How to Avoid Being Hacked

The Definitive Guide for 2020 Security

This is the ultimate guide for small business security awareness in 2020

In this new guide I'll cover
    • What is ransomware ?
    • How to prevent ransomware ?
    • How to prevent phishing ?
    • How to prevent being hacked ?
    • How to create Employee Awareness ( with printable materials you can use ) ?

    Let’s get started.


    What is Ransomware, What is Phishing, who and why are performing these attacks ?

    Chapter 1

    What are Ransomware / Malware threats and why should I care  and how it can impact my business and personal life ?

    Why user awareness and education is important in avoiding security threats in 2020?

    Chapter 2

    Most, if not all security breaches start by a user being fooled into doing something they shouldn’t

    Backup , Backup , then ... Backup to multiple Locations right NOW, it might save YOU

    Chapter 3

    Having a safe copy of all your critical business and personal information is the first step

    How to prevent malware from spreading to your entire network ? How do I protect my infraestructure

    Chapter 4

    Segmenting your network, compartmentalizing, protecting network infrastructures

    Invest Unified Threat Management Systems & Firewalls to crowd-source protection

    Chapter 5

    Investing in a cloud backed Unified threat Management will pay in the long term ?

    Why user awareness and education is important in avoiding security threats in 2020?

    Chapter 6

    Most, if not all security breaches start by a user being fooled into doing something they shouldn’t

    Why backups are important in protecting small business from losing millions when attacked ?

    Chapter 7

    While avoiding being attacked in the first place is crucial, most important is having a plan when it happens

    Why backups are important in protecting small business from losing millions when attacked ?

    Chapter 8

    While avoiding being attacked in the first place is crucial, most important is having a plan when it happens

    Chapter 1

    What are the most dangerous security threats for 2020

    What is ransomware, phishing and other attacks hackers are using to compromise businesses in 2020

    In this chapter of our security guide I'll cover
      • What is ransomware ?
      • What is phishing ?
      • How often are business attacked ?
      • Who is performing these attacks on local cities ?and businesses across America ?
      • How aware is the general public and business owners of the far reaching, damaging consequences of a Ransomware attack ?  

       Why and how cyber crime is booming 

           2019 saw the biggest rise on online scams, phishing, ransomware attacks and compromised corporate and personal data in human history. Never before organized criminals had been able to execute such far reaching, long distance, damaging attacks to individuals, business and organizations.  From small business going bankrupt to entire cities shutting down services for extended periods of time as cyber criminals ransom, extort and financially erode the foundation over  which our digital modern society is built upon, Information.

      Welcome to the future

           Like taken from a chapter of a dystopian sci-fi novel, the current state of cyber security is  worrisome, to say the least. As we enter 2020 the rate and sophistication of the attack techniques criminals use keeps growing exponentially.

           Cyber crime is booming these days with thousands of new malware, ransomware  threats released every single day, the pressure over individuals and corporate networks IT managers keeps surging by the minute.

           This first chapter of our guide will serve to educate you, on the globalized scale of the problem and how every small business should be enforcing higher protections standards in 2020. Our guide also contains steps you can take to educate yourself and your employees and protect your business critical information.

          You might think it is all about backups. Hint, the solution is more than performing backups to more than 1 location.

      What is Ransomware, and why should I care?

      “No company or individual is immune from the danger of ransomware.”

            Bad actors worldwide employ the newest technology and massive resources to perform continuous, persistent, and pervasive attack on Los Angeles Business and American technological assets in general, sometimes for profit, other times to gain access to customer’s data and business intelligence.

            Ransomware is defined as a piece of software, maliciously introduced on your computer system and network that will take away access from your data and the ability to use it, by encrypting it and holding it in ransom. You will have to pay the hackers a hefty sum to regain access and sometimes prevent it from being maliciously published on the world wide web as penalty for not paying.  

          All kinds of ransomware share this common aim. To lock your hard disk drive or encrypt your documents, asking for a reward, usually to be paid in crypto-currencies to get your information back. 

          It’s the type of malware which frequently targets both technical and human flaws by trying to deny the target company access to its most sensitive information and systems.

       A bad actor utilizes a phishing attack or other sort of hacking to obtain entrance into a computer system or network. One way ransomware gets in your pc is in the email attachments which you might inadvertently download.

            Whenever your data, programs, and systems come under a ransomware attack, it can be a frightening and challenging situation to handle and bring your workforce and IT systems back into production.

