Select Page
Dark Web Protection: Assessment, Awareness & Actualization

Dark Web Protection: Assessment, Awareness & Actualization

Deep Web

Business owners, especially those who have been through the challenges involved in a data breach, often hope the dark web goes completely dark — as in nonexistent. Wouldn’t it be nice if trending IT services, like advanced web scans and security audits, go out with the times? For now, the illegal realm of the dark web makes history every day, so companies must work nonstop to predict cyber threats and stay a step ahead of the hackers.


Dark Exposure


The dark web is an encrypted network of criminal intent. The deep web, conversely, provides a safe haven for your private information. By law, you need to keep most of your business data hidden from public view. You don’t want your financial information or your employees’ social security numbers exposed, and neither does the government. Whether you’re a manufacturing company in the heart of Denver, Colorado, or a distribution business with hubs across the country, you need hidden security — call it “dark web” protection — for massive amounts of corporate data. This means you’ll need to keep your real-time data and your backups in the deep web and out of the dark web.


The deep web is essential to privacy, compliance, safety and security. Like the illegal areas of the web, it’s built from non-indexed pages. Your company’s network is not revealed to random viewers because it’s kept hidden in the deep web — unless you suffer a data breach that exposes your information to malcontents.



To Breach Their Own


People feel vulnerable online and are somewhat aware that cyber danger is lurking. However, data breaches often originate in too much trust or in lack of communication surrounding network trust issues. Your users trust an email and get phished, or they trust “12345” as a solid password. Could the problem be that your users trust the company to protect them? Does your team assume that strong security solutions are already in place? Here are some of the common reasons, stemming from the trust factor, that your business could suffer cyber attacks:

  • spam email
  • weak passwords
  • unprotected mobile devices
  • delayed software updates

Mix these with user oblivion (or trust) and flimsy (or outdated) policies, and your company is at high risk for a cyber attack.



“A” for Security


Let’s now look at 3 “Easy A” ways you can create safe deep web data:

  • Assessment: A security audit is an excellent way to surface your network’s weak points. You can immediately see vulnerabilities and close openings that could bring in hacker traffic.
  • Awareness: Users often trust the system. Cybersecurity awareness training, such as a fire drill phishing attack, can educate users about current cyber risks and prepare them for real-time attacks.
  • Actualization: Enriching and enforcing security policies, updating hardware and software, advancing network protection measures — there are hundreds of ways to make advanced security a reality for your company.


When was the last time you had a security audit? Have you ever clicked on a suspicious link because of mental fatigue or, the opposite, heightened curiosity? When did you last test your backups? Install updates? Scan the dark web for your private data? Did you ever turn off multi-factor authentication because it was annoying? If you assess your system and close obvious gaps, train the users accessing your corporate network, and actualize things like security in the cloud and advanced endpoint security, you can leave the hacker chapter out of your company’s history books.




Are you ready to protect your business from the hackers?

Our team can help you with assessment, awareness and actualization.


Getting QWERTY with Password Management

Getting QWERTY with Password Management

Before the Time Runs Out!








Riddle Me This, Dear Reader,

What Do These Little Threads Share?







I’ll tell you in a minute. A secret. A code. A…  12345. Uh… password.


I’m lucky to work with a team of password management rockstars because I’m about as QWERTY as it gets when it comes to password history. One of my network admins once scolded me for choosing “password” to access a vulnerable system, and I’ve depended on multi-factor authentication and other cybersecurity tricks ever since. If you’re shaking your head at me over my password management talents, then let’s take a quick look at the most common passwords of 2018: 123456, password, 123456789, 12345, 111111, 1234567, sunshine, qwerty, iloveyou.






Password proliferation has become the norm. With every new app, website and device that we commandeer, there’s new access information created. Moreover, many of these systems require a periodic reset. Keeping track of all of these passcodes can be likened to taking a mnemonic census of an anthill.


Archimedes once said that if only he had a solid rock on which to stand, he would move the earth.


