How the Massive Yahoo Breach Could Affect You.

On December 14, 2016 Yahoo revealed that 1,000,000,000 (that’s 1 billion) user accounts had been compromised in 2013, a year before they reported another breach that affected 500 million user accounts.

That’s 1.5 billion accounts that were hacked.  A company that employs 13,600 people in their IT department was hacked and user accounts from enough people to equal the population of North America, South America, Central America, Australia, Russia, Germany, and a few smaller nations, were compromised.

Yahoo engineer in server farm.

Why would hackers be so interested in the e-mail accounts of all these people?  They’re not.  Just like they are not interested in the Chicken Stamp accounts that were breached recently at KFC.

So what are they after?  Lax password security by those Yahoo and KFC account users.  If you’re like many people, you’ll use your e-mail account as a user name for most, if not all, of the web sites you frequent.  And if you’re like most users, you also use the same password for most of these sites.

By the way, Yahoo and KFC aren’t the only companies that have been hacked.  Our sister site, DontBecomeAnotherTarget.com keeps track of all major breaches.

So suddenly those Chicken Stamp accounts and those e-mail accounts begin to have more value, especially if those same user names and passwords are used at financial sites.

Some security sites are recommending that if you have a Yahoo account, it’s time to close it, including if you have an account that Yahoo administers (@att.net, @bellsouth.net).  You also need to change all of your passwords that are similar to your Yahoo/.att.net/.bellsouth.net. Now.  And you need to begin to practice safe online behavior.

What’s safe online behavior?  It’s

  • not using the same password at all web sites
  • using complex passwords that include upper and lower case characters, numbers and symbols
  • changing your password a few times per year (it’s recommended every six weeks, but a few times per year is better than not at all)
  • not writing your passwords down on a Post-It and sticking it to your monitor.  Use a password manager, like LastPass, Dashlane, eWallet
  • not clicking the little box that says “stay logged in” at sensitive sites
  • not going to dangerous web sites (adult content, gaming sites)
  • not opening attachments from people you don’t know
  • making sure your computer is patched with the latest updates
  • making sure you have a good anti-virus program.  And keep it current.

If you own a business and you’re doing your own IT support and security, you’re doing a disservice to not only your clients, but also your clients security, and your own security.  Studies show that 61% of people will not go back to shop at any business that’s been breached.  Contact us today to see how affordable expert IT support can be.

If you take credit cards, you’re required to be PCI Compliant, and that doesn’t mean checking all of the Yes boxes on the Self Assessment Questionnaire (SAQ), even if the answer is No.  It’s actually being compliant by making sure all of the items meet requirements.  Most businesses we visit to do our free PCI Compliance assessment are not even close to being compliant.  Most fail in every one of the 12 PCI DSS categories.  Contact us today if you would like to see if you’re compliant.  It costs you nothing to find out.

Regardless of whether you’re a business or a home user, this Yahoo breach should not be taken lightly.  You need to act on it today.

Contact us today if you need help.  Our engineers are the some of the most experienced in the Southeast when it comes to not only cybersecurity and SMB (Small Medium Business) IT support – it’s what we specialize in.  And PCMDX is one of the top PCI Compliance firms in the country.  If you’re a home user, we can help you as well by making sure your network is protected (yes, if you have a broadband router and multiple devices, you have a network), and all of your devices are protected.

Updated 12/15/16 10:56am CST to update link.

 

PCI Compliance – An Ongoing Process

Recently Computer World published what’s most likely the very best article dealing with PCI Compliance.  Not so much what it entails to be compliant, but what it takes to remain compliant.

The ultimate unanswerable question: Are we PCI-compliant?

PCI compliance is Zen-like. It’s hard to determine, and even when a letter declares a company PCI-compliant, that declaration can always be retroactively reversed later – such as if you’re breached. Yes, when you most need to be able to say that you are PCI-compliant is when it’s taken away.

 

The issue with PCI compliance is that the business network and the business environment is constantly changing and evolving.  There are 12 requirements in the PCI DSS.  In order to be compliant, all of these must be current all of the time.  Some remain static, meaning they don’t change.

