AllSafe IT is an IT Services Game Changer on Clutch

Here at AllSafe IT, we’re a team on a mission. Founded in 2016, we are a Los Angeles-based managed IT services company that’s absolutely committed to helping our clients minimize their downtime and maximize their efficiency. Our team takes the time to fully understand the unique requirements and needs of our beloved clients. 

We believe that in order to successfully solve their problems, we need to have a deeper knowledge of every aspect. You can’t innovate without having a complete understanding of the situation. Throughout the years, we’ve worked with a wide range of clients — from small businesses to driven midmarket players. The projects entrusted to us by our clients helped us establish ourselves as an IT services game changer on Clutch.

To help you get up to speed, Clutch is a Washington DC-based ratings and reviews platform dedicated to helping millions of browsers navigate the different B2B spaces. The website showcases insightful and data-driven content such as verified client testimonials, extensive market reports, and agency shortlists. 

The reviews we’ve earned on Clutch helped us make a name for ourselves as game-changers. As of writing, we’ve already earned three stellar reviews that highlight our various expertise such as IT consulting, cloud migration, and managed IT services.

Aside from the range of services, you can also see how well we adapt to our clients’ marketplaces. The in-depth reviews we’ve received are from clients the travel, arts, and real estate industries. If you’d like to learn more about what we’ve done, please feel free to visit our Clutch vendor profile. Here’s a quick snapshot of what our clients think about us and say about our work!

“They’re responsive, adaptable, and more linear. We don’t deal with a large bureaucracy that takes a long time to move. They’re a midsize company, so they move fast and adapt to changing environments.” — CEO, Crews1972

“They are very cost-effective and have helped us cut down our costs in many ways. It is also very impressive that they are able to come onsite to help us with our issues at such short notice.” — Operations Coordinator, Museum

We are genuinely thankful to all our clients, especially those who graciously took the time to review us on Clutch. Your trust and support keep us going. Thank you so much!

See for yourself why we’re game changers. Connect with us at AllSafe IT and let’s work together. Our team is genuinely looking forward to meeting you!

Back to School Cybersecurity

It’s back-to-school time, and no matter the age of the student, or the location of the school, there’s one class that everyone needs to pass. Smart cybersecurity habits need to be on all of our minds, and we can’t afford to fail. We’ve put together some reminders about staying safe online and with your technology.

Before You Start Classes

Make sure that you’re starting off the academic year on solid footing. Update all of your software and hardware to ensure that it has the latest security patches installed. If you are using an outdated version or technology, consider an upgrade that is equipped with stronger defense mechanisms against cybercrime. There are many student discount options available. Some may not be promoted, so ask at the store or do a bit of research online before you shop. Many reputable vendors have student options. When you are downloading software updates, only do it from the manufacturer’s site. Turn on automatic security updates.

Purchase a charging block to avoid the need for public charging devices or stations. These are often the source of detrimental downloads and can easily be avoided with your own equipment.

Password security should be taken seriously. Review your passwords and use a password manager to store your secure login credentials. Review your laptop settings and make sure that the screen locks after inactivity. Enable options that would allow you to locate your device or wipe the data if it is stolen. You can also use security tracking tags on hardware.

Review your banking credentials to have multi-factor authentication and enable alerts for suspicious spending.

Class Is In Session

You’ll be forging many new relationships both academically and socially. Be aware of email phishing scams and fraudulent email addresses. Don’t click on links before verifying that the sender is legitimate and not a spoofed address.

Students are a target demographic. Be wary of “free” offers or job scams that require you to pay for them. You should be paid to work, not the other way around. Consult with your school administration about employment or intern programs in order to verify legitimacy.

Miscellaneous Cyber Safety

While these aren’t hardware related, be aware of cyberbullying and how much you share online. Location services can be a valuable tool if in the hands of people that you trust. And while cyberbullying isn’t something you can prevent with a download, you can be aware of it.

The Human Element

With regard to technology, the Human Race is in an actual race to have the latest products and solutions integrated into our lives.

