What is virtual “sandboxing”?

Virtualization comes with several benefits for small- and medium-sized businesses. One of the most important is cybersecurity, but even within that subset are several strategies for protecting your organization. One of such strategy is referred to as sandboxing, and it’s worth learning about.

What is sandboxing?

Sandboxing is one of the rare concepts in virtualization that the average person can usually grasp in just a couple short sentences. Essentially, sandboxing is the practice of tricking an application or program into thinking it is running on a regular computer, and observing how it performs. This is especially useful for testing whether unknown applications are hiding malware.

Obviously, it gets far more complicated once you delve into the details of how you implement a sandboxing technique, but the short answer is that it almost always involves virtualized computers. The program you want to test thinks it’s been opened on a full-fledged workstation of server and can act normally, but it’s actually inside of a tightly controlled virtual space that forbids it from copying itself or deleting files outside of what is included in the sandbox.

An effective way to quarantine

Virtualization is no simple task, but the benefits of sandboxing definitely make the effort worth it. For example, virtualized workstations can essentially be created and destroyed with the flip of a switch. That means:

  1. You aren’t required to manage permanent resources to utilize a sandbox. Turn it on when you need it, and when you’re done the resources necessary to run it are reset and returned to your server’s available capacity.
  2. When malware is exposed inside a sandbox, removing it is as simple as destroying the virtual machine. Compare that to running a physical workstation dedicated solely to sandboxing. Formatting and reinstalling the machine would take several hours.
  3. Variables such as which operating system the sandbox runs, which permissions quarantined applications are granted, and minimum testing times can be employed and altered in extremely short periods of time.

This strategy has been around for nearly two decades, and some cybersecurity experts have spent their entire careers working toward the perfect virtual sandbox.

Containers: the next step in this evolution

Recently, the virtualization industry has been almost totally consumed by the topic of “containers.” Instead of creating entire virtual workstations to run suspicious applications in, containers are virtual spaces with exactly enough hardware and software resources to run whatever the container was designed to do.

Think of the metaphor literally: Older sandboxes came in a uniform size, which was almost always significantly larger than whatever you were placing into them. Containers let you design the size and shape of the sandbox based on your exact specifications.

Quarantined virtual spaces fit nicely into the sandbox metaphor, but actually implementing them is impossible without trained help. Whether you’re looking for enhanced security protocols or increased efficiency with your hardware resources, our virtualization services can help. Call us today.

Posted in General Articles A, Virtualization | Tagged , , , , , | Comments closed

A brief history of virtual quarantines

Malware is becoming more sophisticated every day, and we recommend several solutions for dealing with it. One of the most interesting of these is achievable via cutting-edge virtualization technology. Often referred to as sandboxing, this solution is a great way to quarantine and test suspicious applications before exposing them to your entire network.

What is sandboxing?

Sandboxing is one of the rare concepts in virtualization that the average person can usually grasp in just a couple short sentences. Essentially, sandboxing is the practice of tricking an application or program into thinking it is running on a regular computer, and observing how it performs. This is especially useful for testing whether unknown applications are hiding malware.

Obviously, it gets far more complicated once you delve into the details of how you implement a sandboxing technique, but the short answer is that it almost always involves virtualized computers. The program you want to test thinks it’s been opened on a full-fledged workstation of server and can act normally, but it’s actually inside of a tightly controlled virtual space that forbids it from copying itself or deleting files outside of what is included in the sandbox.

An effective way to quarantine

Virtualization is no simple task, but the benefits of sandboxing definitely make the effort worth it. For example, virtualized workstations can essentially be created and destroyed with the flip of a switch. That means:

  1. You aren’t required to manage permanent resources to utilize a sandbox. Turn it on when you need it, and when you’re done the resources necessary to run it are reset and returned to your server’s available capacity.
  2. When malware is exposed inside a sandbox, removing it is as simple as destroying the virtual machine. Compare that to running a physical workstation dedicated solely to sandboxing. Formatting and reinstalling the machine would take several hours.
  3. Variables such as which operating system the sandbox runs, which permissions quarantined applications are granted, and minimum testing times can be employed and altered in extremely short periods of time.

This strategy has been around for nearly two decades, and some cybersecurity experts have spent their entire careers working toward the perfect virtual sandbox.

Containers: the next step in this evolution

Recently, the virtualization industry has been almost totally consumed by the topic of “containers.” Instead of creating entire virtual workstations to run suspicious applications in, containers are virtual spaces with exactly enough hardware and software resources to run whatever the container was designed to do.

Think of the metaphor literally: Older sandboxes came in a uniform size, which was almost always significantly larger than whatever you were placing into them. Containers let you design the size and shape of the sandbox based on your exact specifications.

Quarantined virtual spaces fit nicely into the sandbox metaphor, but actually implementing them is impossible without trained help. Whether you’re looking for enhanced security protocols or increased efficiency with your hardware resources, our virtualization services can help. Call us today.

Posted in General Articles C, Virtualization | Tagged , , , , , | Comments closed

How virtualization roots out malware

Every IT solution in your organization will encounter malware at some point or another. Some solutions are malware liabilities, others are assets. When it comes to virtualization, there are several cyber security benefits for improving your malware readiness. One of our favorites is called sandboxing, and it’s a good one for you to know about.

What is sandboxing?

Sandboxing is one of the rare concepts in virtualization that the average person can usually grasp in just a couple short sentences. Essentially, sandboxing is the practice of tricking an application or program into thinking it is running on a regular computer, and observing how it performs. This is especially useful for testing whether unknown applications are hiding malware.

Obviously, it gets far more complicated once you delve into the details of how you implement a sandboxing technique, but the short answer is that it almost always involves virtualized computers. The program you want to test thinks it’s been opened on a full-fledged workstation of server and can act normally, but it’s actually inside of a tightly controlled virtual space that forbids it from copying itself or deleting files outside of what is included in the sandbox.

An effective way to quarantine

Virtualization is no simple task, but the benefits of sandboxing definitely make the effort worth it. For example, virtualized workstations can essentially be created and destroyed with the flip of a switch. That means:

  1. You aren’t required to manage permanent resources to utilize a sandbox. Turn it on when you need it, and when you’re done the resources necessary to run it are reset and returned to your server’s available capacity.
  2. When malware is exposed inside a sandbox, removing it is as simple as destroying the virtual machine. Compare that to running a physical workstation dedicated solely to sandboxing. Formatting and reinstalling the machine would take several hours.
  3. Variables such as which operating system the sandbox runs, which permissions quarantined applications are granted, and minimum testing times can be employed and altered in extremely short periods of time.

This strategy has been around for nearly two decades, and some cybersecurity experts have spent their entire careers working toward the perfect virtual sandbox.

Containers: the next step in this evolution

Recently, the virtualization industry has been almost totally consumed by the topic of “containers.” Instead of creating entire virtual workstations to run suspicious applications in, containers are virtual spaces with exactly enough hardware and software resources to run whatever the container was designed to do.

Think of the metaphor literally: Older sandboxes came in a uniform size, which was almost always significantly larger than whatever you were placing into them. Containers let you design the size and shape of the sandbox based on your exact specifications.

Quarantined virtual spaces fit nicely into the sandbox metaphor, but actually implementing them is impossible without trained help. Whether you’re looking for enhanced security protocols or increased efficiency with your hardware resources, our virtualization services can help. Call us today.

Posted in General Articles B, Virtualization | Tagged , , , , , | Comments closed

Five tips to prevent VoIP eavesdropping

Eavesdropping is the intentional act of secretly listening in on a conversation, usually not for the best of intentions. Although today the act also includes VoIP telephone systems, it’s not a recent trend. As exemplified by the SIPtap attacks of 2007 and the Peskyspy trojans of 2009, cybercriminals have had their eye on VoIP ever since it was introduced to the market. Here are five tips to combat VoIP eavesdropping:

Never deploy with default configurations
Everyone wants to get things rolling as quickly as possible, but this often results in VoIP phones being deployed with their default configurations. You don’t want to do this because it allows the bad guy to search vendor documentation. Depending on your VoIP solution, you should have the option of changing default handset configurations. Otherwise, you’ll need to come up with a manual process to change phone defaults when you roll handsets out to your employees.

