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Not again! What is this Crypto-Locker doing and what is Ransomware?

Masked Man Cryto LockerHELP!

Here we go again.  Crypto Locker.  I know of 3 more organizations this week who have been hit with it.  What is Crypto Locker?  It is a virus that encrypts all of your files, and then a ransom note is left behind.  Unless you pay the ransom, you lose all of your files.  Is it possible to 100% protect yourself?  Maybe not 100%, but you can surely recover without paying ransom.  Listed below are some ways to protect yourself.

Don’t Click!

There are so many things going around that look like the real McCoy.   If you even slightly suspect that your great aunt Mickey would never send you something like that, she probably didn’t.  Call and ask before opening that attachment of the keg party.  Chances are, she was not there and did not take the picture.  If you can’t ask her, contact your IT Administrator and ask.  The same goes for suspicious pop ups and controls that want to install when you browse the web.  No computer should have pop-ups appearing all the time.  If your computer is doing this, you have some type of virus or malware.  If you are not trained in its removal, consult a professional.  Does this pop up describe in detail all the things that you are not protected against?  Is it threatening personal data, credit cards?  Real Anti-Virus programs don’t do it that way.  Does it tell you that unless you pay you will lose all your files?  Again, not the language of a legitimate program. Don’t fall for it.

Anti-Virus Programs:

Most Up to date Anti-Virus programs can, in fact, catch Crypto Locker.  The problem is, there are many variants being released.  This is why it is important to always run up to date Virus Software, and up to date Virus definitions.  As a new variant is discovered, an up to date definition is released.  If you update daily, then you will have the protection that you need.  Updates can be scheduled and automatic. What if you are up to date, but are the lucky one who discovers a new variant before the Anti-Virus software company does?  With up to date software, comes support.  They will still assist in removal, and, they get to document the case you just found in order to create new definitions.  It takes a community.

Windows Updates and Program Updates

Windows updates are critical to the safety of your computer.  As hackers find vulnerabilities in program code, they are exposed.  Windows Updates closes them right back down, just like updating your virus definitions. This is the same for any program you run on the computer.  Always keep the programs up to date.

Application Safety Controls

Ever notice that Outlook does not display pictures or links unless you give it permission to?  Word and Excel open, blocking all editing or macros until you give it permission?  That is because hackers hide code in Macros, or in downloaded content to an email message.  This allows another layer of security so that you have the control on what you trust and what you don’t.  You can turn off these features, and it would seem more convenient than just enabling content as you need.  Keep in mind, it is more convenient to respond to those prompts then it is to rebuild your data once you have allowed the malicious code through.

Offsite Backups

Do you really think that flash drive is your best defense?  I guess it is better than no defense, but there has to be more.  Offsite Encrypted backups allow you to keep your data safe and off the computer.  If you get a virus infected file, and the file is backed up, with the right backup program it is not a problem.  If the offsite backups are encrypted, and isolated, that means todays backup might contain infected files, but yesterday’s files are still safe and can be recovered.

Local Backups

If a virus hits the entire operating system, you need to be able to roll right back to where you were before this bad-dream-of-a-virus happened.  However, code like Crypto Locker knows how to crawl through your network and reach out to all hard drives and mapped drives the computer can see.  You need a backup program that knows how to ‘hide’ the backup drive to all but the backup program.  Many of the expensive ones do this, but so does the Windows Backup Program.  And its free.

What about our Clients?

Can I safely say that Sandra Network clients have never caught this virus?  We certainly can’t.  We can’t protect users from opening up that email from “Aunt Mickey”, no matter how hard we try..  Can I say that Sandra Network clients have NEVER had to pay ransomware prices?  Yes, I can.  Can I say that Sandra Network clients have never lost all their data or had full loss of business over it?  Yes I can.  We update, implement, train the employees, and are always watching out for our clients.  All safety controls in place, all the time.  That is what we do.

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How do I go about our Web Site Upgrades?

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What are the steps to a successful web design process?

Web design, whether a fresh new site, or fixing an old one, can be an overwhelming process for most.  We try to simplify this as much as we can with outstanding website upgrades.  We strive to simplify the process for you by creating design stages, and allow you the choice with how much you would like to be involved.

Web Site Location

This is who is going to host your web site.  We look at reputation, cost, and ultimately what you need.  Sometimes a web site is designed for UNIX platforms, sometimes Microsoft.  Email is typically managed through the same company you host your web site through, but not always.  Our team will look at the entire picture and ensure you are setup where you need to be.

Initial Review:

We look at examples of sites you like, and, more importantly, what it is you like about them.  Is the colors?  Graphics?  Overall Look and feel?  This process helps us determine what types of styles make you happy and what website upgrades are required.  Company Goals are reviewed.  What do you want customers to like about you?  What makes you stand out?  When they visit the site, what type of impression do you want them to have of you and your business?

