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Tools to Prevent Ransomware

Ransomware update from RTS (stemmed from an email to clients)

Just a quick note on the current round of Ransomware making the news:

I just wanted to drop everyone a personal note letting you know we are staying up to date and taking the WannaCry Ransomware/Virus threat seriously. We are making every possible effort to mitigate the impact on our customers. With that being said, the biggest thing we can’t control is the human factor. Be diligent out there guys and gals and don’t click on emails that contain links or attachments you aren’t expecting. This one is currently spread initially through email (and then once inside a network can potentially spread through other means) and that could mean your work email as well as any personal accounts so please be careful on those as well or just don’t check them at all from your work PC’s.

So what have we got to protect you:

1st: Spam/Email Virus Filtration-if you have our SPAM protection it has built in virus filtration as well. It’s our first line for keeping you from even getting that email with the evil link or attachment to begin with.

2nd: Open DNS Content Filtration-If you do happen to get the email and you do open it, OpenDNS should keep it from talking back to its “creator” and generating the encryption key that is required to encrypt or “scramble” all your files rendering it impotent (sorry, that word seemed to fit).

3rd: Antivirus and Anti-ransomware- If you haven’t kept up, antivirus isn’t enough these days, we need antivirus, anti-malware, and now anti-ransomware. Each of these classifications of threats has unique qualities so believe it or not, we need software tuned to each different kind of threat. We’ve got that. So (hopefully) if you click on the link or attachment and before the ransomware encrypts all your files, anti-ransomware or antivirus should kick in and stop it before it does anything. We’ve made sure all anti-virus has been updated with the latest virus definitions including the latest version of this threat available.

4th: Microsoft Patches- This may seem like it should be higher up the list, but yes, Microsoft has released patches for all supported (and even a few unsupported) Operating Systems including Windows 7, 8, 10, Windows Server 2008, 2012, 2016 and they’ve even gone back and release patches for the versions of Windows they’ve stopped supporting in the last few years-Windows XP, Vista, and Server 2003. We’ve been working diligently to verify that this patch is applied to all of our client’s machines that have our R-Essential Apps in place.

5th: Backups-If it just so happened that the virus was brand new (like newer than that day new) and it got through all of this AND you opened it! Well, that’s why we make sure and push everyone to have good backups that backup every few hours. The last line of defense is restoring your files from backup.

So there you go, our suite of product working together to keep you safe…now if you have a friend who lives life on the edge and doesn’t have R-Essential Apps in place and they do happen to get this virus…we know of a bitcoin ATM and can help them pay the ransom because that may be the last option available to them. I have a blog up about this (link below) if you want to know more. We have seen that paying the ransom on this one may not be as effective as previous versions so no warranties on that.

Now for my lawyer friends, we’re not necessarily guarantying anyone is safe from ever getting this or another virus or ransomware with our tools in place, we are simply highlighting the preventative measures we are taking to try to help keep you safe. As I listed above, the human factor still exists. We’ll try everything in our power, but we can’t anticipate every possibility either.

Blog here…I promise this link is safe(ish)

Musings on and Defining Ransomware and Cryptolocker…

 

Richline Technical Services is a Managed IT Services Provider headquartered in Corpus Christi, TX. We provide helpdesk and network management to small and medium businesses as well as consulting and network design services to large companies, city and county governments as well as school districts.

Josh Richline is one of the Owners of RTS and is certified by Microsoft, Citrix, ShoreTel, Sonicwall, Lifesize, Ruckus, US Sailing and others. He specializes in VoIP, large networking projects and sailing.

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Can you hear me now–a repost from Pyramid Communications

Time Warner (Spectrum) Business had some major issues yesterday with its voice services in Texas. We fielded calls all morning from clients all over the state that they were not able to receive inbound phone calls. After checking into a few of them, we finally got the jist that it was, at minimum, a local Spectrum issue and seemed like it was indeed the whole state. It was a bit later before we confirmed that not only Texas but also areas of California were included in the outage.  2 weeks prior we had a similar, but much less wide-spread, outage limited to the Corpus Christi area.

So what can you do about this? There are multiple options to protect against something like this. The first thing to realize, though, is that it isn’t your phone system. Your phone system is operating just fine…it’s your phone service. The phone lines feeding in to the phone system from a Spectrum, Centurylink, AT&T, etc… (your phone service provider) are the problem. These lines, while usually quite reliable, are susceptible to being dug up, cut, or (perhaps even worse) having an outage like yesterday which originated at the carrier’s “Central Office”– which is what they call the building or facility where your phone service comes from. That’s kinda what this outage was yesterday, only quite a bit worse. This one looked like a problem with their whole system rather than just one local Central Office.