           When a strain of malware infects a computer system, bad actors will encrypt most commonly-used document formats –as well as your whole hard disk, locking you from accessing your data, your documents and computer systems,  Sometimes preventing your entire workforce from operating your business, bringing your productivity to a screeching halt.

           The most effective approach to prevent ransomware would be to be more proactive by preventing strikes from occurring in the first place. In the following guide, we’ll discuss how to stop, mitigate and to avoid ransomware and hackers in general.

      By the numbers: How frequent are ransomware attacks?

      “Ransomware is on the rise; statistics put this number at almost 750% of attacks in the previous year.”

      • The ransomware attack on Baltimore is especially revealing as its impacts continue to be felt. While the mayor rebuffed the criminals’ demand for $76,000, an early projected impact of the attack stands at $18.2 million. To date, Baltimore has already expended nearly $4.6 million on recovery efforts. (Goldberg Segalla LLP)
      • Over 500 US schools were hit by ransomware in 2019 (Catalin Cimpanu for Zero Day).
      • In 2019 alone ransomware generated over $25 million
      • The average cost of ransomware attacks to businesses: over 100,000 Dollars per incident
      • Criminals have graduated from targeting consumers to mainly target small business, institutions and larger organizations with the financial resources o pay a larger ransom.  
      How aware are Los Angeles Small Business about the need to protect their networks from Ransomware attacks?

          50% of cyber-security experts do not believe their business are prepared to survive a ransomware attack.

          49 % view the federal government as having the greatest responsibility to protect cities from ransomware attacks.

          56 % would disapprove of their local government using tax dollars to pay a ransomware hacker.

          75 % of Americans are worried about ransomware threats to their personal data.

          Other notable findings from this study included the general American public awareness and concerns related to ransomware to be:

          Most Los Angeles and the American public, in general, share a common concern about ransomware attacks in cities, public institutions, and health organizations across the country, as noted in the “Local Government and Ransomware Study” from IBM Security and market and public opinion research firm Morning Consult indicated.

      Chapter 2

      Why user awareness and education are the most important factor in avoiding security threats in 2020?

      Most, if not all security breaches start by a user, at some level being fooled into doing something they shouldn't

      In this chapter of our security guide I'll cover
        • Why is employee education important ?
        • What is phishing and how criminals use it to compromise you ?
        • What is social engineering  ?
        • Ransomware, why, how, where ?
        • Human psychology and how criminals will weaponize to take down your business.

         Staff education, Educate Your Employees and Learn Yourself the latest techniques Cyber Criminals employ to penetrate your systems fooling you and your staff


         Preventing ransomware begins with worker awareness. Having insufficiently trained workers is the #1 vulnerability for company networks and their workers using them. They will employ a wide array of tricks that exploit lack of attention to detail, poor training, social engineering and human psychology to have you or your workforce open the doors for them.


        What is Phishing and how hackers use it to trick you  into giving them access

            It is extremely common for a worker to infect an whole network by clicking and opening malicious emails (an email made to be from a legitimate business or vendor you hope ) requesting for particular login credentials into a site or network.

           Criminals use this attack often in mass sending emails that urge the user to login to a bank, a network resource or other sensitive portal, the entire goal is to get your credentials that they will latter use either to steal or gain further access and knowledge about your business to escalate latter on into more sensitive access.

           Hackers will go to great lengths in replicating interfaces familiar to your or your users that can only by detected by a careful trained eye. As a general rule of thumb never trust an interface requesting a password without inspecting it carefully first. 

            Depending on the employee’s access level and administration privileges of their account, they might have just proved the criminals with the keys to your digital kingdom when you click on a link received in an email and entered your password.

        Hackers will discover the systems, people , logistics you use, see and interact with  daily, mimickin familiar interfaces , vendor’s names, even the CEO’s likeness. 

              The most common phishing attacks mimic commonplace and well known login screens, like Office 365, Google Apps, Bank Logins. However, as criminals gain knowledge on what systems, vendors you are using at your company, they will escalate and create custom attacks designed only for you and your employees, I have seen pretty good replicas of proprietary login screens replicated and sent from a forged CEO email.


        What types of Phishing are out there ?

               Phishing attacks can and will be performed to attack you over every communication medium, not just emails, lets take a look at the most common ones you will encounter:


        Deceptive Email Phishing - What is email Phishing ?

            One of the most ubiquitous shape of online spams, hackers send an email that looks to be from a legitimate company asking you for sensitive information. Most commonly these emails contain a link that directs you to a fake visual replica of the company’s website for you to fill some information.

        What is Spear Phishing ?