We will stand in line for hours to be the first to have a new phone when it is released. Camp out on Black Friday to get a good deal on electronics and smart devices. We make it a priority to have the latest and greatest. But why aren’t we integrating the latest or greatest habits into protecting ourselves?

Ignoring the human element in cybersecurity is a notion that must change. We continue to put emphasis on prioritizing the technology and not the behaviors.

The Numbers

Humans account for 95% of cyberattacks. The average cost globally for a data breach is around $4.24 million USD. According to the IBM Cost of a Data Breach Report in 2021, this is an increase from the previous year’s $3.86 million. That doesn’t account for the trust that is lost or reputational damage that a business can suffer as a result of a compromise.

Remote work was a factor in the higher number of breaches. It was the commonality among breaches that occurred with that business structure in place. This doesn’t mean that remote work is the issue. Many successful businesses operate this way. It is because businesses that were forced into remote work unexpectedly with the pandemic were unprepared – and so was their team. This reinforces the need to give your employees not only guidance. Guidance in the form of training so that they can act responsibly and securely when not within the walls of an office building. We have training programs to prepare for fire drills or other disasters, why isn’t cybersecurity training in place when the risk of it occurring is far greater than these other situations?

Compromised credentials were responsible for 20% of these breaches. These credentials link to a human and their account. Humans need to be empowered to strengthen the firewall that protects the businesses that they work for.

Everyone Onboard

How do we get businesses to make human behavior a part of the solution? As with most ideologies, it starts at the top. Management must be on board to not only preach, but also to practice. Knowing the value of ongoing training to keep their employees prepared. When it comes to keeping their businesses safe, it is important to recognize that the human element can be their greatest asset and not their greatest detriment.

At AllSafe IT, we continually work to provide progressive and forward-thinking solutions that offset the risks of a data breach. This includes multiple methods of integrated training solutions that build behaviors into everyday actions. If you’d like to learn more, contact us today!

Deepfakes & Cybercrime

Does your business have a remote workforce? Since the pandemic, we’ve seen a massive shift to hybrid, work-from-home and 100% remote work models. And while remote work has proven to be immensely beneficial to both employees and employers, it does come with unique challenges. We’ve covered many of these, including security for remote workers, keeping your remote ream motivated, and even how to avoid Zoom fatigue. Now according to the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), we have new challenges to look out for.

Yesterday, the FBI released a Public Service Announcement advising that deepfakes and stolen Personally Identifiable Information (PII) are increasingly used to fraudulently apply for remote work positions. Many of these positions include access to even more PII and sensitive information, allowing cybercriminals to continue furthering their activities.

What is Deepfake?

Deepfakes use artificial intelligence to create realistic-looking videos, often intended to simulate a specific person’s likeness. Even if you don’t immediately recognize the term “deepfake,” if you spend time on Internet, you’ve probably already seen some examples of them. Some of the most infamous deepfakes feature uncanny fake video of former U.S President Barack Obama and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

The Ethics of Deepfakes

While the technology itself is impressive, the ethical implications of deepfakes are vast. Since it can be used to create convincing footage of people doing and saying things they never actually did, deepfake technology can potentially be used for malicious purposes.  These malicious uses could include fraud, incitement of violence, disinformation campaigns, revenge pornography, etc. The possibilities are virtually endless and can be used to blackmail, intimidate, humiliate or otherwise harm a person or business.

Deepfakes and Crime

The FBI’s Public Service Announcement warns that their Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) has received an increased number of reports that deepfakes are being used by job applicants interviewing for remote work positions. The positions include IT, computer programming, database and software related job functions, many of them including access to customer PII, financial data, corporate databases and proprietary information. Additionally, the complaints mention that stolen PII was used in the job applications.

Earlier this year, Europol also published a report warning that deepfakes could become a staple tool for various criminal activities including:

How to Detect Deepfakes

While deepfake detection tools employing AI have been developed, they may not be easily available for most businesses to access. However, there are a few visual cues that you can look out for to spot a deepfake. The FBI notice states that “the actions and lip movement of the person seen interviewed on-camera do not completely coordinate with the audio of the person speaking. At times, actions such as coughing, sneezing, or other auditory actions are not aligned with what is presented visually.”