So, (#1) you can have your phone company setup Emergency Call Routing to a designated phone number (like a cell phone) in case the phone lines fail–not a bad solution if you have low enough call volume. This involves simply calling your phone provider (or using their “portal”)(when your lines are up) and having them setup a point where your calls go should the lines go down.

Or (#2) you can get a 2nd set of phone lines coming from a completely separate phone company coming in to your phone system (not cheap, but a good option if you’re mission critical). We need to make sure your phone system has the capacity for this and find a phone company that is truly separate (not just reselling services from another phone company).

Or (#3) you could get SIP phone lines that come in via your Internet connection (less expensive and can some offer emergency use packages, but you need good internet). Again, we need to make sure your phone system can handle SIP phone lines (aka SIP trunks) and that your internet connection can support the additional traffic (and you may even want to have redundant internet connections).

Or (#4) you could get a Cloud Hosted Phone System so instead of your phone system being at your building and susceptible to these sort of outages, it’s hosted somewhere else off site and probably has built in redundancy to deal with issues like this. This is essentially subplanting your phone system with a Cloud model. Concerns here would be the monthly cost and making sure you have a redundant internet connection, but most cloud providers can direct calls to individual cell phones as well should your internet go down (or even you just happen to be away from your desk).

We’d be happy to explore any of these options with you and we can help with all of them. There is no one size fits all model here, we just want you to know there are options and we can help you find the option that fits your business needs the best.

Pyramid Communications is a Unified Communications Provider headquartered in Corpus Christi, TX. Pyramid deals primarily in ShoreTel Unified Communications systems, but can also service many other types of phone systems. We can also handle your structured cabling needs, Video Conferencing via LifeSize, Wireless, and most anything else communications related. Pyramid is a division of Richline Technical Services (RTS) which is a Managed IT Services Provider. We provide helpdesk and network management to small and medium businesses as well as consulting and network design services to large companies, city and county governments as well as school districts. Together we are your one stop shop for almost anything technology related.

Josh Richline is one of the Owners of RTS and is certified by Microsoft, Citrix, ShoreTel, Sonicwall, Lifesize, Ruckus, US Sailing and others. He specializes in VoIP, large networking projects and sailing.

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No!!! Don’t open that closet!

What does your server room closet look like?

Client Unorganized Server Closet

Somewhat Typical Server Closet

For some of our customers their server “room” is a closet somewhere perhaps at the end of a dark hall where no one goes that looks something like this:

And don’t even ask what else is stored in there!

So we’re here to tell you, “It’s not your fault”

No, really, listen to me, “It’s not your fault”

Ok, it’s a little your fault.

But, it’s ok. We understand, and we can help.

Untangle the network spaghetti! Regain control of your server room! Remove and recycle that UPS! It’s spring time, time for a little spring cleaning!

Brennan, and Craig tackled this small job over the weekend and Brennan had the foresight to snap us some before and after pics for once (I can’t tell you how many times we’ve done these and said, “crap! I should have taken some pics before we started!”)

Does any of this look familiar? Server sitting on the floor cables running everywhere, battery backup facing backwards? I’m just glad the fire extinguisher is close…wait that hasn’t been checked this century?

Network Cabling MessServer sitting on wood table. Network Spaghetti

So all the cables were replaced, just put the cover on the existing cable management and replaced the 2 low end TP-Link switches with a nice HP/Aruba 48 Port Gigabyte switch. Easy clean access to the Sonicwall Firewall and the modem! Down below we added a little rolling half rack and since the servers weren’t rack mounted, we just got a couple of trays for them to sit on and get off of the floor. The rack can be slid out of the way if we need to access something above it. All-in-all nothing fancy, but it sure does make thing a lot easier for the network guys to see what’s going on without worrying about accidently unplugging something.

Server Half Rack Cleaned up Network Cabling Clean Cleaned up Server Closet

So if your server room or server closet is in need of an extreme closet makeover! Give Brennan a call…he’ll weep a little, but he’ll get the job done.

Brennan (361)882-6297 x 2025

 

 

Richline Technical Services is a Managed IT Services Provider headquartered in Corpus Christi, TX. We provide helpdesk and network management to small and medium businesses as well as consulting and network design services to large companies, city and county governments as well as school districts.

Josh Richline is one of the Owners of RTS and is certified by Microsoft, Citrix, ShoreTel, Sonicwall, Lifesize, Ruckus, US Sailing and others. He specializes in VoIP, large networking projects and sailing.

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There is no cloud…it’s just someone else’s computer

Ever seen the T-Shirt or sticker- “There is no cloud…it’s just someone else’s computer”?

