ByteTime Blog

Countdown to Windows Server 2003 End-Of-Life: Why Your IT System Might be at Risk

Kimberli Bowman - Friday, November 21, 2014

When first released, Windows Server 2003 offered the best scalability, performance, and security. In fact, many businesses still rely on it today. However, Microsoft plans to end all support for Windows Server 2003 in July 2015. Many third-party hardware and software providers will follow suit. Business owners who still rely on Windows Server 2003 will soon face vulnerable, out-of-date systems.

 

So what can business owners expect in a post-EOL era for Windows Server 2003? For starters, Microsoft and third-party security software will no longer offer automatic security updates. This means no new security patches, virus definition updates, exploit reports, and security warnings. Servers running Windows 2003 will be defenseless against malware and other attacks. Businesses can bet that hackers have been actively preparing for Windows Server 2003 EOL.

 

To make matters worse, hardware and software manufacturers have little reason to continue updating or creating Windows Server 2003 products past its EOL. Once your system breaks, the only options will be to repair it yourself or search the web for legacy parts. Replacing worn down or broken components is possible, but may take hours of work. And you may still face limited functionality. What's more, software and other applications will no longer be updated. Any new functionality that didn't exist prior to July 2015 can only be added with costly, custom development.

 

Byte Time Computing suggests that depending on the size and needs of your business, there are ways to avert disaster before the EOL date. For businesses with limited time, the best option is to replace your aging server with a newer one, and then install a more up-to-date version of Windows Server. With this option, you replace hardware and software at the same time. This translates to less time spent upgrading, fewer disruptions, and better performance. 

 

Another option is to simply upgrade your software. This will only work if your hardware is recent enough to support newer versions of Windows Server.

Budget-conscious business owners might need a mixed approach, with some hardware and some software upgrades.

 

Byte Time knows that the best strategy for your company will depend on a set of factors unique to your organization. Examples include the capital you can invest in upgrades, the amount of service disruption you can afford. 

 

If you are already a Byte Time client, then you know we will provide you with a recommendation to best suit your business and budget - and work with you to ensure that you have the absolute least amount (if any!) disruption to your service possible.  If you are not already a Byte Time client - call us - we will walk you through what can be a daunting process...and make it an easy transition, all while educating you in any areas you find you are uncertain.

 

Whatever option you choose, it's critical to PLAN NOW. According to Microsoft, most companies take anywhere from 18 to 32 months to execute a successful migration. From that perspective, July 2015 is approaching fast. How many critical business processes take place on your company's servers? For most, the reality is you can't afford to be unprepared.

 

Byte Time Computing, Inc. Toll Free:  800.281.7611.  Our experts will provide you a complimentary assessment of your current systems.  Let us ensure you are protected.

 

 

Cryptowall: the Latest in Ransomware and Cyber Crime

Kimberli Bowman - Wednesday, November 05, 2014
Have you heard of it? Here are the dirty details…and YOU NEED TO KNOW! This can affect your office, your home, your life as you know it…and the threat is REAL. Very, very real.

 

WHAT IT IS:

Over the last year, authorities have been fighting a series of ransomware viruses — first CryptoLocker, then CryptoDefense, and now Cryptowall. CryptoLocker infected over 500,000 computers and although only 1.3% of the victims paid the ransom, the criminals are believed to have made about $3 million dollars….and that number grows every single day.

 

HOW YOU GET INFECTED:

The ransomware typically enters a system by masquerading as a legitimate program update. Usually these programs are well-known, such as Java, Flash Player, or Adobe Reader. CryptoWall can also infiltrate a system through an infected email attachment….from someone you know and trust!!

 

WHAT YOU CAN DO…NOW!!

 

DEFENSE AND PREVENTION:

First and foremost, users should have current anti-virus software on their computers. In general, all software programs should be kept up-to-date with the latest security enhancements. Do you have them? If you are not sure – call on the expert team at Byte Time Computing, Inc. 800.281.7611.

Suspicious websites should be avoided at all costs. Users should never open emails that appear suspect or were sent by entities that they don't trust. Similarly, users should never download attachments that they're not expecting – even if they come from someone they know and trust. These statements may seem intuitive, but the spread of ransomware is driven almost entirely by the behavior of careless and unsuspecting victims.

 

Additionally, files should be regularly backed up. Ideally, one backup copy should be stored through a cloud-based service that backs up daily and provides for access from anywhere. The second backup should be on an external hard drive. Users should update this copy on a weekly or monthly basis.

 

Once a computer has been infected, users should also be concerned about their networked devices. CryptoWall victims have found that the malware can infect connected drives through the network. Users should carefully examine these devices to see if they have been compromised as well.

 

Threats like CryptoWall pose serious challenges to businesses across the globe. Being aware of these issues is the first step in combating them. For assistance with the prevention of CryptoWall, or possible recovery, contact us today: 800.281.7611.

 

WANT THE DETAILS?

 

Here is our article in full:

Over the last year, authorities have been fighting a series of ransomware viruses — first CryptoLocker, then CryptoDefense, and now Cryptowall. CryptoLocker infected over 500,000 computers and although only 1.3% of the victims paid the ransom, the criminals are believed to have made about $3 million dollars.

 

In June 2014, the US Justice Department began a multinational campaign to eradicate CryptoLocker. Department officials then announced that they had managed to neutralize it. Unfortunately, their efforts may have been a case of too little, too late as two new versions appeared: CryptoDefense and the malware's newest iteration, CryptoWall.

 

CryptoWall appears to have been derived from CryptoDefense, a shortlived and unsuccessful version. Unlike CryptoDefense, CryptoWall infected around 625,000 systems in six months according to an August 2014 report from Dell researchers. The report revealed CryptoWall encrypted 5.25 billion files and netted criminals over $1.1 million from March to August. CryptoWall's reach is expected to grow. The analysts described it as the largest, most devastating ransomware threat on the Internet.

