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The Changing Nature of Ransomware

Lance Waterly

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Ransomware is on the rise. In 2014, ransomware was the 22nd most common form of malware. By 2016, it was the 5th. Due to the increased success of ransomware attacks, and the relative ease of distributing it, it has become a favorite of hackers and data thieves. But like all pernicious malware, ransomware is changing. Here, we’ll examine some of the ways ransomware is changing its nature.

Ransomware is Becoming More Profitable

Malware attacks are typically carried out to extract profit, mine information, embarrass the victim, or to cause chaos. A successful ransomware attack encrypts and locks user data.

This means that computers that run business operations are inaccessible and can cause daily actions to grind to a halt.

Many small and medium-sized businesses are unaware of how to remove Ransomware. Without a thorough plan in place, data restoration can be a complex if not impossible process. Because of this, many businesses choose to pay the ransom for restored access. The cost of paying a ransom has only risen. According to the 2017 Internet Security Threat Report, the average profit for ransomware attacks has risen from $294 in 2015 to $1,077 in 2017.

For many small and medium-sized businesses, a one-time payment of around $1,000 can seem like a quick, easy way to end the situation. However, according to managed service security experts, paying the ransom may not restore your access and may not be your best option. In fact, one in five businesses that paid a ransom didn’t receive restored data or access.

The newly mainstream nature of cryptocurrencies like bitcoin is beginning to empower ransomware attacks. These transactions methods naturally protect identity; payments made this way are not traceable in the same ways credit card transactions are. If the potential of safe profit remains for propagators of ransomware, the frequency of attacks of this nature will only increase.

Public Shaming

Ransomware attacks will begin to use public shaming more often as an element of extortion. Attacks like the one against San Francisco’s Municipal Transportation Agency will become more common in the foreseeable future. This attack displayed a ransom on all Muni station screens, locking out user access and denying riders from purchasing and redeeming tickets. This kind of public shaming attempts to manipulate public opinion in order to secure the demanded ransom.

Eroding consumer trust is one of the most malicious aspects of a public ransomware attack. Organizations that utilize public facing digital screens can expect to face increased attempts to compromise their systems. That includes ATMs, digital advertisements and billboards, self-checkout kiosks, and other outward facing displays that are connected to the main computer system.

If these public shaming styled ransomware attacks prove to be successful, they will only increase in the future. Public shaming demonstrates that ransomware attacks are not always carried out for profit. These attacks are also carried out to damage reputations, decrease public trust, and cause general chaos.

Ransomware As Chaos

Because ransomware attacks enable the author to lock access to data and computer systems, future ransomware attacks may be employed to cause chaos with little regard to extracting ransom payments. As more and more hackers utilize ransomware they will begin to use it for other purposes.

State-sponsored attacks may utilize this malware to disable daily functions of other states. What’s more, ransomware campaigns may focus on voting computers in an attempt to erode confidence in elections. Or worse, to hinder the voting ability of a nation.

Ransomware Evolves to Evade Detection

Ransomware viruses typically attack vulnerabilities in older operating systems and systems without security software in place. However, modern ransomware viruses are being written without an executable file. This allows the malware to bypass some security measures by appearing legitimate.

These new ransomware families can avoid detection by traditional security software. Because they take advantage of scripting language to hijack and encrypt files they may appear legitimate to older, out of date security protocols.

The changing nature of ransomware attacks means security measures must evolve as well.

Email Attacks

Most ransomware spam attacks are filtered by email providers—Google, Apple, Microsoft, and so on. However, ransomware authors are looking to write viruses that slip through large-scale spam filters.

As more ransomware spam makes it to email inboxes, employee actions become more important. Ensure your organization utilizes employee practices to avoid downloading or opening malicious emails.  

Safeguard Your Organization

If your business is hit with a ransomware attack, your options are somewhat limited. You can pay the ransom and hope you receive restored access, you can contact IT security firms in the hopes that a decryption algorithm exists, or you can count your losses, wipe your system, and start over.

Of course, the best defense against ransomware is a good offense. There are a number of steps you can follow to safeguard your organization from attacks.

Ensure you regularly update your security and operating systems, consider weekly or even daily backups on unconnected servers, institute employee education to avoid simple mistakes like opening spam email or visiting suspicious websites, and work with cyber security experts to ensure your system is secure and up to date.

Ransomware is quickly becoming one of the most malicious cyber threats facing small and medium-sized businesses. Strong prevention measures will help your organization stay ahead of ransomware attacks.