An article from the MIT Media Lab offers the following tips when checking to see if something is deepfaked:

  1. Pay attention to the face. High-end DeepFake manipulations are almost always facial transformations.
  2. Pay attention to the cheeks and forehead. Does the skin appear too smooth or too wrinkly? Is the agedness of the skin similar to the agedness of the hair and eyes? DeepFakes are often incongruent on some dimensions.
  3. Pay attention to the eyes and eyebrows. Do shadows appear in places that you would expect? DeepFakes often fail to fully represent the natural physics of a scene.
  4. Pay attention to the glasses. Is there any glare? Is there too much glare? Does the angle of the glare change when the person moves? Once again, DeepFakes often fail to fully represent the natural physics of lighting.
  5. Pay attention to the facial hair or lack thereof. Does this facial hair look real? DeepFakes might add or remove a mustache, sideburns, or beard. But, DeepFakes often fail to make facial hair transformations fully natural.
  6. Pay attention to facial moles.  Does the mole look real?
  7. Pay attention to blinking. Does the person blink enough or too much?
  8. Pay attention to the size and color of the lips. Does the size and color match the rest of the person's face?

The Sun Has Set on Internet Explorer

This week we said goodbye to an old friend as Internet Explorer retired on June 15, 2022. While a vast majority of Internet users have already moved on to more modern browsers like Edge, Chrome and Firefox, many of us got our first tastes of the world wide web through Internet Explorer (IE). And even though IE ended up being the butt of countless memes, we will have fond memories of its glory days.

Microsoft launched IE in 1995. Nearly 27 years and billions of page views later, Microsoft is officially ending support for the classic browser. Users attempting to open Internet Explorer will now be automatically redirected to Microsoft Edge. Users will be guided to import their browser data, such as bookmarks, passwords and settings, to ease the transition to Edge.

Microsoft will start redirecting IE users to Edge.

For older websites and web applications that only work with Internet Explorer, users will be able to enable IE Mode in Edge. This will allow Edge users to reload websites in IE Mode at the click of a toolbar button. Chrome and Firefox users can install extensions to enable an Internet Explorer compatibility view. However, these extensions are built by third-party developers and should only be used with extreme caution.

Users will be able to use IE Mode for websites that only work with Internet Explorer

Users will be able to use IE Mode for websites that only work with Internet Explorer

Kaiser Permanente Data Breach

Earlier this month, healthcare provider Kaiser Permanente disclosed a data breach that exposed the protected health information (PHI) of thousands of their patients. In a notice (PDF) dated June 3, 2022, the organization admitted that:

On April 5, 2022, Kaiser Permanente discovered that an unauthorized party gained access to an employee’s emails. We terminated the unauthorized access within hours after it began and promptly commenced an investigation to determine the scope of the incident. We have determined that protected health information was contained in the emails and, while we have no indication that the information was accessed by the unauthorized party, we are unable to completely rule out the possibility.

The sensitive information exposed in the email hack includes:

The notice states that social security numbers and credit card info were not exposed in the breach.

After discovering the breach, Kaiser terminated the hacker’s access to the employee’s emails. They further stated that “the employee received additional training on safe email practices,” suggesting that the attack may have been unwittingly facilitated by an undertrained user.

The notice does not disclose how many people were affected by the breach. However, as required by HIPAA and HITECH laws, breaches exposing protected health information are posted by the U.S Department of Health and Human Services. A quick search of the database showed that this event affected 69,589 individuals (see screenshot below).

The DHHS shows that the Kaiser Permanente data breach affected 69,589 individuals

The DHHS shows that the Kaiser Permanente data breach affected 69,589 individuals

Lessons Learned

There are a few things we can learn from the incident:

About AllSafe IT

AllSafe IT is an IT services, consulting, and IT support firm with a dedicated, certified team of technology experts with a client base spanning a wide range of industries. In today's ultra-competitive world, businesses who don't utilize the full potential of their IT systems often fall behind their competitors - which can ultimately lead to failure. Our services are custom tailored to ensure that your business not only survives, but thrives.

