You Need to Watch Out for Reply-Chain Phishing Attacks

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Phishing. It seems you can’t read an article on cybersecurity without it coming up. That’s because phishing is still the number one delivery vehicle for cyberattacks.

A cybercriminal may want to steal employee login credentials. Or wish to launch a ransomware attack for a payout. Or possibly plant spyware to steal sensitive info. Sending a phishing email can do them all

80% of surveyed security professionals say that phishing campaigns have significantly increased post-pandemic.

Phishing not only continues to work, but it’s also increasing in volume due to the move to remote teams. Many employees are now working from home. They don’t have the same network protections they had when working at the office.

Why has phishing continued to work so well after all these years? Aren’t people finally learning what phishing looks like?

It’s true that people are generally more aware of phishing emails and how to spot them than a decade ago. But it’s also true that these emails are becoming harder to spot as scammers evolve their tactics.

One of the newest tactics is particularly hard to detect. It is the reply-chain phishing attack.

What is a Reply-Chain Phishing Attack?

Just about everyone is familiar with reply chains in email. An email is copied to one or more people, one replies, and that reply sits at the bottom of the new message. Then another person chimes in on the conversation, replying to the same email.

Soon, you have a chain of email replies on a particular topic. It lists each reply one under the other so everyone can follow the conversation.

You don’t expect a phishing email tucked inside that ongoing email conversation. Most people are expecting phishing to come in as a new message, not a message included in an ongoing reply chain.

The reply-chain phishing attack is particularly insidious because it does exactly that. It inserts a convincing phishing email in the ongoing thread of an email reply chain.

How Does a Hacker Gain Access to the Reply Chain?

How does a hacker gain access to the reply chain conversation? By hacking the email account of one of those people copied on the email chain.

The hacker can email from an email address that the other recipients recognize and trust. They also gain the benefit of reading down through the chain of replies. This enables them to craft a response that looks like it fits.

For example, they may see that everyone has been weighing in on a new product idea for a product called Superbug. So, they send a reply that says, “I’ve drafted up some thoughts on the new Superbug product, here’s a link to see them.”

The link will go to a malicious phishing site. The site might infect a visitor’s system with malware or present a form to steal more login credentials.

The reply won’t seem like a phishing email at all. It will be convincing because:

  • It comes from an email address of a colleague. This address has already been participating in the email conversation.
  • It may sound natural and reference items in the discussion.
  • It may use personalization. The email can call others by the names the hacker has seen in the reply chain.

Business Email Compromise is Increasing

Business email compromise (BEC) is so common that it now has its own acronym. Weak and unsecured passwords lead to email breaches. So do data breaches that reveal databases full of user logins. Both are contributors to how common BEC is becoming.

In 2021, 77% of organizations saw business email compromise attacks. This is up from 65% the year before.

Credential theft has become the main cause of data breaches globally. So, there is a pretty good chance of a compromise of one of your company’s email accounts at some point.

The reply-chain phishing attack is one of the ways that hackers turn that BEC into money. They either use it to plant ransomware or other malware or to steal sensitive data to sell on the Dark Web.

Tips for Addressing Reply-Chain Phishing

Here are some ways that you can lessen the risk of reply-chain phishing in your organization:

  • Use a Business Password Manager:

This reduces the risk that employees will reuse passwords across many apps. It also keeps them from using weak passwords since they won’t need to remember them anymore.

  • Put Multi-Factor Controls on Email Accounts:

Present a system challenge (question or required code). Using this for email logins from a strange IP address can stop account compromise.

  • Teach Employees to be Aware:

Awareness is a big part of catching anything that might be slightly “off” in an email reply. Many attackers do make mistakes.

How Strong Are Your Email Account Protections?

Do you have enough protection in place on your business email accounts to prevent a breach? Let us know if you’d like some help! We have email security solutions that can keep you better protected.


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This Article has been Republished with Permission from The Technology Press.

What Should You Do to Reduce Risk When Your Mobile Device Goes Missing?

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Few things invoke instant panic like a missing smartphone or laptop. These devices hold a good part of our lives. This includes files, personal financials, apps, passwords, pictures, videos, and so much more.

The information they hold is more personal than even that which is in your wallet. It’s because of all your digital footprints. This makes a lost or stolen device a cause for alarm.

It’s often not the device that is the biggest concern. It’s the data on the device and access the device has to cloud accounts and websites. The thought of that being in the hands of a criminal is quite scary.

There are approximately 70 million lost smartphones every year. The owners only recover about 7% of them. Workplace theft is all too common. The office is where 52% of stolen devices go missing.

If it’s a work laptop or smartphone that goes missing, even worse. This can mean the company is subject to a data privacy violation. It could also suffer a ransomware attack originating from that stolen device.

In 2020, Lifespan Health System paid a $1,040,000 HIPAA fine. This was due to an unencrypted stolen laptop breach.