Lance Waterly is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley, CA. He spent nearly twenty years working with IT solutions companies since the earliest versions of the world wide web, and now enjoys writing about his experiences while giving advice to businesses to keep the industry moving forward. In his free time, he takes his grandkids on long walks through their neighborhood.

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Software

Network Olympus and Your Organization: A Quick Guide

Steven Sanders

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Long gone are the days of direct monitoring to employees. While this system works, it’s better to have software that helps you monitor your corporate network. With Network Olympus, it gives you the ability to monitor the uptime and performance of the network appliances and computers.

We understand that performance is a key part of maintaining a long-term business. And with this system, you can get alerted if the performance indicators go below a certain level. Thus, using remote networks is a great way to ensure that your business is running properly while preventing insider threats from harming your organization.

Fortunately, we’ll show you why companies are looking at network-olympus.com. The benefits that the software gives you will help you stay ahead of your competitors.

Mobile Team Management

Being able to access your network remotely prevents the need to stay on site constantly. If you have to work from home or your local coffee shop, remote access does this for staff living in remote cities, offices, countries, or branches to assess the network’s performance – even if the software is installed on the headquarters.

This means that if your device doesn’t work in a remote expert, network specialists can help you fix the problem without too much viewing on your end. They can see the network maps and updated metric themselves.

Access Levels

Having access to a remote network give your team better-increased security. Some network administrators don’t like the concept of remote access is through using encrypted authentication and ensuring that the user logs in with the right method.

Another feature for security issue protection is by data encryption. By doing this, it allows you to customize the user access. Most of the Mount Olympus remote monitoring tools will give you access to the admin or user level to enable maps or dashboards. By managing this access to users, you’ll have complete control over your network and protect the connection.

Also, you should get a tool that will consistently update and create patches for any security holes that occur. While these security threats are common, good security tools help notify users once the patch is launched.  This allows you to take control of the advanced security measures fully.

Constant Access

When using network-olympus, users have more access because of their remote capabilities. As long as you’re on a network due to VPN connectivity and or a point-to-point, you’ll be able to manage and utilize connected devices on the network. Regardless of your location or where they’re located.

By having more remote capabilities for your IT team, you’ll have the flexibility to handle the tasks that the modern world demands. And you’ll have peace of mind because you can see your network from a glance, whether that comes from a city, country, or a world.

Concluding Thoughts

Overall, network-olympus.com is perfect if you’re trying to manage a team of 10-50 employees. By using their software you’ll experience increased productivity, remote network management, and better employee communication. Thus, we suggest you try out Network Olympus and see how it improves the functionality of your team.

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AI

What To Expect With The Future Of AI Technology

Adrian Rubin

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There are many new technological innovations that are changing how we live our lives, but artificial intelligence, or AI, may present the most exciting changes. While AI has been around for a while now, recent improvements have made the technology much more adaptable. Looking into the future, it’s easy to predict a world in which artificial intelligence plays a more significant role in our daily lives.

The Most Promising AI Innovations on the Horizon

In general, artificial intelligence is going to change almost every aspect of daily life. While we will look for ways to make use of it in the home, AI will also be adapted by local and state governments, as well as by the business sector. Before long, there will be few things unaffected by AI technology.

Getting Around with AI

Self-driving cars are already beginning to make their way on the roadways, but we can expect this technology to advance considerably in the coming years. The U.S. Department of Transportation has started making regulations about the use of AI-driven vehicles and, as a result, they have designated three levels of self-driving vehicles. Currently, we’re at the lowest level with Google’s version of the vehicle, which still requires a human driver to be at the wheel. Ultimately, the goal is to create an entirely automated self-driving car, which is expected to be much safer. Logistics companies and public transportation services are also looking at incorporating AI technology to create self-driving trucks, buses, taxis, and planes.

AI and Robotics Will Come Together

The field of cybernetics has already begun to meld with artificial intelligence and that trend is expected to continue. By incorporating AI technology into robotics, we’ll soon be able to enhance our own bodies, giving us greater strength, longevity, and endurance. While cybernetics may help us enhance our healthy bodies, the application of this technology is really aimed at helping the disabled. Those individuals, who have amputated limbs or permanent paralysis, can be given a much higher quality of life. Cybernetic limbs that can communicate with the brain can become almost as useful as natural limbs. In the future, artificial limbs may even become stronger, faster, and more efficient.

