Saving time and money continues to be a staple goal for businesses, especially small-medium-sized companies. When thinking of ways businesses can save, many factor in their IT since a lot of their valuable time and money goes to inefficient break-fix strategies. Most organizations rely significantly on technology and the Internet to communicate, process orders and make and receive payments, so it is essential to not only have efficient IT management but to consider how your business can save on such an important department.

This is where partnering with a managed service provider (MSP) comes into play. Hiring an MSP can be a “saving” grace for your company (pun intended.)  Instead of dedicating time, energy and money to dealing with a crisis, you can trust a team of professionals to keep your computers and network secure and running smoothly.

By eliminating the need to respond to a disaster, you will be able to focus your time and energy on the day-to-day running of your business. Knowing your network and data are secure will give you peace-of-mind so you can relax and devote your energy to growing your business, becoming more successful and increasing your profits.

Managed services can produce significant savings for your business, especially when it comes to these four factors:

1.) Saving Money

 MSPs allow a business to maintain its IT environment for a fixed monthly cost. This fee typically covers round-the-clock support, routine maintenance, troubleshooting and repairs as needed. A fixed, consistent expense like this can give your budget some much-needed wiggle room for investment in your business. Use the savings to grow your business, educate your staff and expand your reach. Be able to do the things you really want to do with your business without having to worry about your IT..

2.) Saving Resources

Many businesses have an in-house IT person – the individual who is the most “tech-savvy” and knows the most about how to fix what goes wrong. Though it may not be in their official job description, this employee is the person whom co-workers turn to when tech issues arise. MSPs will take this burden off of your staff. It’s hard to compare to a dedicated team of experts whose sole purpose is to make sure your IT runs smoothly. Your staff will benefit from a smooth-running infrastructure and be able to put 100% into actually doing their job.

3.) Saving Time

It only takes one downtime incident to realize just how vital your IT infrastructure is to your business. MSPs can help to greatly reduce or even eliminate downtime by detecting issues before they arise and potentially affect your productivity. Your MSP administers support on an ongoing basis, meaning you and your staff won’t have to sit around waiting for issues to be resolved. This proactive approach to business continuity will save you time and increase productivity and efficiency.

4.) Saving Your Reputation

“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.” – Warren Buffett. No business wants to be in a position where they let their customers down. Outdated, inefficient or inept technology makes a letdown like this more likely. Lost data, network issues and business downtime can all determine how your customers see you. MSPs make it possible to maintain a more secure IT environment, which contributes to a positive reputation and helps you to gain and maintain a stronger competitive edge.

Your company’s IT environment is critical to the success of your business. Partnering with a managed service provider can help you to maintain an infrastructure that is up-to-date and reliable, so you can focus on what matters most: increasing revenue for your business. Elevated Technologies will work with your company to establish the managed services that your company needs. You handle your business and we’ll handle your IT. Want to know more? Contact us!

Cybersecurity may start with implementing measures like a firewall, antivirus software, two-factor authentication and spam filters, but it doesn’t stop there. Server and network security measures can only go so far. Cybercriminals don’t need to engineer a complex and technical method to gain access to your business’s infrastructure. Sometimes, all they need to do is lure a gullible or distracted employee into clicking on a link or opening an attachment.

Educating your staff on cybersecurity awareness is an essential component of your business’s security. Believe it or not, employee negligence is a primary cause of data breaches and with these breaches costing an average $3.92 million, you simply must factor in the role your employees play. Cybersecurity is most effective when it’s a team effort, especially in the workplace!

Here are four ways your employees could be putting your business at risk and what to do about it:

1.) Poor Password Management

Sometimes, a password is the only door between a cybercriminal and your business’s information. What if that door could be easily broken into or broken down? There are several programs that attackers use to guess or crack passwords. If your employees aren’t implementing the best practices for password management, your business could be in danger of a cyberattack.

Actions such as updating passwords every month, using different passwords for different logins and including a combination of characters in your password are just a few security measures you can enforce today. Make sure your employees are taking password security seriously. Don’t let a weak password be your downfall!

2.) Failure to Recognize Spear-Phishing

Spear-phishing is when a cybercriminal sends fraudulent emails that appear to be from a trusted sender in order to trick targeted individuals into revealing confidential information or performing an action that seems legitimate.

Spear phishing is usually extremely successful because the scammers spend a lot of time researching their target and specially crafting the information they send to them, making it more believable.

Being able to identify these phishing emails is the first line of defense. It’s essential to provide employee training on what to look for in these emails because cybercriminals can easily make them look legit on the surface. Take a look at KnowBe4’s red-flag guide that lays out different aspects of a phishing email to be wary of.

3.) Being Overly Social on Social Media

As mentioned above, cybercriminals do their research. They social engineer their target before an attack to better craft the information they send them. In today’s day and age, social media is a popular tool that attackers use to gather information about their potential victim.

Small details that employees post online – like names of pets or important dates – can be a big hint for cybercriminals, leading to a cracked password.

Now, we’re not saying that your employees should immediately terminate all of their social media accounts, but it is necessary to express the concern of oversharing on social media and consider implementing a social media policy. Keeping accounts private, being wary about friend/follow requests, avoiding oversharing and not mentioning the name of your company are just a few ways your employees can do their part in protecting your business online.

4.) Compromising Sensitive Information

Though most of the time it’s accidental, employees can pose cybersecurity risks by giving unauthorized individuals access to sensitive information. Scenarios like walking away from an unlocked computer/device and/or leaving passwords written down to be easily found pose a huge threat not only to the company but to themselves.

Similarly, employees at businesses that store private client information – like credit card or banking information, social security numbers or account passwords – must be extremely vigilant in protecting it.

Companies should develop strict security policies and communicate them to their employees to keep this sensitive information secure.

Although a weak password or gullible employee may not pose an immediate threat to your company, any security oversight can lead to disastrous results at a moment’s notice. Act holistically when it comes to protecting your business infrastructure, devices and data.

Not only will Elevated Tech confidently secure and monitor your systems to proactively diagnose and patch vulnerabilities before they become a threat, but we will also provide cybersecurity training to you and your employees to better protect your business. Contact us today and we’ll draw up your organizations security game plan. This is a team effort, remember?!

As a business owner concerned with the protection of your company, this question may have crossed your mind. What do hackers gain from doing damage? Is it just about money? Or ego?

Some hackers focus only on gaining notoriety or defeating computer systems. Some even have criminal intentions. Hackers also can get addicted to a way-of-life from the knowledge and self-esteem gained from successful hacking. There are also hackers who just aim to make your life miserable, whereas others just want to be seen/heard. Some common reasons for hacking include bragging rights, revenge or blackmail, curiosity or boredom, challenge, sabotage, theft for financial gain and corporate espionage.

While this post is strictly focused on the intention of malicious hackers, it’s important to note that not all hackers are bad. Take a moment to learn the differences in the three main types of hackers:

Types of Hackers

White Hat Hackers

White hats are dedicated tech-savvies or cybersecurity experts who seek to find vulnerabilities without having any malicious intent. Their goal is to improve website security for all users or coders working in an open-source environment.

Black Hat Hackers

Opposite of white hat, black hat hackers have full malicious intent and are the epitome of what internet users fear in a cybercriminal. Personal gain is the name of the game for these hackers.

Black hat hackers can inflict major damage on both individual computer users and large organizations by stealing personal financial information, compromising the security of major systems, or shutting down or altering the function of websites and networks

Fun fact: The term “black hat hacker” is derived from old Western movies, in which the good guys wore white hats and the bad guys wore black hats.

Grey Hat Hackers

As in life, there are grey areas that are neither black nor white. Grey hats exploit networks and computer systems in the way that black hats do, but do so without any malicious intent, disclosing all loopholes and vulnerabilities to law enforcement agencies or intelligence agencies.

Often, grey hat hackers will look for vulnerabilities in a system without the owner’s permission or knowledge. If issues are found, they will report them to the owner, sometimes requesting a small fee to fix the issue. 

Why Hackers Hack

To Steal/Leak Information

One of the most common reasons for hackers to hack is to steal or leak information. This could be data and information about your customers, your internal employees or even private data specific to your business. These are cases where hackers typically go after big targets to get the most attention.

A lot of times, hackers also steal information to assume your personal identity and then use it for monetary advantage like transferring money, taking a loan, etc. Such incidents have increased after Internet banking and mobile banking have started to become more popular. With the growth of smartphones and mobile devices, the potential for monetary gain through hacking has also increased.

Many big businesses have fallen prey to this – Sony, Target, Yahoo, eBay, Home Depot, Adobe, to just name a few. Even though there has been a lot of media attention about all the above companies being hacked, most businesses still believe this won’t happen to them. By not being proactive about security, you are only putting your data at risk.

To Disrupt Services

At the end of the day, hackers just love to take something down. Hackers have successfully taken down many services by creating bots that bombard a server with traffic, thus, leading to a crash. It is known as a DoS (Denial of Service) attack and can put a company’s website out of service for a while. These days, there’s also DDoS or Distributed Denial of Service attacks that use multiple infected systems to take down a single major system leading to a DoS.

Hackers will also infect a large network by injecting malicious software onto a computer through email, or other ways that will lead to a chain reaction that affects the entire network. Server disruption attacks usually have their own personal motive. Mainly, it is to render a service or website useless. Sometimes it can also be to make a point.

To Steal Money

I bet you knew this one would be on the list!  Many businesses reach out to more trustworthy and professional IT services at the stage when they have already been hacked and a hacker is demanding money. Hackers not only hack businesses and ask for ransom but they also try hacking into regular user accounts and try to take advantage of things like online banking, online retail, etc. where financial transactions are involved.

For Political Motives (Hacktivism)

Many hackers are also driven by a specific purpose. Sometimes, this comes out only when they get caught. Some of them aim to be idealists and take it upon themselves to expose injustice, some have political motives and some target the government. A major example is a hacktivist group called Anonymous who is popular around the world for challenging and taking down many governments. These hackers can target religious groups, governments, movements, etc. to promote a particular agenda.


Hackers are not going away anytime soon. Their motivations include executing their malicious agenda, making a statement or looking for new ways to obtain monetary and personal gain.

It is everyone’s responsibility to be aware of these threats and take necessary precautionary measures to ensure you and your company’s sensitive information is safe.

Here at Elevated Technologies, we offer a range of managed services to help safeguard your business so that you can focus on the success of your company. When you partner with us, we work ‘round the clock to defend your network and devices against malicious threats and abnormal user behavior. Our Security Operations Center (SOC) will work continuously to not only detect but to stop cyber intrusions. Let us worry about your IT so you can worry about your business!

Cybercriminals are always on the prowl for their next victim and tend to go after people who make hacking easy for them. Individuals who aren’t aware of the threats and consequences of these cyber-attacks are only hurting themselves. It is extremely important to know and practice basic cybersecurity to ensure you, your company and sensitive information remain secure.

As mentioned above, hackers like it easy. They prey on people who share too much online, those who are fooled easily and individuals who don’t take the preventative measures to keep their data safe are ideal victims for cybercriminals. Are you one of them?

1.) The Social Butterfly

Let’s be honest: The more you put online, the easier you are to hack. Now, we’re not saying being social on social media is a bad thing, but there are measures you should take to ensure that your private information won’t be used against you. Hackers are known to troll social media for photos, videos and other information that can help them better target you and/or your company in an attack.

Many individuals’ social media accounts are public and regularly share personal information like their location, birthday, relationships, place of work, etc.; hackers are gathering this information and plotting ways to make you their next victim.

Keep your firewall and anti-virus up to date, use strong passwords, and be cautious about who you accept as friends/followers online. If this has got you thinking, go ahead and search yourself online to see what information about yourself is out there.

2.) The Macho Man

“That could NEVER happen to me!” Such a risky sentence, yet so widely spoken. Small and medium-sized business owners tend to think they are invincible when it comes to cyber-attacks; this actually couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, you are at risk every single day that you refuse to upgrade your security systems.

Your business might as well have a red target painted on the front because that is exactly how cybercriminals will perceive you if you have this mindset. Small and medium-sized businesses are becoming a favored target due to a lack of awareness of the threats surrounding them.

3.) The Gullible Gull

 People who are easily fooled are more likely to fall prey to phishing scams, which are by far the top tactic that hackers use to get what they want. Hackers are becoming experts at social engineering and carefully craft their phishing messages to fool more people than ever, even people you would not otherwise consider “gullible.”

When you’re online, don’t click something unless you’re expecting it and you’re positive it’s from someone/something you recognize. Always hover over the link to see if the source is genuine and always call the sender if the email seems suspicious. Repeat after me: Think before you click!

By now, everyone should know that backing up important files is one of the most essential steps a business can take to reduce IT downtime.

Despite this, many businesses don’t take disaster recovery seriously because most don’t know what to back up, how to perform a backup or how to successfully restore files and data.

This is where managed services, specifically managed data protection services, can help.

Improve Disaster Recovery

One of the biggest problems with disaster recovery is a lack of knowledge and expertise. When you put your disaster recovery in the hands of a team or individual without the necessary skill, you run the risk of prolonged downtime when things go south.

Turning to a skilled and trusted partner that provides you with managed data protection services eliminates these problems. They will work with you to determine:

  • What files and data you need to back up
  • How often you need to back up
  • What type of backup best suits each type of data
  • Where you should store your backup files

These service providers will also take the time to perform the most important step in a solid backup and recovery plan: testing. Many businesses that try managing their own backup and recovery find out they did something wrong after disaster strikes; had they regularly performed the right tests, they would have caught these mistakes before it was too late.

Prevent Ransomware Attacks

According to SafeAtLast, the average cost of a ransomware attack on businesses is $133,000.

Once your business is hit by a ransomware attack, your files are locked and inaccessible. There are only two ways to get these files back. One is to pay the ransom. This is not only costly, but there’s also no guarantee that you will get your files back considering cybercriminals aren’t necessarily the most trustworthy individuals. This also opens the door to future attacks because these cybercriminals will now know that you are willing to pay the ransom.

The only other way to deal with these attacks and prevent IT downtime is with a solid backup and recovery strategy.

Managed data protection service providers understand what kind of data these cybercriminals are targeting in ransomware attacks. They can help you make sure that you are taking the steps to protect this data from this type of attack.

The money you spend ensuring that you can successfully recover from a ransomware attack will likely pale in comparison to the cost of the ransom you would pay in an attack.

Other Disasters

Ransomware is not the only area in which a proven disaster recovery plan pays off.