The Minutes After the Loss of Your Device Are Critical

The things you do in the minutes after missing a device are critical. This is the case whether it’s a personal or business device. The faster you act, the less chance there is for exposure of sensitive data.

What Types of Information Does Your Device Hold?

When a criminal gets their hands on a smartphone, tablet, or laptop, they have access to a treasure trove. This includes:

  • Documents
  • Photos & videos
  • Access to any logged-in app accounts on the device
  • Passwords stored in a browser
  • Cloud storage access through a syncing account
  • Emails
  • Text messages
  • Multi-factor authentication prompts that come via SMS
  • And more

Steps to Take Immediately After Missing Your Device

As we mentioned, time is of the essence when it comes to a lost mobile device. The faster you act, the more risk you mitigate for a breach of personal or business information.

Here are steps you should take immediately after the device is missing.

Activate a “Lock My Device” Feature

Most mobile devices and laptops will include a “lock my device” feature. It allows for remote activation if you have enabled it. You will also need to enable “location services.” While good thieves may be able to crack a passcode, turning that on immediately can slow them down.

What about “find my device?”

There is usually also a “find my device” feature available in the same setting area. Only use this to try to locate your device if you feel it’s misplaced, but not stolen. You don’t want to end up face to face with criminals!

Report the Device Missing to Your Company If It’s Used for Work

If you use the device for business, notify your company immediately. Even if all you do is get work email on a personal smartphone, it still counts. Many companies use an endpoint device manager. In this case, access to the company network can be immediately revoked.

Reporting your device missing immediately can allow your company to act fast. This can often mitigate the risk of a data breach.

Log Out & Revoke Access to SaaS Tools

Most mobile devices have persistent logins to SaaS tools. SaaS stands for Software as a Service. These are accounts like Microsoft 365, Trello, Salesforce, etc.

Use another device to log into your account through a web application. Then go to the authorized device area of your account settings. Locate the device that’s missing, and log it out of the service. Then, revoke access, if this is an option.

This disconnects the device from your account so the thief can’t gain access.

Log Out & Revoke Access to Cloud Storage

It’s very important to include cloud storage applications when you revoke access. Is your missing device syncing with a cloud storage platform? If so, the criminal can exploit that connection.

They could upload a malware file that infects the entire storage system. They could also reset your device to resell it, and in the process delete files from cloud storage.

Active a “Wipe My Device” Feature

Hopefully, you are backing up all your devices. This ensures you have a copy of all your files in the case of a lost device.

Does it look like the device is not simply misplaced, but rather stolen or lost for good? If so, then you should use a remote “wipe my device” feature if it has been set up. This will wipe the hard drive of data.

Need Mobile Device Security Solutions?

No matter what size company you have, mobile device management is vital. Contact us to learn more about our endpoint security solutions.


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How Using the SLAM Method Can Improve Phishing Detection

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There is a reason why phishing is usually at the top of the list for security awareness training. For the last decade or two, it has been the main delivery method for all types of attacks. Ransomware, credential theft, database breaches, and more launch via a phishing email.

Why has phishing remained such a large threat for so long? Because it continues to work. Scammers evolve their methods as technology progresses. They use AI-based tactics to make targeted phishing more efficient, for example.

If phishing didn’t continue working, then scammers would move on to another type of attack. But that hasn’t been the case. People continue to get tricked. They open malicious file attachments, click on dangerous links, and reveal passwords.

In May of 2021, phishing attacks increased by 281%. Then in June, they spiked another 284% higher.

Studies show that as soon as 6 months after training, phishing detection skills wane. Employees begin forgetting what they’ve learned, and cybersecurity suffers as a result.

Want to give employees a “hook” they can use for memory retention? Introduce the SLAM method of phishing identification.

What is the SLAM Method for Phishing Identification?

One of the mnemonic devices known to help people remember information is the use of an acronym. SLAM is an acronym for four key areas of an email message to check before trusting it.

These are:

S = Sender
L = Links
A = Attachments
M = Message text

By giving people the term “SLAM” to use, it’s quicker for them to check suspicious email. This device helps them avoid missing something important. All they need to do use the cues in the acronym.

Check the Sender

It’s important to check the sender of an email thoroughly. Often scammers will either spoof an email address or use a look-alike. People often mistake a spoofed address for the real thing.

In this phishing email below, the email address domain is “@emcom.bankofamerica.com.” The scammer is impersonating Bank of America. This is one way that scammers try to trick you, by putting the real company’s URL inside their fake one.

Check the Sender

You can see that the email is very convincing. It has likely fooled many people into divulging their personal details. People applying for a credit card provide a Social Security Number, income, and more.

Doing a quick search on the email address, quickly reveals it to be a scam. And a trap used in both email and SMS phishing attacks.

