What happens when my data is hacked? 

Data breaches are more common than ever before, and they can have devastating consequences for individuals and organizations alike. When your data is hacked, sensitive information, such as personal or financial details, can be exposed, leading to identity theft or financial fraud. This breach could also compromise an organization’s reputation and result in legal action. It is crucial to take preventative measures by securing passwords, updating software regularly, and avoiding suspicious emails or links. 

In a data breach, it is vital to act quickly and decisively. Notify the appropriate parties immediately, including law enforcement if necessary. Change all affected passwords and monitor any suspicious activity on accounts related to the compromised data. 

You must keep backups of essential data regularly to ensure you do not lose valuable information during a potential attack or breach.  

Types of data that can be hacked 

To protect yourself from potential data breaches, you must understand the types of data that can be hacked. To safeguard your personal information, financial data, healthcare data, and intellectual property, you need to be aware of the risks and the necessary precautions to take. Let’s delve into each of these sub-sections to gain a better understanding of how to protect your data. 

Personal data
As we all know, sensitive information, such as personal data can be easily hacked by attackers. This type of data refers to any identifiable information related to an individual. It can include their full name, date of birth, social security number, credit card details, and even login credentials for online accounts. 

In addition to these common types of personal data, other sensitive information may be compromised through hacking attempts. Such information includes biometric data (e.g., fingerprints), medical records, and location data. 

Always use a strong password for your online accounts and enable two-factor authentication whenever possible to prevent unauthorized access to your personal data. 

Financial data
The security of financial information is crucial as cybercriminals can target it. Various types of monetary data can be hacked and used for fraudulent activities such as identity theft, unauthorized transactions, and more. 

It’s always recommended to use a unique combination (special characters + alphanumeric) and change passwords frequently to lower the chances of your financial data being compromised. 

Healthcare data
The protection of sensitive data is essential in the healthcare industry as it plays a vital role in maintaining patient privacy. Electronic health records (EHRs), medical devices, and personal health information (PHI) are all forms of Medical Data that can be easily hacked by cyber-criminals. 

As technology continues to grow and expand within the healthcare industry, medical institutions must prioritize security measures so that they are not vulnerable amidst rising cases of cyber-attacks. 

Intellectual property
The protection of knowledge assets is an essential part of data security, and unauthorized access to this type of data can lead to significant financial damage that may affect the integrity of a company. These valuable assets come under the category of proprietary information.[Text Wrapping Break]In addition, trade secrets, and confidential business information are also often targeted by hackers. These forms of proprietary information include sales reports, customer lists, and strategies for pricing and marketing a company’s offerings. 

Immediate steps to take after a data breach 

Contacting financial institutions
After experiencing a data breach, it is crucial to inform financial institutions as soon as possible. This includes banks, credit card companies, and any other financial institution where your personal information may have been stored. 

Informing financial institutions of the breach helps prevent unauthorized access to your accounts and minimizes the risk of fraudulent charges. Additionally, many financial institutions have protocols in place for dealing with data breaches and can provide you with guidance on how to minimize any potential damage. 

Changing passwords
After a data breach, resetting passwords is crucial for securing sensitive information. Here’s how to go about it: 

  1. Change passwords of compromised accounts immediately.
  2. Avoid reusing old passwords and choose a strong, distinct one. 
  3. Enable two-factor authentication for added security. 

It’s important to note that new passwords should not be similar or related to the previous password. This reduces the chances of hackers guessing them using common patterns. 

Use a password manager to generate and save complex passwords for all your accounts securely. Don’t have one, give us a call! 

Notifying affected parties
When a data breach occurs, it is critical to inform affected individuals promptly. This can be done through various communication channels, such as email, phone and social media. It is recommended to communicate clearly and provide detailed information about what data was compromised and how the incident occurred. Additionally, it is necessary to provide guidance on how individuals can protect themselves. 

Organizations need to be transparent about the measures taken to prevent future breaches. Providing regular updates on the remediation process can help maintain customer trust and illustrate that the organization takes security seriously. 

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash 

What is the Dark Web?

Are you frightened by the Dark Web? Criminals can use the privacy it offers to purchase and provide illegal items and activities. Your company data can be used to manipulate employees into giving company credentials through phishing scams. 

Let’s look at the importance of understanding this mysterious part of the internet. 

An Introduction to the Dark Web 

The dark web is a secret online network. It has unique software and private connections. Although it is used for various criminal activities some people use it legally. For secure communication, journalism without censorship, and accessing services without giving personal information. 

Cybercrime and the Dark Web 

Because of the nature of the dark web, it’s perfect for criminals to work anonymously, doing unlawful actions like scams, phishing, identity theft, and trafficking of arms, drugs, humans, money laundering, and ransomware. 

Criminals hide on the dark web because it offers anonymity. This makes it hard for law enforcement to investigate or track them. That’s why cybercrime on the dark web has become more advanced.  

Organizations should monitor dark-web activity related to their brand. Do you know we offer a dark web audit of your company data? Through this audit, we can reveal any company or personal breaches that could make you vulnerable. 

Strategies for Mitigating Dark Web Risks 

Organizations must proactively protect themselves from the Dark Web and data vulnerabilities. 

We can help set up technologies like encryption and firewalls, teach employees about security, check for suspicious activities, control access to data, and set up secure connections. 

Our in-depth audit will investigate suspicious activities regarding your company data on the Dark Web. If we discover any issues with your data, we can advise you on appropriate action and implement the strategies you are most comfortable with. 


The implications of the Dark Web are significant. It can affect individuals, businesses, governments, and organizations. To protect yourself or your business, it is essential to understand and recognize the risks. 

Your data security should begin with discovery. Only with facts regarding your vulnerabilities can we formulate an appropriate plan of action. We must carefully investigate to make informed decisions. If your data is compromised, it could drastically impact various compliance regulations for your organization. 

For your FREE dark web audit, visit THIS PAGE and fill out our brief form requesting your tech audit and dark web scan. 

