Remote Access to Computers can be a RISKY Business

Remote desktop access through the internet represents a substantial risk to network security and should be avoided whenever and wherever possible.

If remote access is required, available options including LogMeIn, TeamViewer, Chrome remote desktop, etc. should be used only after taking precautions to improve security.

1) Your router/firewall should be configured to restrict access to only the necessary public IP addresses. This is the best way to secure the connection.

2) Default Network accounts with usernames such as “Admin” and “Administrator” should be disabled.

3) Configure Active Directory to lock out accounts after 3 or 5 failed sign-in attempts.

4) Ensure that all computers/servers being remotely accessed require strong/complex passwords (a minimum of 8 characters, including 1 upper case letter, one lower case letter, a number, and a special character).

5) Ensure that remote access to computers/servers be limited to authorized users specifically requiring connectivity to that machine.

Or, contact ATON Computing, Inc. at www.ATONComputinginc.com of at 908-725-3700 or your IT Professional for expert solutions to your IT issues.

The Impact of Net Neutrality Changes on Local Governments

What is Net Neutrality?
The idea, principle, or requirement that Internet service providers should or must treat all Internet data as the same regardless of its kind, source, or destination. – Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Why is Net Neutrality an issue?
Despite public opposition, the Federal Communications Commission voted to rescind rules intended to ensure net neutrality in December of 2017. The rules prevented the prioritization of content by Internet providers and is expected to benefit telecommunications companies.

What are the options?
There now appears to be interest in developing methods of accessing the Internet without requiring the centralized services of corporate ISPs by developing community- based locally owned Internet service. The service allows users in a “neighborhood” to share and Internet connection at no charge without discriminating or blocking content.

Another option is municipal broadband, owned and operated by local government, mimicking the Internet access provided by corporate ISPs, yet more responsive to customers on their issues. Caution must be exercised as these efforts can lose money or result in failure with political repercussions. In addition, several states have laws that ban municipal broadband. New Jersey is NOT one of them.

The New Jersey Office of Information Technology (NJOIT) has created a broadband map to support and expand broadband access and provide businesses and consumers with relevant information needed to make decisions related to high speed Internet options.

What does it have to do with local government?
Municipal broadband service is owned and operated by local government and essentially mimics the Internet access provided by corporate ISPs. Because they are locally owned, they are more responsive to customers on issues, including net neutrality.

Considerations
Is there a need and will there be public support for the proposal?
Who in the community can directly benefit- contractors, local IT consultants? What are the costs of building, equipment, and operation?
Will the politics of the municipality allow moving forward with the project? Is grant funding or foundation money available?
Is it more cost efficient to operate local broadband?
Is it a service that taxpayers deserve?

Caveat
Historically, most local governments that have tried municipal broadband have failed. The build-out cost and the maintenance/support has been prohibitive. Muni broadband is often seen as an integral part of the Smart Cities initiative.

Everything You Wanted to Know About Cyber Attacks on Municipal Government

What is a Cyber Attack

A Cyber Attack is initiated by a person or a group of people against a website, computer system, or individual computer that compromises the confidentiality, integrity, or availability of the system or information stored on it. –  BitSentinal

A Cyber Attack is deliberate exploitation of computer systems, technology-dependent enterprises, and networks.

Cyber Attacks use malicious code to alter computer code, logic or data, resulting in disruptive consequences that can compromise data and lead to cybercrimes, such as information and identity theft. – Techopedia

Where Does a Cyber Attack Come From?

  • Cyberspace and its underlying infrastructure are vulnerable to a wide range of risks stemming from both physical and virtual threats and hazards.
  • Sophisticated cyber actors and nation-states exploit vulnerabilities to steal information and money and are developing capabilities to disrupt, destroy, or threaten the delivery of essential services.
  • US Department of Homeland Security

Why Would a Municipal Government Be A Target?

  • It is at the state and local levels of government that the preponderance of programs and services are administered, requiring the storage of extensive amounts of personal information.
  • The use of web technologies to facilitate government services continues to rise.
  • The result is increased opportunity for the criminal and vulnerability for the local government.

How Do You Know That You Have Been Infiltrated?

  • It’s not always immediately obvious that your systems have been breached but detection and response are critical. Immediate detection reduces the average cost of recovery dramatically .
  • When dealing with a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack it can be challenging to even determine if your website is down due to legitimate traffic or an attack. The key to telling the difference lies in the length of time the service is down – if slow or denied service continues for days, it is time to start to look into what’s going on.
     (DDoS is a type of DOS attack where multiple compromised systems, which are often infected with a   Trojan, are used to target a single system causing a Denial of Service (DoS) attack. WeboPedia)
  • If you detect an abnormality in content or operation, infiltration by Internet, malware, or hacking may be the cause.

Cyber Attack Prevention

  • Develop an Information Security Management Plan (ISMP) and test various scenarios so you are ready when an attack happens.
  • Invest in technology that allows you to know and monitor your network’s normal behavior.
  • Make sure you maintain sufficient server capacity for best performance under high load.
  • Know how to use your defensive strategy. Practice defensive actions to get it committed memory.
  • If necessary, outsource to a managed Domain Name System (DNS) provider who can redirect site visitors to hosts with advanced features. The (DNS) translates Internet domain and host names to IP addresses and vice versa.
  • Preparation is the key. Determine the financial impact and reputation damage of an attack to evaluate the size of the investment in prevention. The cost of an attack is usually far greater that the preventative investment.