The cloud is a concept not a place. The cloud is the idea that you can access your data, your applications, your whatever, from anywhere, anytime, as long as you have an internet connection.

There are several types of clouds. You can have large public clouds dispersed geographically (think itunes or your quickbooks online account). You may rent a private segment of a large public cloud for your company (your company contracts to Amazon to host their servers). Or you can build your own private cloud (you buy the servers, plug them in to your own Colo or your office and use Citrix or something to give everyone access). No matter what type of cloud you have, this data and your applications exist somewhere, physically on someone’s server(s). Maybe your servers or maybe someone’s you pay for the service. But it does exists somewhere or perhaps (and hopefully) multiple somewheres.

The concept of the cloud is about access. You’ve established where the data or applications are, then you have to give your users (or the public) access to that information or those applications from anywhere and preferably from any type of device. Once you’ve done that. Viola, you have a cloud.

This doesn’t need to be a mystery. It does however require planning and forethought to design the right solution for you and your business’s needs. There is no one size fits all/no product fits all no matter what you’ve been told. We have great products and great solutions, but even we’ll admit that we don’t fit everyone. Sometimes we all have to be big enough to admit that.

Have a great day and stay out of the fog….and especially the smog!

 

 

Richline Technical Services is a Managed IT Services Provider headquartered in Corpus Christi, TX. We provide helpdesk and network management to small and medium businesses as well as consulting and network design services to large companies, city and county governments as well as school districts.

Josh Richline is one of the Owners of RTS and is certified by Microsoft, Citrix, ShoreTel, Sonicwall, Lifesize, Ruckus, US Sailing and others. He specializes in VoIP, large networking projects and sailing.

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Musings on and Defining Ransomware and Cryptolocker…

Honor among thieves?

The Cryptolocker Virus and its variants are awesome…from a design standpoint they really blow our minds. They suck, don’t get me wrong, but they are brilliantly designed, hyper anonymous and it seems fool proof and unstoppable. They’ve been tailored now to attack businesses because businesses have the capability and the need to pay their ransoms.

What is a Cryptolocker? The Cryptolocker virus and its subsequent variations are viruses (or more accurately “ransomware”) that silently execute on a user’s workstation. While running, they search the machine for any open file shares on servers (and workstations) on the network. They then take every MS Office, Open Office, Adobe, and AutoCad file, and encrypt them so that they are unreadable to everyone. Once they are done, they prompt the user that “All of your files are now encrypted. If you want them back, pay us a ransom.” If you pay the ransom, you get your files back (in all cases we’ve seen so far). If you don’t, you better have good backups or you better not need any of your old files because they are gone!

Here’s the funny part, and the part that even we have difficulty with. When you pay them, they actually follow through and give you back (decrypt) your files. Why? Well because if they didn’t, no one would pay the ransom and that would be bad business and believe me, this has become big business. Even the FBI recommends paying the ransom and, no, they haven’t been able localize these attacks contrary to what you might see on “CSI: Cyber”

The Catch: So that seems pretty evil, but not that hard, right? You just “pay the man” and get your files back, right? The catch is you have to pay in bitcoins. How many of you have bitcoin wallets just lying around? How many of you have a clue what a bitcoin is? Yeh that’s what we thought. I can’t fully sit here and explain what a bitcoin is. It would just take too long and I wouldn’t do it justice, but I’ll try to give you an overview.

Bitcoins: Essentially, a Bitcoin is a form of currency that only exists digitally (on and off the internet). No paper money, no country, just this unit of “money” that fluctuates in value and changes hands on the internet like a real currency only without the “paper trail” of banking. They are like cyber “cash”. You can purchase bitcoins with real money, but first you have to set up an online wallet (kinda like setting up a bank account), and then you have to transfer money to your wallet (usually via something like Western Union or a bitcoin ATM). The whole process is like setting up a stock market account or even purchasing a foreign currency as that’s pretty much what you are doing. You setup the wallet, and then you transfer or fund the wallet with cash.

Why Bitcoins:  Ahh this is where it gets even more fun. Bitcoins are essentially anonymous. Once you transfer your hard earned American Dollars into Bitcoins in your wallet they exist digitally in your wallet, and even though you may have used a form of ID to create your wallet, many people have not. So you pay the ransom, bitcoins transfer from your wallet to Joe Anonymous Bad Guy’s wallet…and they’re gone. Kinda like cash, once you pay for your hot dog, that dollar could then go to the hot dog supplier, then to the trucking company, to the trucker, to the waitress at the all night café, etc…Who knows where it goes? The difference is that the bitcoin can be transferred instantly across continents, across the globe, through a few various bitcoin wallets, and eventually even back in to cash via a bitcoin ATM.