 

CRYPTOWALL’S MODUS OPERANDI:

The ransomware typically enters a system by masquerading as a legitimate program update. Usually these programs are well-known, such as Java, Flash Player, or Adobe Reader. CryptoWall can also infiltrate a system through an infected email attachment.

 

Cyber security professionals have also warned about the criminals using exploit kits. This term refers to web pages with pre-packaged methods for sending malware. This means that in some cases, an ill-advised download is not necessary in order to spread CryptoWall. Victims can instead become infected just by visiting a website with a hidden exploit kit.

 

Once the system is infected, CryptoWall will begin encrypting its files. These protocols use twin encryption keys. The public key locks the files and the private one unlocks it. While this method may sound simple, it has been touted as nearly uncrackable.

 

Digital criminals have also developed offshoots of the basic CryptoWall virus. These new versions can infect mobile devices as well as personal computers.

 

After CryptoWall encrypts the system's data, the ransomware will display a warning. This tells victims that their files have been "irrevocably changed," and that they will not be able to work with them or even see them.

 

The ransom note demands that people pay several hundred dollars in order to free their files. Victims are directed to the Tor network, where payment can be received anonymously. They also face a ticking clock, since the criminals generally threaten to double the ransom if they do not pay within a few days.

 

AUTHORITIES’ ONGOING WAR, AGAINST RANSOMWARE:

 

As part of law enforcement's crackdown on ransomware, the FBI in June 2014 put Evgeniy Mikhailovich Bogachev on its list of most wanted criminals. The authorities have accused him of committing bank fraud, wire fraud, computer fraud, money laundering, and aggravated identity theft. Bogachev is believed to be the man behind CryptoWall's predecessor, CryptoLocker.

 

While the US government was shutting down his criminal network, a group of private cyber security professionals was hard at work on recovering the stolen data. In August, they announced that they had uncovered the encryption keys used to hijack people's data. They also created a website where victims can receive the key needed to unlock their files.

 

While these efforts crippled CryptoLocker, they left CryptoWall unaffected. As of this publication, the ransomware is still at large and IT experts have yet to find a remedy for it. Thankfully, there are a number of ways that users can protect themselves.

 

DEFENSE AND PREVENTION:

 

First and foremost, users should have current anti-virus software on their computers. In general, all software programs should be kept up-to-date with the latest security enhancements.

 

Suspicious websites should be avoided at all costs. Users should never open emails that appear suspect or were sent by entities that they don't trust. Similarly, users should never download attachments that they're not expecting. These statements may seem intuitive, but the spread of ransomware is driven almost entirely by the behavior of careless and unsuspecting victims.

 

Additionally, files should be regularly backed up. Ideally, one backup copy should be stored through a cloud-based service that backs up daily and provides for access from anywhere. The second backup should be on an external hard drive. Users should update this copy on a weekly or monthly basis.

 

Once a computer has been infected, users should also be concerned about their networked devices. CryptoWall victims have found that the malware can infect connected drives through the network. Users should carefully examine these devices to see if they have been compromised as well.

 

Threats like CryptoWall pose serious challenges to businesses across the globe. Being aware of these issues is the first step in combating them. For assistance with the prevention of CryptoWall, or possible recovery, contact us today: 800.281.7611.

 

Does it all seem overwhelming? Don’t know how to do this – or – don’t have the time? Files too big for your current system to handle? Call Byte Time. Let us manage this FOR you! We will set up your network so that your files and data are managed – and protected – for you. You won’t have to add a single step to your work load. As a matter of fact…IT life will get easier as you will now have a whole team of experts at your fingertips for more than just safety from ransomware!

 

Call Byte Time Computing, Inc at 800.281.7611. Our experienced sales and technology team will do a complimentary on site assessment of your current IT systems.

 

 

Don’t Say We Didn’t Warn You!

Kimberli Bowman - Saturday, March 17, 2012

One of the most essential and commonly overlooked components of any computer network, whether it’s a home network or small business network, is data backup. People spend countless hours managing their digital lives, i.e. creating and organizing digital photo albums, tagging and organizing a music collection, creating and archiving important documents. It’s only a matter of time before that hard drive that contains all of that irreplaceable content takes an electronic dirt nap and crashes. If you don’t have your content backed up, it could cost you thousands of dollars to have a data recovery service attempt to retrieve your content from the failed drive. Furthermore, they are not always successful.

 

There has been a recent explosion in the online backup market, and the cost of implementing a secure, safe and easy-to-use offsite backup program has dropped to the price of a few cheeseburgers. Since there are now so many online backup service providers to choose from, there are some key aspects a customer should be aware of before purchasing a backup solution:

 

Capabilities of the provider:  Does the provider offer adequate bandwidth for you to retrieve your files in a timely manner when it’s time to restore? Do they offer to overnight you a copy of your files via external hard drive? If you have a server at your business, do they have System State, Microsoft Exchange and SQL database backup and restore capability?

 

  • Ease of use:  Does the provider’s software automate the process and allow you to easily setup a backup schedule? Does it allow you to easily navigate and manage your backed up files? Is it able to provide automatic incremental backups?
  • Restore functionality: Does the software allow you to occasionally test the process to ensure it’s in working order? Does it offer encryption to safeguard your private data while it traverses the internet? Are they insured?
  • Finally, keep in mind that not all backup solution providers store your data permanently.  It has been our experience that less expensive providers are usually cheaper for a reason.

 

If you have any questions or would like more information on setting up a turnkey backup solution on your home or office network, please contact a Byte Time Computing technician today at (281) 757-9721.