Apple doesn’t put their products on sale.

Not ever. It’s a point of pride.

However, Friday through Monday they’ll do the closet thing you’ll find them doing to a sale, and that’s giving you an Apple Store Gift Card worth up to $200. Their website is short on details but you can find what they’ve posted at https://www.apple.com/us/shop/gifts/shopping-event

Now that we’ve gotten our obligatory “Black Friday sales aren’t for businesses,” post out of the way we’re happy to bring you a deal from Costco that is worth every penny.

From now into December Costco is selling the latest Micorosft Surface 7 with 8GB RAM and i5 processor with the keyboard and pen for $999. This typically retails for close to $1,500.

The caveat: You won’t get Microsoft’s extended warranty, which we highly recommend on these and it includes Windows 7 Home instead of Windows 7 Pro. This is great the power-user at home, your IT department is going to frown on it if you bring it to work with you.

Every year massive fraud is committed around taxes. A lot of the fraud involves stealing your identity, filing a fake return on your behalf that shows a refund and then collecting that refund on your behalf.

This year Ars Technica is reporting that other phishing emails are on the rise right now.

  1. Remember that IRS uses snail mail, not email to get ahold of you
  2. Educate your employees on phishing, all the time
  3. You can protect your business from these types of scams using artificial intelligence phishing filters that are capable of catching these emails.

You can expect that these types of attacks will grow more common and more sophisticated as criminals continue to learn how to make more money off of… sending emails.

This week one of our employees had to call out because they had a sick kid at home. “Call out,” just meant, “join the conference call.”

From one end of our business to the other we have our tools and resources in reach — and secured — so that our employees can work from anywhere, from everywhere.

This winter, will snow and flu hold your workforce back?

One of the world’s biggest security vendors had hidden backdoors in their products that would allow virtually anyone to take over the firewall.

Your firewall is the security appliance that is supposed to separate your internal, secure, network from the outside world. This bug/backdoor essentially lets anybody into your network that would like to be there.

This hits East Tennessee hard for 3 major reasons

  • One of the biggest IT firms in the area standardized on this vendor’s firewalls years ago, smaller IT shops followed
  • The security required by firms that do business with DOE and ORNL mean a lot of these firewalls are in place in and around Oak Ridge and Knoxville
  • One of the areas biggest retailers also standardized on these, with 100s believed to be in production

What you need to do — today!

If you’ve seen the images below in your office, server room or computer call your IT firm — TODAY — and ask them if they’ve updated it to a version that no longer contains these bugs. Most IT firms are notorious for patching firewalls slowly, so things don’t break. But being behind on these patches means you are already broken.

This is a really big deal

It allows anyone, anywhere to reset any user’s password on the firewall.

One of the newest ways to get past email defenses is getting the least amount of attention: the changing link. Here’s how it works:

The Bad Guy emails one of your employees an email “from” your CEO/President whatever with a link that looks something like https://www.dropbox.com/ImportantShare but it goes to http://bit.ly/325JnYX (feel free to click those links!). This link intentionally is a redirect: it will take users from one URL to another, it has common legitimate uses.

At first, http://bit.ly/325JnYX goes to a harmless site, maybe Google, and gets past your email defense filters as a result. However, a few minutes later the Bad Guy changes it to go to a site that they control that phishes, distributes malware, whatever technique that they want to use to get into your organization. When you user clicks the link, it now goes to the bad site.

What do you? These new Bad Guy techniques require new tools to defend your organization and your data, tools that are always up-to-date with real-time information and that don’t check things only once — like your current email defenses — but do so continually.

Fortunately, there are new defense tools available for SMBs. If you are interested in understanding the options feel free to set up an appointment with us, info@jmaddington.com or 865-240-2716

Earlier this week ZDNet profiled an incredible exit strategy of one of the largest Ransomware operators of the last 12 months, GandCrab.

Setting aside irony, the professionalism of the operation should catch the attention of any business owner. The operators have a Software as a Service (SaaS) business model, complete with online forum support for paying customers. They send out private emails to current customers about plans in change of service, including advising their customers to get their victims to cash in before it is too late. They are shutting down their service after claiming to have made and successfully laundered $150m.

Also, the operators plan to delete the decryption keys, so without a backup victims will be toast.

So what are the takeaways?

  • Ransomware has graduated to the level of truly organized crime: these are teenagers in their parents’ basements
  • The industry is so profitable AND competitive so as to have a “B2B” sphere, complete with customer support
  • It was true a few years ago that ransomware operations were largely opportunistic: today the money involved means you are an active target
Baltimore, MD had a crippling ransomware attack in 2019

Baltimore has been crippled by ransomware. Over 70% of attacks now actually target small and mid-size businesses. There are 3 simple things you can do to avoid catastrophe.

1) Assume it will happen to you, 2) plan on it happening to you, 3) test your plan.

For the last several years ransomware has been on the rise. 2018 was a huge year for ransomware, more than doubling. It also was the first year we saw small and medium businesses actively being targeted.

In the past, large enterprises and municipalities were the most likely to be targeted: big targets, big rewards. However, as these high value targets have upped the defenses hackers have begun to actually target the smaller firms, instead of merely hitting them opportunistically.

The biggest opportunity for hackers in the next year is likely to be the end of Windows 7 (free) support by Microsoft, allowing security holes to go unfixed. It’s likely that there are already hacking organizations that are aware of holes in Windows 7 that they are hanging on to in order to use on January 15th, 2020. If you don’t have an active plan to upgrade to Windows 10 by then, you should start saving up to pay the ransom for your data.

60 seconds after midnight US tariffs on thousands of Chinese products more than doubled. How is this going to affect your business?

Costs are going to go up across the board. The supply chains of virtually every industry cross through China at some point. It’s impossible to get away from it. Even if you are a low-tech company, China played a role in producing the goods and services you use or that your suppliers use.

Two simple non-tech examples: if you have employees you reimburse for mileage you are likely to see the reimbursement rise due to increased repair costs, due to increased part prices sourced from China. (Crude oil has also had upward pressure put on it from tariffs). Second, the tariffs hit on materials such as aluminum and copper increase costs for any industry that depends on them as a core component. That includes oil, manufacturing and construction for starters. The result will be increased expenses for anyone with an office building.

Finally, the tech sector depends heavily on China. From computer chips to memory, to the raw materials used to create these, mass amounts of tech manufacturing happens in China. Even low-tech companies will feel the pinch as the underlying costs for vendors they depend on (phones, email) see their costs go up and adjust prices accordingly. For organizations with larger tech initiatives, such as replacing aging Windows 7 machines, the cost will increase.

At JM Addington Technology Solutions we don’t expect to see price increases immediately but rather ramping up over the rest of the year. The threat of tariffs are not new so a lot of companies have had time to either adjust prices or deal with increased costs already. However, there has been and is broad market expectations that a deal will get reached. The longer that takes to happen, the more you will see your costs increase,