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True North Networks has been serving the Swanzey area since 2002, providing IT Support such as technical helpdesk support, computer support, and consulting to small and medium-sized businesses.

Ransomware Beware


Ransomware is a hot topic in the business world today. Organizations continue to fall victim to hackers that send unsolicited phishing emails to employees that result in all files the employee has access to being copied, encrypted, and the original copy being deleted. As a result, the only way to get the data back is to pay the ransom, or at least that’s what the hacker claims. There’s no guarantee the data will ever be unencrypted, and there’s no guarantee the hacker will not ask for more money once the first ransom is paid.

Some companies rely on their backups to overcome ransomware attacks. If the data is backed up, the last backup can restore the data back to its previous state. That can solve the problem, but every time there is another ransomware attack, companies are just relying on their backups to save their data. This is just a band aid type of fix.

So how do you reduce your chances of a ransomware attack?

There are two ways malicious actors are getting access with phishing:

  1. Through a link that sends the employee to a malicious page that requires credentials for login. The login page is masked with a legitimate website skin to make the login page look real. On that page credentials are submitted from the user over HTTP and are accessible to the email sender. Once the malicious actor has credentials, they log in and upload the encryption software and it starts the copying and encryption process.
  2. Through a file attachment that when downloaded, it starts the copying and encryption process.

Let’s focus on Option 1 – The Link

If you train your employees to follow these basic checks, you will drastically decrease the chances of falling victim to ransomware.

  1. If the URL is http, do not enter your credentials and delete the email.
  2. Hover over the hyperlink in the email and look at the URL displayed for that link in the bottom left hand side of the email window. If the URL is not the same as the normal URL then it is a phishing attempt.
  3. Although not the best or recommended practice, you can copy the link from the hyperlink and paste it in the browser to see if it is legitimate.

Unfortunately, employee error is not bullet proof, so how do you protect from ransomware if someone gets access to your environment? Stay tuned for the next blog where I discuss, “How to set up access control permissions to your sensitive data”!







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How COVID-19 is Impacting the Cyber Security Framework of Businesses


“Panic won’t get you through this, a clear head will.”

– Steve Morgan, Editor-in-Chief

Northport, N.Y. – Mar. 23, 2020

Founders and CEOs of U.S. businesses are paddling through an economic and workforce sea change. Robert Herjavec, a Shark on ABC’s Shark Tank and CEO at Herjavec Group, has brutally honest and compassionate words of wisdom for anyone that will listen.

How long can my business survive with our current cash reserve? Are we prepared to support and secure a 100 percent remote workforce?

We spoke to Herjavec about the grim reality of how the Coronavirus outbreak is affecting U.S. entrepreneurs, and what they should do — from an emotional standpoint, and technology-wise.

“Don’t Panic” is Herjavec’s overriding message. That doesn’t mean there isn’t a reason to worry. The truth is that employers are faced with the very real prospect of their businesses drying up quickly and layoffs.


Every company is different, and Herjavec doesn’t have a magic answer for anyone of them. But he does offer up a message for the psyche that can make a big difference — perhaps even the difference between going out of business and surviving: “Panic won’t get you through this, but a clear head will.”

If you can’t eliminate the panic, then limit it, advises Herjavec.

“Start to control the things you can. The biggest thing you can control is yourself. Limit the amount of negative news you are taking in.”

An equally important message from Herjavec to entrepreneurs is a sobering one — and it’s best received in a calm state of mind. He says right now it’s about survival for many businesses, especially smaller ones with little to no financial cushion. “Do what you can to stay in business.” He says that federal aid will take a little while to reach those in need, and you can’t bring a company back from the dead.

Our discussion with Herjavec is good for the psyche in more ways than one. He has a couple of quick stories that will make you laugh. Have you heard the one about the guy who was so lonely that he intentionally clicked on a phishing email from Apple tech support? Or the one about Herjavec getting pulled over by the police — while he was driving a golf cart? Listen here.

We all need to remember who we are, at our core. Herjavec reminds us. “Our primary baseline is hope. People are going to dream again and build and have hope.” There will be light at the end of the tunnel. Entrepreneurs never die, they start up again.

On the podcast interview, Herjavec has pointers on cybersecurity for newbies to the home work scene. His firm provides this advice for COVID-19 and secure remote access communications.