What is Phishing? (Not fishing)

Phishing is a type of attack that uses credible appearing emails and websites to steal information; credit cards, passwords, financial information, etc. Phishing scams are becoming increasingly sophisticated and can be difficult to spot. 

Here are some of the latest phishing scams: 

Email scams: Phishing emails often look like they are from legitimate companies, such as banks, credit card companies, or online retailers. The emails may contain links to fake websites that look real. If you click on a link in an email and enter your personal information, that information is available to the attacker. They often sit on information for a few days before taking next steps (e.g. distributing phishing emails to your contact list, impersonating YOU.) 

Social media scams: Phishing scams can also occur on social media. Scammers may send you messages that look like they are from friends or family members. The messages may contain links to fake websites or ask you to send money to someone. If you click on a link in a social media message or send money to someone, you could be giving your personal information or money to the scammer. 

Phone scams: Phishing scams can also occur over the phone. Scammers may call you and pretend to be from a legitimate company. They may ask you to verify your personal information or send money to someone. If you receive a phone call from someone you do not know, do not give them your personal information or send them money. 

How to protect yourself from phishing scams: 

Be suspicious of all unsolicited emails, social media messages, and phone calls. Do not click on links in emails or social media messages, and do not send money to someone you do not know. 

Never give out your personal information, such as your Social Security number, credit card number, or bank account number, to someone you do not know. If you are asked to give out your personal information, hang up the phone or delete the email. 

Use a strong password and two-factor authentication for your online accounts. A strong password (10+ characters) is difficult to guess, and two-factor authentication adds an extra layer of security by requiring you to enter a code from your phone and your password when you log in. 

Keep your software up to date. Software updates often include security patches that can help protect you from phishing scams. 

Be aware of the latest phishing scams. Scammers are constantly developing new ways to steal your personal information. Stay informed about the latest phishing scams so you can protect yourself. 

If you think you have been the victim of a phishing scam, contact one of our team to verify whether you have had a breach. We also offer a free dark-web audit to review if you or your staff have security concerns. Call 405.748.4222 or fill out our contact form HERE.

Phishing and Cybersecurity

Keeping your business data secure is of critical importance. If you are a business that captures and stores sensitive client data, you can no longer ignore the need for cybersecurity. We have some horror stories where phishing campaigns have compromised business data. Once your data has been breached, it is challenging to be retroactive concerning your security! 

We offer cost-effective solutions. Utilizing technology, including AI, we can be proactive to ensure your data is not at risk. 

Safety is critical regardless of whether you’re a small biz or a big company. Taking action and using AI can help erase the risks of phishing campaigns.

Introduction to Phishing Campaigns

Phishing is a way to target vulnerable people and organizations. The worst outcomes may be identity theft, ransom demands, financial loss, and data loss. Email phishing is one of the main approaches for an attack. It can be used to start further actions, such as stealing credentials and delivering malware. Phishing campaigns are complex operations that include reconnaissance, foothold establishment via malware or links, stealing credentials, and malicious web activities.

A common technique is email spoofing. This is where the sender’s address is hidden, so it looks natural. They also use URL manipulation. This is when a believable link is sent but hides a malicious URL. They may also use social engineering with false websites appearing to be from a well-known brand. The aim here is to access sensitive data in corporate networks or persuade someone to give confidential info. In some cases, phishing scams contain ransomware as an attachment.

The number of phishing attacks has increased, meaning Artificial Intelligence (AI) solutions are necessary to detect and prevent these attacks. Organizations use AI to spot phishing attempts in real-time before they reach their targets. This protects people from harm and effectively provides anti-phishing protection across large networks and traffic volumes.

Types of Phishing Campaigns

Phishing campaigns are malicious attempts to get sensitive info. This information includes passwords, credit cards, banking details, and personal data. These campaigns aim to manipulate someone into taking an action that would benefit the hacker.

Types of phishing attacks include spear phishing, domain spoofing, and whaling.

Spear phishing is an email attack tailored to a specific person or group. Attackers make emails look legitimate, and they often have attachments that look safe but contain malicious software. This gives the hacker access to the recipient’s device or network information.

Domain spoofing is another type of phishing. Attackers register lookalike domains and use them to send malicious emails. They may pretend to be a senior executive as part of a business email compromise (BEC) attack.

Whaling is a more sophisticated attack targeting high-profile people like executives and celebrities. They have detailed research about their target and a potential reward if successful.

Security experts have developed AI solutions to provide better protection against cybercrime. Automation tools and brand management systems can detect suspicious account activity and quickly respond to malicious content. AI can also identify trends in negative behavior, even if the bad actors use zero-day ransomware exploits or targeted spear phishing campaigns.

Business Challenges and Concerns

Phishing campaigns can present organizations with a tricky situation. The risk of tech-savvy criminals and the challenge of predicting and preparing for attacks involving Artificial Intelligence (AI) is complicated.

Criminals with AI have the edge over usual attackers. They have access to powerful tools which let them make more refined phishing campaigns that can exploit weaknesses in enterprise systems. AI makes it easier for criminals to craft emails quickly and cheaply, believably personalize emails, monitor email trends from certain domains or groups, and link attacks over time. This means that enterprises must be extra careful when defending against phishing threats.

Training staff is essential to understand how to protect themselves against attack methods and spot malicious email attachments or links. This should include knowledge of social engineering, such as impersonations, baiting messages, and spoofing messages.

Organizations must protect their networks and keep up with the newest threats. Analysis of past incidents is critical to find current weak spots, which will help their defense strategy. Monitoring recent trends is also essential. Enterprises should evaluate performance measures and the security team’s ability to respond to threats quickly.

AI Solutions for Phishing Campaigns

AI tech can protect organizations from cyber threats, such as phishing campaigns. It’s used with traditional security tools to provide extra defense and detect suspicious behavior in real-time.