AI Will Help Create Fully Functional Robots

In addition to helping us enhance our bodies, AI technology is also expected to help us create artificial lifeforms. Science fiction has long suggested the concept of human-like robots that are capable of complex interactions. That future may not be very far off at this point. As the field of robotics advances and incorporates AI technology, robots will become useful in a variety of ways. They can take on dangerous jobs and do work that poses health risks to people. Even today, drones and less sophisticated robots are performing welding and other hazardous tasks, though they’re typically controlled by an operator via a remote.

How Will AI Technology Change Our Lives on a Personal Level?

Artificial intelligence has already made its way into many homes, but it will soon be indispensable in most households. As we move closer toward becoming a technologically driven society, AI applications will fulfill the promise that computers would make our lives easier. AI technology will help us live happier and healthier lives, while also helping us conserve time, energy, and money.

You’ll Have a Virtual Assistant

Many people already make use of AI-driven personal assistants. Amazon’s Echo and Alexa currently dominate the market, but the competition is beginning to offer more virtual assistants to choose from. What can they do for you? Currently, they can provide information, such as a weather report, and order services, such as place your weekly pizza delivery order. They’re also used to control smart home devices from the stereo to the thermostat. In the future, AI-driven virtual assistants will anticipate your needs and fulfill them without the need to give them instructions. For instance, if you grill steaks every Friday, your virtual assistant can have fresh steaks delivered to the home every Thursday.

Your Face Will Become Your ID

We’re already seeing biometric incorporated into our daily lives and that technology is expected to evolve. Eventually, many in the tech industry anticipate AI-driven applications allowing machines to recognize your face to complete transactions. Your credit cards and driver’s license may be linked to your face, allowing pattern recognition devices to know you instantly. This can make everyday transactions far more efficient, saving us from having to wait in line at the store, bank, or movie theater.

Receive Better Medical Care

Research is already underway to develop new software applications that use AI to help doctors diagnose and treat patients. It won’t be long, before wearable devices can measure blood sugar levels for diabetics and transmit that data to the patient’s doctor. Already, devices are in use that measure heart rate, respiration, and other vital functions. Artificial intelligence may also help patients better understand their care options and communicate more effectively with their caregivers.

AI Responses Will Be More Empathetic

Internet users have already seen the effect artificial intelligence has had, when they visit a website with a chatbot. In the past, chatbots were pre-programmed to give specific answers to specific inquiries. Today, artificial intelligence software allows chatbots and virtual personal assistants to research any question and provide an accurate response. While that is impressive, there’s still room for advancement. Ultimately, AI-driven devices will analyze our speech or actions to interpret our needs, so they can offer more insightful information. This type of programming might best be described as “digital empathy” and it may provide the best human-device interactions possible.

Caring for Children and the Elderly Will Be Easier

Both virtual assistants and robots may advance to a level nearing human efficiency, which means these devices will be able to care for those needing supervision. Down the line, robots may be able to care for your child or elder parent. This can free up your time and, in cases of the elderly, prevent them from needing to move into an assisted living facility. Elders can stay at home, where they feel more comfortable, while the robot performs functions to keep the individual healthy and safe from harm. The rising concern over elder abuse and neglect may make this one of the most anticipated applications for artificial intelligence.

Hollywood May Become Obsolete

Currently, streaming sites use a form of AI to offer suggestions, based on your previous television and film viewing patterns. Similarly, sites like Spotify and Pandora use AI to help you create stations that exclusively play your favorite music. This is just the beginning, as far as how AI will cater to our entertainment interests. In the future, AI applications may analyze our interests and draw upon them to create music and shows that use digital performers. Since everything will be based on personal preferences, we’ll rarely have to sit through a “flop” or a bad song.

As artificial intelligence continues to evolve, these innovations will likely be overshadowed by even greater advancements. While there’s no way to know for sure how far AI technology will advance, it does seem obvious that it will become an integral part of our lives. Already, we often use AI-driven technology without even realizing it.

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Technology

The Lock and Key System and Why You Should Choose the High-Tech Version

Michael Dunne

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Locks and bolts are reliable and simple security systems that can be easily installed in homes and in commercial establishments. These systems have been used for thousands of years since the early beginnings of human civilization.

Modern-day security threats, however, have become increasingly sophisticated. Some thieves are highly skilled in opening locks of various forms, including combination type locks. This is why high-tech security systems are necessary for homes and business establishments for better security and protection.

