Quanexus July 2017 Newsletter
by Jack Gerbs
It has been a little while since the last newsletter. As some of you are aware, I am very involved with the Dayton HamVention. With the closing of HARA Arena, we had just 9 months to move HamVention to a new facility in Greene County, which was a huge success. I am happy to report that things are back to normal for me, and the newsletter is back on schedule. Last month we sponsored a Lunch-n-Learn that focused on Cloud technologies and hosted phone systems. I have included a summary of the topics that were presented in regards to data, and will be expanding on hosted phone systems in the next newsletter. The WannaCry virus, that was released last month, caused havoc on many systems, including a few hospitals overseas. There are some basic things that every organization should be doing to minimize the potential impact of these kinds of threats. Microsoft is getting serious about their operating system running on an ARM processor, and this has Intel getting concerned. A new term is circulating "Smart Cities" what are they and what is the challenge for embracing these new technologies.
NEW Worldwide Ransomware
A quickly-spreading, worldwide ransomware outbreak called Petya has reportedly hit targets in Spain, France, Ukraine, Russia, and other countries.
Last week a wide range of private businesses reportedly suffered ransomware attacks. Although it is not clear if every case is connected, at least several of them appear to be related to the same strain of malware.
From what we have been able to learn, this new worm spreads through SMB just like WannaCry so when we're talking about machines behind firewalls being impacted, it implies port 445 being open and at-risk hosts listening to inbound connections. It would only take one machine behind the firewall to become infected to then spread to the entire network and put all other workstations and servers at risk, due to it being a true worm.
What can you do to harden yourselves against this Windows Network Share vulnerability?
- Make sure that all systems are fully patched with the MS17-010 security update (link below).
- Remind all staff to "Think Before They Click", when they receive any out of the ordinary email.
The end user is one of the most vulnerable assets to an organization. Employees need to fully understand the mechanisms of spam, phishing, spear phishing, vphishing, malware and social engineering and how they can apply this knowledge in their day-to-day work.
With our Q-SAT Security Awareness Training Program, users will get high quality web-based interactive training combined with common traps, live demonstration videos, short comprehensive tests and scenario-based Danger Zone exercises. Each user will receive a 30-minute online training session followed by at least two emails each month.
The company administrator will receive reports after each campaign detailing the results, which will help to manage issues that have been indicated through the training process.
Call us for details: 937-885-7272
Are You Thinking About the Cloud?
Last month we sponsored a Lunch-n-Learn about Cloud solutions, and we had a great turnout. A few of the key items addressed were: security, file storage, accessing your data, internet bandwidth requirements, hosted email, backing up your Cloud data and printing. I am not going to address all of these topics in this newsletter, but they will all be covered within future newsletters.
First, a quick word about security and Internet Bandwidth. There are thousands of Cloud options out there and many companies are entering the Cloud hosting space. When selecting a Cloud hosting company, it is absolutely critical that you choose a partner that is trustworthy. This may be a challenge for some. The biggest concern is the financial health of the company (who is funding them, how strong is their balance sheet, do they really understand security?). Every Cloud vendor has a great story to tell, but you need to look deeper. I suggest staying with top tier companies. These are the companies that you know will be there tomorrow and are financially strong. When considering security issues, remember that keeping your data hosted locally on your servers also presents risk. Moving your data to the Cloud will not fix bad security practices that you already may have! Make sure your current security practices are adequate for your type of organization. If a network assessment would be helpful for your organization, give us a call and schedule an appointment, we are here to help.
As you begin to consider moving functions from your network environment to the Cloud, the speed and stability of your Internet access will become more critical. In order for any Cloud service to perform well, you must understand the transport (Internet) requirements to make your Cloud solution successful. It is amazing to find how many organizations have jumped into a Cloud solution, only to find they absolutely hate the Cloud! The reason for so many failed Cloud solution implementations is due to the lack of understanding about the transport requirements.
File storage in the cloud.
One of key things to consider for storing files in the Cloud is how are you going to access those files? The Microsoft eco-system offers three options: SharePoint, OneDrive and the Azure platform.
