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Ransomware is all the craze!

Ransomware is a type of malicious software that’s designed to encrypt your data and then hold it for ransom until you pay the hackers to get the decryption key.  There are several reasons to be concerned.

1. You’re data is encrypted and you’re not getting it back unless you pay the ransom or you reload your data from a recent backup. (big concern there!)  Depending on the type of backups you do and the number of infections you have in your organization, it could conceivably take anywhere from a few hours to upwards to a month to get fully restored.

2. If you pay the ransom (which can range from a few hundred dollars to a few hundred thousand dollars), there is no guarantee you’re going to get the decryption key.  Think about it.  Paying the ransom is basically saying that you trust the people that hacked your computers in the first place.  That’s just crazy, yeah?

What can you do to make your computers and local network more secure against hackers and malicious software?

While ransomware is not new, a new wave is sweeping over computer networks around the globe.  The most recent breakout infected over 300,000 systems in 150 countries across all industries.  However, there is a way you can dramatically reduce your chances of getting a ransomware infection.

It starts with updates.  Keeping your operating system (OS) updated is the first line of defense against any kind of malicious software attack.  It goes without saying (so I’ll say it), at this point you should not be using Windows XP or earlier OS.  They are not being supported anymore.

So using the latest OS and keeping that OS fully updated is the first, and easiest, way to minimize your risk of infection.  Apple and Linux get viruses, too.  So even if you’re not using Windows, keep your system updated.  That will go along way in protecting you.

Along with keeping your system updated, backups are important.  People generally don’t think about backups.  But, if the data on your system is vitally important, say, payroll, inventory, time sheets, AR, or any mission critical data, you should be doing nightly backups of that data.

If you become infected with a virus, or more specifically with ransomware, then you can recover your data by restoring the backups.  Problem solved!  No ransom payment!  The boss thinks you’re a genius and everything is right with the world!  Assuming your backups are good backups, you will be able to completely recover from a ransomware attack using them.

You should also have anti-virus software installed and running.  These days, ransomeware and other malicious software attacks usually start with clicking on an email attachment.  Just clicking the infected attachment will install the malicious code.  A good anti-virus will scan your emails when they appear in your inbox and alert you to possible infections.

The anti-virus program for your organization should be a business-class, i.e., an enterprise-level, version as opposed to the free stand-alone versions you can download from the Internet.

An enterprise-level anti-virus program can be a little pricey.  It depends on the vendor, which anti-virus you choose, and how many computers you want to put it on.  There is nothing wrong with the free versions on your home computer mainly because… well… they’re FREE!  But, free shouldn’t a consideration for your business, in this case.

So, to recap…

1.    Keep your operating system updated.
2.    Have an anti-virus running and keep it updated.
3.    Save early and save often.  Make backups!
4.    Don’t open email attachments.

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How’s your network security?

Creating, upgrading, and maintaining you network is a full time job.  But are you doing everything available to secure your network against cyber threats?  Maintaining your network is the easy part.  Securing it takes a little more thought.

Let’s start with your software.  Legacy software can be described as any program that uses older technology.  Generally speaking, not only is it hard to update legacy software, that software typically must use older hardware to run.  And the combination of old software that hasn’t been updated and old hardware is a recipe that hackers love to exploit.

If you’re still using Windows XP… stop it, already.  Windows XP is no longer supported and hackers know that there’s still a huge installed base out there.  1 + 1 = you’re increasing your chances of getting infected or hacked if you don’t upgrade to the latest OS.

Yeah, Windows 10 has its quirky bits, but what Windows OS doesn’t?  Going to Windows 10 will improve your PC security and it looks and acts enough like XP that there really is no learning curve. (Don’t even get me started on Windows 8!)  Saying that, one of the easiest ways to minimize your chances of bad stuff happening to your network is to ensure that you’re using the latest fully updated operating system and your applications are also up to date.

So, you have the latest OS and you’re running everything on newer hardware.  What happens if, even in spite of your best attempts at securing your network, one of your computers becomes infected with a virus, or worse… ransomware?

Three words… backups, backups, backups.  If the data is mission critical, then not backing it up is just asking for something bad to happen.  If you have to re-image a computer on your network because it has been hacked or infected, then having a recent backup can mean the difference between success and getting eternally ridiculed from everyone at the office.

Just backing up is not enough.  Once the data is backed up, it should be taken off site.

If you’re backing up your data on a USB drive, ensure that the drives are disconnected from the computer after the backup completes.  That way, if the computer becomes infected, the backups will be safe.  Even more, once the backup is complete and the USB device is disconnected from the PC, the backup media should be removed from the current location.  If your office experiences a catastrophic event, then your backups will still be intact.

The most efficient way to do this is to have a cloud-based backup solution.  That way, all of your backed up data is stored at another site, usually in a geographically different location.  Cloud-based backup solutions are, obviously, fee-based solutions.  But the ability to quickly restore your data and get up and running is priceless.

