consumer devices Tag

Holiday Season brings Security Risks – how to stay safe

The folks behind all sorts of online threats know that the holiday season is their most wonderful time of the year. As people are participating in unprecedented e-commerce, introducing new hardware into their environments, and rushing around with easily-skimmed cards it can be hard to defend yourself from all angles of attack.

 

Security Risks while Shopping

Online shopping can be a huge time-saver but it’s also a big risk. Amazon has done a pretty good job of securing customer data, but big firms like Target and Home Depot have been the victims of cyber attacks. Here are a couple of easy tips to keep yourself safer while shopping:

  • Use strong passwords and change them often
  • Don’t use the same password across multiple accounts
  • Pay in cash when shopping in person
  • Only order over a secure connection (when you can see the little lock in the URL bar)
  • Don’t shop on open wireless networks (like those at a college or a coffee shop)

 

Changing Hardware Environments

New kinds of tech get introduced around the holidays, but they aren’t always the safest things to bring into your ecosystem. Google Home and Echo Dot are cool toys, but they can store your searches. Web-connected devices like cameras or robots can be hacked to turn your device into part of a botnet. Even gifts like backup drives or a new phone for the office can pose a threat. Here are some things to keep you new hardware from becoming a headache:

  • Manage the settings on your home assistant devices to prevent them from collecting data
  • Change the default passwords on your IoT devices to prevent them from being hijacked by botnets
  • Keep an up-to-date antivirus to prevent infections from new hardware like hard drives or flash drives
  • Be cautious about downloading new apps for you phone – many of them are phishing scams or keyloggers

 

Defending Yourself can be difficult

There are all kinds of threats out in the world, but you can lower your personal risk by taking simple steps like updating programs and changing passwords frequently. Everyone should be running a strong, regularly-updated antivirus (we recommend ESET and you can call us if you’d like to purchase a license), and everyone should learn how to identify and avoid phishing attacks.

But what do you do to protect your business? What do you do to keep your work devices safe?

 

Business Protection is Priority One

Maybe more people are accessing your site this time of year, maybe your employees are handling heavier loads. There are a million things that can go wrong during this busy season and at PMCS we pride ourselves on preventing those problems. We take security very seriously and are proud of the ways that we can minimize risks to your business. PMCS relies on a suite of tools we can use to help you keep your business safe, including:

  • Enterprise-grade SonicWall Firewall devices
  • ESET Endpoint Protection Advanced – Antivirus for five or more users with an up-to-date threat console and remote monitoring
  • Proactive Maintenance Plans that check your systems for security risks
  • Backup Assist to keep your data safe and protect you from downtime in the event of an attack.

Don’t let yourself or your business be brought down by online threats this holiday season – call PMCS at (818)957-5647 for a free system assessment to identify any security risks. We’ll make sure your network is secure, your backups are stable, and that no downtime will plague you during this busy season.

Most businesses think their IT companies have done a great job of securing them, but when we come in with our tools we find gaps in coverage and all the flaws from previous systems. Give us a chance to explore your network and you’ll be shocked by the ways we can improve your security and protect your business and your customers.

Call to schedule your free assessment today!

(818)957-5647

KRACK Threatens your Wireless Devices and Security

 

On Monday a new vulnerability in WPA2 Wireless Security was revealed. The vulnerability doesn’t allow people to snoop on your encrypted traffic but makes unsecured traffic easy to see.

Major Service Vulnerabilities

This vulnerability, known as KRACK impacts the security of everything from wireless access points and routers to laptops to cell phones to smart refrigerators. Some companies have already released patches for their devices, including Microsoft, Apple, Ubiquiti, and Netgear.

If you are a PMCS customer who has a wireless network or wireless devices set up at your office please contact us as soon as possible so that we can secure your wireless environment. We are working with vendors and manufacturers to make sure that all of your office’s wireless devices can be patched and protected to keep you and your customers safe.

Until your devices are patched we do not recommend sharing any sensitive information over a wireless network; use cellular data for your phone or a physical Ethernet connection in your home or office. HTTPS communications are safe from this vulnerability, but all non-HTTPS interactions are at risk for traffic capture and observation.

Please call PMCS at (818)957-5647 as soon as possible to schedule patching so that we can ensure your business is not at risk and your data stays secure.

KRACK threatens “Smart” devices and the Internet of Things

If your office uses wireless security cameras, has a wireless “smart” device like a fridge, or if you use wireless baby monitors at home all someone needs to do to access the traffic from those devices is be within range of your wireless network. “Smart” devices like security cameras and baby monitors aren’t frequently patched and are therefore significant vulnerabilities in your network. You may not care that a hacker can see when your office fridge needs its filter changed, but you don’t want people watching the security footage inside of your building.

Again, please contact PMCS right away to secure your office Wireless Access Points, Routers, and Laptops; we can help you to secure those devices now and help you plan moving forward with your wireless smart devices. Give us a call at (818)957-5647 so we can start working with you to secure your office against KRACK attacks.

Why do cellphones and speakers keep blowing up?

batteries

A selection of AA batteries

Lithium-ion (LI) batteries have become a major part of daily life in the last decade. They’re in your camera, your phone, your computer, and maybe even in your car. There are tremendous advantages to LI batteries over other types of batteries; they are much lighter weight and a lower rate of energy loss, but there’s a fine line that has to be walked to keep the more energetic LI composition safe.

A battery is a chemical reaction that you can keep in your pocket. LI batteries use a lithium electrolyte to create the chemical reaction that allows you to power your phone; lithium salt gel is wrapped in a thin, non-reactive envelope and connected to a positive and a negative electrodes which are separated so they can’t touch. When phone batteries explode it’s because one way or another the lithium electrolyte gel has come into contact with other metals in your phone and caused a reaction.

Sometimes this contact is caused by “thermal runaway” – overheating that causes the volatile electrolyte to continue reacting even if it isn’t connected to a power source. Thermal runaway can be caused by overcharging (as a result of the battery’s self-limiting computer failing) or from leaving it in a very hot location. As electricity causes a reaction inside your phone the Lithium batteries warm up and as they warm they expand. Normally this isn’t a problem – manufacturers are aware of heat causing expansion and leave space inside your phone for that expansion to occur safely and include limits to prevent anything that might cause a thermal reaction (like including a battery computer to prevent it from overcharging). When thermal runaway happens the battery expands past the intended limits and cracks its casing, reacts to other parts of your phone, and can catch on fire if it expands out enough to come into contact with air.

See a video of it happening: This person removed the safeguards that prevent a phone battery from overcharging.

Something similar but much faster can happen as a result of a short in the battery. Shorts in the battery can be caused by a leak in the envelope holding the electrolyte gel or by a conductive material accidentally connecting the positive and negative electrodes. Shorts can be caused by mechanical damage (a puncture or tear in the electrolyte envelope) if it causes the electrolyte gel to leak.

See a video of it happening: This person created a short circuit by connecting the negative and positive electrodes on a small battery.

If you have a device with LI batteries, whether it’s a cell phone or a hoverboard, make sure to store it at appropriate temperatures, avoid overcharging it, and take precautions to avoid puncturing or significantly cracking the casing. LI battery explosions are incredibly uncommon, which is why they dominate the news cycle when they do happen. Statistically these batteries are very safe and have a very low failure rate but there are risks that arise as a result of the continuing pursuit of a long-lasting, light-weight battery.