Let’s take requirement No. 1: Install and maintain a firewall configuration to protect cardholder data. firewall-156010_640 Your PCI specialist installs and configures a firewall.  Once it has been configured properly, you’ve met the first requirement, right?  Well, sort of.  Assuming the firmware is current, and nothing changes in the network environment, the answer would be Yes, you’ve met the requirement.

Let’s go down to requirement No. 11:  Regularly test security systems and processes.  Inside this requirement is 11.1, which requires that a hardware inventory be kept up to date of all devices on the “protected” or POS network.  This is the network that handles all credit card transactions (your guest wi-fi, or any other network should NEVER be on the same sub-net as your POS traffic).  You just replaced or added a POS terminal.  Did you log it in the inventory, including the model and serial number?  If the answer is No, then you’re not compliant.

On that very same replacement terminal, you need to make sure that you have met requirements 5 and 6: Use and regularly update antivirus software; Develop and maintain secure systems and applications.  If you’ve added a location on the network for this terminal, the network diagram also needs to be updated.

Now let’s move on the the human factor in being compliant.  Each individual who handles credit cards must be trained in the methods of handling cards safely and securely, which is part of requirement 12:  Maintain a policy that addresses information security.  If you’ve hired a new employee, they must first be trained and sign-off acknowledging that they’ve been trained.  A copy of the signature page must go in their employee file.

The article in Computer World makes some outstanding points.  First,  you’re only compliant on the date that you last checked and updated (successfully) the requirements:

The reason why compliance is tied to the date the assessment was wrapped is that, in theory, any change at all to anything on the network could make that merchant noncompliant. I get that. It makes sense. But what good is PCI compliance if a retailer never knows if it is compliant? 

This is where PCMDX comes in.  We take it off your shoulders and put it on ours.  We let you worry about the prime purpose of your business, and we take care of the things that we’re good at:  Keeping you compliant.

Further more, as the article states, it’s the human factor that makes you (and keeps you) compliant:

But it (software) can’t track PCI compliance — which is a human-dictated state — any more than it can declare a system “secure.” 

PCMDX is the only company in our service area (Alabama, Mississippi, Western Tennessee, Florida Panhandle) that creates a plan for your company to become, and remain, PCI Compliant.  We will visit your site, examine your existing network, create a plan to make your network compliant, implement the plan, and then keep it maintained on a regular schedule.

Contact us today for a free, no-obligation consultation.  You’ll be glad you did.

 

 

 

Wendy’s 4 for $4 may hit more than your waist line

wendys

In January 2016 Wendy’s restaurants reported that they had suffered a breach in their network that handles credit cards.  The report included the following: “As reported in the news media in late January, the Company has engaged cybersecurity experts to conduct a comprehensive investigation into unusual credit card activity related to certain Wendy’s restaurants. Out of the locations investigated to date, some have been found by the cybersecurity experts to have malware on their systems.”

What this basically means is that someone had installed software designed to harvest credit card data (“malware”) on Wendy’s network, which is the same thing that happened at other retailers and restaurants over the course of the last few years.  Our sister site, DontBecomeAnotherTarget.com has a list of many of these merchants.

Some credit unions, according to the article, have said that this breach has already exceeded the fraud that the Target breach caused in 2013.

The worst part?  According to the article, “the restaurant chain hasn’t yet said how long the breach lasted — or indeed if the breach is even fully contained yet.”  What does that mean?  That means you don’t use your credit or debit card at Wendy’s.  Period.

It’s unknown if Wendy’s had passed their latest PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard) prior to the breach, however post breach they are not compliant, since the malware should have been discovered during the required scans.

If you’re a merchant that takes credit cards, you’re required to be PCI compliant.  We’ve encountered so many merchants who don’t have their own IT department who are under the false impression that they are compliant because they’ve signed (or “attested” online) a form from their credit card processing company indicating that they are compliant.