The most effective AI-based solutions use machine learning, deep learning, natural language processing, and other techniques. These can recognize malicious emails from previous examples and analyze the content structure and writing style. AI tech helps predict, detect, and respond to threats quickly so businesses can reduce vulnerability and remediate issues faster.

Advantages of using AI-powered solutions include improved system efficiency, automated responses, enhanced data visualization, near-zero false positives, reduced TCO, improved threat visibility, better scalability, automation of complex threat response processes, higher detection rate accuracy, and better decision-making capabilities. An AI solution offers a comprehensive, tailored solution with faster results than traditional security measures.

AI for phishing defenses is still relatively new. It provides enhanced accuracy in recognizing malicious emails compared to traditional methods. Manual processes like spam filtering and threat scanning are automated too.


Artificial intelligence helps fight phishing campaigns. It can assess data quickly and precisely, spot malicious activities, and act fast against threats. It boosts the performance of conventional cyber defense and offers organizations strong protection from unknown phishing.

However, AI can not replace human judgment or instinct when identifying an appropriate action. AI makes the process more secure and efficient, yet businesses need to be aware of their security posture by doing things like employee training and risk management strategies. These steps will ensure that companies combine AI with tried-and-true methods to prevent sophisticated attacks.

Call Xcel today if you have questions or need training or cybersecurity for your business: 405.748.4222

Business Cybersecurity Fundamentals

Are you wondering why cybersecurity is so critical? Cybersecurity has become essential for businesses of all sizes. In this blog post, we’ll cover why cybersecurity is so crucial for Oklahoma businesses and what options are available to protect your business and employees. 

Introduction to Cybersecurity in Oklahoma 

Cybersecurity is an increasingly important consideration for businesses of all sizes throughout Oklahoma and the rest of the world. As technology advances, hackers and other malicious entities continue to find ways to damage or steal large amounts of data from organizations. Small businesses that lack the resources to implement complex security systems are particularly vulnerable to this kind of attack, putting sensitive customer information, confidential documents, and trade secrets at risk.

For small business owners in Oklahoma, it is imperative to understand the scope and severity of cyber threats that could affect their operations. Cybercriminals don’t necessarily target larger organizations as they realize that small businesses typically lack adequate cybersecurity policies and procedures. By taking proactive steps to secure their networks and data, Oklahoma business owners can ensure they do everything possible to protect themselves from online threats.

In this article, we will provide an overview of the many forms of cybercrime that puts businesses at risk in today’s digital age, discuss the importance of strengthening cybersecurity in Oklahoma companies, review best practices for remaining safe online, and provide helpful resources for merchants looking for more information on how to stay secure online.

Benefits of Cybersecurity for Oklahoma Businesses 

Cybersecurity is an ever-evolving field that requires constant vigilance to protect businesses from cyber threats. Oklahoma businesses need specialized knowledge and expertise to protect their assets and customers to meet the increasing demand for digital security.

As technology advances and cybercriminals become more sophisticated in their tactics, having the right cybersecurity solutions in place has never been more critical. Taking a proactive approach to cybersecurity can help Oklahoma businesses prevent costly data breaches, protect valuable data, safeguard intellectual property (IP) rights, manage risks associated with remote workers and contractors, and comply with federal regulations such as HIPAA and GDPR.

In addition to keeping your systems secure from external threats, various solutions can help manage internal risks such as phishing attempts and insider threats like employee negligence or abuse of data access privileges. Relevant technologies include:

Authentication and authorization measures include multi-factor authentication (MFA), identity management systems, encryption of sensitive data, network activity monitoring software, automated analysis tools that detect anomalies in user activity logs, and regular vulnerability testing.

By investing in up-to-date cyber defense technologies and advanced detection capabilities, Oklahoma businesses can secure their systems against today’s most advanced attacks while reducing the cost of compliance with government regulations. Implementing best practices for maintaining digital safety can also generate greater customer confidence while assisting organizations in assessing potential liabilities associated with preventive or corrective measures.

Common Cybersecurity Threats Facing Oklahoma Businesses 

Oklahoma businesses of all sizes face various unique cybersecurity threats, including malware, phishing scams, denial of service attacks, data theft, and more. You risk financial losses, compromised customer information, and other damaging consequences without proper measures to protect your business from these potential threats. Oklahoma business owners must be proactive about cybersecurity and take the necessary steps to safeguard themselves against malicious actors. 

Malware is one of the most commonly used methods for attacking businesses in Oklahoma. Malicious software, such as viruses and worms, can be used to damage computer systems or steal data. Phishing scams are social engineering attack that uses email or other communication channels to convince recipients to give up confidential information or download malware onto their systems. Denial-of-service attacks are when hackers overload a computer system with requests so it can no longer process them correctly. Data theft occurs when attackers access confidential information, such as financial records or customer databases, without permission through unsecured networks or physical breaches. 

To protect against these threats, Oklahoma businesses must implement cyber security best practices such as:

  • Network segmentation, encryption, and authentication measures;
  • Patching systems regularly;
  • Identifying vulnerable areas within your networks;
  • Training employees; and
  • Developing incident response plans for cyber security incidents should they occur.

As a business, your employees have numerous roles that don’t include staying ahead of cyber threats. Xcel offers managed monthly IT resolutions to prevent threats, compromised security, and data loss. We support your business and do all the leg work required to maintain your business integrity.

Understanding the Risks of Not Having Cybersecurity 

The potential risks posed by a cyber-attack are daunting. With the increasing prevalence of digital technology in Oklahoma businesses, it’s become even more critical for companies to adopt security measures to protect their data and assets. According to research conducted by the U.S. Department of Commerce, more than half of all small businesses in the United States have been victims of cyber crimes such as hacking and identity theft. The costs associated with these breaches can be substantial—from lost productivity to damaged customer relationships – We offer proactive measures to safeguard against their attacks.