Email Review / Project Scope:

This is to ensure we have a clear understanding of your business and business goals, as well as what type of content will be needed for the site.  Once agreed on, a project outline is created.

Initial Design Review:

Based on the project scope and outline, you will be presented with initial design choices, layouts for your review, and website upgrades required.  Based on comments and review, adjustments are made

Final Design Review:

Final Web Design is presented, final adjustments are made, and site is approved for final development

Test Site available for Public Release:

Your site will be made available to you for final approval on a test platform.

Taking the Web Site Live:

The site is brought on live in your own companies URL, and Quality Assurance testing is done one more time on your site


I can’t believe I have to change my password again?

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Password Ideas for Complex Passwords

Simple passwords are very easy to guess, and very easy to crack if you have the right software.   Now our systems need more complex passwords and logins, and the need for better security is here.

Most logins now need to have upper case, lowercase, and either special characters or numbers.  Special characters examples are pretty much anything else on the keyboard:  :!@#$%^&*()_+?/><, that can be used to create complex passwords.


They should never be any of the following:

  • Your name
  • Company Name
  • Single word – something you could find in the dictionary

They should be:

  • A phrase that you can remember.
  • Something with a sequence that you can work with
  • Something no one knows about you.


60% of the time, if sitting at someone’s desk, a password can be guessed fairly quickly.  Looking around for sticky notes, kids names on pictures, all are really good clues.  Most of the attacks on the web have a couple hundred attempts PER SECOND, and can get it quicker.  They commonly start with dictionary attacks, which means once they find a valid username; they try every word in the dictionary against it until it is guessed. Thus, to avoid unauthorised access, one must choose a complex password and ensure higher safety.

Examples of how to create a strong password that you can remember, but is hard to crack. 

  • Something fun that you used to do as a kid
  • Family jokes
  • Phrases from your favorite movie
  • Something that your kids / dog / spouse like


Some examples of memories and complex passwords:

  • Matilda76               Old family car: 76 Cadillac Nicknamed Matilda – family joke
  • BigFunNow*          Long drives, a standard corny Dad phrase
  • Dora4Sam             A four year old daughter who loves Dora the Explorer
  • Straw5Berry           A five year old daughter obsessed with Strawberry Shortcake
  • HighInsurance16   For someone with a son about to drive the family car


Learn about email scams and ransomware attacks that also can cause a great loss of personal data and information.


What is Managed Services and How does it fit?

What is managed services, and how does it fit?

Managed Services is the ability to involve a 24×7 staff to monitor and maintain your computers.  Most of the time, the smaller IT companies will not have the staff to accomplish this.  Monitoring is then outsourced to a firm that does NOTHING BUT this type of monitoring.  The NOC, (Network Operations Center) will monitor for errors, apply updates (windows updates, antivirus updates) and respond to any issues.  To respond to an issue, a NOC employee will establish a remote session to your computer, and fix whatever the issue is.

What is the benefit of Managed Services?

With managed services, the IT firm acts as a liaison between your company’s network and the outsourced firm.  This is usually done at a cost per unit.  What this means to you is regardless of what goes on, your cost remains the same each month.  Equipment is monitored 24×7, and pro-actively maintained.

What are the downsides of Managed Services?

The downside to managed services is you simply do not know who is in your computer. What they are looking at.  Granted, I may have trust issues, but, after 20 years of being in the IT business, there are more than enough reasons to be hyper-sensitive to this.  Data theft is real.  Hacking is real.  Viruses are real.

There is also real value in knowing your IT staff, and ensuring they know you.  Not an “anonymous” person from virtually anywhere in the world.  Your IT staff should be part of the team.  To know you, is to know your business.  They know your deadlines.  They know how you like things done.  They know your users, and how to assist them.  Ever call the 1-800-HELP DESK type number?  Did you have to tell your entire story, just to be transferred and tell it again?  At every transfer, have to also repeat your information, case number, contact number?  Personally, I feel that to pick up the phone and to call someone who knows you, knows your business, and simply make a request feels a lot more secure.

Is there a place for managed services?

Absolutely.  We manage networks where the PC’s are all in the field, and the data is in the cloud.  In this environment, there is no “local”.  No local server, no local security, no local staff.  The data IS maintained offsite in a staffed secure location.  In this type of organization, Managed Services is your best way to maintain any amount of control and monitoring to the remote users, while keeping all the machines up to date.


Closing thoughts

Technology is here to stay.  This means we have to find a reliable way to embrace it, maintain it, and back it up.  Unless we are in the IT field, it is best left to the pros.  In most businesses, infrastructure failure can bring the entire company to a halt.  You need to have a team that you trust, who personally understands that infrastructure and ensures that your business is always in the right hands.


Not sure which way makes more sense to you?  Give us a call.  No pressure, no worries.  Start by having a conversation about what is important to you.

978.535.0202 x201

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