Psst! It’s Phishing that’s the Danger

Pronouncing the word — Phishing — might provide a verbal stumble (it’s “fishing”), but it creates mayhem for everyone who uses a computer or digital device, often with devastating results.

What is Phishing?

Phishing is the illegal practice of trying to trick someone into opening a malicious email, then interacting with them to benefit the intruder and harm the recipient. Invaders try to gain access to your usernames, passwords and sensitive information.

Who Is Targeted by Phishing?

Everyone is a target, from small-business owners and government employees to students and retirees. If you have an email address, you’re at risk. There’s even a subdivision called Spear Phishing that directs attacks at senior leadership and high-profile candidates ranging from corporate executive to major nonprofits and government leaders.

What Happens When You Click the Link

The most common result is that you’ve released malware that harms your computer. It allows the intruder to gain access to private information such as usernames and passwords. But it can get worse. Some intruders will shut down your computer and force you to pay a ransom to regain access. It’s ransomware, the ultimate digital blackmail.

Why Phishing Works

Phishing is everywhere because of our digital world, with emails as a prime example. In 2017, hackers sent about 269 billion (that’s billion) phishing links and expect to reach 333 billion by 2020.

Phishing is a fear monger, which allows it to work so effectively. It occurs with delivery notices (FedEx, UPS, etc.) voicemails, coupons, false invoices, faked accounts and late health club notices. The idea is simple; create fear or tension in the recipient and get him to react. By creating this emotion, many people click on a link — what do you mean I owe the IRS?  If even one person in your organization or company clicks on the link, the invader can compromise and devastate your entire network.

Are Small Businesses & Organizations Safe From Phishing?

No. Remember it is software programs (powered by artificial intelligence) that are searching for computers. They don’t know if you’re a mom-and-pop or a billion-dollar corporation. Sometimes, they’re not after your information but your clients’ or customers’ data.

Help. How Can I Protect Myself From Phishing?

No perfect method exists, but you can minimize entry with these actions:

  • Question every mail. Sometimes you can tell if it doesn’t seem quite right.
  • Question every pop-up. Don’t let a pop-up tantalize you into action.
  • It’s amazing how people are afraid to ask an administrator or technician simple questions about security.
  • Hover over the link. You can often tell something is “fishy” about it.
  • Never send an email confirmation.
  • Question every attachment. Many journalists will NEVER reply to an email that has an attachment. They want to remain virus-free.
  • Security systems are constantly changing. You can only protect yourself by having the latest security updates and a strong malware program and following common-sense security rules. If you have an organization or business, you must ensure that your IT tech not only understands your network but that he is familiar with the most recent security protocols.
  • When in doubt “go old school.” Use what I refer to as “high-speed voice technology.” If the email is from someone you know and it looks fake, pick up the phone and call them to verify.

Contact us PCS for help managing your network security and protect your company’s data today.

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Case Study: Working with Other Tech Firms

An IT Plan When Your Company Expands

 

What made this PCS client unusual is that they are a highly skilled tech firm in their own right. They had deep expertise in audiovisual systems integration, event staging and AV managed services. “You might assume that they would have an attitude that says, ‘We can do this,’ referring to their own skill set,” said the PCS team member who was the lead on the account.

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But they understood two fundamentals about business: The first was that the client didn’t try to shoehorn their expertise into another technical area, and if they did, they knew the effort would drag their staff into an area that was not their core competence. While they had talent in their field, they did not have network or workstation experts, the precise reason they ultimately brought in PCS to help.

The other reason is the spigot analogy. They didn’t have to maintain a standing IT staff with demand hours that might fluctuate. By bringing in PCS to handle the workflow, they didn’t have to worry about whether they suddenly needed one technician or five to service their growing pains. PCS had the ability to handle the need. If they took charge of IT functions in-house, they would have to hire extra employees. The firm had a plan and was confident that they would grow. Of course, what they didn’t know precisely was the pace of that growth.

What gained PCS an initial approval stamp was a short-term project completed on time and within the agreed-upon budget.

They turned to PCS when a previous IT partner was incapable of managing their growth while providing timely service.

The client’s growth pattern panned out as predicted. They grew from two offices to three and 80 employees to 135.  

At day’s end, PCS’s team leader said this client had a firm grip on current needs but was incapable of anticipating future changes with a crystal ball that gave a point-by-point checklist. “What made it work was involving us at the beginning of their strategic planning so that we could both create and implement the IT component of their expansion plans.”

PCS estimates that they saved the firm more than $100,000 in annual IT costs. “As they grow, that figure will increase, but the high standard of our service to them will remain the same,” said the PCS team leader.

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Case Study: IT Support for School Districts

A School District’s Report Card

 

When a New Jersey school district started to face a growing deficit, auditors who examined the systemwide expenditures recognized that the time was ideal for a review and restructuring of its IT department.

The school district called in PCS for an assessment, and the project started with a small, initial step and a single technician. “The technician assigned to the project was a highly skilled person who demonstrated an exceptional work ethic and had the social skills to make it easy to work with,” recalls the PCS partner who directed the team.

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After a short trial period of three months, the school system expanded PCS’s project responsibilities, ultimately replacing eight staff members with four technicians.

People ask the inevitable question: How can 50 percent fewer technicians manage and excel compared with a workforce that was twice its size?

“PCS has an entrepreneurial spirit,” says the team leader. “We’re not on staff, which means we are more vulnerable for replacement, and that keeps us on our toes.”

The other qualities that helped PCS obtain and keep the contract were the depth of its team’s skill set and continuous training.

“As an independent IT service, we have a formal and informal screening process before we hire and send someone out to the client,” the team leader said. “Many companies that hire in-house refer to the new person as their ‘IT guru,’ and yet the individual is only average — or in some cases, below average — as an IT technician. But because that tech might know more than the person doing the hiring, the organization hires them. And it all seems good until the problems begin.”

PCS also understands because they’re not on staff, it is mandatory that their teams remain more responsive to trends and to constantly seek greater efficiency in an organization’s IT system. “Unless you’re always looking to improve, your work effort becomes stale,” said the team leader.

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Case Study: Non-Profit IT Support

Stabilizing the Merger of Statewide Non-Profits

 

A statewide non-profit came to PCS with IT problems related to growth and the merger with other like-minded organizations. The merging organizations had a similar goal: helping to stabilize people’s lives, getting them on their feet and then entering society as a “whole” person.

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But in those combined efforts, the IT collided in a mini-crash. How do you meld all the IT components into a unified IT system with a fully integrated network and internal IT support speaking the same language? In short, the mergers were more than growing pains. They had about 17 different units that need integration, and the organization grew from several hundred people to a staff of more than 1,400. And the inability to smoothly integrate all these components threatened a logistics nightmare.

On the surface, most of the units had an IT person available. But the scale of the integration was beyond their skill set. “An IT person who manages a basic network might be fine for everyday problems that arise, but this merger, both complicated and costly, required a team from PCS and a consulting engineer to pull it off,” said one PCS staffer who worked on the project. “It was the proverbial pieces of the puzzle that you had to put together, ensure they stayed together, and you had to do it with the clock running.”

The usual expected time for the integration of all the networks should have been several months. PCS completed it in a month.  It continues as an outside consultant to the non-profit when network-wide issues arise that need that “next level” of expertise. “We always help our clients but resolving issues, in this case, was even more satisfying because of the good these non-profits do on behalf of their clients,” said a PCS executive.

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