In Case It Happens – Recovery Methods

  • An incident response plan, prepared prior to an attack, is an outlined course of action to establish a framework for the internal and external actions to be taken during and after a digital security breach.
  • One individual should be designated to lead the crisis response, overseeing a “response team” comprised of both internal and external personnel.
  • Response steps include:
    • IDENTIFY the problem.
    • CONTAIN the attack.
    • INVESTIGATE the crime and submit evidence to law-enforcement and investigators.
    • FOLLOW-UP the incident, notifying employees, residents and other government entities.
    • REMEDIATE the attack by changing company practices to prevent another breach.

Rules for Cyber Awareness

  • In order to provide essential public services, all levels of government must  ensure their cyber infrastructure is safe, secure, and resilient.
  • Join fellow government users in United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT) collaboration groups and programs to facilitate information and resource sharing on cybersecurity issues
  • Visit the Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center (MS-ISAC) for cyber threat prevention, protection, response, and recovery for the nation’s state, local, territorial and tribal (SLTT) governments.
  • The New Jersey Cybersecurity & Communications Integration Cell (NJCCIC) at www.cyber.nj.gov is the State’s one-stop shop for cybersecurity information sharing, threat analysis, and incident reporting.
  • Share information an best practices through the National Institute of Standards and Technology (www.NIST.gov) Federal Agency Security Practices (FASP).
  • US Department of Homeland Security

Meltdown & Spectre

When You Hear About Meltdown & Spectre – DON’T PANIC! They have been around for years.

The fact is, the main chip in most modern computers has a hardware bug. Meltdown and Spectre are two related families of hardware flaws that are capable of negatively impacting the Central Processing Unit (CPU) of any computer. Both have been around for years but not everyone is familiar with them. They are only now becoming potential targets for attack.

The simple explanation of the problems that each creates are as follows:

  • Meltdown breaks down the separation between what you are doing (user app) and what the computer is doing (Operating System), enabling the app to steal data that it should be unable to access.
  • Spectre is more insidious, breaking the connection between different concurrently running apps to reach the same end.

By exploiting these vulnerabilities, hackers can gain access to passwords, emails, instant messages, and business-critical documents by reading data used by other programs operating concurrently Devices impacted by Meltdown and Spectre include desktop computers, personal computers, mobile devices, and the cloud.

This silent information thief cannot be detected by the average user and it is unlikely that traditional anti-virus software will detect the intrusion.

But, DON’T PANIC. There are patches against Meltdown for Linux, Windows, and OS X. Additionally, there is ongoing research to harden software against Spectre. The best route to take is to update and patch all machines on the computer network while educating all operators in the network to be vigilant and thinking before clicking.

An Important Article About Disaster Planning that appeared in NJBIZ

Business Conference

Think ahead for disaster planning: Business owners must have safeguards in place to prevent a costly Catch-22 situation

For New Jersey business owners, the series of hurricanes that recently struck Texas, Florida and other locations may have stirred painful memories of Superstorm Sandy, which rocked the Garden State in 2012.

If personal, income‐producing or business property is impaired or destroyed during a disaster, taxpayers may be able to claim a casualty loss deduction on their tax return, generally as an itemized deduction on Form 1040, Schedule A for individuals , and on Section B of Form 4684, Casualties and Thefts, for business or income-producing property.

But what if the books and records you need to compute and document your losses—not to mention carrying on your business post-disaster—get lost in the flooding, fire or other conditions that can accompany a disaster? Without the proper safeguards in place, a business owner could be in a costly Catch-22 situation.

“Some small businesses may have lot of paper-based documents that are at risk of exposure to fire and flood, yet they don’t have much in the way of backup copies,” warned Henry Rinder, senior forensic partner at the Fairfield-based CPA firm Smolin Lupin. “Most strategic plans incorporate some kind of offsite storage of critical, relevant documents and records. So if a fire, flood or another disaster occurs—like the time that Sandy slammed into New Jersey—and your records are destroyed, you will still be able to recover your vital data with offsite recordkeeping.”

In New Jersey, professional document service providers like Iron Mountain Inc. offer storage and protection of information assets like critical paper business documents as well as electronic and other information.

“If you transfer your records to the digital space, storage can be a lot easier,” added Rinder. “This way you can easily transfer data to an offsite cloud-based ‘storage facility’ like Google Drive, often in real time. Of course, when you’re talking digital, it’s important to protect your documents—as well as your entire network—from hackers.” October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month, he said, which is an annual campaign to raise awareness about the importance of cybersecurity, like being up to date with your antivirus software.

But putting backup and other security plans in place is only one step, Rinder said.

“Every business, regardless of its size, should have a strategic plan in place that’s communicated to all the employees,” he said. “Document the steps in your disaster recovery plan, and establish a chain of command in case of a disaster, like flooding or power outages. How will people communicate if phone lines are down, or if access to your office is blocked? Then test your plans, and run ‘fire drills’ with all of your staff to ensure that everyone understands what to do, and that the plan is effective.”