If you assume that your passwords are a firm footing, prepare to have your assumptions rocked. It is believed that up to 80% of common hacking activities are due to compromised credentials, mostly in the form of stolen usernames and passwords. Worse still, IT Managers report 73% of all passwords used are duplicated in multiple applications.


When people use the same password for multiple systems, having one password exposed may compromise the whole network of applications. Luckily, password management doesn’t mean you have to buy a walk-in safe to store your password diaries. To keep it simple, here are a few tips to memorize as a starting point for improved password management:

  • Never use the same password twice
  • Never write down your passwords
  • Never share your passwords with anyone else
  • Never use real words or known information about yourself in your passwords
  • Avoid commonly used passwords


The last bullet is especially salient—50% of all attacks involve the top 25 most used passwords, proving there are risks involved in “getting qwerty” with your password management procedures.



Need a more sophisticated password management plan?


Let’s talk password management solutions and multi-factor authentication, two great ways to prevent getting hacked.


Password Manager: A password manager solution, such as SolarWinds’s PassPortal, allows you to store all of your passwords in one place. This makes managing and remembering all of them much easier. Make sure your password manager solution is itself password protected, preferably with multi-factor authentication.


Multi-factor authentication: Multi-factor authentication is the use of additional forms of authentication in conjunction with a traditional password. This most often takes the form of a shared key, sent to a separate device, or calculated through a common authentication application. This makes it difficult for a compromised password to compromise the application. Enable multi-factor authentication wherever possible, but make sure your secondary authentication source is equally secured with a strong password—failure to do so is like having a biplane write your shared key in the sky.




Random password generators can also help create passwords, but the results are often long random jumbles of characters and quite difficult to remember. Unless you can recite the longest word in the world from memory, you might want to use these password management tools in conjunction with a password management solution.


If you’re a business owner trusting dozens or hundreds or thousands of employees with sensitive information, then a managed IT solution that includes password management will definitely be the safest way to interact with the millions of letters, numbers and characters that are involved in the multitude of passwords that access the data of your systems.



Looking for help keeping your business safe from cybercrime?

Sign up for IT news sent right to your inbox, no qwerty-strings attached.  

Hidden Ransomware as a VM Valentine (Video)

Hidden Ransomware as a VM Valentine (Video)

Apparently ransomware is now installing a virtual machine inside the hacked computer in order to avoid detection.  We’ve entered a new phase of devious behavior!  How will your company avoid the new forms of ransomware hidden in your system’s shadows?

Hidden Ransomware

Hackers Exploit Your Pixie Dust Trust

Please make sure your users are safe!  I think the only way to avoid all this malefic malware is to adopt a Zero Trust attitude, bringing in an IT expert with a Zero Trust philosophy if necessary.  Think of it this way — do you let a technician into your home to work on the AC unit, just because they have the right shirt on?  Did you call them?  Are they “safe”?  Do they take their shoes off and keep their N95 masks on?  Some of us will allow them in, some will not.  At this time, I have immune-compromised folks at home, and that technician isn’t coming in.  I’ll live with a busted AC unit for now — it’s not worth the risk.


Is your PC worth the risk to allow untrusted software in and run whatever, wherever it wants, with whatever bugs it brings with it?  I think not.  When it comes to the technology that enables your business, it can be easy to trust your users because you see them as good people, as your helpful team.  But the magical thinking of an IT fairy tale will not protect your team from hidden ransomware dangers, especially those that appear deceptively dressed in a VM.  You can trust your team without trusting their machines or their software.


Made in the Shade

Are your systems safe from ransomware hidden in the shadow of a VM?  Companies enabling remote connectivity for their teams may have put their data at significant risk by taking shortcuts to ensure business continuity.  Rushed IT policy often creates vulnerabilities that hackers can easily exploit.  Malware can get into your network by posing as something friendly to your system.  Hidden ransomware, now lurking as an amicable virtual machine, creates troublesome tenements for remote teams.


Ghosting the Hackers

Hidden malware is only one challenge you have when connecting your teams to company data.  Fortunately, remote access and remote control utilities, when done properly, are tools that allow companies to connect home users to corporate data securely and efficiently.  You can keep your team safe from malicious valentines, even when they appear in the form of a friendly VM.  With protective IT policies in place, including a Zero Trust approach to the machines that make your business run, you can ghost the bad guys trying to unlock your data and prevent their hidden ransomware from accessing your system.




