Malware Exploit Threats Hit New High

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“The shadowy people behind this illegal activity are motivated by the millions of people that are uninformed or have outdated software.”

Malware threats have reached dangerously high levels, according to a new report that highlights the sheer scale of threats facing businesses today.

The latest Kaspersky Lab Malware report, covering the three months of Q2 2017, claims that Kaspersky Lab’s products blocked more than five million attacks involving exploits in this time period.

In total, Kaspersky’s products detected and repelled 342,566,061 malicious attacks from online resources located in 191 countries, with 17.26 per cent of all Internet-connected computers in the world facing at least one attack.

This included a rise in crypto-ransomware attacks, which were blocked on 246,675 unique computers, compared to 240,799 computers in Q1, along with an increase in attempted infections by money-stealing malware that attacks online access to bank accounts, which were discovered on 224,675 user computers, compared to 288,000 user computers in Q1.Y

Your first line of defense is to keep your PCs updated and perform regular security checks in order to ensure that they don’t fall victim to any future attacks.

Information originally published by Mike Moore in ITPROTOCAL

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Hackers Targeting MACs

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“Hackers are going after smaller businesses. Even those using a MAC are not safe.”

A newly discovered variant of malware for MACs is drawing attention to the growing issue of cyber threats against Apple’s computers, which have been long seen as largely immune to the sorts of problems that plague Windows PCs.

The recently uncovered malware – a variant of the “Fruitfly” malware that was discovered in January – is troubling more because of its potential for spying on Mac users than its actual impact. Just a few hundred Macs have reportedly become infected, but researchers say the malware could be used for such surveillance activities as taking webcam photos and capturing keystrokes.

Notably, the Fruitfly malware appears to use some outdated code, from a time before Apple’s introduction of OS X. The malware is “very strange, because it seems to have been around but not doing much,” said Michael Oh, CTO of TSP LLC, a Cambridge, Mass.-based Apple partner. “It’s clearly a proof of concept that somebody had put out in the wild, perhaps in a limited form or perhaps to see how wide it would spread.”

The discovery of the new Fruitfly variant adds to what has already been an unusually active year for Mac-related security threats. Cybersecurity vendor Malwarebytes, which initially uncovered Fruitfly in January, said in a recent report that Mac users saw more malware during the second quarter of the year than they had seen in all of 2016.

Information originally published by CRN

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Spam Is On The Rise…Again!

Remember a few years ago, when you would get more spam than real emails? It is happening again after dropping since 2009. In early 2016, the percentage started climbing again and is now over 60 percent. Why is spam on the increase? 

While spam has always been used to make money, in the last couple of years it has been increasingly weaponized.

Traditionally, spam was used to send advertising directly or through links to other sites to sell products or services. Today, spam is used to entice the recipient to click on a link or an attached file that will install malware on to their computer.

The malware may encrypt (or scramble) the files on the computer or on network file servers. The sender then demands a ransom to unencrypt the files — thus, the name ransomware.

This scheme is prevalent in Michigan. It has become very successful and the ransomware industry is expected to exceed $1 billion dollars in global revenue this year.

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“Hackers, malware and spam are on the rise; a basic understanding of these nuisances is the first step in protecting yourself.”

What types of malware are lurking?

Other types of malware delivered through spam may upload personal information or user names and passwords back to the sender, who will then sell them to other criminals.

Spam is also used in phishing campaigns where an email is sent pretending to be from a reputable company to induce individuals to reveal personal information such as passwords and credit card information. Spear phishing, or Whaling, as it is sometimes called, is a phishing campaign directed at targeted individuals.

Here’s how it works:

Usually sent to specific key people at a company, the email will look like it is from someone with authority like a corporate executive or the owner. It requests sensitive information like a copy of all employee W-2 forms or asks to have money urgently transferred to an account. These campaigns have also been effective in generating millions of dollars of income.

There are some simple and inexpensive ways to protect yourself and your business from these malicious attacks:

– Use a spam filtering service. All company email is directed to the service provider, filtered for spam and viruses and then sent to your company email server. This eliminates fifty percent or more of the email traffic from even getting to your server, freeing up bandwidth and storage space. The top service providers will catch 99 percent of spam and viruses.

– Use good anti-virus and anti-malware software and keep it up to date. This helps protect against the one percent that gets through and from sources of viruses and malware other than email.