Cipolla & Co., a Franklin Lakes-based full-service CPA and financial services firm,  has back up generators that can power computers, lights and heat in an emergency, said Joseph Cipolla, the managing director. “We outsourced our record retention to a cloud-based provider, and everyone has a laptop and takes them off premises each night. Employees also have cell phones with their own ‘hot spot’ so they can work remotely regardless of where they’re located.”

When it comes to tax planning for a disaster, business owners may find that preparing for disasters is the biggest takeaway.

Things That We Think You Should Know But Are Too Busy to Research

ATON Computing continually provides technology “breaking news” that may be of value to employees of government agencies.

 

NJ GMIS Cybersecurity Awareness Event

Thursday, November 2 from 8:00 A.M. to 12:00 Noon

For the second year, New Jersey GMIS will be hosting a four-hour cyber incident case study.

There is no fee for public sector employees, however you must register to attend.

For more information and to register, click here.

 

Cyber Security Act of 2015 from Segal McCambridge Singer & Mahoney

For a brief overview of The Cybersecurity Act of 2015, click here.

 

Enterprise Architecture and how it can increase IT efficiency & lower costs from IT Today

The goal of enterprise architecture (EA) is to create a unified IT environment (standardized hardware and software systems) across all computer-related elements, with links to the business side of the organization. More specifically, the goals of EA are to create alignment and standardization, reuse of existing IT assets, and the sharing of common methods for project management and software development. The end result, theoretically, is that the enterprise architecture will make IT cheaper, more strategic, and more responsive.

For the full article, click here.

 

 

 

Can Fantasy Prepare Officials for Reality

In 1990, all the candidates for mayor in Providence, Rhode Island, played a game of SimCity—why don’t we make all our politicians do the same?

 

Read original article here.

Top 5: Tech tips for disaster preparedness

by: TechRepublic

No matter where you live there’s always the potential for the weather to go bad. Very bad. I’m talking hurricane, tornado, or even earthquake bad.

So before you’re glued to the weather app watching the onslaught build, if you even get that much notice, you need to put together your disaster data plan.

Here are five tips for tech disaster preparedness:

1. Have a backup phone in your emergency kit.
A cheap Android phone can give you access to important communications and data if your main phone is damaged.

2. Get a solar charger.
Battery life will be critical if the power goes out. A solar charger can help you keep connected in situations where wireless is still up but the electricity where you are isn’t.

3. Store important notes offline.
Whether it’s Evernote or SimpleNote, list all your critical information in a file you can access even if connectivity is down. You don’t want to get caught needing to know one thing to get the Internet back to working but need the Internet working to find out what it is.

4. Keep redundancy in mind.
This is the more widely applicable principle behind the extra cell phone. Host data in multiple locations, preferable places with different geographic risk factors.

5. Plan and test.
Get your team together and make sure you have a plan for what happens. Then test it. Find out if your redundant system will kick in and remain seamless. Do this twice a year minimum. Make it simple for people to remember what to do in a crisis and make sure it’s going to work!

Now all this is assuming you and your team are physically safe. This is also assuming you already put together your 72-hour kits and all the other essential emergency preparedness you need as a human! If you haven’t done that, that’s the most important tip. Do it. Now.

ATON Celebrates 25 Years Supporting Government IT Needs

SOMERVILLE, NJ – ATON COMPUTING, INC, a Somerville, New Jersey Information Technology firm, is celebrating 25 years serving the private and public sectors of the state with the launch of a new and more concise web site.

“ATON has been at the leading edge of the IT revolution for the past 25 years, supporting the needs of county and municipal governments,” according to ATON principal Walter Hansen. “The changes that have taken place over that time are incalculable, but with perseverance and a dedicated staff of
professionals we have kept pace.”

ATON focuses the expertise of its 9-person professionally trained staff on computer networking, business continuity, cloud computing solutions, and cyber security/risk management, providing hands on hardware & software integration specifically configured to meet the technology needs of government and the private sector.

The easily navigated web site at www.atoncomputing.com focuses on the core values instilled in the staff by Hansen who stresses that providing comprehensive Information Technology services has earned the confidence of a broad client base. The range of services includes custom Microsoft network design and installation, software program implementation, cyber security, and training that enhances efficiency, provides protection, and results in a positive return on investment.

He continued, “Our staff of IT engineers is committed to anticipating next generation solutions within a network, on a mobile platform, and in the cloud.”

The staff of IT professionals maintain current technical credentials including: Microsoft MCSE, MCSA, MCTS & MCP; Cisco CCNA, VMware’s VCP, A+ Core Services; numerous hardware & software product certifications.

The site is also geared to educating and informing visitors with regular posting of news and information that has the potential to impact government and business including expert opinions on issues from ATON staff.

For information on ATON Computing, Inc. services, access the web site at www.atoncomputing.com or call 908-725.3700.
PRESS CONTACT: Rich Reitman 908-526-1390 or rreitman@thereitmangroup.com