To start, it’s vital for business owners in Oklahoma City to understand the specific risks they face regarding cybersecurity. At the same time, Xcel can take steps to ensure YOUR systems remains secure. From installing up-to-date software patches and setting solid passwords to implementing antivirus programs, we can implement various steps as your IT service provider. The depth of security measures necessary will depend on you, the decision maker, your particular security needs, and budget constraints. In addition, we will conduct regular internal audits regarding your specific cybersecurity requirements.

Choosing an effective cybersecurity solution for your unique circumstances is often an overwhelming process for business owners, so it’s essential to recognize that there is no one-size-fits-all solution to protect valuable data and assets from malicious intrusion. Taking the time upfront to understand better the various threats posed by cybercriminals—and proactively designing measures tailored specifically for each company—can go a long way towards ensuring continued success in today’s digital marketplace.

Cybersecurity Solutions for Oklahoma Businesses 

Businesses in Oklahoma must take cybersecurity seriously to protect their confidential data and operations. Cyber threats, such as ransomware, hacking, phishing, and data breaches, are real risk, but these threats can be addressed with the right precautions. Understanding the risks and taking the appropriate steps is essential for business owners to keep their data secure.

Cybersecurity solutions and options vary depending on a business’s unique needs, but they all require an ongoing commitment to maintaining system security.

What can you expect when you trust your Cybersecurity needs to Xcel Office Solutions?

  • We provide education in the form of employee training on how to spot and prevent potential cyber threats;
  • We review your firewall protection and implement new protective measures as required;
  • Initiate malware protection software to detect and block harmful files;
  • We offer regular security software updates;
  • We will implement encryption protocols for sensitive data;
  • Continue to monitor user access activity;

We set up and schedule ongoing data backup of important files for disaster recovery purposes and ensure physical device security.

By proactively safeguarding networks, Oklahoma businesses can reduce the chances of falling victim to cybercrime while protecting their customers’ private information. With proper cybersecurity measures, companies can rest assured that their operations remain safe from any malicious intent or accidental mistakes made by employees or third parties. Investing time now into cybersecurity solutions will help avoid costly mistakes in the future caused by insufficient measures being taken for cybersecurity protection. We have affordable and manageable IT service plans covering your security needs.

Establishing a Cybersecurity Plan for Your Oklahoma Business 

As we work with businesses in Oklahoma, we will construct a cybersecurity plan that meets their organization’s specific needs and reduces the threat of cyber breaches. This plan should include procedures, risk assessments, and programs designed to identify potential risks, protect information assets, decrease vulnerability, and manage any violations quickly and efficiently.

Businesses should become familiar with the legal requirements related to their industry regarding cybersecurity protection so they can meet compliance regulations and communicate their needs to our team. An effective cybersecurity plan includes analyzing all security protocols, including staff education and training; incident response; asset management; anti-virus and firewall protection; secure password strategy; access control; data destruction guidelines; email security policies while maintaining an awareness of changing threats by keeping up with technology advances.

An essential step in establishing a plan is conducting an internal security audit of existing protections and an external audit utilizing external technicians. Businesses should also have guidelines for staff about safely using devices for work purposes – such as restricting which devices can connect to the network or only allowing particular types of mobile applications access to shared networks. Additionally, organizations in Oklahoma must ensure their internet service is secure by encrypting data sent over wireless connections or other networks at a level appropriate for their industry’s compliance regulations.

Conclusion: The Importance of Cybersecurity for Oklahoma Businesses 

As the world economy shifts more and more toward the virtual and digital realms, businesses of all sizes in Oklahoma must take proactive measures to protect their data, customer information, and infrastructure from cyber threats. Cybersecurity is critical to ensuring online safety; it safeguards against potential malicious activity. This makes it essential for business owners to have proper cyber security protocols, ranging from regularly-updated firewalls and continuously monitored configuration settings to comprehensive incident response plans.

By understanding the growing importance of cybersecurity for Oklahoma businesses, business owners can take actionable steps to ensure that their data is secure and protected from any malicious or emerging technological threats. 

By taking steps now to bolster defenses against external threats and malicious actors, companies in Oklahoma can ensure that they remain protected—even if an attack does manage to breach their networks or systems.

Call or email our support team today for more information on our cybersecurity solutions. (405) 748-4222 or THackelman@xceloffice.com.

How to Spot Emails Containing Viruses and Other Email Threats

Modern businesses run on email. Since most computer viruses are contained in email messages, people are becoming the victims of malware, worms, and phishing attempts now more than ever before.

So how can you protect your business against dangerous emails containing viruses that can damage your computer, infiltrate your network, and invade your privacy? First, learn how to spot them. Second, implement an effective email spam filtering solution. Finally, train your employees on email safety best practices and develop procedures on how to remedy problems in case of an attack or an infection.

Recognizing Malicious Emails

Learning how to recognize malicious emails is one of the most effective ways to protect yourself and your business. Heed the following warning signs before opening any inbound mail.

Email Sender Signals

Usually, you can tell if an email is safe based on the sender. Before opening email messages, consider the following factors to help you determine if a sender is trustworthy.

  • Unknown Sender – An email from someone you know is likely safe, however, use caution when opening an email from an unknown sender who may wish to harm your computer or steal your identity.
  • Sender’s Email Address Doesn’t Match Domain – If the sender’s email address doesn’t match the domain, this should immediately raise a red flag. For instance, if you receive an email from someone at Google, but the domain is something like @hodurric.xyz – you shouldn’t trust it.
  • Strange or Unexpected Messages – Occasionally you might receive an email from a friend, colleague, or relative that just seems “off”. Maybe it mentions sending a document you didn’t asked for or has an attachment you don’t recognize. In these cases, it’s better to delete the message than to risk opening it.

File Attachments in Emails

Emails containing attachments, especially if they’re from unknown senders, are one of the most common indicators of a dangerous threat. File attachments pose an inherent risk because they allow foreign code into your computer’s environment.

Here are some important things to know about email attachments before opening them.