        Spear Phishing shares commonalities with Deceptive Email Phishing in regard to faking contacts or companies websites , but it is a more personalized version that pretends to be originated from the victim’s known systems , coworkers or business associates.

        You could think of it as the personalized, tailored brother of Deceptive Email Phishing, it indicates that the criminals have certain level of knowledge of your companies systems, business relations or email communications. It requires more thought and time invested by the hackers on getting to know you and your business.

        These attacks are harder to identify as they will contain familiar information or contacts 

        CEO Fraud targetted phishing or Whaling

             Being the CEO , business owner or a corporate executive affords you special attention and care by cyber-criminals. Whaling is Spear Phishing targetting high level executives that have access to company’s resources beyong the regular employee.

             Once you attain sucess or notariety these attacks will become commonplace and a part of your public visibility, hackers will put extra attention to any details of your public social media postings, where you go on vacations, who you hang out with, when are you at the office and all the details they can use to fool you into doing something you shouldn’t.

             Their objectives: capturing sensitive information, credentials they can use to gather more information about you and your business, customer data, or any other informationt they can sell on the dark web.

              Your best line of defense: Trust no one , double check the emails and require a phone call prior to sharing any sensitive information.

        Vishing . What is voice phishing ? Who are these phone scammers.

             Phising has gone viral over the phone with the advent of VoIP, making easier for scammers to pretend to be the FBI, the IRS, your accounting firm, your tech support team.

        The internet is full of accounts of phone spam and deceiving calls from goverment agencies, the police, business associates. Attackers will spoof phone numbers to make them look like coming from a familiar contact or a number in your same area code.

        What is Smishing ? What are these SMS scams ?

             Texting or SMS scams are increasing these days, all of the existing email scams are being replicated and personalized over text messages.

            The rule of thumb is  putting  zero trust on incomming text messages as this channel can be as easily compromised as email, hackers are using all techniques existing over email in SMS scams, it could from someone’s number at your company, it could be your bank, since SMS caller ID or the incomming text # can be spoofed as well.

              Your contacts cell phone can be infected , broken into and SMS messages sent from their devices without knowledge.

        Think about it, real life scenario #1:

               Your boss cell # texts you at 10:05 PM … “we are here at the office, I need your password for your computer to retrieve that email you sent me earlier” …. most likely you will send the password.

             What if your boss downloaded an infected application on his phone an hour earlier and the SMS is being sent by a hacker that breached this phone, while, he is comfortably sleeping at home?


        What is Pharming ?

             Pharming is the practice of redirecting your computer to a fake website in order to collect sensitive credentials. The attack is usually performed by DNS poisoning in order to redirect traffic from legitimate websites to criminals replicas. 

             You should be extra careful connecting to outside/public wireless networks as a criminal with access to the router for that network can and will modify the DNS servers to redirect your computer to the fake copiers.

        Do not pick that USB drive you found ! What is Baiting ?
        Baiting is performed by leaving physical pieces of media to be collected by you or your employees.

        Any device you connect to your computer, be it a USB drive and lattely even USB charging cables, can be infected and weaponized to drop malicious files and take over your system. This attack is commonly executed close to your office (building lobby for example) or at a professional event, it works by leaving such pieces of hardware where  you or your staff will pick them up and out of curiosity, will plug into your computer systems.  (imagine the hacker drops a usb drive labelled “Private Office Party Sexy Pics” near your office entrance) .

        This can also be executed with charging cables commonly not known to be a threat. Check out the following video:



        By educating your workers about the many forms phishing can take, you will advert a potential disaster in which the attacker is provided with sensitive credentials by your own employees.
         What is social engineering and how hackers use it to exploit human psychology in order to trick you  into providing them access or priviledged information.
        In this day and age, hackers will do anything to get your personal information, even by pretending to do a password reset. In 2009 Coca-Cola’s CEO opened an email with this kind of software deployed and opened up hackers to infiltrated the network. The same thing happened with Apple also and their popular iCloud service.

        What is RansomWare, Who it targets and What motivates criminals ?

        Ransomware has turned into a lucrative approach for cybercriminals, and the most vulnerable entry point into your business are your employees.

        Many times, a ransomware attack could be traced back to, although unintended, insecure worker’s cybersecurity practices.

        Firms and people often fall prey to ransomware due to a lack of education and training.

        Ransomware preys on an individual’s inattentiveness, employee unawareness. Nothing protects a corporate computer system better than human vigilance and security awareness.

        Workers must recognize the telltale signs, symptoms, and indicators of a phishing attack. Keep yourself and your employees up-to-date on the newest cyber attacks and ransomware. Make sure they understand to not click on files that are executable or anonymous hyperlinks.