Scam Email search

It only takes a few seconds to type an email address into Google. This allows you to see if any scam warnings come up indicating a phishing email.

Hover Over Links Without Clicking

Hyperlinks are popular to use in emails. They can often get past antivirus/anti-malware filters. Those filters are looking for file attachments that contain malware. But a link to a malicious site doesn’t contain any dangerous code. Instead, it links to a site that does.

Links can be in the form of hyperlinked words, images, and buttons in an email. When on a computer, it’s important to hover over links without clicking on them to reveal the true URL. This often can immediately call out a fake email scam.

Hover over links without clicking

When looking at email on a mobile device, it can be trickier to see the URL without clicking on it. There is no mouse like there is with a PC. In this case, it’s best not to click the URL at all. Instead go to the purported site to check the validity of the message.

Never Open Unexpected or Strange File Attachments

File attachments are still widely used in phishing emails. Messages may have them attached, promising a large sale order. The recipient might see a familiar word document and open it without thinking.

It’s getting harder to know what file formats to avoid opening. Cybercriminals have become savvier about infecting all types of documents with malware. There have even been PDFs with malware embedded.

Never open strange or unexpected file attachments. Use an antivirus/anti-malware application to scan all attachments before opening.

Read the Message Carefully

We’ve gotten great at scanning through text as technology has progressed. It helps us quickly process a lot of incoming information each day. But if you rush through a phishing email, you can miss some telltale signs that it’s a fake.

Look at the phishing example posted above in the “Links” section. There is a small error in grammar in the second sentence. Did you spot it?

It says, “We confirmation that your item has shipped,” instead of “We confirm that your item has shipped.” These types of errors can be hard to spot but are a big red flag that the email is not legitimate.

Get Help Combatting Phishing Attacks

Both awareness training and security software can improve your defenses against phishing attacks. Contact us today to discuss your email security needs.


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Did You Just Receive a Text from Yourself? Learn What Smishing Scams to Expect

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How many text messages from companies do you receive today as compared to about two years ago? If you’re like many people, it’s quite a few more.

This is because retailers have begun bypassing bloated email inboxes. They are urging consumers to sign up for SMS alerts for shipment tracking and sale notices. The medical industry has also joined the trend. Pharmacies send automated refill notices and doctor’s offices send SMS appointment reminders.

These kinds of texts can be convenient. But retail stores and medical practices aren’t the only ones grabbing your attention by text. Cybercriminal groups are also using text messaging to send out phishing.

Phishing by SMS is “smishing,” and it’s becoming a major problem.

Case in point, in 2020, smishing rose by 328%, and during the first six months of 2021, it skyrocketed nearly 700% more. Phishing via SMS has become a big risk area. Especially as companies adjust data security to a more remote and mobile workforce.

How Can I Text Myself?

If you haven’t yet received a text message only to find your own phone number as the sender, then you likely will soon. This smishing scam is fast making the rounds and results in a lot of confusion. Confusion is good for scammers. It often causes people to click a malicious link in a message to find out more details.

Cybercriminals can make it look like a text message they sent you is coming from your number. They use VoIP connections and clever spoofing software.

If you ever see this, it’s a big giveaway that this is an SMS phishing scam. You should not interact with the message in any way and delete it instead. Some carriers will also offer the option to delete and report a scam SMS.

Popular Smishing Scams to Watch Out For

Smishing is very dangerous right now because many people are not aware of it. There’s a false sense of security. People think only those they have given it to will have their phone number.

But this isn’t the case. Mobile numbers are available through both legitimate and illegitimate methods. Advertisers can buy lists of them online. Data breaches that expose customer information are up for grabs on the Dark Web. This includes mobile numbers.

Less than 35% of the population knows what smishing is.

It’s important to understand that phishing email scams are morphing. They’ve evolved into SMS scams that may look different and be harder to detect.

For example, you can’t check the email address to see if it’s legitimate. Most people won’t know the legitimate number that Amazon shipping updates come from.

Text messages also commonly use those shortened URLs. These mask the true URL, and it’s not as easy to hover over it to see it on a phone as it is on a computer.

You need to be aware of what’s out there. Here are some of the popular phishing scams that you may see in your own text messages soon.

Problem With a Delivery

Who doesn’t love getting packages? This smishing scam leverages that fact and purports to be from a known shipper like USPS or FedEx. It states that there is a package held up for delivery to you because it needs more details.

The link can take users to a form that captures personal information used for identity theft. One tactic using this scam is to ask for a small monetary sum to release a package. Scammers created the site to get your credit card number.

Fake Appointment Scheduling

This scam happened to a community in South Carolina. They had recently had an installation of AT&T fiber internet lines in their neighborhood. Following the installation, AT&T did a customer drive to sign people up for the service.

During this time, one homeowner reported that he received a text message. It pretended to be from AT&T about scheduling his fiber internet installation. He thought it was suspicious because the address they gave was wrong. The scammer had wanted him to text back personal details.