– Train your staff. It is pretty easy to spot spam email if one knows what to look for. There are several good programs for recurring staff training. They are usually presented in short two- to three-minute videos that do not require technical knowledge.

Spam email can be much more than a nuisance — it can be very costly. All of the recommended solutions combined typically cost only a few dollars per person each month. A small investment now may save your company money, loss of business reputation, lost productivity and more.

Originally published in Focus Magazine

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Michigan’s Small Towns Are Going Global

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“Eaton Rapids Director of Utilities Scott Poyer, left, and Mayor Steven Platte, right, pose for a picture in downtown Eaton Rapids”

Small Michigan towns such as Charlotte, Mason and Eaton Rapids, are becoming Internet boom-towns by partnering with the right fiber optic company. These towns and many more have turned themselves into mini-startup hubs with new companies that are helping to retain their younger residents.

Mayor Tim Lewis of Charlotte explained that they have had nearly $30 million of economic development in the past three years. This includes housing, entertainment and news business in the downtown area.

Eaton Rapids and Hillsdale – all located in southern Michigan with populations between 5,000 and 9,000 – in recent years collaborated with ACD to implement fiber broadband in their communities. Currently, fiber is available to businesses, schools and utility plants; eventually, residents will start to receive fiber connections as well. Municipal and business leaders in these cities agree that having fiber networks gives them a competitive advantage.

“Having access to the global economy is critical, and without Internet connections, Michigan businesses can’t compete. But if we can help businesses better understand the benefits of a high-speed connection, we can grow and improve Michigan’s economy,” says Eric Frederick, executive director of Connect Michigan.

A better understanding of the need for fiber is vitally important, and these small Michigan towns have achieved a faster and more reliable Internet connection with the help of ACD and fiber broadband.

Facebook Live Making an Impact

Facebook Live is a whole new platform that is inclusive, raw, truthful and organic. We are using it for events like the Lansing Mayoral Debate to include the citizens of Lansing in important events that matter. The event is being held at The Lansing Brewing Company which runs on ACD fiber. The best technology is there and we are taking advantage of it with this broadcast.

“Some of the most engaging videos I see are coming from people just taking them with their phone; you want people to feel they are an active participant in what you are putting up on Facebook, not a passive observer ”

The following is an article from Government Technology about the potentials of using Facebook Live in Government:

Facebook’s newly released video feature has created a lot of hype, primarily among users who embrace the platform as a way to stay in touch with friends and relatives and, of course, share the ever-popular cat video. But what does the new apparatus mean for government?

At first glance, another way to post video content online hardly seems revolutionary. But when given a second look, it really could make things easier for state and local governments to get their messages out to the people who already care enough to follow them.

Until recently, the live video feature had only been available to public figures, but on April 6, the social media company expanded its user base to include everyone. With built-in features like real-time feedback and analytics, users at all levels have a new toy to play with.

For a state or local government, the possibilities are just as unlimited as they are for, say, a big wave surfer who decides to enable live streaming while he goes about his business — maybe not as exciting, but likely more informative. A press conference or meeting can now be shared live, direct to the source, much like it would have been through a platform like Periscope.

Katie Harbath, Facebook’s Global Politics and Government outreach director, addressed attendees of the 2016 Government Social Media Conference in Reno, Nev., last week, saying the tool presents a new way to engage constituents who might otherwise not participate in things like public meetings.

In Canada, the speaker said, officials were surprised to see users take interest in recent budgetary hearings. According to Harbath, roughly 2,000 people watched proceedings using the Facebook Live tool.

“Now, that’s not a huge number. It’s not in the millions, it’s not even in the tens of thousands, but that’s 2,000 more people who wanted to participate in this process about the budget that otherwise would have never had a chance to do so,” she said. “Even just broadcasting your press conferences and your speeches, you can reach a lot more people by going live than you could maybe reach who is there in person.”

While leveraging online video is far from a new concept for government agencies, instant access and the ability to receive comments during a video broadcast seems to have taken its place as the next step in the medium’s evolution.

Harbath said those who are drawn to the live feeds watch three times longer than prerecorded video and engage as much as 10 times more.

The possibilities behind live streaming video were a topic of conversation at Facebook’s F8 developers conference this week as founder Mark Zuckerberg demonstrated the capabilities of streaming from a DJI drone.

