Cyber News Roundup: Ransomware Prevention Tips from the FBI, How SMBs Can Fight Back, Travel Smart this Summer

Editor’s Note: This is your cyber news roundup with the latest cybersecurity news and tips from the Cyber Oregon team to help you and your organization stay safe online and protect your digital assets. We examine cybersecurity news and developments from across the Northwest and the Nation that are important to all Oregonians including individuals, businesses, non-profit organizations, government entities, and educational institutions. Sign up to receive regular updates here.

Ransomware is “the biggest global cyber threat,” according to Lindy Cameron, head of the UKs National Cyber Security Centre. Indeed: ransomware attacks can hit any business and any location. Did you know that Oregon’s FBI cyber squad is one of the busiest units in the local FBI office? In Oregon, ransomware complaints to the FBI increased by 82% in 2021 compared to 2019, according to Kieran L. Ramsey, special agent in charge, as reported in The Oregonian’s Ransomware attacks increasing in Oregon, nationwide, FBI says.

Companies in healthcare, banking, energy, and transportation need to be especially aware of this problem. Ramsey recommends that organizations “reach out to the FBI ahead of time to form a partnership and contact the FBI right away if they detect an intrusion into their computer networks.”

ZD Net’s Danny Palmer contends that many smaller victims of ransomware go unreported. While attacks on smaller targets may not bring a huge payday, “chaining together a series of attacks against a range of smaller victims, ransomware attackers can still turn a substantial profit.” Palmer writes that “ransomware is continually evolving, with new variants appearing, new ransomware groups emerging, and new techniques and tactics designed to make the most money from attacks.”

Targeting Main Street…and How to Fight Back

According to Enterprise Apps Today, the top reasons small and medium-sized businesses are getting attacked are:

  • Lack of technical expertise
  • Budget
  • Time
  • Absence of an IT security expert
  • Lack of employee training
  • Lack of risk awareness
  • Outsourcing security
  • Not keeping security systems up to date
  • Not securing endpoints has a wealth of information about how individuals and organizations can better protect themselves to combat “the evolving cyber threat.” The FBi has specially trained cyber squads in each of its 56 field offices that work hand-in-hand with interagency task force partners. Here are some preventative tips from the FBI in Memphis:

  • Update and patch operating systems and software.
  • Implement robust access controls, especially for privileged users.
  • Monitor security logs.
  • Audit trusted third parties or others with access to systems and sensitive data.
  • Require personnel to choose a strong, unique password for each account and use multifactor authentication for as many services as possible. Passwords should be changed regularly.
  • Educate personnel about phishing schemes to highlight the risks of clicking on suspicious links, opening suspicious attachments, and visiting suspicious websites.
  • Keep offline backups of data, and regularly test backup and restoration capabilities. Ensure all backup data is encrypted and immutable.
  • Develop a cybersecurity incident response plan that includes the FBI. If compromised, contact the FBI immediately.
  • If you believe someone has compromised your systems, beware of signs of compromises such as broken passwords, myriad pop-ups, slow-running devices, altered system settings, or unexplained online activity.

Rest assured. The Federal Communications Commission is another good cybersecurity resource for smaller businesses, with tips to protect your business, your customers, and your data.

1. Train employees in security principles

Establish basic security practices and policies for employees, such as requiring strong passwords, and establish appropriate Internet use guidelines that detail penalties for violating company cybersecurity policies. Establish rules of behavior describing how to handle and protect customer information and other vital data.

2. Protect information, computers, and networks from cyber attacks

Keep clean machines: having the latest security software, web browser, and operating system are the best defenses against viruses, malware, and other online threats. Set antivirus software to run a scan after each update. Install other key software updates as soon as they are available.

3. Provide firewall security for your internet connection

A firewall is a set of related programs that prevent outsiders from accessing data on a private network. Make sure the operating system’s firewall is enabled or install free firewall software available online. If employees work from home, ensure that their home system(s) are protected by a firewall.

4. Create a mobile device action plan

Mobile devices can create significant security and management challenges, especially if they hold confidential information or can access the corporate network. Require users to password-protect their devices, encrypt their data, and install security apps to prevent criminals from stealing information while the phone is on public networks. Be sure to set reporting procedures for lost or stolen equipment.

5. Make backup copies of important business data and information

Regularly backup the data on all computers. Critical data includes word processing documents, electronic spreadsheets, databases, financial files, human resources files, and accounts receivable/payable files. Backup data automatically if possible, or at least weekly and store the copies either offsite or in the cloud.

6. Control physical access to your computers and create user accounts for each employee

Prevent access or use of business computers by unauthorized individuals. Laptops can be particularly easy targets for theft or can be lost, so lock them up when unattended. Make sure a separate user account is created for each employee and requires strong passwords. Administrative privileges should only be given to trusted IT staff and key personnel.

7. Secure your Wi-Fi networks

If you have a Wi-Fi network for your workplace, make sure it is secure, encrypted, and hidden. To hide your Wi-Fi network, set up your wireless access point or router, so it does not broadcast the network name, known as the Service Set Identifier (SSID). Password protect access to the router.

8. Employ best practices on payment cards

Work with banks or processors to ensure the most trusted and validated tools and anti-fraud services are being used. You may also have additional security obligations pursuant to agreements with your bank or processor. Isolate payment systems from other, less secure programs and do not use the same computer to process payments and surf the Internet.

9. Limit employee access to data and information, limit authority to install software

Do not provide any one employee with access to all data systems. Employees should only be given access to the specific data systems that they need for their jobs, and should not be able to install any software without permission.

10. Passwords and authentication

Require employees to use unique passwords and change passwords every three months. Consider implementing multi-factor authentication that requires additional information beyond a password to gain entry. Check with your vendors that handle sensitive data, especially financial institutions, to see if they offer multi-factor authentication for your account.

Summer Travel: Be Security Smart

Most people wear SPF sunscreen to protect themselves from damaging sun rays, but what about being security smart when traveling? Read 7 cybersecurity tips for your summer vacation! for helpful answers to common questions, such as:

  • Should I encrypt my laptop and my mobile phone?
  • Should I use public Wi-Fi when I’m on the road?

Naked Security recommends, “don’t take more devices or data than you need, read up on any privacy and surveillance rules at your destination before you set off, and be aware of your surroundings when entering personal data.”

Cyber Oregon sponsor blog post of interest: Fortinet: Ransomware Roundup: Protecting Against New Variants