Get Your Free Gift

Another recent smishing scam is a text message that doesn’t say who it’s from. It says, “Thank you for your recent payment. Here is a free gift for you.” It includes a link at the bottom of the message.

This is a widespread scam that many have noted online. And it’s an example of a scammer using a common fact. The fact that most people would’ve paid some type of bill recently and mistake the text to be from a company they know. It also lures people in with the promise of giving them a free gift.

Does Your Mobile Device Have the Security It Needs?

Smishing scams are very clever and can easily infect your device with malware. Do you have the proper security precautions (mobile antivirus, DNS filtering, etc.)?

If not, give us a call. We can help!


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How Often Do You Need to Train Employees on Cybersecurity Awareness?

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You’ve completed your annual phishing training. This includes teaching employees how to spot phishing emails. You’re feeling good about it. That is until about 5-6 months later. Your company suffers a costly ransomware infection due to a click on a phishing link.

You wonder why you seem to need to train on the same information every year. But you still suffer from security incidents. The problem is that you’re not training your employees often enough.

People can’t change behaviors if training isn’t reinforced. They can also easily forget what they’ve learned after several months go by.

So, how often is often enough to improve your team’s cybersecurity awareness? It turns out that training every four months is the “sweet spot.” This is when you see more consistent results in your IT security.

Why Is Cybersecurity Awareness Training Each 4-Months Recommended?

So, where does this four-month recommendation come from? There was a study presented at the USENIX SOUPS security conference recently. It looked at users’ ability to detect phishing emails versus training frequency. It looked at training on phishing awareness and IT security.

Employees took phishing identification tests at several different time increments:

  • 4-months
  • 6-months
  • 8-months
  • 10-months
  • 12-months

The study found that four months after their training scores were good. Employees were still able to accurately identify and avoid clicking on phishing emails. But after 6-months, their scores started to get worse. Scores continued to decline the more months that passed after their initial training.

To keep employees well prepared, they need training and refreshers on security awareness. This will help them to act as a positive agent in your cybersecurity strategy.

Tips on What & How to Train Employees to Develop a Cybersecure Culture

The gold standard for security awareness training is to develop a cybersecure culture. This is one where everyone is cognizant of the need to protect sensitive data. As well as avoid phishing scams, and keep passwords secured.

This is not the case in most organizations, According to the 2021 Sophos Threat Report. One of the biggest threats to network security is a lack of good security practices.

The report states the following,

“A lack of attention to one or more aspects of basic security hygiene has been found to be at the root cause of many of the most damaging attacks we’ve investigated.”

Well-trained employees significantly reduce a company’s risk. They reduce the chance of falling victim to any number of different online attacks. To be well-trained doesn’t mean you have to conduct a long day of cybersecurity training. It’s better to mix up the delivery methods.

Here are some examples of engaging ways to train employees on cybersecurity. You can include these in your training plan:

  • Self-service videos that get emailed once per month
  • Team-based roundtable discussions
  • Security “Tip of the Week” in company newsletters or messaging channels
  • Training session given by an IT professional
  • Simulated phishing tests
  • Cybersecurity posters
  • Celebrate Cybersecurity Awareness Month in October

When conducting training, phishing is a big topic to cover, but it’s not the only one. Here are some important topics that you want to include in your mix of awareness training.

Phishing by Email, Text & Social Media

Email phishing is still the most prevalent form. But SMS phishing (“smishing”) and phishing over social media are both growing. Employees must know what these look like, so they can avoid falling for these sinister scams.

Credential & Password Security

Many businesses have moved most of their data and processes to cloud-based platforms. This has led to a steep increase in credential theft because it’s the easiest way to breach SaaS cloud tools.

Credential theft is now the #1 cause of data breaches globally. This makes it a topic that is critical to address with your team. Discuss the need to keep passwords secure and the use of strong passwords. Also, help them learn tools like a business password manager.

Mobile Device Security

Mobile devices are now used for a large part of the workload in a typical office. They’re handy for reading and replying to an email from anywhere. Most companies will not even consider using software these days if it doesn’t have a great mobile app.

Review security needs for employee devices that access business data and apps. Such as securing the phone with a passcode and keeping it properly updated.

Data Security

Data privacy regulations are something else that has been rising over the years. Most companies have more than one data privacy regulation requiring compliance.

Train employees on proper data handling and security procedures. This reduces the risk you’ll fall victim to a data leak or breach that can end up in a costly compliance penalty.

Need Help Keeping Your Team Trained on Cybersecurity?

Take training off your plate and train your team with cybersecurity professionals. We can help you with an engaging training program. One that helps your team change their behaviors to improve cyber hygiene.

