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4 Ways a Unified Threat Management Solution Covers Your Company’s Security Needs

Your company’s network contains a gold mine of sensitive information that you need to protect at all costs. While it’s absolutely the case that you need to make network security a top priority for your business, thankfully, multiple aspects of your security can be covered easily enough by implementing a single, enterprise-level security solution.

The solution we’re referring to is a Unified Threat Management (UTM) tool. It’s a powerful tool that combines the fundamental security features that every business needs, into one easy-to-manage package. If you’re looking to get a handle on your company’s network security, then consider these four ways that a UTM provides comprehensive protection.

Firewalls
A firewall is the first line of defense for your company’s network, protecting your business from the onslaught of online threats trying to sneak their way in. One can go so far as to compare a UTM firewall to a sort of virtual bouncer for your network that; assesses the threat level of your network’s traffic, garners if it’s a security risk, and then clears for passage only what’s deemed to be safe.

Antivirus
Every good firewall needs an antivirus solution to compliment it. After all, some forms of malware are sneakily engineered to play on a user’s ignorance so as to bypass the firewall. In such a scenario, antivirus software is there to quickly catch and eliminate threats such as viruses, trojans, spyware, ransomware, and more. Given the destructive nature of many of these threats, you’re going to want a powerful antivirus solution in place that prevents such viruses from spreading across your network and wreaking havoc on your systems. Additionally, while there are many kinds of antivirus solutions on the market, businesses will want to take advantage of a centrally located antivirus solution like what comes with a UTM. This way, updates and scans can be done automatically and in one fell swoop, instead of being left up to each individual user.

Spam Blocker
Having spam in your inbox is totally annoying, and it can also be dangerous. One common way for hackers to spread malware is by attachments found in spam messages. Plus, savvy hackers will employ spam as a phishing tactic to trick users into opening the message and following its instructions which appeal to emotions. Examples include a fake summons to jury duty, a fake package that couldn’t be delivered, a fake resume for a job opening, etc. A quality spam blocker will prevent these messages from hitting employee inboxes in the first place, which greatly reduces the risk of a user being tricked by spam.

Content Filter
Businesses also need a way to protect their networks from the vast amount of online threats that come from visiting dangerous websites. Unfortunately, it’s all too easy for an employee to stumble upon a website that’s designed to harvest credentials or download an attachment designed to infect your network with a virus or even ransomware. With a content filter protecting your network, you’ll be able to block users from accessing suspicious websites in the first place. Additionally, a UTM content filter allows you to block time-wasting websites like social media, YouTube, Netflix, etc., making it a valuable tool that both protects your network and enhances productivity.

In order to be adequately protected, your business needs all four of these security features. A UTM from VentureNet conveniently offers your network protection in all of these ways, and more. To equip your network with a UTM security solution that’s customized to fit the needs of your business, call us today at 214.343.3550.

The Cloud Revolution Seems a Bit… Familiar

If we asked you what the most significant trend in today’s professional environment is, what would you say? For those who depend on technology to manage and maintain their operations, the cloud has allowed for some of the biggest and best advantages–so much that it’s perhaps one of the most prominent shifts that the world has ever seen.

How the Cloud Works
In essence, the cloud is a term that applies to any off-site computing done by your organization. It’s not far from the reality of the situation to suggest that cloud-based services work by using someone else’s computer to store and process applications and data.

The cloud provider rents their computing resources to you. Depending on their service model, you’ll receive services for a cost based on how much you store, how much power or bandwidth you need, or how many accounts must access it. The cloud provider needs to adhere to these guidelines if they want to keep you as a customer. Furthermore, safety and security are also required, as nobody wants to have their data stored in a place where it’s susceptible to theft. Finally, the cloud provider needs to be able to provide you the services at a rate that’s cheaper than if you were to find a way to accomplish the same thing on your own. This is a considerable amount of information to think about, especially with the other costs involved.

The most important features to think about are how much uptime and security are offered, as both are required by any organization. The problem is that achieving the required results on your own is difficult for an organization with a limited IT budget, making outsourcing to a cloud provider quite ideal. It’s a way to manage risk; you won’t be burdened by unexpected costs in the event of trouble, as it’s the responsibility of the managed service provider and not your organization.

