stolen.

Most small business owners I talk to resent having to spend money on network security. It’s an understandable but short-sighted sentiment.

The fact is, you don’t need to spend a fortune on security to protect yourself, your business, your employees, your customers, and your vendors, but you do need more than an anti-virus based on signatures and definitions.

The amount you should spend depends on the risk your business faces of an attack, the value of the data you store, and the financial and reputational damage that could be result if that data is stolen.

The only way to determine those values is to perform a Security Risk Assessment. FlexITechs can help you perform that assessment and determine the types of security you need at a cost that makes sense for your business.

Anti-Virus Not Enough Anymore

April 7, 2015

One of the most popular refrains I hear from clients whose computers have been infected with a virus or malware is: “But I have anti-virus software, and it didn’t show anything when I scanned the last time.”

Incredulous, they can’t believe the software they specifically purchased to stop viruses doesn’t. The fact is, hackers have surpassed the ability of anti-virus and anti-malware companies to keep their signature and definition databases apace with the latest infections.

Highly organized, hackers take pains to ensure that their viruses can’t be detected by anti-virus software before releasing them. Consequently, if you’re unlucky enough to land on an infected web site before your anti-virus has detected and created a definition for that specific infection, you will be infected.

In addition, hackers will often just bypass your anti-virus and firewalls by sending their attacks directly to unsuspecting employees in official-looking emails designed to trick them into opening the attached file.

And it doesn’t matter what size business you have. It’s cheap for hackers to send out random emails to small businesses. Even if you don’t think you have anything particularly interesting to hackers on your network, remember that they may use you as a bridge to much larger prey.

The Target breach of 10s of millions of credit cards started with an email with an infected file attachment sent to an HVAC vendor for Target. Hackers used the program installed when the employee at the HVAC company opened the file attachment to find the vendor’s Target login credentials, and then worked their way through Target’s network to its POS systems.

So if anti-virus software doesn’t provide the best protection anymore, what can you do? Following are the methods we deploy to provide you with the highest level of protection in our FlexIT End-User Security Program, which combines traditional anti-virus and anti-malware software with the following:

Any Device, Anywhere

It’s user-based rather than device-based so you are protected on all of your devices in any location — the office, at a client, coffee shops, hotels, airports, etc.

Enables BYOD Securely

It mitigates the risks of Bring Your Own Device (allowing employees to use their personal devices for work) by securing those personal devices as well to prevent data breaches and leakage


Infections on web sites are blocked before they can reach your network Monitored We monitor your devices daily for infections that have been cleaned or need to be cleaned manually, as opposed to traditional anti-virus, where we often don’t know of an infection until the computer has another problem days, weeks or even months later.

Host Intrusion Protection

HIPS goes beyond the definitions-based protection of traditional anti-virus to catch unknown threats by blocking unusual behaviors indicative of an attack


It can be used on Windows, Android, OsX and iOS devices

Enforces Acceptable Use

Our program enforces acceptable use policies by controlling the types of web sites employees can visit and what they can do on your network based on your specific needs

End-User Education

Perhaps the most critical part of the solution, as it provides ongoing education to your employees about common scams and cons used by hackers to gather information needed to breach your system.

Virus Removal

A perk of our FlexIT End-User Security program, we will clean free of charge any virus we can remove remotely, which will be most of them unless your Internet is down. If we have to remove a virus manually, the charge would be our lowest hourly rate in effect at the time (currently $75 per hour).

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how our clients get infected and the most common denominator is a lack of awareness on their employees’ part about what constitutes a scam. They see “Microsoft” or “Dell” or “Norton” in a security warning and assume it’s legitimate or open an email attachment they didn’t expect because they thought it was from someone they know.

Educating them about these scams and providing protection beyond definitions and signatures and across all devices will go a long way to keeping your organization safe from potentially devastating data breaches. To learn more about how our FlexIT End-User Security Program can be applied to your business, call Eric Magill at 302-537-4198 or visit

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