WRLD Tech has virtual training in multiple languages and provides on-site training complimentary of many of our MSP packages throughout Texas, specifically the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex and other metroplexes where we have active team members such as Austin, Houston, and San Antonio. Contact us today for a no-strings consultation or speak to your account representative about these services if you, for example, currently host your website with the WRLD.host datacenter and you would like to learn more (plus, discounts for multiple products!).


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Home Security: Why You Should Put IoT Devices on a Guest Wi-Fi Network

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The number of internet-connected devices in homes has been growing. It’s increased exponentially over the last decade. A typical home now has 10.37 devices connected to the internet. PCs and mobile devices make up a little over half of those and the rest are IoT devices.

IoT stands for Internet of Things. It means any other type of “smart device” that connects online. IoT devices in a home can be everything from your streaming stick to your smart refrigerator. Smart baby monitors and Alexa voice assistants are also IoT.

There’s also been another change that has happened over the last couple of years. It has been the increase in remote and hybrid work. The pandemic caused a major shift in where we work, turning the standard office paradigm on its head.

Now, working remotely has become the norm for many companies around the world. This has put increased scrutiny on the security of all those IoT devices. They are now sharing a Wi-Fi network with business data and devices.

Here are two alarming statistics that illustrate the issue with IoT security:

  • During the first six months of 2021, the number of IoT cyberattacks was up by 135% over the prior year.
  • It’s estimated that over 25% of cyberattacks against businesses involve IoT devices

Hackers Use IoT Devices to Get to Computers & Smartphones

Smart devices are a risk to any other device on a network. They are typically easier to breach. So, hackers will use them as a gateway into more sensitive devices.

A criminal may not care about the shopping list stored in your smart refrigerator. But they’ll breach that IoT device to see what other devices are on the same network.

The hacker can then use sharing and permissions that are often present on home networks. Through these, they gain access to your work computer or mobile device. These devices hold important data, and access to personal details.

Why are IoT devices less secure than computers and smartphones? Here are a few reasons:

  • They usually won’t have antivirus or anti-malware capabilities
  • Users often don’t update IoT devices regularly
  • They have basic interfaces which can hide a breach of the device
  • People often don’t change the default device username and password.
  • Sharing settings on IoT devices makes them easier to hack

Improve Security by Putting IoT on a Separate Wi-Fi Network

Just about all modern routers will have the ability to set up a second Wi-Fi network, called a “guest network.” This shows up when you connect to Wi-Fi as a separate Wi-Fi that a device can use to get online.

Separate Wi-Fi

By putting all your IoT devices on a separate network you improve security. You cut that bridge that hackers use to go from an IoT device to another device on the same network. Such as those that hold sensitive information (computers and mobile devices).

In fact, when you separate those two (IoT devices and sensitive-info devices) a hacker can’t see all. If they breach one of your smart devices, they can’t tell you have a PC or smartphone. This is because they’re on the other network.

This is an important layer of security to use. Whether you’re a remote worker or use your computer for home budgeting and banking, it can help. All PCs and smartphones usually contain access to online banking or personal information.

Here are the steps to take to separate your IoT devices. (Note, you can also have this done by us, we’ll be happy to handle all these steps for you.)

  • Step 1: Log into your router settings.
  • Step 2: Look for an area that allows you to set up a guest network. This will be different for each router, so you may need to access a help guide online.
  • Step 3: Set up the guest network according to the router prompts. Make sure to use a strong password.
  • Step 4: Edit the password for your existing network. This keeps IoT devices from automatically reconnecting to it.
  • Step 5: Connect all IoT devices in your home to the new guest network.
  • Step 6: Reconnect your sensitive devices (computers, smartphones) to the preexisting network. Use the new password.

As you add any new devices to your home network, make sure to connect them to the appropriate network. This keeps the layer of security effective.

One more tip: When naming your Wi-Fi networks, don’t use descriptive names. This includes things like “IoT network” or your name, address, or router model name.

It’s best to use names that won’t give the hackers valuable information they can use in attacks.

Need Help Upgrading Your Home Cybersecurity?

With so many remote workers, hackers have begun targeting home networks. They know they can contain sensitive business as well as personal data. Don’t leave yourself open to a breach. Schedule a home internet security review today!


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Which Form of MFA Is the Most Secure? Which Is the Most Convenient?

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Credential theft is now at an all-time high and is responsible for more data breaches than any other type of attack.

With data and business processes now largely cloud-based, a user’s password is the quickest and easiest way to conduct many different types of dangerous activities.

Being logged in as a user (especially if they have admin privileges) can allow a criminal to send out phishing emails from your company account to your staff and customers. The hacker can also infect your cloud data with ransomware and demand thousands of dollars to give it back.

How do you protect your online accounts, data, and business operations? One of the best ways is with multi-factor authentication (MFA).

It provides a significant barrier to cybercriminals even if they have a legitimate user credential to log in. This is because they most likely will not have access to the device that receives the MFA code required to complete the authentication process.