The company has also opened the API to third-parties to allow for better integration into the commercial markets.

According to Harbath, users of the live service will soon be given the ability to include groups, use filters and draw on the live broadcast, as well as include a map so users can see where real-time live streaming is taking place.

As Facebook stacks its chips behind video, at least for the time being, other trends in the medium are also catching the attention of company officials. Harbath noted that viewers aren’t necessarily drawn to high production values, but instead linger on in-the-moment videos that immerse them in the action.

“Some of the most engaging videos I see are coming from people just taking them with their phone; you want people to feel they are an active participant in what you are putting up on Facebook, not a passive observer,” she said, noting that one of the biggest trends the company is seeing with video is how people are interacting with it on a mobile device. “We really think that video this year is going to be one of biggest game changers on social media.”

Fiber Optic Broadband: Transforming Business Profit and Productivity

A growing number of Midwest businesses are seeing the profits of their competitors inch ahead of their margins because they’re deploying fiber-optic based technologies.

Fiber broadband delivers competitive advantages. And it could be a threat to companies that are not deploying it.

“Fiber-optic connectivity offers great advantages to Michigan-based companies of all sizes, particularly businesses using cloud-based technologies, off-site data storage, and operating with multiple locations,” said Chris DeVine, Major Business Accounts Manager at ACD.

Fiber broadband is the underpinning of the backbone of productivity for many businesses. Even if you think your business doesn’t need faster Internet, fiber broadband opens the gateway to the future, allowing your business to scale-up easily and run more efficiently.

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“We are living in a time when a small business can have the same technological advantages as a global corporation,” said ACD’s CEO Kevin Schoen. “Your profit gains will be large in comparison to the little amount of time and money you spend.”

Brent Sanders is an operations manager at DBI Office Interiors, located in Lansing, MI, and his company uses a direct hand-off to ACD’s Gigabit fiber network in Lansing. He says DBI needs massive broadband and robust connectivity to power the company’s productivity technology.

DBI uses the Internet for connecting every aspect of its business from sales to design, build, and customer follow-up. Their fiber optic network is involved from the moment a sale is made to the moment it’s delivered.

This means designers and managers at DBI’s headquarters are connected through high definition wireless devices (Ipads, computers and cell phones) with sales people in the field, who are also connected to the employees building office interior systems in their warehouse.

At any given time there are three or four dozen people connected to their fiber network, nearly every position at DBI requires an Internet connection whether it’s for purchasing, design, or customer service.

For instance, warehouse managers at DBI are virtually riding shotgun with their delivery truck drivers. As soon as a customer signs for a product that order gets automatically uploaded to the website to show proof of delivery. This is the same technology used by UPS and FedEx, meaning fiber allows a medium-sized company like DBI to compete in the global market.

“We are living in a time when small businesses can have the same technological advantage as a global corporation,” said ACD’s CEO Kevin Schoen. “Your profit-gains will be large in comparison to the little amount of time and money you spend.”

Project walk-throughs have also advanced with fiber. DBI designers use tablets when walking through a project space. If they find a problem, they’re able to take a picture, attach it to the problem-point in the project’s CAD drawings, and send it to a DBI designer at the office. This allows salesmen, designers, and warehouse staff to collaborate in real-time. These staff members are quickly solving little problems before they become big ones.

The office product side benefits from better connectivity too. There are fewer processing issues, allowing orders and purchasing to happen faster.

“Good, solid connectivity makes your toolkit a little more effective and so you just have fewer issues. The quality of the connection is vastly improved with fiber compared to copper,” Sanders says. “With fiber it’s so scalable, if I need to go from a 30 mg connection to a 40 I make a phone call to ACD, literally within an hour my connection is now running at that higher bandwidth.”

As a result of DBI’s fiber broadband they’re upgrading their office system, getting a better toolkit that includes videoconferencing and different systems to use with their customers.

Sanders says the fiber allows them to tighten their business up and be more efficient without having to worry about their bandwidth-usage or problems with connectivity.

“If you have the opportunity to be able to connect into the fiber and that’s something that’s available to you, I highly recommend that,” Sanders says.

Fiber is a superior product that allows businesses to do much more with better connectivity and a scalability that can grow alongside your business.