SharePoint is a collaboration tool. It lets you arrange and share files through libraries and folders. It is not designed for users to access files like they typically do on a network with mapped folders. Mapped folders are the icons on your desktop that allow you to access files on your file server. SharePoint is primarily accessed through a web browser.
Using the Office 365 application suite, e.g. MS Word, multiple users can access the same file and edit it with live updates being displayed on each user's desktop. SharePoint is a great collaboration tool, and easily lets you share files with users that are outside of your organization. Security for accessing your files is via secure TLS protocols.
OneDrive comes as a part of the desktop application suite. Individual users are provided with a file share in which to keep their files. This file share is replicated from the desktop to Microsoft's Cloud. Users with multiple devices will have all their files synced to all their devices so they can work on these files anywhere. OneDrive and sections of the user's storage can be shared with others. One Drive can be managed via Active Directory, limiting what an individual can access. OneDrive is like Box and DropBox. Access to your OneDrive files are local on your computer and are synced to the Cloud via secure protocols.
Azure is Microsoft's virtual Cloud server environment. In the Azure platform, you can quickly create servers. Azure lets you build your virtual network in the Cloud, including a firewall.
Cities are rushing to install sensors that collect all types of data with a goal of improving the quality of life for their citizens. A new term has been created to define these cities and that term is "Smart Cities". There is no single definition for a Smart City yet, but Wikipedia defines a Smart City as "A Smart City is an urban development vision to integrate information and communication technology (ICT) and Internet of Things (IoT) technology in a secure fashion to manage a city's assets".
Techreplublic.com's writer Teena Maddox cites that there are five essential technologies for a Smart City. These technologies are: smart energy, smart transportation, smart data, smart mobility and smart Internet of Things (IoT) devices.
The types of information gathered by the sensors include: traffic patterns & traffic signal control, public transportation, better power distribution and creating more efficient ways to use power, infrastructure to increase internet access, improved water supply monitoring and much more. Some of the promises of a Smart City are no more traffic, renewable energy, renewable food sources, less fires, less disease, less pollution and more.
There are several major challenges with creating effective Smart Cities. The first challenge will be getting the sensors deployed. Lux Research believes there will be 1 trillion sensors deployed by 2020. The second challenge is being able to analyze and use the collected data in a meaningful way that will improve the lifestyle of the community. The third challenge is security. Making sure that the implementation of these devices doesn't introduce vulnerabilities into our infrastructure. Remember, it was the IoT's that took down the Internet a few months ago. IoT devices were hacked and used to launch a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack against DynDNS. DynDNS is used by many large organizations such as Amazon, Facebook, etc.
WannaCry Virus/Ransomware and New Attacks
Last month a very damaging virus was released that caused many to lose their data. It impacted several hospitals in Europe. This virus is different than previous viruses, in that users that caught this virus did not have to open an email or click on an attachment. This virus spread through a Microsoft vulnerability in the operating systems that resides on port 145.
Microsoft issued a patch update in March to fix this vulnerability. The impact of this vulnerability was so great that Microsoft issued manual updates for Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 (which are no longer supported platforms). While it was concerning, none of our Managed Services clients were affected, because our patch management solution keeps patches current. Another way that this vulnerability was prevented from infecting client systems was through the implementation of good firewall rules. Port 145 was not visible to computers that were behind a firewall. The way the virus worked was, if one computer inside a network became infected, it would infect every other computer on the network. The anti-virus companies did a very good job of getting the signatures implemented to detect and prevent the virus.
New threats on the horizon:
There are more threats out there similar to WannaCry. On June 13th, Microsoft released another wave of updates. They have included updates, again for Windows XP and Windows 2003 Servers. The updates for Windows XP and Server 2003 must be manually downloaded. You can find patch instructions at this link:
https://portal.msrc.microsoft.com/en-us/security-guidance/summary. This patch release allegedly fixes threat exploits that were built by the National Security Agency (NSA) (Reported in zdnet.com June 13, 2017, Zack Whittaker). The three exploits are: ENGLISHMANDENTIST, ESTEEMAUDIT and EXPLODINGCAN. Microsoft did not outright say that the NSA was behind the exploits targeting Microsoft operating systems, but did confirm in a blog post that the hacking tools were the result of a "nation-state activity."