To learn more about remote access and remote control utilities, please watch one of our IT strategy videos here:



IT Strategies for Remote Teams (Video)

IT Strategies for Remote Teams (Video)

Brad Feakes Director Professional Services
Brad Feakes

SVP Epicor Services, Professional Services

Daryl Sirota – Director, Technical Services
Daryl Sirota

Technical Services Director


Brad and Daryl talk about IT strategies for remote teams


Brad and Daryl sit down this week for a Q&A style chat to unravel a few of the complex IT issues in today’s work from home (WFH) environment.  At a high level, Daryl emphasizes how we should not make the mistake of trying to plug pieces of cloud software together expecting them to work properly.  That is almost impossible to do effectively without the appropriate policy to guide the technology.  You will need to understand how you will provide guidance to your end users faced with a variety of remote work environments (working for a cafe, home office, etc) and the new tools you will use to manage staff.


They move on to talking about some of the end-user WFH problems from asking the question “what does work from home mean?”  to discussing what technology can be used to help get users up and running while also creating business efficiencies.


Throughout the discussion, Daryl covers a variety of other topics such as data security, public vs. home wifi, two-factor authentication, remote access vs. remote control utilities, data access, machine vulnerabilities and many other topics.


Brad and Daryl do an excellent job of taking some big, complex issues around WFH and explain the issues that every business owner needs to be aware of as they navigate moving their staff into the cloud and potentially hiring a company like EstesGroup to help them with their remote IT management.


Of course, you can always reach out to our managed IT services team.  We’ll help you throughout the entire process of moving your company into the cloud and help you avoid the costly mistakes that can put your entire business at risk.


Are you having issues with or have questions about your current IT management? Contact us today.

IT Security Gone “WFH” – Now What?

IT Security Gone “WFH” – Now What?


Recent “Work From Home” (WFH) mandates have quickly pushed manufacturing and distribution employees out of the familiarity of their work offices and into a new realm of IT security needs.  Currently, statistics are saying that 70% of the workforce that can work from home is and, after this crisis is over, more than 40% will STAY at home.  With this transition, IT security principles become part of a critical conversation, especially for companies with remote workers supporting on-site manufacturing or distribution activities.


What is your WFH IT security policy?


Many distributed businesses have responded to the telecommute directive without many changes, especially those companies with data residing in the cloud.  These companies have already established work-at-home policies and invested in the remote access/remote desktop technology to enable telecommuting with IT security in place.  Folks who invested fully in the Office 365 space are feeling little pain, but businesses with legacy on-premise servers, workstations and printers are probably still scrambling.


Don’t be fooled—the hackers have followed you home!  The increase in suspicious emails, bad websites, and malicious advertisements has skyrocketed, and the cybercrime community is just waiting for your users to click on something to ransom your hard-earned data away.


Without a written and agreed upon IT security policy, you are at the mercy of your users’ good intentions.  Imagine a home PC with a saved password left on the VPN all day while the kids are stuck at home from school.  The amount of data that could be lost or compromised is staggering!  At a minimum, make sure you have a document that instructs your WFH users to lock the keyboard when they step away (or implement a screen saver with a password).  Ensure your users don’t download documents to their local hard drive or USB drives.  The list goes on, but the human element is the riskiest of all!


If a home user gets infected on the VPN, their malware is the company’s malware!  Let me write that again:  If a home user gets infected on the VPN, their malware is the company’s malware.


How to connect securely to your enterprise data?


Many businesses have NOT invested in expensive VPN or Remote Desktop solutions, and now it might seem either too late or too expensive.  You need a low-cost, secure, and easy-to-deploy strategy to connect your home users with their corporate data:  desktops, servers, and printers at the office.  Many options exist, but without a budget and a vision, you’ll get lost in the storm.



Keeping your home PC safe!


