Cyberspace warfare is real. We’re keeping vigilant.

2017 Survey - Ransomware Report

The threat is real!

We’ve heard it often during the past two years; “the Russians or some 400-lb guy on a bed somewhere” are trying to hack into US-based computers.  Yet, I wonder; “Who has actual evidence of such attempted hacks, and from where they originate?”

Have you experienced phishing, ransomware, DOS (Denial of Service) or Bruteforce attacks?  Has your rentals or RE Investing business incurred direct costs, data corruption, or loss of productivity?

Recently, we at the home office have discovered the threat is real.  I’ve posted four reports of RDP Bruteforce attempts to hack into our servers — four PDF documents which provide evidence — discovered in a routine review of an Errors and Warnings Report from the Windows 10 Pro operating system on one of our servers (we have four servers, currently, all used for different purposes).

We had already made a decision to harden our cyberspace security in June of 2018.  Your Executive Director made a personal, capital infusion into the Association to purchase a new HPE Proliant Server with hot swappable drives and ECC memory, Windows Server O/S, and 50 Client Access Licenses.

Cyberspace warfare demands a response from association leadership, and we are diligently attending to the need.  Some services will suffer whilst we bring this new equipment online — enhancing Cybersecurity is a non-trivial endeavor! — so we apologize in advance.  (We’ve even delayed our Expo until next spring, as we work through the massive changes we are making to enhance our services).

I would prefer every member simply renewed membership every year, so we would tend to have adequate capital reserves at the ready for emergency investments of this nature, yet such is not always the case.  And, I would love to hire it all out, yet at $220/hr. that is not always feasibel.

Now that we have 16,000 names in one database, and over 900 records in our membership system, plus are hosting Quickbooks data for accounting system clients, attacks like this must not go unanswered, without an aggressive response.

Further serious investment will be required, in addition to significant labor — so please know, your membership renewals are always appreciated! 

Subsequent to our higher-quality server purchase, we discovered attempts were being made to penetrate an IP port which must be kept open for RDP connections (RDP allows remote desktop users to attach to our hosted Quickbooks service, which we offer to Landlords and Property Managers).

I therefore made a decision to make additional investments in a Cisco Adaptable Security Appliance (ASA) 5500 series router.   And to facilitate a private VPN connection, we are having to add a Cisco switch to further harden security.  Our firewall which sits between the private and public side of our networked computer systems is a headache to implement, but our stakeholders are worth it!

I’m sharing this update today so stakeholders will know that we are hardening our defenses against cyber attacks, and suggest that your business may be a potential target for cyberspace criminals, as well!   

Recently, our PROS Membership Management system, which we only “rent”, (based on an ASP.NET architecture) was subjected to a ransomware attack.  We lost four days of data transactions, but the developer resolved the issue and restored from a backup 4-days out-of-date.  They incurred additional cost to harden their system.  Our actual accounting is done on Quickbooks, so we have a backup of transactions and fully recovered, but the scare is a tune up!

It is important for system users to know that we never store credit card data on our servers (though such is always encrypted), nor is such data stored on our developer’s servers.   CC info is stored with our merchant service provider (Solupay) in a highly-secure environment.  When a CC transaction takes place, the data is encrypted in transit, so storing CC data is never subject to risk.

For more information about protection of CC data, see Solupay.

Why do we do all of this?  Because we’re a “REAL” association which provides valuable products and services.  We don’t just get together, drink beer and exchange leads.  What we provide would not be possible without substantial investment ($10’s of thousands!) in computer hardware and software.   Particularly for our accounting systems clients, we take on this additional level of responsibility so you don’t have to (and, we maintain a Cybersecurity Insurance Ride, costing over $500/year that provides substantial protection).  A “REAL” association incurs expenses like this, so members can do business with confidence.

Without this level of commitment, we could never hope to adequately address our vision for an effective and efficient system to provide; 150-Legislative District Strategy of grassroots advocacy, property management software hosting and support, and 24/7 hosting of valuable members only forms and data.

October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month — we just thought you’d like to know that we are being vigilant to protect this Association’s assets.  Are you prepared for Cyber Warfare?

Andrew C. Lietzow, MBA
Exec. Director – IaREIA-ILA