Blog

Many businesses and financial institutions have seen an increase in the number of employee-owned devices over the past few years. Employees are using these devices to access email, download files, launch a remote desktop, or use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) connection for a remote "on network" experience.

Some customers prohibit or restrict personally-owned devices from connecting to the network. However, in some cases, this is not feasible, such as employees or contractors who rarely visit the home office, or employees with very specific device requirements and preferences. The common term for the policy of allowing personal devices is Bring Your Own Device or BYOD.

Unprotected personal devices connecting to the network are a significant security risk. The most common issue with these devices is inadequate anti-virus and anti-malware software. Built-in free solutions like Windows Defender are not up to the task of protecting against the sophisticated zero-day threats which are common today. Additional strategies to manage a BYOD environment include Mobile Device Management (MDM) and Network Access Control (NAC).

CylanceProtect is widely recognized as the leader in the endpoint protection segment, winning multiple industry awards for their machine learning approach to stopping security threats. Over the past 2 years since CoNetrix has been a Cylance partner. We have installed almost 5,000 endpoints for customers across the US.

Last year Cylance released a home version of CylanceProtect called Smart Antivirus. This product is specifically designed to provide the same technology as the corporate version, with easy self-administration and the ability to protect multiple devices in a household for a low annual cost. Windows and macOS devices are currently supported, with support for iOS and Android devices coming later this year.

Smart Antivirus is a great option for an employee security awareness program or as a company-paid benefit for employees and business partners. Individual licenses can be purchased from Cylance using the link below.

https://conetrix.com/cylance-smart-antivirus

Smart Antivirus licenses of 50 or more are available through CoNetrix for a discounted price. Contact CoNetrix Technology sales at techsales@conetrix.com for more information about licensing for CylanceProtect and Smart Antivirus.


 

Microsoft has been emphasizing Office 365 subscription services since the public introduction in 2011. As a result, the popularity of these services has grown to over 155 million active users as of October 2018, and is gaining new users at over 3 million seats per month. With this growth, on-going marketing, and the increasing acceptance of public cloud services, many businesses and financial institutions are starting to look at Office 365.

In this article, we will highlight several pros and cons of Office 365 you should consider to determine if it's right for your business.

Office 365 encompasses several different products and services, but in this article, we will address these services in two primary areas: user applications and back-end services.

Office 365 User Applications

As the name implies, most Office 365 subscription plans include Microsoft Office applications like Word and Excel running on Windows, macOS, and portable devices running iOS and Android. Applications are also available through a web browser but most customers are interested in Office 365 applications as a possible replacement for traditional Office licensing.

What are the primary differences between Office 365 and traditional on-premise Office applications?
  • Office 365 is an annual subscription per user or seat. Each user is entitled to run the Office 365 applications on up to 5 devices for the term of the subscription. As long as you continue to pay the annual subscription you are covered for the Office applications included in your plan.
  • Office applications through Office 365 are designed to be downloaded from the O365 portal. There is no license key to determine if you have a valid license. After installation the applications routinely "check in" to the O365 portal to ensure there is an active account. Because of this check-in process IT administrations must use a specific procedure for mass deployment of O365 applications. Additionally, installation on multi-user servers like Remote Desktop Services and Citrix requires a new approach.
  • Office 365 applications are designed to install features and security updates directly from Microsoft when they are released. Legacy patch management solutions like Windows Server Update Services (WSUS) and 3rd party solutions will not work with O365. This can create a challenge for regulated customers who are required to report on patch status. Scanning tools used by auditors to determine patch levels will need the ability to recognize the differences between O365 and traditional Office applications. The O365 update process could also create an issue for Office-integrated applications if a hotfix is released that affects the compatibility of those applications, as there will be no option to block that update from being installed.
  • Office 365 applications utilize a feature called Click to Run. This feature, which was originally introduced with Office 2016, provides a streaming method for installing features and patches for Office 365 and Office 2019 applications. Our experience is that Click to Run can use a significant amount of bandwidth if you are installing Office applications or large updates on multiple systems simultaneously.
Is licensing through Office 365 less expensive than traditional licensing?

For most customers the biggest question is: "Is licensing through Office 365 less expensive than traditional licensing?" The answer is "It depends!" Office 365 licensing could be financially attractive if:

  • Your business always updates to the latest release of Office.
  • You want the flexibility of per user licensing.
  • You want to take advantage of the licensing of up to 5 devices for multiple systems, mobile devices, home use, etc.
  • You need a simplified update process that works anywhere the PC has Internet connectivity.
  • You need to use the browser-based applications for a specific function or employee role.
  • You plan to implement one of the Office 365 back-end services.