The credit card processing companies, like every other portion of the credit card chain (Merchant>Processor>Bank) have to be compliant, but each entity is required to do their own PCI Self-Assessment Questionnaire (SAQ).  The credit card processors will have the merchant sign/attest a form that indicates that the merchant knows they have to be PCI Compliant, even if the merchant has no clue what that is.  Once the merchant attests to this, the credit card processor has fulfilled their obligation.  If a breach occurs with the merchant, all the credit card processor has to say is “But you signed that you were PCI compliant” and they’re off the hook.

PC Medics of Alabama (PCMDX) specializes in SMB (Small to Medium Businesses) PCI Compliance.  If you process under 6,000,000 transactions per year, PCMDX can make sure you’re compliant.  If you’re not compliant, we’ll take the necessary steps to make sure you become compliant.  We then take care of your SAQ, and we make sure you remain compliant.

Our client base includes restaurants, dentists, doctors, and various other merchants, so our experienced staff can handle any merchant that takes credit cards.  Call us today for a free visit and estimate on how you Don’t Become Another Target. And if you don’t have a dedicated IT department, we can handle that for your as well, which let’s you concentrate on your business, while we take care of your IT needs.

Windows 10 – Update 3

The questions about Windows 10 upgrade have not stopped.  We get them daily.

“What do you think of Windows 10?”

“My computer keeps bugging me about upgrading.  Should I?”

“Do you think it’s time to upgrade yet?”

It’s looks very pretty.  No.  And No.

We’ve talked about the upgrades in our two previous posts (Part 1 and Part 2)

In their latest campaign to convince users to upgrade, Microsoft has taken to SMB (Small to Medium sized Businesses).  They have a Facebook post that features a video that shows the benefits of upgrading to Windows 10.  Here’s the part that bothers us about the video:

About a minute in, the “Microsoft Spokesperson” shows a business how easy it is to upgrade.  He sits in front of the PC surrounded by “employees” of the company, clicks on the Windows button in the system tray, it launches the upgrade process.  The he says “Just agree to the terms and conditions and you’re done!”.  They all go to lunch and by the time they get back they live happily ever after since the Windows 10 upgrade is complete.

OK, let’s get out of make-believe land and back to reality.

We all have done it.  Most of the time we continue to do it.  We’re used to doing it.  What?  Agreeing to the Terms and Conditions without reading them.

But in this case, is it the right thing to do?  Needless to say, we’re required to accept the terms and conditions on any software that we install, but all those pages contain information that may be good to know.  Especially in this case.

Windows 10 offers two types of install, Express and Custom.  Express means you agree to the terms and conditions, and accept all of the default settings.  For those of you who haven’t seen the default settings, many of them include a feature that sends information back to Microsoft.  Microsoft uses this information to deliver a more personal experience.  In the Express settings mode, this includes a variety of tracking software.

Microsoft has said they’ve discontinued the practice of tracking everything.  However, they just released the latest stats on Windows 10:

“Here’s the list of milestones that Microsoft just achieved:
  • People spent over 11 Billion hours on Windows 10 in December 2015.
  • More than 44.5 Billion minutes were spent in Microsoft Edge across Windows 10 devices in December alone.
  • Windows 10 users asked Cortana over 2.5 Billion questions since launch.
  • About 30 percent more Bing search queries per Windows 10 device compared to prior versions of Windows.
  • Over 82 Billion photographs were viewed in the Windows 10 Photo application.
  • Gamers spent more than 4 Billion hours playing PC games on Windows 10 OS.
  • Gamers streamed more than 6.6 Million hours of Xbox One games to Windows 10 PCs.”

How do they know this?  Hmmm….

PCMDX clients know that we’re huge advocates of Microsoft, however our main focus is privacy and security.  Yes, if “they” want it, “they” will get it, however, we don’t have to leave the door not only unlocked, but open for them.

No, at this time we’re not recommending that those of you using Windows 7 upgrade to Windows 10.  Those of you using Windows 8 or 8.1 will have to decide if privacy or usability is more important.  We’re writing this post on a Windows 10 laptop (it came with the laptop).  It’s much more user friendly than Windows 8.  But we turned off all of the data mining features that we could turn off.

