Cyber Security Today, March 31, 2021 – World Backup Day advice, don’t play ball with these passwords and Exchange Server still being exploited

World Backup Day advice, don’t play ball with these passwords and Exchange Server still being exploited.

Welcome to Cyber Security Today. It’s Wednesday, March 31st. I’m Howard Solomon, contributing reporter on cybersecurity for ITWorldCanada.com.

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Today is World Backup Day, which serves as a reminder to IT leaders and individuals to have good data backup procedures for protection. I have a longer article on what businesses should consider on ITWorldCanada.com. But for this podcast I want to highlight a couple of things: First, cloud-based services like Gmail, Google Workforce, Office365, Salesforce and others don’t automatically backup your data. At the office this is the responsibility of the IT department. At home it’s the responsibility of individuals to learn how to do it. The best way is to do a search through the Help section of the settings. Next, the backup has to kept in a safe place. For organizations that can mean in a place separate from the server room, at an offsite data centre or in the cloud. Companies also have to make sure backups are configured to be separate from production servers. That way the backup isn’t automatically compromised in a cyberattack. Finally, IT departments have to regularly test their backup and restore procedures so in the event of an emergency staff know what to do. Experts say this is one of the biggest failings of organizations: They have backup data but key personnel aren’t around to help restore when it’s needed, or knowledgeable personnel are no longer with the firm.

Individuals shouldn’t keep their backup beside their computer. Instead, it should be stored somewhere else in the residence. If it’s really important, store the backup in a safety deposit box. This is particularly important for those of you with a home business. And, of course, your backup should go to a separate drive – like a portable hard drive or a USB key. Don’t store a backup on your computer.

How often should you backup? It depends on how important your data is. Some organizations may need to do a live backup. For others, backing up at the end of the day is enough. For individuals, once a week may be enough. But if you have a home business you may need to backup more often – including your email.

Thursday is opening day for Major League Baseball. What’s that got to do with cybersecurity? A lot, according to a company called Specops Software. It looked at more than 800 million stolen passwords and found a lot of people use the names of baseball teams and their mascots as passwords. That’s bad, because hackers know this. When they assemble lists of common passwords for brute force password attacks the names of sports teams are included. Specops says the password ‘Cincinnati Reds’ was found almost 150,000 times on lists of stolen passwords. Other popular baseball team names are Los Angeles Angels, Tampa Bay Rays, New York Mets and the Minnesota Twins. Hackers are also smart enough to try variations of sports team names such as ‘CincinnatiReds123.’ By the way, don’t use names of popular sports athletes, musicians, politicians or even just first names as passwords. Crooks know lots of men have a password of ‘Tom Brady,’ or a simple variation.

A lot of organizations running on-premise versions of Microsoft Exchange email server have rushed to patched the application after the revelation of serious vulnerabilities earlier this month. However, it is believed there are still thousands of unpatched systems. In a new report Check Point Software said last week the number of cyberattacks on vulnerable Exchange Servers tripled. The report also notes that in the past six months there’s been an increase in hands-on ransomware attacks. Unlike automated attacks, hands-on attacks try to evade IT departments in real-time as they fight off ransomware. Since the beginning of the year the number of organizations around the world affected by ransomware has been growing by nine per cent a month.

Another recent trend spotted that IT departments should pay attention to is the re-emergence of the WannaCry ransomware. WannaCry is a worm, which means its designed to spread quickly from computer to computer. It’s odd hackers are still getting mileage out of WannaCry, because patches for the vulnerabilities in older versions of Windows this malware takes advantage of were issued long ago. This is also a reason why you shouldn’t be using Windows 7 or earlier.

That’s it for today. Links to details about these stories are in the text version of this podcast at ITWorldCanada.com. That’s where you’ll also find my news stories aimed at cybersecurity professionals.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada
Howard Solomon
Howard Solomon
Currently a freelance writer, I'm the former editor of ITWorldCanada.com and Computing Canada. An IT journalist since 1997, I've written for several of ITWC's sister publications including ITBusiness.ca and Computer Dealer News. Before that I was a staff reporter at the Calgary Herald and the Brampton (Ont.) Daily Times. I can be reached at hsolomon [@] soloreporter.com

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