  • Attachments from Unknown Senders – Never open an attachment from an unknown or sender to avoid exposing your computer to viruses, worms, and Trojans.
  • Specific File Formats – Some file formats, especially .exe files, have a high potential for danger. An .exe file is a program that runs automatically on your computer when opened. Other potentially dangerous formats include .msi, .bat, .cmd, .reg, and .js files.
  • Archived Attachments – Email attachments in .zip or .rar format should also raise suspicion. Be especially wary if the archive is encrypted or password protected – these protections block your computer from scanning the archive for threats before you open it.
  • Attachments with Macros – Some attachment types, such as .doc and .xls files contain embedded macros. Macros are, in effect, programming code that allow you to automate repetitive or complex tasks, however, they can also be used to disguise viruses and malicious code. If you receive file attachments with an “m” at the end, like .docm or .xlsm, proceed with caution.

Suspicious Email Content

Phishing emails and scams are among the most common email threats today. These messages are designed to look legitimate, but they attempt to fraudulently steal your personal information.

Look out for emails that contain the following suspicious content.

  • Request for Sensitive Information – Reject emails requesting personal data such as banking information, credit card details, or passwords. Never give up sensitive information via email unless you are certain the sender can be trusted.
  • Avoid Clicking Links – Avoid clicking links to an outside source unless you are expecting a message with an account registration confirmation. Emails containing links often lead to phishing websites.
  • Offer for Money or Prizes – Emails scams often try to lure targets in with extravagant rewards or offers in exchange for doing something menial. If a deal seems too good to be true, it probably isn’t.
  • “Following Up” on Something You Didn’t Do – Phishing attempts try to get information by asking you to follow up on something you didn’t initiate. For instance, if a message claims you’ve won a prize for a contest you didn’t enter, it should not be trusted. Delete it. Then report it.

How to Avoid Email Threats

While learning how to spot malicious emails is important, it is only part of protecting your business from dangerous emails. It is also critical to implement a strategy that blocks them from entering your environment altogether.

Email Spam Filtering

Businesses use several types of protection to safeguard against hacking, viruses, and phishing emails, but the most common solution is email protection. Email protection is commonly known as “spam filtering,” because it thwarts possible attacks by filtering out malware and junk email before they reach your inbox.

Email spam filtering works in the following ways to safeguard your inbox from malicious emails:

  • Content Filters – A content filter automatically scans the content of email messages for suspicious keywords and phrases. For example, creative misspellings and an imbalance of the image to text ratio are common identifiers.
  • Sender and Location Filters – Sender filters check the sender’s IP address and other location information against a list of known spammers, hackers, and virus makers.
  • Rules-Based Filters – Rules-based filters use pre-set rules or rules created by the end users to filter out messages containing specific words or phrases, messages received from a specific sender, messages from or a specific website, etc.
  • Attachment Filters – In addition to scanning an email’s content, attachment filters check attached images and files for viruses, executables, or extra code that could result in an unintended action. Many modern email clients also disable services like Flash and Javascript for additional security.
  • Permission Filters – Permission filters require the recipient to approve the receipt of inbound emails. Although this strategy is effective, it does require additional time. Permission filters may also include a challenge-response system that requires the sender to answer a “challenge” (usually a password) to pass the email through the filter.
  • Outbound Mail Filters – Some solutions filter outbound email as well as inbound email. This helps reduce the risk of your employees inadvertently propagating a virus.

Develop Email Best Practice Procedures and Train Employees

The final component of effectively protecting your business from email threats involves educating your employees and developing mitigation procedures in case of an attack.

Educate your employees and develop email procedures by:

  • Train Employees – Train your employees how to recognize suspicious messages. Review the risk factors and test for understanding. Don’t forget to address other security measures currently in place. For instance, employees often disable anti-virus programs, enable administrator privileges, or close warning messages without realizing the risks.
  • Implement Mitigation Procedures – Develop a procedure to address what steps an employee should take if he receives a suspicious email. This process could include alerting your IT department or quarantining messages in the email server.
  • Take Additional Security Measures – In addition to spam filtering, make sure your business has a solid anti-virus and backup/disaster recovery solution in place in case of a virus infection or data breach.

Although it is impossible to protect your business from every threat, developing and Implementing a formal security policy will greatly reduce your risk. Call Xcel Office Solutions today at (405) 748-4222 or contact us today to learn more about our managed IT services.

Why every SMB should do an Annual Network Review

Many business owners underestimate the impact network performance and reliability have on productivity within their organizations. But like it or not, your business relies on its infrastructure to get things done. Take a look at what a network review involves and learn why every business, regardless of size, should integrate it into its preventative maintenance schedule.

What components make up a network?

Your network devices typically include switches, routers, firewalls, and wireless access points that provide interconnectivity to your PCs, tablets, smartphones, printers, and other end-user peripherals. This infrastructure serves as the foundation to allow your employees to share, collaborate, and work efficiently.

What does a network review include:

A network assessment provides visibility and insight into your technical environment and can be used to develop strategies to optimize performance and reliability, to uncover and remediate potential threats, and to plan for the future. Below is some important information a network assessment can provide your business:

  • Asset Overview
    An asset overview is a comprehensive list of all of your networked devices by make/model and IP address. It allows you to identify suspicious activity on your network and unauthorized devices inside your firewall (commonly found in organizations that don’t have policies regarding what devices employees bring into the environment). It can also detect obsolete devices, upgrades, etc.
  • License Key Inventory
    In addition to managing the hardware on your network, it is important to know what software you’re running as well. An inventory of your license keys will reveal if your business is using expired or unlicensed software. This information is used to verify compliance in case of an audit or a security breach. It is also used to develop end-user policies by highlighting non work-related software in the environment.
  • Patch Status
    Relying on your employees to perform their own software updates and application patches is risky. Many people postpone prompts or ignore them altogether. This creates a security and compliance vulnerability that can have a major impact on your business. The patch status report will highlight any failed or missing patches so you can ensure your software is current and secure.
  • Antivirus Assessment
    If you spend any time on the Internet, chances are you’ve encountered at least one virus or malicious application. These intrusions can result in a loss of data, impaired functionality, and costly downtime. The antivirus assessment will identify which anti-virus programs are running on which workstations and if they are up-to-date.
  • Capacity Planning
    If your business is experiencing slow network performance, you could be running low on bandwidth. The capacity planning tool measures your current bandwidth usage. Establishing a baseline will help you identify bottlenecks, understand when capacity is needed, and learn how to avoid depletion. Capacity usage is important to evaluate if your business anticipates growth that might result in increased traffic (such as hiring new employees or opening new locations).
  • Backup/Disaster Recovery
    Many business owners do not have a solid backup/disaster recovery plan in place. And of those that do, very few people test their plan to see how it will actually affect business continuity in the event of loss, theft, or natural disaster. An analyst can evaluate the effectiveness of your backup procedures and disaster recovery plan and give you suggestions on what you can improve based on best business practices.
  • Summary & Recommendations
    A network assessment includes a summary of findings. It provides an overview of your network, your current challenges, and your future objectives to demonstrate that the analyst understands your business case. It highlights issues/concerns found during the assessment and recommendations on how you can address each one. Finally, it identifies any limitations of the assessment as a result of network configurations, limited user access, etc.

Annual reviews are critical for uncovering and remediating issues/concerns within your network environment. Integrating them as part of your preventative maintenance routine will ensure your network health.

Contact us today to at (405) 748-4222  to schedule your network review.

Data Recovery: Are Businesses Missing the Point?

Severe weather season is upon us, and many Oklahoma business owners like you are reviewing your backup/disaster data recovery plans. And while we applaud your diligence, let’s set the record straight. The fact of the matter is that the likelihood your business is going to be wiped off the map by a tornado is slim to none. According to a 2011 report by the Aberdeen Group, only five percent of small businesses and nine percent of medium-sized business reported data loss from a natural disaster.

But before you abandon your efforts, wait just a minute. Not so fast. The reality is that your data is still in danger, and we’re willing to bet at some point you will be a victim of a disaster resulting in data loss.

The Making of a Disaster

The word “disaster” is such a loaded word. After all, when most people think of a disaster, they envision Mother Nature wreaking havoc in the form of tornadoes, earthquakes, fires, and floods.

While it is important to be prepared for such catastrophes, it is reasonable to suggest that a “disaster” is really any event that interrupts the normal operation of your business. For example, a server failure, a power outage, a virus, or an employee who accidentally deletes files can have the same impact as a EF5 tornado that strips your server room or destroys your building.

Creating a Backup/Disaster Recovery Plan

According to The Institute for Business and Home Safety, up to 25% of businesses don’t reopen at all after a disaster, so you must first acknowledge that any event that disrupts business and takes time and money to resolve is worth your time to evaluate. Then you must take the proper steps to develop a solid plan to protect your business.

Backup & Replication

Two components of a solid backup/disaster recovery plan involve backup and replication. And although often used synonymously, it is important to understand the differences when developing your plan.

  • Data Backup – Many businesses owners practice at least some form of backup. Backups involve making a copy of data at a predetermined point in time, saving it to a storage medium such as a tape or disk, and then archiving it in a library of sorts. This type of data protection is focused on compliance and recovering specific data such as a person’s email.
  • Data Replication – Data replication, on the other hand, involves making an exact copy of an existing technical environment – usually a server or application – and then moving it to a second location. Frequent data transfers ensure that important data and critical business services can be retrieved in the event of a disaster. This type of backup focuses on restoring business applications quickly.

Pitfalls to Avoid

While many business owners have good intentions, often times the execution falls somewhat short. Avoid these common mistakes when developing your Backup/Disaster Recovery plan.

Focusing on Backup Rather than Recovery – If your plan focuses solely on backup, then you may be missing the point. A 2011 study by Symantec in 2011 found that,the average cost of downtime for businesses that do reopen after a disaster is $12,500 per day. So while backing up your data is critical, restoring your services and applications so that you can resume business quickly is really the best way to minimize your loss.

Storing Backups Onsite – One of the most common mistakes businesses make is storing archived data in the same location as the main version. If you experience a fire, a server failure, or a theft, you’ll lose your backups along with your original data. It’s important to always keep copies of your data offsite in order to prevent full-site disasters.

Relying Solely on Cloud Services – Many offices have migrated to cloud-based systems, but it’s important to note that cloud systems can and do suffer outagesintrusion, and data loss. If you rely heavily on cloud services for your data storage and transfer, it’s a good idea to perform regular local backups as a supplement just in case.

Need Some Help?

For help implementing a business continuity plan, visit the Ready.gov website for resources and guides, or you can contact us at Xcel Office Solutions for a free evaluation of your existing backup/disaster recovery plan.

Call Xcel Office Solutions Today

From offsite backups and data storage to replication and systems recovery, we can help you design and test a backup/disaster recovery plan to protect your business. Call Xcel Office Solutions today at (405) 748-4222 or visit our Facebook or LinkedIn profiles for updates and expert insights.

How to Secure Your Print Environment

Network security is a growing concern for every business, but while many businesses owners go to great lengths to secure computers and servers, they often overlook their office printers, another significant source of potential vulnerability to outside threats.

Why Do I Need to Secure My Print Environment?

Today’s modern office printer is quite sophisticated compared to its predecessors, and in many ways, functions much like a computer with its own Ethernet interface and IP address. Although advances in print technology have proven beneficial to businesses in almost every aspect, they have also given birth to new security risks that can result in costly damages if you don’t take the proper precautions.

Print security is important for businesses that:

  • Print sensitive or secure documents.
  • Must comply with industry standards or security protocols.
  • Want to protect their network environment from outside threats.

Why are Printers a Threat?

There are several security threats associated with office printers. For example, printers now have internal hard drives for document queueing and caching, and sensitive documents can sometimes be recovered from the printer’s hard drive. Furthermore, an ill-configured printer can provide an access point for hackers to infiltrate your network and steal your business’ sensitive data.