What Are the Three Main Methods of MFA?

When you implement multi-factor authentication at your business, it’s important to compare the three main methods of MFA and not just assume all methods are the same. There are key differences that make some more secure than others and some more convenient.

Let’s take a look at what these three methods are:

SMS-based

The form of MFA that people are most familiar with is SMS-based. This one uses text messaging to authenticate the user.

The user will typically enter their mobile number when setting up MFA. Then, whenever they log into their account, they will receive a text message with a time-sensitive code that must be entered. 

On-device Prompt in an App

Another type of multi-factor authentication will use a special app to push through the code. The user still generates the MFA code at login, but rather than receiving the code via SMS, it’s received through the app.

This is usually done via a push notification, and it can be used with a mobile app or desktop app in many cases.

Security Key

The third key method of MFA involves using a separate security key that you can insert into a PC or mobile device to authenticate the login. The key itself is purchased at the time the MFA solution is set up and will be the thing that receives the authentication code and implements it automatically.

The MFA security key is typically smaller than a traditional thumb drive and must be carried by the user to authenticate when they log into a system.

Now, let’s look at the differences between these three methods.

Most Convenient Form of MFA?

Users can often feel that MFA is slowing them down. This can be worse if they need to learn a new app or try to remember a tiny security key (what if they lose that key?).

This user inconvenience can cause companies to leave their cloud accounts less protected by not using multi-factor authentication.

If you face user pushback and are looking for the most convenient form of MFA, it would be the SMS-based MFA.

Most people are already used to getting text messages on their phones so there is no new interface to learn and no app to install.

Most Secure Form of MFA?

If your company handles sensitive data in a cloud platform, such as your online accounting solution, then it may be in your best interest to go for security.

The most secure form of MFA is the security key.

The security key, being a separate device altogether, won’t leave your accounts unprotected in the event of a mobile phone being lost or stolen. Both the SMS-based and app-based versions would leave your accounts at risk in this scenario.

The SMS-based is actually the least secure because there is malware out there now that can clone a SIM card, which would allow a hacker to get those MFA text messages.

A Google study looked at the effectiveness of these three methods of MFA at blocking three different types of attacks. The security key was the most secure overall.

Percentage of attacks blocked:

  • SMS-based: between 76 – 100% 
  • On-device app prompt: between 90 – 100%
  • Security key: 100% for all three attack types

What’s in Between?

So, where does the app with an on-device prompt fit in? Right in between the other two MFA methods.

Using an MFA application that delivers the code via push notification is more secure than the SMS-based MFA. It’s also more convenient than needing to carry around a separate security key that could quickly become lost or misplaced.

Looking for Help Setting Up MFA at Your Company?

Multi-factor authentication is a “must-have” solution in today’s threat climate. Let’s discuss your barrier points and come up with a solution together to keep your cloud environment better secured.


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Top 5 Mobile Device Attacks You Need to Watch Out For

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Smartphones and tablets are often the preferred device for communications, web searching, and accessing many types of apps. They’re more portable and can be used from anywhere.

We’re seeing the takeover of many activities that used to be performed on traditional computers. Now, people are using mobile devices instead.

For example, Microsoft estimates that up to 80% of the workload in many enterprise organizations is now done via mobile devices. Over half of all web searches are also now conducted from a mobile device rather than a desktop PC.

This has caused mobile devices to become more targeted over the past few years. As hackers realize they’re holding many of the same sensitive information and app access as PCs, they’ve been creating mobile malware and other exploits to breach mobile devices.

In 2020, approximately 36.5% of organizations were impacted by mobile malware and 2.5 million people unknowingly downloaded multiple mobile adware apps.

It’s important to start treating mobile devices in the same way as you do computers when it comes to their security. Smartphones and tablets need the same types of security precautions in place, including:

  • Antivirus/anti-malware
  • DNS filtering
  • Automated OS and app updates
  • Managed backup

You need to be on the lookout for the most prevalent mobile device threats that allow your data to be leaked or breached. Here’s a roundup of what those are.

1. Mobile Malware Hidden in Apps

It’s not easy at first glance to tell the difference between a legitimate free app and one that has malware hidden inside.

Scammers will use the same types of flashy graphics, and the app may even have a high star rating (most likely boosted through suspicious means). The app may even do what it says it will do when downloaded.

But malware can be hidden in the background, infecting a device as soon as the app is installed. And many of these apps will hide once on your phone or tablet by using the icon of a common default system app (like settings or calendar).

Mobile malware can include all the same types of malware that can infect a computer, such as ransomware, adware, spyware, trojans, and more.

2. Unprotected Communications

Have you ever sent someone a password or credit card details over a text message or messaging app? Did you check to see if the communication was encrypted?

Many users will use various methods of communication from their mobile devices without knowing how secure those methods are. If sensitive information is transmitted and it’s not encrypted, then a hacker could easily intercept it.