Implementing a good security program involves a layered approached. The basics include:
- Strong passwords
- Keeping systems patched
- Having a good anti-virus/malware solution
- Edge firewall
- Backup solution
- Security awareness training for users
Doing nothing and thinking you are too small to get hacked, or you have nothing of interest is a dangerous mindset. This attitude makes your organization the low hanging fruit and the most vulnerable to hackers and ransomware.
Windows Without Intel? (Geek Alert)
For almost ever, with little exception, if you wanted a Windows computer you would have to buy hardware with an Intel or AMD processor. That's where the slang term WinTel (Windows and Intel) came from. Back in the 90's, Microsoft created a version of Windows that would run on the DEC Alpha, but this was quickly discontinued.
When Windows 8 was released, it was in two flavors, WinTel and Advanced RISC Machine (ARM). The ARM version was designated as Windows 8RT for a run time version. Manufacturers produced Windows Tablets with Windows 8RT, which did not go over very well because of the compatibility problems with the Microsoft Office Suite (desktop application).
ARM processors are extremely popular and are used in tablets, mobile phones and Chromebooks. Windows 10 tablets and mobile phones run on ARM processors, and Microsoft has ported their code for the Windows desktop applications that we all know and love to run on ARM devices.
When the Surface notebooks were introduced, they were introduced on two platforms: an Intel platform and an ARM platform. RISC stands for Reduced Instruction Set Computer. The significance of ARM technology is the lower power requirement, and a smaller size which relates to less power needed to run the device and less heat generated by the device. The Windows 10 Surfaces on the ARM platform proved that Microsoft has solved the application issues experienced with Windows 8RT. Manufactures may be slow to adopt the new platform because of previous compatibility issues with applications.
Qualcom has recently released a new ARM processor named Snapdragon 835. This is a very fast, low power, small sized processor. Some of the advanced features in the Snapdragon 835 include: the fastest available LTE modem, Bluetooth 5 and Wi-Fi that supports the emerging 802.11ad standard, which is faster than today's 802.11ac. LTE connectivity doesn't come standard with PCs, but that could change with the Snapdragon 835.
In addition, the Snapdragon 835 has a fast eight-core CPU with four cores to run high-performance applications and four power-efficient cores for mundane tasks like audio playback. It has an integrated GPU that supports 4K video, DirectX 12 gaming and virtual reality headsets. The chip will be able to do a lot of what Intel's mobile chips can do. According to analysts, the Snapdragon 835 is the first smartphone chip that has the ability to legitimately challenge Intel's decades-long domination of the PC market.
The chip also has a feature called Quick Charge 4, which provides five hours of talk time on a smartphone after just a five-minute recharge. That feature could make it into PCs.
Qualcom has announced that in the fourth quarter they will be releasing their first cellular notebook with the Qualcom Snapdragon 835 processor.
Intel is concerned and taking a legal posture, alleging that the emulators being used to develop the code may be an infringement on their patents. In a closing quote from Intel, they state "Only time will tell if new attempts to emulate Intel's x86 ISA will meet a different fate. Intel welcomes lawful competition... However, we do not welcome unlawful infringement of our patents, and we fully expect other companies to continue to respect Intel's intellectual property rights. Strong intellectual property protections make it possible for Intel to continue to invest the enormous resources required to advance Intel's dynamic x86 ISA, and Intel will maintain its vigilance to protect its innovations and investments."
For a fixed monthly fee, we are revolutionizing the IT industry with our Q-Works program. Quanexus' complete "managed services" package means that you will see increased performance, security, and reliability immediately, at an affordable price.
Your business success depends on your IT infrastructure. You need Quanexus to deliver proactive services that not only keep your network up and running, but running effectively and efficiently.
We would love to hear from you.
571 Congress Park Drive
Dayton, OH 45459