Other types of disasters threaten your data as well. Data loss can occur if you encounter system failures or an unfortunate natural disaster like a fire or flood.

Should any of these events hit your business, you run the risk of data loss. For larger companies, the average cost of IT downtime is $100,000 per hour. This scales proportionately to the size of your organization. However, you can see that no matter how big or small your business is, those costs add up.

Having a partner that specializes in managed data protection services can ensure that your data is backed up safely and properly so that your business is up and running without having to suffer large costs because of downtime.

Even if you have an IT staff that has been handling your backup and recovery, it helps to have an outside expert look at your processes and policies regarding disaster recovery.

Either way, utilizing a managed backup service takes a tedious process out of the hands of your IT staff and frees them up to work on more strategic initiatives that will help your business grow.

At Elevated Tech, our managed data protection service fortifies growing Houston businesses. Whether you have been taking measures to protect the data of your business on your own or your business is currently outpacing its data protection solutions, our data protection services work to optimize the productivity and efficiency of your business. We take the tasks you shouldn’t have to handle off of your hands and ensure that your data stays current and readily-available when you need to retrieve it, no matter the circumstance.

Picture this: an organization’s IT department is overwhelmed with requests and has a hard time solving the issues promptly. On top of that, they’re experiencing quite a bit of network slowness, but the IT staff is so bogged down with other problems that it takes them a while to get everything running efficiently. Sounds frustrating and unproductive, right? That’s where businesses like these start to think about leveraging a managed IT service provider.

By hiring a managed service provider (MSP), businesses save greatly on time and resources while being ensured that certain IT functions are well managed and monitored. In addition to savings, businesses are switching from employing in-house IT departments to partnering with an MSP, because they stay on the cutting-edge of technology. Their presence drives business’ growth by allowing the organization to focus on their business, instead of worrying about the needs of their IT infrastructure.

Around the world, small and medium-sized businesses are partnering with managed service providers to support their growing IT needs, which is driving the expected growth of managed services to $296.38 billion by 2023.

Here are the top 7 reasons why small and medium-sized businesses (SMB) are switching to MSPs:

1.) Provides a Cost-Effective Alternative

For all businesses, one of the most enticing benefits of managed IT services is they avoid expanding their IT staff, which is an expensive endeavor when compared to the fees charged by MSPs for their services. MSPs offer a reasonable, flat monthly rate for their services and unlimited support. For smaller companies, a monthly expense they can plan for lets them create an accurate budget.

2.) Supplements IT Department Limits

Every IT department has its limit, whether it’s time, knowledge or skill. So, for some companies, it isn’t a question of, “Why should we switch to an MSP?”. Instead, it’s a given, since their IT team is overwhelmed with responsibilities and probably not near as certified or experienced with certain IT matters.

3.) Takes Load Off In-House IT Staff

Hiring an MSP can give IT staff the time they need to focus on more pressing in-house projects instead of shuffling between multiple IT responsibilities.

4.) Delivers Top Level Security

No matter the industry or size of your business, security is crucial. One of the primary benefits of an MSP is they specialize in handling a company’s network security, which guarantees businesses the safety of their sensitive data.

5.) Offers a Proactive Approach to IT

Another reason why businesses are switching to an MSP is because these providers take on a proactive approach to IT, ensuring that their network, devices and cloud services are up-to-date in maintenance, security patches and more.

6.) Increases Workplace Productivity

Switching to an MSP can greatly improve productivity within the workplace. With a secure, stable network and fewer help desk tickets, staff and IT departments can do more with their time in the office.

7.) Prevents Costly Downtime and Breaches

Security breaches and extensive downtime can quickly become expensive. An MSP can ensure your business avoids these financial risks by receiving regular updates to their network as well as risk assessments and speedy responses when your network goes offline.

Start Saving & Make the Switch Today!

A managed IT service company is an excellent investment for any company in today’s digital work environment. The business world is constantly evolving, and an IT service provider will ensure that your company has access to state-of-the-art technology. New cyber-threats continue to emerge, and partnering with an MSP plays a key role in protecting your organization.

Interested in learning more about why businesses use an MSP? Contact us today and we can share our extensive, successful experience serving as an MSP to small and medium-sized businesses throughout the Houston area.

Let’s face it: Your mom was (and is) always right. Even as a stubborn teenager, you knew in the back of your head that she probably knew what she was talking about. While those lectures and lessons she endlessly voiced to you throughout your life may have seemed irritating, you look back today and realize your mom was a smart woman! Applying what your mother always said to basic cybersecurity principles is an excellent primer for many companies.

Without some basic cybersecurity common sense, even the best technology in the world can’t keep you from falling victim to a cyber-attack. Cybercriminals want your data, identity, money and more, and as Mom will tell you, money doesn’t grow on trees! Keep these basic cybersecurity principles in mind:

Don’t Talk to Strangers.

We all want to believe that everyone is good and trustworthy, but when we do, it makes us vulnerable. Cybercriminals use social engineering as an online weapon to take advantage of this trust. To combat cyber threats, never open attachments or click on links from people you don’t know. When a new email appears in your inbox and you don’t recognize the address, realize that by simply opening it or its attachment, these criminals can obtain sensitive information such as usernames, passwords, records, money, social security numbers, credit card details and bank information. Your identity, your data and your money are at stake.

Also, don’t give out your passwords or account information to anyone— not even to your mom!

You Don’t Know Where That’s Been!

Do not pick up an unknown USB drive and stick it into your computer. Whether you find one in a parking lot, an old desk or are just handed one unexpectedly, don’t stick it where it doesn’t belong. It could be full of viruses and infect your computer. USB drives are small and have a high capacity for storing data, so they are especially involved in data theft and breaches. Don’t share your USB or stick someone else’s in your computer. As mom always said: better safe than sorry!

Don’t Touch That! You’ll Pick Up a Virus.

It’s essential to be cautious when browsing the web, downloading files and opening links or attachments to avoid obtaining a virus. Never download files, attachments, etc. if it seems untrustworthy or is unexpected. Viruses are programmed to harm your computer by damaging programs, deleting files and destroying the hard drive. Even less significant viruses can disrupt your system’s performance, depleting computer memory and causing frequent computer crashes. Make sure you’re implementing anti-virus software and keeping it up-to-date.

There are Consequences for your Actions.

No child or teenager ever wanted to hear this saying. Life was new and exciting and the last thing a teenager wanted to think about was what the consequences might be for their actions. Young companies can have a similar mentality of not wanting to think about their choices and the consequences those choices have. In cybersecurity, the choice to not hire an MSP, to not fund employee cybersecurity training, etc. can have dire and expensive consequences. Companies that choose to be prepared can respond quickly and efficiently to cyber-attacks, which can save millions.

Mom knew that life choices had consequences and in a business context we would be ahead if we thought more about the consequences for cyber risk.

Clean Up After Yourself.

Clean up your computer. When software is no longer supported, it’s not merely useless; keeping outdated software on your computer is dangerous. When companies stop releasing security patches and end support for a product, hackers jump at the opportunity to target these unpatched vulnerabilities and steal, expose, or hold data for ransom. The vulnerabilities that outdated, end-of-life software expose are low hanging fruit for cybercriminals. Go clean your computer!

If You Don’t Try, You Won’t Succeed.

Cybersecurity is a daunting area that can seem like a black hole. Some companies want to pretend it’s not important, so they don’t have to put the time and effort into a comprehensive response plan or an updated password policy. But if you don’t try, you will never get better at it. If you don’t attempt to tackle the hard issues, time could run out and make those issues your highest priority. By not trying at all, a company is instantly failing.

Keeping these basic cybersecurity principles in mind will help better protect you and your business from any potential cyber risks. Taking all the right steps to protect your business can seem daunting when tackled on your own. In this situation, we will be your mom and do your dirty laundry for you! Let Elevated Technologies handle your IT so that you can take advantage of the newfound productivity, efficiency and security and start expanding your business.

It’s no surprise that online shopping continues to grow in popularity every year. It’s convenient and easy, making it a common way for busy individuals to get their shopping done, especially during the holiday season. Unfortunately, though, cybercriminals are known to take advantage of these online shoppers during the holiday season. If you’re not cautious while online shopping this holiday season, you could end up having to deal with malware, identity theft or other cybercrimes that will be sure to take the holly jolly out of your holiday season.

Fortunately, many cyber-threats are avoidable. When shopping in person, we make it a habit to follow simple measures to protect ourselves and belongings like locking the car, being aware of your surroundings and putting away your cash and cards immediately after a purchase. It’s just as important to implement online security habits as they will protect you, your purchases and your identity when you’re shopping online this holiday season and year-round.

Here are a few online purchasing tips to keep in mind this upcoming holiday season:

1.) Avoid Public Computers and Public Wi-Fi

Public computers and Wi-Fi pose a serious threat to anyone who has access. Hackers can easily gain access to the same unsecured network you’re on and inject your device with malware or steal your information by positioning himself between you and the connection point. Treat all Wi-Fi hotspots and public computers as compromised, even if they appear to be safe. It’s also a good idea to set your devices to “ask” before joining a new wireless network so you don’t unknowingly connect to an insecure or fraudulent network.

2.) Secure Your Computer and Devices

Make sure you’re keeping your operating system, software and/or apps updated on all of your computers and devices. Use up-to-date antivirus and make sure it is receiving updates. You would never forgive yourself if your information was compromised due to you looking over a simple software update.

3.) Implement Strong Password Protection

The use of a strong, unique password is one of the simplest and most essential steps one can take into securing their computer, device or online accounts. When online shopping, many merchants urge you to create an account with them. In some cases, this is necessary, especially if you frequent the site. Make sure you are using unique passwords for each account; having separate passwords for each account helps to veer cybercriminals away. At minimum, have different passwords for your work and personal accounts and make sure that your sensitive accounts have the strongest passwords. Remember to never share your passwords and to use two-factor authentication (2FA) when possible.