Network security is also as simple as educating your employees.  A well designed and implemented acceptable use policy would explain what employees can and cannot do regarding the hardware and software in your office.  It’s also a good tool to use to make your employees aware of what they should (and should not) do in the event of a suspected hack, breach, or infection.

Even the best anti-virus, anti-exploit, anti-malware, and anti-ransomware is only as good as the person using the PC.  Social engineering can defeat security software.  Employees should be educated in how to recognize phishing attempts, suspicious looking websites, etc. that can be used to gain unauthorized access to your data.

And don’t forget about face-to-face and telephone conversations.  People who engage in social engineering are good at making you feel at ease.  They’re pros at making you think the questions they’re asking or the access they’re requesting is legitimate.  They may drop names of your supervisors, or act as though there’s a sense of urgency.  But an employee education program can train users on how to spot attempts at social engineering being used to gain access to your data.

Now, here’s the difficult and (probably) expensive part… securing access to your network with network-wide hardware/software solutions.  Obviously, the firewall is the gateway to your network.  Having a robust firewall that also provides content filtering, anti-virus/anti-malware, and intrusion prevention goes a long way toward securing your network environment.

Of course, the newer firewalls that provide these services are pricey.  I’ve seen it first hand that many managers don’t want to, or can’t, spend a few thousand for a piece of equipment that they never see.  And if people don’t see a piece of equipment at work, they generally don’t realize the benefit of having it… until it’s too late.

Along with the next generation firewalls, an enterprise-level anti-virus is essential.  Many companies will put free anti-virus software on their computers.  They’re free, so there is that.  And they do detect incoming viruses.  But that’s about the only benefit.

The problem with using free anti-virus titles is that the act as though they’re independent installations.  And they are!  It comes down to simplifying your administration.  If you have 20 PCs running stand-alone anti-virus software, then you have to constantly check 20 different computers to ensure that the software is fully updated and that you have no viruses.

With an enterprise-level anti-virus solution, you’ll commonly have a dashboard from which you can check connected systems, software update status, infection status across ALL computers on the network, etc.  Having this solution will ensure anti-virus consistency across your network.  And that means less work for you!

But with today’s threat environment, just having an anti-virus solution may not be enough.  In addition to your anti-virus, you may need to add some software to address specific issues like malware and ransomware.  A multi-factor approach to security is always the better option.

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Maintenance

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Maintenance.  Just the very word itself brings up dreary thoughts of things like home improvement, home maintenance, vehicle maintenance etc. etc. etc.  The list seems never ending!

With the help of Data Systems Management, your system maintenance can be a breeze!  We are here to offer our help along with IBM and are here to keep your systems covered under a maintenance contract.

Let’s be clear here,  There are actually several different maintenance contracts that need to be reviewed annually to ensure you are not left without coverage.

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So let us begin with the most important one.

 

Hardware Maintenance:

What is it and how does it benefit me?

To begin with hardware maintenance is the coverage you need should anything go wrong with your server.  You will need an IBM representative to show up and help diagnose the problem your machine is having.  Not having the maintenance coverage is not an option.  this coverage can pay for itself in one on site visit.

 

Software Maintenance:

What is it and how does it benefit me?

Software maintenance is critical in the event there is an update that is done and requires a tad more expertise than your office has or should there be a bug in the update etc.  Again, the maintenance contract can pay for itself in one on site visit.

 

DSM Software Maintenance:

Again, any update done by DSM on our software may contain an element that does not work properly with your exact system.  Even though we extensively look at each client’s system and take all things into consideration, an older server can create a problem with an update that is totally unexpected.  so just like in the above statement, signing a software maintenance contract with DSM on an annual basis is an absolute must.  With laws that constantly change, programming has to constantly change.  Any of these changes could create a problem with your server and that is not the goal we are trying to reach.

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Wrapping things up:

DSM Software Maintenance:

In essence, the moral of the story is to keep your maintenance contracts under close supervision.  I know its just one more thing on your plate to think about so the changes I have made here at DSM promise to make this as easy as possible on the client.  Annually DSM sends out a letter asking for your DSM software renewal.    We ask that you read and sign the contract.  This will only take a few minutes of your time and it will increase your level of security in the event of a problem.  This is the software you work on everyday.  The software that operates your programs like payroll, tax, justice court, and your financial packages.  Think of your DSM software renewal as your daily insurance program.

Server Maintenance:

This one gets a bit trickier to keep up with, so I have created a system by which I track who has coverage and when that coverage expires.  It even tells me if the coverage is for 1 year, 3 years or 5 years.  It lets me know if you have 9×5, M-F coverage or if your coverage is 24×7 coverage.  As I stated it gets a bit trickier so I decided to take the bull by the horns and create a system for keeping you up to date on your coverage.  You will see a letter from me 90 days prior to your coverage expiring and each 30 days thereafter you will receive additional notifications letting you know that your maintenance is up for renewal.    This maintenance includes your actual hardware and your software.  The software I am speaking of here is the actual operating system software.  Think of this as a type of car insurance.  Just like your auto coverage, this contract covers your car and the engine so to speak.  the seen and unseen parts of your computer.