What is Malvertising?

Oxford Dictionary defines malvertising as ‘the practice of incorporating malware in online advertisements.’  Short for malicious software, or malware advertising, this is the practice of attacking viewers or consumers with fraudulent information that is inserted into sometimes (but not always) legitimate advertisements.

How Does It Work

Malvertising works in conjunction with the online advertising ecosystem by initiating multiple redirects after the user clicks or views an infected advertisement.  This is done by cyber criminals hiding a small bit of code within legitimate advertising content.  This can be integrated into ad servers, publishing servers, or other platforms that work together to display online ads.  For example, the New York Times publishes content from its writers as well as content that is in partnership with businesses that have hired ad agencies to provide digital ads.  This means that there are multiple moving parts that work together to provide the ad interface and content for readers to access the ads.  Along with other legitimate sites like the BBC, The Onion, The London Stock Exchange, and many other websites, they have been injected with malicious ads that led to readers being hijacked and redirected to sites demanding a ransom to unlock their computers.

Because of the vulnerabilities of some browsers, the installation of the malware can happen simply by viewing the advertisement. Malvertising isn’t the actual virus, but it can lead to the deployment of one.  It is threatening because it isn’t always detected right away – or ever – and it doesn’t require action by the reader or viewer to be deployed and dangerous.

Not All the Same

Malvertising is not the same as ad malware or adware. Adware (short for advertising-supported software) is installed usually without knowledge from the user.  This can include pop-up ads that are automatically and repeatedly displayed without the ability to stop or control them by the user.

How Do You Stop It?

AllSafe IT recommends the following best practices:

AllSafe IT is proud to have spent over 15 years providing IT services to hundreds of companies in many different sectors. Our specialized services are uniquely tailored to provide our customers with the reliability, protection, and fast services needed to ensure 100% uptime and maximized data security. From comprehensive and preventative cybersecurity strategies to 24/7 customer support, AllSafe IT understands the unique needs of your business.

 

 

When iPhone Cables ATTACK!

Would you willingly plug a device into your smartphone or computer that would allow a stranger to see everything you type, steal your data, and install malware on your machine?

Of course you wouldn’t.

And, if you’ve read our recent article on Removable Media & Cybersecurity, you already know that you shouldn’t plug an unfamiliar USB stick or portable hard drive into your computer. But what if we told you that even an iPhone charging cable can be malicious?

The “OMG Cable” is designed to look and act exactly like an Apple or Samsung charging cable – the same type of cable you would use to charge your phone or connect a keyboard to your computer. But it contains a hidden chip that allows hackers to connect to any device it’s plugged into, record keystrokes, transmit sensitive data including passwords, and inject malicious software.

How Does it Work?

Imagine you’re at a coffee shop getting some work done, and you notice that your mobile phone is about to die. You look around frantically for a charging cable and gratefully accept one from a mysterious stranger in a hooded sweatshirt and Guy Fawkes mask…

OK, rewind. You wouldn’t do that.

But you still desperately need to charge your phone and spot a charger that the last person at your table must have left behind. It looks like a plain old, normal cable that comes with every iPhone, so you declare finders keepers and plug in your phone.

No, no, rewind again. You still wouldn’t do that. You’re smarter than that.

You’re smart enough to bring your own charger and not touch any cable that you didn’t purchase yourself from a legitimate Best Buy. BUT then you take a bathroom break and leave your laptop and phone charging at the table. Cue the guy in the hooded sweatshirt (who is indeed a hacker). He sneaks over to your table while you’re in the restroom and switches cables. You return from the restroom and pick up where you left off, with no idea that your legit cable has been swapped out with a malicious one.

Now the malicious cable is plugged into your device and has started transmitting a signal, which is essentially a Wi-Fi hotspot. The hacker, who is now seated four tables away, hops onto the signal and is now connected to your phone. From there, he can start “listening” to your device to discover every website you visit, every text message you send, and every password you enter. He can also remotely execute a payload and inject spyware or ransomware onto your phone.