Listen to your handset vendors
An ideal example of VoIP handset vulnerabilities happened in 2015, when Cisco detected vulnerabilities in IP phones which enabled an unauthorized attacker to listen in on phone conversations. If it weren’t for those security alerts, several companies could have found themselves victims of VoIP eavesdropping. The lesson learned here is you must regularly monitor advisories from your hardware vendor. Without proper monitoring, you won’t know how susceptible your corporate VoIP phones are to being eavesdropped.

Update session border controllers
Another tactic to combat VoIP eavesdropping is to constantly update your session border controllers (SBCs). By doing so, you’ll be updating your VoIP’s antivirus software; because cyber threats are constantly evolving, your security products should as well. Routine SBC updates are essential for secure SIP trunking as well as responding to new threats.

Encrypt VoIP calls
Many cloud VoIP providers offer call encryption guidelines, and some even offer it as a premium service. If you work in a regulated industry like healthcare or finance, encrypting VoIP calls are essential to staying compliant. Work with your VoIP provider and auditors to determine the best encryption options for your communications infrastructure.

Build a hardened VoIP network
Another method to fend off VoIP eavesdropping is to build a hardened VoIP network that includes:

  • IP private branch exchange (PBX) using minimal services so that the hardware can only power the PBX software
  • Firewalls with access control lists set to include call control information
  • Lightweight Directory Access Protocol lookup, and signaling and management protocol
  • Reinforced end point security with authentication at the endpoint level

In order to effectively combat VoIP eavesdropping, businesses need to take a holistic approach. This includes policies, deployment, as well as security practices to ensure malicious agents are unable to tap into your calls. Feel free to contact us for further information on how to protect your business.

Posted in General Articles A, VoIP | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Comments closed

Five ways to avoid VoIP eavesdropping

With the recent headlines on cyber attacks via Voice-over-Internet-Protocol (VoIP) eavesdropping, the safety of your communication systems is clearly at risk. As cyber criminals constantly find new ways to infiltrate your business, now might be the right time to implement the proper defenses for your VoIP phone systems. Get the ball rolling with these following tips:

Never deploy with default configurations
Everyone wants to get things rolling as quickly as possible, but this often results in VoIP phones being deployed with their default configurations. You don’t want to do this because it allows the bad guy to search vendor documentation. Depending on your VoIP solution, you should have the option of changing default handset configurations. Otherwise, you’ll need to come up with a manual process to change phone defaults when you roll handsets out to your employees.

Listen to your handset vendors
An ideal example of VoIP handset vulnerabilities happened in 2015, when Cisco detected vulnerabilities in IP phones which enabled an unauthorized attacker to listen in on phone conversations. If it weren’t for those security alerts, several companies could have found themselves victims of VoIP eavesdropping. The lesson learned here is you must regularly monitor advisories from your hardware vendor. Without proper monitoring, you won’t know how susceptible your corporate VoIP phones are to being eavesdropped.

Update session border controllers
Another tactic to combat VoIP eavesdropping is to constantly update your session border controllers (SBCs). By doing so, you’ll be updating your VoIP’s antivirus software; because cyber threats are constantly evolving, your security products should as well. Routine SBC updates are essential for secure SIP trunking as well as responding to new threats.

Encrypt VoIP calls
Many cloud VoIP providers offer call encryption guidelines, and some even offer it as a premium service. If you work in a regulated industry like healthcare or finance, encrypting VoIP calls are essential to staying compliant. Work with your VoIP provider and auditors to determine the best encryption options for your communications infrastructure.