4.) Know Your Online Merchants

Limit your online shopping to companies you know and trust. If a merchant seems questionable, check with the Better Business Bureau or the Federal Trade Commission. Confirm the seller’s physical address, contact information and return policy before adding anything to your cart. It’s never a bad idea to look up reviews on review sites like Trust Pilot or Google My Business to verify that the merchant and products are legit. Make sure you are always directly typing in a trusted URL into the address bar instead of clicking a link from an email or other suspicious communication.

5.) Beware of Seasonal Scams

If it looks too good to be true, it most likely is! Don’t be fooled by the lure of great discounts by less-than-reputable websites or fake companies. Cybercriminals are also using fake package tracking emails, fake e-cards, fake charity donation scams and emails asking to confirm purchasing details. Use known and trusted URLs instead of clicking directly on links.

6.) Pay Online with One Credit Card

A safer way to shop on the Internet is to pay with a credit card rather than a debit card. Debit cards do not have the same consumer protections as credit cards. Credit cards are protected by the Fair Credit Billing Act and may limit your liability if your information was used improperly. By using one credit card, with a lower balance, for all of your online shopping you also limit the potential for financial fraud to affect all of your accounts. Always check your statements regularly and carefully, though.

7.) Look for “https” in the URL

The “s” in “https” stands for “secure” and specifies that the communication with the website is encrypted. This means that the information you give to the site is transmitted safely to the merchant without a cybercriminal’s interference.

8.) Avoid Pop-ups

Do not respond to pop-ups, no matter how good the offer might seem. Just close them; don’t click on the window, or call the phone numbers. Similarly, don’t respond to pop-ups saying you need to buy antivirus software or software to “clean your infected computer.” These are all scams!

9.) Don’t Auto-save Your Personal Information

When purchasing online, you will likely be given the option to save the information you’ve inputted (like your shipping address, personal information and card details) to the website for future “faster checkouts.” Consider if the convenience is worth the risk. The inconvenience of having to reenter your information is insignificant compared to the amount of time and effort you would spend trying to repair the loss of your stolen information.

10.) Review Privacy Policies

Review the privacy policy for the website/merchant you are visiting. Know what information the merchant is collecting about you, how it will be stored, how it will be used, and if it will be shared with others

Follow these tips to help minimize your risk of falling victim to a cyber-attack this holiday season. Remember to keep your devices updated, avoid unsecured networks, don’t auto-save your information and watch out for sketchy emails, links, URLs and pop-ups. Use your common sense and stay safe! Happy holidays and happy shopping!

What is Malware?

Malicious + Software = Malware

Put simply, malware is any piece of software that was written with the intent of disabling or damaging devices, stealing data, and generally causing a mess without the owner’s knowledge. Ransomware, viruses, spyware and Trojans are just a few common types of malware designed to infiltrate computers.

As malware attacks continue to grow in both frequency and sophistication, it is becoming increasingly difficult for enterprises to defend against them; your defense starts with knowing what to look out for; becoming familiar with the common types of malware and the necessary steps to take to avoid malware is critical in keeping malware out of your life.

Types of Malware

Ransomware– This kind of malware typically locks you out of your computer and files, threatening to erase everything unless you pay a ransom.

Adware – Adware (Advertising-supported + Software) is seen in those irritating pop-ups and advertisements, often promoting free versions of software. Most adware is not dangerous. However, it could contain spyware which is used to track user activity and steal private information.

Spyware – Spyware is exactly what it sounds like: Malware designed to spy on you. It hides in the background tracking and keeping tabs on your online activity, including your passwords, credit card numbers, browsing habits and more.

Viruses – A computer virus is a lot like a human viral condition. It is capable of replicating itself and spreading to other files or programs which can then spread to other computers. They can spread uncontrollably, damaging a system’s core functionality and deleting or corrupting files. They usually appear as an executable file (.exe.)

Worms – Worms infect an entire network of devices by spreading copies of itself from computer to computer. Worms often use parts of an operating system that are automatic and invisible to the user. 

Trojans – A Trojan is a type of malware that disguises itself as a legitimate file or program that tricks users into downloading malware. The most dangerous types of Trojans are the programs that claim to rid your system of viruses but end up introducing your computer to a host of infections and other forms of malware.

Bots – Bots or Botnets are networks of infected computers that are made to work together under the control of an attacker

How to Avoid Malware

The biggest security risk is always the user. Yep, you read that right. Our curiosity can quickly lead us down virtual alleys that may not seem dark and scary, but actually have something malicious hiding around the corner. Malware can generally be easily avoided; all it takes is a little common sense and proactivity.

Avoid suspicious links and emails – When you receive an unsolicited or suspicious-looking link or email, avoid it. Many times these are phishing emails intended to appear legitimate to trick users into downloading malware or revealing sensitive information.