Is this the best operating system that Microsoft has released?  The word “best” is subjective.  What’s best for you may be different than what’s best for us.  Is it the most feature packed?  Absolutely.  Is it powerful in today’s internet world.  Yes.  If you use a PC to check e-mail, update your Facebook status, and surf the web, then there will be little difference between Windows 10 and Windows 7.

But wait!  Microsoft just issued a warning to those who use Windows 7.

And the latest information tells us that Microsoft will start to make the Windows 10 upgrade a “Recommended Update”.  What does that mean?  Glad you asked.  It simply means that if you have your Windows Update settings set to install all updates automatically, it will install the files even if you’re not interested.  This means if you don’t want it, you’ll have to turn off the automatic update function and go to “Notify me of updates but let me decide to download and install them” in the Windows Update settings in Control Panel.  Which means that you’ll need to make sure you install the important updates at least once a month.

Stay tuned.  Microsoft wants you to have Windows 10.

Can you be a target for a phishing scam? Take the quiz and find out.

What’s the easiest way to get into a locked building?  Use the key.  What’s the easiest way to get the key?  Get it from the person who has it.

Your network is a building, metaphorically speaking.  Each device (computer, printer, network attached storage, etc.) is a room in the building and each device is protected by a user name and password, or at least should be. The user name and password are the credentials of the device, and are the “keys” to the room.  Usually, in order to make our life simple, once we insert our key (user name/password) into the building (network), we’re granted access to the rooms (devices) our gatekeeper/keymaster (network administrator) has decided we can go into.

Because we’ve become more security conscious over the past few years (we don’t use the password “password” or “123456” anymore…do we?!), the bad guys (hackers) have become more sophisticated.  They use various methods to get the keys.  Some use social engineering.  Others use brute force attacks.  And still others prey on the lack of computer knowledge of network users.

The last group uses “phishing” expeditions in order to get the keys.  This is a play on words on “fishing expedition”.  On a fishing expedition, we go out and see how many fish we can catch.  We target our area, throw out the line, which has bait on it, and see what happens.

A phishing expedition is no different.  The bad guys send out hundreds of thousands of e-mails that have malicious content, and see how many take the bait.  Once the targets take the bait, it’s pretty much over with.  Some of the malicious payload may be a virus or Trojan that captures your “keys”.  Others may be ransomware that encrypt your hard drive and demand money in order for you to get access to your files again.  Regardless of the payload, it’s all bad, which is why we call it “malware”, “mal” being the Latin word for “bad”.

Phishing expeditions are not limited to just gaining access to work networks.  They can also be used to gain access to bank accounts, credit card accounts, or any other password protected site.

So how do you protect yourself or your company?  At PCMDX we take a multi-level approach.  Securing the perimeter is very important.  We use a firewall to do so.  This prevents the bad guys from simply walking into your network through an unlocked door.

We also protect all of your devices by using anti-malware software, applying patches and updates on a regular basis, and making sure there’s no vulnerabilities on the network, such as devices that have out-of-date firmware, or computers with out-of-date operating systems, such as Windows XP or Windows Server 2013

We also believe in training and education.  The more your users know about how to protect themselves, the easier our job is, and the more secure your network becomes.

Keeping your network secure is not a one-time thing.  It requires regular maintenance, and regular training.  Every time the good guys find a way to block the bad guys from gaining access to the network, the bad guys come up with new ways to break in.

Here is a test that you can take yourself or give to your staff to find out how much you and they know about phishing expeditions.  If you score below a 100%, give us a call so that we can begin to secure your business or network.

Phishing Quiz

PCMDX is based in Hoover, Alabama and serves businesses that have 15 computers or less in Alabama, Mississippi, Western Tennessee and the Florida Panhandle.  If you’re a merchant that takes credit cards, you’re required to be PCI Compliant and PCMDX can take care of all of your PCI Compliance needs.  If you’re a medical practice, you need to be HIPAA compliant, and our engineers are HIPAA specialists.

Call us today for your free consultation at 205-201-0389 or via e-mail at pcmdxal@gmail.com .