History of the lock and key system

The most ancient lock and the key device were discovered in an archaeological site in Nineveh, the capital of the ancient Assyrian Empire. The Egyptians developed a wooden pin lock device that had the basic mechanisms of modern pin and tumbler metal locks.

The Egyptian pin lock system had a bolt and door fixture, which could be opened using a customized key. The pins within the lock were lifted out drilled holes within the bolt when the key was inserted. This allowed the bolt to move while the key was inserted.

Meanwhile, the oldest type of lock device in Europe is the warded lock. It was the most common lock design in Europe from the Early Medieval to Renaissance period. Purely metal locks were developed in Europe from around the year 870 to year 900. English craftsmen were credited for developing these locks.

Robert Barron perfected the design of the lever tumbler lock in 1778. The lock had a set of lever mechanisms that prevented the movement of the bolt if the key was not inserted. The double-acting lever mechanism required the lever to be lifted to a specific height by a key specifically customized for the lock.

Jeremiah Chubb made significant improvements on the lever tumbler lock starting in 1818. He designed locks that had multiple levers that needed to be precisely aligned to allow the bolt to move. Later designs involved spring-loaded pins that also prevented the bolt from moving. The keyless combination lock is a modification of this design.

High-tech modern locks

Classic lock designs are still used today with some modifications.

Many types of high-tech modern locks are actually a result of the convergence among the mechanical, electronic and digital types. The basic lock and bolt design are maintained but some electronic and digital components have been added. For instance, some high-tech locks require biometric keys like fingerprints to be opened.

High-tech locks can range from small padlocks to complex vault locks or blast door locks. The key components are modified to have multiple authentication requirements. These are also programmable and customizable depending on the user.

One of the simplest forms of electronic lock system is the PIN number system that requires the user to enter a pre-programmed PIN on a keypad. This system is also oftentimes integrated with an alarm system that will be triggered if the PIN is entered incorrectly in three successive attempts.

Electronic locks and alarm systems may also be connected to a phone line that can alert the local police. You may also be alerted via your mobile devices through SMS or the internet.

Here are some of the reasons why you should choose electronic and digital lock systems:

1. Added layers of protection

Using digital lock systems will provide your house or establishment additional protection.

Unlike ordinary mechanical locks that can be opened by skilled lock pickers using simple DIY tools, electronic or digital locks are more sophisticated. They require higher skills and more sophisticated instruments to hack.

If the electronic lock system has an alarm, it would provide another layer of protection that could deter would-be thieves.

A simple 4-digit PIN-enabled lock system has thousands of permutations/combinations, 10,000 possibilities to be exact. Most systems are programmed to allow only a maximum of three attempts before the alarm is activated.

2. Convenience of use

Simple mechanical locks need exact key configurations to be opened. The key to a lock needs to be duplicated to allow other members of a family or an establishment to have access. So if you have multiple doors in your house or workplace, you will need multiple keys and multiple duplicates.

Electronic lock systems may only need one master PIN code that can be memorized by authorized persons. On the other hand, the individual fingerprints of authorized persons can be used as keys. Biometric keys are more convenient than physical keys which can be easily duplicated or lost.

3. Flexibility of access

PIN codes, passwords, and biometric parameters can be programmed into the digital lock and key systems. Multiple users can be granted access without needing to bring physical keys. On the other hand, electronic key cards may also be required for employees to serve as their IDs and monitor their attendance.

Digital lock systems may also be programmed to provide multi-tiered security authorization. For instance, some employees of a bank may only have limited access to the bank vault.

4. Easy integration with other systems

You may easily integrate a digital lock and key system with existing systems. In many instances, you do not even need to remove the standard mechanical locks. Alarms, biometric sensors, cameras, apps, and mobile devices can be connected to electronic or digital locks.

It would be possible to remotely lock or unlock doors using your mobile device even if you are hundreds of kilometers away. Depending on your security provider, you may use a special app for this purpose. This way, you can allow guests to enter your house or establishment even if you have not yet arrived. You may simply need to enter the necessary PIN codes via your mobile smartphone.

5. Long-term cost-effectiveness

Considering the various features and benefits of using an electronic lock and key systems, you will be able to save money in the long run.

One common problem with the purely mechanical lock and key system is losing the key. This can be avoided by eliminating the need for physical keys. You will not need to have multiple duplicates of keys for various rooms in a house or work establishment.

The advantages of using an electronic lock and key system truly outweigh those of older lock and key versions and types. Hence, it is the better choice when it comes to ensuring the safety and security of your home and/or business establishment.

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