Avoid suspicious websites – Malware attackers often spoof popular websites, so if you notice anything odd or suspicious on a website (like the URL, website features, web design, etc.) be cautious and don’t enter any sensitive data. To ensure that a website you’re visiting is authentic, read the URL carefully and check that the site uses HTTPS (the ‘s’ in HTTPS stands for ‘secure’ so that users know the website encrypts the user’s data.)

Ensure that all security patches and updates are installed – There’s a reason why our computers and phones send us mandatory notifications to inform us when there’s a new software update; operating systems and software are continually being refined and improved and when they are, it better protects and detects against any threats.

Turn on your firewall – Your firewall is the set of rules that determines the information that can access your PC, so you want to make sure that it is correctly configured and turned on at all times.

Review software carefully before downloading – Before installing anything new on a computer or device, including free or trial versions of software, look into the program and its reviews to ensure legitimacy.

Install an anti-virus/anti-malware software – Using anti-virus programs that constantly watch over your system will safeguard against common malware and security risks. With anti-virus software, many infiltrations are blocked and prevented before they happen. Anti-virus software won’t detect every single piece of malware that is out there, but it is a useful standard defense against common malware attacks.

What to Do if Malware Gets on YOUR Computer

Take quick action if you suspect there is malware on your computer. Stop using it and unplug it from your network and its power supply. If your computer is not accessible to you, it’s inaccessible to a hacker, too.

Contact your trusted IT professional and let them know about the situation. They may want to reinstall your computer’s operating system and all of the software you use. They’ll also give you advice on the best way to open files on your computer that may still be infected.

With so many different forms of malware out there, you may be nervous about your computer getting infected. Having an IT professional who knows how to combat malware and protect your sensitive data is essential for you and your company. Here at Elevated Technologies, we can handle your entire IT, ensuring the highest level of protection through consistent maintenance, monitoring and updating. Contact us today to shield your company from invasive malware.

October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, so it’s a great time to learn about what you can do to protect yourself and your business from cyber threats of any and every kind.

In our technologically advancing society, cybercrimes and intrusions are becoming increasingly sophisticated. Prevention starts with every user of a connected device to be educated and aware.

What everyone needs to understand is that you are an attractive target for cybercriminals. If you have money (any amount, really), data (emails, documents, passwords, usernames) or a place to work, you’re a target. It’s that simple. Don’t ever think it won’t happen to you, because it most definitely can.

You’ll be surprised how easy it is to better protect yourself and your data from cybercrime. All it takes is some time educating yourself and adjusting a few habits in your routine. Here are 20 cybersecurity tips everyone should apply to improve their online safety:

Tip #1: Avoid Public Wi-Fi

Be cautious when connected to public Wi-Fi. If you have to connect, make sure not to type out any personal information, especially credit card or bank account information. Free Public Wi-Fi is all around us, making it easy for hackers to get unrestricted access to unsecured devices on the same network. Your best bet is to avoid it altogether, if possible.

Tip #2: Update

Always keep everything up to date to ensure the latest security. To most, software updates may not seem that important but putting off these updates makes the door to your private information easier for hackers to open.

Tip #3: Be Safe Online Shopping

Never online shop from a device that isn’t yours or an unsecured network you don’t trust. While online shopping is convenient, it’s also easier for a cybercriminal to get their hands on your credit card information if you aren’t smart about it. When shopping online, follow these simple steps to ensure security:

  • Use a safe, secure and trusted network
  • Implement strong passwords
  • Be picky about which websites you shop at (https vs http, not providing info about the company, etc.)
  • Don’t save your card information in an online shopping account
  • Verify your account activity and transactions regularly

Tip #4: USBe Careful

Be cautious about what you plug into your computer. Never use a USB or external hard-drive from an unknown source. It could be infected with malware, viruses, etc.

Tip #5: Keep Up With Your Bank Activity

Check your bank and credit/debit card activity regularly to confirm transactions and monitor for any suspicious activity. Frequently checking activity and statements will better ensure that no fraudulent transactions have been made. Online banking makes it easier and faster to monitor your account, so there’s no reason you should not be keeping up with your activity. The sooner you can detect any sketchy activity, the easier it should be to fix it.

Tip #6: Check for the ‘S’

How can you tell if a website can securely handle your data? Check for the ‘s’ in https. This added ‘s’ stands for ‘secure.’ Https encrypts the data you put on the website and the data you get from it so that no one can intrude or tamper with the data flow. If a website starts with http instead of https, don’t give them any personal information and get off the site to stay safe.