So, Joe Bad Guy, encrypts your files, you pay him, he decrypts your files, he closes that wallet and cashes out and starts the whole process over again and again. It’s big business to the tune of $1 billion in 2016. So protect yourself and be safe out there.

Call us if you need some help!

 

Richline Technical Services is a Managed IT Services Provider headquartered in Corpus Christi, TX. We provide helpdesk and network management to small and medium businesses as well as consulting and network design services to large companies, city and county governments as well as school districts.

Josh Richline is one of the Owners of RTS and is certified by Microsoft, Citrix, ShoreTel, Sonicwall, Lifesize, Ruckus, US Sailing and others. He specializes in VoIP, large networking projects and sailing.

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Think before you Click!-reposted

Think before you Click!

In light of some new “ransomware” threats popping up on the internet we are re-publishing this important reminder about e-mail and web surfing Do’s and Don’ts.

Don’t: Open attachments from people you don’t know.

Don’t: Open attachments from people you do know if you aren’t expecting them or the subject line just doesn’t look like it’s really from them. Their PC may have gotten infected or someone faked that it was sent from them (called “Spoofing”).

Don’t: Open your personal e-mail on your work PC.

Don’t: Click on links, sidebars, or web pages you don’t know and/or aren’t work related.

Don’t: open anything with a .ZIP or .EXE file extension. Beware that some files may try to trick you with a filename.pdf.exe. This looks like a PDF (Adobe) document, but it’s lying to you.

Don’t: click on images in an email that is only an Image(picture only with no text)

DO: TELL US ASAP! If you do accidently open something you shouldn’t, it is better to tell us sooner than later as we may be able to stop it or limit the damage.

DO: if you’re sending an attachment, it’s good etiquette to let the recipient know what’s attached especially if they aren’t expecting it.

Our clients have SPAM and Virus filtering for emails, antivirus for the PC’s as well as outbound web surfing protection and blocking, yet viruses/malware/ransomware, etc continue to evolve and occasionally they find their way through so just be cautious. Think before you Click!

 

 

Richline Technical Services is a Managed IT Services Provider headquartered in Corpus Christi, TX. We provide helpdesk and network management to small and medium businesses as well as consulting and network design services to large companies, city and county governments as well as school districts.

Josh Richline is one of the Owners of RTS and is certified by Microsoft, Citrix, ShoreTel, Sonicwall, Lifesize, Ruckus, US Sailing and others. He specializes in VoIP, large networking projects and sailing.

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Electronics Recycling for the Coastal Bend

Pile of old Computers

Recycle your old PC’s

As a “Computer Guy” a hot topic of discussion from users and business owners alike is disposal of electronics. Up until late, we don’t always have the best answers for this question. We can tell you what you are supposed to and not supposed to do with your electronics (throwing a monitor in your neighbor’s dumpster falls under the “what not to do” category in case you didn’t already know that). We could even recommend or arrange for an electronics recycling company to come pick that stuff up for you, provided you put it on a pallet for them, shrink wrapped it and didn’t mind paying their fees…

Enter STS Recycling. We’re working with STS, an east-Texas based company to bring regular, zero cost to the customer, electronics recycling to the Coastal Bend. STS Recycling in their own words:

STS Electronic Recycling can aid you in recycling out of date, nonworking, or unwanted electronic equipment.  We accept computers, laptops, monitors, printers, servers, projectors, fax machines, copy machines, microwaves, and cell phones as well as other electronics.  THIS RECYCLING SERVICE IS PROVIDED AT NO COST TO YOU. All recyclables processed by STS Electronic Recycling are either reused or physically destroyed and recycled.  We assure you that your business or personal information will be destroyed to Department of Defense (DOD) standards and we will provide you with a certificate of destruction if desired.  Please visit our website at www.stsrecycle.com for more information.”

Our first pickup for our Corpus Christi office will be August 24th and depending on need we will work on plans to schedule pickups either quarterly or every 6 months. Contact Josh Richline or Kendra Perkins at RTS to coordinate a pickup or to arrange to drop off your items at our office. Please make sure you let us know (so we can let STS know) if/when you need a certificate of destruction for your hard drives.

Or you could do like us and hire an intern for a few weeks, have him disassemble PC’s in a dark room and take them over to the scrap yard…those of you who don’t know me will never know if I’m joking or not.

Stephanie Koenig (361)882-6297 x 2004

Josh Richline (361)882-6297 x 2015

 

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Ransomware update from RTS (stemmed from an email to clients) Just a quick note on…Read More»

Time Warner (Spectrum) Business had some major issues yesterday with its voice services in Texas….Read More»

What does your server room closet look like? For some of our customers their server…Read More»

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