The Shark has generously agreed to give our listeners some more of his time. Stay tuned. We’ll be back with another discussion.









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Here’s what to look for in a work-from-home VPN


Virtual private networks, also known as VPNs, provide people who work from home extra online protection from hackers. The software creates a secure connection with another network and then encrypts traffic between those two points.

With many office workers and students required to “shelter in place” because of the coronavirus pandemic, VPNs are in much greater demand these days. But choosing the correct one can be complicated.

Many large employers provide laptops loaded with VPNs, which they pay for. There are also dozens of VPN services people can subscribe to on their own for around $10 per month.

But there are also a number of free services, which often come with a cost: Users give up some of their personal data.

“The great majority of free VPNs make money from intrusive advertising and selling your browsing data,” Simon Migliano, head of research at, a privacy research and VPN review site, tells Fortune. “Ironically, your privacy can be impacted more by using a free VPN than by using nothing at all.”

What to look for when shopping for a VPN

Experts say the choice of a VPN should be based on when, why, and where it will be used. Many VPNs perform well for one or two specific purposes, such as privacy, streaming, gaming, or accessing material in a country where the Internet is censored.

Robert Siciliano, CEO of security education company, says it’s okay to download certain free VPNs that also offer a paid version. Examples include TunnelBear and Windscribe.

“They’re usually a little bit slower,” he tells Fortune about the free VPNs. “However by downloading the free version, one can get a general idea if they enjoy the product. Additionally once a user downloads the free version, after a short period of time they often receive multiple offers at a discount.”

Migliano, from, recommends that people avoid simply searching Apple’s and Google’s app stores for a VPN without doing prior research. He says app stores feature a “minefield of highly risky free apps” in their top search results.

“Instead, try Googling around, reading review sites, and getting an idea of who the established brands are,” he says.

He also recommends signing up on a highly respected VPN provider’s website and following its link to download an app. In that way, users can bypass the dodgy rivals in app stores. Furthermore, legitimate companies will have a policy that explains how they handle personal data. In some cases, the policies are quite readable, unlike many privacy policies online.

Bill Conner, CEO at SonicWall, a network security company, says smaller companies that typically haven’t had a need are now clamoring to set up VPNs because their workers are at home and need to access confidential company information.

“The mobile workforce is increasing, leaving many organizations scrambling for virtual private network licenses to ensure employees’ company-owned and personal tech products are secure,” he tells Fortune.

The stakes in choosing a VPN are high. An investigation by Buzzfeed News earlier this month found that a number of free VPN apps from analytics company Sensor Tower had been quietly collecting user data.

Those apps, including Free and Unlimited VPN and Luna VPN—were recently available for download in the Google Play store. Luna VPN is still available in Apple’s App Store.

The apps required users to install a root certificate, which enables the app maker to essentially follow users as they browse the Internet. A spokesperson tells BuzzFeed News the company collects only anonymized information about how these apps are used, however experts say the report is another example of why it’s important to do research before choosing a VPN.

The top reasons for using a VPN

As of January 2020, as many as 31% of Internet users worldwide use a free or paid VPN, according to While growth has been slow but steady, adoption doubled last year to 7% from 3.5% in 2018.

Nearly one-quarter of VPN users in the U.S. and the U.K. also rely on a VPN to access streaming content that could be restricted in their countries owing to licensing agreements. (For instance, Americans in the U.K. who want to watch the latest episode of Saturday Night Live would need to use a VPN, since they’re outside the U.S.)

Failing to install a VPN has risks. With more people now working from home, there’s an opportunity for “wardriving,” a cybersecurity term for people who drive around and look for vulnerable Wi-Fi networks to hack.

“To a wardriver, an apartment block in a nice part of town now represents dozens of opportunities to access the data of residents working from home with potentially valuable data,” Migliano, from, says. “Again, anyone using a VPN would be protected in such a scenario.”
















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Core Internet players will 'easily absorb' COVID-19-induced traffic surge, Internet Society says


Amid lockdowns, school closures and an influx of at-home workers as part of efforts to control the spread of COVID-19, questions are swirling about whether the world's Internet infrastructure will buckle under the stress of the anticipated surge in data usage.

While the impact and effects of those spikes will vary by region and by individual ISPs, one leading industry organization believes that the Internet core infrastructure is positioned to cope with what's to come.