Office 365 Back-End Services

Microsoft provides several cloud server applications through Office 365 including Exchange Online (email), Skype for Business Online (voice and messaging), SharePoint Online (web collaboration), and OneDrive (file storage and sharing). These back-end services can be implemented individually, or as part of a bundle with or without the Office applications depending on the plan. However Exchange Online vs. Exchange on-premise is receiving the most attention from our customers.

What should I look for when performing due diligence?

The security and compliance of back-end Office 365 services is not significantly different than any other cloud-based application or service. The areas that should be researched include:

  • External audit attestation – SSAE 18 or similar
  • Data location residency – production and failover scenarios
  • Data privacy policies - including encryption in transit and at rest
  • Contracts and licensing agreements
  • Intellectual property rights
  • Service Level Agreements – service availability, capacity monitoring, response time, and monetary remediation
  • Disaster recovery and data backup
  • Termination of service
  • Technical support – support hours, support ticket process, response time, location of support personnel
A few more things you should consider.

As a public cloud service Office 365 has several challenges that need specific attention:

  • The business plans listed on the primary pricing pages may include applications or services that you don't need. All of the various features can be confusing and it's easy to pick the plan that is close enough without realizing exactly what's included and paying for services you will never use.
  • Most of the back-end O365 services can integrate with an on-premise Active Directory environment to simplify the management of user accounts and passwords. This provides a "single sign-on" experience for the user with one username and password for both local and O365 logins. Microsoft has several options for this integration but there are significant security implications for each option that should be reviewed very carefully.
  • Microsoft has published several technical architecture documents on how to have the best experience with Office 365. This is especially important for larger deployments of 100+ employees, or customers with multiple physical locations. One of the notable recommendations is to have an Internet connection at each location with a next-generation firewall (NGFW) that can optimize Internet traffic for O365 applications. Redundant Internet connections are also strongly recommended to ensure consistent connectivity.
  • The default capabilities for email filtering, encryption, and compliance journaling in Exchange Online may not provide the same level of functionality as other add-on products you may be currently using. Many vendors now provide O365-integrated versions of these solutions, but there will be additional costs that should be included in the total.
  • Microsoft OneDrive is enabled by default on most Office 365 plans. Similar to other public file sharing solutions like Dropbox, Box, and Google Drive, the use of OneDrive should be evaluated very carefully to ensure that customer confidential data is not at risk.
  • Several other vendors provide Office 365 add-on products that provide additional functionality which may be useful for some businesses. Netwrix Auditor for Office 365 can provide logging and reporting for security events in your O365 environment. Veeam Backup for Office 365 can create an independent backup of your data to ensure it will always be available. Cloud Access Security Brokers (CASB) such as Fortinet FortiCASB and Cisco Cloudlock can provide an additional layer of security between your users and cloud services such as O365.

It is certainly a challenge to research and evaluate cloud solutions like Office 365. Financial institutions and other regulated businesses with high-security requirements have to take a thorough look at the pros and cons of any cloud solution to determine if it's the best fit for them.

CoNetrix Aspire has been providing private cloud solutions for businesses and financial institutions since 2007. Many of the potential security and compliance issues with the public cloud are more easily addressed in a private cloud environment when the solution can be customized for each business.

However, the combination of Office application licensing with back-end services like Exchange Online can be a good solution for some businesses. The key is to understand all of the issues related to Office 365 so you can make an informed decision.

Contact CoNetrix Technology at techsales@conetrix.com if you want more information about the differences between Aspire private cloud hosting and Office 365.


 

When something really messes up Chrome, being logged into your Google account and having Chrome sync settings makes repairing things pretty painless. 

Recently, I couldn't get my LastPass Chrome extension to log into my LastPass account. Since I rely heavily on LastPass to handle various website credentials, I'm handicapped if I can't get it working in the browser extension.

I tried a number of things, including removing and reinstalling the Chrome extension. However, the only thing that solved the problem was to reset Chrome completely. Fortunately, I could restart the browser, log into Google and wait a few minutes for everything (default home pages, bookmarks, browser extensions, etc.) to sync. In this particular case, I had to add the LastPass extension again since the last sync must have been when I had it removed while trying to troubleshoot this problem. The reset fixed the problem and the sync brought me back to my standard Chrome configuration.


 

I came across a few customers having trouble opening PDF attachments while in Quickbooks. The following message would be displayed, and sometimes it would be random.

"There is a problem with Adobe Acrobat/Reader. If it is running, please exit and try again. (523:523)"

The workaround to resolve the issue is to open Adobe Reader and uncheck "Enable Protected Mode" in the Edit -> Preferences -> Security (Enhanced) options.