However, the cloud service provider needs to do much more than manage a single computer. Instead, it’s managing many hundreds or thousands of virtual computers stored in a data center, all of which need to be maintained. Since they are being stored in bulk, the cost per unit drops, but security becomes an even larger challenge. Meanwhile, the cloud provider is capable of investing in more expensive and top-shelf solutions that your business might not be able to afford on its own. The end result is enhanced security and capabilities alongside technology that allows organizations to keep up with major industry trends–without the hefty price tag.

This Isn’t the First Time
If all of this sounds familiar, it’s because this isn’t the first time that technology completely revolutionized the business environment. Back in the 1890s, before computers and cyber security were even pain points for organizations, business owners had to worry about how to power their site of operations with electricity. Factories used expensive on-site generators that could hardly be called efficient, and they were all but impossible to maintain without going out of your way to do so. Some employees needed to remain on-site just to ensure that operations didn’t stop due to a generator malfunction, simply because the organization couldn’t afford to allow productivity to halt, even for a few minutes.

This all changed when the Edison Power Company in Chicago found a better way of doing things. With the ability to provide reliable and clean electricity to factories at a more affordable rate, they were able to completely change the way organizations were run. The cost per unit became much cheaper, as the Edison Power Company found they could maintain their infrastructure by employing specialized technicians who focused on the upkeep of this equipment. 20 years later, you’d be hard-pressed to find an organization that didn’t utilize the power grid in some way.

How the Cloud is, More or Less, the Same Thing
Can you imagine producing the bulk of your organization’s electricity in-house? While this might lead to humorous imaginary situations, like hamster wheels or treadmill desks, such a notion would be absolutely silly. The same thing can be said for the cloud and your organization’s IT infrastructure. The fast-paced shift from on premise servers to cloud-based virtualization, along with the mobile device infestation, has made way for organizations to shed their traditional server and desktop infrastructure altogether in favor of a more streamlined virtual approach. With the cloud, your business will be able to implement solutions like email, document management, line-of-business apps, and so much more, all for a lower cost with enhanced security functionality.

In fact, some future-minded organizations have already begun taking advantage of this shift in ways previously unheard of. Instead of managing in-house servers and desktop workstations, these organizations host their infrastructure in the cloud, allowing for greater flexibility and energy saving costs. It’s just one way that the shift toward cloud computing is helping organizations achieve their maximum potential.

How will your business take advantage of the cloud? If you’re not sure, call us at 214.343.3550. VentureNet’s trusted technicians want to make sure that your business’s technology infrastructure doesn’t skip a beat.

Why Properly Managing Your Software Licenses Should Be a Priority

Every software your company uses comes with a license, even freeware like Google Chrome and Firefox. Often times, you’ll see the license during the installation process when you’re asked to opt into the terms and conditions. We know how easy it is to blow through the pages of legal mumbo jumbo, yet, at the very least you should have a grasp of the details pertaining to the license.

By ignoring such important information, you very well could be setting yourself up for trouble down the road.

Understanding Software Licenses
Software developers are the ones that determine the licensing details of their product, which includes terms such as where and how often you can install the software, whether or not you can redistribute it, what modifications are allowed, and more. By going through with the software installation process, you’re agreeing to these terms. This grants you use of the software, as well as holds you and your organization responsible should any of the terms be violated.

Protection from having the software shared and distributed without the developer’s consent (aka, theft) is one of the most common clauses found in software licenses. Additionally, if you read the fine print closely, you may spot some rather unusual terms. One of the more famous examples comes from Apple, which forbids iTunes users from creating missiles and nuclear weapons.

How Negligence Can Lead to Big Fines
For many programs, at the time of installation, the software is activated and automatically sends a message to the developer in order to authenticate the license. During this activation process, one thing that the software checks for is whether or not the particular license has been installed before, or if it’s active anywhere else. If this is detected, you won’t be allowed to proceed and use the software. In some scenarios, you may be able to still use the software and you won’t find out you’re doing so illegally until your mailbox is hit with a cease and desist letter from the developer.

Although, this worst-case scenario isn’t something to be too worried about. Typically, developers have protocols in place that allow them to catch this discrepancy and provide users with an offer to purchase additional licenses. In some cases, a business owner may even be offered
a site licensing deal which allows for the purchase of multiple licenses at a discount.

