THE WAYS IN WHICH EVILDOERS, COMMONLY CALLED HACKERS, CAN ASSAULT YOUR COMPUTER SYSTEM ARE MYRIAD AND IMAGINATIVE. SOMETIMES THEY ACT TO STEAL FINANCIAL DATA OR CUSTOMER INFORMATION, AND SOMETIMES JUST TO DESTROY OR VANDALIZE. EVENTS LIKE OTHER COUNTRIES ATTEMPTING TO INTERFERE WITH ELECTIONS HERE IN THE U.S. OR A TEENAGER RAISING HAVOC WITH TWITTER ARE FAMILIAR NEWS STORIES, BUT THERE ARE MANY OTHER VULNERABILITIES FACING COMPUTERS AND THEIR ASSOCIATED SYSTEMS.
Cyber is a prefix you see attached to lots of familiar words like cyberspace, cybercrime or cybersphere. Cyber itself is from the Greek and means to lead or govern, and has been in use since the late 1940’s. It refers to Computers, online communications, and virtual reality—an infinitely large, complex, and rapidly evolving field. Cybersecurity has to do with protecting hardware, software, communications, and electronically held data.
Twinstate Technologies of Morrisonville, New York, a women-owned business, assists local companies, governments and other entities with managing and protecting their computer systems and the information they contain. Twinstate is family owned, and initially was involved with burglar alarms and fire suppression. Devi Momot, Twinstate’s chief executive officer, said, “We have grown to be able to provide anything a company could need from a technology standpoint, from the cabling in your walls,
your servers, connectivity to your offices, collaboration and phone systems, and cybersecurity.”
Momot has been with the company for 30 years and the CEO for the past 13. She studied electrical engineering in college and right out of school took a job installing telephone systems. She’s always had a technical bent but when her father called to ask her to come home to the North Countr and manage a new retail shop in Burlington, she agreed. They sold phones and personal computers but as it turned out Momot was not fond of retail and the shop closed after a couple of years. She stayed with Twinstate and managed their major accounts, including colleges in northern New York and Vermont as well as many businesses like Seventh Generation and Vermont Teddy Bear. She explained, “As technology really began to be a requirement for organizations to be competitive, we decided, in 2007, to expand to provide managed technology services to assist businesses with their day to day IT (information technology) and communication needs.”
One of the major issues facing business owners today is the trend to have employees use their own cell phones for their jobs. While it’s convenient for employees and productive for employers, problems arise at the intersection of personal and business information. Phones can get lost or infected with a virus. Another problem can arise if an employee has used their phone for business purposes and then leaves to work for a competitor, taking with them the phone number customers are used to calling. Twinstate’s advice is to have clear, well communicated and enforced policies in place, while acknowledging that human foibles can be difficult to overcome.
Another area of concern involves the sale of user names and passwords on the so-called dark web. The dark web cannot be reached by everyday search engines and requires special access. Much of the dark web is devoted to illegal activity such as the well-known drug vendor Silk Road. You can buy guns, stolen credit card numbers and counterfeit money on it if you’re interested. Of course, not everything is unlawful on the dark web and groups like chess clubs use it to keep out unwanted participants.
Email can become an avenue for infiltration. Phishing, which has nothing to do with the band from Vermont, seeks to trick a large number of email recipients into accepting harmful software. Spear phishing is the same thing but is focused on one person rather than a large group. The hacker attempts to deceive you into thinking the email they are sending you is from a known and trusted source. Pretending to know you personally improves their chances of successfully breaking into your system.
New or untested software can be subjected to zero day attacks which refers to the amount of time the software has been in general release, meaning it is brand new. Hackers look to exploit unknown or disregarded errors with the software that allows them access to a system.
Ransomware is software that takes control of your system, locking you out and preventing access to data. The hacker then demands a ransom payment to unlock the system and let you back in.
Twinstate has solutions to deal with the dark web, zero day attacks, ransomware and malicious emails, and also offers risk assessments to companies. Adapting a new technology can seem to make sense but can the vendor be trusted and will the new technology be secure? Other concerns include being sure the technology is compliant with your industry’s standards and requirements, and whether it will actually be good for business.
Twinstate will also perform vulnerability assessments, where they test your system for weaknesses and points of entry. They will also provide you with a complete inventory of your system’s specifications, users and hardware which is fundamental to managing the system.
The most important components in any computer system are the people involved. Training them in cybersecurity is key to reducing problems but admittedly the subject matter can be a bit dry. Twinstate uses short, amusing videos to educate employees about the underhanded techniques hackers use and can also identify employees who may need extra training
When asked about steps needed to protect a home system, Momot suggested changing the passwords the system came with, and keeping the router and computer operating system up to date. Manufacturers regularly offer improvements and cures for problems they have uncovered.
While the pandemic continues to wreak its havoc, Momot offered, “We’ve definitely seen COVID-19 as a catalyst to digital transformation. Our clients are reaching out to us like never before for team collaboration, cloud-based business phone systems and cybersecurity.”
Devi Momot, CEO
291 Rand Hill Road
Morrisonville, NY. 12962