On top of all this, if you plugged your phone into your laptop instead of a wall charger, he’d have access to your laptop as well.

And, once he’s done, he can cover his tracks by sending a self-destruct command to the cable.

The OMG Cable is designed to look like a real Lightning cable

The OMG Cable is designed to look like a real Lightning cable

How Can You Protect Yourself?

We asked the experts at AllSafe IT how people can protect themselves from hackers employing the OMG cable or other attack hardware.

And of course, make sure your employees are trained on security awareness so they are aware of every type of threat (not just phishing!) and know how to respond to them.

Removable Media & Cybersecurity

According to the United States Department of Commerce National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), a removable media device or portable storage device is:

“A system component that can communicate with and be added to or removed from a system or network and that is limited to data storage—including text, video, audio or image data—as its primary function (e.g., optical discs, external or removable hard drives, external or removable solid-state disk drives, magnetic or optical tapes, flash memory devices, flash memory cards, and other external or removable disks).”

Why are these portable hard drives, USB flash drives, memory cards, or other formats important to consider when it comes to cybersecurity? Because in business they are constantly used to share information among team members and that means that they also provide an easy way for data to be stolen or lost. And ease of use among employees means that they provide cybercriminals with a way of dispersing dangerous malware as well.

Considerations When Using

If you and your employees are using removable media, encourage them to remember the following:

If you  should find removable media devices, remember:

These devices should be addressed with the same care and policies that a laptop or mobile phone is regulated with. A single record or bit of data can compromise a business if found or misused. Ensuring that your employees are aware of these risks will keep your business safe and secure from online crime!

Compromised Data Comes in Many Forms

No Big Deal Right?

A friend recently mentioned an email that she received regarding an investment app that she had downloaded on her phone.  The app was a way for her to play around and learn a little bit about investing, something that it seems many people leaned into during the pandemic.

The notification email stated that security and privacy were taken seriously at the company, but also, they had recently discovered that a former employee had downloaded investing reports.  Upon discovery, the company did everything correctly to notify users, explain the situation, identify what had been accessed, what had not been accessed, and what they were doing as follow-up and contact information for clients.

Her take on the email that they sent to users was that they had somewhat downplayed the issue, stating that this was a report that the (former) employee had always had access to.  They also indicated that usernames and passwords were not compromised, just your brokerage account number as well as full names and portfolio values.  When reading the email, it gave her the vibe of, “this happened, we are handling it, don’t worry, your “important” data wasn’t compromised”.  Of course, it didn’t say explicitly that, but that was her take on it and she wasn’t too concerned after reading the email.   Her first thoughts, “oh, another breach…. this one doesn’t seem like a big deal, I’ll have to remember to change my password, but it’s on my phone so I’ll get to that this weekend.”

Ah, Let’s Not Dismiss That So Quickly…

As IT professionals in cybersecurity, we know the appropriate reaction should be much different.  And because breaches and compromised data are so common today, it wouldn’t be difficult to find a new one daily; we’re becoming desensitized to it.  This news should have created more of a sense of urgency in my friend’s mind to act immediately.

While no one is suggesting that we create a panic, we do need to continually remind our clients, friends, and family to keep on top of their cybersecurity behaviors outside of work as well as within the walls of their offices.  These small pieces that seem insignificant can add up, and it doesn’t take a detective to glue it all together to wreak havoc one way or another.

Incidentally, we often hear people concerned about the targeted ads that they receive after having a conversation with friends about something.  “I was just talking with Sam about canoes and now my Instagram feed is full of canoe ads!  Isn’t that scary!!!???”.  Yes, it is.  But have you considered that as a result of this investment app breach, your dark web consumer profile includes data that identifies you as an investor, and one with an account that contains this much money, so you’re perhaps a target for additional ads or cyberattacks of different kinds?

AllSafe IT can provide the tools and resources that you need to keep your employees trained and aware of the threats that they face like this.  We are all targets and our identifying assets and behaviors to help cybercriminals to gain access to our lives in ways that they shouldn’t.