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WannaCry and other security threats – are you protected?

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The past week has sure been an interesting time, statrting with the British National Health service being taken down hard by the WannaCrypt or WannaCry ransomware and it all snowballing from there.

WannaCry, and some related threats going around at the moment, are the latest in a series of events we’ve been monitoring, and is the culmination so far(!) of a theft of United States CIA/NSA infiltration material by a group calling themselves the “Shadow Brokers”. They’ve been publicly releasing CIA/NSA tools to attack PCs and ICT infrastructure.

The stolen NSA tool that WannaCry uses to infect PCs is called EternalBlue.

Shadow Brokers are threatening to both release more (and indeed have done so), and are rumoured to be selling even more tools to the highest bidder. So there’s a good chance this is going to get worse.

We’re happy to say however that we made sure that our managed ICT customers have been protected from the WannaCry / EternalBlue threat since early April, and we’ve been closely monitoring customers’ systems for any suspicious activity, just in case.

Ransomware in general is also defeated by a good backup system – where copies of the backups are stored well away from the reach of ransomware that you can simply restore so you don’t need to pay any ransom – our SiriusCloud service has this built-in – anything you store on SiriusCloud has a history kept so you can roll back changes, and every night your data is safely backed up to outside discs at our office which are encrypted and in a special fireproof and floodproof chassis.

We’re also pleased to report that ESET Smart Security, which we supply as part of our ICT management service, has been tested and found to be one of only three protection products that successfully blocked the security exploit that WannaCry uses to get in. We’re very happy with this result.

But there’s more going around – WannaCry has been the one to hit the news because of its high-profile impact, but other threats relating to these CIA/NSA tools and exploits have been doing the rounds too. Plus, as if there weren’t already enough going on, this week from left-field it was revealed that HP had accidentally shipped a key-logging tool with many of their laptops in the past year. Some of our managed ICT customers who had bought these HP laptops were caught up in that one but we’ve now deployed an update which has got rid of the offending files.

Our advice

WannaCry has been the biggest and highest-profile hack in some time, but with the current landscape, it looks like there’s a good chance that worse is yet to come.

Antivirus software doesn’t cut it on its own anymore. Make sure you have proper internet security software (or hardware) protecting your ICT gear. And make sure it’s good. If you buy cheap (or free), you get what you pay for.

But don’t rely on security software as a sole line of defense. Make sure your systems, anything you have from cloud infrastructure to onsite servers to your own laptop is both kept fully up to date with security patches, and is fully backed up.

Test those backups, too. If you are not able to access a backup of a file you deleted from your laptop last Thursday, without touching your actual laptop, then your backup service has failed you and you need to look at other options.

We’re always available for advisory services if you need any help with this – feel free to get in touch.


Who owns your data in the cloud?

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Hopefully you do, but have you read the terms and conditions to be sure?

Some of the terms of service of the more well known cloud service and cloud storage providers may surprise you.

Most services (including Google) scan your personal storage and feed that into their advertising system, so that the content in your Google Drive influences what ads you see.  This is called “data mining”. And even while most services claim that you continue to own your data stored on their services, in most cases their T&Cs make you grant them the perpetual (and usually worldwide and irrevocable) right to hold on to a copy of your data even if you quit their services for them “operating, promoting and improving” its services as well as to “develop new ones” (that example from Google).

Most services require you to grant them “worldwide, irrevocable” licences for any content you upload to them. That’s as good as them owning a copy of all your stuff, too.

We take a different approach. Our terms of use clearly define that we don’t share your data with anyone unless you tick the “Share” box on that file or folder. And while we keep backup copies of things you delete, that’s the only reason we keep them – as backups, which forms part of our disaster recovery service. And we will only go in there if we need to in the rare case of disaster recovery, or in order to restore services to you, or under your instructions.

If you buy a SiriusCloud account and later decide to discontinue it, all sharing stops and the only remaining copies of your data are on our backups. These stay here because it’s difficult to separate out a single user’s data and purge it from our backups while being 100% confident of keeping other customer data backups intact, but that’s the only set of copies of your data that are left behind, and they will expire after about two years.

And our storage systems are all located within New Zealand so stay within New Zealand law.

This is so you know exactly what’s happening with your data.


The pain of data loss

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It sucks being the ambulance at the bottom of the data-loss cliff, being able to do nothing but tell distraught users “I’m sorry for your loss”.Letter from a mum asking for the return of the laptop with the only copy of years of photos of her daughter on it.

We in the ICT industry could go blue in the face telling customers, friends, and family to backup, backup, backup, but again and again we encounter people who have lost precious data because they never got around to it. Or, they did back up, once, sometime last year, with no hope for their precious family photos, months or years of research, or critical business data, which are now gone.

Or, their backup was in the same bag as the laptop that got stolen, or in the same room as the computer that caught fire.

And, as these images can tell, the results can be devastating, even heartbreaking.

This is why we’ve made the decision to include 10GB cloud storage in all our support plans – not as an option, but as a base service. We will now be offering SiriusCloud 10GB to all our customers and including it in our base care plan.

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