"Many are wondering if the Internet can handle the strain of rapid traffic growth and increased latency," David Belson, senior director of Internet research and analysis at The Internet Society, wrote in this blog post. "Will it cause a catastrophic failure of the Internet? The answer: not likely."

"Core Internet infrastructure providers should be able to easily absorb the increase in traffic and demand, especially if the growth is gradual over a period of days, weeks, or months," Belson added. He noted that cloud infrastructures should have sufficient additional compute, storage and bandwidth capacity "to scale their systems as necessary."

While that view is largely centered on content delivery infrastructure players such as Akamai and Google, Belson adds that Internet Exchange Points will also help keep traffic local and the overall load in check.

But the "tools themselves" represent the more likely place for failure, he added, pointing to recent problems in China where streaming services and apps such as Baidu's iQivi, DingTalk (a videoconferencing service) and WeChat experienced crashes due to increased traffic following the spread of COVID-19.

ISP action
Meanwhile, closer to home (and the business), cable operators and telcos are also confident they can handle the coming load or have updated their individual services or policies to help prepare for it.

"Our network is built to sustain maximum capacity during peak usage, which is typically in the evenings, so a surge during the day would be well within our capabilities to manage," said an official with Charter Communications, which completed its DOCSIS 3.1 network upgrade more than a year ago. "We also offer a low-cost, high-speed broadband program for low income households to help them get online. Charter continues to closely monitor the situation and has business and workforce continuity plans in place and will adjust these plans as appropriate to best serve all our customers."

Update: Charter announced Friday that, starting March 16, it will commit over the following 60 days to offer free broadband and Wi-Fi access up to 100 Mbit/s to homes with students without a broadband subscription from the MSO (Charter will also waive install fees for new student households); to partner with schools about tools for remote learning; and open up Wi-Fi hotspots in its footprint for public use. Charter, which does not cap its residential broadband service, added it will continue to offer Spectrum Internet Assist, a low-cost broadband program delivering speeds up to 30 Mbit/s downstream.

Meanwhile, Comcast, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, announced on Thursday that qualifying families can sign up for 60 days of complementary Internet Essentials service, an offering tailored for low-income households that regularly sells for $9.95 per month. Comcast also upgraded the speeds of Internet Essentials from 15 Mbit/s down and 2 Mbit/s up, to 25 Mbit/s down and 3 Mbit/s up on a going forward basis. That move also enables Internet Essentials to match the FCC's current speed definition of "broadband." Like Charter, Comcast has also completed its D3.1 network upgrade, enabling downstream speeds up to 1 Gbit/s.

Looking beyond the individual activities of cable operators, the NCTA–The Internet & Television Association, announced this week that, so far, its members in local areas most affected by the COVID-19 outbreak "have reported modest, but manageable changes in consumer Internet usage."

"We remain vigilant in monitoring and managing network performance around the clock and are confident that our networks will perform well in adapting to any changes in consumer behavior that may result as a consequence of a community's response to COVID-19," the organization added.

On the telco side, AT&T has also prepared for an expected surge in usage, announcing Thursday that it is waiving Internet data overages for customers on usage-based service plans and that it will continue to offer Access from AT&T, a service for qualified low-income households delivering up to 10 Mbit/s, for $10 per month.

As reported by Light Reading on Thursday, Verizon said it has increased network spending for 2020 by about $500 million – to a range of $17.5 billion to $18.5 billion versus earlier guidance of $17 billion to $18 billion, partly in response to the expected effects of COVID-19.

More feedback sought
According to Multichannel News, a dozen Democratic House members have contacted the CEOs of several major service providers (including AT&T, Comcast, T-Mobile, CenturyLink, Altice USA, Verizon and Frontier Communications) to explain how they are preparing to deal with possible closures and disruptions related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

That inquiry included a focus on millions of school-aged children without access to home broadband, how the service providers are preparing for a possible increase in customer calls, and how a shift from commercial traffic to more residential traffic over a long period could strain networks.

Additionally, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai spoke with broadband providers and trade groups on Thursday about plans related to the COVID-19 pandemic, including an expansion of discounted service for low-income people and the easing of data limits, according to Axios. The FCC is expected to share more details today, the report said.