Minimizing the Security Risks

While there are ways to secure your printer, it is important to take a holistic approach to maximize your protection. There are three main areas in which you should focus your efforts to reduce your system’s vulnerability: the printer itself, the data on the printer, and the network in which your printer resides.

Printer Security Steps

The first step to printer security is securing the printer itself. Make sure your printer is set up and configured properly with the following steps:

  • Set Up Passwords and Admin Profiles – Set up a device password or create an administrator profile on your printer to ensure only authorized users can make changes to your device settings.
  • Perform Regular Software Updates – As hackers get smarter, new threats emerge. Hardware manufacturers constantly release security patches to counter these threats, so it is critical to perform regular software updates to remedy these flaws.
  • Engage Your Printer’s Security Features – Many printers have settings specifically designed with security in mind. For example, the Xerox Secure Print feature holds a print job in the queue until the user enters a passcode on the device to “release” it. This eliminates private documents from being viewed in the output tray or even taken by someone else.
  • Place in an Open Location – Place your printer in a central area of the office or an open space that is visible to others. This will reduce instances of people tampering with the device’s settings or taking documents they shouldn’t.

Data Security Steps

In addition to securing the printer, it’s vital that you secure the data inside the printer as well as the data transmitted to and from it. Transmitting unsecured data, or allowing unsecure data to remain at rest in your printer, is a security flaw with significant implications.

  • Set Up Device Encryption – Many printers have internal storage features like hard drives and flash storage that allows them to store printed documents. If you choose to leave these features enabled, you should enable device-level encryption. This is a common feature on business-class or enterprise-class printers, but many people forget to enable it. Strong encryption can protect your data and keep it from being used by outside parties.
  • Set Up Network Encryption – For many businesses, internal printer encryption isn’t enough. Network encryption protects data as it moves from a computer or server to the printer. Encryption is especially important if you have a wireless office network, since devices outside of your physical office space might still be able to connect to your network and read the data you transmit to your printer.
  • Educate Your Staff – One of the best ways to keep your data secure is to develop print policies that outline things like who can print what and how to properly dispose of sensitive documents. Then you must educate your staff on these SOP’s, test for understanding, and periodically double-check to ensure they are in compliance.

Network Security Steps

Finally, it’s important to remember that your printer is an access point for unauthorized users to access your entire network. Make sure you take steps to secure your network and remove your printer as a vulnerability.

  • Take Your Printer Offline – While Internet-enabled printing is convenient, it might be a security risk for businesses handling sensitive data. Removing your printer from an internet-facing network can help reduce the risk of exposure to hackers. Instead, place your printer on an internal network with its own firewall. This will ensure you can only access it from approved devices and that it’s not detected from the outside.
  • Turn Off Unnecessary Services – If you do choose to leave your printer online, turn off access methods and services you don’t use. For instance, some printers allow you to print via FTP from outside your network or to use an online print portal to print from anywhere. These services can be huge conveniences, but turn them off if you don’t use them. Closing these ports will prevent unauthorized users from entering your network.
  • Follow Network Security Best Practices – In most cases, it helps to treat a printer like a computer and follow best practices for adding a new device to your network. Some of the most effective tactics include requiring a password to access network data, setting up firewalls to prevent outside access and malware, and instituting BYOD policies to prevent malicious use of thumb drives, phones, or outside computers.

Work with Secure Print Experts

Not sure if your print environment is secure? Contact us today at Xcel Office Solutions. We can uncover vulnerabilities within your existing network and help you create a more secure print environment. Don’t wait – your business’s security could be hanging in the balance. Call (405) 748-4222 today.

7 Cyber Security Mistakes Your Business Might Be Making

Cyber security is a growing concern for small and medium-sized business owners. Today, more businesses run online applications than ever before. A system vulnerability resulting in a loss of sensitive data can have devastating effects on these organizations, yet many small business owners, in Oklahoma and beyond, still don’t take the proper cyber security measures.

If you rely on your computers or the Internet for day-to-day operations, cyber security should be important to you. After all, a data breach could cost you your business. To promote cyber security, the US Department of Homeland Security designates each October as Cyber Security Awareness Month. Learn how you can protect your business by avoiding these seven common mistakes.

Insufficient Backup Procedures

From healthcare and financial records to personal information such as birthdates and social security numbers, most companies handle some form of sensitive information.  A data loss due to a security breach or system failure can have a lasting impact, yet many businesses do not take proper steps to secure its data. A 2013 survey by GFI Software found that 53% of SMB’s do not perform daily data backups, and 32% of businesses do not regularly test its backup plans to ensure they are working properly.

Furthermore, what many business owners are failing to recognize is that data loss incidents can result in huge fees. A single hard drive recovery can cost anywhere from $500 to several thousand dollars. Add in the costs associated with productivity loss, and it should become clear why data backup is important.

The best way to mitigate the risk of data loss is to be diligent about data backups and to use multiple solutions in tandem. IT professionals often follow the “3-2-1” rule for data backups:

  • At least 3 copies of important data…
  • On 2 different types of media…
  • With at least 1 copy offsite.

For daily backups, online cloud-based services are a great option. These programs automatically replicate your data and save it offsite to ensure it is safe in the event of a system failure or catastrophic event that physically destroys the server. Visit our cloud services page to learn more about how your business can benefit from cloud-based storage.

In addition to backing up your business’ sensitive information to the cloud, we recommend that you also backup your data to a local device such as a portable hard drive or server. Windows’  Backup and Restore program and OS X’s Time Machine are good options for individual computers, and Windows Server’s Robocopy is a great option for many servers.

Bad Passwords

The most common cyber security issues businesses face are the result of poor password practices.  There are three main password elements that create vulnerability issues: weak passwords, reused passwords, and the exposure of passwords.