Build a hardened VoIP network
Another method to fend off VoIP eavesdropping is to build a hardened VoIP network that includes:

  • IP private branch exchange (PBX) using minimal services so that the hardware can only power the PBX software
  • Firewalls with access control lists set to include call control information
  • Lightweight Directory Access Protocol lookup, and signaling and management protocol
  • Reinforced end point security with authentication at the endpoint level

In order to effectively combat VoIP eavesdropping, businesses need to take a holistic approach. This includes policies, deployment, as well as security practices to ensure malicious agents are unable to tap into your calls. Feel free to contact us for further information on how to protect your business.

Posted in General Articles C, VoIP | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Comments closed

Avoid VoIP eavesdropping with these tricks

As of late, eavesdropping has been making the headlines due to the surge in frequency. Making it an ideal time to review how well your Voice-over-Internet-Protocol (VoIP) phone systems are protected. However, this isn’t entirely new to VoIP, Vomit and Peskyspy are just some of the prolific VoIP eavesdropping attacks that have gained infamy since 2007. Spare your business from VoIP eavesdropping with these tips:

Never deploy with default configurations
Everyone wants to get things rolling as quickly as possible, but this often results in VoIP phones being deployed with their default configurations. You don’t want to do this because it allows the bad guy to search vendor documentation. Depending on your VoIP solution, you should have the option of changing default handset configurations. Otherwise, you’ll need to come up with a manual process to change phone defaults when you roll handsets out to your employees.

Listen to your handset vendors
An ideal example of VoIP handset vulnerabilities happened in 2015, when Cisco detected vulnerabilities in IP phones which enabled an unauthorized attacker to listen in on phone conversations. If it weren’t for those security alerts, several companies could have found themselves victims of VoIP eavesdropping. The lesson learned here is you must regularly monitor advisories from your hardware vendor. Without proper monitoring, you won’t know how susceptible your corporate VoIP phones are to being eavesdropped.

Update session border controllers
Another tactic to combat VoIP eavesdropping is to constantly update your session border controllers (SBCs). By doing so, you’ll be updating your VoIP’s antivirus software; because cyber threats are constantly evolving, your security products should as well. Routine SBC updates are essential for secure SIP trunking as well as responding to new threats.

Encrypt VoIP calls
Many cloud VoIP providers offer call encryption guidelines, and some even offer it as a premium service. If you work in a regulated industry like healthcare or finance, encrypting VoIP calls are essential to staying compliant. Work with your VoIP provider and auditors to determine the best encryption options for your communications infrastructure.

Build a hardened VoIP network
Another method to fend off VoIP eavesdropping is to build a hardened VoIP network that includes:

  • IP private branch exchange (PBX) using minimal services so that the hardware can only power the PBX software
  • Firewalls with access control lists set to include call control information
  • Lightweight Directory Access Protocol lookup, and signaling and management protocol
  • Reinforced end point security with authentication at the endpoint level

In order to effectively combat VoIP eavesdropping, businesses need to take a holistic approach. This includes policies, deployment, as well as security practices to ensure malicious agents are unable to tap into your calls. Feel free to contact us for further information on how to protect your business.

Posted in General Articles B, VoIP | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Comments closed

Why you need to update Microsoft Word

Microsoft Word is a staple business application. But since so many people use it on a daily basis, hackers work tirelessly to expose and exploit flaws in the system. In fact, cybercriminals stumbled upon a Word vulnerability that puts your sensitive data at risk. Read on to learn more about the exploit and what you can do about it.

The attack
On April 10, cybersecurity firm Proofpoint discovered scammers running email campaigns to trick people into clicking malware-ridden Word attachments. The fraudulent emails, simply titled “Scan Data,” included attached documents that were named “Scan,” followed by randomized digits.

Although the emails seem harmless, clicking on the documents triggers a download for Dridex malware, a Trojan virus designed to give hackers direct access to your banking information. From there, they can simply log in to your online account and make unauthorized transactions under your name.