Software Auditors Want to Talk With You
One motivation for making sure your software licenses are all in order is the very real chance of an audit by a group like the Business Software Alliance (BSA). This is an organization tasked with looking into businesses suspected of abusing software licenses, like running multiple copies of Windows and Microsoft Office off a single license. Should you be found guilty of such an infraction, you’ll receive a letter in the mail that will pretty much ruin your day.

Now, you may be wondering how the BSA can even find out if a business is violating software licenses. Well, one tactic employed by the BSA is to offer whistleblowers that report software violations by their current or former employer thousands of dollars in rewards, along with full confidentiality. It’s a method that can really be effective if a particular business has any former employees that may be rather disgruntled.

Failing such an audit can lead to a major fine that ends up being way more than what it would have been to simply pay for the software licenses in the first place; or, worse yet, jail time. If you happen to receive such a letter accusing you of software license violations, then you’ll want to seek the counsel of a lawyer and the assistance of an IT professional.

How to Prevent Software License Mismanagement From Ruining Your Day
As is the case with the majority of technology-related woes, a proactive approach to managing your software licenses is the best way to prevent this problem. This includes documenting your software licenses. When doing so, be sure to keep information up to date like, how many users you have, who is using it, how many devices the software runs on, and where it is deployed. You’ll also want to track the expiration dates of all of your software licenses, along with the terms and conditions. Plus, be mindful that a typical software license will allow for a single user to install the software on perhaps a few different devices, like your workstation and home PC–which is NOT the same as splitting a single license with two different users.

It’s understandable how easy it is to overlook software licenses. However, software licenses are a necessary part of doing business, allowing for developers to protect their product so they can in turn create better versions of the software you use every day.

To understand the status of your company’s various software licenses, a good first step is to have VentureNet perform a network audit. We’ll be able to investigate the compliance of your software, and take action to make sure that your business is in good standing. For help managing all of your company’s technology needs, call VentureNet today at 214.343.3550.

Common Scenarios Why You Should Be Nervous About Not Backing Up Your Data

Over one-third of businesses don’t have any means of backing up their data. This is a major problem, especially considering how many threats there are that can derail operations. For managed IT providers like us, this is painful, as it’s unfortunate to hear about data disasters that could easily be prevented. We’ll discuss some of the biggest reasons why your business needs data backup and disaster recovery.

Hard Drives Break Easily
The hard drive is the part inside your computer that holds its data, but it is also susceptible to failing for one particular reason: it breaks easily. Consider the fact that the typical hard drive works by spinning a bunch of platters at very high speeds. It’s practically built with the risk of catastrophic breakage. These platters are outfitted with a thin magnetic coat that stores the data itself. A small arm rests over this platter with nothing but a cushion of air to hold it in place. The spinning itself is what keeps these two from colliding. If the head were to touch the platter, well… it’s safe to say that you’ll be wishing you had data backup.

While modern hard disk drives can somewhat bypass these issues and have failsafes built into them, mechanical devices with countless spinning parts should be expected to fail at some point or another. Constant operation will result in wear and tear, and even the most subtle shakes can take their toll on the reliability of the drive. If your data is only located on one drive, all it takes to ruin your day is a bit of bad luck.

User Error is Inevitable
What happens when one of your employees makes an admittedly understandable error and countless troubles follow suit? Perhaps your company uses spreadsheets to keep track of which services each of your clients receive. This template is what’s used for billing purposes. While this is a crude way of doing business at best compared to more recent innovations, if the original copy is lost or the files are changed unexpectedly, you could have a major problem on your hands. If this were to happen when you have data backup, you just need to restore the file from backup and everything would be right as rain.

Ransomware is Tricky and Unpredictable at Best
While the average PC owner understands that they need a firewall and antivirus protection on their computer, commercial-level solutions will simply not do for a business. There are threats out there that can pierce the defenses of the average security protocol. Some of the most renown recent threats include ransomware–malicious programs that encrypt data on your device and only unlock it when a ransom is paid. Cryptolocker and Cryptowall are some of the most notorious types of ransomware out there, and they’re as dangerous as they are crafty. Worst of all is that they are spread through spam and targeted phishing emails, so even some specialized security solutions may not spot them in time. In the event of a ransomware strike, the most practical way to recover is to just restore your data from a time before the ransomware infected your infrastructure.

Not Checking Your Backup
The scariest part of data backup isn’t the thought of not having it, but what would happen if your data backups failed. Frequently testing that your backups work is perhaps the most important part of using data backup and disaster recovery. VentureNet can assist you with the implementation and upkeep of your backup system. To learn more, reach out to us at 214.343.3550.