‚Äč


 

I recently had a patching issue with SQL Server 2014 SP3. When I tried installing the SP3 update it kept failing with error code 0x858C001E. It turns out that this can be caused if the program files directories for SQL Server are compressed.  The folder paths to check are listed below as documented here: https://wiert.me/2017/03/16/fixing-0x858c001e-error-on-sql-server-20122014-updates/ 

For x86 systems, ensure these directories are not compressed:

  • C:\Program Files\Microsoft SQL Server
  • C:\Program Files\Microsoft SQL Server Compact Edition

For x64 systems, ensure these directories are not compressed:

  • C:\Program Files\Microsoft SQL Server
  • C:\Program Files x86\Microsoft SQL Server
  • C:\Program Files x86\Microsoft SQL Server Compact Edition

I found that some of the directories were compressed due to the customer trying to free up disk space on the system drive.  After uncompressing the Microsoft SQL Server folders, the update installed, and the server needed a reboot to complete.


 

We have a customer who is in the process of migrating from one domain ("domain 1") to another so the domain name that will match their current company name ("domain 2"). They have moved a majority of their client PCs from domain 1 to domain 2. The Exchange servers are still in domain 1 and using credentials for domain 1.

After moving to domain 2, users started reporting intermittent Outlook connectivity issues and that they were unable to search in Outlook. Domain 1 has an internal primary DNS zone for their public email domain. In testing, we found that Outlook functioned properly when not connected to the internal network and for client PCs still on domain 1. I originally added conditional forwarders for the public email domains to forward queries from domain 2 to the internal zone on domain 1. This resolved the connectivity issues, but their Outlook search still did not work. I removed the conditional forwarders and duplicated the internal primary DNS zones on domain 2, which resolved the issues.


 

Part 1: When installing the Fortigate Single Sign-On Agent you need to configure the service account as a local admin on the server where it's being installed.  Fortinet support states that the account has to be a domain admin, but I have confirmed that it only needs local admin rights, and not domain admin rights. 

Part 2:  When installing the Duo Authentication agent on a server to use multi-factor authentication with a Fortigate, it uses port 1812 to communicate with the Fortigate for Radius authentication.  If you have already installed the Fortigate SSO Agent on that same server it will already be using port 1812 to communicate with DCs on the network.  This will cause the Duo agent to fail to start each time you attempt to start the service.There are a couple of possible fixes to this:

  1. Change the port on the Fortigate SSO agent to another port (1813).  This will also require that you specify that port on the Fortigate DC Agents installed on your domain controllers.
  2. Change the port used by the Duo agent to another port.  This can be done in the configuration file found in the Duo installation directory.  This will also require that you change the default Radius port on the Fortigate via CLI to match what you specified in the Duo configuration.  This may cause issues if your Fortigate uses multiple Radius clients/agents.

 

In older versions of vCenter (and associated VMware products), installing corporate certificates was a pain. It was an extremely manual process to update each component. Just take a look at https://kb.vmware.com/s/article/2034833 to get an idea. 

With vSphere 6.x, certificate replacement is considerably simpler. You still need to have a certificate for each of the components, but VMware has automated a lot of the pain points into a simple certificate wizard. In addition, instead of creating individual certificates for each piece, you simply sign a certificate (created with a special template model), replace the root VMCA certificate with your custom signed one, and regenerate all the subordinate certificates signed by your custom signed root VMCA certificate. 

It's only slightly more complex when you have a separate PSC and vCenter appliance setup, but only in that you need to update all the PSCs before updating vCenter so that the connectivity between the two appliances remains secure. Check out https://kb.vmware.com/s/article/2147542 for all the details. 


 

I was working on a Windows 10 PC connected to a domain. This PC could be pinged by DNS name and IP address.  RDP was also working.  There were no other issues on network.  No domain policies were in place that should have been keeping PC admin shares from working.  But it was still failing after registry settings changes, removing and re-adding to domain, etc.
 
I found an article about shares not working if there is a misconfigured DNS entry somewhere.  I looked on the secondary DNS server and there was an old, incorrect entry for that PC.  Removed the DNS entry and shares began to work.

 

If you're frustrated with trying to edit text on your mobile device and placing the cursor in the correct location, try this:
  • Press and hold the space bar on the virtual keyboard
  • When the keyboard goes blank (on iOS), drag the cursor where you want to edit then release
  • This also works in all directions so you can move the cursor up and down, or left/right. You don't have to stay in the area of the virtual keyboard.