3. Public Wi-Fi & Man-in-the-Middle Attacks

Public Wi-Fi has long been known to be non-secure, yet people still use it when it’s available. They want to save their mobile minutes or get a faster connection.

75% of people admit to connecting to email when on public Wi-Fi. Other activities people will do is sign into apps (even sensitive ones like online banking), and shop online, entering credit card details.

If you’re on public Wi-Fi, then you’re at high risk of a man-in-the-middle attack. This is when a hacker connects to the same network and looks for victims with unprotected communications. They can then capture any type of data they’re transmitting.

One way to safely connect to public Wi-Fi is to use a VPN app, which will encrypt your communications.

4. Juice Jacking on Public USB Charging Stations

Another public mobile breach danger is public USB charging stations. These are often welcome sights especially if you’re low on battery power. However, hackers can infect public USB charging ports with malware and set up fake charging stations in public areas.

Then, when you insert your USB cord to charge your device, the malware is copying all the data on your phone and/or infecting it with malicious code. See, USB cables aren’t just for charging, they are also used for data transmission.

It’s best to avoid public USB charging ports and charge with your power adapter that plugs into an outlet instead. You can also buy a “charge-only” USB cord to use if USB charging is your only option.

5. Non-Updated Devices

Approximately 40% of Android devices are running outdated operating systems that no longer get vital security updates.

When your mobile device is not kept updated, then it’s easier for a hacker to use an exploit that takes advantage of a code vulnerability in the OS or one of the installed apps.

Many companies aren’t paying attention to how many employees’ work devices are running current operating systems, which puts their networks at higher risk of a breach.

You should ensure that all your apps and your OS are kept updated because many of these updates include critical security patches.

Ask Us About Mobile Device Security Solutions

With mobile devices handling so much of the computing workload these days, it’s vital they’re properly protected. Contact us to discuss mobile security and management solutions.


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This Article has been Republished with Permission from The Technology Press.

Signs That Your Computer May Be Infected with Malware

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Approximately 34% of businesses take a week or longer to regain access to their data and systems once hit with a malware attack.

Malware is an umbrella term that encompasses many different types of malicious code. It can include:

  • Viruses
  • Ransomware
  • Spyware
  • Trojans
  • Adware
  • Key loggers
  • And more

The longer that malware sits on your system unchecked, the more damage it can do. Most forms of malware have a directive built in to spread to as many systems as possible. So, if not caught and removed right away, one computer could end up infecting 10 more on the same network in no time.

Early detection is key so you can disconnect an infected device from your network and have it properly cleaned by a professional.

Keep an eye out for these key warning signs of malware infection so you can jump into action and reduce your risk.

Strange Popups on Your Desktop

Some forms of malware can take on the disguise of being an antivirus app or warranty notice that pops up on your screen. Hackers try to mimic things that users may have seen from a legitimate program, so they’ll be more apt to click without thinking.

If you begin to see a strange “renew your antivirus” subscription alert or a warranty renewal that doesn’t quite make sense, these could be signs that your PC has been infected with adware or another type of malware.

New Sluggish Behavior

Computers can become sluggish for a number of reasons, including having too many browser tabs open at once or running a memory-intensive program. But you’ll typically know your computer and the types of things that slow it down.

If you notice new sluggish behavior that is out of the ordinary, this could be an infection. One example would be if you don’t have any programs open except notepad or another simple app, and yet you experience freezing.

When malware is running in the background, it can often eat up system resources and cause your system to get sluggish.

Applications Start Crashing

Applications should not just crash out of the blue. There is always a reason. Either the software is faulty, there’s been an issue with an update, or something else may be messing with that application’s files.

If you suddenly experience apps crashing, requiring you to restart the app or reboot your system, this is another telltale sign that a virus, trojan, or other malicious code has been introduced.

Your Browser Home Page is Redirected

If you open your browser and land on a homepage that is not the one you normally see, have your PC scanned for malware right away. Redirecting a home page is a common ploy of certain types of malware.

The malware will infect your system and change the system setting for your default browser home page. This may lead you to a site filled with popup ads or to another type of phishing site.

Just trying to change your homepage back in your settings won’t fix the situation. It’s important to have the malware removed.

Sudden Reboots

Another annoying trait of certain types of malicious code is to make your system reboot without warning.

This can cause you to lose the work you’ve just done and can make it difficult to get anything done. This may happen when malware is changing core system files behind the scenes. With files corrupted, your system becomes unstable and can often reboot unexpectedly.

You’re Missing Hard Drive Space

If you find that a good deal of your hard drive space that used to be open is now gone, it could be a malware infection taking up your space. Some types of malware may make copies of files or introduce new files into your system.

