Cybersecurity for Small Businesses: Ways to Stay Protected

Reprinted from FDIC Consumer News – Winter 2016

In today’s world, it’s important for small business owners to be vigilant in protecting their computer systems and data. Among the reasons: Federal consumer protections generally do not cover businesses for losses they incur from unauthorized electronic fund transfers. That means, for example, your bank may not be responsible for reimbursing losses associated with an electronic theft from your bank account — for instance, if there was negligence on the part of your business, such as unsecured computers or falling for common scams. (To learn more about the rules pertaining to electronic theft, including losses involving a business debit card, see How Federal Laws and Industry Practices Limit Losses From Cyberattacks).

Here are tips to help small business owners and their employees protect themselves and their companies from losses and other harm. Several of these tips mirror basic precautions we have suggested elsewhere in this issue for consumers.

Protect computers and Wi-Fi networks. Equip your computers with up-to-date anti-virus software and firewalls to block unwanted access. Arrange for key security software to automatically update, if possible. And if you have a Wi-Fi network for your workplace, make sure it is secure, including having the router protected by a password that is set by you (not the default password). The user manual for your device can give you instructions, which are also generally available online.

Patch software in a timely manner. Software vendors regularly provide “patches” or updates to their products to correct security flaws and improve functionality. A good practice is to download and install these software updates as soon as they are available. It may be most efficient to configure software to install such updates automatically.

Set cybersecurity procedures and training for employees. Consider reducing risks through steps such as pre-employment background checks and clearly outlined policies for personal use of computers. Limit employee access to the data systems that they need for their jobs, and require permission to install any software.

And, train employees about cybersecurity issues, such as suspicious or unsolicited emails asking them to click on a link, open an attachment or provide account information. By complying with what appears to be a simple request, your employees may be installing malware on your network. You can use training resources such as a 30-minute online course from the Small Business Administration (SBA).

Require strong authentication. Ensure that employees and other users connecting to your network use strong user IDs and passwords for computers, mobile devices and online accounts by using combinations of upper- and lower-case letters, numbers and symbols that are hard to guess and changed regularly. Consider requiring more information beyond a password to gain access to your business’s network, and additional safety measures, such as requiring confirmation calls with your financial institution before certain electronic transfers are authorized.

Secure the business’s tablets and smartphones. Mobile devices can be a source of security challenges, especially if they hold confidential information or can access your company’s network. In the case of the latter, require employees to password-protect their devices, encrypt their data and install security apps to prevent criminals from accessing the device while it is connected to public networks. Also develop and enforce reporting procedures for lost or stolen equipment.

Back up important business systems and data. Do so at least once a week. For your backup data, remember to use the same security measures (such as encryption) that you would apply to the original data. In addition, in case your main computer becomes infected, regularly back up sensitive business data to additional, disconnected storage devices.

Use best practices for handling card payments online. Seek advice from your bank or a payment processor to select the most trusted and validated tools and anti-fraud services. This may include using just one computer or tablet for payment processing.

Be vigilant for early signs something is wrong. “Monitor bank account balances regularly to look for suspicious or unauthorized activity,” suggested Luke W. Reynolds, chief of the FDIC’s Outreach and Program Development Section.

Cybersecurity tips for small businesses also can be found in a new FDIC brochure. Also go to OnGuardOnline and the SBA website.

Protect Your Data During Cyber Security Awareness Month

PadlockAmericans live in a mobile society, relying on smartphones, tablets and computers to gather news, make purchases, interact with friends and family, and connect with financial institutions. Increasingly, cybercriminals compromise the networks that support these devices. This often results in identity theft, which can also yield financial losses and safety for consumers. In fact, a recent report from the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) found that computer hackers have stolen the personal information of approximately 40 million U.S. residents.

October is Cyber Security Awareness Month, and the Independent Community Bankers of America® (ICBA) and MutualOne Bank are offering tips to help consumers avoid having their online financial information disrupted or stolen:

When sending sensitive information via the Internet, make sure “https:” appears in the address bar. This  means the information you are transmitting is encrypted.