In 2015, the distribution of Dridex allowed cybercriminals to steal approximately $25 million from European accounts. And if your business fell victim to this malware, there’s a possibility your company might not be able to recover from the loss.

The solution
Fortunately, two days after the discovery of the bug, Microsoft released a security update to disable the dangerous documents, urging users to install the patch as soon as possible. But even though Dridex was inoculated relatively quickly, employees continue to be the biggest problem.

Like most malware attacks, Dridex was distributed via phishing campaigns that preyed on a victim’s trust and curiosity. Hackers added barely any text to the email, yet people were still fooled into clicking on dangerous links.

To make sure Dridex never reaches your company, you must provide comprehensive security awareness training. In your sessions, encourage employees to practice safe computing habits, which include being cautious of online links, setting strong passwords, and avoiding downloads from untrusted and unknown sources.

Much like updating your software, keeping your staff’s security knowledge up to date on the latest threats is also imperative. Ultimately, your goal is to have employees with a security-focused mindset when browsing the web.

Of course, if security training and cybersecurity solutions are not your company’s specialties, you can always rely on a trusted managed services provider like us to protect your business. We can update and secure your systems regularly, and make sure your staff are actively doing their part to reduce security risks. Contact us today!

Posted in General Articles C, Office | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Comments closed

Watch out for this Microsoft Word bug

Feature updates can come and go, but when Microsoft releases a security update, you need to install it as soon as possible. This is because hackers are constantly looking for software bugs to exploit, and in Microsoft’s case, cybercriminals have found a serious vulnerability in Word.

The attack
On April 10, cybersecurity firm Proofpoint discovered scammers running email campaigns to trick people into clicking malware-ridden Word attachments. The fraudulent emails, simply titled “Scan Data,” included attached documents that were named “Scan,” followed by randomized digits.

Although the emails seem harmless, clicking on the documents triggers a download for Dridex malware, a Trojan virus designed to give hackers direct access to your banking information. From there, they can simply log in to your online account and make unauthorized transactions under your name.

In 2015, the distribution of Dridex allowed cybercriminals to steal approximately $25 million from European accounts. And if your business fell victim to this malware, there’s a possibility your company might not be able to recover from the loss.

The solution
Fortunately, two days after the discovery of the bug, Microsoft released a security update to disable the dangerous documents, urging users to install the patch as soon as possible. But even though Dridex was inoculated relatively quickly, employees continue to be the biggest problem.

Like most malware attacks, Dridex was distributed via phishing campaigns that preyed on a victim’s trust and curiosity. Hackers added barely any text to the email, yet people were still fooled into clicking on dangerous links.

To make sure Dridex never reaches your company, you must provide comprehensive security awareness training. In your sessions, encourage employees to practice safe computing habits, which include being cautious of online links, setting strong passwords, and avoiding downloads from untrusted and unknown sources.

Much like updating your software, keeping your staff’s security knowledge up to date on the latest threats is also imperative. Ultimately, your goal is to have employees with a security-focused mindset when browsing the web.

Of course, if security training and cybersecurity solutions are not your company’s specialties, you can always rely on a trusted managed services provider like us to protect your business. We can update and secure your systems regularly, and make sure your staff are actively doing their part to reduce security risks. Contact us today!

Posted in General Articles B, Office | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Comments closed

Microsoft Word bug: What you need to know

Software developers and hackers are in a constant game of cat and mouse. When cybercriminals find new security bugs to exploit, tech companies have to quickly release a solution that secures those vulnerabilities. Just this month, Microsoft released a patch to eliminate a Word exploit designed to steal user information. If you’re an avid Microsoft Word user, here’s what you need to know about the bug.

The attack
On April 10, cybersecurity firm Proofpoint discovered scammers running email campaigns to trick people into clicking malware-ridden Word attachments. The fraudulent emails, simply titled “Scan Data,” included attached documents that were named “Scan,” followed by randomized digits.