Tip #7: Don’t Mindlessly Click

Pay attention to what you’re clicking on! Nowadays, humans are so distracted by the Internet and our devices, sometimes mindlessly clicking on things that might not be as secure as it looks. It only takes one misfortunate click to end up with a malware infection. Remember to avoid clicking on:

  • Short links with a questionable destination
  • Links or attachments in emails that you never expected (even if it seems urgent)
  • Misleading pop-ups on web pages

Tip #8: Be Aware of Malvertising

Malvertising is a tactic where hackers inject malicious code or malware-filled ads onto legit online advertising networks and websites. When you see ads on your favorite websites, be wary. Just one out of the many ads on the site could be infected, searching your device for vulnerabilities and potentially leaving your computer with a serious infection. Use an ad-blocker and a reliable antivirus to safeguard your device. If you see an ad you feel tempted to click on, try typing in the website on another tab yourself, instead of clicking on what could be an infected advertisement.

Tip #9: Cover Your Cam

Cover your computer or laptop’s webcam when you’re not using it. It may seem silly, but you never know who’s watching you. There have been many instances where people’s computers/laptops have been hacked with intent to spy. These criminals will watch and/or listen to what you do in your personal space. While it may seem unreasonable to most, it’s always a good idea to cover your webcam when not in use. Better safe than sorry, right?

Tip #10: Think Again Before You Accept That Friend Request

Cybercriminals often create fake profiles to befriend you and get you to share confidential information about you or your company. They will also have access to whatever personal information you share with your friends, like your workplace, where you live, where you went to school, etc. which can make it easier for them to crack your passwords. It’s best not to accept friend requests from people you don’t know in real life.

Tip #11: Remove That App

Device manufacturers love to stuff your brand new device full of “free” applications, but clutter is the enemy of a speedy computer or device; outdated apps are a breeding ground for hackers. So, if you’re not using them regularly, it’s best to remove it completely. This way you don’t have it sucking up processing speed AND leaving the door open to hackers and malware.

Tip #12: Stop Saving Your Card Details

Don’t be lazy! Stop saving your credit or debit card information on online accounts, ESPECIALLY untrustworthy ones. If you want to buy something online, take the few extra seconds to fill out your card details every time. It may seem like a pain in the…fingertips…but card fraud is 100 times more of a pain!

Tip #13: Be Wary During Sports Seasons

Different sports seasons and events are a prime opportunity for cyber attackers. These scammers will use the hype to their advantage and attempt to expose sports fans to cyber risks. With football and basketball season in full swing, be cautious of links you click on, sporting apps you download, where you give your credentials to and especially of where you place your sporting bets.

Tip #14: Alert Yourself

Set up withdrawal and transaction alerts for your bank accounts. Having these notifications will allow you to spot and report fraudulent activity before the money has already been siphoned into a cybercriminal’s hands.

Tip #15: Use Two-Factor Authentication (2FA)

Require 2FA to access your online banking accounts. Most banks have this as a security setting for your account. This will prevent a hacker from accessing your account and obtaining your information EVEN IF they crack your password.

Tip #16: Stop Reusing Your Passwords

No, seriously. STOP. Let’s say a hacker cracks your Facebook password. Darn, right? Guess you have to make a new Facebook account. No. Think for a second: Are you using that same password on any other accounts? How many accounts would that hacker be able to access? What information of yours could be stolen or compromised? Is it the same password as your bank accounts? Bet I made you worry there for a second.

It may seem inconvenient to have to keep up with different passwords for all of your accounts, but it will be even more of an inconvenience when you wake up one morning to multiple of your accounts in jeopardy.

Tip #17: Pay Attention to Permission

Not only should you be careful about what apps you install on your devices and where you download them from, but you should pay attention to what permissions these apps ask for. Don’t mindlessly click accept when a weather app asks for permission to access your camera roll. That doesn’t add up, does it?

Tip #18: Lock Your Device

Never leave your smartphone or any of your devices unattended without a security passcode in place. Leaving your devices unlocked leaves all of your information available to whoever walks past. It’s a good idea to activate your device to auto-lock the screen after a short period of inactivity.

Locking your phone or device is one of the most simple security measures, yet many don’t utilize a screen lock. Nowadays, devices have fingerprint and face authentication to unlock your screen, making it more effortless than ever; there is no excuse to not have a passcode or some form of authentication in place. It’s not worth the risk.

Tip #19: Back it Up

Back up NOW. Not just your computer but your phone and any other devices you have. Make sure you are implementing automatic back-ups for the best protection of your information and data. You might not think you’ll ever be in the situation where you’ll have to retrieve your data from a back-up, but hey, IT happens.

Tip #20: Be a Little Paranoid

Yes, I said it. It is okay to be a little paranoid and suspicious. Being aware of what’s going on online can help keep you safe from compromise. Follow these last simple tips to live by online:

  • If it sounds too good to be true, it’s probably not true
  • If it looks fishy, stay away
  • If someone asks for your confidential data, don’t give it to them unless they are a trusted source

There are plenty more cybersecurity tips and advice to keep you better protected from cyber threats. Applying what you’ve read here is just the start. You should constantly be educating yourself on cybersecurity, as there are always new scams and tactics these cybercriminals use. It’s a scary world we live in, but as long as you stay aware and practice cybersecurity, you’ll be better off than the majority.

If your business needs better IT support and data protection, contact us today!