Ensure the wireless network you use is password-protected, and choose a strong password and update it frequently for your work and home wireless networks. Likewise, always use a passcode on your mobile phone or tablet to stop an unauthorized user from accessing your device.

Don’t enter sensitive information into your phone when others can see what you’re entering.

Set the privacy settings on frequented social network sites. Cybercriminals often learn about people and their families and friends via social media in an attempt to spoof or phish you and your network.

Remain cautious of someone who isn’t who they say they are or if the name and area don’t match what appears on caller ID. This is often how spoofing occurs.

Never respond to text messages, emails or phone calls from companies alleging to be your bank, government officials or business representatives that request your banking ID, account numbers, user name or password.

Similarly, don’t click on links sent to you from unknown sources via text message because they are likely malware.

Beware of “get rich quick” schemes; never voluntarily give out your bank account information or security credentials.

You can learn more about Cyber Security Awareness Month by visiting the Stay Safe Online website.

Avoiding Password Reuse

password_469093745Password reuse occurs when someone uses the same password on multiple websites or accounts. This is a vulnerability if the password is exposed in coordination with other information that identifies who is using the password – such as first and last names, login names, or email addresses.

Avoiding password reuse can be challenging because of the number of websites and accounts that require passwords, some of which require updating your password every 30 days. There are two ways to avoid password reuse and to ensure any password meets the recommended password complexity requirements.

The first technique is to use a password manager to remember each unique password. Password managers are applications that can be stored on a computer, smartphone, or in the cloud, and will securely track passwords and where they are used. Most password managers can also generate complex random passwords for each account if you choose to do so. As long as the password to access the password manager is sufficiently complex, this technique can be affective. However, if the company running the password manager is compromised (which does happen!) it is possible that all your passwords will also be compromised. If you choose a password manager that is local to your computer or smartphone, that information may be compromised if malware gets on your computer or you lose your smartphone. When choosing a password manager, ensure it is from a known, trustworthy company.

The second technique is to choose a repeatable pattern for your password, such as choosing a sentence that incorporates something unique about the website or account, and then using the first letter of each word as your password. For example the sentence: “This is my August password for the Center for Internet Security website.” would become “TimAp4tCfISw.” Since a strong password is complex, and includes upper and lower case letters, numbers, and a symbol, this password keeps the capitalization within the sentence, translates the word “for” to the number “4,” and adds the period to include adding a symbol. The vulnerability in this technique is that if multiple passwords from the same user are exposed it may reveal the pattern.

Regardless of how a unique password is chosen, it is critically important that every password is unique. Some companies, such as Facebook, have begun programs to identify password reuse. Facebook’s program to identify password reuse involves monitoring for lists of compromised usernames, emails, and passwords, and attempting to match those to the usernames or email addresses of existing Facebook users. If a match is found Facebook asks the user to reset their Facebook password.

How Password Reuse is a Threat
Password reuse is a threat because malicious actors can take advantage of a reused password if there is other associated information that identifies you. This typically occurs through one of two potential scenarios:

In the first, and most common scenario, the malicious actors can search for other accounts you use and try to login with the same password. In some cases the actors might try to find personal accounts such as Facebook, Twitter, or banking websites. If they can identify those accounts, and you reuse your password, they can login as you. In other instances the malicious actors may try to determine where you are employed and attempt to use it for remote access, such as through a remote email or timecard access.

A second scenario involving a malicious website is much less common, but still poses a threat. In this scenario the malicious cyber-actor sets up a website that spoofs a legitimate web site, which requests you enter an email address, password, and potentially other information to gain access. Once you have done that, they know who you are and can search for your other accounts where you used the same password.

Sun, Sand, and Cyber Security

Every summer, vacationers put their house lights on timers and their mail on hold when they travel away from home. It’s just as important when taking a vacation to take similar precautions with good cyber habits. Many cyber criminals specifically target travelers…

Criminals often set online lures to sell fake vacations or tickets. These may be just simple advertisements or sophisticated scams using realistic websites, complete with phone operators that will “assist” you.

