We’ve all done it, at least once. Some of us maybe more than a couple of times, and I know there’s few that are repeat offenders. You know what I’m talking about – the bane of the security admin’s existence – default passwords.
Those are the usernames and passwords that come with every device. Even in this day and age, most systems don’t REQUIRE you to change the credentials that get you system admin rights. The bad guys know that and use it to their advantage.
When most of our business and personal systems are protected with just a name and a basic password (and maybe a trusted network range?), that’s pretty easy pickings for someone with a brute force tool or a sniffer to find out your secrets. And once the bad guys have your credentials, then what? Well after that is when the real dangers begin.
When’s the last time you changed your voicemail PIN from 0000? Perhaps your home router is still admin/password even though the FBI issued a warning for everyone to change it? And how many ERP users keep system admin “manager” around with the default password of… you guessed it. And those accounts open the door wide to anyone wanting to get in; good and bad.
If you have systems exposed to the bad guys (and we all do!) then this post is for you. STOP IT! Even if you told me “Well, none of those systems are internet exposed”, I’d ask “where are the bad actors in your network?”. If you said “outside the firewall”, I’d respond with something like “I dare you to create a share/folder called “payroll” and see how long some curious netizen (aka employee) fell into that folder looking for something juicy.
Imagine splaying your entire infrastructure wide open to someone who just happened to know that Netgear uses admin/password for all their routers? Or that your company name is NOT a good password?
So what’s a concerned system admin gonna do? It’s easy in theory and hard in practice. Here are some digital security tips that will create a stronger password security strategy:
1. Change the default username and change the default password.
2. Start using stronger passwords, not P@ssw0rd. We recommend pass phrases, or a sentence that you can remember but the bag guys will have a hard time guessing.
3. Enable account lockout so that if “x” bad passwords are guessed in a row, the account is locked FOREVER (not reset after 10 minutes, thank you Microsoft). Helpdesk notification of such a lockout will put you in the know.
4. Remove admin credentials from being used on untrusted networks. Yes, your users are untrusted! Create a management VLAN, or a specific set of IP’s that can RDP, or shutdown the access from outside devices altogether.
5. Enable multi-factor authentication. This can easily be enabled in Office 365 and Active Directory, and if your devices leverage that directory then they automatically get that 2FA protection as well.
6. Hack yourself! Run a network scanner, or hire an outsourced IT firm to investigate for you, find the unsecured devices and fix them before the bad guys do.
7. Let us help you! We can run an ethical scan IT Assessment Detective scan of your systems, attempt to break into your systems, and give you a full reporting of your IT weaknesses. As “they say” knowledge is power.
So, don’t let your next phone call to the EstesGroup be “help me, I got hacked!” And let us help you run your business better with a strong password security strategy – before the bad guys teach you a lesson.
As a small business owner, did you know there are several things you can do to help save on your electric bill? All this technology we use costs us not only to buy and maintain it, but it burns electricity and creates heat. Some of those things run 24x7x365, but others can be turned off when not in use, or at least turned down. Just as you (should) turn off the lights when you leave a room, so can your technology be ‘user-aware’ and save power when not in active use.
The good news is that the newer technology is greener than ever. Even the new networking hardware is energy aware. Check out D-Link’s page for lots of tips, not necessarily on their hardware. When it’s time for a hardware upgrade, think green! There’s good reference material on Vertatique.com for going green in the office.
Some specifics on devices that you might have in your office.
Servers: The ‘iron’ itself runs all the time (except when it’s broken) and Windows servers default to a recommended power saving mode. The monitor turns off, drives spin down and CPU sockets/cores get disabled when not in use. The best way you can save money here is to make sure that the power settings are at Balanced (recommended). Beware, there are some exceptions. If your servers are virtual, then the power savings decisions actually fall on the hypervisor and NOT the VM. Actually, the best way to save money on your servers (purchase, power and cooling) is to move them to the cloud! While enterprise data centers have their own challenges, a small business would do well to consider moving some operations to the cloud.
PCs: Since Windows machines default to a recommend power saving scheme, you should be OK. You can use Intel Power Management to actually force machines to hibernate (as opposed to sleep) if your infrastructure supports that. Of course, if you can turn your PC off at the end of the day and your IT department doesn’t complain, do that! Many companies do scans, patches and updates at night, so this might not be recommended. For example, our EstesCloud ClientCare machines do that patching and scans on Monday night.
Laptops: Hibernate when you can, and follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for battery life. Often, just closing the lid will force the sleep/hibernate cycle and save juice.
Mobile: We all try to eke out every last minute from our smartphones. I recommend installing a power saving app that will stop background processes, turn off the screen and improve charging characteristics. I use the 360 Security app for this and more features.
Printers: Most printers now go into a power-saving mode, at the cost of a few moments warming back up when you go to print. You might consider replacing occasionally used ink-jet printers with low-cost lasers so the ink doesn’t keep drying out and needing to be replaced!
At home: If you have a remote-enabled device like a TV, DVR, DVD or stereo, it’s drawing power even when it’s “off”. I put my entertainment system on a surge-protector, and when we’re done for the night – I flip the power off on all those power-sucking vampire devices. I also put my Wifi router and cable modem on a light-timer that cycles off every night. This has multiple benefits – I save power when it’s off, my kids can’t easily get online late at night, and those home routers tend to be more stable when restarted on a regular basis. Win-win strategy!
By doing our part to save the planet, you’ll save a few bucks!
Let’s get IT together!
It’s a tough act to follow, after all, network admins have the unenviable job of keeping servers running, users to make happy, bosses to satisfy, budgets to meet. If I can just keep the henhouse running smooth, playing good cop, the good bits flowing where they ought to go – that’s my happy place. All in all, if I get home without any major disasters, it’s beer-thirty and time to chillax.
I saw a great video yesterday by National Geographic entitled “Celebrate”, the gist of it was “don’t dream it, be it”. (No RHPS jokes, please, this is a professional space!) That is, we can live in the complacent world view that’s all around us – and if we’re willing to settle for it, ho hum, it’s off to work we go.
The question is: