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Anatomy of a Breach


While security breaches can hurt all businesses, small and medium businesses are particularly vulnerable. It seems like everywhere you look these days people are talking about cybersecurity. While a few articles may give helpful information, the majority of news reports are instead heavy on fear mongering, with a strong focus on doomsday scenarios. After reading these stories, it is easy to understand why your customers may have concerns about the security of their IT.


It is vital to make sure not only that you understand these threats, but also that your SMB customers understand these threats: what they look like, how they can gain entry to IT systems, and what they can do to valuable data once they are in. Once one understands the anatomy of a breach, it is easier to take the proper precautions to defend against one. Today we will look at security breaches: what they are, how they occur, what happens during a breach, and what you, and any SMB, can do to protect valuable IT systems.


Security Breaches, Defined

The first step in understanding how to protect against a security breach is to know what a security breach is. Simply put, a security breach is the computer equivalent of a break in. It is an unwelcome incursion by hackers or malware into a computer or network of computers and can lead to theft, property damage, and a sense of violation just as a break in at one’s office might.


How Breaches Occur

A security breach can occur a few different ways. A breach typically occurs at a weak point in a network or computer’s defenses. Just as a burglar is more likely to break in through a window or unlocked door, hackers and malicious software tend to go for the easiest points of entry such as an unsecured network, peripheral, or web browser.


So what might these weak points look like? A vulnerability we see often, tricks users into visiting a compromised website. Although this website may not appear threatening to you or your customers, as soon as the browser lands on the compromised website, exploits in the code insert malware into the computer’s hard drive. Even if the user immediately leaves the site without clicking on anything, it is too late—a breach has occurred and malware has made its way into the system.


For computers running operating systems that are more current—such as Microsoft Windows 7 or 8.1— exploits and vulnerabilities are frequently patched and can even be updated automatically if customers have opted in. However, if users put off security updates, or if they continue to use no-longer-supported software, their systems are left wide open to these types of attacks.


In addition to browser exploits, hackers can utilize other weak points in order to gain entry into systems Such as Wi-Fi routers, network printers, and an entire array of peripherals. These can be identified and patched as well, but you and your customers must be sure to remain vigilant to stay on top of patches and updates.


While these vulnerabilities are sometimes dependent on a user being lax with security or online activity, it is important to know one can also be exploited independent of any user action.


What happens when a system is breached?


The most common result of a breach is the insertion of some form of malware into the PC. “Malware” is a catchall term for malicious software, and can take on many different forms.


While there are too many forms of malware to adequately cover in a single blog post, broadly speaking, attackers have for main motivations we can explore: ideology, espionage, ransom, and theft. The type of malware inserted depends on the attacker’s intentions.


How can SMBs protect their business and their data from these types of attacks?



While it is impossible to be one hundred percent secure, by following common-sense security best practices and putting security rules in place in the organization, you can ensure they’re protected from all but the most determined threats.

1)      Stay current with system and security updates: Keep software up-to-date with the latest security patches. This will help protect users from many of the most common threats

-          You and your customers should consider setting automatic or remotely managed updates on all of their machines to ensure all systems remain current. If an organization is running software that is no longer supported—such as Windows XP—the most vulnerable systems in the organization should be upgraded immediately. This could mean prioritizing updating systems that contain sensitive business or customer data first, but an effort should be made to move to a more current operating system as soon as they are able. To go back to the break in analogy, unsupported, un-patched software is the equivalent of leaving doors and windows wide open to intruders.

2)      Secure vulnerable entry points: Make sure you and your customers know the potential entry points to the system—this could include web browsers, email clients, wireless routers, and networked peripherals—and make sure these entry points are secured.

-          HP provides SMBs with layers of business protection to defend their data, applications, operating systems, and networks from attack while offering rapid recovery to get them back up and running in no time. This end-to-end solution includes HP ProLiant Gen8 servers, storage, networking, and services—all with built-in security.

3)      Be vigilant with online security: Do not open suspicious emails, attachments, or URLs. This holds true across all online activity, from email to social networks, to searches.

-          If one is not sure if an email or URL is legitimate, reach out to the sender, they might not know if their own systems have been breached.

4)      Encrypt sensitive information: Use strong passwords to better protect online accounts.

-          Customers can consider going a step further and password-protecting sensitive files on their computer’s hard drive and/or local server. It may seem over the top, until a hacker using Blackshades or a similar piece of malware gains access to the system.


Learn more about how to protect your customers’ (and your) systems and join the Coffee Coaching community on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and LinkedIn

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