Home Alone
Social media posts with pictures of tourist attractions may update your friends and family, but they also tell criminals that you’re on vacation and your house is empty. Other older posts may contain personal details or pictures of your home, telling thieves what items of value are in the house or how to circumvent security systems.

Stolen “Keys”
Sensitive data, such as login names and passwords, are especially valuable to criminals. One way criminals obtain such data is by installing a “keylogger” on hotel public computers. The keylogger records every keystroke typed on the computer and then transmits that information to the criminal.

Missed Connection
Some cyber criminals specialize in “sniffing” the Wi-Fi and public networks in airports and coffee shops, allowing the criminal to collect and read all information sent over a wireless network.

Other criminals use a practice called “juice jacking”, where the criminal rigs a public charging kiosk to siphon information directly from your device when you plug into it.

Who’s the Boss?
The cyber security threat doesn’t end with you; Social engineers often use information about a boss’ vacation to gain physical access or commit financial fraud. The social engineer knows that they can reference the boss and the boss will not be reachable to verify whether he/she really did order the “repairman” or gave instructions for a fraudulent wire transfer.

When in Rome…
Different countries have different laws, which may allow government employees or law enforcement full access to your device without your knowledge or permission. Some countries are known to collect all data residing in that country, while others collect data from devices left in hotel rooms. This may be very important in countries that do not have the same freedom of speech as the United States. Some of these countries are known to have jailed tourists who posted negative comments online about the government or who posted criminal activities online, such as the use of alcohol or drugs.

Luckily, with a little care it’s possible to avoid these problems. Follow these simple tips to ensure that the only memories from your vacation are good ones:

Easy Tips to Protect Yourself

• Use discretion when posting personal information on social media. This information is a treasure-trove to social engineers. Do not post information about travel plans or details; save the pictures and updates until after you return home.
• Set email away messages to only respond to known contacts in your address book.
• Disable geo-locational features, such as automatic status updates and friend finder functionalities.
• Remind friends and family members to exercise the same caution.

Easy Tips to Protect Your Devices

• Keep your electronic devices with you at all times.
• Before traveling abroad, change all passwords that you will use while traveling, and upon return change the passwords of any accounts that were accessed while abroad. This includes passwords used by social media websites and email providers, for which you have automatic logins.
• Do not access sensitive accounts (e.g. banks, credit cards, etc.) or conduct sensitive transactions over public networks, including hotel and airport Wi-Fi and business centers, or Internet cafés.
• Use up-to-date anti-virus, anti-spyware, and anti-adware protection software; apply recommended patches to your operating system and software.
• Use wired connections instead of Bluetooth or Wi-Fi connections, whenever possible.
• Do not plug USB cables into public charging stations; only connect USB powered devices using the intended AC power adapter.
• Know the local laws regarding online behavior, as some online behaviors are illegal in certain countries.

Telephone Phishing Scam Alert

There is a telephone phishing scam underway in our area that we want our customers to be aware of. The victims of this scam receive a bogus text or telephone message that is supposedly from their bank, which is mentioned by name. The message claims that the customer’s debit card has been deactivated, and tells them to call a phone number provided in the message. When the customer calls that number, they are told to enter their debit card information and a replacement card will be issued.

Under no circumstances would MutualOne Bank contact you in this manner. If you receive such a message or experience any other suspicious or questionable activity regarding your account, please notify us immediately by calling us directly at (508) 820-4000.

Resources to protect consumers

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While National Consumer Protection Week, will end on Saturday, the information shared through the website remains a valuable resources for consumers looking to protect their rights and make better-informed decisions about their finances.

Visitors to the site will find a wealth of information on everything from preventing identity theft, and protecting your home and business, to buying products & services, and investing your money.

For more information visit the National Consumer Protection Week website at ncpw.gov.

VIDEO: What is Identity Theft?

The Federal Trade Commission has created this informative video for consumers with 5 easy ways you can protect yourself from becoming a victim.

If you believe you have been a victim of identity theft, please visit your local branch, or contact Client Services at (508) 820-4000.