They will cleverly hide, so don’t expect to see the word “malware” on a file search. Instead, the dangerous activities will usually be masked by a generic-sounding name that you mistake for a normal system file.

You Run Across Corrupted Files

If you open a file and find it corrupted, this could be a red flag that ransomware or another form of malware has infected your system.

While files can occasionally become corrupt for other reasons, this is a serious issue that deserves a thorough malware scan if you see it.

PC “Processing Sounds” When There Shouldn’t Be

Most of us are familiar with those “thinking sounds” when our computer is processing something memory intensive. You’ll usually hear a type of whirring that will go away once you finish that activity.

If you begin hearing this processing sound when you’re not doing anything particularly intense on your computer, this could be a sign that malware is running in the background and it should be checked out.

Get Expert Malware Scanning & Removal

Free online malware and virus scans aren’t very reliable. Instead, come to a professional that can ensure your entire system is cleaned properly.


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This Article has been Republished with Permission from The Technology Press.

How to Protect Your Online Accounts from Being Breached

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Stolen login credentials are a hot commodity on the Dark Web. There’s a price for every type of account from online banking to social media. For example, hacked social media accounts will go for between $30 to $80 each.

The rise in reliance on cloud services has caused a big increase in breached cloud accounts. Compromised login credentials are now the #1 cause of data breaches globally, according to IBM Security’s latest Cost of a Data Breach Report.

Having either a personal or business cloud account compromised can be very costly. It can lead to a ransomware infection, compliance breach, identity theft, and more.

To make matters more challenging, users are still adopting bad password habits that make it all too easy for criminals. For example:

  • 34% of people admit to sharing passwords with colleagues
  • 44% of people reuse passwords across work and personal accounts
  • 49% of people store passwords in unprotected plain text documents

Cloud accounts are more at risk of a breach than ever, but there are several things you can do to reduce the chance of having your online accounts compromised.

Use Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)

Multi-factor authentication (MFA) is the best method there is to protect cloud accounts. While not a failsafe, it is proven to prevent approximately 99.9% of fraudulent sign-in attempts, according to a study cited by Microsoft.

When you add the second requirement to a login, which is generally to input a code that is sent to your phone, you significantly increase account security. In most cases, a hacker is not going to have access to your phone or another device that receives the MFA code, thus they won’t be able to get past this step.

The brief inconvenience of using that additional step when you log into your accounts is more than worth it for the bump in security.

Use a Password Manager for Secure Storage

One way that criminals get their hands on user passwords easily is when users store them in unsecured ways. Such as in an unprotected Word or Excel document or the contact application on their PC or phone.

Using a password manager provides you with a convenient place to store all your passwords that is also encrypted and secured. Plus, you only need to remember one strong master password to access all the others. 

Password managers can also autofill all your passwords in many different types of browsers, making it a convenient way to access your passwords securely across devices.

Review/Adjust Privacy & Security Settings

Have you taken the time to look at the security settings in your cloud tools? One of the common causes of cloud account breaches is misconfiguration. This is when security settings are not properly set to protect an account.

You don’t want to just leave SaaS security settings at defaults, as these may not be protective enough. Review and adjust cloud application security settings to ensure your account is properly safeguarded.

Use Leaked Password Alerts in Your Browser

You can have impeccable password security on your end, yet still have your passwords compromised. This can happen when a retailer or cloud service you use has their master database of usernames and passwords exposed and the data stolen.

When this happens, those leaked passwords can quickly end up for sale on the Dark Web without you even knowing it.

Due to this being such a prevalent problem, browsers like Chrome and Edge have had leaked password alert capabilities added. Any passwords that you save in the browser will be monitored, and if found to be leaked, you’ll see an alert when you use it.

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Look for this in the password area of your browser, as you may have to enable it. This can help you know as soon as possible about a leaked password, so you can change it.

Don’t Enter Passwords When on a Public Wi-Fi

Whenever you’re on public Wi-Fi, you should assume that your traffic is being monitored. Hackers like to hang out on public hot spots in airports, restaurants, coffee shops, and other places so they can gather sensitive data, such as login passwords.

You should never enter a password, credit card number, or other sensitive information when you are connected to public Wi-Fi. You should either switch off Wi-Fi and use your phone’s wireless carrier connection or use a virtual private network (VPN) app, which encrypts the connection.

Use Good Device Security

If an attacker manages to breach your device using malware, they can often breach your accounts without a password needed. Just think about how many apps on your devices you can open and already be logged in to. 

To prevent an online account breach that happens through one of your devices, make sure you have strong device security. Best practices include:

  • Antivirus/anti-malware
  • Up-to-date software and OS
  • Phishing protection (like email filtering and DNS filtering)

Looking for Password & Cloud Account Security Solutions?

Don’t leave your online accounts at risk. We can help you review your current cloud account security and provide helpful recommendations.


Featured Image Credit

This Article has been Republished with Permission from The Technology Press.