        Regular employee safety awareness training will remind your employees of the roles in preventing ransomware strikes from getting through to your systems.

        Stress the value of analyzing attachments and links to be sure that they are from a trusted source. Warn staff concerning the risks of giving out business or private data in response to an email, letter, or telephone call.

        For employees working remotely, ensure it is crystal clear that they need not use public Wi-Fi networks since hackers can break in and sniff their credentials through this type of connection.

        Additionally, make it very clear that anybody reporting suspicious activity doesn’t need to make sure a problem exists. Waiting before an attack can be reacting too late. Have an open-door policy and invite workers to express concerns and report any suspicious email or strange pop-ups on computer systems to your security provider or help desk team.


        Chapter 3

        Backup , Backup , then ... Backup

        The first line of defense is having information you can restore in a worst case scenario

        In this chapter of our security guide I'll cover
          • Why backups are so important ?
          • How  many backups do I need ?
          • Are backups going to protect me against ransomware ?
          • The good, the bad and the ugly of most  planned backup solution.
          • What types of backup are there ?
          • What types of backups are ransomware proof solutions ?   

          Backup Your Systems, Using multiple local copies & to The Cloud

          2.1 – The very first step to consider would always be to back up your machine; this is vital. For starters, it is going to keep your data backed up in a secure place that hackers cannot reach easily. Second, it is going to make it much easier for you to wipe clean your previous system and restore your data from backup files in the event of an attack.

          Failure to back your system up may cause irreparable harm. 

          2.2 – Utilize a cloud backup option to secure your data. By guarding your information in the cloud, then you keep it secure from infection by ransomware. Cloud copies introduce redundancy and put in an excess layer of security.

          2.3 – Have multiple copies in case of the event that a previous back up becoming overwritten with encoded ransomware files. Often, if you store your backups in a NAS device, ransomware actors will encrypt your backups as well. There are ways to prevent this by following the next recommendation.


          Chapter 4

          Segmenting, compartmentalizing, protecting network infrastructures

          Segmenting your network, compartmentalizing , protecting network infrastructures via switches and network hardware can protect from company wide destruction

          In this chapter of our security guide I'll cover
            • What is network segmentation ?
            • How network segmentation can help limit hackers reach ?
            • How can I implement network segmentation measures ?
            • What hardware might help me prevent at the network level a far reaching ransomware attack ?
            • How to avoid lateral spreading attacks ?   

            Restrict the information an attacker can get access to, should they compromise one of your computers

            Segmenting your network is one of the approaches that effectively will protect you by making sure your whole network security does not become compromised in one single attack. Segregate your system into different network zones, each requiring different credentials. Make sure your backups are only accessible from a network that is not the company’s local area network.

            Chapter 5

            Invest Unified Threat Management Systems & Firewalls

            Having a global cloud backed Unified Threat Management Systems introduces real-time updates, protection and detection at the network level

            In this chapter of our security guide I'll cover
              • What are UTM Systems and why do I need to invest in one ?
              • How does a UTM system helps in protecting my business from hackers ?
              • How a cloud backed UTM gains intelligence and detects new threats
              • What is a good UTM system and firewall ?   

              Implement Unified Threat Management Systems & Firewalls


              You can set up ransomware protection software, which will help identify possible strikes in its early stages. Early unified threat management applications can discover intrusions as they occur and stop them. These programs often provide gateway antivirus software aswell.

              Use a conventional firewall that can block unauthorized access to a personal computer or network — couple this with an app that filters web pages, primarily focused on websites that could introduce malware.

              A strategy is vital and needs to be the basis of an organization’s security plan.


              1- Establish a disaster recovery plan, detailing who must contact who.

              2- Ascertain what equipment you would have to lease or purchase to keep operations moving — plan for your present hardware to be inaccessible for days during recovery.

              3- Keep explicit directions on where information is stored and how to recover it.

              4- Employ a policy of backing up frequently to stop ransomware from causing data encryption.

              5- Employ a disaster recovery agency or specialists on ransomware recovery, there might be tools available to get your data back.

              6- Provide telephone numbers for calling vendors who could have the ability to revive the systems they supply for you.

              7- Avoid a Ransomware Attack With Proper Planning and Disaster recovery measures.


              Companies must stay vigilant in the present day and age of information where breaches and ransomware attacks become more commonplace, as criminals become more insidious and persistent in their penetration methods.


              Use these strategies to maintain your company’s information assets secure and prevent a ransomware assault before it begins.


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