Please note by clicking on the link to YouTube, you are leaving the MutualOne Bank web site to enter a web site created, operated and maintained by a private business or organization. MutualOne Bank provides this link as a service to our web site visitors. We are not responsible for the content, views, or privacy policies of this site. We take no responsibility for any products or services offered by this site, nor do we endorse or sponsor the information it contains.

Tis the season to safeguard your computer

Special thanks to Matt Lidestri, manager of Security and Internet Products for COCC, a Connecticut-based firm specializing in outsourced information technology and support, for providing this valuable information for our customers.

Not everyone will be looking for sweaters and smartphones this holiday season. In fact, once the tinsel gets tossed and the decorations are packed away, data security will resume its title role, center stage.

The following is a list of gifts that keep on giving and cost little or nothing. Happy holidays!

Back to the Internet

Have you ever noticed when you are shopping online that advertisements seem to focus on just the items you want? That’s the latest technique for tying your online behavior to online advertising – it allows advertisers to place their messages on pages you view just when you’re about to buy a rival’s product.

The latest version of the Firefox browser enables users to stop the madness by opting out of online behavior tracking. Other Firefox features include the ability to protect your browsing history, remove any trace of visiting a particular web site, and to know if content on any given page is legitimate. Hackers often inject evil scripts onto innocent-looking web pages – a technique known as cross-site scripting attacks. This feature gives you a chance to walk away.

Blocking Traffic

Last year, we recommended Comodo, a free firewall to protect customers from malware at home. Let me repeat to anyone who doubts whether they need a firewall in their house – you do. The average time to infect an unprotected computer on the Internet remains under five minutes.

This year, we are recommending another free tool to protect yourself and your family from malware and adult content (gambling, pornography, etc.), on the Internet. K9 by Blue Coat uses the same advanced web filtering technology deployed by companies and governments worldwide — all with a user-friendly interface that allows you to control Internet use in your home.

New Windows

In the past, security literature cited a common culprit – Microsoft – for security weaknesses. Not anymore. The new Windows 7 operating system is fast, easy to use, and has some excellent features that help consumers stay safe. Windows 7 is the product of Microsoft’s Security Development Lifecycle (SDL), which has contributed in developing higher quality code. In addition, it ships with better protection via User Account Control (UAC), which was first introduced in Windows Vista. Any time a program wants to make a major change to your computer, the UAC alerts you and asks for permission. This is a significant defense against hackers and malicious software, since they often change settings and install software to do their dirty work.

For those who prefer a different experience with their PC, there is Ubuntu, a very common user-friendly Linux operating system. The price is right – free – and it provides exceptional device support, an intuitive interface, and strong security. Since most viruses target Windows-based systems at this point in time, using Ubuntu can reduce the likelihood of successful malware infections. If you have family or friends who are prone to tripping across malware, I’d highly recommend giving Ubuntu a closer look.

The New You

Even if you install tons of security solutions, you will still need a sure-fire method for reducing your risk of hacker attacks. Here it is: create at least one ‘regular’ user account on your computer, and use that account exclusively for day-to-day use.

Why is a ‘regular’ user account so effective? Malware often needs to make changes to the system in order to be effective – from hooking into the OS (operating system) to enable keylogging to installing services for persistence between reboots. If you sign in as a regular user with no administrative rights, malware cannot be installed automatically or by simply clicking an “ok” button. That’s good news for the good guys.

Reduce the Junk

Finally, I leave you with a highly effective strategy to stem the tide of junk email: Create a separate junk email account and use it to sign up for promotions, Groupons, and charities. Review this account just once a week, and delete most everything in it, confident that real email from friends, family, and companies that you actually do business with won’t be clouded by spam. Or, forward email from your “junk account” to your real webmail account and create rules to direct these messages to a different folder. This provides easy access to these messages without cluttering your inbox.

Please note: Framingham Co-operative Bank provides these links as a service to our web site visitors. We are not responsible for the content, views, or privacy policies of these sites. We take no responsibility for any products or services offered, nor do we endorse or sponsor the information contained.