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Originally published Friday, August 22, 2014 at 2:46 PM

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Small business feels vulnerable to cyberattacks from ex-worker

Technology columnist Patrick Marshall recommends hiring consultant to monitor your network security.


Special to The Seattle Times

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Q: It seems that our digital tools and cyberinformation are increasingly on the attack by hackers. At our small business, we feel vulnerable to cyberattacks by one person in particular, a former employee who had technical skills but who was let go.

How concerned should we be, and besides complex and oft-changed passwords, what more should we be doing to protect ourselves?

— Anonymous

A: How concerned you should be depends on the sensitivity of information on your network.

Most computers and networks are vulnerable to people with even moderate hacking skills, so I would certainly take immediate steps to secure your network. If you have valuable data, I’d urge you to hire a security consultant immediately who can assess your network and who can monitor the network for intrusions. I’d do this right away.

The consultant can also document any intrusions and, quite possibly, can determine the source of the intrusion.

And, yes, while you’re waiting for the consultant, make sure to change not only user passwords but administrator passwords for servers, Web servers and routers. You should also immediately make a backup of all important data and store it offline, where it can’t be accessed by a hacker.

Q: I work in a large hospital, and on my breaks I often surf the Internet on my personal laptop. I use the hospital’s Wi-Fi. Usually I connect easily, but occasionally I can’t, despite repeated attempts. I keep getting the message that my Wi-Fi connection is “limited.”

A Wi-Fi connection that doesn’t let me access the Internet is absolutely useless to me. This also has happened once or twice on my home Wi-Fi network. Can you tell me what the problem might be?

— L.S.

A: Most often this problem is caused by conflicting IP addresses or invalid or corrupt DNS information.

IP addresses are how data are routed to the correct device on a network, and DNS (domain name system) settings tell the computer where to go to find the right IP addresses. The problem could reside either with the router or with the client network adapter in your laptop.

Generally, rebooting either the router or the client will solve the problem.

If you rarely encounter the problem, just reboot your computer.

If the problem is chronic, update the driver for your client network adapter. If that doesn’t solve the problem, and if you’re on a home network, update the firmware for the router. If the problem persists, check with your Internet service provider to make sure your router’s DNS settings are correct.

Since the problem seems to occur mostly at the hospital, if updating your client driver didn’t eliminate the issue, I’d send an email to the hospital’s tech-support person.

Q: A few years ago I installed Malwarebytes Anti-Malware. All is well, but every couple of days or so I get a pop up saying my Anti-Malware is outdated. I then do an update. Is it typical to get these updates often? Also, after the update there is a screen for a scan I can perform — a quick, full or flash scan. Which of these should be done and how often?

— Ted Williams

A: The Anti-Malware database updates quite often. The program code much less often. If it’s database updates you’re being asked to OK, don’t worry about it. If it’s program updates, there may be a problem with the way it registered with Windows.

The most likely solution is to uninstall Anti-Malware and then install the latest version from scratch.

As for which type of scan is best to run, it depends. If you have any reason to suspect that malware might have gotten on your computer, run a full scan.

The scan options, by the way, have changed since you installed the version you’re running. I recommend updating. The options are now: Hyper, Custom and Threat. Hyper detects actively running malware. If any is detected you’re instructed to run a full, or Threat, scan. Custom scan allows you specify specific locations to be scanned.

Questions for Patrick Marshall may be sent by email to pmarshall@seattletimes.com or pgmarshall@pgmarshall.net, or by mail at Q&A/Technology, The Seattle Times, P.O. Box 70, Seattle, WA 98111.



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