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Hackers are using coronavirus concerns to trick you, cybersecurity pros warn


Hackers and cybercriminals have been leveraging the hype and fear connected with the growing COVID-19 pandemic as a tool to steal passwords and data.

Coronavirus-themed domain registrations are 50% more likely to be from malicious actors, Check Point Software Technologies Ltd. CHKP-2.93% found in a study. Since that report was released last week, there have been some high-profile examples, most notably an attack aimed at a popular interactive COVID-19 tracking map maintained by Johns Hopkins University.

Noted security blogger Brian Krebs reported Thursday that the map has been targeted by hackers who are selling malware claiming to compromise the map and infect users. Johns Hopkins spokeswoman Jill Rosen said the university is aware of the malware that impersonates its COVID-19 site, and warned users to only trust the maps at its own site and one maintained by ArcGIS. The malware requires users to download software to generate the fake map, Rosen told MarketWatch.

“If you receive an email containing a link to download such an item or come across the code for the malicious app please report it immediately to the Esri incident response team through ArcGIS Trust Center security concern page,” Rosen said in a statement.

Just as doctors say frequent hand-washing and respiratory hygiene is the best defense against the coronavirus, cybersecurity professionals stress that computer users need to be more wary of what they click, such as not downloading an email attachment from an unknown source, and other tips offered by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.

These ploys of tricking computer users to download malware by tapping into fear and anxiety are as old as the internet, said Charles Poff, chief information security officer at SailPoint Technologies Holdings Inc. SAIL-21%  

“Despite international efforts to quell the virus, the World Health Organization recently classified this as a global pandemic; online scammers are trying to exploit this uncertainty through phishing attempts and bunk domain names,” Poff said.

“An email seemingly from the CDC is trying to lure vulnerable people into clicking links to learn more about the virus but ultimately leading them astray,” Poff said. “Not only am I recommending people to be cautious about opening email and files received from unknown senders, but also to beware of look-alike domains that are phony websites.”

SailPoint noted that students and staff from universities that were canceling classes were also falling prey to hackers. Discovered by San Francisco-based Abnormal Security, one attack uses an email that looks like it is coming from the school’s “health team” leading to a fake login page that tries to steal the victim’s credentials.

Similarly, Proofpoint Inc. PFPT+3.64%  has found attacks using emails promising coronavirus cures, or spoofing the World Health Organization.

Check Point researchers said Thursday that they found hackers based in China have been using rich text format, or RTF, coronavirus warnings against public-sector workers in Mongolia. If a target opens the RTF document, it attacks Microsoft Corp.’s MSFT-14.74%  Word application, and seeks to take screenshots, list files and directories and download files.

“In this campaign, we observed the latest iteration of what seems to be a long-running Chinese- based operation against a variety of governments and organizations worldwide,” Check Point researchers wrote. “This specific campaign was leveraging the COVID-19 pandemic to lure victims to trigger the infection chain.”

“The full intention of this Chinese [advanced persistent threat] group is still a mystery, but they are here to stay; updating their tools and it seems they will do whatever it takes to attract victims to their network,” the researchers wrote.

“We have observed espionage actors from China, North Korea and Russia exploit this topic in spear phishing campaigns,” Ben Read, senior manager of intelligence analysis at FireEye Inc. FEYE-18.98% wrote in emailed comments.

Read said that hackers based in China have tried to attack victims in Vietnam, the Philippines and Taiwan with lures using “legitimate statements by political leaders or authentic advice for those worried about the disease, likely taken from public sources” in late February and early March.

Also Read said “TEMP.Armageddon, an espionage group that acts in support of Russian interests, sent a spear phish with a malicious document themed around the coronavirus to Ukrainian entities,” and that North Korea hackers have also sent “a Korean Language lure titled ‘Coronavirus Correspondence’” to South Korean victims.

“We expect continued use of coronavirus themed lures by both opportunistic and targeted financially motivated attackers due to the global relevance of the theme,” Read said.

The unprecedented uncertainty created by COVID-19 has trashed stocks, which spent Friday the 13th paring Thursday’s losses. On the week, the Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA-12.93%  fell 10.4%, the S&P 500 index SPX-11.98%  dropped 8.8%, the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite Index COMP-12.32%  is off 8.1%, and the ETFMG Prime Cyber Security ETF HACK  fell 15%.



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