Now that your understanding has been refreshed on the value of maintenance coverage, please feel free to contact me at 601-573-6130 or awalker@datasysmgt.com to find out when your particular coverage expires.

I look forward to hearing form each of you very soon!

 

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Chancery Clerk Summer Conference 2016

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Well it’s that time again and Data Systems Management could not be more excited about the upcoming Chancery Clerk Conference!  We have a lot of new and exciting applications to show you and we are confident they will be beneficial to you.  Please stop by our booth during the conference to say hello and to meet with the DSM team.  We are here to help move your county into an easier working environment while keeping you up to date on the latest and best software in the business.  We have over thirty years of experience with county governments and municipalities.  Our development, install, and support teams are always as simple as a phone call away.  Our sales team will be available in Natchez at the Convention Center on July 12 through July 14 as well as Jeff Brown our Land Redemption Specialist.  Again we are super excited about the possibilities that await you!  When you visit ask about any upgrades or changes that we’ve made to our Land Redemption Package, Time and Attendance, Payroll, and Scanning options.

 

 

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Justice Court Conference

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Well the date is fast approaching for the Justice Court Summer Conference 2016.  The only thing I see missing in the picture above would be YOU!!!

As you are aware the Justice Court Conference will be held in Tunica, MS at the Gold Strike Casino.

Topics on the Agenda are as follows:

  • Report from the Auditor
  • Update form the Highway Patrol
  • Panel Discussion
  • Ethics and Professionalism
  • Procedures for Ordering Individuals to MASEP
  • and finally Navigating the Manual for MS Justice Courts

Data Systems Management will be on site with a photo booth that you can have a lot of fun with.  Our booth will be similiar to this one:

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or this one:

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There will be some props available.  So wear bright colors and grab a friend, bring the props you would like to use, and let DSM take your photo and send you a copy for your memory book.  Have some fun and be creative with your picture planning!  Just so you are aware, a few o f the props include:

  • colored margarita glasses
  • pinwheels
  • funny glasses and noses
  • flyswatter and apron
  • leis
  • straws
  • water pistols
  • party hats
  • miscellaneous funny hats
  • princess crown
  • feel free to bring items you would like to use

There will be more fun at the Data Systems booth than you can shake a stick at.  Come prepared to make lasting memories!

 

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Chancery Clerk 2016 Conference

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Well it’s that time again!  2016 really came in with a bang!  No pun intended.  At any rate, the Mississippi Chancery Clerk Conference will be hosted my the Mississippi Judicial College beginning February 9 and ending on February 11, 2016.  Data Systems Management is looking forward to meeting our new clients as well as seeing those experienced favorites!  Look for Data Systems Management at the conference.  We are very excited about the possibilities we have in store for your this year!

 

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You’ve Been Scanned

By now most everyone is scanning. Nothing new there, but did you know that Data Systems Management offers you a way to scan all your old records and there is no indexing involved!

Data Systems Management offers to you an index free scanning system for your old land deeds. This saves you untold amounts of time on the front end as well as on the back end. You will never have to remember how something was indexed or what file it was saved in while making an effort to retrieve it.  Data Systems will even take your previously scanned items and convert those to index free scanned images.

By using the Scanning option with Data Systems Management, your scanned records can be searched just like using the internet. This scanning application is so easy to use you can even utilize interns, or  young people looking for part time work.

Data Systems Management is committed to bringing you quality products that improve your daily workflow.  Give me a call, I would love to come by and speak with you regarding our latest scanning option! You can reach me at awalker@datasysmgt.com  I look forward to hearing from you very soon!

 

 

 

 

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New Year New Payroll!

Beginning a New Year is always a challenge.  There are always the hopes that this year will be the best year and this is the year I will be organized for more than 20 minutes.  We are not even going to talk about exercising and eating right now are we?

With that said, I would like to offer to you something that you NEVER think of at the first of the year – unless you’re working on a new budget.

Payroll.  Just the mention of the word can bring up fear in us.  Was it figured correctly?  Did they take out the right amount of taxes? Was too much taxes taken out? Can I get out of paying taxes? LOL – OK I threw that last one in for giggles.  It would be nice though right?

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Data Systems Management is working feverishly toward completing the new payroll we spoke to you about back at our December Seminar.  We are on track to complete this application around the end of the first quarter of 2016!

I can hear the excitement as I type this post.  I have listened to our clients clamor for a pint and click system for years and now we are making tracks in that direction.  I will be visiting with each of you over the next few weeks in an effort to gather your thoughts and see if we have clearly understood your wishes.

I look forward to seeing each of you very soon and I look forward to gathering your thoughts on this very important piece of software!