Although the emails seem harmless, clicking on the documents triggers a download for Dridex malware, a Trojan virus designed to give hackers direct access to your banking information. From there, they can simply log in to your online account and make unauthorized transactions under your name.

In 2015, the distribution of Dridex allowed cybercriminals to steal approximately $25 million from European accounts. And if your business fell victim to this malware, there’s a possibility your company might not be able to recover from the loss.

The solution
Fortunately, two days after the discovery of the bug, Microsoft released a security update to disable the dangerous documents, urging users to install the patch as soon as possible. But even though Dridex was inoculated relatively quickly, employees continue to be the biggest problem.

Like most malware attacks, Dridex was distributed via phishing campaigns that preyed on a victim’s trust and curiosity. Hackers added barely any text to the email, yet people were still fooled into clicking on dangerous links.

To make sure Dridex never reaches your company, you must provide comprehensive security awareness training. In your sessions, encourage employees to practice safe computing habits, which include being cautious of online links, setting strong passwords, and avoiding downloads from untrusted and unknown sources.

Much like updating your software, keeping your staff’s security knowledge up to date on the latest threats is also imperative. Ultimately, your goal is to have employees with a security-focused mindset when browsing the web.

Of course, if security training and cybersecurity solutions are not your company’s specialties, you can always rely on a trusted managed services provider like us to protect your business. We can update and secure your systems regularly, and make sure your staff are actively doing their part to reduce security risks. Contact us today!

Posted in General Articles A, Office | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Comments closed

Windows 10 Creators Update: new features

Instead of an outright operating system update, Microsoft is now releasing named updates that come with enhancements and other features that individual users and businesses should get excited about. Its latest, Creators Update on Windows 10, includes new design touches and a handful of productivity features. Are the new features worth the updates?

Controlled updates

If you’ve been using Windows 10, you’re familiar with this scenario: While you’re on your computer, the system automatically reboots for automatic updates, interrupting your workflow. Although automatically having your system updated on time has advantages, it can also be a burden and a nuisance because it leaves you with no option to decline or delay an update — which you might want to do especially when you’re in the middle of a critical task.

With the Creators Update, you can choose to pause updates for a week. It also lets you set Active Hours, an 18-hour window when Windows won’t install updates. It’s a minor enhancement that should be a welcome feature to users who like having better control over their system updates.

Improved privacy controls

When Windows 10 was launched, privacy was a big concern among users, mainly because of the amount and nature of data being collected. Users and certain regulatory bodies were alarmed that Microsoft, through Windows 10, didn’t have enough control over how it processes and collects data. Microsoft initially responded by announcing that setting up privacy protocols will be easier when it launches its new updates.

And now, Microsoft has taken steps to address these privacy issues. Creators Update introduces a Privacy Dashboard, which offers a more seamless and user-friendly way to control privacy settings, specifically in terms of location, speech recognition, diagnostics, tailored diagnostics data, and relevant ads.

Another privacy enhancement is in Windows Defender, which now features improved scanning options and better reporting of your PC’s performance and health.

Other small changes

Other interface enhancements and updates to the Windows 10 ecosystem also add a nice touch to the overall user experience. These updates include more vivid themes, a bluetooth-enabled lock function called Dynamic Lock, new display settings, videos and maps writing capabilities, and more.

Among the other new features, users might not immediately notice the upgraded storage settings. If you’re worried about all these new applications and programs taking up space in your PC, don’t fret. The new update also comes with a storage setting that auto-deletes unnecessary files when your storage space is about to run out.

All in all, businesses that use Windows 10 can expect better privacy, controlled updates, improved security, and a smoother user experience with the Creators Update. Microsoft is expected to introduce even more updates later this year, and if you want to know how you can make the most of these and other Microsoft features, we’re here to help.

Posted in General Articles C, Windows | Tagged , , , , | Comments closed
  • Internet Presence Management for Small Business Owners

    pronto logoFull-service, pay-as-you-go all inclusive websites, from design and content to SEO and social media management for one low monthly price.

    Learn more about our small business online marketing services.