Bad Backup, bad bankruptcy

Orange County, CA - Always make sure your backups are in good working order. Here is a story of a company reports to be out of business because they lost 300 GB if their IP and company operations history - melts down after wrong directory deleted, backups fail. The story mentions outgrew the cloud and that is why this happened. No, they simply had bad backups and they did not check to make sure they had an ability to recover before doing work on the storage system. Data loss disasters can happen in the cloud, too. So make sure you have your backup operations in order. Disaster can strike in innumerable ways no matter your IT operation model.

Backups need to be constantly examined to make sure they are working. Here is a partial list of questions you should be asking when doing your due diligence:

Bad Backup, bad bankruptcy 2017-09-18T00:47:29+00:00

I Am a Non-Technical Executive… What Seven Things Should I Be Asking My IT Guys About IT Security?

Irvine, CA - Overseeing IT and security is a daunting task, even if you are an IT professional. If you are an executive to whom IT reports, then the task becomes near impossible. The list of following questions is designed to empower you to have a meaningful discussion with your IT team so you can be an informed and responsible manager pursuing your due diligence role in protecting the assets of your firm. If you are an IT professional, these are questions you should be prepared to answer.

1.       Q. When did we last do a risk assessment? Please share that document with me. I would particularly like to see the Risk Assessment Table.

A.      Make sure your IT team is periodically assessing the risks to your IT systems.  They should be recommending upgrades and new solutions for you from time-to-time, and you should be listening.  They need to be able to express the threat in operational and economic terms in order to justify the expenditure.  If your team can’t give you a clear and coherent answer on when and how they last did this, send them off with a task and a deadline.

2.       Q. When did we last do a Vulnerability Scan? What were the results of that scan? I would like to see the report.  Who did the remediation? When is our next scan planned?...

I Am a Non-Technical Executive… What Seven Things Should I Be Asking My IT Guys About IT Security? 2016-02-25T01:10:13+00:00

New Virulent, Wide-Spread and Expensive Ransomware Outbreak Coming to You Soon

Orange County, CA - We have seen a surge in ransomware attacks in the past week.  While only two Alvaka clients have gotten hit, they are a tale of different system administration acumen. 

1.  A multi-state firm got hit with the latest breed of ransomware on Friday.  Where an otherwise non-event for the most part went wrong was that a key user insisted on having elevated administrative rights for their IT infrastructure.  Instead of using a regular user account, with very limited user rights for day-to-day activities, this more powerful account, when struck by the ransomware, infected all the important file shares of the firm, including the branch location file stores.  Fortunately they had good backups, but because of poor folder naming conventions and structures it took the guys in our Alvaka Networks’ Network Operations Center about 28 hours straight to get all the user permissions back in order for client to get back to work.  The lack of least-permissions as used by this client goes in direct opposition to what we recommend at Alvaka.  Least-permissions is the practice of using accounts that grant the user to only the locations on the network for which they have a business need to access.

2.  In another example, that struck today, a $200m manufacturer/distributor got hit by the same ransomware.  This time it was a Jr executive.  He saw some problems with his system, but did not report the problem not knowing what it was and went home.  The problem was detected after he left, but the outcome was very different than the prior scenario.  Why?  Because this user only...

New Virulent, Wide-Spread and Expensive Ransomware Outbreak Coming to You Soon 2016-02-16T02:24:49+00:00

What 12 Security Things Should I Focus on to Be Defensible in 2016?

Here is a sneak-peek and what is likely my most important blog for the upcoming New Year.  This is just a partial teaser....


Irvine, CA - I was recently asked by a roundtable of CEOs to advise them on network security.  They had a lot of questions and a lot of misinformation.  I was surprised as this was a group of technology company CEOs and what I quickly found out is that they did not know much more than my non-tech company CEO clients.  From that discussion they asked me to come back and present to them a short list of actions they should take in 2016 to better secure their systems.  Initially I wanted to present them with a list of 10 things they should focus upon.  For anyone that knows, it is easy to create a list of 100 things that should be done to secure a system. However, I decided in order to make the list actionable and not overwhelming I needed to focus on the 10 things I have seen in the past year or two that have caused the most real-life grief for our new and existing clients.  I wanted to keep the list to 10 items, but I had to fudge a bit and expand to 12 core items. Then I added three bonus items for those who are over-achievers and another three for those in regulated businesses like healthcare, financial services and Sarbanes-Oxley.

This list is not complete nor absolute.  It is a list I have created largely in order of my perceived importance based upon the real-life hacks, breaches and other maladies related to failures of network security to keep the bad guys out.  You will need to assess the requirements that are appropriate for your firm.  If you are looking for a good place to start, I offer up my suggestions below.

1.       You need to do a vulnerability assessment or security assessment.  It is impossible for you to know what actions you should take to properly secure your systems without first doing an assessment.  Assessments are common practice at many firms, yet completely ignored at others.  It is fairly easy for you to order a vulnerability assessment and the best part is that it takes very little time and participation from you and your IT staff.  The cost for this service ranges from a few thousand dollars for a very small firm to several tens-of-thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars for larger enterprises.  These should be done at least once per year just like your financial audit.

2.       Patching for Software Security Updates is perhaps one of the most overlooked and under-rated security measures you can implement to better secure your systems.  I maintain that good software patching measures are in some ways more important than your firewall.  A firewall is a formidable device that once it gets set-up has a number of ports opened up so that your firm can transact business.  That is where it gets weak.  Through these legitimately opened ports attackers will send nasty payloads that compromise your system, often without you knowing.  Imagine a hardened castle all buttoned up, but the draw bridge must be opened in order to conduct commerce.  Through that legitimately opened bridge come the sneak attacks, the scammers, crooks, mischievous and spies....

What 12 Security Things Should I Focus on to Be Defensible in 2016? 2015-11-12T03:10:52+00:00

You’re the Non-technical Boss with Responsibility for the Network…

How do you know your most important functions of your network are working?  How do you manage technical people whose work you don’t fully understand?  This week I have seven simple questions to ask and I provide you some tips on what answers you should expect.

Backup and Disaster Recovery is one of the most important functions in Information Technology management to assure the future viability of your firm.  But backup and DR is a function you don’t really know is working until you really need it and that is not the time to find out it is not working as planned.  My recommendation is that you bring this topic up in your next meeting with your IT team.  Here are the questions I suggest you ask:

1.       How is our backup system running?  (Let your IT person talk.  Be patient and don’t interrupt.  Let them tell you all they can.)

2.       Are we getting any error messages from the backups? (Error messages are not....

You’re the Non-technical Boss with Responsibility for the Network… 2015-10-07T22:13:17+00:00

Beware – There is a New Ransomware Variant Running Loose

I just read on a new post about a variation of the CoinVault ransomware.  This one is called BitCryptor and unless you have a good backup it sounds like you will be paying the ransom if you are hit.

Here are some key characteristics:

Beware – There is a New Ransomware Variant Running Loose 2015-05-19T02:55:34+00:00