ALERT: Massive Ransomware Attack is the Biggest Ever

Run your Windows Updates and be very skeptical about opening unsolicited emails. Failure to do so may result in a very dangerous strain of ransomware that could infect your entire network and spread to your clients, partners, and prospects.

Microsoft has even released patches for some older, unsupported versions of Windows to combat the threat that infected PCs all over the world over the weekend.

What’s Going On?
A ransomware worm variant dubbed ‘WannaCry’ struck critical systems all around the world. While the attack has been addressed by Microsoft and halted for the time being, the threat is far from over, especially for users who don’t keep their computers updated.

Discovered early in the morning hours of Friday, May 12, WannaCry spread at a startling rate, reaching victims in 11 countries within its first few hours, and over 45,000 attacks (spread through 99 countries) after a few more hours. By Monday, over 150 countries had been hit by this global cyberattack.

There’s No Specific Target
The victims included many companies that provide utilities, like telecommunications, electrical, and gas companies. Even more frightening, WannaCry caused serious trouble in England’s healthcare systems, leading to massive numbers of non-critical patients being sent home or turned away at hospital doors. Russia found that thousands of its interior ministry computers had been infected. In the United States, the ransomware managed to infect FedEx’s systems, and these are just the big highlights. Businesses everywhere went dark as a result of this attack.

However, WannaCry did not target businesses of any specific industry. This particular ransomware worm is a threat to essentially any PC, old and new.

WannaCry was first discovered by security company Malwarebytes, whose director of malware intelligence, Adam Kujawa, had a few choice words to describe the malware, “The spread is immense. I’ve never seen anything before like this. This is nuts.” This opinion was repeated by many others in the industry.

How Do I Prevent WannaCry?
WannaCry relies on a security vulnerability in Windows. Microsoft deployed a security patch on March 14, so it is critical that users run the update, especially before putting themselves at risk and opening unsolicited emails. Computers that are patched face a significantly smaller risk of getting the ransomware. Key words here; significantly smaller, as in not totally in the clear.

To run your Windows Updates in Windows 10, open up your Start Menu and type “updates” in the search box and choose Check for Updates – system settings from the results. A window titled Windows Update should appear. From there, click the Check for updates button. If it says your device is up to date, you have the latest update. If not, you’ll need to allow your PC to install them.

Evaluating your computer and network security would be a good step in the right direction, as well as educating employees on some basic best practices like not downloading and opening unsolicited attachments.

It’s also critical that your files are backed up securely. If ransomware infects your network, it makes your files inaccessible unless you pay the ransom which only feeds into the problem. Utilizing an offsite backup solution that can easily be restored is the only way to go. If you do not already have a backup/disaster recovery solution in place, contact us about our solution, which we call Keepgoing.biz

I’m Updated, am I Still at Risk?
There is also the risk that WannaCry is still waiting on some systems that have not been used since the attack began, so this initial attack is still far from over. Any PC on your network that gets infected could infect the rest. Plus, even with the patch, a user could still accidentally download an infected file. It’s also possible that those behind WannaCry will devise a workaround to the patch. Therefore, you should always be mindful as you review your incoming email and do your best to protect your network with managed IT security solutions and backing up your files.

Events like these are why we always encourage timely updates to your systems. WannaCry depended on a vulnerability in Windows, and will continue to infect outdated, unpatched PCs to be effective, and so your first defense against it is to make sure yours has the most recent security patches from Microsoft.

As Microsoft’s president and chief legal officer Brad Smith said, “The governments of the world should treat this attack as a wake-up call.”

What If I’ve Been Infected By WannaCry?
Contact us at 214-343-3550 immediately. Under no circumstance should you attempt to pay the ransom.

If you haven’t been targeted, count your blessings. That said, it’s time to start thinking about having your IT managed and maintained to prevent issues like this. Contact VentureNet at 214-343-3550 and ask how we can help prevent business-crippling issues and security threats like WannaCry.

We are celebrating World Password Day!

In an era where compromised accounts are occurring more and more frequently, the need to have secure password practices is more important than ever.

As a Managed Service Provider, part of our commitment to our clients is to help them be as secure as possible. As such, we will be recommending password policies for all network accounts for our clients.

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