Weak passwords are extremely common. Because complicated passwords are hard to remember, people tend to use simple passwords such as names, dates, common words, or combinations of these elements. Unfortunately these passwords are relatively easy for modern software to crack. This ArsTechnica article, for example, shows how an untrained reporter was able to crack more than 8,000 passwords in only a few hours using publicly available software and guides.

Another common issue is using the same password for multiple logins. Even if your password is strong, it’s not a good idea to use the same password for different accounts. One data breach from a single site could compromise your entire digital environment.

It’s also common for users to inadvertently expose passwords or login information to unauthorized parties. Phishing is the most common vector for these types of attacks. For example, last year’s data breach at Anthem Inc, a popular health care provider, was the result of an employee’s login information being stolen. This blog post from SecureList details the latest phishing attacks and shows how important spam and email filtering is for businesses.

There are several solutions to reduce the risk of password theft and keep you safe from attack. Here are a few of the most effective methods:

  • Better training – The most effective password security measure is training and awareness. Your employees should know what the best practices are for password creation, use, and sharing.
  • Password Encryption – Services such as LastPass allow you to create encrypted, randomized passwords and manage them from a single app, however, they still require you to create a strong master password.
  • Two-Factor Authentication – For your most important data, two-factor authentication is an excellent security measure. Two-factor systems require you to have a device (often a mobile phone that can receive text messages or a security token) in conjunction with a traditional password or PIN. By using both authentication methods in tandem, logins are made significantly more secure.

Improper Printer/Device Security

An often-overlooked area of cyber security involves network printers and copiers. The modern printers and copiers are built just like computers, complete with processors, RAM, and operating systems. Many businesses, though, do not take steps to secure these devices.

This can lead to problems. For instance, in 2013 a vulnerability was exposed in some HP printers by Google. This vulnerability allowed hackers to assume control of the printer, to view all printed and scanned files, and to prevent the printer from upgrading its firmware to patch the hole.

Because of this, it’s important to configure your printers and other print devices with security in mind. Here are a few things you should do to ensure your printer is secure:

  • Change the default printer administrator password.
  • Set up your printer behind your network firewall.
  • Only allow connections to your printer from authorized network users.
  • Make sure your printer’s software is up to date and apply future patches in a timely manner.

Not Encrypting Sensitive Data

One of the biggest mistakes SMB’s make with cyber security is focusing all of its energy on keeping attackers out. Unfortunately no business can keep itself 100% secure. That means at least part of your security measures should be focused on keeping your valuable data in your environment in lieu of keeping intruders out.

Encryption is one of the best solutions for protecting yourself from data loss, hacking, and malware. When you encrypt your local data and your backups, you prevent an attacker who accesses that data from using it. Data encrypted with standard 128-bit encryption is virtually unbreakable without the cryptographic key, ensuring your data stays safe even if it is hijacked by a hacker or malicious program. Yet, according to a survey by Kaspersky, more than 35% of companies worldwide don’t use encryption to protect their data.

Fortunately it isn’t hard to set up encryption in your environment. For individual computers, both Windows and OS X have built-in hard drive encryption software. You can enable this software with just a few clicks. The process is more complicated for servers, but an IT Services company can help you get started and can train your employees in encryption and key management best practices.

Not Segmenting Your Environment

If your infrastructure consists of more than a single computer, you should be thinking about network segmentation. This is especially true if you store sensitive information on a networked server. Any time you expose valuable data to the outside world you run the risk of it being tampered with or stolen.

Network segmentation can help reduce this risk. In a properly segmented network, outside-facing users (such as computers or devices with Internet access) are segmented from internal servers, payment machines, and other devices by physical constraints or software firewalls. These systems can prevent unauthorized access to your data and keep your business secure.

To set up network segmentation in your business, contact us today for a network assessment. We’ll help you determine which elements of your network are vulnerable  and how you can restructure your data environment to protect them.

Not Patching Web Services and Firewalls

One of the most surprising data points from the 2015 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report relates to exploits of known vulnerabilities. According to the report, 99.9% of exploits occurred more than a year after the relevant CVE (Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures) documentation was published. And perhaps more surprisingly, just 10 CVEs – all but one published before 2003 – account for 97% of exploits. In other words, attackers generally exploit known vulnerabilities in hardware and software, banking on the probability that their targets have not patched them.

These statistics prove how vital a good patch management process is for every business. It doesn’t matter whether you operate off a single laptop or have a full data center. You should be regularly testing and applying security patches to all of your devices.

For larger networks, automated patch management tools can help make patch management easier.  Unfortunately these tools aren’t always easy to set up or use. You may want to contact an IT services company to help you with your patch management process.

Lack of Employee Training and Enforcement

Xcel Office Solutions Security TrainingEven if you fortify your network from outside attacks, your systems are still vulnerable to errors caused by employees. User errors account for about 20% of all data security incidents according to the 2015 DBIR and can result in costly remediation efforts.

Here are just a few of the ways employees and insiders can cause security vulnerabilities:

  • Using weak passwords or reusing passwords
  • Opening infected email attachments or web pages
  • Opening or responding to phishing emails or apps
  • Handling or disposing of sensitive data improperly

Training is one of the most important and effective cyber security methods. When a new person or contractor joins your team, you need to thoroughly educate them on your security processes.

Here are a few tips for training employees on proper cyber security:

  • Establish Best Practices – Every employee should know how to create a strong password, how to avoid viruses and phishing attacks, and how to properly dispose of sensitive data. Creating best practices for them to follow is a good way to make them aware of what to do and what to avoid.
  • Train Early and Often – Don’t put off training new employees on data security. Bad habits are easier to avoid than break. And don’t forget to retrain your employees when things change.
  • Communicate Consequences – Establish clear, concise consequences for any employee who breaks data security protocol.

Your business can afford to ignore cyber security. If you want to learn more about how you can keep your business safe from data loss, theft, malware and other security-related issues, call Xcel Office Solutions today at (405) 748-4222 to schedule your network assessment.