Home computers are more vulnerable than corporate PCs.  Home PCs tend to fall behind on patches and updates.  Moreover, the computer might get repurposed for things like the kids’ Xbox.  Home firewalls never measure up to those provided by your IT department.  Most have no web filtering to speak of, and bad websites abound!  You’ll need that enterprise class security in a mobile-friendly package.





Another blog could certainly be written about home offices, with a good webcam and a quiet space, but that’s for another page.  People are people, and the distractions from working from home are numerous and easy to fall prey to.  We recommend easy-to-deploy software to ensure that your users arrive to their home office on time and ready to work (even if it’s in their PJ’s), ensuring that they are productive and not on YouTube or getting the latest Amazon order completed.




Looking to provide IT security for your remote workers?  Deploy the EstesCloud PC Security Stack on your home users’ PCs and rest easily, knowing that your WFH users are protected and productive!


Endpoint Security: A Powerful Endgame

Endpoint Security: A Powerful Endgame


You already know you need protection from the cybersecurity threats circulating the market, but you might not have the time to know the specifics—like what endpoint security is or why you need it.  If you have devices accessing a network, then you have an endpoint that needs protection.  This elusive endpoint is simply any device that interacts with your network—the touchpoint between your network’s perimeter and the outside world.  The bring-your-own-device (BYOD) movement that’s currently shaping the business world makes network security challenging because it creates a high demand for comprehensive endpoint security.  You need to protect your customers and your business by protecting your team, and this begins with endpoint security.




Bring Your Own Disaster


The BYOD movement introduces a number of specific challenges in securing networks.  The proliferation of devices interacting with a network, both in kind and in number, increases the number of endpoints and thus also increases the potential vulnerability of a network.  Each new endpoint is a potentially exploitable gateway.  The propagation of vulnerabilities demands a solution that can address this new circumstance.  The solution that companies are increasingly utilizing to address their evolving needs has come to be known as endpoint security.  Endpoint security helps ensure that all devices interacting with a network are compliant to the necessary security standards, protecting both the network and the devices themselves.


Endpoint security differs from traditional antivirus in the way that it detects and responds to threats.  Traditional antivirus operates by comparing a program’s signature to a database of known malicious programs.  Programs flagged as malicious would be stopped by the antivirus agent.  This method of threat prevention is, by design, a step behind the attackers.  Traditional antivirus can only detect malicious programs that have already been logged in the antivirus agent’s database.  This creates problems in detecting new threats—what are sometimes called zero-day attacks.  This also creates problems with newer “signatureless” attack methodologies that work to obscure their signatures, to work around the known signatures that antivirus looks for.


The question here is one of prevention vs. one of detection:  antivirus focuses on preventing attacks.  While this sounds logical, the tools available at its disposal, as we have seen, are limited.  Should a malware attack slip through, antivirus is ill-equipped to deal with it once it’s inside the network.  This brings in the need for more dynamic, behavioral-based detection methodologies that can leverage artificial intelligence and machine learning to detect suspicious application behaviors and react accordingly.


Leveling Up


Modern endpoint security platforms operate in a multi-level manner, protecting networks and network devices in multiple phases of vulnerability and response.

  • The pre-execution phase: This level is for threats as they enter the network.
  • The on-execution phase: This step is for threats that have entered the network and are in the process of acting out their program logic.
  • The post-execution phase: This involves the steps to mollify threats that have executed.

Combining static prevention with dynamic detection, modern endpoint security platforms leverage machine learning to detect threats on execution.  This becomes beneficial, not only for signatureless attacks, but also for “file-less” attacks that are operating exclusively in memory.

As part of our EstesCloud security stack, we work with several vendors to provide broad and comprehensive endpoint detection and response.  AI, combined with our SOC (Security Operations Center), provides the level of endpoint security that cannot be addressed by traditional antivirus.  Our cybersecurity solution comes with a strong warranty—cyber threat protection provides you with financial support of $1,000 per endpoint, or up to $1 million per company, securing you against the financial implications of a ransomware attack if your company indeed suffers an attack and our team is unable to block or remediate the effects.




Is your company in need of a security assessment?  Learn more about how EstesGroup can protect your business.